['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day.]

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Ho ho ho! Are you in a jolly holiday mood yet? No? Well, neither am I, actually, thanks to looming tax deadlines and the thought of dealing with my entire extended family in a few scant days. But even my hearts' frigid cockles were warmed by the above print ad for Nyko's Wing wireless controller for Wii -- a page almost certainly modeled after NES-era accessory ads, one which gave me flashbacks to the Freedom Stick and the seemingly dozens of controllers Beeshu released. Bravo! (I don't mind the cord on my Classic Controller that much, though...)

This is the last Mag Roundup of the year, and it's a packed one thanks to all the specials and such. Let's see what's out on stands right now...

Electronic Gaming Monthly January 2009 (Podcast)

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Cover: X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I'm not sure I like this cover much. It's blown-up and pixelated, Wolverine's right eye looks like it's glowing, and you can't help but wonder if something a bit less in-yer-face (like the very nice-looking prerender of Wolverine in the table of contents) would have been a preferable choice. Maybe the designers thought that would make EGM look too much like a movie magazine cover-wise, though. It's a balance, eh?

The feature inside is straightforward, to the point, and accompanied by two preview roundups: one covering other superhero games, and another on the lesser-hyped games of '09 to watch. That, alongside a whole bunch of reviews, rounds out the mag. The main highlight, then: the front section, laden with interviews (the LittleBigPlanet guys, the Fable II guys, the Tenchu guys, Metal Gear Solid music guy Norihiko Hibino) and industry think pieces. Worth readin'.

Game Informer January 2009

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Cover: Uncharted 2

Hey, remember what I said a month ago about Game Informer seeming to weather the painful print-mag market pretty well? Never mind! This issue, at 92 pages, is the tiniest GI since the early 90s, and also the first one smaller than the corresponding month's EGM in a fair while. The news section is a bit off its game this month, too -- other than another Fable II postmortem and an interview with the Dead Space guy, it's mostly composed of straight (ie., old) news and "what we'd like to see in X"-type pieces. There's a new column devoted to MMO news, but it's nothing too out-of-the-box content-wise.

The twin hotsclusive features inside are both surprisingly meaty, though, even including an interview with Metallica's Lars Ulrich.

GamePro January 2009

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Cover: Resident Evil 5

GamePro seems to specialize in these sorts of "blow out as much info as possible on a game just before its release" cover features. Even if their shelf lives aren't all that long, they're still fun to read and certainly a must if you're a fan of the game in question. This RE5 piece is no exception, and it's joined by a zombie-game preview feature and a few multipage looks at the rest of Capcom's '09 lineup.

It's a Capcom-heavy issue, no doubt about that, although I was saddened to see 4 pages from Brady's Gears of War II strategy guide in the mag as well -- I thought that era was over with for the mag.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine January 2009

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Cover: F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin

PTOM's superior design shines through again this issue -- the only one this month with a "Top Games of '09" preview whose design I could reasonably call eye-grabbing without having to cross my fingers behind my back. The virtual-whiteboard treatment they gave Heavy Rain was the standout in my eyes, along with the bloody and extremely red-colored cover feature. Two quick spread features, one on PS3 menu system "secrets" and another on top Rock Band overlooked hits, are also fun and prove that good design can take a throwaway news-section piece and make it into a rockin' couple of pages.

Nintendo Power January 2009

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Cover: TMNT

This issue comes with a page of Pokemon Ranger stickers, including a very large one of Riolu which is key to slap on your laptop or notepad if you're a furry, a young girl, or just that awesome.

After that anything else would seem anticlimactic, but NP doesn't do too bad in the followup, with a TMNT feature that's mainly interesting thanks to the fairly big-name Japanese folks on the development team. There's also another GTA Chinatown Wars blowout, another MadWorld blowout (NP is revisiting past cover subjects like mad this issue), a piece on Naoto Ohshima, and so on and so forth.

Sometimes I wonder how Nintendo Power has managed to become the "interview" game magazine in the US, instead of -- say -- a publication devoted to a less mainstream subject than the Wii and DS. Not that I'm complaining, of course. Hell no. I'd rather read this than 2000-era NP, that's for sure.

PC Zone Xmas 2008

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Cover: Star Wars: The Old Republic

Top quote from PC Zone this month: "Let's be honest, freeware games that can hold your attention for more than 15 minutes are as common as hen's tits." Aww, reading it is bliss. They also, you know, review Fallout 3 and a lot of other important Xmas titles. Case you're interested.

Retro Gamer Issue 57

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Cover: Level 9

Level 9 was a British text-adventure company that, like a lot of other Retro Gamer cover subjects, are well-known and gazed upon with teary eyes by Euro game freaks but are unknown to us meat-eating Americans. A lovely feature inside, nonetheless, though US readers will appreciate the making-of for Alien vs. Predator on the Jaguar far more -- that was one of the system's only high points, after all.

Santa's Cavalcade of Holiday Specials

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None of the specials this time around are worth major attention, being mostly buyer's guides and cheat handbooks, so I'll gather them up and be succinct. Wii Handbook 2009 is a straight-on hardware introduction and capsule-review compilation; quite nice but nothing too fancy. 2009 Game Guide (done by GamePro, though you won't notice this on the cover unless you look hard) is, as you'd reckon, almost entirely preview content, except for a few review rankings and cheats in the rear of the book.

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2009 PlayStation 3 Cheater's Handbook is from the "maker's" (oh dear) of PTOM and features a few neat strategy features which I assume are from one Future UK title or another, along with a GTA4 "did you know" bit and Teresa Dun answering Soulcalibur IV questions. Beckett Massive Online Gamer Presents the Ultimate Guide to Warhammer Online is as opaque as any other Beckett mag -- at least Future's WHO special had nice art!

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Last and never least is Game Developer's December issue, whose cover story -- basically, a compilation of all the really good "What Went Wrong" sections from previously-published postmortems -- is a blast. Really. A blast. I loved it. I am also soooo glad I am not a game developer.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]