['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.]


Usually I write something that tries to be pithy or witty to kick this column off, but this time I'll just begin by introducing a new Future special right off: 20 Years of Nintendo Power, which you should be able to find at any bookstore chain right now.

This is, to be succinct, the sort of thing I wish I saw more often in the US marketplace. It's all original content, and it essentially tells the story of Nintendo through spreads from old Nintendo Power issues -- as opposed to the year-long feature series that ran in NP throughout '08, which covered the history of the magazine itself.

The effect is at once nostalgic and very authoritative, and the text's not at all throwaway -- it's filled with very tiny little behind-the-scenes tidbits and neat (and also surprisingly honest) commentary from Scott Pelland, the man who's hung around NP for nearly its entire history.

This is a great piece, to sum up, and I think everyone should buy it. My only qualm is the price. This sucker's only 68 pages long, and yet costs ten bucks, which is more than even what an imported issue of Edge rolls in at. The pages are nice and thick, yeah, and that's 68 pages of ad-free content, but I can't help but think this woulda been twice as good if it were twice the size. Regardless, well done on all ends.

With that done, let's move on to the other mags that hit stands the past fortnight. It's been a busy one, too:

Edge March 2009


Cover: Infamous

An inordinately thick issue of Edge (166 pages), thanks to another "Region Specific" look at the Nordic game development scene -- pretty dense going, but it's fun to read studio peeks at places like CCP without the devs burdening to PR the hell out of whatever game they're working on at the time.

The top highlight of the mag may be the Metacritic piece, which has already been reported around the net and echoes what I've written a few times in other publications.

The cover piece is good, as what we usually see when Edge does a follow-up cover to a game GI just gave the hotsclusive cover to, as is a rather deep piece about the labor of preserving video game history even as it gets erased from online on a regular basis. That, and a game (not telling which) gets a 2/10 review this issue -- always my favorite sort of Edge review to read. Guilty pleasures, I know.

PC Gamer March 2009


Cover: Dragon Age: Origins

I put PC Gamer a bit closer to the top this installment because this is the first edition led by lovely EIC and former Kevin Gifford boss Gary Steinman -- a man who is very smart with magazines and games and such, but, let's face it, has been leading console mags for years now and doesn't have much experience with PC game media. Will be comfortable in the world of WASD and MMO and SARS and such? I hope it works out!

Changes will undoubtedly be a-coming to PCG, but this issue's not so different from the norm. There's a lovely and exhaustive cover piece -- and exhaustive it should be, given that the game's rumored to be all but ready for shipment despite its delay. The GOTY '08 piece is remarkably non-straightforward -- no simple list of categories and screenshots here; every page has its own theme and design, and it's all very UK-like in style, actually. Very eye-catching.

Retro Gamer Issue 59


Cover: Battlezone

Distribution of Retro Gamer seems to have mysteriously restarted in my neck of the woods, although Issue 58 never made it down here. (I think I've got it ordered from Imagine, but it's hard to tell since I've been having odd credit-card issues with their website, complete with back-and-forth emails with their tech support. Hopefully it will work out soon.)

Those who think Retro Gamer is getting a bit stale will find ample ammunition for that argument in that issue, given that they interview Jon Ritman and cover Head Over Heels for about the bajillionth time, this time as part of a top-25-isometric-games piece. The mag's still worth buying, though, because of the cover piece and because of the massive Wing Commander history inside -- one of the first times, I think, that creator Chris Roberts has talked much about the series since he left games for the film industry.

Game Informer March 2009


Cover: God of War III

GI certainly wins the pretty-cover sweepstakes this time around, although the piece inside is a bit long-winded and heavy on tiny little plot details and other things that ain't my bag. More interesting: An interview with Dave Shippy, a guy with an amusing name who led the team behind the PS3 and 360's processors, and a news piece on the tendency of modern video-game credit sequences to be long as hell. No, really. Hey, it's annoying if you're hoping for hidden content at the end of it, okay?

Play March 2009


Cover: Dante's Inferno

Classic Play here -- a cover piece that's mostly rambling interview, a lot of pretty pictures, and it's all over very quickly.

This issue must've been heaven for Dave Halverson to work on, given that he got to write about Ayumi of X-Blades and the Oneechanbara games in one go. ("I wouldn't give either [game] a second look if it wasn't for the novelty of all these ferocious young girls getting drenched in zombie blood, especially Aya, whose sinful animation, especially on 360, is to me what added realism must be to a modern warfare junkie.")

Nintendo Power March 2009


Cover: Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings

The new Indy is a neat game that seems to have the curse of not being seen as a AAA title by the media for some reason. NP does a good job of covering it (though the cover feature is a bit bland in design), as it does with The Conduit and the new Shin Megami Tensei and Major Minor and all that -- nothing exceptional, but still nice, plus I don't think any game mag actually interviewed Rodney A. Greenblat before. He's pretty deep, man.

PC Zone February 2009


Cover: Empire: Total War

Choice quote of this issue: "Don't think about it too hard, but a few years ago a couple friends of mine used to enjoy donning Halloween masks and contacting random webcam owners on some instant messaging program. People would scream or laugh at them, or both -- it was weird, harmless internet fun. One day they came across a fat, topless man sitting in a bedroom. Before they could disconnect, a baby elephant walked across the screen. Then it came back, and just stood there. A baby elephant, flapping its ears in a topless man's house. Until I played Left 4 Dead, I thought that was the most amazing thing that's ever happened online..."

Game Developer February 2009


Cover: Golden Axe: Beast Rider

You can tell Game Developer isn't Play Magazine because Game Developer published screenshots from GA:BR that doesn't have Tyris in it and postmortem author Michael Boccieri doesn't spend paragraphs discussing breasts. In all seriousness, though, the fun-to-read quotient of a GD postmortem seems directly proportional to how how much trouble the staff had making the game, and this one is a corker as a result.

[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.]