['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]


Hah! Even Nintendo Power admits it in their media kit! It's true!

And with that bit of silliness out of the way, click on to read all about the US magazines that have hit newsstands in the past two weeks. I've got a long update this week, but I suppose you could say I had a lot on my mind...

Nintendo Power June 2007


Cover: NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

The old mixes with the new in this issue, as per usual. On the one hand, you have all the really early first-look Wii/DS previews that you'd expect from Nintendo Power -- a news section packed with games I never heard of before, a cover feature on Wii NiGHTS that would have been hot-sclusive if it weren't for that darn Swedish magazine, an interview with Tomonobu Itagaki (yet another "no way would you see that in Nintendo Power" moment there) and three pages on Space Station Tycoon that actually make the game look kinda interesting.

There's also a new section, Power Profiles, that interviews game designers about the creative process. Mr. Miyamoto is the first entry, of course, and two pages of Mr. Miyamoto is always quotable as all get-out.

The old Nintendo comes out (besides NP's usual custom of calling Japanese people "Mr. [last name]," even where "Mr." would be omitted with Western names) in "Wii Welcome You," an advertising pamphlet that comes included with the subscriber edition. Wii Welcome You won't be news to NP subscribers, since it serves mainly as an introduction to the Wii and all its abilities, but it's worth taking a peek at just for the internal art -- it's nothing but drawings of creepy-looking Miis (we're talking 80s box-art creepy here).

Official Xbox Magazine June 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: My Beautiful Katamari

Despite my initial impression, OXM has put several Japanese games on the cover of the magazine before, most recently Lost Planet. But this is certainly the most Japanese-y OXM cover ever, and the imagery undoubtedly makes for a better cover than The Darkness, the other big preview inside. (I mean, it's so dark, and besides, PSM already has a no-name FPS on its cover this month.) The editors spend 7 pages discussing things with localization man Lindsay Gray, then three more going over the rest of the 360's upcoming Japan lineup. It's quite nice.

The rest of the features aren't quite as hot as Katamari, though -- they include a bit on the Xbox dashboard and the team behind it, as well as an except from the (yawn) Mass Effect prequel novel (zzz).

Two neat little bits in this particular issue for magazine buffs. First off, OXM takes a page to print 698 Xbox Live tags -- all the people who got 16,000 OXM Points by going through every single OXM disc in the past year-and-a-half before they reset the scores for OXM Universe, which gave me flashbacks to Next Generation printing their entire subscriber list over several months in 1998. The second is in the letters section, where a reader notes that four of the past five issues have had review covers and lambasts OXM for it ("The whole point of a cover story is to give us new info about a new game that is coming out"). Sounds like the letter writer would be happier subscribing to Game Informer...

And speaking of that disc, I hope you like baseball, because MLB 2K7 (along with a buggy-arse Star Trek: Legacy demo that takes three minutes to load) is the main highlight.

Tips & Tricks June 2007


Cover: Command & Conquer 3

EIC Bill Kunkel notes something that I realized a few months ago in this month's editor column -- the so-called "lifestyle content" (i.e. all of T&T's columns) now take up as much of the mag as the tips and the tricks. "We believe that our readers are fascinated by the lifestyle of gaming, from movies and music to action figures and animation," he writes. "We look at gaming from the point of view that anyone who enjoys playing video games will also have a natural curiosity about, and affinity for, other components of the game culture."

The "lifestyle" section of T&T stands at 33 pages and at least 14 sections (some aren't in there every month), and like Kunkel says, there really is something in there for everyone. I read Collector's Closet every month, of course (it's been in 68 straight issues; I wonder how well a special one-off compilation of past columns would sell?) and usually steal a glance at Japan Report, Sports Desk and the toy/gear sections; otherwise I at least look at the pictures on all the rest, including the bits on animation, game music, World of Warcraft, and (making its debut this issue) downloadable console content.

I think it's all neat stuff, and with such a variety of content to stare at each month, I would make the argument that T&T is more "hardcore" these days than, say, a certain magazine with "Hardcore" in the title. But then that old problem crops up -- would someone who wants Tips and/or Tricks care about this? Or, for that matter, would they care about strategy for a PC game (I think that's the first time a PC game went on the cover)?

I like the "lifestyle" approach a great deal; it's just that, as someone who doesn't care about reading print strategy guides, I sometimes wish the whole mag was "lifestyle". In fact, I think such a mag in 100-page format would be pretty darn close to the game-mag idea I had a couple months ago. I know I'm just dreaming here, but I think that'd be utterly radical.

Play May 2007


Cover: Odin Sphere

Has there ever been a game better suited to Play's cover than this one? Halverson and crew give us a 10-page blowout on Odin, including a dev interview and a review closing with a perfect 10-out-of-10 score. It's almost like a collector's keepsake; that's how lovingly created this little feature was. Great reading by Play standards.

There's also a four-page preview of the new Crash game, and that, in its own special way, is also something you'd only find in Play these days. Still, you can't help but smile at some of the things the devs say in the piece, discussing Crash's internal motivations and such.

Play Japan seems to be getting bigger by the month. It's nine pages in May, kicking off with three on Gundam Musou. Hardcore Gamer covers Japan games extensively, but the writing's a lot better here.

GamePro June 2007


Cover: "The new Tony Hawk game" (I guess there's no name yet)

GamePro used to be the King of All Tony Hawk Covers. I think every title got on the cover in an unchallenged streak of thrash until Activision jumped ship and gave T.H.U.G. to Game Informer in 2003. GP gives the new game a two-cover special-edition treatment this month, with eight pages (including probably the nicest lead-in spread I've ever seen in GP) and interviews with Hawk and Neversoft devs.

I'm noticing a definite upgrade in the visual look of GamePro in this issue. Maybe I hadn't been paying attention earlier, but there's a ton of original art in this one, including a nice, original piece setting up a not-so-original "33 essential handheld games" feature. A more interesting feature premise: "21 Ways to Die!", a look at fatalities through the years. Awesome stuff there -- it tries to treat its content seriously, but when the list is dominated by games from the mid-90s blood-n-guts boom, you can't help but laugh your arse off at it.

PSM June 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: Pissed Off Army Guy (POAG)

Some sad-ish news here that I forgot to mention for months on end -- after a 10-year run that began with Issue One, Chris Slate has left the EIC job at PSM to head up Future's Special Projects section. His replacement: Rob Smith, another Future veteran who's had stints running both OXM and PC Gamer.

I'm hoping that Smith joining the PSM crew portends changes for the mag, because I think it could use a touch-up or two. I know I picked on Game Informer's preview features earlier, but I can't remember the last time I read anything very tangible in a PSM cover story, either. They suffer from "nothing you can't do online" syndrome, except often they're longer than the equivalent GI cover feature, so it's even more noticeable. That'd be fine if the rest of the mag was fun to read, but PSM is almost all straight-on news, previews and reviews, with very little diversion in between. I know PSM wasn't like that before, so how about messing with the formula a bit, Mr. Smith?

PC Gamer June 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: LOTR Online

For the second issue in a row, PC Gamer pulls the old "Buy this mag and get some free MMO crap" rabbit out of the hat. It's getting to be old fast (not to mention something that Computer Games magazine did a lot near the end), but I'll forgive them because through the stock previews/reviews, there's still a mess of interesting genre columns, not to mention at least one eye-opening news piece a month (this time around, a bit on professional video-game instructors).

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]