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MetalJuggalo

Whats your favorite classic video game magazine?

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I've read nintendo power and I wholeheartedly agree they seem pretty boring to me. They're covers were either hit or miss,they're reviews seemed way to passive aggresive heck it seems you'd have to either read between the lines to get the jiff of things it almost seems like they were scared of losing exclusive content from game companies.

I could be wrong but my understanding is that it was actually the opposite: since Nintendo Power was completely owned and operated by Nintendo itself and because the magazine was hugely successful with a user base of a couple million U.S. kids, publishers were anxious to have their products featured (and highly rated) in its pages. The magazine was basically a monthly commercial for Nintendo products, after all. :)

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I could be wrong but my understanding is that it was actually the opposite: since Nintendo Power was completely owned and operated by Nintendo itself and because the magazine was hugely successful with a user base of a couple million U.S. kids, publishers were anxious to have their products featured (and highly rated) in its pages. The magazine was basically a monthly commercial for Nintendo products, after all. :)

Yeah I totally get that but it seems like the reviewers where to scared to overtly offend any publisher to the point ya had to read between the lines. GamePro style was more humorous,blunt and had witty sarcastic reviews and titles that parody the games title or theme. Heck one thing I love is fan mail and game pros staff were good at dishing it out with remarks. That by no means makes nintendo bad not at all for a magazine geared towards younger audience it was good and heck some adults like the more "wholesome" style of professionalism and style that the magazine brought after all all opinions to a point are subjective. For me even though I grew up in the 80s I like more modern style of reviewers who are more edgy in their trashing or fun to watch like modern classic game room and avgn up to a point(overboard on his swearing) but to each their own.

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Yeah I totally get that but it seems like the reviewers where to scared to overtly offend any publisher to the point ya had to read between the lines. GamePro style was more humorous,blunt and had witty sarcastic reviews and titles that parody the games title or theme. Heck one thing I love is fan mail and game pros staff were good at dishing it out with remarks. That by no means makes nintendo bad not at all for a magazine geared towards younger audience it was good and heck some adults like the more "wholesome" style of professionalism and style that the magazine brought after all all opinions to a point are subjective. For me even though I grew up in the 80s I like more modern style of reviewers who are more edgy in their trashing or fun to watch like modern classic game room and avgn up to a point(overboard on his swearing) but to each their own.

Out of the "big three" of late 80s video game magazines I would say that EGM struck me as the most blunt, even if their reviews were often kind of simplistic and awkward (I guess this was the inherent flaw of their four-man review structure which limited the space for their comments to a scant few sentences each). I found GamePro's reviews to be the most thorough, though like you said, to each their own: I hated their relentless and never-ending stream of terrible puns. :)

Nintendo Power was less about reviews than presenting strategies and tips and keeping readers informed with news about upcoming games. Their little "power meter" review icons were often completely unsubstantiated, you'd just see an arbitrary review score without any real critical evaluation in the accompanying text. The one time that I DO remember Nintendo Power">NP as having anything resembling proper reviews (at least in the old days, I quit getting the magazine in the mid 90s) was when they featured "George and Rob", two random goons who provided shallow (though apparently frank) opinions on recent games.

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Warning: long-ass historical post ahead. :)

Nintendo Power didn't do negative reviews of games because that wasn't the direction Howard Phillips wanted them to take. His original idea for Nintendo Power was two-fold.

First, use the magazine to answer the most commonly-asked questions which came in to the Nintendo Help Line, because that would keep costs down. The Nintendo Help Line started out as a toll-free phone call, which meant Nintendo picked up the tab when someone called in for a game hint. Minoru Arakawa, Nintendo of America's president, had no idea how blitzed that 800-number would be, despite Phillips warning him the cost would be staggering. He just wanted Nintendo to radiate "family-friendly" from every pore, and he thought giving free help with their games would help solidify Nintendo's commitment to customer loyalty. After several months of having to pay out tens of thousands of dollars in phone bills, he realized his mistake and Nintendo switched over to a 1-900 number which charged the caller a per-minute rate to talk to a game counselor.

This placed Nintendo in an awkward position. Kids often didn't understand how expensive a call to a 900-number could be, and parents would flip out over their phone bills, putting the blame on Nintendo for advertising the service. At the same time, it put poorer families at a disadvantage since not everyone could afford to pay $1.95 to get even one minute's worth of help from the Game Counselors. Phillips had the idea that Nintendo Power should be the first step for gamers who needed a little nudge in the right direction, so Nintendo would keep track of questions that were asked a lot on the 900-line, as well as those most commonly addressed in letters to the magazine, and use those to furnish the Counselor's Corner columns. This kept the lines free for callers with less-common problems, and saved Nintendo from having to hire, train and pay more counselors than were necessary.

Second, Howard Phillips wanted Nintendo Power to be a showcase for the really great stuff Nintendo was putting out, and since he was not only editor in chief of the magazine but also personally playing pretty much every game as it was in Japan and making suggestions for changes and improvements on US releases, he got very good at quickly recognizing what games were likely to be successful vs. the ones that American audiences wouldn't like. And all it takes is a look at the cover games for the first few years of Nintendo Power's operation to see just how good he was at this job: Super Mario Bros. 2, Castlevania 2, Tetris, Duck Tales, Mega Man 2, Ninja Gaiden, StarTropics, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Super C, Final Fantasy...Phillips basically had the last word on what they wrote up, and he wanted to make sure he was pushing what he felt were the best games for the system at the time rather than take up valuable pages telling people what not to buy. Nintendo Power was supposed to be very positive in its promotions, with the unspoken assumption being that if they didn't talk about it, you might want to think twice about paying full price for it. It's a very Japanese way of doing business, but you have to admit, those first few years stand out for that reason. :)

Phillips was also constantly looking for new ways to sneak tips and hints on games into the magazine in ways that didn't seem like they were hitting readers over the head. He understood that readers of the magazine came from all backgrounds and skill levels with video games, but the average reader didn't need help with the basics and wouldn't appreciate Classified Information or Counselors' Corner wasting time explaining simple game mechanics. Enter the Howard and Nestor comic strip, which allowed Howard to relate important info to beginning readers and low-skill game players via explaining it to Nestor, who's know-it-all attitude covered for him not being as good a player as he thought he was. Seriously, go back and read those early H&N comics and you'll see the genius of this approach. Beginning players could pick up a few hints without having to rely on their older siblings to help them out, and really good players would get a laugh out of the stupid kid who didn't know where you could buy keys in Dragon Warrior. :)

Howard is the cool uncle we never knew we had until we started reading his magazine, and without his ten-year stint at Nintendo of America, I don't think they would be the brand they grew up to be here today in the US. :)

Now go study. There's a quiz on this in ten minutes, and people who fail will be required to play Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi until their thumbs fall off. ;)

*huggles*
Areala

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This. That's the...let's say, more "historical" version of my post. :P

I do think that Gail Tilden deserves a big mention though. She was extremely instrumental in editing the magazine, designing the covers, and acting as a go-between betwixt the American and Japanese arms of the company.

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Despite or rather because of all of that, though, Nintendo Power was simply not the place to go for reviews, although it had other virtues in spades.

What I can't seem to understand is the opinion I've seen here and there that GamePro had the best reviews. I admit, I probably only owned a dozen or so issues, but the reason I never regularly subscribed was because I found their reviews so subpar. Sure, they had the little 5-point rating system for different aspects of the game, but I always thought that thing seemed as reliable as the power ratings in Nintendo Power (as in, not at all). And though a review might take up an entire page or two, almost all of it was superfluous to the review, recounting the game's story and basic structure and reading for all the world like a combination of the game manual and ad copy, before finally offering up a brief final paragraph or sentence that (sort of) indicated an opinion on the quality of the game.

EGM was far better on conveying opinion, even though the 4-man review system didn't offer most of the reviewers a lot of space to go into depth as to specifics.

Not really sure which video game mag was best for reviews. I personally go with EGM for multiplatform, and maybe PSM for single platform?

For in-depth and quality reviews, PC game mags were far superior, with PC Gamer being my favorite, but to be fair, they weren't targeting children as their primary readership.

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What I can't seem to understand is the opinion I've seen here and there that GamePro had the best reviews.

First of all, I absolutely agree with the opinion that PSM was the best with single-console reviews. But as I've been spotted saying repeatedly on this site, I think that the entirety of PSM's content was, on the whole, top notch.

Since I'm also one of the people who's praised the quality of GamePro's reviews I'll try to explain my opinion. When I talk about the reviews I'm not counting the numerical score "face" system, only the text itself. As you mentioned, GamePro's reviews tended to get an entire page (if not two). And while it was often punctuated with (some would say riddled with) bad jokes, I felt that it usually hit multiple aspects of the game that your average consumer would be interested in knowing about: They'd take some time to describe the play control, spend a paragraph on the graphics and sound, and throw in a sentence or two about challenge. The tone was hardly adult and I'm sure that the depth still could have been greater but I really liked that space was often dedicated to describe each element of a game. Not always, but often. EGM reviews, by contrast, often read like they were written by distracted fanzine staffers who scribbled out a handful of notes while their game was paused. I grabbed an issue completely at random (#25) and sampled a few reviews to find examples of what I'm talking about. It didn't take long.

One editor's entire review of Super Mario World: "Easily the best Mario adventure yet but I had hoped that Nintendo would do more with the game than just make another Mario adventure. This should show off the system's capabilities but there just aren't enough special effects when compared to other S-NES games. (Score: 9 out of 10)". In that same issue is a reviewer's thoughts on Sega's Streets of Rage: "This is the way a fighting game can be made when the programmers know the system. Easily the best fighting game ever with moves that are unique. The two player version sold me on the cart and with games like this Genesis does what Ninten..." The last and best example is a "review" of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for the NES: "I saw the movie and the best thing in it was the king and he only occupied 30 seconds of film. This game left me with an equally unsatisfied feeling, not because there was anything wrong with what I was supposed to be doing, after awhile I just realized it wasn't much fun". I mean W T proverbial F???

Granted, I obviously chose examples that helped to make my point and I know that some of the other reviews are more coherent and informative. And again, I totally give the mag credit for its unique four-person review structure and recognize that they were severely limited by the little windows that they had to fit their text into. You said that GamePro reviews were nothing but a page of fluff that closed with "a brief final paragraph or sentence that (sort of) indicated an opinion on the quality of the game", and I'm sure that sometimes this was totally correct. All I can say in response is that when the entirety of an EGM review is the kind of stupid, useless prattle that I quoted above, then.......well, I'll take the fluff. :)

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Fair enough. There definitely isn't much to support the "why?" behind the opinions in those reviews you quoted. I didn't start reading any of the multi-platform mags until the Playstation era (I was PC and Nintendo-only until then), so I can't comment on the issue you picked. Of course, I'm sure there were equally pointless reviews in the issues I had, but by that time, the 4-person review had changed format to give one of the reviewers a larger space to go into more depth, while the other 3 short reviews would sometimes fall into the realm of "color commentary," given their extremely limited word count. So there was one main review (delegated to the staff member best equipped to review the particular genre, i.e. have the fighting game fan do the main review of a fighting game) and three other short reviews that might be pretty lame on their own, but would hopefully flesh out some other aspect of the game not mentioned in the main review, and at the very least give you a variety of opinions from gamers with different areas of interest and priorities.

More than the writing, though, I guess it just came down to the subjective observation that I tended to believe in EGM's reviews more often than I did with GamePro. A lot of games I thought were mediocre or bad would get scathing reviews in EGM (perhaps that "fanzine" quality you mentioned at work), while I never really perceived any passionate opinions in either the positive or negative reviews in GamePro.

To illustrate where my opinion comes from: I looked up the GamePro from the same month as the EGM you mentioned (to be fair.) Looking at the Lolo III review (because I love that game), there are about 4 paragraphs that could easily have been copied word for word from the back of the game's box. Then comes a paragraph that qualifies as what I referred to as sort of a review:

"Even with your brains and their brawn this Lolo adventure is by far the toughest yet for our fuzzy friends. Levels 1 and 2 are standard early Lolo...but they're just a warm up. Once you reach level 3 the puzzles grow steadily more difficult. By level 11 solving some of the puzzles requires more than 30 moves, executed in an exact order. You'll have a headache in no time at all!"

This is where I think GamePro's writing style sabotages the authenticity of their reviews for me. It reads like a kid writing a report for school, or like it should be read aloud in one of those TV announcer voices on a commercial for the game. I'm told that the game's difficulty quickly ramps up into challenging territory, but the way it's told is in such unnatural language doesn't make it sound like someone telling me their opinion so much as it does like even more ad copy. I get no sense from the language that a real person actually played the game and experienced certain emotions while doing so. There is no personality to the review, and indeed, GamePro prided itself (why I don't know) on keeping it's reviewer's identities secretly confined to the realm of goofy names and cartoon characters. I feel like EGM would have expressed the above paragraph like: "Don't be fooled by the first few levels - this game is HARD." before moving on, and for whatever reason, the direct, non-cutseyness of the language makes it seem more real to me.

But, hell, who cares? Video game mags have never had good, in-depth reviews. That's what the internet was invented for (wasn't it?)

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This is where I think GamePro's writing style sabotages the authenticity of their reviews for me. It reads like a kid writing a report for school, or like it should be read aloud in one of those TV announcer voices on a commercial for the game. I'm told that the game's difficulty quickly ramps up into challenging territory, but the way it's told is in such unnatural language doesn't make it sound like someone telling me their opinion so much as it does like even more ad copy. I get no sense from the language that a real person actually played the game and experienced certain emotions while doing so. There is no personality to the review, and indeed, GamePro prided itself (why I don't know) on keeping it's reviewer's identities secretly confined to the realm of goofy names and cartoon characters. I feel like EGM would have expressed the above paragraph like: "Don't be fooled by the first few levels - this game is HARD." before moving on, and for whatever reason, the direct, non-cutseyness of the language makes it seem more real to me.

Make no mistake, EGM was my preferred magazine of the two growing up. I just didn't like how awkward and unpolished many of their reviews were. By contrast, you make a good example of your own: GamePro seems too polished. If one is real but raw, the other is smooth but softball.

Looking back I don't even know what it is that made me prefer EGM. I didn't like most of their layouts, didn't care for the personalities of most of the staff, and I don't really recall getting any exciting information from them before I could get it from any other magazine (with the exception of their coverage of the Mortal Kombat series. They were pretty good for that). I think it's just the simple fact that they skewed relatively older, and as a result covered more exciting games, while Nintendo Power and to a lesser extent GamePro catered more to the kid set. Plus GamePro had that damn artwork from Francis Mao infesting it, which I've already complained about elsewhere.

I remember when EGM's format changed slightly so that one reviewer got a fair amount of space and the other three were relegated to quicker supporting comments. That worked alright, especially since the magazine was at that time staffed by older employees who could articulate and make their points more clearly. Of course this was also the age when they started referencing each other in their reviews ("Ignore what Hsu says. He's just complaining because he can't play.") which bugged the hell out of me for some reason. C'est la vie.

But yeah, the internet was definitely invented for porn video game reviews. So who's better, IGN or Game Informer? :P

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I do think that Gail Tilden deserves a big mention though. She was extremely instrumental in editing the magazine, designing the covers, and acting as a go-between betwixt the American and Japanese arms of the company.

You're right. She's one of the early big-time female badasses of the video game world, and Nintendo Power absolutely would not have been the magazine it was without her hard work and input. It was most heinous for me not to mention her, and Gail, wherever you are, please forgive me for my oversight. You are, and always will be, the bomb. :)

*huggles*

Areala

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Your mom. ;)

*huggles*

Areala

Why, I sincerely doubt that you've even met my mother!

You're right. She's one of the early big-time female badasses of the video game world, and Nintendo Power absolutely would not have been the magazine it was without her hard work and input. It was most heinous for me not to mention her, and Gail, wherever you are, please forgive me for my oversight. You are, and always will be, the bomb. :)

*huggles*

Areala

There are stories of her boldly dismissing cultural etiquette and standing right up to the Japanese editors by telling them EXACTLY what they were going to do to make the magazine better. Supposedly they named her "The Dragon Lady".

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Why, I sincerely doubt that you've even met my mother!

I sincerely doubt that I have too, but I guess one never knows. :)

*huggles*

Areala

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First game magazine I ever bought was Videogames and Computer Entertainment #1 and I stayed with it for about 4 years, with a occasional GamePro thrown in there once in awhile. Andy Eddy and crew did a great job on their reviews and I bought many of my NES games based on what they said. I found them to be very trust worthy with my purchases. Sega was great about sending Sega Visions every few months and I always looked forward to those but they were more of a advertisment. Nintendo Power was the only other magazine I read on a regular basis but I preferred a magazine with all the systems covered.

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The first gaming mag i ever got was the GamePro with Sonic 2. I was young and not the best at video games, Sonic 2 was the first game i beat before my older brother, and I still hold it over him to this day. Because he's pretty much beat me at everything else. Anyways, GamePro had written something on how to beat the first 2 bosses and I was able to apply that to the rest of the bosses and reap the rewards the magazine offered. Winning!

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C + VG for page layout, tgm and ace for much too recensioni.Amo joypad and console +, Italian francesi.Da magazines, I loved psm and tgm the first 50 numbers, and then gamepower and consolemania !!

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"Video Games: The Ultimate Gaming Mag" from 1994-95 (especially the MK2 era) is my all-time favorite. I have tons of memories, reading them with my friends in elementary school (some of whom have passed away) and sharing MK2 codes and moves lists.

Then probably EGM from 1997-2004 (especially the time when Dan "Shoe" Hsu was editor in chief).

With GamePro from 1992-95 as honorable mention.

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EGM was the magazine I read the most, since it had so much coverage of both domestic and international games. After thinking about it, Nintendo Power is still my favorite magazine. I continued reading Nintendo Power throughout its life cycle, while I gave up on EGM after it changed ownership the first time. I only went back to EGM when I got free subscriptions for attending the E3 Trade show a few times.

After abandoning EGM again when my free subscriptions faded out, I went to Game Informer and GamePro as my main video game magazines. But Nintendo Power was still my best source for Nintendo. It was a huge downer when Nintendo Power decided to shut down in 2012. NF Magazine was a really good successor, and I enjoy it to this day. I still have a subscription to EGM these days, but I have lost almost all confidence in the magazine.

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I was mainly a PC gamer during the 90s: my folks wouldn't buy me a console. I would borrow friends' copies of CGW and PC Gamer and all was good. In the early 2000s, I picked up a Gamecube and dutifully started reading Nintendo Power, which I quite liked.

These days, I like Retro Gamer a lot: its coverage of game history and of homebrew for old systems is superb and it's well worth the cost to buy as an import.

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As a young kid old coming off of Atari, I got a Nintendo and was hooked all the way as were most of my friends. I have to say being a kid playing Nintendo it was amazing looking at all of the great things in Nintendo Power and going to the Nintendo Powerfest / World Championships in 1990. I still have all of my Nintendo systems from the NES on up with all my games, boxes, and they all still work!

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