July 1st, 2009
A while ago I scrutinized Australian multiplatform games magazine Hyper for clinging to norms that would only see the publication into a slow, barbecued demise. It’s only fair then that I do the rounds and examine other examples of copy that fills Australian news agencies. I want to begin this critical crusade of print media by looking at Official Nintendo Magazine (Australia). Later I hope to re-examine Pixel Hunt alongside retrogaming e-zine Retroaction, before concluding with supposed EDGE killer GamesTM.
Official Nintendo Magazine (Australia) – June 2009
A follow up to the heavily flawed, but much adored Nintendo Magazine System, how could I refuse? ONM live ups to the Nintendo Seal of Quality lost somewhere on every front page. The magazine’s aesthetic tastefully match the new sanitized look Nintendo are going for, and the writing isn’t too bad either. The team clearly makes use of their prescribed relationship to the brand by bagging plenty of exclusive interviews, covering the digital distribution areas well, while prioritizing the best art assets. The writing is fine – falling in line with a standard good quality UK games magazine, appealing to the average enthusiast Nintendo fan more so than the expanded audience as might be infered by the neutral-esque design. The magazine’s standard journalistic fair teamed with exclusive content which make this a priority read for Nintendo fans looking for fitting copy with a wide coverage of their platforms. The magazine portions WiiWare, DSiWare and Virtual Console coverage much more evenly than other publications both online and in print, which I heatedly admire.
Overall the standard Ninty fan can’t go wrong with ONM, it’s a much more cleanly written, professional publication than NMS and covers all fronts quite admirably.
Criticisms of the June Issue
Standard fair might sound decent enough (and rest assure, this magazine is not poor by any means), but in my mind publications like this and Hyper are given a greater stature than their content earns them. While – like Hyper – I enjoyed the clean read, and have no problems recommending this to players that are solely fans of the Nintendo products, there’s plenty of holes as well as a couple of suspicions.
Usually magazines not sponsored by the brand or system they’re covering (ie. unofficial) make a holler and fuss about conflict of interest issues with these rival magazines. Basically they’re accusing their competitors of unflinching bias. Although their whiny jealousy is annoying, they do hold a weight of truth. Starting from the editor’s introduction, over the page into the news and then into previews and even reviews, the magazine can’t help but consistently remind the reader of the benefits of Wii MotionPlus. Sure, it makes sense for the MotionPlus to be a talking points in the Red Steel 2 and Grand Slam Tennis previews, but when you’re spruiking the add-on in reviews unrelated to the device, it’s annoying!
Reviewer Chris Scullion seems to have a problem criticizing the games he writes about, constantly using softeners to lower his tone when he wants to discuss a game’s weaknesses. This was most evident in the Pokemon Platinum review and other parts of the magazine as I recall. The softener “if we’re honest” doesn’t really say much, shouldn’t you always be honest to your readers?
On the topic of reviews, the crew seems obsessed with percentages. Take for example the way…oh look, Chris Scullion, makes a point to fret over what percentage he’d assign Punch-Out!! before he reached the unlocked World B mode. Further, in face-cringing fashion, the magazine even has a ‘Settling Scores’ segment in their review index, where readers propose their own score for a game in lieu of what the OMN crew awarded. It’s really petty.
The bulk of their featured content such as their 31 Reasons to Start Stockpiling Nintendo Points…NOW! as well as several news and previews pieces were well matched with good developer interviews. The Red Steel preview is thin information spread out into a feature piece. Fortunately the screenshots and interview make up for this in part. The Zelda feature is extensive, but doesn’t capture the spirit nor all of the significant details for each game, maybe they should have allowed more text on the page. By the way, I like the IGN logos in some of the Zelda screenshots. Did you try MobyGames, no tags there?
It must be some hip trend that I’m unaware of – in the same vein as that Hyper issue I covered some months ago, ONM included a flip-over segment at the back of the magazine. Argh, I hate it when they make me flip the magazine! The flipped content comprises of a 100 Greatest Nintendo Games Ever List! feature The main problem with such mammoth lists is that within the limit of 25 pages, you’re essentially providing a list and very little explanation as to the significance of each title. Couple with a bloated number of page filling images, and it’s a rather pointless piece. Conversely I could have just said that they ranked Mario Kart Wii as the 4th best game ever released on a Nintendo platform and you would have believed me.
Oh, the Dragon Quest guide was filled with noting but common sense too, not sure why they included it.
Lastly, I noticed that in the Australian magazine, the Pikmin 2 review states “With Australia being a nation of Wii owners”, yet this is a simple copy edit of the review featured in the ONM UK, evidence here. This is simply a ruse to throw readers away from the indiscriminate fact that ONM Australia is simply ONM UK with some edits shifted in. The cracks become obvious very quickly with the overall British flavour of writing teamed with obvious British references (.co.uk). Furthermore the most useful thing the Australian website offers is a link to the feature packed UK website. Crafty eh? Unexpected? No.