It’s taken a while – in fact page 66 even jokes that it took 6 months to arrive – but GameFAN issue 6 is finally with us. That’s a lot of sixes, isn’t it readers? Clearly the BEAST has willed it to be.
The first thing that strikes you is the stunning, hand-drawn cover art, which is rarity these days. I collect games mags as much if not more than I collect games these days, and very few magazines do anything other than recycle CG assets handed out by PR people. Very few actually commission artists to create the covers. EDGE almost never does it. GamesTM hasn’t done so for... I can’t even recall when last. EGM when I subscribed didn’t even bother with decent CG (their Halo cover looked like an exploded Ribena box). Leaving only France’s IG, Retro Gamer and GameFAN doing anything of merit. And to be fair, most of the time Retro Gamer’s content is so old that they’re forced to produce their own content for covers.
The man behind GameFAN’s artwork (and a lot of imagery at its predecessor Play) is Rob Duenas. He also does the majority of page layouts, and I think it’s fair to say that his work is the aesthetic soul of the magazine. Having spoken with Rob via email on occasion he proclaims his goals: “The biggest treat for me has been growing the retro coverage and drawing the covers. It’s hard work but worth it to bring back original drawn covers to magazines... Lord knows it’s a rarity, most art is just concept stuff from companies or box art.”
A commendable attitude, I’m sure everyone will agree. In fact this issue he takes us through the creation process for the cover, in connection with his regular podcast Sketchcraft, which details all manner of artistry. As he explained: “The Sketchcraft spread I put together on how I made the covers is also a free podcast I make complete with follow along PDF showing 50+ more of my steps. The cast is like audio commentary, just another GF special. Recording Bloodrayne cast this weekend, but the 3DS is up now.”
If you have any interest in GameFAN, magazine design, comics, or creative art in general, it’s well worth checking out the podcasts and associated files. There are two sites:
Also, I should add I’m not affiliated with the website despite my internet name. My using of Sketcz is 70% the nickname Tim Rogers gave me on InsertCredit, 20% East European spelling convention, and 10% Sega’s phenomenal Mega Drive game Comix Zone.
Highlights this issue include a 3 page interview with NG:DEV.TEAM, creators of Last Hope and the to-be-released GunLord, which is coming out on NeoGeo MVS and Sega’s Dreamcast. Gotta love these teams who keep rockin’ it on old hardware. The group says GunLord will be comparable to Turrican, and as a European and Trenz fan to this I’m going to say: hells yeah!
There’s also a ton of 3DS coverage, though being happy with my current handhelds I only skimmed this.
There’s also three pages on Dragon’s Crown, which is excellent. The in-game screens are so exquisite it’s difficult to image them as actual games, as opposed to only static artwork. But that’s Vanillaware for you – taking 2D to new levels. The write up itself is also good, done by new man and Managing Editor James Bacon. It starts with a rundown of Vanillaware history, which is essential for newcomers, and reminds me of the fact that Play before it always used to give the developer the time they deserved in the spotlight, granting front covers to not only Odin Sphere but also Muramasa. Outside of Japan I don’t think any other magazine even entertained such an idea. Those were good times.
Lengthy five page review of the new 2D Bloodrayne by developers WayForward, who are making a name for themselves as one of the few (the only?) Western developer still capable of doing 2D. In fact they’re kinda like a Western version of Vanillaware. And all I can say is thank your deity of choice both companies exist, because gaming would be a lot less interesting without their two-dimensional output.
Three page review of El Shaddai. Well timed too despite the time it took to produce this issue, since the same morning I got my copy of GameFAN I got my copy of GamesTM, and both featured El Shaddai. Both magazines praise it, in fact everyone online also seems to, but I’m still slightly nervous after playing that demo...
Interesting approach to the Journey review – very arty.
Having read the reviews, I want to address an issue I noticed on a forum, regarding a lot of the positive coverage the mag gives. Although the lowest review score this issue was 6.5, and it mostly has high scores for its games, the impression I get is that they’re covering the games they like, as opposed to everything possible. A snapshot of staff favourites almost. Which makes sense considering they run less pages, plus I have to be very interested in a game before I read through a review in another mag giving it a low score (like DS shovelware you’ll see being reviewed – I just skip those).
The challenge for GameFAN seems to be growing its audience and recognition, since what I gather from people I know in the US, it’s not always easy to find stores stocking it. Did you know this was out?
Moving on from modern coverage, this issue also marks the creation of a dedicated retro section, 16 pages long. I haven’t read everything but it’s looking good (I’d also not come across the Macross game before, so reckon I might have to give it a try now). The two-page spread listing top Capcom and Saturn games apparently was going to be some kind of special comic, but it didn’t make it in time. A nice trip down memory lane nonetheless. The Saturn coverage is especially poignant for me because it was a great system, with a selection of truly astounding hardcore titles, and yet it never won the console war. I actually received Keio Flying Squadron 2 in the post recently, and must get around to playing it. Yes, I think if I fell through time I’d like to relive the Saturn era, and use my foreknowledge to guarantee its success.