GameFAN issue 7, Mk2, is out. In fact it’s been out for a while. It also features a review, by me, of Xenoblade Chronicles. Read on for the gossip.
Issue 7 represents another gradual shift for the magazine, which still seems to be finding its foothold. Its release is also sporadic enough that it feels more like a quarterly periodical than a monthly magazine – though I’m told it will become more regular.
What I’m pleased to see hasn’t changed, is that GameFAN still continues to represent the otherwise under-represented. Look at that cover (there’s also a related interview inside). How many other magazines featured Rayman Origins on the front? GamesTM over the months has descended into covers featuring generic computer renders of whatever property is paying the most advertising that month. I don’t receive EGM anymore, but their covers were never great. Retro Gamer is about the only other magazine where I can say it looks beautiful to see it on a shelf or my coffeetable.
To emphasise this love of the underdog, inside there’s a feature on seemingly abandoned character properties, with a look at what it would take to bring them back. Who doesn’t want to see a return of Earthworm Jim or Psychonauts?
There’s also 6 loving pages dedicated to indie PC shmup Jamestown, with developer interview. This is always good stuff, since the creative minds behind great games deserve to be showcased.
Then there’s my review of Xenoblade Chronicles. I gave it 9.5 and first wrote it when the PAL release came out – since handing it in there was the announcement of a US release. So perfectly timed you could say. Having had some months to reflect on my score, I can safely say I still agree with my sentiments.
Apart from an awkward gear-equipping UI, it is as close to JRPG perfection as I’ve seen in the last few years. It’s just regrettable it’s on hardware which limits its audience.
Speaking of great JRPGs they also have a look at the Level-5 Visions Event, showcasing the work of developers Level-5, including Ni No Kuni. It’s a beautifully designed feature, written by Destructoid associate editor Jonathan Holmes. While the rest of the world deplorably claims the Japanese games industry, and the JRPG, are dead, leafing through this issue of GameFAN you’d think otherwise. In a way the coverage here reinforces something long thought: it’s not that Japan isn’t producing great games anymore, it’s that the western press has its fingers in its ears while screaming “LA-LA-LA-LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
There’s other great Japanese games mentioned, like Sonic Generations, an in-depth feature on the history of Disgaea, alongside a review of Disgaea 4, Zelda Skyward Sword, Guardian Heroes HD Remix, and Solatorobo. Well, I don’t actually like Solatorobo (in fact I hate it), but that still doesn’t change the fact that no matter how you cut it – the coverage here shows it’s a great time to be playing Japanese games. The fact they placed a French developed game on the cover (Rayman), proves that the different sides of the industry can in fact co-exist peacefully. I dunno, maybe the rest of the Western press has been playing too many army games, hence the growing mental view of Us-Versus-Them when it comes to Japan. A little bit sad, I think. To me Japan’s downfall – to a certain degree – appears to be the imaginings of the West; an apparition born out of misguided Schadenfreude and championed by weekend-warriors still high from killing militants in the latest Call of Warfare: My Patriotic Duty 5.
Seriously, if I compile a year-by-year list of good games from Japan, and limit it exclusively to those released in the west, they are still producing more incredible games than I have enough time to even playthrough. I don’t know where the misgivings come from, and I don’t actually know what the naysayers are expecting.
Here’s a look at that Rayman coverage, including interview with Michel Ancel
Other coverage includes a review of the stunning looking Bastion, plus a profile of 25 Years of Zelda. There’s no mention of the awesome CDi Zelda titles I love so much, but hey, no one is perfect.
There’s also an excellent double spread on GBA games – which is handy. I love visual info-dumps like this, it allows you to sit back and comb through each little box, taking your time to appreciate how voluminous the system’s library is. In additiont there’s a look at Silhouette Mirage, Wonder Dog, Skeleton Crew and Pilotwings (SNES) in the retro section. Plus a look at various comics and anime which would appeal to the readership.
I’m glad GameFAN is still being produced, because it presents the world of videogames as I remember it, and how I would like to see it continue. It portrays the medium like it was before the fun and passion died in other places. Which begs the question: is the shift we’ve seen in the world of games actual reality, or simply a frame of mind put forth by critics?