Sunday, March 18, 2012

Scroll Magazine is Pretty Great

I've been remiss in talking about Ray Barnholt's excellent Scroll magazine, and with the fifth issue released last week, it's a pretty good time to talk about how rad it is.

With the few remaining video game magazines going on as business as usual (and GameFan only coming out intermittently), the door is open for publications to niche interests. The average person gets their news from the internet anyway, so why not gear coverage towards more underground topics, towards the people that value this kind of writing? That's pretty much what Scroll does.

A majority of the issue is devoted to Konami's Love Plus, the recent dating sim that's the topic of much derision and scorn from the Western gaming press. While it's all too easy to mock the concept of a virtual girlfriend, the feature rather explains the history behind it (including the background of Tokimeki Memorial, a game which I have a love/hate relationship with), what it attempts to do, what it accomplishes, and even a bit about it might be healthy, to a certain extent. Anything like this can be taken to ridiculous extremes (and some of it, like the guy who took his Love Plus gal to Guam to get "married", sounds like it was more of a joke, or at worst, a marketing ploy), in moderation the review makes it sound kind of cute, if still not something I'd personally be interested in. There are also several pages devoted to the girls and their families - I've never heard of a dating sim where you'd get introduced to your lady's folks, which is sort of terrifying in principle! Like Tokimeki Memorial, there are also apparently a few old Konami classics buried in there when you spend enough time with the girls.

The rest of the issue has some short write-ups on 7th Dragon 2020 and Cool Boarders, as well as a look at the retro game bar Genesis, which recently opened up in Nagoya. Retro game bar stories are simultaneously awesome and depressing to read, because the liquor laws here in the US (or at least, in my part of New Jersey) pretty much ensures such things will never exist, because the licenses are largely allocated to broader interests like clubs, sports bars, and awful franchises.

Going back a bit, the first issue is a love letter to the Super Famicom. The second one focuses mostly on Dragon Quest, and is worth it for the excellent original artwork pieces, one each for the main games. The third one is the "cute" issue, for the many absurdly adorable games that have come out over the years, with the focusing on 8 and 16-bit arcade and console titles. (Amongst titles like Kirby's Dream Land, Yoshi's Island and Dynamite Headdy, there are a number of games I've never heard of featured in there, including Namco's Marchen Land and Indiezero's/ Nintendo's Sutte Hakkun). The fourth issue is devoted to the floundering existence of the original Xbox in Japan.

The physical issues are printed through Magcloud, which is pricey, but puts on some damned slick productions with heavy stock, far nicer than a typical newsstand rag and even a step up from the British ones. The actual price depends on the length, generally between $10-$20, though PDFs versions for the price conscious/dead tree haters are available too. The PDF version of the second issue is available for free as well.


  1. I did check out the free PDF issue. Virtually unreadable on my screen, but I figured I would like the design in print form. However, I haven't forgiven him enough for jumping on the "Black Onyx was the first Japanese RPG"-bandwagon to order some issues. (Also, the price.)

  2. Ray deserves any and all praise for Scroll... along with your dollars.

  3. I found fault with the Dragon Quest article's content. The issues are nifty enough, but...well, initial disagreement with the author means I won't be buying issues.

  4. derboo, I finished that issue just two days before you posted that blog about RPG history, and I briefly thought "oh man, he's going to have a fit if he sees that RPG article." Believe it or not, I did do my own research on the piece, including finding whatever I could from Japanese sources, but apparently I didn't read everything you did (or do). Furthermore, the thrust of the story was to give an idea of RPGs Japan before DQ came along, touching on points in time that led to it. It was not meant to be a grand history of the role-playing game that put Black Onyx on a pedestal. I *did* read the same things you did about that, but ignoring it would be ignoring a fairly (*fairly*) significant lead-in to DQ's release. But I think you said something along those lines yourself anyway.

    To imply that I got my facts wrong is fine. It always stings when I know I did, and obviously I'm pretty in line with the tastes and loves of HG101, so when it comes to that, it *really* stings. (And since you're a contributor here, that's why I'm writing this kinda-too-long reply.) However, it's another thing to say you didn't "forgive me" for it, which to me sounds like it conflicts with your own level-headed intro to your blog/casebook entry. Then again, if you were just kidding, that's fine too. I hope you do find the time to turn that stuff into big, crazy, definitive-as-possible HG101 articles.