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.