Just weeks after it was announced, the self-described spiritual successor to the long running and beloved Nintendo Power magazine, Nintendo Force, made its debut. For $17.99. Oh, and another three bucks for shipping. No sir or madam, that is not the subscription price. That’s for the first bi-monthly issue. You can always opt for the digital version for a mere $4.99, but again, no subscription rate. The worst part is, you’re going in blind. The preview function on the magazine’s purchase page reveals the table of contents and that’s all.
The editor-in-chief, IGN’s Lucas M. Thomas, has said he is aware of these problems and resolves to fix them for issue two, but I can’t be the only one who feels the launch is kind of a mess from a consumer perspective. I loved Nintendo Power, and not just as a Nintendo fan. It was a fun magazine and I enjoyed reading it up until the very end. So despite my reservations, I bit. I paid the $21 for a single issue of a magazine that I couldn’t even flip through. With my purchase of the print version, I had immediate access to the digital version. I wasn’t impressed.
Nintendo Force is printed by HP Magcloud, which is a vanity press print-on-demand service and why the magazine is so expensive (according to contributor Kevin Cassidy of GoNintendo, it costs $17 to just print the damn thing). The digital version is thus tied to the HP Magcloud iOS app. It’s a slow, chunky thing and little more than a glorified PDF reader. The experience is not entirely pleasant.
The issue is nearly 80 pages long with no ads, but very little of the magazine is original or editorial content. Most of it is composed of news, reviews or previews, much of which has been readily available online already. The writing is acceptable at its best, but not-very-good at its worst so I don’t really know what the selling point of the magazine is. It’s long, but it’s a lot of fluff and empty space.
What makes Nintendo Force really such a chore to read though is the layout/art direction.
Here is a small photograph of page 30. It looks like one of those full page video game ads from 1993. I don’t even know where to begin. Literally. Where are my eyes supposed to go on this page? Why is half a Wario inexplicably exploding from a screenshot? Why is that enormous, page-spanning paragraph jagged and exhausting just to look at? Are those captions or two more floating paragraphs at the bottom? Why does that Bayonetta preview just list off a bunch of personnel and contain an awkward sentence fragment?
And on and on; this is the magazine in a nutshell. It’s boring and inoffensive. Matthew Taranto’s comics are pleasant and Camille Young’s wonderful clay figures dotting the pages are a treat. Oh, and the paper is nice. I like the paper. But that’s about it. Nowhere to go but up from here though, I guess.