There's a bit of rough -- not necessarily "bad" -- news up front. Though you can buy either a digital or physical copy of the mag right away, there is no option to subscribe just yet. This is a result of NF being distributed through MagCloud, which unfortunately does not offer subscriptions.
Also, since the premier issue is a print-on-demand affair -- to gauge initial interest, I'd assume -- it is a bit pricier than anyone would have liked. The digital copy is $4.99, whereas the digital / physical bundle is a whopping $17.99 (though there's a coupon that gives you a 24% discount). This is a temporary thing until the NF crew can hammer out an affordable printing solution in time for issue #2, but in the meanwhile, know that all proceeds from mag sales are going to charity.
But enough about that. How is the first issue? Let me tell you!
First thing you'll notice is the cover: It is super clean! Extremely tasteful and smart, although the round Nintendo Force logo stamped in the right corner feels a bit awkward.
As mentioned previously, Nintendo Force aims to carry the tradition of Nintendo Power, so it offers many familiar NP staples like reader's letters, envelope art, and a friendly writing voice. It's naturally heavy on the "Nintendo can do no wrong" attitude, but it's no more egregious than any issue of NP. Besides, it's refreshing to read a gaming publication that isn't overloaded with snark and cynicism.
There are reviews of upcoming or recently released games like Fire Emblem: Awakening; previews of Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, Pikmin 3, and others; a retro section that explores old classics like Yoshi's Island and even Goof Troop; and a 2013 wishlist -- port begging inbound! There's even exclusive coverage of eShop's Mutant Mudd Deluxe, which features an interview with Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham and a peek at the new "parallel universe" levels.
But the best is the original art! Throughout the issue are clay figurines of various Nintendo characters, created by Camille Young. Then we've got not one but three original comics, one of which is going to be an ongoing series -- "Super Mario Bros.: Neo Bowser City," written by David Oxford and illustrated by Mark Kelly, in which the Koopas manage to take over the Mushroom Kingdom during the plumbers' adventures in Dinosaur Land in Super Mario World.
Oh, and no advertisements!
The heart of the magazine is definitely in the right place, but if Nintendo Force is to succeed in a world dominated by instant information delivery across the net, I would hope the editors place a bigger focus on original features and try to score more exclusives. The Mutant Mudds Deluxe coverage is great, so I'd like to see more of that with potentially bigger titles as well. I also see potential for smart, thought-provoking editorials -- or maybe just some fun top 10 lists.
Most of all, I hope the editors maintain their enthusiasm. This is a labor of love, which means there's a greater risk that they could lose interest if the magazine doesn't immediately take off. I truly want to see how far this project can go.
If you are still on the fence, give the digital release a try. And if you want to be notified the second subscriptions become available, email email@example.com with the subject line "I want to subscribe!"