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The Usefulness of Game Review Literature

ScottThe Video Game Ombudsman is in the process of reviewing Pokemon Emerald and he notes that the review copy of the game came with a letter from "Scott", a Pokemon trainer from the Hoenn Region.  The letter is written in character and has even been signed by what VGO assumes is an intern at the public relations agency.  He goes on to ponder if such letters are relevant when it comes to reviewing video games.

How much real value do these press notes add to a review copy of a game? Do they actually influence anyone's opinion? Should we as reviewers care what features the publisher particularly wants to promote? Do these notes merely provide easy ideas for lazy writers that don't necessarily want to play the game? Do reviewers even read them most of the time?

I've been reviewing games for GameCube Advanced for some time now and just about every game that has crossed my console has come with an attachment of some sort.  Usually it's just a press release touting the game's features and which aspects of the game Nintendo etc. hope I emphasize in the review.  Capcom seems to make a practice of this, i.e. "Mega Man!  Now cel shaded!"  Sometimes the press release comes with a letter from the PR agency requesting a follow-up.  The folks behind Street Racing Syndicate's promotion sent a complete list of the game's secrets and cheats plus how to unlock them with express instructions not to share them with anybody (they also sent the Xbox version of the game instead of the GameCube version by accident, but that's a story for another day).

Mp6clockThe best review pack-in that I've received has nothing to do with the game itself besides being branded with the game's logo.  When Mario Party 6 arrived for reviewing last year it came with a sleep mask and a little alarm clock (the PR theme had something to do with waking up early to party).  The game turned out to be terrible, but the clock is rather nice for a freebie.  I have to admit that I've used the clock in the past five months much more than I've played the game.

But back to VGO's question: I read everything that comes with review copies and usually wind up referring to some of it while writing the review.  Nothing is ever copied word for word.  Capcom's by-the-numbers bullet-point press releases are useful for quick reference ("What was that character's name again?").  Letters from fictional characters probably aren't so useful, on the other hand.  I'm scheduled to review Donkey Konga 2 later this month.  If it comes with a signed letter from DK himself I'll be sure to let you know.