Like so many of us, Nintendo defined my childhood, and at a time before the Internet, Nintendo Power helped shaped the energetic fanbase and video game journalism that so many of us live every day. For the 30th anniversary of the first issue of the magazine, I’d like to showcase how this monthly magazine helped define my relationship with gaming and art.
For those not in the know, Nintendo Power was the official Nintendo magazine that ran from 1988 till 2011, and was recently rebooted as an official Nintendo podcast. The very first issue of Nintendo Power came out in July 1988, featuring then current Super Mario Bros. 2 on the cover. However, I wouldn’t read my first Nintendo Power until a subscription was gifted to me for my birthday in January of 1992. When I held that first issue in my hands, featuring Castlevania IV on the cover, it’s hard to express just how powerful that magazine made me feel. I was now privy to the Nintendo inside circle. I knew all the strategies and codes from games of the day, not to mention news about upcoming games. In the age before the Internet, this kind of information was gold in the school play yard.
I felt like I could almost plausibly claim that my dad worked at Nintendo. If you need further evidence of my pride in being a Nintendo Power subscriber, I cried inconsolably when I thought I lost an issue after bringing it in for show and tell. I found it the next day – turned out I just left it in my desk like a doofus.
Here are just a few of the things that made Nintendo Power special:
Video Game Walkthroughs
In an era where games didn’t hold your hand and actually asked you to read the game manuals, the walkthroughs in Nintendo Power were there to tell you where to go. Mind you, as a school age kid with no money and parents with a limited budget, more often than not they acted as gateways to knowledge for my next holiday list.
The spreads were gorgeous, utilizing game maps painstaking captured screen by screen, along with the ever-so-mystifying art from the games manuals. Even if I didn’t own 90% of the games featured in Nintendo Power, I still felt like I had a relatively intimate knowledge of what all the current games were about (and later in the age of emulation would be able to stoke my nostalgia by actually playing games I read about eons before).
Plenty of people adore old school game manuals for the art, and having a Nintendo Power subscription meant I was able to experience the art of oh so many concept artists, most of whose names I will never even know. I’m sure my early exposure to all this art was in large part why I am so into popular art today.
At any rate, they never gave a walkthrough for the entire game (except in their seperate player’s guides), just enough to tease you into wanting to buy the game and see what comes next. Clever bastards.
I know this “before the Internet” stuff is hard to grasp, but yes, there was a time when gamers around the world couldn’t connect in a heartbeat. While I knew plenty of other Nintendo fans at school, Nintendo Power was able to give me a glimpse into the lives and creativity of gamers from all over the place.
Player’s Pulse was a regular feature in the magazine, posting snail-mailed in letters, photos, fanart, poems – you name it. I must have submitted a handful of crude drawings over the years and was never featured – jerks.
When high scores were still relevant and built-in video game achievement systems were still a dream, people used to compete in video games the old-fashioned way. For all that I know, competitions like this might have been the originator of the speed running craze.
The Power Players’ Arena was a feature where the editors of Nintendo Power issued video game challenges and dared people to compete. Please note the directions on how to take a quality photo of your CRT television using an old-fashioned film camera if you want to feel old (or young, as the case may be).
So get this – before the Internet, you could pay exorbitant rates to speak to video game experts on the phone when you got stuck. These game gurus had encyclopedic binders full of video game secrets and strategies for the truly frustrated gamer. I’m sure they also worked hard to keep you on the phone as long as possible to milk a few extra bucks.
At any rate, Counselors’ Corner was a feature where they featured a few games each month, and threw you a bone with a few secrets here and there. I definitely recall finding a few nuggets in these sections, likely blowing my young child mind when I launched the game and found something I had completely overlooked.
If you didn’t have Nintendo Power or another gaming magazine before the Internet, the closest you might get to knowing about a game before it came out was probably from an insert in a current game or maybe a magazine ad. Nintendo Power kept you updated so you knew where to direct your hype.
In a couple memorable instances, Nintendo Power subscribers even received VHS tape previews of upcoming games. I probably watched The Donkey Kong Country VHS preview at least a dozen times before eventually getting the game.
While this wasn’t a recurring feature for the entire Nintendo Power run, the serialized comics they ran in their early days remain some of my fondest memories of my subscription. Featuring my favorite characters, I literally would be hoping and praying that my magazine would arrive TODAY so I could continue the story.
To say that writing this post made me nostalgic would be an understatement. It makes me wistful for a time before the Internet, where you didn’t have to see shitty comments from gamers about every little development in the gaming industry, and every revolutionary game was a huge event. My subscription to Nintendo Power probably lasted 7 or 8 years, and while you may think I’m crazy, I relegated my entire collection to the recycle bin ages ago. Regardless, I’ll always have the memories of how a monthly arrival in my mailbox was a huge highlight of my young life.
Do you have any memories of Nintendo Power you’d like to share? Throw me a comment below!
All images from this post were taken from scans online at Archive.org.
I’ll leave you all with this magic eye I loved from the 50th issue special. Please note: I am not responsible if you break your eyes trying to experience the magic!