I haven’t been a regular subscriber to Nintendo Power in about 12 years, but I’m sad to see the magazine go out of print. Being a Nintendo kid, it was a big part of my childhood. I looked forward to it each month, and I read it cover-to-cover.
The Internet was something most people had never heard of back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, let alone have access to it in their homes. There were no Nintendo fan sites to visit, or forums to chat with other fans. Nintendo Power fulfilled that roll back then. You read what other fans were talking about in Player’s Pulse, and saw what they were playing in the Top 30. You learned all the secret tricks in Classified Information, and got questions answered in Counselors’ Corner. Even following the extensive maps was like the print version of a YouTube longplay.
I got the very first issue as a free sample, but I actually didn’t subscribe until December 1990. Of course, it was part of the infamous free Dragon Warrior promotion that netted the publication an extra half-million subscribers. Could you imagine Nintendo being so generous now? “Free Xenoblade Chronicles with 12-month subscription!” I suppose even that wouldn’t save the magazine now.
I subscribed for exactly 10 years, and got my last issue in November 2000. I bought one or two issues off the newsstand after that, and I also got a free three-month sample subscription later, but I think the magic had disappeared back in the mid ’90s (coinciding with the rise of the Internet, now that I think about it). But I still have all my back issues, and I still look through them every now and then. It really brings back happy memories.
And of course, I would be remiss not to mention the magazine’s original mascot and resident comic strip character, Nester. Obviously, I was a huge fan of the character, as I have since adopted his name and likeness for my online persona. (Please don’t sue me, NoA!) Although he only made a few rare appearances after the strip was discontinued in December 1993 (and even popped up in a few games), I kind of feel like the character’s legacy is dying with the magazine. I think a lot of people don’t remember him anyway, but I like keeping the spirit alive.
Well, I’ve rambled on enough, but the magazine meant a lot to me. Jason, Wildcat, what did Nintendo Power mean to you?
When I was a kid, I remember stumbling upon Nintendo Power on occasion, and being completely enamored with the issues. I distinctly recall the massive Battletoads feature, packed full of comics to supplement the hints. The Mega Man 5 Robot Master Contest, which led to Mega Man 6′s Knight Man and Wind Man later on. The Super Mario Bros. 3 strategy guide, my “bible” for fan designs and role-playing. It was a wonderful experience to peer through those when I could, but the concept of a “subscription” flew over my head until I was older.
I don’t remember exactly when, but when I got my N64 in 1996 I subscribed, and I had a blast getting a new issue every month for several years. I gleefully extended my membership with t-shirt (Zelda: Four Swords, Metroid Zero Mission, Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones) and strategy guide bonuses (Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie). I partook of the NP Store, adding a couple of soundtracks, their Mario line of plushies, and a couple other items to my collection. I relished that magazine for a very long time. The articles were enjoyable, the strategy useful, and the overall quality was pretty consistent. I let many other gaming magazines slide out of my life (only Next Generation meant as much to me), but NP was a constant through my teens.
When Nintendo sold it off to Future, that was about when I jumped off the boat. No offense to Chris Slate, who I do admire for his tenure at Game Players back in the day, but I didn’t care as much to the shift of style and focus when he took over the reins. I let my subscription slide and didn’t look back. I suppose the goodies Nintendo offered were excellent incentive to keep on going, but Future didn’t really offer that kind of bait to lure me back in.
I’ve been in Nintendo Power once! I was one of the finalists who rose to the Smash Bros. challenge of unlocking Ness. I also won a Zelda: Twilight Princess t-shirt from their contest for the game, which I still have! I bought a bunch of issues from a yard sale in college from ye olde days of NES and Super NES coverage, and they’re still mine, stuffed in a massive box at my parent’s house. I suppose I should attempt to dig a few out for prosperity’s sake.
So, in short, I cared a lot for NP as a kid and a teen, and its loss is certainly heartfelt by me. I’ll probably do a more in-depth spotlight on my favorite issues down the road.
In some ways, this feels like I’m a few years out of college and hearing that someone I grew up with has died. I might not have spoken to Nintendo Power much over the past decade, but it still hurts to see it pass on. Perhaps most of all, I regret not being there to support it, because it means I’ll never have that chance again.
Do these feelings sound strange coming from someone like me? It’s true that I’ve jumped onto the 360, and to a smaller extent, PS3 bandwagons. Gaming has matured as a medium over the years, and likewise, so have the people playing them. I still have a great deal of respect for the Nintendo design philosophy, and I’ve had a lot of fun with games produced for their hardware. I just feel as though I’ve outgrown their particular approach to games as a whole.
Even so, I grew up in the 80s and 90s, like so many others. I can still remember the old tv ads prompting viewers to subscribe to Nintendo Power (get the clues that you can use, Nintendo Power!).
NP began in what was truly a different era. Not just for games, but for the procurement of information itself. There was no ready access to the internet. You couldn’t simply go to You Tube to look up a video on whatever game struck your fancy. You couldn’t swing by GameFAQs for a guide to your latest pursuit. In those early days, Nintendo Power was basically the only way to obtain ANY information about video games and the industry as a whole, outside of being a member of the development community itself.
I have so many fond memories, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. Of course there was the reader-submitted letter section at the start of each issue. The letters themselves usually weren’t noteworthy, but the artwork on some of the envelopes themselves were rather impressive.
Then you had the guides, which made up the bulk of each issue. These were much better than simple “go here, do this” text documents like you find online these days. The nature of 2D gaming meant that it was possible to construct an entire map of a game by taking pictures of each individual screen, then assembling them on a page, or across several pages. I can’t tell you how many times those things saved my ass. To this day, the maps they did for Nightshade and Arcana still hold very special places in my heart. Yes, I have a heart!
There were also monthly contests. Each issue came with a little cardboard insert, and you’d just have to fill out a questionnaire and drop it in a mailbox for a chance at some rather nice prizes. A few that I can remember off the top of my head were the arcade unit for Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, that bizarre keyboard game and peripheral for the SNES, and, to tie in with the Total Recall movie, a chance to meet Arnold Schwarzenegger himself. If I remember correctly, that one didn’t work out so well for the winner, as he only got to meet the man for a very brief handshake. Ah, well.
The password / cheat section was also rather useful at times. Again, there was no GameFAQs back then, so this was the only way for most of us to find out about the hidden secrets within our favorite titles. Each issue also had a “Councilor’s Corner” section right after that, where readers would right in about the parts they were stuck on with whatever game they were playing, and the “pros” at their 900 number would provide tips and strategies for overcoming those obstacles. This was how I found out that Maniac Mansion actually had multiple endings.
Another interesting feature was the celebrity interview section. This was discontinued in later years, but in the beginning, they would find some random celebrity and ask them about games. Off the top of my head, I can remember Mayim Bialik and David Faustino being in there on separate occasions.
Man. I could just go on and on about how great Nintendo Power was, but maybe it would suffice to say that there was simply nothing else like it in those early days, and it truly saddens me to hear that it’s going to end. Game on, NP. I’ll pour a bottle of Mario soda out on the corner for you.
I was just thinking how both the impending discontinuation of Nintendo Power and the end of GamePro last year have each resulted in an outpouring of affection, despite that both magazines were viewed as propaganda rather than “serious” gaming publications. I suppose that betrays how much they were actually ingrained in gaming culture. Video game media has changed a lot since then, and the closing of these early magazines truly brings about the end of an era.