Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Nintendo Power, Volume 23 (April 1991)

I recently tracked down the first Nintendo Power that I ever read. I was eight, and the local library had a ton of Nintendo Power back-issues. This was the most recent issue at the time, and despite barely playing any video games yet I was enraptured.

Old-school table of contents! The Super NES wasn't out yet. It was all about the NES and Super Mario Bros 3 at this point in time.

One of my favorite NES games of all time. It's hard to believe I didn't play this until a few years ago, given that it might well be the first video game that I ABSOLUTELY HAD TO HAVE. In 1991, this was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Of course, other cooler things would soon replace it in my mind, like playing Mario 3 and Mega Man 3 at the houses of friends. Even after I had an NES (and access to emulation) around 1998/1999, I never got around to this game until many many years later. Read my post on this game HERE.

The Skelebot over there was the most difficult battle in the game. It's amazing just how much Terminator influence is found in these old games.

I also played the disappointing sequel. Read about that one HERE.

Early Nintendo Power was known for its comics. I was never really into Howard & Nester (especially compared to how much I liked the Mario, Zelda, and Metroid comics later), but a lot of people were.

This deal is INSANE. It's basically four players guides free with a subscription. The two that are TBA turned out to be the Super NES guide and Mario Mania, I believe. I could be completely wrong, though. One of them might be the Top Secret Passwords guide.

Here's a game that I was significantly less interested in, especially since one of my classmates said it was awful. I'm sure I'll play it at some point, though. With a name like that, it's begging to get a run-through from me.

Notice how the diction is COMPLETELY different in the coverage of this game, switching to 80's rad-speak. Nintendo Power would generally use different vocabulary depending on which game was being covered at any given time.

On the left is the Staff of Thunder trick that I used to make money in Dragon Warrior 2. On the right is a stage select trick for Shadow of the Ninja, a game I got around to playing through many many years later. In 1991 I was weirdly obsessed with seeing the last levels of games, and my doctor's office had Shadow of the Ninja. So I made note of these codes, planning to punch them in next time I was there and see if I could beat the game. No idea if I tried or not, but given my relative inexperience, my plan likely failed.

Sword Master looks pretty cool. It also looks like it could easily be one of those games that looks a lot better than it is. I'll need to check it out eventually. The stages are side-scrolling, and you gain exp by beating up foes as you proceed. The subject matter is interesting... then again, now we have Elder Scrolls for this kind of thing.

Diction for this one: Medieval fantasy-language and words like "dwell" and "nigh".

One thing I REALLY like about old Nintendo Powers is the way they covered abilities and enemies. As a monster-thusiast, it's entertaining for me to read about various game-foes.

Another game that I've never played, but might at some point due to the comic possibilities, is... SCAT.

There's SO MUCH to comment on from these two pages alone. First of all, the two main characters are named Arnold and Sigourney. I wonder where they got those names. Also, their in-game portraits look completely different than the box artwork. In-game, Arnold looks like a buff bro-dude. If he didn't have any hair, he'd look like every other hero in modern gaming. In the artwork, Arnold looks like a constipated 70's porn star. In-game, Sigourney looks vaguely like Sigourney Weaver. In the artwork, she's a sexy long-haired blonde.

Diction for SCAT: Tough-talking serious language like "angle your blasters 45 degrees" and "play it smart".

The poster in this issue shows a New York City knockoff getting destroyed by Godzilla. The original SimCity wasn't out yet, if I'm not mistaken, so this was hyping the forthcoming Super NES release.

Here's a game that I've never played. Game Boy RPG, looks good for the time.

Diction for this one: More fantasy-theme. "The dragon persuaded the king to remove the sword through the power of the mind. Since then, evil has reigned."

I'm surprised they didn't go full "hath".

Ah, Ultima: Runes of Virtue for the Game Boy. I was a bit obsessive over the sequel to this game, for a while. Never got ahold of it, and it's just as well because I later heard that it wasn't good. I'll check both of them out eventually. The Ultima series is one that I so desperately want to like since it has such a unique universe, but I've never found any of the games to be very playable.

Diction for this one: More medieval talk, with an abundance of words like "quest", "valor", and "perhaps".

Here's a game that I eventually bought (and far more eventually sold). Great little shooter. Surprised the developers didn't get sued for the blatant Xenomorph on the covers of all of their games.

Diction in this one: Super excited! Just about everything ends with an exclamation point!

Whoa, cool. It's WWF Superstars, with a rad picture of Ultimate Warrior. When I was a kid reading this, one of my friends pointed out that UW only had big arms because of that thing tied around his bicep. I guess he thought human muscles were the same as balloons. We were eight.

Diction: Pretty normal for this one. I like how it starts - "Pro wrestling may not be the most believable sport around but it definitely is one of the funnest." Ya'll need a new editor!

Here are the Brag Pages, where geeks, nerds, and dweebs the world over send their high scores in for zero minutes of fame. I once sent in what I thought was an astounding time for Super Metroid (1:38) but it turned out lots of other people had done it in the 1:05-1:12 range. Bet I could do better with my modern understanding of game fundamentals and sequence breaking... if I had the hand-dexterity that I had back then. ...ladies.

What gets me is all the "Finished" listings here. Those aren't high scores, and I know tons of people have beaten Final Fantasy. Did they just randomly pick a few names out of all the pictures that were sent in?

Then again, it's possible that most of the people who sent in pictures were excluded because their pictures didn't come out well. We didn't have digital cameras back then; you took a picture and had no idea how it came out until you got it developed. Pretty rough.

Counselor's Corner was probably my favorite recurring "column" in the magazine. They'd just take a bunch of frequently-asked questions from popular (or not-so-popular but decent and in need of exposure) games and answer them (with screenshots). Just awesome stuff, and something I'd flip to pretty fast every time a new NP arrived.

The Top 30, as voted by readers. Mario generally ruled the top spot, but once the Super NES came along he'd have to fight Link for it on a regular basis.

This is why Nintendo Power is so much better than any other gaming magazine to come along since. Everything about it - from the fonts to the placement of screenshots to the energetic artwork - is just exciting to look at.

Speaking of artwork, interesting representations for the voting blocks. Apparently Players are stoned out of their minds, Pros are big-chinned businessmen, and Dealers are all old curio shop owners.

Dealers I get, they're the people who work in game retail. Their numbers seem a bit high for that, but whatever. How did they differentiate Players and Pros, though? Did people, while writing in, specify whether they were a Pro or not? I a Pro?

The previews were fun too. I can't even imagine a modern game magazine having cartoon toads leaping about on a preview page. It's just awesome. There's barely room for text between all of the colorful visuals, and ya know what? I kinda like it that way. The text that exists has to be quick and to-the-point.

Capcom - a single-minded being - is thinking about doing another Mega Man. But what system will it be on? Turns out they'd keep going with the NES for another three installments before the first SNES game dropped over two years after the system's launch.

Last but not least, Player's Pulse. The letters section. It was usually something I skipped over back in the day, not enough game screenshots. In the modern era, Player's Pulse has become somewhat of an endless source of mocking for various internet writers; the volume of unintentionally hilarious letters in these sections is pretty high in retrospect.

Unfortunately for this post, this particular Player's Pulse isn't one of the funny ones. We were in the midst of the 1991 Gulf War and there were a number of letters from U.S. troops about how the Game Boy was keeping them busy.

In closing, I think the best thing about these early Nintendo Powers is that there's a complete lack of Tingle.

Sadly, there would come a day when this was no longer the case.

And leave a comment below!


  1. NINTENDO POWER! You're doing God's work, sir.

  2. I had this issue as part of the free Dragon Warrior run. Sword of Hope is pretty rough though.

    I LOVE how the magazine says "Peaceful land of Shu" for Destiny of an Emperor, just like in the the game. It's probably why the sentence has stuck in my head. Zhuge Liang isn't a Tiger General though!

  3. You're right, this is great work all around and there's a very good reason we still read and share it. I especially like that you noted all the diction changes from game to game.

    That Sim City ad is rad.