On the up side, it's a game about M.U.S.C.L.E. characters. On the down side, it absolutely sucks.
Only pinball wizards of the highest order got to help Mario save the ugly girl up in the cage.
Loads of bells and whistles light up this very underrated NES game.
A game where you ski around avoiding trees, other ski people, and some kind of weird alien midgets.
A review of 'Baseball' for the NES, where home runs made the crowd turn into Christmas lights.
Nintendo Power's debut issue came out in the later part of spring in 1988, kicking off a hugely successful run that'd both promote whatever Nintendo wanted to promote while giving lots of gaming fans lots of pretty pictures to look at. I'm hardly a gamer - if asked to name my ten favorite titles, you'd basically get the same list I would've given you back when my pubic hair was just starting to sprout. It's got nothing to do with hating video games or feeling like that whole deal is a thing of the past; I still buy games today, but I'm just not very good at them. This actually works against me quite a bit. I'm such a geek in other areas that it's only natural that people who are still heavily into video games in their twenties would find some rapport with me. More truthfully, nobody else talks to me. So I'll be standing there in a circle of gamers, conversing about the latest technologies and whatnot, and the best gem I can ever come up with is - 'Hey, I hear America Online's doing great things with that there Slingo game. Damn Devil.'
These days, my knowledge is limited. But if we're talking Nintendo? 1988? That I know. You don't forget Glass Joe and that weird statue of Kraid that I could never seem to break down. We were all Nintendo junkies, and for a time, there wasn't anything more important than Contra's super code or imitating the face Great Tiger makes after he gets all dizzy and shit. Nintendo Power was a godsend to us kids. Unlike today's typical gaming mags, this one was written specifically for people with zero education and a likely inkling to jump into leaf piles. Aside from the occasional Weekly Reader, Nintendo Power was one of the only works of literature many of us could proudly claim to have read cover-to-cover. What a lot of people don't realize is that Nintendo was putting out little magazines for a long while before slapping on the 'Power' moniker and raking in zillions of subscribers. The first NES mag? The Nintendo Fun Club.
The Fun Club newsletters were fairly short and direct, featuring only a few 'major' stories and a whole lotta shilling. If you can ever get your hands on one, don't pass up on the opportunity. Nintendo was a much smaller entity back then, and it showed in the grassroots way these magazines were written. Calling it a 'Fun Club' wasn't just a name - readers (well, us younger readers at least) really felt like we were part of some hidden society of loser Nintendo fans all banding together to send a big 'fuck you' to our more built peers who were off taking names in Little League. Hey, even kids who couldn't play baseball wanted to feel a sense of belonging to something. Anything. If Nintendo claimed that reading their newsletter put us into a special club, who were we to rebel?
Then, one day, it came. Subscribers to the Fun Club received a large, pastel-colored envelope in the mail. In it was a letter explaining that the good ol' club was coming to an end, but only to usher in what'd ultimately create a much broader club: the readers of Nintendo Power. Yes, we were told that our beloved Fun Club was no more, but for a small subscription price, we could join their new reindeer game. Now any switch from 'free' to 'not free' is going to be met with some criticism, but Nintendo had a trick up their sleeve. Also enclosed in that pastel-envelope I remember so vividly? The very first issue of Nintendo Power.
Oh, it was wonderful. Dozens of pages absolutely full of information on our favorite games, upcoming titles, behind-the-scenes goodies, and pictures of Mario giving that stupid peace sign. I must have read this magazine a thousand times that month, and I wasn't alone. My fellow students carried the thing around too, like a badge of honor, leading to various splinter groups forming their own little clubs based on their fave titles. My group started a Zelda club, which was interesting since we didn't do much during the meetings aside from coloring pictures of Triforce pieces on construction paper. (we kept all the drawings in our own personal manilla envelopes - no good club doesn't have protected documents) During recess, we'd meet up with the other clubs. The Punch-Out Club, the Mario Club, and the damn losers over in the Duck Hunt Club with the 2% milk and icky oatmeal cookies. When we had these large gatherings, everyone would pull out their Nintendo Power magazines and trade stories about what they've read. My point? Even if the magazine sucked and was nothing more than a money-generating promo machine, it still gave us lots of fun things to do during those dreary times when someone accidentally hit the kickball onto the roof.
Recently, I had the chance to pick up that first issue once again, and all those great memories came flooding back. Memories of the Zelda club, memories of hitting a floating Madusa head with a big whip, and even some memories about Hogan's Alley, but they were far and few between. Over the years, usually by way of my nieces and nephews, I've read some of the more recent issues of the mag. It never quite had the same effect as the first. I'm sure it's partly because I knew nothing about these sordid new games being covered, but there's still a small part of me that believes Jesus himself came down from the most righteous of clouds to bless the first issue. It was just so much fun.
I knew I should've cut the gushing before I ended up having nowhere left to go but a call to Jesus. I'm cursed with the idea that religious icons must be responsible for anything I've considered cool. I can't tell you how much trouble I used to get in for insinuating that God had something to do with Gremlins 2.
I still have no other explanation for the Brain Gremlin's rendition of New York, New York.
Anyway, for those who remember it or are otherwise curious, today we're going to take an in-depth look at Nintendo Power's famous debut issue. You'll see scans of pages, scans of other pages, and scans of more pages. Lots of scans of pages. I'll also be adding my own commentary along the way, because if I didn't, this article would've been considered a picture gallery and the very idea of that makes me sicker than the poor, withered Doku tree. I haven't included every page, just the ones that meant something to me and the ones that didn't have anything about Kid Icarus, because I've never played it and don't want to look inadequately prepared. This one's going to have to be spread out over two pages, since there's too much for one dot-html to possibly contain without exploding. The fickle should be warned - there's a serious bonus for those who stick with it till the end of the article. And by serious, of course, I mean cereal. Enjoy...
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The inside cover featured an ad for you to call the 'Nintendo Powerline,' where expert gamers would give you live help, aiding you in your quest to save princesses and eat coins. The amazing thing? The service was totally free. Without anything to gain aside from customer loyalty, this meant that Nintendo actually paid people to sit by phones all day, telling kids to punch King Hippo in the belly button. A lot of people probably wonder why so many of us have stuck with Nintendo through thick and thin over the years - things like this certainly helped.
Pete: Thanks for calling the Nintendo Powerline! This is Pete! Pete!! How can I be of service?
Tommy: Hi Pete, this is Tommy. I can't beat Zelda.
Pete: Well, which part of the game are you up to, Tommy?
Tommy: The part where I choose a name. Should I put 'Thomas' or 'Tommy?'
Pete: That's your call. It won't affect your gameplay.
Tommy: I didn't say it would, Pete. I'm just asking for your personal opinion.
Pete: Okay...well...why don't you go with 'Tommy' then?
Tommy: BECAUSE THAT ISN'T MY GIVEN NAME ASSHOLE.
Pete: That's true, Thomas. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Tommy: Sometimes, when I pee, my pee-pee grows bigger. What does that mean?
Pete: I'm only at liberty to discuss Nintendo-related inquiries, Thomas.
Tommy: Uh oh, there it goes again. You and that deep voice, you've really done it this time, Pete. Oh wait! That old man just gave me a sword! Okay cool. Pete, you're a good man. I'm sure your kids are real proud of their daddy's career. Bye now.
There's the table of contents. The big games at the time were The Legend of Zelda and the just-released Super Mario Bros. 2. To their credit, Nintendo covered a lot of the older games kids were still into playing, mixing the stuff people wanted to see with the stuff they wanted you to see. It wasn't just one big commercial in print. While they weren't really going to come down on any of the games for their own system, all of the articles were approached honestly enough. They usually steered away from romanticizing crap - if the game sucked, they didn't say it sucked, but they didn't spend a whole lot of time talking about it. Years later, issues of the same magazine typically featured 15-page articles on games kids wouldn't play unless they were being held at gunpoint by someone with very large fangs.
Super Mario 2 probably got the most coverage, which was perfectly acceptable at the time since everyone was going absolutely crazy for this game. It's predecessor was the very reason most people bought the system to begin with, and if you consider that its legend is still growing game-by-game today, you can just imagine just how big this fad really was. That plumber was in all of our hearts, and we wanted to know everything we possibly could about his new adventure.
The magazine was my first look at the game I wanted so badly, and obviously, I was floored by what I saw. Mario! The Princess! Toad! A much taller Luigi with magic flippy feet! Egg-spitting transvestite dinosaurs! I couldn't believe what I was reading, and by the time I got to the page shown above, I knew that my life would never be complete until I owned Super Mario 2. I mean, I already loved Mario, and now the guy could throw big turnips with curious demeanors at mask-wearing birdies. That sure beat the hell out of stomping on walking mushrooms 17,000 times in a row.
This two-page spread detailed each of the Super Mario 2 characters' strengths. Luigi is the high jumper, Princess Toadstool is the long jumper, Mario is the best all-around athlete, and apparently, Toad kicks major ass at punting big goofy mice.
Other pages encountered a little problem in their design. Nintendo wanted their magazine to be as colorful as possible, and this unfortunately extended to the underbelly of some of the text sections. It's a good thing our eyes were already crossed from playing video games, otherwise this might've been quite the pisser. I'm pretty sure these pages inspired the future templates of Geocities and Xoom luminaries 'Aisha26' and '2CooFoSkoo.'
Next up are a few entries from Nintendo Power's 'Counselor's Corner,' where readers were given answers to some of the more burning video game questions. In an era where mass communication wasn't anything like it is today, the tips found in this magazine proved more helpful than you might think. Without Nintendo Power, I might've never figured out that the fatter players in Ice Hockey were also the slowest. Thanks, magazine!!
Ah, Ghosts N' Goblins. The game is pretty famous, and while I owned it, I never could get past this grinding, repeating idea that it absolutely sucked. Actually, it didn't suck at all - it was just incredulously hard for someone who hadn't mastered the fine art of the A and B buttons. My brother took me to our only local comic shop to buy the cart - this was back before comics had their big boom and needed to rely on other sorts of income - and even with the high price tag, I couldn't resist that cheerful picture of Lucifer on the box. He just looked like someone I had to impale. As things turned out, I never got up to Lucifer. Actually, I never got up to the guy six people down the totem pole from Lucifer. Frig, I don't think I even made it past the second stage.
I'd do pretty well to a certain point, but then it was just too many zombies or too many flying red bats, or birds that flew at me from tombstones and made my hard metal armor turn into sexy red underwear. I wish I hadn't skipped this little blurb back when I originally had the magazine, since it gives you the secret information on how to go to any stage of the game you desired. I missed my chance to take down the devil, but don't go blaming Nintendo Power. They tried to help. I was just too cross-eyed from the damn Bases Loaded page up above to read it correctly.
Ah, the famous '1-Up Trick' from Super Mario Brothers, something with which I had a success rate of 0007% in accomplishing. It's not that I didn't know how to do it - the information was right there in front of me. Still, for whatever reason, I could never seem to pull it off. I'd get that first Koopa turtle out of the way, and when the fabled second Koopa made his trek down the brick mountain, I'd always fuck up and somehow kill Mario. You know the music that played whenever Mario lost one of his lives? Well, and I swear this is true - it got to the point where that music would play as soon as I got up to that second turtle. The game became so confident that I was gonna die again that it'd roll out with the theme prematurely just to spite and shame me.
I really hated that stupid Koopa turtle. The second one, I mean. The first one was just doing his job. The second one was mean to me.
There's really not much to add to the Castlevania blurb above - I just wanted to reiterate what a great game it was, and still remains. I wasn't very good at this one either, but it certainly managed to create a creepy atmosphere. Come on, there had to be a few moments where you felt bad for poor Simon. I think it really hit me at the point where he had to fend off a herd of little hunchbacks. By the time he got there, Simon had already sliced through giant bats, fish people, hungry dogs, and ghastly dark knights. He was obviously a worthy opponent for the Count, but the guy was still forced to put on a circus show, running around chasing tiny freaky oompaloompa things with a boomerang.
Plus, I've always entertained the theory that the two 'boss' mummies weren't really villains, but rather a pair of severely wounded dancers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you'll notice, they never actually try to attack Simon, instead content going about their little interpretive dance while you throw deadly poison at 'em. It created a small sense of remorse in me when it came time to send them to Hell, but I wasn't about to give up on the chance to have a No-DQ match with the Grim Reaper. He didn't have feet. Simon had feet. I knew I could take home a victory based on that.
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! was one of the hottest games of the decade, and was riding a particularly high wave of love and sweetness when Nintendo Power came out. So, it only made sense that they'd tell you how to do what was then considered impossible: take down Mike Tyson. Evidently, you had to be able to decipher his Morse code facial expressions and eye winks to ensure a TKO. They claim that Tyson would wink at Little Mac before throwing a straight punch, which if you really think about it, doesn't make much sense at all. The picture on the right is the face Tyson makes before unleashing a furious flurry of jabs. It's also the face he makes when he tries to shit after eating furious Taco Bell.
That's all for this page, but there's plenty more on the second! Remember Nester? The monthly Top 30? How about random, off-topic articles about Kirk Cameron and Pee-Wee Herman? It's all on page two, with a special surprise download...