zophar53's Blog

Posted on Jul 4th 2019 at 08:00:00 AM by (zophar53)
Posted under Nintendo Power, NP, magazines, Nintendo, nostalgia

Note the two small stacks in the upper right. I have the first 8 issues in zip lock bags

In the months following my becoming a new homeowner, I began the process of sorting through the pile of boxes consisting of the those things we all own that aren't necessary enough to survival to warrant unpacking the first weekend after the move. Among the boxes of games, consoles, and books were the boxes I knew were there but I hadn't decided what to do with just yet. These boxes contained my collection of Nintendo Power magazines.

As I began to pull them out and assess their condition after having been in storage for a year and a half, I got curious. It didn't take long before I learned that this July marks 31 years exactly since the publication's first issue, provided we don't include the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter that was its progenitor. With it's over 24-year production run, it would be too much for me to try and do an exhaustive NP retrospective here. So what I'd like to do instead is celebrate it's anniversary by looking at the impact it had on a young Travis (and kick myself for not picking up on this last year for the 30th anniversary).

Like most eight-year-olds in the late 80s, I couldn't get enough Nintendo in my life. I played every game I could get my hands on. So imagine my surprise when, during one of my family's near-weekly Sunday evening visits to my grandmother's house, I was watching TV and saw this commercial.

The timing could not have been better. Immediately I began asking my grandmother if she would get me a subscription. As grandparents tend to do, she agreed pretty easily, and it wasn't long until I was getting a regular fix of Nintendo news. I don't remember exactly what issue I started with, but I know it wasn't the first. As the years went on, my favorite day of the month came to be when we'd make our weekly trek to Grandma's house and waiting for me on the dining room table would be a new issue. After making sure I said hello and thanked her for getting it for me, I would immediately plop myself down on the living room couch and ignore everyone and everything around me as I pored over page after page.

Back then, game news was hard to come by, and I was so thirsty for it that I'd read the articles about games I wasn't even interested in playing. I was a good reader from a very young age, so I'd read every word, every boss strategy, and every reader letter they printed. I even got one of my own letters printed in the mag at some point. I haven't found it yet in my stack of volumes, but I know I'll find it eventually.

The very first Howard & Nester comic

As the years went on, NP became my primary source of video game information. Eventually other gaming magazines came along and I started reading occasional issues of GamePro or Video Games & Computer Entertainment. The former I very much enjoyed, and had a subscription to it too for a time. But while I appreciated it for it's edgier style and coverage of more than just Nintendo, Nintendo Power was a constant, a non-negotiable. I was such a dedicated reader (and such an introvert at that age) that even as I played my brother's Sega Master System and Genesis, my knowledge of those and other consoles of that era pales in comparison to that of the NES, for better or for worse. At some point or another (probably a birthday), I even convinced my mom to order from Nintendo copies of the back issues from before I became a subscriber so I would have a complete collection.

My grandma continued to renew the subscription for me well into the N64 generation, but as I became older I eventually transferred it into my own name and started paying for it myself. When I went to Columbus to start college at OSU, NP came with me. It and my games were a piece of home and a comfort to me as I lived away from home for the first time, still not very good at making friends on my own.

The seams are subtle, but the duplication of Mario and his life pips are a dead giveaway. Only way to get full maps back then was to take a whole bunch of screenshots and meticulously stitch them together.

I continued to be a loyal subscriber until June of 2000, issue 133. I was 20 years old, back home in Cleveland by then, had a job, a car, and didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. I don't remember why I decided to let my subscription lapse, but I also don't remember missing it much. I still had all my back issues, after all, and with other consoles in my library and other life things on my mind, I'm sure there was plenty to occupy me without it.

To be honest, this is the first time I've really gone back to look through the stack since then. In doing so, a lot of emotions started bubbling up. There are articles I have no memory of, articles that open up memories I'd long forgotten about, ones that trigger memories that are still crystal clear, and some that are just bizarre. For example, the first few issues were glue bound with flat spines, but from July '89 to June '90, they switched to staple binding. I'm guess it was cheaper, but after those six issues, they went back to glue bindings until Jan '96, followed by a year of staple binding, before going back to glue again.

The cool kids had POGs, but the ultra cool kids had Nintendo POGs!

Somewhere around 1994, they started something called a Super Power Club. If I remember right, this was for subscribers-only. Those who were buying NP at the newsstand (remember those?) or bookstores wouldn't get the inserts in the middle of the issue with additional coverage, or the Nintendo Power merch catalog, Nintendo character trading cards, or POGs. I think I may still have my Mega Man X POGs in a long-forgotten box somewhere.

Part of the charm of NP, in looking back through these very early issues, is how much it all reads like state-run press. Since it was published by Nintendo itself, you'd almost never hear anything negative about a game. But at the same time, there are cases where the American editorial team clearly wasn't getting a good translation from their Japanese headquarters. In one issue, there's a small piece about the new game Dragon Ballz II right next to a similarly small article describing the famous Final Fantasy naming discrepancy, except it incorrectly says that the fifth entry would be coming to the US as Final Fantasy III on the Super NES.

It's really fun to think of these events in gaming history that so many of us know, but then to look back at the physical information and how it was reported about at the time, with none of us having the slightest idea what those pieces of information would become to an entire generation. Here we have an article about CES '95, because E3 wasn't a thing yet and the games was taken so non-seriously that they were given a small area of the show floor back behind the section dedicated to porn media. This articles has a preview for Star Fox 2 and a six-page look at Earthbound. And here we see that in Jan '97, when they went back again to glue binding, they started putting little slices of pictures on the spines, so when you put a bunch of them together they'd show a picture of a Nintendo character.

This is the first time I've ever stacked them all up and looked at the whole thing

One read of this page and it's no surprise the 32-bit generation turned out the way it did for Nintento

As I started coming up to the end of my collection, I began to wonder if I should try to seek out the rest of the issues and collect a full set. I'd forgotten how much longer the mag would continue on after I left it behind. It would continue to be published until Dec of 2012, over 12 years after I stopped my subscription. In Dec 2007, Nintendo turned over publication duties to Future US. With the change, I remember checking the magazine out under it's new editorial team. I couldn't get into it like I did when I was a kid. No longer published by Nintendo itself, and not having the narrow, singular-console focus I once did, it simply didn't feel the same. That said, it didn't stop me from being deeply effected when I learned that the December 2012 issue would be its last.

In December 2017, Nintendo Power returned as a podcast. I appreciate the continuation of the name for tradition's sake, but I can't lie. I'm not really interested in listening. My tastes in media consumption are different now, and without the historic ties I just can't imagine I'd be able to muster much enthusiasm for it. If you go to nintendopower.com these days, it routes you to Nintendo's main website. At least they didn't let the domain drift away.

Issue #1, July 1988

With over 24 years in publication, Nintendo Power remains one of the longest-running video game magazines in North America. Flipping back through my collection, I notice that some of them still have the shipping address labels on them. I was a faithful subscriber for over 11 years of my life. The magazine came with me to at least 10 different houses I lived in, 5 schools I attended, and 2 colleges. A year after I stopped subscribing, I'd be 21, and a year after that I'd be moved out of my dad's house.

It's easy to see why looking back through this massive stack of paper would be emotional for me, and it's brought into focus something I've felt about my game collection for some time now. Sometimes people ask me why I have so many video games, why I keep all these magazines and old consoles. For me, they're not just pieces of paper, plastic, circuit boards, or even the games themselves. They're a kind of journal or biography. It's the same reason people keep old photographs. It's one thing to have memories, but it's another thing entirely to have a tangible focal point for your journey through life. I can look at my shelf of games, or page through these magazines, and relive so many things that played huge parts in the person I was at that time and who I became. They're not just pictures, words, and digital signals, they're history, my history.

Issue #285, December 2012

For their final issue, the editors at Future made it a heartfelt tribute to the very first issue, with cover art made to look like the one in 1988. As sad as I was to see the mag go, I couldn't help but smile as I read through it. I think my favorite thing about it though, is the comic they included. In a tribute to the old Howard & Nester comics of NP of old, Nester & Max features Nester as an adult and father. I won't say anymore, as it's best to read it yourself here, but in the best way possible, it pays respect to its past and brings a tear to my eye every time I read it.

What are some of your best Nintendo Power memories, or game magazine memories in general? I'd love to read them in the comments, so feel free to share. Here's wishing a happy 31st to the magazine that let us play with power.

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Thanks for the nice article. Lifting heavy boxes with old magazines when moving is the best Smiley Sometimes the memories of how i gazed at the articles about the games are more stronger, then the memories from playing the game itself. Really funny crocodile/cooper on the first NP-issue.
Brings back so many memories. That's awesome that you had a letter printed in the mag, heck I thought it was cool when mine got in as a third place contest winner. I was a subscriber from '91-'96, and the issues that stand out for me are Vol. 50 which featured a look back at past mags, as well as featuring Link's Awakening, and the one that featured Mega Man Dr. Wily's Revenge on the cover, because it had an interesting look at the Dragon Warrior series.

I also loved the comics based on games, especially the Link to the Past comic.
I read NP for a relatively short amount of time (1988 to the middle of 1991, then briefly in the early 2000's) but it still holds such a lofty place, probably because outside of a few small instances it was the only gaming mag I read.  During this time it put out such a positive view of gaming that one could almost believe all games were playable and nice in their own ways.  Granted, I have been called "brainwashed by Nintendo" by some of my European friends (gently I might add) and there is at least a tiny amount of truth to that statement.  Still, I think that to many of us of a certain vintage (and of a certain console following) NP shows us a glimpse of that past which we still hold tight in our memories, even if the reality of the games don't always match up.

Thanks for the memories, zophar.  I think I will take me a break and leaf through a couple magazines.

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