It's been a while since my last one of these, and I find myself desiring to get back on the horse, so let's get this party started up again, shall we? Hold on to your seats boys and girls, and LET'S READ!!
Hot damn, this issue brings back memories. Aside from the first issue, this is the earliest issue of the magazine that I still own in physical print format (I had issue #9 a long time ago, but it met with a gruesome accident involving Kool-Aid that I'm still not willing to discuss). In any case, this one was quite timely as Batman fever swept the nation and Nintendo raced to capitalize on the Michael Keaton/Jack Nicholson film by authorizing the release of a Batman video game. Sunsoft to the rescue! And let's not forget, we've still got Super Mario 3, Shadowgate and Double Dragon II, along with that double bonus Tetris tip book (which a sidebar in the table of contents reminds you NOT TO REMOVE!) and World of Nintendo catalogue. Rip open those covers, time's a-waistin'!
Mail Bag opens the issue with a rumour that Mario's had some 'cosmetic work' done to improve/change his nose over the years (screenshots provided!). We also learn that Game Counselors not only have to be awesome at video games but also require a high school diploma along with excellent writing and telephone skills (not to mention a Redmond, Washington address). Nintendo Power only wants to review games that are out or close to being released at this stage in the game, so they're not talking about pre-releases and such the way their competitors do. Also, they read and respond to every letter they receive even if said letters don't get printed in the magazine. How in the name of Gannon did they do this (the editors report they receive thousands of submissions every month) without going batshit crazy?
Three players get on the coveted Video Spotlight this time around. The first two are pretty run-of-the-mill, being a college student who uses the NES to take a break from the reality of chemistry labs and research papers, and an 11-year old who enjoys helping out the other kids in the neighborhood with their gaming woes. Number three though manages to go all-out in terms of shark jumping, including a photo of himself at age 16, standing beside his Nintendo shrine (complete with R.O.B. off to the side and posters for Mega Man II and Blaster Master on the walls), and admitting his schoolmates call him "Nintendoman" (wonder if he puts that on his resume these days?). Ah, Jeff Gilkey, we salute your nerdity. Hail, hail!
Right, on to the meat and potatoes of the issue. There's a new caped crusder in town. He's Batman and there's six pages' worth of info, including maps for the first three full levels of the game and a plethora of tips for beating both the average joes populating the various levels and the mean bosses that lord over everything. Also, "Killer Moth flys over Gotham City Hall" (emphasis mine). Really, editors? *sigh*
All is forgiven though as we move on to the six-page Shadowgate feature. This is one of Nintendo's earliest forays into what is considered traditional adventure gaming, with them even calling it a "PC-type mystery adventure" (accuracy fail, Nintendo: Shadowgate was released for the Macintosh first). Nevertheless, Shadowgate is a freakin' merciless game and Nintendo provides enough of a walkthrough to let players with no prior adventure experience learn the ropes of puzzle solving before quitting in frustration. I freely admit to abusing the hell out of their little map and and every other tip they provided as I was trying to solve this one.
The Making of Super Mario Bros. 3 bored the hell out of me when I was a kid, but re-reading it as an adult it's absolutely fascinating! The pictures alone are worth the entry fee, as they showcase designer notes, character sketches, and level designs all planned out meticulously on a grid-style system. Miyamoto passes off information about where he got the ideas (the Chain Chomps, for instance, were inspired by a bad experience he had with a dog as a youngster), and why certain elements of the game (like the raccoon tail) came out the way they did. There's also a look at the CGCAD hardware designers use to create sprites for the NES hardware, and a full-fledged profile of a (VERY young looking) Miyamoto-san towards the end. Perhaps the most amazing thing the article divulges though is that Super Mario 3, one of the most complex games created for the NES, was the end result of two years' work done by a staff of "over ten people". Miyamoto's profile also makes reference to games he was currently working on for the NES (including Super Mario Bros. 4 and Zelda 3, both of which would be released on the SNES), and alludes to his work with designer Shigesato Itoi on a modern-day RPG (presumably this is "Mother" or one of its sequels) which sadly never sees the light of day in the US. This article is a total gem of historical win, well worth reading even today.
Following that, we have six more pages devoted to Willow. This basically picks up where the last Willow feature left off, with a bunch of useful maps and tips that take you right up to the endgame (let's face it, any walkthrough that leaves you with the most powerful weapon, shield and magic before the final battle has to be useful). Willow's a very good NES game as I've mentioned before, one of the best licensed movie-to-game conversions ever made. If you haven't played it, the terrorists have already won.
Revenge! It's on everybody's mind these days, especially Billy and Jimmy Lee. Previously seen feuding over Billy's girlfriend Marian, the Black Shadow Warriors have done the unthinkable and united the twins by violating the 9th rule of Fight Club ("Don't fucking shoot Billy Lee's girlfriend. We're serious about this one!"). Oh yeah: shit just got real in six pages' worth of Double Dragon II: The Revenge. I love this game, and still remember the day my brother and I conquered it on the Supreme Master difficulty. The feature showcases a few of the moves available to the Lee brothers and gives the low-down on how to breeze through the first five missions. The maps are cool to see, but since the game is so linear it's not like you can get lost it's not like they're terribly important. The first five missions are essentially preschool mode, so leaving gamers to dangle just when the going gets tough is pretty cruel on Nintendo's part, but nobody said they had to be nice all the time.
After the heavy stuff, we drop it down a notch for a look at Super Spike V'Ball. Ordinarily, sports games rank somewhere around "average" to "meh" on my scale of interest, but the fact this one's more arcade than simulation and the ability to use the Satellite to get four players around the TV at once for some serious two-on-two makes this one more exciting. Cameos from Billy and Jimmy Lee as the street-tough "defensive-style" team only make it better. At only two pages it's a short feature but then again, how much really is there to be said about beach volleyball?
Clash at Demonhead! That's right, before it was a band in the Scott Pilgrim comic series, it was a pretty darn fun action/adventure game. OK, so Nintendo's translators butchered the daylights out of the storyline (really, the main character's name is Billy "Big Bang" Blitz? REALLY, Nintendo? Ya sure ya wanna go there?). That doesn't mean the game's crap. Even so, I'm of mixed feelings about this feature. It's four pages, which is fine, but even reading it several times you'd have difficulty grasping exactly what the game's all about if you hadn't played it before. The first-person narrative feels a bit too forced as well. Crappy feature, great game.
Of course, turning the page all is instantly and forever forgiven as River City Ransom cracks its knuckles and prepares to throw down. This feature of sheer badassery is a Cliffs Notes for Gamers that takes players straight through River City High School and leaves off just before the encounter with Simon at the end of the game. RCR as many of you already know is one of my favorite video games of all time, so I'm naturally going to be biased, but I don't care. This game rules, and I'll take six pages about it over twenty pages about virtually any other game in the NES library any day of the week. This was when I knew Nintendo Power liked me. Really, really liked me.
Great greased shellbacks, what on earth happened to the Top 30? We've got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles flying up to the top of the charts from the #5 position last issue (beating out Zelda 2 at the second spot by more than three thousand points), Mega Man II falling to the #6 spot from it's high-flying appearance at #1, and Super Mario 2 slipping another rung to the third spot. Metal Gear and Marble Madness make their debut on the charts. In an amusing error, Contra is colour-coded as being a hot mover despite losing eight positions from last issue, and Strider is listed as a new entry to the charts despite the fact it held the #9 position two months before. Super Mario 3 shows up at #13 despite the fact it's not available in the US, and there's a ton of new games replacing older ones at the bottom of the charts. It's madness, I tell you!
As if the River City Ransom article isn't awesome enough, we also get the best poster so far distributed with the magazine. On one side, there's a killer Dinowarz art piece. On the reverse though, we get the full shop information for River City Ransom. This thing reveals the effects of every single buyable item in the game (with the exception of the goodies from the hidden shop) making it almost mandatory for anybody who's trying to beef up their characters without wasting cash on useless stuff. This poster got more use than some full issues of the magazine around my house. I love RCR.
Time for some portable power with a simple four-page feature on some upcoming titles for the Game Boy. Golf gets a full page (*yawn*), then puzzle games Boxxle and Kwirk share the second (slightly more interesting). Then it's a half-page on Solar Striker (woo!) and half-page of previews for titles that may or may not be coming soon. Boomer's name is corrected (it's not "Bronty" as previously reported), and there's a preview for an RPG called "Selection" that makes it to US shores under the title "Sword of Hope" a year or so later, which is a much better title all around.
Previews, previews, we want previews! Here comes four pages on Super Mario Bros. 3 showing off Mario's new costumes, power-ups and level features. Just enough to whet your appetite until it gets released in a few months (and admit it, you were all salivating at this point). Burai Fighter, a scrolling shooter made by now long-defunct studio Taxan, gets a couple pages to show the map of stage 1 and some hints for using your eight-way firing skills to waste the enemy. It gets a sequel in 1991 for the Game Boy (Burai Fighter Deluxe), but not long afterwards, the studio folds. Pity...they were decent shooters. Astyanax's two pages don't leave much room for anything but a look at the cinema sequences, a very small (VERY SMALL!) map of the first stage, and some discussion of pick-ups and the storyline. I never cared for this game, but my brother loved it...I think I'm in the minority. A pair of pages devoted to Dinowarz follows...it's a nifty game sort of like a cousin to Blaster Master where you play half of the game as your normal human self (Professor Proteus) and the other half is spent piloting your giant golden Godzilla knockoff against the forces of evil (in this case, Dr. Branius). Being a preview, there's only a one-stage map and some info on your special attacks and powerups. I think this gets a full-fledged review in another few issues.
Dragon Warrior strikes again, this time in the form of Howard & Nester. Nester seeks the Stones of Sunlight beneath Tantegel castle, but as is his way, is determined to do so the hardest way possible instead of Howard's suggested easier route. Hilarity (sort of) ensues. Funnier for younger kids, though the bunnies made me smile.
Counselor's Corner gets mobbed with questions about Who Framed Roger Rabbit? this issue. Where are the magical buildings (we'll give you directions), how do I get past the warehouse guard (the baseball bat he's holding is a pretty big hint, don't ya think?), and where can I find all four pieces of the will (we'll tell you where they are in general, but you have to work for a living). Counselors also explain how to beat the fourth guardian in Legacy of the Wizard, the way to get past the dancing zombies in Monster Party, where the Ring of Dwarf can be found in Faxanadu, the trick to beating level 7-3 in Adventures of Lolo, how to find the hidden town of Ambrosia and the Shrine of Dexterity in Ultima: Exodus, and the key to escaping Level 6 alive in Air Fortress. While you're there, check out the killer pink shirt and mullet sported by game counselor Jeff Hazard whose favorite game is Amagon. Righteous, dude...totally righteous.
Everybody's favorite section of the magazine comes next! That's right, it's Classified Corner, where we tell you all sorts of shit you shouldn't even know about! Like how to turn the stars on the enemy robot's background into little chickens in Mega Man II! OK, bad example. How about the now-classic ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS password for Kid Icarus and the TGL password for Guardian Legend? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about!! Some other Guardian Legend trickery involves buying out an entire shop with Slow Motion activated, but I could never get this to work on my game. Some passwords for Godzilla, the charge-up punch from Bad Dudes, a continue code for Kung Fu Heroes, a way to abuse 1-ups and coin collecting in Super Mario Land, and a password for Rambo that grants the buff one unlimited energy. Also at the end of the game you can turn Murdock into a frog, but we're not going to tell you how, so nyah. What the hell, NP? A rather obvious trick involving killing a bunch of enemies repeatedly to milk items for Faxanadu is lame. Unlimited continues in Robocop is better, and the stage select cheat for Bubble Bobble is extremely helpful. The convoluted trick for power players in Baseball Stars is pretty cool, as is the 21-life code for P.O.W. (it's a shame the game is such a P.O.S...). A scoring trick for Gyruss is useful for those trying to rank in the magazine. Finally, there's a trio of tricks for Duck Tales that involve swatting certain items for extra treasure, how to get to the bonus stages, and a way to exploit the game to get unlimited lives. All in all, not a bad haul.
I'm having trouble figuring out the major difference between the Previews section and New Games, since they're both short features on upcoming titles. In any case, this issue we have one page each devoted to helicopter sim Interceptor, retro board gaming sim The Chessmaster, and the dual-cart Power Pad dud Short Order/Eggsplode (though the article on it is written in a rhyme scheme that sounds awesomely bad if you rap it out with a friend).
Video Shorts has no shortage of mini-previews this time: Archon (ported from the PC market), All-Pro Basketball, arcade hit Roadblasters, historical sim Genghis Khan, action/shooter Cybernoid (hands down one of the hardest NES games ever made IMHO), Dig Dug II, Championship Bowling, and Twin Cobra all get mentioned.
Once again, NES Achievers is back showing off the talents of gamers spending too much time on the system and not enough time on their homework (I kid because I'm jealous, guys...) Girl power shout-outs to Elsie Anderson for finishing Dragon Warrior, Norma McQuaid for finishing Faxanadu, Karen Spignese for a high score on Adventure Island, Nicole Oppedisano for maxing the score on Kid Icarus, Janet Myers and Ann Wargowsky for completing Legacy of the Wizard, Jennifer Feliciano, Nadia Hogg and Connie Warley for beating Adventures of Lolo, and Kelly Maher and Barbara Renteria for maxing out Super Mario Bros.!
Some great history here in NES Journal. First we get pictures of the Players' Poll winners from the July/August issue as they get to tour Nintendo HQ in Seattle, meet and swap gaming trivia with Howard Phillips over breakfast, listen in on game counselor calls at the pro center, tour downtown Seattle with a bunch of guides, take in a Seahawks game at the King Dome, and preview the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3, River City Ransom, Super Spike V'Ball and Batman. Every kid's dream back then, I tell you what... Then we had the Super Dodge Ball Cup World Finals, where the best of the best at the make-believe sport got to show the world who was boss in head-to-head competition, with Nelson Tam bringing home the gold ultimately. Every finalist got some nifty Nintendo swag including a customized Super Dodge Ball jacket, an award plaque, and "audio equipment" (a bit vague here...are we talking a stereo, a CD player, a Walkman, what?). They also got to meet Howard Phillips, tour Nintendo Headquarters, and even say hello to president Arikawa-san. What an awesome prize!
Ah, but then...Nintendo turns to the dark side with an ad for their brand new Captain Nintendo 900 number (for non-US readers, a 900-number is a phone call charged to your bill usually at a very high per-minute rate). In this case, it's pretty steep: the two minute call will run you a buck-fifty each time you dial it, and the message changes weekly. Six bucks a month could easily wipe out the allowance of your average kid back then. Dirty, Nintendo, very dirty.
Also, buy the official Nintendo Cleaning Kit (for only $9.95) since it's a lot cheaper and faster than shipping your deck off to Nintendo for fixing! And just in case that won't work, Nintendo's in the process of opening up authorized Nintendo repair facilities like the ones already in California in many other areas around the country, so maybe one will be open near you soon. AND! The 1990 Nintendo World Championships are coming (er...already came...um...will be coming in the future but since this is the future they left already and...God, this is confusing!) Surprisingly enough, they actually showed up for a few days in Indiana though I didn't get to go. I'm not bitter though. It was just a simple, once-in-a-lifetime thing, you know. We could have visited my cousins any time. Just sayin'...
This month's Celebrity Profileis the awesome Stephen Furst, who rocketed to fame as the lovable "Flounder" in the classic frat comedy Animal House, played a doctor on the soap opera St. Elsewhere, and a priest on the short-lived cable TV series Have Faith. The interview references an upcoming collaboration between him and Howie Mandel called Howie & Rose, but as luck would have it the pilot never gets picked up so the project ends where it began. Too bad. But he has fun, talking about playing Nintendo with his kids and how much better at it they are, despite the fact that he sometimes gets in as much as four hours a day of practice.
More previews, previews, previews in Pak Watch! We've got warnings about the coming of Super C, Remote Control, Wrath of the Black Manta, Snake, Rattle 'n Roll, Adventures of Lolo 2, and Wall Street Kid. In addtion, there's some gossip (some of it juicy, some not so much) flying around: LJN's gonna scare you silly with Nightmare on Elm Street! Arcade hit Heavy Barrel's coming to the NES! Acclaim's pulling a cash grab with a license for Total Recall (we all know how this steaming turd turned out...), and they've also got a port of NARC coming down the pipes. Absolute's throwing down the snowboarding gauntlet with Heavy Shreddin'. Mad Max is on the way courtesy of Mindscape (boo, hiss!). FCI, who brought you Ultima: Exodus (yay!) and Hydlide (BOOO!) have an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game on the way. Yes, this is the infamous Heroes of the Lance which nearly wrecks the franchise for console gamers. In another head-meet-desk announcement, they're making a sequel to Metal Gear called Snake's Revenge. Why they didn't port the real Metal Gear II from the MSX in lieu of this unofficial abomination is beyond me. And Play Action Football won't make it out until the 1990 season due to programming delays (no great loss there).
Howard Phillips writes his closing letter to all the fans again after missing out last issue due to space constraints. He's excited for the upcoming CES, but since the Nintendo Fun Club no longer exists, he's been making more personal appearances and rating/reviewing more games for the company instead. They're now calling him "Game Master" and he wants to know what we think. I don't know about the rest of you, but as far as I'm concerned, that title's just fine, Mr. Phillips.
Finally, the Player's Poll Contest this month is for a chance to see an exclusive sneak preview of the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. In fact, you're allowed to bring up to 25 friends so you could instantly become the most popular kid in your class (or alternately the most hated if you chose to go alone). If you don't win the grand prize though, there's plenty of second-place winners...fifteen, to be exact. But I seriously have to question what the hell Nintendo was smoking to come up with a prize like this. In following the whole "movie" theme for this contest, they're giving away one licensed NES game pak as well as a copy of the film it was based on, with choices drawn at random from Batman, Friday the 13th, Ghostbusters, Godzilla, Karate Kid, Nightmare on Elm Street, Platoon, Predator, Rambo, Robocop, Superman, The Three Stooges, Top Gun, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Willow. I count half a dozen R-rated films in that list. The average age of your readers at this point is 12, Nintendo. All you cheerleaders out there: gimme an F, gimme an A, gimme an I, gimme an L! What's that spell? "FAIL!"