Let's Read: Nintendo Power #2
Powering on (bad pun, bad pun) from our last [Let's Read] brings us to Nintendo Power #2, which has probably the most infamous cover art of any Nintendo-produced magazine in the company's history. Yes, that is Simon Belmont of Castlevania fame holding Dracula's severed head by the hair. A closer inspection of the image reveals Dracula's heart, ring, fingernail, and eyeball laid out on the cloak where the evil one has fallen, and a bloody hand reaching up out of the fog in a death rattle as a grinning skull looks on from the lower-right corner. Naturally, Nintendo's censors took one look at this, thought it was perfectly natural and wasn't likely to cause nightmares in the young children in their demographic, and promptly caught all sorts of hell from parents for it. The lesson we take away is that killing vampires and burning their body parts in 8-bit video games is perfectly acceptable, but putting together a cover showcasing what it might look like in real life is so totally non-non-non-non-heinous. Who could have guessed?
Nintendo Power #2 - Sept/Oct. 1989 - 110 Pages - $3.50
New subscribers to Nintendo Power after issue #1 got a nice little bonus this issue with the Insider's Calendar, a not-quite-one-year date planner showing when all the upcoming NES titles from September of 1988 to June of 1989 were being released. In addition, the calendar featured a number of historic and not-so-historic dates. Mario's birthday being October 11th is pretty cool to know...the fact that King Hippo is starting a diet on November 29th? Not so much. Amusing note: World Poetry Day falls on the same day as National Grouch Day (Oct. 15th). Coincidence? You be the judge.
If you weren't cool enough to subscribe and get the calendar, then you wound up at the Table of Contents. Pretty much the same staff roll, and a subscription is still $15, which is a six dollar savings off the cover price. Nice!
Headlining the issue is a write-up on Bionic Commando, which gets an extremely generous twelve pages to show off the game, but is kinda spoiler-riffic, going so far as to show you artwork from the ending of the freakin' game in two different places. A few screenshots also show off the spotty translation job that was still quite common in the late-80s ("Maybe we can find good weapon we can use," indeed...) In a couple decades, GRIN will have a field day using this lovely Engrish as the basis for a number of jokes in Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Until then, we have to hide the pictures from our parents so they don't think the NES is rotting our brains. One of the nice things about Nintendo Power in-depth articles is that you can often use them as a replacement instruction manual, which was very nice when you rented a game that didn't come with the booklet. The article does a great job of explaining how to use your bionic arm to swing around, and provides some nice maps and tips for the first few areas.
Konami gets some face time next, with a full write-up on Life Force that starts off with a showcase of all six of the game's bosses ("Tutankhamanattack" is the best boss name ever; Nintendo is likely still pissed at Konami for taking this name and preventing them from turning it into an Egyptian-style Pokemon), then offers up the strategies you need to conquer the first two of the game's stages. Not as in-depth as the Bionic Commando article, but still useful to anybody new to the side-scrolling shooter genre.
Presumably, twenty pages worth of Super Mario Bros. 2 information last issue wasn't enough, as the writers recap some stuff like character abilities, then provide an additional 9 pages of content walking you through all of World 3. They continue the mix-up of Birdo/Ostro here as well, but otherwise everything is sound advice.
Renegade manages to absolutely get the shaft in its mini write-up, with only 3 pages of info, a few screenshots, some flavour text as opposed to anything approaching actual strategy that could be useful to a player, and a list of moves your character can do. Even Nintendo must have realized how badly this game stank. It's a miracle Taito was allowed to make a sequel, and an even bigger miracle that it turned out to be "River City Ransom," a game that is seventy-five times more playable and two hundred billion times as entertaining than its precursor.
R.C. Pro-Am is next in line, with a nifty little six pages to its credit. The only problem I have with this is that it virtually duplicates everything they already told us about the game back in Nintendo Fun Club News #5, so chances are you already knew almost all of this stuff. Still, the top-down perspective on seven of the tracks is very useful for beginners and pros alike.
Everybody's favorite department, Classified Information returns in this issue, though for some reason Nintendo has done away with the Agent number system it employed in issue #1, and is instead just printing hints and secrets. It's also much shorter, being only 3 pages long this issue, and it only covers "Kid Niki - Radical Ninja", "Renegade", and "Kid Icarus" but the KI information is worth its weight in gold, as it's a step-by-step procedure for how to avoid the God of Poverty in the treasure rooms so as to reap the maximum benefit. Earning the credit card just got a whole lot easier.
Howard and NESTER basically replays the same joke as last issue: Howard knows everything about Zelda, and Nester needs the help of Nintendo Power to wow his audience. Could we at least get a new game in here for Howard to blast Nester with, please?
Counselors' Corner - This time, the pros at Nintendo are saving you from spending money on phone calls to help you with "The Legend of Zelda", "Super Mario Bros.", "Metroid" and "Kid Icarus". The Kid Icarus tip could have been replaced entirely, as Classified Information basically answered this question a few pages ago. I guess there could be some people out there who haven't found the Warp Zones in Super Mario Bros. by now, and the tactics given in Metroid for beating Kraid and Ridley are basically little more than "shoot them a lot of times". The Zelda hints are at least plausible phone call material, especially the location of the Raft in the second quest which was hidden in a secret room in the 4th Dungeon above the Triforce room. Further proof that Shigeru Miyamoto plays dirty and isn't afraid to flaunt it.
Now Playing! - "Golgo 13 - Top Secret Mission" starts the gaming roll-call in this feature, followed by "Blaster Master". Much shorter than last issue, but considering the larger in-depth looks we got at the beginning of the issue, I guess this is to be expected. This is quite the upgrade for Golgo 13, as last issue, he was relegated to "Pak Watch" status. What a difference 2 months makes.
Video Shorts - Following the same format as last issue, with basic back-of-the-box copy and 1-2 screenshots, we get previews for "Xenophobe", "Seicross", "Superman", "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", "Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf" (Beavis & Butthead would have had a field day with the line about practicing your favorite (or most ornery) hole...), "1943", "Jackal", "Hudson's Adventure Island", and "Magmax". We already saw 1943 in last month's "Pak Watch", but everything else is new.
The Classics - A new column for this issue, showcasing NES games that are ports of classic arcade titles. "Donkey Kong", Pac-Man", "Defender II", "Millipede", "Joust", "Xevious", and "Galaga" get some ad-copy writeup and cursory screenshot treatment.
Pak Watch returns with a heartfelt, teary-eyed apology from Link to all his fans since he's not going to be available except in limited quantities until after the holidays due to a lack of computer chips. It's not the last time Nintendo will pull this trick on its loyal fans. Then we get to the actual previews. Things are working out better for the games this issue, as more than 2 get more than text this time around. "Ghostbusters", "Mickey Mouse", "WWF Wrestlemania", "Track & Field II", "Anticipation", and "Bubble Bobble" get actual screenshots (one apiece). "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and "Robocop" get simple artwork. "Paperboy", "Tecmo Bowl", "Star Trek", "Racket Attack", "Friday the 13th", "Nightmare on Elm Street" (which gets the preview totally wrong, as you don't wind up playing Freddy at all, but rather one of the Elm Street kids instead), "California Games", "Skate or Die", "Sesame Street 1-2-3", "Sesame Street A-B-C", and "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" don't get anything but text.
The Players Poll contest this issue is for a grand prize of 10 NES games of your choice. Failing that, you could always win one of five radio-controlled racecars, one of ten copies of R.C. Pro-Am, or one of 50 Nintendo Power jerseys. Howard Phillips makes for a goofy model, but for some reason I find it "cool goofy" as opposed to "nerdy goofy".
NES Journal - Check out Nintendo's new, never-before-seen accessory, the Power Pad! Oh, wait...we actually bought the idea from Bandai, who produced this little cartridge called "Stadium Events" that in two decades will make some people on the internet spend enough money to buy a new car to own what is basically a copy of "World Class Track Meet" with a different title screen. Once again, hindsight makes an otherwise run-of-the-mill article into something a bit more interesting.
Rare Ltd. - A pretty cool article about Chris and Tim Stamper, the brains behind Rare, the company that would come to produce some of the biggest hits for Nintendo in the future. Right now, they're just starting out, but that hasn't kept them from releasing "Wizards & Warriors" and "R.C. Pro-Am" for Nintendo which are both very good games. This is the kind of thing that probably bored most kids reading in 1988, but is something that readers today would love to see expanded upon; one page isn't nearly enough, especially when that page is shared with ads for the "Official Nintendo Player's Guide" and "How to Win At Super Mario Bros.". I can only assume that the "new boardgame concept" the brothers are working on at the time of this writing is what will eventually wind up becoming "Taboo: The Sixth Sense," but I could be entirely wrong.
If there's one section that Nintendo Power truly could have done without this issue, it's their Fall Television Preview. TV Guide was in circulation at supermarkets everywhere, so whoever suggested this idea should have been laughed out of the meeting room, especially given the shows that are presented on this page. Unless you were glued to broadcast TV 24/7 in 1988, you won't even remember the likes of TV 101 (which lasted a whole 13 episodes despite starring a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc), Knightwatch (which could only manage 9 episodes before getting the axe, despite having Benjamin Bratt in the cast), or Dirty Dancing (which was yanked from the air after only two episodes). Sometimes, a *facepalm* just isn't enough...
Eric Dickerson of the Indianapolis Colts, Ron Morris of the Chicago Bears, and Sean Jones of the Houston Oilers all get their names in the magazine as part of NP's Celebrity Profiles article. I'm not a sports fan, so colour me unimpressed, but fans of any of the three teams would probably get a kick out of reading about these players' experiences with the NES back in the day.
Mail Box is the new Mail Bag from last issue. Right off the bat, four would-be designers get their hearts broken by Nintendo's policy of not accepting unsolicited game submissions. We also get a lesson on the correct way to pronounce "Icarus", another letter from a pair of gaming grandparents, an explanation that NES games are actually cartridges and not tapes, and an observation that Howard Phillips kinda looks like Little Mac. I have a much easier time believing these are real letters as opposed to the gushing praise-filled ramblings from last issue. Much better selection this time around.
Player's Forum - A third grader gets his name in the paper with a video game-related survey, a kid uses the power of Nintendo to cheer his mom out of a depressive funk, and we get doggerel printed about "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!". I'll let you digest that for a minute; doubtless, your conclusion of the relative sanity of the letter writers this issue will be the same as mine.
NES Achievers - Their masculinity challenged by a girl last issue, three guys come out of the woodwork to smash Heidi's score on "Kung Fu". Ulysses Gines throws down a nearly eleven-million-point gauntlet in Zanac. Kathleen Sims is the lone female left to represent in the whole column, with a 650,000 point score in "Pinball". Where are you, female gamers? I know you had to be out there...I was one of you, after all!
Video Spotlight - The pain never stops, but at least we get our first female Power Player in Donna Saxton of Midland, Michigan. No "Ace Ebb" moments here, but we do get a letter of effusive praise to "Radical Richard" Yu who has doubtlessly been trying to live that down ever since. Pete "The Natural" Brin is likewise probably wishing he'd never sent in that picture immortalizing him as a seventeen year old with an Anthrax t-shirt and a mullet.
Top 30 - Nothing changes from the last issue, as Zelda, Punch-Out, Metroid, Super Mario Bros., and Kid Icarus still comprise the top 5. "Double Dragon" shows up at number 6 though, which is pretty darn good for a debut. Also, judging by the points, an awful lot more people sent it votes for this issue. Even the lowest-scoring games ("Zanac" and "Pinball") got 76 points apiece, while the lowest scores last issue were measured in the single-digits.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so it is with issue 2. Howard Phillips relates some short anecdotes involving staying up until 4am working on the magazine, then taking a break and going to Disneyland the next day, as well as squabbles over who got stuck paying a $200 taxi fare, and an argument over whether or not all the game tips were presented correctly. It's not easy being the President of Nintendo of America, after all...
There are no comments to display.