1989 comes to a close with the Nov./Dec. issue of Nintendo Power, but the big N isn't leaving the 80s behind with a whimper. They're going out with a BRICK. Or rather, a bunch of bricks in the form of a puzzle game from a Russian mathematician that would turn adults and children alike into absolute zombies in the coming months. I'm talking about none other than Tetris, and its impact on the gaming world makes it ripe for inclusion as this issue's cover feature. "Get 'Tetrisized,'" ordered Nintendo. "I obey!" replied millions people all over the world.
Just because the last three issues haven't possibly contained enough information about Dragon Warrior, there's a free 36-page strategy guide bound into this issue. Probably the best feature are the few maps of the dungeons it provides (including one for the Dragonlord's castle). Calling it a "strategy guide" isn't really correct as it only tells you how to get on your feet, gives a rundown of the backstory that is recycled from a couple of issues ago, shows off some of the items you can find, and offers up some basic tips for gaming later on without actually telling you how to do much of anything. It also has a $2.50 cover price, despite the fact it's free with the magazine. How strange...
Enough with my grousing about Dragon Warrior. Let's get this show on the road!
Mail Box gets us off to a slow start, with a subscriber complaint about moving and not receiving two issues of NP. Nintendo's reply: NP is mailed third-class, so you've got to call our Customer Service number and update your records there, since the post office won't automatically forward third-class mail. Ouch! Next up, a 75-year old man beats the first quest on the Legend of Zelda and composes a poem to celebrate the experience (apparently, his wife was about ready to divorce him over it). The poem won't win any awards, but it's kind of sad to think that twenty-one years later there's a chance the man who wrote it is no longer with us. Immortality finds some of us in one way or another...funny how that works, isn't it? The mailbox closes with a hilarious spelling error ("Control Dick" instead of "Deck"), a crafty editor hawking the NES Cleaning Kit (only $9.95), and a sycophantic suck-up begging for pics and autographs from all the Game Counselors. Riiiiiight...moving right along...
Video Spotlight drops props on three "normal" power players, but the ultimate bomb comes from a sixteen-year old Georgian by the name of Greg "The Absorber" Saluzzi (nope, not making this up...dude apparently took his Power Player Name from a pack of paper towels). While his list of accomplishments is pretty good, he also claims to have beaten both the Japanese Contra and another game called "Red Ninja". Now, I've no idea what this "Red Ninja" game is because the only "Red Ninja" game I'm aware of is the one that was released for the PS2 and Xbox back in 2005. My guess is that he's talking about "Ninja Gaiden" or "Legend of Kage" unless he's some sort of time traveler. People from Georgia are weird like that though...
The first major feature to kick off here is six pages of goodies on Willow. Yes, it's a licensed game based on the movie of the same name, but it bucks the trend here and winds up being a pretty darn fun title that does not suck. Some might call it a Zelda clone, but it does plenty of stuff differently from Zelda (including some monsters and bosses that are huge for the NES) and has more of a role-playing, character-building aspect to it instead of the more simplistic adventure style used in its competition. Six pages isn't a lot, but it includes a plethora of hand-drawn maps for the first several areas of the game which makes it pretty useful for beginning players.
Cover model Tetris makes its NES debut next, with six pages of information that includes two pages of Howard Phillips' own tips on how to handle the higher levels of speed. Note that this is Nintendo's version of Tetris that is discussed here; Tengen's Tetris, despite also being released in 1989, isn't talked about. You know how it is when lawsuits start getting thrown around...the air doesn't clear between Tengen and Nintendo on that front until 1993.
This issue's Howard & NESTER is a let-down, being nothing more than two pages of duck-themed and moon-themed puns. Howard and an unnamed duck take a rocket to explore the moon, and Nester naturally stows away to get a piece of the action. Once they land, Nester is promptly "ab-duck-ted" (his word) by a bunch of lunar ducks and it's up to Howard to use his knowledge of the Moon level of Duck Tales to save the day. Meh...nice try, but no cigar on this one.
Fortunately after the H&N debacle, we get a four-page preview of Ivan "Ironman" Stewart's Super Off-Road. Now, by itself this game was nothing special and it featured a hard-as-nails AI that played Stewart to win. When combined with the NES Satellite though, this game could turn four friends into psychotic, violent assholes in about three minutes flat. There are probably more productive ways to spend an afternoon with three buddies, but not at the time this magazine came out.
Ironsword: Wizards & Warriors II gets six pages devoted to it, and about the most useful information presented are the massive maps of the Wind level. I have to say, I really liked the original Wizards & Warriors but the sequel never appealed to me as much. The first was just action pared down to a minimum, while the sequel introduced a bunch of new game mechanics that did more to annoy than enhance the experience.
To kill some space, we get a two-page mini-feature: Top 10 Game Endings Exposed. All right, can you say SPOILER TAGS PLEASE?! Nintendo proceeds to wreck the endings to Contra, Ikari Warriors, Castlevania, The Goonies II, Super Mario Bros., Metroid, Rad Racer, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, Kid Icarus and Wizards & Warriors, no doubt irritating anybody who hadn't managed to finish them yet. While I agree with most of the games on this list as having decent endings, and I know the NES library was still pretty small at this point, the entries for SMB and Ikari Warriors have to be a joke, right?
Robocop gets four pages of thug-busting, gun-slinging excitement next. Building on the preview we saw last issue, this one walks the player through stages 2, 3 and 4 and provides hints on the bonus stage and a taste of what's left to come in stages 5 and 6. For such an awesome film, the NES version of Robocop can't stack up very well. Not the worst game ever, but not a good use of the license either.
After Robocop, we get a four-page look at another 4-player title: NES Play Action Football. This game wasn't licensed by the NFL, and so it can't use the names of teams, logos, or likenesses of players; while you can pick Denver or Chicago, there's no mention of Broncos or Bears to be found. Sports titles never appealed to me so I have no experience with this one, but it looks like it tries to do an awful lot of things right, and the four-player feature would let a crowd play. Looks like it could be fun, but I have my doubts it's as good as Tecmo Bowl.
Next up, Nintendo's got some "killer" peripherals in the pipeline, including the Power Glove and the U-Force. The next three pages are devoted to showing off these tools of the elite, as well as explaining how they interact with a few examples for each one. Playing Super Mario Bros. with the U-Force sounds decidedly complex though: "Wave your left hand to move your character, and shake your right hand to jump and fire." No thanks, I've got my control pad right here. Also: Bad Street Brawler was one of the four best games you could pick to demonstrate the Power Glove? Seriously, Nintendo? Do I HAVE to *facepalm* again?
Previews, previews, who wants previews? I do! And Nintendo is only too happy to showcase a group of five Winter Winners. Featuring the likes of Wheel of Fortune Jr., Jeopardy Jr., The Three Stooges, Stealth Eagle, and Godzilla, one has to wonder if those constitute the winners, how bad were the losers? Admitedly Three Stooges is somewhat entertaining, but the rest of them...? Maybe for the under-12 set.
In case you forgot, Game Boy is here and boy is it loaded! We've got five pages stuffed with maps for Super Mario Land, Revenge of the Gator and Castlevania: The Adventure, plus some screenshots for Motocross Maniacs, Tennis, Baseball and Alleyway (a rather fun Breakout/Arkanoid clone). What's more interesting from a historical perspective is the list of "coming soon" titles, which shows Final Fantasy Legend listed with its original Japanese title, Saga. Also shown are Grid Iron Gladiators and Phallanx, neither of which ever arrive on the Game Boy (though Phalanx does appear later on for the SNES).
More Previews, this time the NES gets to hog the spotlight for a little while with pages devoted to Shadowgate, Silent Service (three pages each), A Boy and His Blob, and 720 Degrees (two pages each). AB&HB became such a noted and classic adventure game that Nintendo resurrected it on the Wii two decades later; Shadowgate got similar treatment when it was re-released on the GBC as Shadowgate Classic. 720 Degrees was, of course, a port of an already successful arcade game.
The Guardian Legend. One of my favorite video games ever made, it tops my list of "franchises that really, really, really deserve a current-gen reboot". The likelihood of that ever happening hovers somewhere around "fat chance" and "*LOL!*" given that nobody on Earth knows who owns the rights to it since both developer Compile and US publisher Broderbund have been pushing up virtual daisies for years. No matter--this feature is absolutely awesome, giving a complete overview (with screenshot maps) of the first four areas of the space station, showing where to find a number of special weapons. It's the sort of thing that's useful even today in the Gamefaqs era. I made extensive use of this back in the day and I'm not afraid to admit it.
Ah, Counselors' Corner, how useful will you be this time around? Things start off useful enough, with a number of hints for finishing off the fourth stage of Dr. Wily's castle in Megaman II. It's followed up with a couple of tips for Faxanadu later in the game, though finding the Black Onyx really isn't that hard (the game pretty well railroads you towards it). Two tips for Strider come next; while they're nothing that a bit of patience and strategizing couldn't tell you, the information on Flash Blade's pattern is useful. A generic "level up a lot" tip is presented for RPGs in general (though in this case it pretty much means Dragon Warrior since there's not a lot to choose from on that front yet). Pointers for throwing out the super shots in Super Dodge Ball follow which is useful information, but we close with a "duh DUH duh" so-called 'hint' for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which asks how to perform an action that is completely automatic once you have the proper equipment. Seriously, NP, there was nothing else you could have used to fill that space? Grrrr...
Classified Information presents a bevy of game-breaking insanity this time around, including a "how in the hell did they find that?" trick for both Solomon's Key, and RoboWarrior, a bit of money mooching in Faxanadu, some jumping tricks for DuckTales and Strider, a recommended order and weapon usage guide to taking out your robotic foes in the Dr. Wily stage of Megaman II, and a 1-Up trick for both Ninja Gaiden and Cobra Triangle. All told, not a bad haul.
This issue's Top 30 is nothing but one enormous upset after another. Let's talk Megaman II sitting at the top of the heap, having leapfrogged up eleven spots to capture the pole position. Let's talk Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles performing a similar stunt to jump from 16 to 5. Let's talk Dragon Warrior's debut at #7. Sure, we still have Mario and Zelda hanging around in the top 5 but talk about your upsets. Equally surprising, Super Mario 3 is nowhere to be found after placing 20 last issue while Metroid drops a whopping 11 places down to 21 on the list. Nothing's for sure in the world of Nintendo.
Video Shorts only covers six upcoming titles. Jaleco's Goal! gets a page to itself. Arcade conversions of Thundercade (which is very well done) and P.O.W. (which is utter shite and doesn't deserve the plethora of 4's and 5's it receives from the editors) share another page. Twin Eagles, Back to the Future, and Black Bass share the last page.
Proving that some people have more free time than sense, NES Achievers offers up some truly odd submissions alongside the traditional ones including a guy who scored over a million points on Double Dragon, no fewer than three people laying claim to finishing Predator (something even the North Koreans frown upon as being torture), and one girl who managed to max out the score on Super Pitfall (don't these people have homework to do...?).
Nintendo is coming to a children's hospital near you (at least, if you live in California). NES Journal unveils the new Capcom Children's Corner which is setting up shop in various pediatric units in California. Initial donations include 3 NES units, a bevy of 36 games, and a hands-free controller to each of 10 hospitals. While this is a great way to pass the time for kids recovering from injury, NP makes sure to remind us that it's not a good enough reason to get yourself sent to the hospital (and you just know some nutjob out there probably did it anyway). There's also a contest to design the new Nintendo Power jersey, and a prelude to the 1990 Nintendo World Championships. Movie-wise, we've got The Wizard about to hit screens everywhere (which, despite being essentially a 90-minute Nintendo commercial, still manages to be a fun film to watch). Fittingly enough, Fred Savage is the celeb featured in the Celebrity Profile this issue.
Pak Watch also pulls out the big guns, calling for Super Mario Bros. 3 to be arriving soon. 8 Eyes and Abadox are also on the way, and a sidebar informs us that Asmik has chosen the name "Bronty" as the name of their little dinosaur mascot. Something must have happened afterwards though, because when the Game Boy game featuring him ships, his name has morphed into "Boomer". Whoops. Later on in the gossip column, talk is made of two games under development for the Matchbox toys license (Web World and Urban Convoy) which never see the light of day.
Finally, Howard Phillips closes out the issue with his traditional letter, this time reminding fans to go see The Wizard when it opens (there are two million free mini-Nintendo Power issues to be given out, after all). He also takes a minute to show how Nintendo Power has grown and developed in the past year, and points out that the success of the Game Boy shows limitless potential for video games in the coming years (he has no idea how right he is).