Rap It Up!
August 23, 2012 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Ars Technica broke the news and Nintendo confirmed it. The 24-year run of propaganda rag and childhood staple Nintendo Power will end in December 2012. Kotaku has a eulogy from published Super Mario Bros. high-score holder Cliff Bleszinski. Here's another high scorer you may have heard of. And remember when a 15-year-old J. Scott Cambpell was featured in its pages? Meanwhile, the Penny Arcade Report credits Nintendo Power with introducing the JRPG to the West, Slate picks their favorite letters, and Tiny Cartridge reprints a bittersweet note from a 76-year-old gamer. Over on YouTube, Patrick Scott Patterson compiled a tribute video featuring an interview with beloved Nintendo employee, Game Master and president of the Nintendo Fun Club, Howard Philips. You might remember him from his starring role in Nintendo Power's comic Howard & Nester. Are you getting all nostalgic but your parents threw out your back issues ten years ago? Community scanning project Retromags has the hookup.
posted by griphus (47 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Sure, we get a eulogy from a Super Mario Bros. high-score holder, but where's the statement from the Mario Brothers themselves about this? I'm looking forward to something like this:

Luigi and I are sad to learn that Nintendo has discontinued Nintendo Power, which has done excellent work explaining to a generation of video game players why all our games are incredible. I know that, had the magazine survived, it would shortly be announcing that our forthcoming game, Super Mario Brothers' Super Cricket is the most exciting video game they've ever played.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:55 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

IIRC they could be pretty hard on third party Game Boy games.
posted by theodolite at 9:56 AM on August 23, 2012

You say "propaganda rag" like it's a bad thing.

(honestly, I never got this complaint. it certainly promoted Nintendo stuff, but it gave poor reviews to quite a lot of games that deserved it)
posted by curious nu at 9:57 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Now where will our nation's children with broken arms tell the world how they learned to play video games with their feet?
posted by Copronymus at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

It was a particularly awesome magazine for kids who loved video games, but whose parents would rather eat a beehive than actually purchase a gaming system.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:02 AM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Agreed, Sticherbeast; there were so many games out there to read about but, as my parents said, "You already have like, what, four or FIVE? You're not getting another one!"
posted by resurrexit at 10:06 AM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Ace Ebb lives!
posted by Pistache at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2012

But... where will I mail my envelopes covered in colored pencil fan art drawings?
posted by oulipian at 10:10 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Luigi and I are sad

I dunno, it just doesn't sound right without the "-a"s.
posted by BeeDo at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2012

But... where will I mail my envelopes covered in colored pencil fan art drawings?

I'm sure Game Informer won't mind taking those off your hands.
posted by Melee Loaf at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2012

24 years, and let me guess : Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda are still in the top 10.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mail them anyways. Nintendo puts the best ones up on their walls.
posted by dragoon at 10:15 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I can remember the feel of issue number one in my hands to this day. Magic.
posted by Aquaman at 10:21 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I got SUCH nice letter from them for my Zelda 2 drawing, I'm sure if was more or less boiler plate but I put that shit into my scrapbook ( we all had scrapbooks. My mom is crafty. Don't judge me.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2012

In 1992 Nintendo Power published a Link to the Past tie in comic that I thought was really magical.

Here it is.
posted by Algebra at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by RogerB at 10:24 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Algebra ...I own that comic, I had to send away special for it.
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2012

Copronymus: "Now where will our nation's children with broken arms tell the world how they learned to play video games with their feet?"

Now where will our nation's man-children with way too much time submit their obscene Tetris highscores?
posted by wcfields at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Lots of fun links to help waste away my afternoon. Thanks, griphus!

I spent a solid week's worth of working time trying to set the record time for the Ghost Valley 1 course in Super Mario Kart. Never achieved my goal, but I did achieve a scarily long lasting B-button sized depression in my right thumb.
posted by fresheee at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2012

About a month or two ago someone in my neighbourhood had a whole stack of them out in the trash. It was raining, so they were probably ruined anyway. I also helped build the online version back in 2006ish, with the Flash and the fancy page turns. It was actually a fun project to work on.
posted by howling fantods at 10:40 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I subscribed to Nintendo Power for about 3 years, starting my run at Issue #50 at the Link's Awakening cover. The thing about Nintendo Power is that it's totally a propaganda rag, but it's kind like how the Economist is a propaganda rag for neo-liberalism. You definitely knew what you were reading by just judging from the cover, so it's not like they were pulling a fast one on you. And I agree with curious nu that it's not a BAD thing. I mean, like the Economist (and more applicable for a magazine like MONOCLE), Nintendo Power replicated the feeling of being in an exclusive group.

Thinking about NP a little bit more, I just realized another similarity with the Economist. I have no idea who the writers and editors of NP were. I can remember when I was in high school and got EGM and PC Gamer, how some of the writers had their own columns or how EGM liked to have wacky pictures and profiles of their "radical" writer personalities. I can still remember Dan Hsu from EGM, but I don't think I've ever came across a mention of a writer in NP itself. I think that lent it a more focused editorial voice that in retrospect made it a much cleaner and coherent publication.

Eh, I am kind of surprised Nintendo is ending it. From a cynical marketing perspective, NP is a perfect Trojan Horse to hook kids to a life of Nintendo. And from a kid's perspective, it's a perfect Trojan Horse to get parents to buy something Nintendo related by saying it "encourages reading". At the very LEAST it could be a seasonal free mag, much like the Lego Club Magazine is to Lego. If I were Nintendo, I would at least experiment with foregoing mass circulation, charge more for a subscription, but hold more special events, a memberly-like subscription program, and exclusive offers for members. There is a market for this, especially for those that are children at heart that have a couple of bucks to spend too.

I'm also curious about circulation numbers and whether the magazine managed to keep the "exclusive club" feeling it had in the beginning.
posted by FJT at 10:45 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

So, the world really is going to end this December.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:04 AM on August 23, 2012

posted by klausman at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2012

Algebra ...I own that comic, I had to send away special for it.

I remember that comic, too! Just curious...when you say you had to send away special for it, do you mean they actually published it as a standalone comic? Because I totally remember the comic appearing as filler in my Nintendo Power magazines.
posted by mysterpigg at 11:26 AM on August 23, 2012

I loved Nintendo power so, so much. The screen shots were just amazing and mind-blowing to me, particularly in first grade when I was obsessed with The Super Mario Bros. Super Show but had no gaming system. We eventually got an SNES (with, yeah, like 4 games), but the truth is, I'm pretty terrible at video games. I really just want to look at the pretty pictures, read the stories, but not worry about falling or dying or whatever. I think I'm really into Let's Plays for the same reason I loved this magazine--it's all of the crack of video games without the work.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is it weird that I like 15-year-old J. Scott Campbell's art better than 39-year-old J. Scott Campbell's art? The art may not be pro-quality, but it's got this reckless enthusiasm to it that compells me. (Also, I don't get sympathy pains down my spine from looking at the characters.)

My older brother was the Nintendo Power subscriber, not me, so I don't remember that much of it, but I know I stole the occasional magazine to read the comics, and more rarely the reviews. I never did get to read that Link to the Past comic, but I loved the Star Fox one that ran a year later.
posted by bettafish at 11:51 AM on August 23, 2012

Oh man, that Dragon Warrior article. That Nintendo Power subscription is exactly how I got Dragon Warrior, too. I'd saved up cash for a super-long time, and finally managed to buy a neighbor's old NES off her when she grew tired of it. So I had Mario (not even the version with Duck Hunt), and I think Tetris? And that was it.

And then along came this basically-free game that drew me in totally. Is Dragon Warrior actually boring as shit? YOU BETCHA. But it required a patient repetitiveness that bordered on obsession, and school could only go so far to fill that urge.

The non-real-time nature of the battles also meant that you could just let it sit on the TV while you ran to get a piece of paper and some markers, and sketch all the monsters. And then the items (which you couldn't see in the game) could also be drawn. And the main characters in battle poses. And spells taking effect. And castles. And dragons. And then more dragons. And finally your sister comes in the room, just DISGUSTED because she wants to watch TV and jeezum crow, you're not even playing your game you're just sitting there drawing the stuff on the screen and NO KATE IT'S NOT "STUFF" OKAY, IT'S A RED SLIME AND IT'S SURPRISINGLY WILY
posted by Greg Nog at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2012 [17 favorites]

Also worth mentioning was how much strategy/walkthrough you got in the magazine. I remember pretty much whole game layouts in there; the Mega Man games usually got full layouts, sometimes spread out over two issues. Arcana had a complete set of (unmarked, granted) maps on the back of the monthly poster!

Nintendo Power was awesome.
posted by curious nu at 11:58 AM on August 23, 2012

There will never be another magazine like Nintendo Power. Think of it - everyone playing the same console at the same time, no Internet, secrets in every game with Nintendo Power operating as the common source for all secrets, playing tips, reviews, previews and artistic renderings. It really was the cultural breeding grounds for all video game fans.

I think one thing that sticks out to me was that Nintendo Power was ALWAYS positive about every game. At worst they would say the game would appeal to "certain players" and things like that. It was actually nice not to read nitpicking complaints and just focus on why someone would want to play a game--any game. I miss that optimism!
posted by lubujackson at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2012 [7 favorites]

Man, that's sad.

I remember running out to the mailbox every day for weeks when I was nine years old, waiting for the first issue of Nintendo Power #1 to show up. I had every issue from the first five or six years before I finally let my subscription lapse, and I read every one of them over and over again like they were holy writ. Studying the maps and the field guides to enemy characters and reading about game strategies was almost as much fun for me as playing the games themselves.

Now my daughter is nine, she started school this week carrying a pink Super Mario Bros backpack she picked out for herself, and if you asked her what she wants to do with her life she'd tell you she wants to learn computer programming and Japanese so she can go work for Nintendo when she grows up.

So, yes, as a propaganda rag, Nintendo Power was very very effective. And I'll be pouring out a forty of Red Life Potion in remembrance tonight.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:13 PM on August 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

I was lucky enough to have a dad that got me a subscription to this right when it started, and I remember devouring every issue - it was so cool to know things about games that none of my friends did! It's weird to think of a video game magazine as some gateway into reading, but it was definitely a gateway into knowledge. I'll never forget those Howard and Nester comics, or the fact that I was the only one of my friends who could beat the underwater bomb-defusing level on TMNT because I was the one with the map!

And the giant Final Fantasy Strategy Guide, without which I would never have taken a chance on saving up my $3/week allowance for a single game! And MAN was that game worth every penny! I'm pretty sure I've played every one since then, so I hope Square send the NP folks a fruit basket, or at least casts a White Magic spell on them.

And I know now that Nintendo Power was little more than a mildly sophisticated marketing tool, but before there was any type of community centered around video games, it was comforting to know that there were other gamers out there. I even remember beating P.O.W., and taking a picture of the last screen to send in to them, because the closing credits spelled "Congratulations" incorrectly - I couldn't believe that such an oversight could exist in a Professionally Made Game and I was *sure* this would be of interest to all those other gamers out there!

On preview, definitely agree with the above poster - reading the mag was as much fun, if not more, than playing the actual game. I played more games in my imagination than I ever have on an actual NES!
posted by antonymous at 12:18 PM on August 23, 2012

resurrexit: "Agreed, Sticherbeast; there were so many games out there to read about but, as my parents said, "You already have like, what, four or FIVE? You're not getting another one!""

Seriously! I have an NES still from my childhood (really, my dad bought it for himself but gave up playing, dejected, after I saved the princess before him) and only ever owned the Mario/Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet it came with, and Tiny Toon Adventures. Oh sure, I rented games all the time, mostly Paperboy and California Games, but never owned them. None of my friends ever had more than one or two games! (When I grew up, I got the NES version of King's Quest 5 off eBay, though more for the novelty factor since I run a site about King's Quest games.)

RIP Nntendo Power. You were lots of fun to read as a kid.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah the Zelda comic and the Super Mario comic where sold as standalone ollections in like the back catalogue part of the magazine or something, maybe around Christmas time? I think I finally bugged my mom for it enough and I filled out the order form and waited and waited and waited and it turned out it had gotten lost or somethng in the FedEx (cause it was from JAPAN OMG) and we had to like, drive to the Fullfillment center to pick it up and I remember being so embarrassed and guilty that It was such a huge fuss but then I read the damn thing like cover to cover and went as Link for like four halloweens in a row.

I still have it somewhere but it's held together with spit and tape.
posted by The Whelk at 12:31 PM on August 23, 2012

Oh and I too read all the guides and articles on games I hadn't actually and would never play. The Final Fantasy game I built up in my head was waaaay more interesting then the one you could play ( and maybe is is why I sometimes prefer to read exhaustive wikis on games rather than play them ).
posted by The Whelk at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2012

posted by robstercraw at 12:39 PM on August 23, 2012

Man, this makes me real mad that I could have gotten Deagon Warrior for free.
posted by zsazsa at 12:43 PM on August 23, 2012

Now I sort of wish Wisdom Tree modded DW and released it as "Deacon Warrior."
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on August 23, 2012

there were so many games out there to read about but, as my parents said, "You already have like, what, four or FIVE? You're not getting another one!"

My parents said the same thing about albums.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:21 PM on August 23, 2012

The best issue of Nintendo Power had to have been the one that came with the little papercraft Starfox ship.

posted by drezdn at 4:16 PM on August 23, 2012

Nintendo Power is something of a clone, at least it was in the day, of a magazine called Weekly Famitsu. Electronic Gaming Monthly is actually a fairly direct clone, while Nintendo Power was a bit more laid back. (Oh, I hated EGM back then. Even as a kid I knew that 32-page sponsored spreads were a special kind of bullshit. Of course, Nintendo was a full magazine of it....)

I think I like the earliest issues the best, where it's obvious a lot of the content was produced either by newbies to magazines or outright by Japanese people.

They would put clip art of characters randomly around the page, put in big two-page anime-style drawings of Mario 2 characters, there was Howard and Nester of course, they just did a lot of goofy things that any self-respecting, adult magazine designer would scoff at, but just screamed FUN to kids.

But, and this is important, it wasn't CONDESCENDING fun. You got the sense they did it, not because they thought they were shoveling out the crap those kids seem to like, but that they were actually INTO it. And I really loved that about the magazine.
posted by JHarris at 5:02 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Huh, I thought Nintendo Power was covered by the UNESCO World Heritage programme. Not that it was necessarily good*, but it was iconic and captivating and there was ALTTP comic!

*if you were older than a teen.

posted by ersatz at 5:22 PM on August 23, 2012

everyone playing the same console at the same time

That, to me, is the glory of the NES, and why the NES era was awesome: for awhile, the NES was video games. There were games in the arcade, sure, and if your folks were rich enough to own a computer, there were crappy games that didn't measure up, but if you were in a home and playing video games, by god it was an NES. I don't think I ever knew anybody as a kid who owned a Sega Master System. This created a monoculture where everybody knew a lot of the same games, and anybody could borrow any game from anybody, and when you talked about video games, everybody had roughly the same experiences.

The only comparisons I can make would be the early World of Warcraft era and what I've heard of the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, before making your own adventures became the norm and everybody was running the same pregenerated dungeons from TSR.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:19 PM on August 23, 2012

And yeah, JHarris is right. Nintendo Power never came off as cynical- so as you got older, it started to seem lame, but as a kid, holy shit, it was the newsletter for the video game subculture.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:20 PM on August 23, 2012

But, and this is important, it wasn't CONDESCENDING fun. You got the sense they did it, not because they thought they were shoveling out the crap those kids seem to like, but that they were actually INTO it.

We were. It was awesome fun working on the magazine layout using the gigantic japanese graph paper charts (the aforementioned Weekly Famitsu layout), cutting and pasting your pages together using REAL scissors, glue, razored-out artwork and printed content from the copy department.

(sidebar: Some years later I had the opportunity to personally thank Paul Brainerd for inventing Pagemaker after describing this job to him. He was very polite in his reception, as he must have been to thousands before me.)

On the day they announced that Nester was no longer going to be the "official spokesperson" (when his real-life counterpart Howard Phillips left for LucasArts), I used some spare clip art to portray his disembodied head floating in a toilet bowl, then used that as the cover graphic for the internal "what games are in what issue" reference spreadsheet.

Not my all-time smartest design move, as I quickly found out from several department heads.

posted by Aquaman at 11:23 PM on August 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

In an issue during the 90s, they had a story about the hot "Workboy" that Nintendo had developed for productivity. The fact that it was in the April issue should have tipped me off, but I eagerly awaited them to come to America.
posted by drezdn at 5:12 AM on August 24, 2012

posted by radwolf76 at 9:02 AM on August 24, 2012

I want to know the secret behind-the-scenes stories for the model shoots for those amazing covers.
posted by Theta States at 9:33 AM on August 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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