Thanks for all the tips
After 24 years in print, Nintendo Power‘s very last issue will hit newsstands on December 11. One of the first dedicated video game magazines and one of the oldest current gaming publications, Nintendo Power closing its doors marks the passing of an era for many gamers raised on Mario, Link, and the rest of Nintendo’s stable of mascots. Print media may be struggling as readers turn to the internet for their gaming news, and Nintendo Power may have limited itself by only focusing on Nintendo systems, but Nintendo Power always felt like a constant in the world of gaming journalism – it would always be here, because who could imagine a world without Nintendo Power?
News of Nintendo Power’s cancellation shocked gamers back in August, when Nintendo announced that it would not renew its contract with publisher Future US to produce the magazine. Yet, now that it’s December and more images from the final volume are starting to surface, the pain is fresh as ever. It’s finally starting to sink in – we’re playing with power, no longer.
For a geeky kid with few friends and an SNES, Nintendo Power was a revelation for me. It shaped my early views on video games and introduced me to games writing in general. I would not be writing this editorial if it weren’t for Nintendo Power, and the magazine will continue to live in my heart long after its departure.
Nintendo Power began in 1988 as a bi-monthly extension of the Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter, eventually going monthly starting in 1991. Originally published in-house by Nintendo of America, Nintendo Power provided strategies, secrets, and tips “straight from the pros,” all while enthusiastically promoting the newest in upcoming Nintendo games. At times it was a little too enthusiastic, occasionally drifting into language more suitable for press releases than a publication. “You can put your bowling ball in the closet and hang up your shoes!” read a preview of Brunswick World: Tournament of Champions for the SNES. “This month THQ breaks out a Super NES ten-pin experience that rivals the actual look and feel of going to the lanes!” That is an awful lot of exclamation points for a Super Nintendo game about bowling.
But that’s what made Nintendo Power fun. Its unbridled enthusiasm about even the smallest of small fry games (Virtual Pool 64: “One of [its] best features is its super-deep Tournament Mode”) made every game sound fun and exciting. I read about games I would never, ever consider spending time with because Nintendo Power gave every scrap of coverage an optimistic sheen, one that assured me that Quest for Camelot on the Game Boy Color was completely worth my time and attention.
Along with reviews and walkthroughs, Nintendo Power kept a few recurring sections up its sleeve. Classified Information doled out cheats and exploits. Power Player’s Challenge, later called The Arena, posted challenges for gamers to test their skills against, asking for the best lap in Super Mario Kart or top score in 1080° Snowboarding; famously, Cliff Bleszinski appeared in the first issue of Nintendo Power with a high score for Super Mario Bros in a precursor to The Arena. Comics were a semi-regular feature in Nintendo Power, from the early Howard and Nester strips to comics about Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Best of all was Player’s Pulse, fan letters contributing ideas for a sequel to Super Mario RPG, debating the merits of the Rumble Pak, and sharing stories about how their Game Boy fell out a second-story window and lived to tell the tale. Few of my friends played video games, and reading responses from kids who loved Nintendo the way I did made me feel like part of a secret club.
Occasionally, there were times when I actually owned a game that Nintendo Power was covering, and it was then the magazine’s full potential opened up. It wasn’t just that I received help on a tricky game, though I still to this day remember how to clear the first six worlds of Banjo-Kazooie because I followed Nintendo Power’s coverage in volumes 109 and 110. Nintendo Power also breathed life into the games that inspired my imagination the most. Both The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Pokémon Blue felt much more adventurous when I had a guide helping me along the way. Nintendo Power only told me part of what I needed to know, leaving it up to me to play through and pick up where the coverage stopped. With Nintendo Power I felt focused, determined, like an intrepid explorer with an ancient, incomplete treasure map in hand.
I read Nintendo Power for more than just tips and tricks, though. I didn’t have much money growing up and I never got the chance to play as many games as I wanted to, so I would read Nintendo Power’s coverage of games I had never heard of – and had no interest in playing – to satiate my cravings. Whether it was ambush spots in Goldeneye 007 or four pages of maps for Oscar on the SNES, I would study each article and imagine what it was like to play the game. Heck, I probably got more enjoyment out of reading about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter than actually playing it!
It didn’t last, though. In its earlier days, Nintendo Power was, in essence, a children’s magazine. Oh, it covered M-rated games like Doom 64 and Perfect Dark, but its writing style was simple and the content’s fluffy nature deterred me from reading once I got older. In fairness, Nintendo has traditionally aimed for a younger audience, but Nintendo Power’s refusal to age with its readership made it a magazine to grow out of, rather than one to grow with. I stopped reading, and eventually let my subscription run out.
While I was away, Nintendo Power changed, redesigning in June of 2005. It toned down its fannish zeal while keeping its Nintendo-targeted focus, with longer-form cover stories and reviews joining its traditional maps and strategy guides. Content felt appropriate for all ages rather than exclusively the pre-teen set. It had taken 17 years, but Nintendo Power was starting to mature.
Nintendo Power made further refinements in 2007, when Nintendo of America contracted its publication to Future US. Coverage shifted from walkthroughs and cheat codes to more traditional games-writing fare like previews and interviews. However, Future retained Nintendo Power’s sense of community, keeping an eye towards Nintendo’s history by offering sections like Star Power, profiles on game characters like Mike Haggar from Final Fight, or Playback, short recaps of classic games like Kid Dracula for the Game Boy. New segments were introduced as well, covering new downloadable games for the DS eShop and expanding community features. If reading Nintendo Power of old was like being part of a secret club, Future’s Nintendo Power felt like a celebration of the culture of Nintendo.
Sadly, in today’s landscape of multi-console releases and a growing indie presence on Steam and iOS, Nintendo Power’s limited focus on games only released on Nintendo consoles may have helped its undoing. Tragic. Nintendo Power is a part of history, a magazine that managed to adjust itself to modern sensibilities while proudly wearing its heritage. It was the first magazine that I felt I understood, and that understood me in return. Now, Nintendo Power is winking out of existence, I feel like part of me is going with it.
So long, old friend, and thanks for all the tips.