A friend of mine was cleaning out his place and asked me if I would be interested in any old game magazines he planned on throwing out. Despite having two plastic bins of game magazines stashed away in my basement with an unknown fate in the future, I said “sure.” A few days later he brought me a big bag of gaming related magazines and books.
The big one for me is the very first issue of Nintendo Power, which is the coolest piece in this lot. There is just something really special about this issue, most likely because it helped feed a whole culture of Nintendo freaks. I remember holding this issue all those years ago and thinking how wonderful it was that there was a magazine solely about video games.
I think the most interesting thing about the old issues of Nintendo Power is how the layouts were obviously designed over in Japan. The gaudy but fun look of each page is surely what hooked all the kids back then, and it’s kind of funny that current Japanese mags, like Famitsu, still resemble this old style. The one thing I really liked about Nintendo Power back in those days were the tips and strategies. There was no internet, so aside from someone you would know, this was one of the only ways to learn a game. Take these pages for example, which feature full maps from the second quest in the Legend of Zelda. Another cool touch is that they never spoiled the whole game for you, so Level 7 and 8’s maps just give you a few tips instead of the whole layout.
Also in the pile was the issue of Nintendo Power with Track and Field II on the cover, one of the few early issues I don’t have. It follows the same crazy layout that the other issue has, but I thought this spread was kind of funny.
I like how Nintendo is blatantly selling kids on both the Advantage and the Max, showing people why they would want these additional controllers in place of their original pads. I personally love the fact that the D-Pad on the Max is called “The Cycloid.” I never really “got” the Max, it just didn’t seem to have any real advantages over the standard pad. Though according to this article, Ice Hockey and RC Pro Am aren’t the same without a little Cycloid action.
Another book in the pile was “Video Games & Computer Entertainment: Complete Guide to Nintendo Video Games.” I had a handful of issues of “Video Games & Computer Entertainment” growing up (I remember a Star Fox cover issue in particular) and always thought it was a snoozer. Looking back, they were probably one of the few magazines that really wrote about games instead of just trying to sell them. What I love about this Guide from that group is that it reveals to me that angry cynical gaming bastards existed back then. Take this snippet from the Guide that has reviews on TMNT 2: The Arcade Game and Wrath of the Black Manta.
Reading his review, it’s obvious this was a grown man that hated TMNT, so as a result the game gets slammed out of his hatred of the franchise. Sure, TMNT 2 is repetitive and does get boring, but he seriously docked the graphics and music of this game? The graphics, while no where near arcade quality, were fantastic for the NES, which he gave a 5 out of 10. He also awarded the music a big 3 out of 10. It’s almost a disgrace, that soundtrack rocks even today. What a turd. By comparison, he sung some praises about Wrath of the Black Manta, one of the biggest stinkers from those times. The fact Wrath of the Black Manta scored better than TMNT 2 in every area blows my mind. The review for Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is good too, ending with the line “Castlevania III is a definite winner, though this might be a good place to end the series with dignity before it becomes a redundant joke.” Man, if people actually listened to this clown, we wouldn’t have Symphony, Super IV, Bloodlines, X, or any of the DS games. Nice to know game reviewers haven’t changed their tone in the last 20 years.
Another magazine that caught my attention was the Super Gameboy Players Guide, which I actually used to own but lost through the years. This is an odd ball Guide that I’m kind of positive was sent out for free to Nintendo Power subscribers when the Super Gameboy came out. It triples as an advertisement to buy the Super Gameboy, act as a dummies guide to selecting color pallettes for particular games, and also offers some tips for the games they cover. As we can see in this picture, Nintendo shows players not only how to get the best ending in Metroid II, but how to make the sexiest colors for Samus once you earn the ending. As stupid as this guide is, I actually did use it a lot for different color combos. Yikes.
The most strange of the lot has to be “How to Win At Nintendo Games.” This is actually a small little black and white text book with zero pictures about winning at video games. So it’s kind of like the closest thing to GameFaqs as you could get in 1989. That would be fine and all, but having skimmed through it a bit, it doesn’t really seem to offer the greatest of tips, though it does include some button codes. My favorite part of this book is how they “classify” game genres. In this example, Castlevania is under the genre of “Horror search-and-destroy.” I think “action” would have worked fine to be honest. I also love the “scroll” bullet point, which explains how the screen scrolls on each game. Good thing Castlevania only includes “limited amount of top-to-bottom play.”
Then there was a somewhat more recent book called Game On, which is just a simple history of video games with lots of cool pictures. It’s a decent coffee table book, even if it’s a little out dated now.
I sometimes find it strange that I enjoy collecting old video game magazines and books. I guess because they were the only documented gaming related publications at the time, so to me, they’re each kind of like a small slice of written gaming history. Plus, as a rather big retro gamer, it’s a lot of fun looking back and seeing how people wrote about video games and what they thought about them.