Nintendo Power Memories

Last week we heard some disheartening news: Nintendo Power will close its doors after a whopping twenty-five years on newsstands. Many gamers grew up reading the monthly publication, and have fond memories of the days they would open up their mailbox and find the latest issue of Nintendo Power just waiting to be read. As a child of the 80s, I am among those who were fortunate enough to be part of this era, and, like many of you, am saddened to hear that it is coming to an end. So, as a tribute – or eulogy of sorts – to Nintendo’s long-running publication, I would like to share some memories of my life as a Nintendo Power reader.

Like many older gamers, I was first introduced to the magazine thanks to Doc Louis’ advice in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! After spending a few rounds on the receiving end of a brutal beating thanks to King Hippo, Little Mac begged his experienced trainer for any type of assistance. Doc gave his best recommendation: “Join the Nintendo Fun Club today, Mac!” I sat in front of my television screen in shock, as the man who was responsible for my rise to boxing stardom gave me perhaps the worst possible advice I had ever heard. Needless to say, my opponent proceeded to pummel me into oblivion. I immediately jumped up and ran to my mom and told her I needed to join the Nintendo Fun Club – today! Four to six weeks later, I received my first issue. It was a somewhat paltry newsletter with just a handful of pages; nonetheless, it captivated me. I read every issue cover-to-cover, and waited with eager anticipation for the next. I thought things couldn’t get any better.

Then came Nintendo Power.

From the first issue, which featured Mario and Wart on the cover sculpted out of Play-Doh, I was hooked. Player’s Pulse, in which gamers’ letters were published, made me laugh. Counselor’s Corner helped me beat some tough bosses. And who could forget the posters! These all made Nintendo Power a magazine that any gamer would love. After my first subscription year ended, my parents decided not to renew, much to my dismay.

Fast-forward to 1990; I am sitting on the couch, watching TV. Suddenly, a commercial for Nintendo Power comes on, advertising for you to “sign up for a subscription and get Dragon Warrior for FREE!” I darted off the couch and into the kitchen to relay this information to my very skeptical mother. I vividly remember the conversation she had with the magazine rep, as I stood in the kitchen bouncing in excitement. My mom spent about fifteen minutes on the phone trying to find a loophole or some kind of catch – a free game for a subscription sounded like a scam to her. After interrogating the poor guy on the other end of the line, her worries were finally alleviated. She said, “OK, let’s do it.” Thus, another year of Nintendo Power came to my doorstep.

I played Dragon Warrior for hours, trying to save the world, and I loved the game – until one fateful morning. I had just defeated the Axe Knight and obtained Erdricks’ Armor (at level 14 this was quite the accomplishment), when my younger sister came downstairs and yelled “time to go to school!” She then flipped the light switch, which was also connected to the outlet that the NES was hooked up to. The NES immediately shut off, and I knew what had just happened.

Now, for you younger gamers who may not be aware as to the severity of this situation, let me explain: while a majority of Nintendo games used passwords to save game progress, some games had a built-in battery that saved the data directly to the cart (Zelda, for example). Dragon Warrior had a battery save, but gamers were strictly warned to hold the reset button while turning off the system, lest your save data possibly be deleted. When my sister flipped that switch, the system suddenly shut off. After yelling at her to turn it back on, I slowly reached forward and powered the system up.

Gone. All of it gone. All my hard work, my sacrifice, my sweat was reduced to nothing with the simple flick of a switch. I couldn’t even muster up the strength to try again. And so, Dragon Warrior sits in a plastic container in my closet, a tragic reminder of my biggest gaming catastrophe.

Another, less devastating memory of Nintendo Power came when I decided to write a letter in hopes of seeing it published in the magazine. The letter included the usual pleasantries: I’m a big fan of Nintendo, I love the magazine, etc. I also asked if Wart was going to make any more appearances, as I thoroughly enjoyed Super Mario Bros. 2. A few weeks later, I received a response from Nintendo Power, thanking me for my letter, and telling me that it was under review to be published in the magazine! Ultimately my letter never got published, but I kept the letter that gave me a glimmer of hope framed in the basement.

Throughout high school and college, I only purchased a few issues here and there from Walgreens or 7-11. I didn’t get back into subscribing until after I got married and my wife started teaching. The school she taught at had one of those forced fundraisers, and instead of delicious chocolate, they sold magazine subscriptions. I started getting into Nintendo Power again as a result of the fundraiser, and I’m glad I did. The first issue I got included the Smash Bros. Melee live concert CD, which I still listen to today. I continued renewing, and was excited to get the Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition for the GameCube. After a few years of continuing my subscriptions, I opted out in 2009.

I kept as many magazines as I could; unfortunately, most of them were ruined in the great Midwest flood of 1993, and subsequently another flood in 2006. I still go through them on occasion; every time I do, I get that old nostalgic feeling, as I reminisce about the older games that I enjoyed as a kid. I hope to keep them as long as possible to give my son a bit of gaming history when he gets older.

With more and more information being released digitally, the slow demise of printed media was more of a question of “when” than “if.” Still, it is sad to hear that a magazine that I grew up with and enjoyed reading is publishing its final issue come December. So thank you, Nintendo Power. Thank you to all the writers, editors and artists, past and present, for putting such hard work and dedication into your magazine. Thanks for the cheat codes, the power quizzes, the Howard and Nester comics. Thank you for providing me with so many memories of the publication. You will be sorely missed by not just myself, but countless others who grew up getting excited once a month when their latest issue of Nintendo Power arrived. Good luck with all your future endeavors. You will always live on in our fondest memories.

I think maybe I’ll get back into Dragon Warrior.

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Mike Ryan is a Staff Writer who has been playing video games ever since the Atari 2600. He loves fighting games, survival horror, and he sure plays a mean pinball.

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