Nintendo Power was more than just a magazine

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Nintendo Power magazine is ending after 23 years of bringing the best Nintendo had to offer to gamers everywhere.

There was a time in all of our lives when getting something in the mail was exciting. I didn’t matter if it was a birthday card from grandma or, if you were lucky enough, an honest to goodness package. As a kid you just don’t get mail, which made having a magazine subscription the next best thing to getting free candy. The first subscription I ever had was to Nintendo Power so I was sad to hear it is shutting down after 23 years of publication. Even though my loyalty to Nintendo has dwindled almost entirely since I was a young, some of my most precious memories were created by that magazine and games within.

Nintendo Power was a magazine that mattered

Nintendo Power

My first Nintendo Power issue

My first issue of Nintendo Power was Volume 20 of January 1991, it was the Mega Man 3 cover and I still have the issue. This was three years after Nintendo Power first came out in 1988 when the NES was the best machine on the block. I had seen Nintendo Power and loved seeing the screenshots and maps that packed every issue. After I got my own NES it didn’t take long before I wanted to become the ultimate gamer and to do that you had to get Nintendo Power. The magazine was a survival guide for all things Nintendo, not to mention you’d get the scoop on what games were coming next (remember, this was way before you could get game release dates online). Of course, getting a Nintendo Power subscription wasn’t all that easy since it required getting your parents to go along with the deal and my parents weren’t an easy sell.

Frankly, my parents weren’t an easy sell to get the Nintendo in the first place. I wanted an NES real bad and asked for one for Christmas. My mother agreed to pay for half of the $100 price tag so I did my best to gather up $50 before Christmas and through some luck, charm and birthday cash, the NES was under my tree for Christmas and just like that I was part of the club. But as you know, the NES was only half of the puzzle. I still needed by Nintendo Power subscription if I wanted to be cool. Fortunate enough for me, Nintendo Power ran a promotion in 1990 where they were giving out “free” copies of Dragon Warrior with a paid subscription. Considering new games were $50 and a subscription alone was $15, the savings were obvious and my parents agreed. Maybe that’s not how it went down in my house…I dunno…but what I do know is Dragon Warrior came with my first issue of Nintendo Power and I was a happy camper.

The genius of Nintendo Power

Knowing a magazine was coming just for me every month was pretty awesome. My dad got all sorts of magazines, as did my mom, and what kid wouldn’t be jealous of that? I cherished every issue and probably read each one a dozen times every week just because I thought it was so badass. Of course, what I didn’t really know at the time is that Nintendo Power was one of the greatest marketing ploys every devised. The magazine was managed and published by Nintendo, so they were in control of everything…the cover, the games, the previews. Nintendo Power was their platform to promote whatever they wanted and it worked. The games they “reviewed” in Nintendo Power were always on my Wish List. I was lucky to get one or two games a year for my NES so I had to choose which games I wanted to spend my money on carefully, and outside of renting games, Nintendo Power was the next best thing to see what looked like fun.

Nintendo Power loses its magic

It felt like I had a ton of Nintendo Power magazines by the time I ended my subscription but looking back it was probably only four years worth, if that. When I first got Nintendo Power the NES was still their flagship console along with the Gameboy. Of course we all know that the Super Nintendo was released at the end of 1991 so as Nintendo started to phase out the NES in favor of the SNES, Nintendo Power did the same thing. Every next issue of Nintendo Power featured less and less of the NES and thus garnered less and less of my attention. I didn’t have an SNES and didn’t want one, as by the time the SNES had hit the market we had a family computer and my attention quickly went there (albeit also looking for games). One of the last issues I remember getting was the “gold” 50th issue that featured Link’s Awakening. I wasn’t exactly sad to end my subscription as much as I was mad at Nintendo. This was my first “next generation” console experience and I have to say it sucked. I poured my heart, soul and lots of lawn mower money into my NES and suddenly it was seemingly all for not. Little did I know this would be the first of many bouts of “next gen” depression.

The people behind the power

However, during those first years of my subscription Nintendo Power ended up being more than just a magazine. Sure, each new issue had maps and guides for the latest games but what about all the games they didn’t cover? Most of the games I had were not new releases but second hand so they were either covered in older issues of NP that I didn’t have or weren’t talked about at all. So when I needed help with a game there was only one option – write a letter. Yes, little Brian got out his typewriter and wrote several letters to Nintendo Power asking for a little help. The letters I wrote were answered by Game Play Counselors, the same people that answered questions in the magazine each month. With every question I sent, I hoped and dreamed that my question would end up in the magazine…but that never happened. And I always drew something cool on the front of the envelope because they sometimes featured mailed in art in the magazine as well…but alas, my drawings never got published either…but what I did get back every time was a friendly letter from a GPC that (usually) answered my questions and gave me the “power” to be a Nintendo pro.

Nintendo Power

These guys had the best job in the world

At this point, I was not only getting a Nintendo Power magazine each month but I was also getting letters directly from Nintendo…in an official Nintendo envelope, on official Nintendo letterhead. I had never felt more cool than when I got those letters. The funny thing is almost 15 years later I found all the letters I had received from Nintendo tucked away with some of my old NES maps and guides. I scanned the letters so as to preserve them and decided to put them up on my web site for all to see, hoping a few people might get a kick out of them and remember the good old days of Nintendo like I do. To my surprise I got a few responses to my blog post but what made it all the more amazing is that one person that commented on my Nintendo letters, Kirk Starr, was actually one of the Game Play Counselor’s that had answered one of my letters way back when. If there was ever a time when the internet really amazed me, that was it.

Since I had my own web site where I talked about video games, I took the opportunity to interview Kirk and ask him what it was like working for Nintendo and having the job that everyone wanted to have – playing video games. The interview was a lot of fun and Kirk confirmed that working at Nintendo and getting paid to play video games was pretty much the best job ever. I published the interview and didn’t think much of it, lightning in a bottle. But then by some random stroke of luck, another ex-Nintendo GPC, Kasey Curtis, found my interview with Kirk and left a comment so I did what every writer would have done – I asked him for an interview! Long story short, every interview I conducted led to another and my collection of GPC interviews now stands at four published and two on the way.

I dubbed this whole interview adventure Tales from Counselor’s Corner and all the interviews are available for reading at my personal blog, Morning Toast. I even made a Facebook page for it in hopes that I might connect with other GPCs and get more interviews. Doing these interviews is a lot of fun for me but I like to think the GPCs get a kick out of it and brings back some good memories. I know for a fact that a few of them have reconnected by way of my interviews, and it’s always a great feeling knowing you helped old friends reconnect.

Thank you, Nintendo Power

Nintendo Power has now come around full circle in my life. It made a big impact on my life as a kid and as chance would have it, it’s done so again now 20 years later, long after my days of being a Nintendo fanboy ended. It doesn’t really surprise me that Nintendo Power is closing down. I now work in traditional media and I know first hand the difficulty magazines and newspapers are having. Even with easy access to tips, guides, maps and cheat codes on hundreds of web sites, I’d like to think that getting a magazine in the mail is still a big deal to a kid. Sure, there are a lot more magazines dedicated to video games these days but Nintendo Power was one of the first and certainly the first to make a difference.

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About Author

Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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