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Nintendo Power: Remembering America's Longest-Lasting Game Magazine

December 11, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

The Howard & Nester comic strip

HP: I'm not sure if it was Gail or I, so I'll say it was Gail and give her credit for it. It's probably not something in hindsight I would have thought of doing. But it was fun. I remember sitting in a room with Gail and talking about the different ways we were going to provide information to kids to stop them calling the 800 number all the time. You could challenge them with the super-high challenge, or you could provide them tips and tricks and basic stuff, but we didn't want to have 20 pages of tips and tricks. We wanted to have a different feel or flavor to it, to break it up.

Click for larger version.

I was also noticing that a lot of kids -- even moreso today -- are really headstrong and want to do everything themselves. "I knew that. I didn't need any help." That's where the Nester character came from. It's a great foil, someone saying, "I don't need this information, I'll just go and do it."

And then we'd show Nester doing the typical wrong thing that the kids would do, and then give a little story vignette to set that straight in a way that the kids could go, "Oh, cool!" and drop the magazine and go running back to the game because they'd just figured something out. But they didn't actually have to read the tip.

GT: For some reason, when [Howard] met his wife, he said that she liked him in a bow tie, so in 1985, he started wearing a bow tie when we would do PR events. That became the funny character, and then Nester was creating a character out of the name "NES."

HP: Back in that time period -- in the late '70s and early '80s -- it was polyester suits and fat, wide ties. I didn't like them. Everybody tried to be hip with cool clothes, but I worked for several years in the restaurant business and loved servicing people and making people have a great time.

For whatever reason, it would bug me that I had this pendulous piece of cloth hanging around my neck. It was kind of goofy. I guess if you don't think about it, it seems normal, but if you think about it, it's a weird thing that guys go around with a noose of cloth around their neck.

Anyway, a bow tie is nice, tight, close to the neck, and gives you that dress-up look that you need for business. So I wore a bow tie at my wedding, and I wore them for a number of years.

GT: It was just silly, the whole idea -- trying to make something that had a little bit more entertainment value besides wall-to-wall game information. That was probably the silliest thing we ever did.

Getting the Games

GT: Game manufacturing was slower then, and of course, when you ship across the water, that's a month. I don't know if you'd call it an advantage, but we had the advantage where when people signed the license agreement and turned in their code for bug checks at NoA, we had pre-negotiated that they knew that Nintendo Power would have access to the code. So we got access to the games internally.

Click for larger version.

HP: I don't know how it is these days, but certainly back then with print, there was this hard and fast, "It has to be done by this date, because that's when thousands of pounds of paper roll into the printing press." That sort of thing.

There were really hard and fast deadlines that we had to meet. So we would pass that information on to whichever source was providing a game, whether it was Miyamoto at Nintendo in Japan or whether it was one of the licensees. They knew when our handoff was.

GT: When someone would call and say, "We have a game coming out!" they'd try and persuade us that the game would be good.

We did have to work closely with them to ensure that we had enough backup material to make the art more interesting, and if there was going to be any kind of promotion or a cover. When we did a poster of the first Batman, Michael Keaton -- or I'd imagine his agent -- thought his face looked too fat, and we had to airbrush his jowls.

HP: All that said, we could turn around pretty quick on a great game. It didn't take a whole lot of time. If you can imagine now, if someone gives you an NES game, you can tell them four hours from now if it was a good game or not. It's not like it takes two weeks to see if a game...or at least, if you can see the forest for the trees, you can look at another tree and tell how tall it is, relative to the forest.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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Jacob Alvarez
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Fare the well Nintendo Power. The publication may be gone, but the memory remains.

Lex Allen
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So, I'm really curious about why they stopped. Was that somewhere in the article?

I used to write letters to them when I was a kid. I used to draw characters on the envelopes too, but they never published them sadly.

Rebecca Richards
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Nintendo declined to renew their licensing agreement with Future Publishing, who had been handling the magazine for them since 2007. They have not said why, and they are not publishing it in-house either.

I think it's the lack of a "why" that makes it suck the most.

Andrew Chen
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The "why" is usually due to declining profitability, if not outright losing money.
As we all know, game magazines are not what they were in their hey-day. The internet has rendered the subscriber-ship of most untenable, thus even once-mighty EGM went out of print.
As a magazine that serves an even more smaller, specific customer base...yeah Nintendo Power's days were probably numbered long ago. Kudos to Future for giving it a go.

Lex Allen
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I'm sure that it was for financial reasons as well, but I would of liked to hear how bad it was.

Chris OKeefe
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I remember as a kid getting my hands on these magazines and feeling like it was christmas. We didn't have a lot of money to spend on things like games or computers. What we did have was an NES, and later an SNES, and we mostly only got games for christmas. These magazines were very much a portal into the other worlds that were waiting to be explored, and when something really grabbed me I'd bug the parents to take me to the local rental shop and let me rent it. Back when renting games was still a big thing.

It's likely I never would have become as interested in the industry as I am today if not for this magazine. So thanks for that.

Derek Manning
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This was my first gaming magazine, I remember getting issue number one. With my initial subscription we got a free copy of Dragon Warrior 1 for the NES as well. So many good memories of this magazine. It will be missed.

Raymond Grier
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With the Dragon Warrior game I got a small strategy guide and a map, that was so cool.

Muir Freeland
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I love the image of people cutting out map squares and pasting them on a giant board. It sounds like a nightmare in the best way possible.

Raymond Grier
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I had always assumed they used a camera to photograph the screen.

Mike Kasprzak
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Grabbed my copy of the final issue.

Growing up, I first subscribed about a year after it started. Without a doubt, Nintendo Power played a pivotal role in me getting involved in games professionally. It became a goal of mine to develop games for Nintendo systems, and a decade ago, I did get to work on several licensed games for the various GameBoy family of devices (GB, GBC, GBA). So, mission accomplished.

I don't do much Nintendo stuff anymore (Indie), but I will always respect Nintendo and Nintendo Power magazine. Thanks for memories.

Keith Thomson
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I was only subscribed to Nintendo Power for a couple of years myself, but I did enjoy the magazine while I had it. The game that they sent me though was especially important, as it set the course for most of my console gaming from there forward. (Dragon Quest 1.)

I liked their guides enough that I actually named a cat after one of the characters in a Final Fantasy screenshot... (I had no idea that "Gail" was an actual person at Nintendo Power at the time.)

Of course, the magazine eventually drifted over to mostly covering SNES titles, and I drifted over to PC gaming instead when my parents decided not to buy consoles anymore, so I ended up dropping it. When I came back to console gaming in the late 90's, Nintendo just wasn't bringing over the kind of games I enjoyed anymore. At this point I play maybe 5-10% of the time on nintendo platforms, and about 70% on Sony platforms, so I never resubscribed.

Youn Lee
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1993~1995 about 3 years I read this magazine, which was one of the most beautiful memories in my childhood. Getting a newest issue of this, was like buying a new game monthly. Now I live in Korea, as a 26 years old grown up, and uncomfortable of using English. I will always miss you.

Alexander Brandon
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This is an incredibly well done write up. I loved this magazine along with many others and this trip down memory lane is sincerely appreciated. I always did wonder how they did screenshots and maps! That was REAL publishing and design. Nowdays anyone can do it with the tools we have, but not many do it well. Hats off to Howard, Gail and everyone involved for a great magazine that was the only avenue of information about these games.

Benjamin Smith
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Wow this is truly sad...This magazine is why I went to school for Video Game Art. I would sit up hours looking at the maps and pictures trying to draw them on Mario Paint.

David Boudreau
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Yeah it was always a great day when my copy of the Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter finally arrived. I was very loyal, however one of you people screwed up when the first issue of Nintendo Power came out- I remember waiting and WAITING that summer after all the hype, and hearing how my friends got their copy but mine never got sent out until very late, and I was emotionally scarred for life!! But I can't stay too mad at you, I still remember things like that Zelda map, great stuff.

Brenden Sewell
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That magazine was with me as a regular friend of sorts for most of my developing years. I still have some 150 odd issues sitting around in my old house somewhere.

Michael Ruud
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Nintendo Power was clearly a labor of love, and while it's with a heavy heart that its time has come to a close you've done good on giving the people behind its genesis the treatment they deserve with this article. And that final issue. It's such an appropriate bookend to the journey they've taken thus far. The cover, the fact that it features a review for a new Mario game on the dawn of the release of a new console, the final nester comic, the final page... everything about it is so heartfelt and tragic I dare call it poetic.

Thanks for the memories, Nintendo.

Rob Gomes
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I believe I was subscribed from Issue #1 through around Issue #100 or so. It was a pretty long run.

Some of the big game-centric strategy guide issues were tremendously well done. The Final Fantasy one is the one that sticks out for me, but I know there were strategy guides for 3 other games as well.

The Dragon Warrior offer I certainly remember as well. Renew your subscription and get a new game, strategy guide and other goodies? Sure! Sign me up! That's hard to argue when you're under the age of 10 (especially to my parents).

The issues I remember most however, were Issue #8 (the DuckTales issue) and #10 (the Batman issue) for one reason, which is depicted in one of the above photos: River City Ransom. One of the unsung heroes of the NES, arguably my favorite game of all time, and one I've for which not seen a comparable title since.

Josh Foreman
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So sad... Here's my moment of glory where I got a full page in the letters section...