Everything’s better when you’re young. Imagination, wonderment and of course, a whole mess of gullibility fend off the apprehension, cynicism and general mistrust that come with getting older. Nothing is played out yet, your guard hasn’t gone up, and your parents are behind-the-scenes caretakers of a world that doesn’t mean much to you. Once that wall breaks down and your mind comes to you, it takes something really special to ignite that feeling that was always present as a child. Even at 23-years-old, there’s very little that gets me excited in the same way that I would when a new issue of Nintendo Power would arrive in the mail, or when I’d head to Zellers (I’m Canadian) with my father to pick up a new Nintendo 64 game.
Now, this isn’t some Nintendo propaganda from a “fanboy.” I’m too old and wise for all that. Every company has missteps, even failures; and every magazine has a bias. It’s the reality of the world. This is just me looking back, rambling on like an old man about a special little cut-out in time that contributed to my being where I am today.
In case the news passed you by, after nearly 25 years in print, Nintendo Power ran its final issue earlier in the month. After checking some big name retailers, unable to track down an issue, I ended up at the Shopper’s Drug Mart near my home. I had noticed they carried the magazine in previous trips, browsing through a few pages, but never picking it up. That was until I knew it was the last one, that casually browsing through the pages while I wait to checkout would no longer be an option; that a key part of my childhood, something that propagated a lifelong interest had come to its ultimate end.
Perhaps for the first time ever, I read a Nintendo Power front to back. It’s a beautiful read, one that I suggest to anyone who has a nostalgic place in their heart for the magazine. The reviews are there as the typical dressing for those who need them, but what really hit me were the letters from fans in the long-running, oft-renamed Pulse; the retrospective, ‘Great Moments in Power’, which details each year of the publication; and ‘NP’s All-Time Favorite Games’, which I’ll be returning to for years to come when I want to experience a forgotten classic. Now, that is how to do a feature.
As a child, I never owned a Nintendo Entertainment System, its successor, the Super Nintendo, or their bitter competition, the SEGA Master System and Genesis. 2D gaming as a whole didn’t elude me — I was always privy to the likes of ‘Super Mario All-Stars’, ‘Sonic the Hedgehog 2′, ‘Streets of Rage’, ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Boogerman’ (which I know has no business being mentioned in the same breath, but hey, that’s nostalgia) thanks to neighbors and school friends — but I really began my term as a gamer with the Nintendo 64. I guess technically, I began with the SEGA Saturn, but unforeseen complications (being clueless as to how to hook it up) led to my father and I returning it and coming home with a Nintendo 64 and a copy of ‘Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey’.
Because of my jumping in at the onset of the 3D era, I don’t have a lot of fond memories of Nintendo Power when they covered the SNES and previous. As much as I’d love to look back nostalgically at their painstakingly crafted maps and tips for likes of ‘Super Metroid’ and the various ‘Castlevania’ entries, I simply can’t. I relied on Nintendo Power as a way of knowing what to look forward to as a child. They were the masters of hype mongering, and I say that in the kindest way. Their previews, however slight, always managed to capture my imagination. After picking up ’3D Hockey’ and then, ‘Super Mario 64′, the obvious choice of even a small child, I was lost. I relied on the magazine and their yearlong coverage of the upcoming ‘The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time’ to introduce me to its world and tell me why I should care. It was because of them that I finally gave 2D gaming a chance on the Gameboy (and later, the Game Gear, but never mind that) with ‘Pokemon Blue’ and… wait for it… ‘Double Dragon‘. Looking back, it was old when I had picked it up (presumably, at a pawn shop because of that slick cartridge art), but I remember putting countless hours into that bad-boy.
These days and for several years now, Western gaming is the status quo. By the mid-90s, Western gaming was undeniably huge, but we still relied on Japan for the big titles — the new Pokemon, the next great role-playing game or action-adventure. And nothing quite enamored me like a screenshot from a game with Japanese menus that was still a world away from me in the small town that I grew up in. Nintendo Power brought me there. I will forever remember my first glimpse of ‘Pokemon Stadium’ and the longing that it caused. I had constructed the game from start to finish a thousand times in a thousand different scenarios in my head before it came to North American shores.
As I got older and my interest in gaming broadened, I moved on to other magazines, to other outlets as the technology became more prominent, but you always remember your first. And for me, that was Nintendo Power. Some people may look at it as just another corporate magazine, but I’ll always remember it as a quarter century worth of history that awakened in me what has thus far been a lifelong ambition.