Hearing that Nintendo Power will be finally be closing down after 24 years and publishing its last issue in December saddened me. It was akin to learning that a friend from your childhood that you had long lost touch with was doing profoundly terrible. There were a few things that taught me my love of reading and Nintendo Power was one of them.
Between videogames and comic books I developed a great deal of my reading skills. While growing up, I read X-Men comics and had subscriptions to both Nintendo Power and Electronic Gaming Monthly. As I grew older, I lost interest in Nintendo Power, but its kid-friendly tone and language was much easier for me to understand in my earlier years than EGM, so it served as a wonderful introduction to game journalism for me.
When I was much younger, I would pour through the pages looking at level designs of games that I owned. I would even look at level designs of games I didn’t own and compare them to see what made each game unique. You have to remember that Nintendo Power is less about hard-hitting articles and more about offering strategy guides, previews and only has a few pages dedicated to actually reviewing games. I remember getting out two separate issues and comparing the level-layouts from different Mega Man games. I looked at how the newer of the two games had a much more complicated layout that offered more routes to follow to complete the levels. This was the first time I ever remember being aware of non-linear level designs. Until then, most games were a series of corridors with obstacles in the way, but after that realization I saw choice. It was probably something as simple as one corridor or another corridor, but that was a big concept for me and seeing it in front of me was profound.
Every month I looked forward to the poster that always came with the magazine. It was the first thing I looked for and I had a collection of them taped to various corners of my room, in the basement with my toys and in my locker at school. Once, I remember getting incredibly angry simply because I ripped the poster apart while trying to remove it from the magazine. I know the page is perforated, but for an excited fourth grader, getting the poster out was equivalent to disarming a bomb and I ripped a Killer Instinct poster. I was less sad than I was angry at myself for being incapable of getting the poster out undamaged. There was nobody to blame and as angry as I was, there was nothing I could do, but try to put the poster back together with scotch tape. I remember how excited I was when I realized that I could use the posters to cover my textbooks, something most schools require to protect the book from being damaged. I’m not sure I can fully convey the excitement that I had when I first conceived the idea of covering my books with a game poster and how awesome it felt when I carried my newly covered textbooks to school covered in Nintendo themed book covers. I believe the most accurate statement I can make is, “I was as giddy as a schoolgirl.” I hated school as a kid with a passion, so it was strange to actually be excited to go to school just because I found something really cool to wrap my textbooks in.
Long before I had heard of Fox News, I learned about bias from Nintendo Power. As I mentioned earlier, I had subscriptions to both EGM and Nintendo Power and after reading the review of a game in Nintendo Power, I managed to scrape together enough money to buy it. I actually don’t remember what game it was, a racing game of some kind, but I remember how quickly it took me to lose interest in it. It wasn’t really a bad game, it was more mediocre than anything. After a few hours of racing around the same tracks and crashing into my friends in split-screen, the game grew stale and somehow we ended up playing Super Mario Kart for the rest of the weekend and completely ignoring my more realistic and newer racing game. A few days later, I found the review for the racing game in EGM and, to my surprise, it received poor marks. I dug around my room searching for my Nintendo Power and turned to the review that had inspired me to buy the game and realized that the two were completely different. The Nintendo Power review gave it above-average scores and only mentioned one bad thing about the game, where the EGM review gave it below average scores and described several flaws, such as repetitive level design and little variation between vehicles. I realized that was why the game quickly grew boring, compared to Super Mario Kart, there was no competition.
I’m not saying that Nintendo Power is completely blinded to other games or that they are pushing a magazine run by people from Nintendo’s marketing department, but after that experience I began to see the magazine in a new light. The magazine was more about fan service by giving cool artwork mixed with lots of screenshots and allowing other Nintendo fans to see their letters in print. The short three-sentence reviews are something that surprises me as an adult. As a game journalist, I see that most of the actual review was focused on using a star system to give games a number, but I despise that kind of review.
Soon after learning about the difference in the reviews my little brother took over my subscription. I’m sure he got the same sense of ownership out of having something come in the mail with his name on it that I did. Even though I officially had relinquished the subscription to my brother, I liked to check back on it from time to time and maybe to steal posters and cover my geometry book with them.
What makes me very sad is that this is a magazine. I like magazines. I like having something in my hands that I can flip through and read. I like the idea that if I read the magazine I’ll see some games that I may not have looked into while reading a website. I can flip the page and see an article that has a creative page design or breaks apart different topics in a way that doesn’t translate to the web. I can carry it to the dentist or while my car is being worked on. I know these things are becoming a rarity and soon we will all be looking at websites or reading “magazines” on our tablets, but hearing about Nintendo Power going is like hearing about a piece of my childhood leaving. I may have abandoned Nintendo Power long ago, but I always imagined that it was still out there instilling the same love of gaming in kids that I found in it and it makes me want to cover my Shakespeare book with an F-Zero poster, which would be totally rad.
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.