Nintendo Power Magazine Issue #1

Nintendo Power magazine debuted in 1988. From the beginning, Nintendo Power focused heavily on providing game strategy, reviews, and previews of upcoming games. It was an oasis for young Nintendo games, and here in this Time Capsule, I’m presenting the very first issue in full for your enjoyment.

I never got to get my hands on issues of this magazine except for when someone would bring a copy to school. Even then I would only get to browse through it for a very short time before they took it back. So being able to take my time and immerse myself in every page of this first issue has been a real treat. I hope you enjoy revisiting it as much as I have.

The flipbook below is very easy to use, and I suggest enlarging it to full size for maximum enjoyment.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest

When Konami unleashed the first Castlevania cartridge on the Nintendo world in 1987, I was still too wrapped up in Super Mario Bros., ExciteBike, and Pro Wrestling to pay much attention.  Even though the original game was much loved and had a lot of hype around it, I was still impervious to the franchise’s existence when Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest rolled out in 1988. 

I’ve never hidden the fact that this game is my favorite all-time for Nintendo. Most players hold Castlevania III in much higher regard than this, and I can see where they are coming from. Dracula’s Curse was an amazing game with an amazing feature that lets you keep changing which character you were using. But for me, it all goes back to this being my first role-playing game, and I had bought it myself with weeks and weeks worth of saved-up allowance money. Thus, I prefer this over the more popular Castlevania III.

Now I don’t know how much advertising was put into this game, but this comic book ad…boy is it a beaut! It’s got screenshots, box art, details on the game via intricate storytelling, and great art that is relative to what the game is. Take out the fact that this is my favorite game, the ad itself is just really good. It sends a pretty good message as to what you would be getting in the game and creates a sense of need to own it. Even Don Draper and the boys at Sterling Cooper would be proud to have made this ad.

But not seeing this ad until much later in life, I’m not quite sure what attracted me to it in the first place.  All I know is, that one Saturday afternoon I took all the money I had saved up to the local K-Mart when my Mom went to do her usual shopping.  I went straight to the electronics section and started scanning the available Nintendo games, as I was intent on picking one up that day.  Maybe it was the only game they had, or maybe the box art just got to me.  But little did I know, that I was purchasing one of my all-time favorite games for the Nintendo system.  Matter of fact, when I bought a Wii for the kids when they came out, I immediately downloaded Simon’s Quest for it and played it right up until the system got outdated and the kids moved on to something else.

In Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest, you take the role of Simon Belmont on a journey to undo the curse placed on him and his family by Dracula at the end of the original Castlevania game.

The quest of Simon to destroy Dracula was the simple premise, but the much more complicated facet of the game was just where in the heck did you find Dracula, and what weapon do you use on him when you find him? You spent your time traveling through towns, forests, and mansions killing skeletons, wolfmen, sea creatures, and everything else that got in your way, including spiders and floating eyeballs. 

You earned “hearts” that were like money and you used that money to upgrade your whip and buy additional weapons like Holy Water, Laurel Bushes, Diamonds, and numerous other curiosities. You also had to talk to the townspeople to get clues on which direction to go to find Dracula and how to beat him. All this wrapped into the game made it one heck of a time-waster, and I can’t forget the Saturday afternoon that I finally beat the damn thing.

 Castlevania II was the first role-playing game that I can ever remember playing, and even to this day, role-playing games are not my cup of tea.  But Simon’s Quest has stood the test of time and holds a special place in my heart as one of the best, and most fun video games I ever put my hands on.

Castlevania 2:  Simon’s Quest is readily available on the numerous Nintendo emulator and ROM sites you find on the web.  If you never played it back in the day, I highly suggest you give it a shot on some rainy Saturday afternoon and see what you think. 

Ring King for Nintendo

Ring King

What red-blooded American boy didn’t want to put on the gloves and go to battle with one another inside the squared circle? With this game, you and your best friend could live that out without anyone getting a bloody nose.  My cousin David introduced me to the game at his house, and we spent hours that first night battling for ring supremacy. 

The action was slow and plodding, but man was it fun. You really had to battle for the full 3 minutes to stay alive, and then you had to work your thumbs to the limit in the rest period to regain needed energy.  I loved the fact that this game had a tournament mode. That meant a lot of “Championship Tournament” afternoons for me. 

I would have friends come over, and we would each pick four combatants, and then have them square off in tournament mode. A tournament like this could last 2-3 hours before a champion was finally declared. Once done, it was time to ice down our swollen thumbs and enjoy some tasty snacks like Jiffy Pop or Jello Pudding Pops. This game contributed to many fun Saturday afternoons. 

Once Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out hit the scene, it became the favorite boxing game of many, myself included.  But the big difference between the titles was the fact that only one player could play Punch-Out, whereas you and a buddy could both play Ring King.  That kept Ring King relevant through the years and was what helped keep my interest in it so long.

Activisions Newsletter

As part of the Show & Tell blogging event featuring video games, Jason over at Rediscover the 80s wrote about the Activision video game patches he wished he’d earned back in the 80s. I read that post and got jealous myself, because not only did I never win a patch, but I never even knew of their existence until his post.

But it triggered a memory for me of an old Atari “magazine” I have. As it turned out, it wasn’t actually a magazine, but rather a newsletter. Back in 1981, Activision founder Jim Levy wrote a “welcome” letter introducing the original Activisions newsletter to Activision’s loyal fans. The Activisions newsletter was created to inform gamers of new titles in development and give the reader a small peek into Activision, its designers, their games, and the people who played them. The first Activisions newsletter arrived in the fall of 1981 and the last issue was sent out in the fall of 1983. Seven issues of the Activisions newsletters were created in all. In this Time Capsule, I’m presenting that seventh and final edition. It features some of those patches that Jason yearns for. Enjoy.

The flip book below is super easy to use. The controls are in the control panel below the book, and you can use them to go forward or backward. I suggest using the expand button to blow it up to full screen for maximum enjoyment.

Defender of the Crown for Nintendo

The early days of my Nintendo play were dominated by action and sports games. I’ve detailed how Pro Wrestling was my first true Nintendo love, and the other games I owned at the beginning of my fandom were Alpha Mission and Top Gun. Those were followed by Double Dribble and Rad Racer. All of these games were ones that featured constant action and re-action but offered little in the way of role-play.

My game tastes would switch to role-playing when I first got to play The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link that I borrowed from my friend Geoffrey. After that, I bought my first role-playing game, Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest, and it would quickly shoot up to the top of my favorite games of all-time list and stay there. It wasn’t just the role-playing aspect that hooked me, it was also the strategy element involved in the game that really set the hook. I didn’t realize at that time just how much I was going to enjoy a pure strategy game until I borrowed another game from Geoffrey called Defender of the Crown.

Defender of the Crown was a strategy game set in England in 1149 during the middle ages. You had a spot of land to begin the game, and you attempted to conquer neighboring lands. Pretty simple concept don’t you think? You had several ways to go about that though. You could siege their land, or covertly go in and try to take over. And if you needed help, you had the ability to call on Robin Hood. Throw in the fact that you had sporting events as well like the joust and sword fight for the action quota, you were left with a pretty fun way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon. 

Besides the strategy part of the game, what I liked best about Defender of the Crown was laying siege to an opponent’s castle. You had catapults with which you could launch boulders to knock holes in the walls. After holes had been created, you used the catapult to launch fire or plagues into the castle to weaken their defenses. Before you knew it, your opponent surrendered and you had acquired a new land to rule. But you had to watch because while you were out conquering new lands with your army, your enemies were plotting to invade your home territory. If you didn’t leave enough troops at home, you’d find yourself without a place to return to.

Growing up a fan of Robin Hood and medieval stories in general, this game was a big hit with me. And the strategy aspect had me engaged to the point I was playing it every afternoon after school.  I never actually owned Defender of the Crown but would borrow it from Geoffrey and keep it for months on end.

Defender of the Crown really set me on a path of loving strategy games that continues to this day. I moved on to games like Genghis Khan and Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego for Nintendo, and on to Act Raiser and others like it for Super Nintendo. Most people may have never even heard of the game, but Defender of the Crown was a transformative title in my gaming life.

Mortal Monday 1993

So I missed this anniversary by a day, but way back on September 13, 1993, the home video game version of Mortal Kombat hit stores in an event dubbed Mortal Monday. The Mortal Kombat arcade game was an instant hit when it landed in arcades around the country, so turning it into a game for home consoles was a no-brainer.

I probably played the arcade version just a couple of times when it got big, but being as how there weren’t any arcades close to where I lived made playing it more than that a virtual impossibility. But I was still excited for the game coming to home consoles nonetheless.

I was a Street Fighter II fan and played it at home all the time, so another fighting game seemed cool. Now I wasn’t one of the fanboys who were all excited about the fatalities and such, I just enjoyed fighting games. Mortal Kombat had an interesting story attached to the game so that was a plus as well. But my friend Geoffrey couldn’t shut up about it’s pending release. Between his excitement, the plethora of commercials advertising it, and the many ads for it in comic books and magazines were enough to make my head spin. When Mortal Monday finally arrived, I was kind of relieved because I wouldn’t be inundated with the hype anymore. Or so I thought.

What overtook that was Geoffrey’s non-stop babbling about how awesome the game was. He was one of those Sega Genesis kids, so his version had the fatalities intact. The SNES version did not. I still sometimes wonder what kind of deal Sega made to have that kind of exclusivity. But I did my duty as a best friend and went over to his house to play it, and enjoyed it, but not like he did. He just could not shut up about that game for weeks. But me, I went home and played Street Fighter II. That was my game.

But looking back on it all now, it was quite the promotion for a video game, and it even had a cool tag line in “Mortal Monday”. They drilled that into people’s heads. I guess it worked since the franchise went on to spawn numerous sequel games and movies.

Happy belated anniversary to Mortal Kombat and it’s Mortal Monday promotion.

If you’d like to read more about Geoffrey and video games, check out the entry for the Game Genie in an old comic book ads post I did, Even More Old Comic Book Ads. And if you remember the hype, share your memories in the comments!

The Goonies II Nintendo Game

I guess after the success the movie had, a video game was inevitable. But playing this game didn’t feel very much like watching the movie. You had Mikey, the hero, of course, traveling through caves and various other locations slinging his yo-yo at the bad guys to dispose of them. But the focus of the game was on collecting different objects to help you get farther along. It was a constant maze of entering different rooms and trying to find secret doorways to get someplace else. It was quite the brain bender, and I spent many hours on this puppy on Saturday afternoons.

This was another game that I never actually owned.  But my best friend Geoffrey had it, and quickly tired of it.  Geoffrey was one of those kids that got whatever he wanted, and what he always wanted was a new video game.  He would get one, play it for a few weeks, and then tire of it.  Once he was done with one, it was offered to me to take home for a few weeks and play.  That was a pretty good setup on my end.  He sent me home one day with this game and being a fan of the movie, I was excited to pop it in and give it a whirl.  But like I already said, it differed from the movie quite a bit.  Not to say that as a bad thing though.  I feel like they had a game developed, and then just added the tie into the Goonies after the fact to sell more copies.

Alpha Mission for Nintendo

The great space saga known as Alpha Mission…..or kind of a Galaga knockoff. This was a cool game where you had a space fighter and the ability to upgrade its weapons and defense systems in the course of the gameplay. Once you earned more weapons, you could switch back and forth between them. At the end of each level was a boss, and that boss was only beatable by one of those special weapons….and you had to figure out which one and select it before you got to him. It was hard in the beginning, but soon it became one of those games that I would sit down for an hour and a half and run through the whole thing for fun.

I got Alpha Mission on the same night I got my Nintendo. When we went to pick it up, all my local Hills department store had were the Nintendo systems without any games. So my dad let me pick a game, and I picked Pro Wrestling. While there in the store, he decided he wanted to pick a game and he chose Alpha Mission. I was astounded that my old man was picking out a game to play.  He was genuinely excited about getting a Nintendo, but I had my doubts about just how much he would actually sit down and play.  Turned out I was right, as he only played Alpha Mission once.  I’m glad he picked it up though because as noted earlier, it became one of my favorite games to kill time with.

1990 Gamepro Holiday Catalog

Back in 1990, handheld gaming systems were the new hotness, and Gamepro provided a handy guide to all of the games that were currently available for both Gameboy and Lynx for the holidays. This way, kids knew exactly what games to bug their parents for, and now you can go back in time and enjoy this awesome look back at the state of handheld gaming in December 1990. Enjoy!

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Excitebike for Nintendo

ExciteBike was one of the Nintendo console’s most beloved games, and a favorite of mine too. I killed many hours with this bad boy, and for good reason….it was full of great features!  Racing on a motorcycle! Design your own tracks! Put 100 jumps in a row! This was one awesome game for those three reasons, and why it’s so fondly remembered. That and the fact that you could wreck others by coming down the track with your rear wheel in their front wheel and watch them tumble over and over down the track. With the possibility of using any combination of 19 different obstacles to design your track with, it had great replay value just in designing new courses to race. 

I was introduced to this game at my cousin’s house shortly after I got my Nintendo. I was instantly hooked and we spent several hours that night playing it.  I never actually owned the game, but several of my friends did, and a copy of it was at my house more often than not through the magic of swapping games with a friend for a period of time. This game still holds its own in the “fun factor” today against such newer and more complicated games. 

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Rollergames: The Nintendo Game

For this post, we’re going back to 1990 to look at an ad featuring a Nintendo game I found under the tree that year. That’s all the reason I need to consider this a Christmas-themed post.

Now as for the ad itself, it’s pretty swank. It does its best to make the game sound exciting by throwing out those blurbs about what you’ll face in the game. Unfortunately, some of those things just don’t sound exciting. The Karate Creeps and Combat Copters sound great, but when you have to start naming off things like Open Manholes and Vicious Dogs, it could be an indicator that your game isn’t exactly Contra.

But it does highlight some screenshots, and the shots they chose to show make the game look really good. The broken highway in particular makes it look like a game you’d want to play.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the game. I really liked it. The fighting aspect was fun in its own way, and the skating aspect added a degree of difficulty not often seen in side-scrolling games. Like, after you landed a jump you had to instantly react because your player would just keep going. While that doesn’t sound all that bad, think about all the spots in games where you have to make numerous consecutive jumps and land on little spots between them.

The problem this game suffered from was false advertising. I mean, if you were watching Rollergames on television, you were expecting a roller derby on a figure-eight track with the massive wall of death and alligators potentially on the track. But what you go was a side-scrolling fighting game. It’s like they had a game designed that they felt they needed to attach a brand to, and Rollergames was it.

They did keep the teams from Rollergames intact, as you had your choice of three playable characters. A girl from the Hot Flash, a guy from The Rockers, or “The IceBox” Robert Smith from the world-famous L.A. T-Birds. The managers of the heel teams were also represented, as they were featured as level bosses throughout the game.

The Rollergames TV show didn’t have a large following. I mean, it only lasted 13 episodes. So Konami was already drawing from a limited pool and the fact that the video game wasn’t like what was seen on TV further limited its appeal. But none of that stopped me from enjoying it. I liked the game for what it was and spent many hours on it. Especially on Christmas day in 1990. There…that last sentence reinforces that this is a post for Christmas.

My Origin Story: Nintendo

Nintendo was a big part of most kids’ lives who are now my age. I’m sure we had all spent our fair share of time in arcades pumping quarters into machines, and probably even took a few turns playing Atari, ColecoVision, or other earlier systems. But when Nintendo came along, it turned the video gaming world on its head and changed the business forever. We probably have it to thank for the continued video game obsession today. But for every one of us who loved Nintendo, there was a singular point in time when we first got to experience playing a game on one. This is the story of my first time.


Let me set the stage for you.  It was spring or early summer 1987.  I’m 9 years old and hanging out at my grandparent’s house on some lazy day.  My uncle Ernest is there visiting too, and somehow the conversation turned to him talking about this new thing called Nintendo that he had gotten for my cousin Tim.  I’m sitting and listening in puzzlement and amazement at the same time.

I’ve not heard of this Nintendo thing.  Somehow, someway, all the marketing and hype for it had completely eluded me.  Heard about it at school? Nope. Talked excitedly about it with my friends? No, missed out on that one too.  In what was surely a massive marketing blitz and rampant fever for Nintendo, I had somehow been completely oblivious to its existence.

So continuing to listen to Ernest as he spun intriguing tales of this game called Super Mario Brothers, I am becoming increasingly jealous of Tim and this “wonder box” that he now owns.  Then it happens. Ernest looked at me and said that I should come over and play it with Tim. He promised I would love it. The man had no idea what he had just unleashed upon me.

Going to visit Tim wasn’t any kind of chore since he lived right beside me.  When I got home that afternoon, I strolled next door, and what I found there left an indelible mark on me for the rest of my life.  This slightly odd-shaped gray and black box had me hooked from the first moment I picked up the controller.

Tim explained to me the basics of how it worked….how there were cartridges that contained the games that you inserted into the system, and hand-held controllers with which to play the games.  You didn’t need quarters or anything. You just turned it on and played arcade-like video games!

He gave me the basic rundown on how to play Super Mario Brothers, and let me watch him play for a while.  A LONG while. Eventually, he asked if I would like to play and I’m sure my answer was something along the lines of “HECK YEAH!”.  Sadly, he set us up in two-player mode which meant I would be Luigi. At that moment, I didn’t really care. What I didn’t know then was that Mario went first, and got to keep playing until he died.  Tim had already gotten quite good at the game, so I had to wait impatiently for quite a while before I got my turn.

Eventually, my time came.  I was so excited and barely able to contain myself.  The only thing I can even remotely compare that moment to is the first time I got a girl in the back seat of my car.  The nervousness and awkwardness of the moment were overwhelming. Much like when I had the girl in the backseat of the car, I hit the wrong button and it was over just as quickly as it had begun.  I had watched his moves intently and thought I was ready to run through the same levels I had just watched him complete. I mistimed the first jump and died a horrible death at the hands of a mutated mushroom.  After roughly 5 seconds of play, I was relegated back to the sidelines to sit and watch Tim and Mario dominate the playtime for another 15 – 20 minutes.

The afternoon continued on like this up into the evening, and when it was time to go, I was feeling a lot less enthusiastic about the whole video gaming experience.  In 4 hours of time spent with him, I had amassed about 20 minutes of total play. I went home thinking that it seemed fun, but I wasn’t really sure since I didn’t get very much hands-on time with the game.  

The following day, however, was a different story.  I showed back up at his house early and wasted no time in asking if he wanted to play Super Mario Brothers some more.  He darkened my whole world when he said, “Nah, I don’t want to play Mario today.” Just as quickly as he darkened the day, he lit it right back up when he said: “Let’s play Pro Wrestling instead.”  PRO WRESTLING?!? There was a game for Nintendo about Pro Wrestling?!?

Tim and I were both HUGE fans of pro wrestling in general and the NWA in particular.  We watched it together religiously and were huge fans of the Rock & Roll Express. He showed me the cartridge, and I’m surprised I didn’t wet my pants with excitement right then and there.  I may have, but I don’t really remember. When that game started up, it was like a choir singing Hallelujah!

We went through the cast of characters and were excited about the possibilities of matches we could have.  Since Tim hadn’t played the game much yet, we were pretty much on even footing when it came to experience. And throw in the fact that this was a game that both players played at the same time instead of taking turns meant that I got a whole lot more hands-on time with this than I ever would have gotten being Luigi on Super Mario Brothers.

We spent the entire day playing Pro Wrestling and I personally didn’t care at all about not getting to play Mario anymore.  The next several days were like that, with us playing Pro Wrestling by day, and me begging my parents for my own Nintendo by night.  

About a week later, my family went to the Hills Department Store in Bristol where my Dad picked up my first Nintendo Entertainment System for me, along with the Pro Wrestling cartridge, and a Space Invaders-type knockoff called Alpha Mission.  But I’ll save the details about that game for another time.

I can remember getting it home that night and being anxious as hell for my dad to get it hooked up to the television. By the time he had gotten everything hooked up and in place, it was getting late into the night. My mom let me play one quick match on Pro Wrestling, but then it was time for bed she said. I was like a kid going to bed on Christmas Eve with so much excitement coursing through my veins that it was hard to sleep. I’m sure I spent the night with visions of brain busters and somersault kicks dancing in my head.

I got up the next morning before the sun was up, and was immediately in the living room to play more Pro Wrestling. This was a Saturday, so that meant I was choosing Nintendo over my Saturday morning tradition of watching cartoons. But that was ok. I had watched cartoons my whole life. Nintendo was a new thing, and it wasn’t going to take a backseat to anything that day, even the glory that we now refer to reverently as ’80s cartoons.

I probably spent the entire day playing Nintendo. Most likely I played Pro Wrestling for most of that time, but I also popped in that Alpha Mission cartridge and gave it a go as well. My dad bought it because he thought he might enjoy playing it. I can only remember him giving it a shot one time, and from then on, it was mine all mine. His interest in Nintendo faded within the first 24 hours of having it in the house.

Within a seven-day period, I had gone from not knowing what the hell Nintendo even was, to playing one, owning one, and becoming obsessed with it. I bet if I thought about it, I could put that week in my life up there in the top 10 weeks in my life overall. I’ve been a Nintendo enthusiast since that point in time, and it all started with that first trip to Tim’s house. And Pro Wrestling will forever hold the distinction of the game that originally stole my heart, and I still keep a pristine copy of it on display in my home. Right behind it, you can see pictures of my kids.