So, we move on to Nintendo Power’s 5th issue, for March and April of 1989, with the cover game being Ninja Gaiden. I must admit the cover image isn’t as good as the images of the past 4 issues. It’s a guy in stereotypical Ninja black pajamas holding – I’ve got no freaking clue what he’s holding. If anyone who worked on this issue of Nintendo Power is reading this and you know what he’s holding, please let me know in the comments. This issue weighs in at about 106 pages, with a new section related to game previews in addition to the “reviews” (aka Strategy Guides) we’ve gotten previously.
Mail Bag: Well, as we reach the end of Nintendo Power’s first volume, we’re coming to one of our first notable changes in the magazine, one that I would say brings it more in line with most other video game magazines – they’ve moved the letters column to the front of the magazine. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it does a have a psychological impact – putting the focus early on to reader feedback, and their responses to the feedback. There are a lot of letters here from parents, and from senior citizens as well. Again, let it not be said that Nintendo consoles have, in the past, been unable to appeal to the moms and grandmothers demographic through hardcore games. We also get an letter from an honest-to-god educator (Steve Gibbs, an English teacher) praising Nintendo, particularly Legend of Zelda and Zelda 2) for promoting critical thinking skills.
Zelda II: Adventures Of Link Strategy Guide – Continued: Well, they didn’t cover all of Zelda II last issue, so they’re continuing here with the latter half of the game. After a brief refresher of the gameplay types, we get maps for castles 5 and 6, as well as the information you need to access the great palace (put the stones in the 6 palaces and level up to 8). What they don’t do is give you a map of the Grand Palace (and the lesser dungeons leading up to the grand palace). So you’ll still have some work to do on your own, unless they wrap up the year with the last portion of the game.
CES 1989 Report: Winter CES has come and gone, so it’s time for Nintendo Power to tell you what happened with pretty pretty color photographs and… not so much text. Maybe. Nintendo has a rather large booth, bigger than a football field. I don’t know if it’s a sign of Nintendo’s power before the FTC lined them up in their sights, or whether it’s a sign of CES not necessarily being as crowded due to having 2 conventions every year, allowing them to spread things out to avoid the circus atmosphere modern CES events (which are once a year) have. Frankly, the actual coverage isn’t very good. We get a snippet here, and a snippet there, and occasionally they’ll drop the name of a game like Mega Man 2 or Wrestlemania or Ultima. The one game or peripheral that appeared at Winter CES that does get a fair amount of coverage is, no surprise here, the Power Glove.
Why couldn't the cover have been like this?
Ninja Gaiden Strategy Guide: Well, one of the first video games to have out-of-engine cut-scenes between levels to convey the story is coming out and it’s getting a min-strategy guide in Nintendo Power. We start off with some basic stuff, in terms of what the power-ups do and what the controls are. The article has significantly better art then what we got on the cover. Frankly, I’d say that the interior art for the actual Ninja Gaiden article would make better art than what we got on the cover. Yeah, this is the late 80s, early 90s, and there’s still some of the anti-Japan xenophobia that gave us such novels as Rising Sun by Michael Crichton, and Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy (plus multiple novels by Clive Cussler), but you want to put your best foot forward for whatever article you feature on the cover, and besides – you’re the American branch of a Japanese company featuring a game about ninjas on the cover of your magazine – that’s plenty of reasons right there for people to gripe at you. Anyway, from there we move on to the level maps for the first 3 acts, as well as descriptions of the cut-scenes, and a brief little side-bar about real world ninjas, and real world ninja weapons and tricks.
Hudson’s Adventure Island Strategy Guide: Wonder Boy is getting ported to the NES, but it’s getting a name change, and a change of main character to Hudson’s button-mashing master, Takahashi Meijin, or, rather, Master Higgins. We get descriptions of a few items, and maps of the first few stages in Area 1, and some general info for Area 2. There’s also a fairly nice Strider Poster, though you’d have to take apart your magazine to get it out.
Previews: Now, this is their column for general previews for various games, though they do give sort of scores here, on 4 criteria – “Graphics and Sound”, “Play Control”, “Challenge”, and “Theme, Fun” each being rated out of 5 points. I’m going to be ignoring those scores, as being that this is a house organ, I should probably take them with a grain of salt.
Strider: The (now considered to be) classic Capcom action game is coming to the NES. We get a description of some of the important items and a map of the first level.
Cobra Triangle: Basically, it’s a combat speedboat racing game. We get a map of the first level.
Adventures of Bayou Billy: Action game with side scrolling levels, light gun levels, and driving levels. We get tidbits on every level of the game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: This would be the first game, the one that combines top-down adventure elements and side scrolling action platforming elements. Like Dick Tracy without the snipers. We get maps for areas 1 & 2, including the underwater segment at the dam.
Howard & Nester: This issue, Nester is having some difficulty with his book report – Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, particularly getting across the river north of Saria. As per usual, Nester does not follow Howard’s advice.
Classified Information & Councelor’s Corner: Being that both of these are advice columns, I’m going to combine these together for now. Of note for this issue is the mention (in Classified Information) that there are 2 possible endings for Castlevania II (though they don’t know the criteria that determines which ending you get), and a way to quickly level up a new character in Zelda II.
Top 30: Time for the rankings. Last month Super Mario Bros and the Legend of Zelda games held the top 3, with a boat load of newcomers making their way onto the charts as well. How do things stand this issue? I’ll try to include number of issues the games have been on the list this time around.
Super Mario Bros. 2 (22,534 pts.) – No Change
Zelda II (5,622 pts.) – No Change (4 Issues)
Legend of Zelda (5,563 pts.) – No Change (5 issues)
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (4,747 pts.) – Up 2 (5 issues)
Contra (3,979 pts.) – Up 4 (5 issues)
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (3,841 pts.) – Up 6.
Bionic Commando (3,732 pts.) – Up 21 (2 issues)
Blades of Steel (3,533 pts.) – New
Double Dragon (3,387 pts.) – Down 5 (4 issues)
Metroid (3,384 pts.) – Down 5. (5 issues)
Bases Loaded (3,371 pts.) – Down 1 (3 issues)
Blaster Master (3,156 pts.) – New
Mega Man (3,043 pts.) – Up 6 (5 issues – Quite the rebound)
Castlevania (2,795 pts.) – Down 1 (5 issues)
Top Gun (1,947 pts.) – Up 14 (5 issues – another rebound)
R.C. Pro Am (1,872 pts.) – Up 2. (5 issues)
Kid Icarus (1,712 pts.) – No Change (5 issues)
Rampage (1,559 pts.) – New
Milon’s Secret Castle (1,438 pts.) – Down 12 (2 issues)
Golgo 13 (1,428 pts.) – Down 9 (2 issues)
Hudson’s Adventure Island (1,350 pts.) – Down 6 (2 issues)
Mega Man II (1,331 pts.) – New
Metal Gear (1,305 pts.) – Down 18 (3 issues).
Paperboy (1,267 pts.) – New
1943 (1,253 pts.) – Down 5 (2 issues)
Ice Hockey (1,241 pts.) – Returning (4 prior issues, Last appearance was Issue #3)
Life Force (1,225 pts.) – Down 6 (2 issues)
Wizards & Warriors (1,205 pts.) – Returning (3 issues, last appearance was Issue #2)
Bubble Bobble (1,075 pts.) – New
Double Dribble (1,048 pts.) – Down 5
Absent: Track & Field II, Robocop, Xevious, T & C Surf Design, and Pac-Man.
Power Pad Playoffs ’89: As the Power Glove isn’t out yet, so they can’t write an article about it yet, instead we’ve got a feature article on the Power Pad, the newest official accessory for the NES, and all the games that support (which will also be all the games that will ever support it) – World Class Track Meet, Dance Aerobics & Super Team Games.
Video Shorts: Significantly shorter game previews. Of note is a port of California Games from the PC to the NES, Taboo: The 6th Sense (a Tarot card game), Nobunaga’s Ambition (one of Koei’s first strategy games to make to the US on the NES), Desert Commander (which looks a lot like the Advance Wars series), Mappyland, Airwolf (which I’m going to wait on judging until I’ve had a chance to play it, but I fear will not be Totally Airwolf – sorry Mur) & a licensed Predator game.
NES Journal: This issue w get Nintendo Power’s first April Fools joke – a planned series of non-games entailing such activities as dog washing, and fixing leaky plumbing. While this is an April Fools joke, considering the types of “games” coming out for the Wii, I can’t help but think of the Saturday Night Live sketch about the new Gillette Razor with 4 blades. Finally, we have the ballot for the first Nintendo Power Awards, which will be presumably be given out next issue. While it’s too late to vote officially, I’ll list the nominees – and I encourage you, readers, to post your picks for various categories. I haven’t read who won yet, so I’m going to give my picks as I go through.
Best Graphics & Sound
Pretty straight forward. Does it look pretty? Does it sound pretty? Let’s go.
Castlevania II – Simon’s Quest
Wizards & Warriors
My Pick: Metroid.
We’re not looking for the game that’s too easy, or the one that’s too hard. Like Goldilocks, the game we seek is the one that’s just right…
The Legend of Zelda
Hudson’s Adventure Island
My Pick: Bionic Commando
Best Theme, Fun
We’re looking for a game here that is fun to play, and has some re-play value too.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Zelda II – The Adventures of Link
Castlevania II – Simon’s Quest
My Pick: Now I come to tough decisions. Blaster Master is kind of fun, and it does have replay value, though artificially so, due to the lack of a password or save option, but I’m going to go with Super Mario Bros. 2.
Best Play Control
We’re looking for a game that does exactly what you tell it to do, and (preferably) what you want it to do but improperly explain to it.
Super Mario Bros. 2
Blades of Steel
My Pick: Metroid.
Does what it says on the tin.
Link (Zelda II)
Mega Man (Mega Man)
Mario (Super Mario Bros. 2)
Samus Aran (Metroid)
Duke Togo (Golgo 13)
Simon Belmont (Castlevania, Castlevania II)
Commando Joe (Bionic Commando)
Kuros (Wizard & Warriors)
Jason (Blaster Master)
Master Higgins (Hudson’s Adventure Island)
My Pick: Oh, this is a toughie indeed. I’m going with Link, with Samus Aran and Simon coming in 2nd and 3rd. Mario never really appealed to me as much as the rest of the characters, and I haven’t played enough Mega Man. Oh, and Duke Togo really doesn’t have any personality – not surprising, the target market for the character is Japanese businessmen in management positions (not necessarily lower level salarymen.)
Super Mario Bros. 2
My Pick: Bionic Commando – Hitler’s Head Goes Boom!
I’m abstaining from Best Player Vs. Player, because I haven’t played any of those games head-to-head multiplayer.
Legend of Zelda
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
My Pick: Legend of Zelda.
We get an article on their rating system – I probably won’t be getting into the ratings for games too much, unless something is notably low (receiving a 1 or 2).
Pak Watch/Gossip: Of note this issue – Capcom has gotten the license to make games using Disney characters. Bandai has plans to put out a game based on Star Trek V, Sunsoft is putting out a Batman game, and the first Dragon Quest game is coming to the US under the title of Dragon Warrior. Alas, we must conclude here – this issue has no Letter from Howard.
So, for my Quality Control for this issue, I’m going with Hudson’s Adventure Island. I haven’t played Wonder Boy. I haven’t played Adventure Island. I’m going in cold. Let’s see how I do.