As a reminder, all images on this portion of the site -- other than game screen captures and those otherwise noted -- are (or should I say, were) provided by Spazzoid's NES Stuff.
Now, this was quite probably the consummate
form of NES media, and assumed that stead almost immediately after its
beginning. Backed by an intriguing ad campaign, "Nintendo Power" acquired
countless subscribers prior to even the shipping of its first issue, and that
number continued to increase for some time thereafter.
If I recall, this publication stemmed from a less recognized newsletter sent from Nintendo of America to very few subscribers. By 1988, it likely became obvious to Nintendo's executives that their fan base was expanding, and that something needed to be done to address this growing array of people. A few months later, "Nintendo Power" was born, and the public was instantly enthralled. Who wouldn't be? After all, this publication contained hints and in-depth reporting on many new and/or upcoming titles. Best of all, however, we knew it to be official, for this was a direct publication of the almighty Nintendo of America.
In the time of the NES, "NP" was, quite literally, burgeoning in the effort to cover every game available. Because in-depth coverage of all games was an impossibility, the publication was divided into many sections. By the fifth issue, a "Previews" section was introduced, in which upcoming games were given relatively meager coverage -- only enough to "wet the whistle" of the magazine's audience. Also, from NP's beginning, a section entitled "Pak Watch", which offered brief explanations of games farther from release than those in the "Previews" section, was included. Only those games in the highest esteem of the magazine's writers received in-depth coverage, and that coveted distinction was sufficient to provoke most customers into purchasing one or another of the titles discussed.
In 1990, Nintendo Power did the ultimate credit to three particular NES games. Over the course of the year, in the month's lapse between four of the bi-monthly issues, NP published four "Strategy Guides." They were equal in length to the average issue of the magazine, but each of the first three devoted itself only to one game. Super Mario Bros. 3 was the first, followed by Ninja Gaiden II in July, and Final Fantasy in September (the fourth dealt, somewhat thoroughly, with several four-player games, but will not be earnestly discussed here). These guides served as point-by-point walkthroughs -- up to one of those points, anyway (see neext paragraph) -- of all the niches and recesses of the highlighted games, all utilizing Nintendo's then peerless aptitude for game assistance.
If these publications contained any one flaw, it would be their deliberate exclusion of each game's final conflict -- the abandonment of the player at each game's most difficult points. It was difficult at the time, however, for any reader to chide the then superior periodical for any offense. Nintendo Power was, in all other ways, the superlative video game magazine, and that single recurring lapse in judgement was a pardonable offense.
By the dawn of 1991, NES games were being released with such volume that bi-monthly coverage was no longer adequate. In response, Nintendo Power came to offer new issues on a monthly basis, without compromising the excellence of the publication itself. Yet, in this year, Nintendo Power suffered arguably the most substantial blow of its existence with the resignation of Howard Phillips. The bow-tie clad editor left the magazine in the Summer of '91 to explore other horizons. With this, "Howard & Nester", the beloved comic strip about a sensible fellow based upon Phillips and his self-righteous cohort, Nester, became "Nester's Adventures". Without Howard's counteractive, straight-laced influence, the comic became a shadow of what it once was, and lost, as gradually did the rest of NP, the flair and uniqueness upon which its fame was built.
Yet, Nintendo Power remained intriguing for a few years thereafter, if only because of the number of RPGs produced for the SNES. The "cyberjocks", however, foreshadowed the magazine's coming degeneration of quality -- its submission to "attitude", as Tim Connolly would contend, and I would concur.
Then came the Nintendo 64, which ruined NP, though not for reasons of quality alone. New N64 games have, on a monthly basis, not numbered very many. As a result, it is difficult to fill an entire magazine with coverage of only that system. Thus, NP has resorted to filling the empty space with advertisements for -- you guessed it -- the Nintendo 64. Also, they have been forced to "expand" game coverage in order to fill the magazine's space. Their method for doing so is by placing insanely large maps of each game's levels across page after page after page. Writing is minimal, and simply a hollow panegyric for the N64 and its array of empty games. Also, "feature articles" regarding the N64's greatness are commonplace, and about as predictable as the rest of the magazine. These factors become suffocating quickly, and have, in essence, spat upon the traditions Nintendo Power created ten years ago.
-The "Worlds of Power" Series-
Image provided by The Ninja Gaiden Homepage.
This series, as NES Media is concerned, falls into
the "don't try this at home" category. Around the pinnacle of the NES's
popularity, a group of people caught onto the idea that gamers might enjoy
reading the stories of a few of their favorite games in novella form. This was,
to risk redundancy, a novel idea, but the small clique that created this series
of books forgot one rather important step in the process: PERMISSION. That is,
these books were released without the consent of the games' publishers. Sound
like "plagiarism", perhaps? Well, it is. Nevertheless, this undaunted group of
authors, under the common pseudonym of "F.X. Nine", published a decent quantity
of these books. I don't know for certain what happened to them after the various
companies became aware, but I'm sure legal action was taken. Since I ordered the
few I had from a catalog, I don't know if they were abruptly yanked off the
shelves, or just ostracized to the realm of fads to keep the pet rocks company.
Illegality aside, these are fairly decent books. However, because they are (or rather, "were") targeted at grade school students, their style is somewhat simplistic, and violence is minimized. Also, two of the few that I own -- Blaster Master and Wizards &p; Warriors -- use a good bit of invented characterization to compensate for their NES counterparts' rather rudementary plots. In addition, it was common practice to have a teenager be drawn into the game's world in order to give some aid to the hero -- probably a response to Captain N's popularity.
If it seems I am degrading the "Worlds of Power" series, any appearance of antipathy is unintentional. I'm probably just irritated by the fact that I can't seem to find any of the books I know I once owned. That aside, these are fun works -- somewhat creative, and a clear indication of the NES's staggering popularity in its prime. Personally, though, I'd stick with the games themselves.
All right. I'll freely admit that there were quite a
few NES hint books. However, because they were, on the whole, quite similar,
I've decided to lump them into one category.
During the late '80s/early '90s, more than a few individuals who had completed a few games with relative ease declared themselves "game masters", and elected to publish their own strategies. Most of these less-than-bestsellers contained such statements as "how to win at", "tips and tricks", or "strategy guide" in their titles. These promising phrases enticed a few customers, and, before attempting to actually harness these "tips and tricks", I was among those fooled.
The reason I speak with such disdain for these various books is because, for one reason or another, they seldom deliver what they promise (though there are exceptions). There are those that offer inappropriately long descriptions of simple tasks, and fail to even mention the most difficult of encounters within the game -- probably because the author has no idea how to complete them either. Also, there are those which are terribly vague, and offer no screen stills to illuminate what they are describing. You will probably see the word "thing" appear in these books as often as the letter "P". Finally, there are those that use nothing beyond pictures, offering brief captions to explain what the player is supposed to do in each screen still's situation. There is one problem with these captions, however: they DON'T explain it with any specificity. Perhaps an example of this is in order.
This is taken from "the editors of Consumer Guide's" More Strategies for Nintendo Games. It appeared in the Ninja Gaiden strategy section, under a picture of the battle with the Demon:
"Begin attacking Jaquio from the left. The Art of the Fire Wheel is the appropriate weapon to use." (p. 40)
Where does one begin with this caption's errors and abysmal vagueness? Well, I suppose I'll list this statement's discrepancies and errors in order of appearance (or, in some cases, the order in which they do not appear).
1. The Demon is NOT named "Jaquio". That name belongs to the man defeated before battling the Demon.
2. The Demon takes up nearly the entire right side of the screen. The only direction from which it can be attacked is the left.
3. While the Art of the Fire Wheel is one of the more effective weapons in this battle, the Demon has to be attacked in two specific places -- first its head and then its "heart". The caption makes no mention of that.
4. The caption also fails to remark that the Demon emits bursts of energy that inhibit a constant stream of attack.
On the whole, most unofficial NES hint guides betray their proclamations for lack of a user-friendly layout, as previously detailed. The only circumstance under which I would recommend their purchase would be if one were seeking a reasonable price above all else. I suppose most dealers would not dare overcharge their customers for one of these absurd works.
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