Back in the day, before YouTube, Twitter, and online media dominated the gaming news industry, the best way to learn about upcoming video game releases was by grabbing the latest issue of a gaming magazine. They’d litter the aisles of the local grocery store as the perfect last-second impulse buy, or if you were lucky enough to have a subscription, a new one would arrive on your doorstep every month. Each gaming brand had its own specific publication, whether it was Sega Visions, Official PlayStation Magazine, or perhaps the most beloved and well-known of them all: Nintendo Power.
Starting in 1988, Nintendo Power lasted a massive 24 years, covering many different generations of Nintendo games, from Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES, to Super Mario Bros. U for the Wii U. A staggering 285 issues were published throughout the magazine’s lifetime, bringing all sorts of Nintendo-oriented information to countless excited and curious fans. During Nintendo Power’s heyday, it was doubtlessly the best source for anything and everything Nintendo-related. As the years went on, its relevance slowly faded, but for many, hearing that name still causes a wave of nostalgia.
That childish glee and anticipation of receiving a new Nintendo Power, of seeing the cover artwork and opening it up to the colorful pages, plastered with new game reveals and tiny, blurry screenshots, is the reason behind this new editorial series. This is meant as a fun way for us to look back at moments in gaming history together, to laugh at overhyped reviews of terrible games, to speculate about canceled projects, and to see how far the industry has come. So, let’s take a journey back in time, to the ancient days of 2004.
Issue 184 - October 2004
The first copy of Nintendo Power I was able to come across came from Goodwill. It was nestled beneath about a hundred issues of National Geographic, and took my wallet for a ride at its whopping cost of $3.99. Amusingly, this magazine came from Egypt. Er, not that Egypt, but rather Egypt, Texas. Wow, not only is this a trip down memory lane, but a geography lesson as well! On the front of the cover is half of a barcode, scrubbed off by the previous owner, presumably, to hide their shipping address. What remains is their subscription's expiration date: Sept 2005. Did they renew? Do they still play Nintendo games? The world may never know.
Without even opening the magazine, I feel excited. This issue is focused on the "upcoming" release of Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green, featuring the Game Boy Advance Wireless Adapter. Instead of using a Link Cable, you could instead sit an extra foot apart from your friend, wirelessly! Ah, wireless communication, how futuristic. Up at the top, we also get to see EXCLUSIVE INFO for Metroid Prime 2, so this must have been a pretty big deal, back in the day. Let's turn the first page, and see what awaits!
Well, if you weren't absolutely certain that this was from 2004, here you go. Scooby-Doo 2 and all. You could even buy two separate copies! One in widescreen, and one in fullscreen. I'm almost surprised that there's no mention of a VHS copy--where's the videotape love? Well, if you needed a good movie to watch during the quarantine, why not go with this? After all, UPN TV's Mark S. Allen famously says on the box, "Zoinks! This movie is AWESOME!". Don't forget to search for the film online, too, using the American Online keyword of "Scooby Doo 2".
Oh, the Player's Pulse section! This was one of my favorite parts, getting to see the reader comments throughout the month. It was like forum comments, before I actually joined a video game webforum. Despite this issue coming out in October, people are still going on about E3. That's just how big the event was back then, especially E3 2004, which was one of the most memorable events. As expected, a lot of them are talking about the big Zelda tease, which later became Twilight Princess. Just imagine if you could go back to that time, and tell your younger self everything about that game. Would you be more excited, or entirely disappointed with the information you'd learn from future you?
This year's E3 was one of the most spectacular yet. It was pretty evident Nintendo ruled the show floor. The new Zelda, Nintendo DS, and the whole "Revolution: concept will be the most talked-about thing for the rest of 2004 and on into 2005. I also have to give props to Mr. Reggie Fils-Aime. His ambitious attitude is just what Nintendo needs to turn itself into the hype machine it once was. I've been a Nintendo fan since the mid to late 80s, and I'm proud to be one now in the new millennium. Here's to a bright present Nintendo and an even brighter Nintendo Revolution. - Kezay
So this must have been Reggie's first E3, where he walked out with that proto-DS. Crazy to think that back then, people were being down on Nintendo because of their "childish" spin on games, and all the hate Wind Waker got for looking kiddy. I wonder how many people still have that opinion from back then, instead of looking back at the GameCube days fondly. So many good games are a part of that system's library, and I personally found it pretty amusing to see someone wanting the company to go back to being "hype", at a time where hype games were releasing all over the place. Part of me still wishes they also went with the Revolution codename--it just sounds cool. Would that have made the Wii U into the Revolution U? Oh dear...
Helloooooo, what's this? Nintendo DS pre-release coverage? And it wasn't even mentioned on the cover! And just look at those screenshots! There's definitely cut/changed content on display here. Super Mario 64x4? 4-player co-op Super Mario 64? I don't recall that at all!
Animal Crossing DS, or what would become Wild World, also looks pretty wild. The character models clearly look more like their GameCube counterparts, with the horn-hat and triangle-hat for the male and female player characters. There's also a mouse-pointer used to select text on the keyboard for the bottom screen. Plus, the screen used for the game itself is the top half, and not the touch-screen like in the final version. I love learning new things about beta versions of games, don't you? It's just so fun to see what could have been, or the thought process that developers went through to make their game. Now if only a dump existed of the Animal Crossing DS beta!
We're about a third through the issue, and I am seriously starting to feel the early 00s vibes. Especially thanks to SRS, or Street Racing Syndicate, which boasts a full 3-page foldout advert. I've never heard of the game prior to this, but a quick Google search showed me that the game was funded by The 3DO Company, which went bankrupt halfway through the game's development! Namco ended up grabbing the game and publishing it, after paying $1.5 million dollars for the IP. Was it worth it, Namco?
...Respect challenges can earn you...girlfriends? Better get to racing then, boys! Just make sure not to crash when you're going 100MPH down roads, not because it'll definitely kill you, but because girls will totally lose respect for your lack of skill.
The late 90s are still trying desperately to survive in 2004, it seems, with the punk lookin' skater boy and his backwards cap. Considering the price Nintendo had to slash the GameCube to, to jumpstart better sales numbers, the system definitely...was cheap as sugar? What exactly is this ad trying to say? The GameCube is a rad, sweet console, so the dude's got a spoonful of sweet GameCube goodness straight from a sugar bowl? GameCube = Sweet, Sweet = Cool, therefore GameCube = Cool? Or perhaps they're trying to make a joke between sugar cubes and GameCubes. Oh well.
I...what? My Chemical Romance? What? I thought this was some edgy band ad, and it is, but it's also sponsored by Nintendo themselves! Called the Nintendo Fusion Tour, it took place from 2003 all the way up to 2006, and had bands like Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, and Evanescence headlining concerts across the United States, in order to promote both music and games. Here's a promo video from the 2006 one.
That might be enough 00's nostalgia/punk rock madness for me. Did anyone here ever attend one of these events? Were you aware they existed? Regardless, I hope this article brought back some fond memories and some laughs for everyone! Let us know if you'd like to see more entries in this series, covering all sorts of different Nintendo Power issues throughout the decade.