Well, it seems everyone liked the new Nintendo Repowered series! So I’m very happy to announce our second look back at the classic magazine that is Nintendo Power. Today, we’ll be going way back into the past, to the mid-1990s. Sadly, I wasn’t able to get my hands on a physical version of the magazine this time, but it is one that I’ve owned before, years ago.
This cover instantly brings back memories of being a little kid, getting old copies of Nintendo Power from my uncle, who was 6 years older than me, and quickly growing out of his “dumb kiddy Nintendo phase”. When he moved back to California, he left me a number of things, like Pokémon cards, LEGOs, and a handful of Nintendo Powers from 1996, including this very issue. Growing up, I never had a Nintendo 64, so it was especially fun to flip through the pages and look at information on a console I didn’t own. By the time I was reading them, the N64 was old news, but I didn’t care; look at all the fun games I could play one day!
Issue 88 - September 1996
Jeez, look at Bowser’s eyes! Someone get him some eye drops, quick. At first glance, Bowser looks like he’s lumbering forward towards Mario, threateningly, but then you fold open the magazine entirely, and nope! So long, King Bowser! So long, eh Bowser? Gay Bowser? Oh, forget it. It’s a fun cover, and I love full designs like this that wrap around the front and back. We’re at a very fun point in history, here in September of 1996: For those that were reading this issue at the time, Mario 64 hasn’t launched just yet, but is a mere few days away from its release. The concept of a 3D video game is still hard for people of that era to grasp, with the lead article's claims of “the first truly interactive 3-D video game is here!” being a little unintentionally funny, in retrospect.
We get a few pages dedicated to explaining how Mario moves in this new and mysterious “3-D” world. What is seen as commonplace features in a video game these days are being described as new and revolutionary, because back then, they honestly were. We also get this fun glossary of technical terms to describe these spiffy new visuals, such as z-buffering, anti-aliasing, and texture mapping. The future truly is now, look at those specs! A whole 93.75MHz CPU! Who needs the Xbox Series X when you've got this kinda powerhouse?
This ridiculous-looking contraption pictured below just so happens to be a "high tech" kiosk station, designed for use in Blockbuster stores. And would you look at that, for only a mere $16.99, you could rent a whole Nintendo 64 system, including all the cables and two controllers, to boot! Can you imagine just taking a game system home with you to try out over a weekend? With all the downloads and patches and system updates, it'd be a total pain to do that in this day and age, but back then, It was just a simple plug-and-play affair.
There's a lot to say, for this page. You've got the then Square Soft just absolutely dominating the Top 20 charts for third party support on the Super NES, with Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy III (VI), Secret of Mana, Secret of Evermore, and Final Fantasy II (IV), not to mention their collaboration with Nintendo on the #1 game here: Super Mario RPG. What a legendary studio at a legendary time.
If you look in the corner here, hilariously enough, there's actually a "Top 5" for the Virtual Boy, of all things. The poor little system probably only had 5 games to its name anyway. Out of that handful of titles, Wario Land manages to take home #1 for the platform. Congratulations, Virtual Boy.
Welcome to the EPIC CENTER. The Epic place for epic news, epic topics, and epic strategies, according to Nintendo Power. Epic. What were the most epic of the epic? This month, their spotlight is focused on SimCity, Civilization, and Lufia II. With the announcement of SimCity 2000, the original was getting a re-release on the SNES as part of the Player's Choice line, at a discounted price of $34.99. If only I could buy brand new boxed Super Nintendo games for that kinda price these days!
In the previous issue, which took place years after this one, I noticed that there wasn't a strategy section, or any tips and tricks pages. Perhaps that was the internet already taking its toll on the magazine's usefulness in 2004, but back in the stone age of 1996, Nintendo Power still has a few useful pages to help players out of tricky situations in difficult games. What were some questions plaguing the GameFAQ-less players back then?
"What are the best Trade Routes in Europe?", "How do I break down a door?", and "How do I defeat the knight in Syrup Castle?". Reading these headlines got a good laugh out of me. Can you guess what games these questions are for? They're for Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, Super Mario RPG, and Wario Land, respectively. The secret trick to defeating that darn Syrup Knight? Attack him from behind and don't get hit, duh! Thanks, Nintendo Power, you really helped out there.
One of my favorite things about the 1990s was just, the weird and wacky fonts everyone seemed to be using. Look at this absolutely beautiful mismatch of fonts and background colors that just screams peak 90s aesthetic.
"In this 3-D environment, characters can go wherever you want", boy were people really trying to hype the idea of 3D gaming. Shh, don't tell them about invisible walls, just yet.
Another page boasts upcoming N64 games...hold on, Kirby's Air Ride? Well, what do you know. It even got a trailer at E3 1996, years before its 2003 release, wowza! Yet another early version of a game that I was entirely unaware existed. Just a little bit below that screenshot is a picture for Super Mario Kart R. Why would they do that, when every other game has the 64 moniker? Supposedly, the R stood for "rendered". To me, it just seems weird--as ridiculous as it was to have every game followed by 64 back then, there's a dorky charm to it. I wonder what other fun discoveries we'll make in other issues.
With that, the magazine comes to a close! What a fun little 107-page journey that was! I'm still kind of laughing at the Blockbuster tower kiosk monstrosity. I wonder if anyone still owns one of those. What was your favorite part of the issue? Next time, we'll be jumping ahead in time again, and checking out the crazy times of the mid-2000s once more. I hope you enjoyed this look back into the past, and I hope to see you next time!