Tag Archives: Nintendo

I wonder if Fred Savage ever conquered Bad Dudes?!

4461391534_02cce86892_oA little over a month ago I was farting around on Archive.org when I stumbled upon something magical.  In the magazine rack section some amazing soul had uploaded over 100 issues of the now defunct Nintendo Power magazine.  I was so excited about this I started sharing the link to the collection on twitter and facebook, and then next thing I knew everyone and their brother was also sharing the link.  Sadly it looks like all this attention potentially drew the ire of Nintendo, and all of the issues seem to have been removed from the site which is a real bummer.  Luckily I managed to snag a bunch of these and I’ve been able to dive back into the pages of one of my all time favorite magazines.  As a quick aside, even though it shouldn’t, it endlessly amazes me how news is reported inaccurately online.  Two days after I shared the link to the Nintendo Power archive and I started seeing sites report on it, about 75% of them assumed that either a) Nintendo uploaded them, or b) that the “internet archive” uploaded them.  First of all, do people not know how the Internet Archive works?  Second, hell no, Nintendo did not upload them, and three seconds of fact checking at the destination link would have shown them that.  I think a bunch of these articles were just “me too” pieces that basically plagiarized whatever larger/loud source got it wrong first and no one bothers to fact check or do any research.  I often wonder when something like this hits, do people even care about the actual news, or are they just interested in sharing it for likes, follows and clicks?  Sigh.

Back to the magazine, I’m not sure where I stumbled on the first issue as a kid, but I vividly remember starting my collection with that very distinctive issue with the rad claymation cover back in 1988…

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Like most kids my age I was addicted to the Nintendo Entertainment System and spent endless and afternoons and weekends perfecting my skills in games like the Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Bad Dudes, Section Z, Excite Bike and Final Fantasy.  I used to pour over the pages of this magazine looking for tips, tricks and codes that would help me find my way to the negative world or get a hundred lives in Super Mario Bros., how to perfect the Konami Code, or how to navigate the murky world of Final Fantasy (via the amazing Strategy Guide in issue 17.)  At some point I lost my sizeable collection of the magazine (I’d bet that my parents chucked them in one of our moves), and I haven’t dug into an issue since at least 1994.  Flipping through these digital issues has been a blast and I absolutely love how “of the time” the graphic design is in all the ads and articles.  I mean just take a gander at these two amazing slices of late 80s fun…

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I kind of want to live in that surfing advertisement.  Then there’s this third ad that details all of the Nintendo branded food products that were available back in the late 80s.  I totally ate my weight in the official Nintendo cereal from Ralston, well, at leas the Zelda side of the box.  I wasn’t much of a fan of the Mario Bros. cereal…

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I totally do not remember the Nintendo juice boxes at all, but I vaguely remember some ice-cream novelties and those candy bars seem very familiar.

Scanning back through these I was a little surprised how formulaic the first 40 or so issues were.  Each one featured a bunch of the same regular columns in the same layout from issue to issue.  That’s not really a complaint mind you, just an observation, something I noticed when I realized that almost all of the first 42 issues featured a celebrity profile of an NES addicted superstar.  All sorts of folks were featured in the pages of Nintendo Power, from actors and comedians like Fred Savage and Jay Leno, to sports stars and commercial icons like Ken Griffey Jr. and Joe Isuzu (of all people.)  I thought it’d be fun to share a bunch of my favorite celebrity profiles from the first few years of the magazine.  Though a bunch of these are from the ’88 & ’89 issues, there are also a handful from the ’90 to ’92 issues as well.  I typically don’t dip much into the 90s here at Branded, but I thought for the sake of completeness that it would be worth it to make an exception this one time.  So here are 20 of my favorite profiles…

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I might as well start with the first issue from August of 1988 which featured a joint profile of those crazy Cameron kids, Kirk and Candace (from Growing Pains and Full House respectively.)  Since I’m starting with Growing Pains I figured I might as well as throw in the Jeremy Miller profile from issue 23, April of 1991.  While Candace had mastered Super Mario Bros. and was (at the time) totally stuck in the middle of the Legend of Zelda, Kirk was more of a Gradius man who was having such a hard time with the Amoeboids he was seriously considering placing a call to the legendary game counselors.  Jeremy on the other hand was a huge fan of Star Tropics and Tetris and was really proud of hitting 289,000 in the infamous block clearing game.

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The idea that Jay Leno was not only playing the Legend of Zelda, but that he was invested in it enough to call the Nintendo counselors asking for help on level 7 just makes me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy.  I know that celebrities are people too and the NES was huge when it hit, but I still can’t help but break out with a smile when I think of adult celebs getting video game thumb on the same games that I was playing as a kid.  Also, I wonder how Leno liked Ikari Warriors?  ‘Cause I loved it…

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Speaking of adult celebs playing and loving the NES, this one from issue 10, Jan/Feb 1990 with Stephen Furst is probably my favorite profile of a “grown-up” by far.  I love that he went so far as to submit a review of Double Dragon II (he loves that cyclone spin kick!)  I also find it fascinating that Nintendo reached out to an actor like Furst.  I mean, though some 80s kids were probably hip to Animal House, how many of them were watching St. Elsewhere?!

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So, the above two profiles make way more sense to me in terms of the actors they were targeting.  Fred Savage and David Faustino were the perfect age at the time for Nintendo’s main target audience, not to mention that Savage was in The Wizard.  The Fred Savage profile is from issue 9, November/December 1989, while the Faustino profile appeared in issue 37 from 1992.

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These celebrity profiles weren’t just for actual actors or sports heroes, it was also for characters too.  Take these two that feature Bart Simpson and Freddy Kruger (well, Robert Englund, though from reading it, it’s clear he did the piece as Freddy) from issues 28 and 30 respectively. Though neither really talks about Nintendo per-se, I love the Power Glove jokes Englund delivers.  Also, years before there was ever a Freddy Vs. Jason movie, Englund talks about the concept in his profile…

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I could go on and on about these profiles, but I think I should just let them speak for themselves…

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8-Bit Christmas is the Fruitcake of 80s Nostalgia Novels…

This is the first year in a long time when I’m doing my best to get into the holiday spirit for the Christmas season. For a good portion of my life Halloween has basically been my “Christmas”, and for all intents and purposes the period between November 1st through to January 1st is usually a time when I duck my head down and try and run as fast as I can through the rest of the year trying my best not to knock down any family and friends along the way. It’s a mixture of being burnt out after celebrating a month-long Halloween, and trying to fend off the insanity that comes with trying to find the perfect gifts, visiting with a modern fractured family and trying my best not to go broke in the process. But this year? I’m going all out by letting go of my worries and embracing the holiday.

So I was pretty stoked when I was approached by DB Press to take a look at the first novel from scriptwriter Kevin Jakubowski titled 8-Bit Christmas. Being described as “…A Christmas Story for the Nintendo generation…” (by author James Frey), 8-Bit Christmas tells the story of one kid’s epic quest of Super Mario Bros. proportions to secure a NES for Christmas. Amidst flaming wreaths, speeding minivans, lost retainers, fake Santas, hot teachers, snotty sisters, “Super Bowl Shuffles” and one very naked Cabbage Patch Kid, Kevin’s book vividly weaves a nostalgic tale of Christmas magic and 8-bit glory. Honestly this book being touted as packed with 80s era Christmas nostalgia sounded like just what I needed to kick off my own attempt to embrace the holiday again.

8-bit christmas

First and foremost, 8-Bit Christmas delivers on the nostalgia. Set in the late 80s and centering on Jake Doyle, a nine year-old who covets a neighbor’s NES to the extent where it borders on single-minded stalker-level obsession, the book makes reference to practically every major pop culture aspects from the decade. The Super Bowl Shuffle, baseball card collecting, Showbiz pizza and the Rock-Afire Explosion, the Pizza Hut Book It program, KangaRoos zipper pocket shoes, Max Headroom, Members Only Jackets, Moon Boots, as well as a litany of bands, cartoons, movies, TV shows, and toys way too numerous to name. Karate Kid references? Yup, there’s more than the entire Cobra Kai can battle. Star Wars? G.I. Joe? Transformers? Go Bots? Strawberry Shortcake? Cabbage Patch Kids? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Much like Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One before it, the novel is an outlet to celebrate all of the stuff we 30-Somethings loved so much about our 80s childhoods, and all of our hyper-collective shared experiences. If there’s one thing our generation does well, it’s bonding over the insane level of pop culture awareness and merchandising from that decade. Jakubowski does an admirable job of shoehorning in so many references, and touching on so many aspects of what it was like being a kid during that time that I’d be hard-pressed to imagine any rock he left unturned. Well, he does skip over the mentioning branded lunchboxes when comparing and contrasting packed lunches versus buying the hot tray at school. Is every reference accurate and researched? No. He fudges release dates (mentioning the Karate Kid cartoon as a favorite even though it didn’t debut until a year after the winter of ’88 when the book is set) and mashes together experiences (like listing cartoons that only aired during the after school animation blocks or on cable like Inspector Gadget, Transformers and G.I. Joe as Saturday Morning cartoons.) But when you consider the sheer volume of nostalgic references, nit picking the errors and decade blending is pretty pointless.

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Where the book sort of falls apart for me can be summed up by James Frey’s pull quote from above which evokes the film A Christmas Story; Jakubowski doesn’t just shoot for ACS‘s tone, he basically uses it as a point-for-point outline. Whether it’s aping the aged and slightly sarcastic narration of the main character reflecting on his youth, the plot device of a kid yearning for that one specific Christmas gift and then dealing with parents that basically tell him he’ll shoot his eye out with the NES Zapper, being forced to wear an item of goofy, girly clothing, reminiscing over the old man’s curmudgeonly ways, dealing with an annoying and whiny younger sibling, battling the town bully, or using the exact turn of phrases that seem uniquely in the voice of A Christmas Story, the book starts to feel a little hollow when you get past 80s homages. This is amp-ed up by a sort of ridiculous conceit that in 1988 only one kid in an entire Illinois county has a Nintendo Entertainment System, and only because his parents are filthy stinking rich. Having grown up in a decidedly middle class family with plenty of friends on both sides of the financial spectrum, I’m having a hard time remembering many kids who DIDN’T have an NES. Amp the story up even further with a Footloose-level county-wide ban on both owning AND selling Nintendo after the system is blamed for the accidental death of a yappy dog and all the reader is left being able to relate to is the plethora of 80s references. I think the problem lies with Jakubowski slavishly relying on A Christmas Story for inspiration. He riffs on Ralphie’s obsessive daydreams in that film as a jumping off point to tell Jake Doyle’s story, but forgets that with the exception of an all out attack by a pack of wild neighbor dogs on the family’s beloved turkey and an outlandishly sexualized leg lamp, that film is pretty firmly grounded in a very believable reality. 8-Bit Christmas has its head in the clouds and packs the book so full of wacky adventures in addition to Doyle’s Nintendo obsessed daydreams, that for me it was hard to relate to the story. As a film it would probably be easier to get behind, with only an hour and a half’s investment, but spending 8 or so hours reading a book it just sort of left me a little cold. It also doesn’t help that the singular obsession with obtaining an NES overshadows most if not all of the Christmas spirit in the book. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that instead of helping me get into the mood the book kind of reinforced a lot of insanity I’ve been trying to avoid for the past 15 years.

When all is said and done, even though the story didn’t resonate with me as much as I’d hoped, I can’t help but recommend 8-Bit Christmas purely on the richness of the 80s pop culture experience. There are enough obscure observations to balance the obvious references and that alone makes the book a worthwhile read.  It’s so literally heavy and densely packed, it’s like the fruitcake of 80s nostalgia novels…

The Day of the Nintendo Dead!

One of the things I love about hanging out on Twitter and Facebook is the opportunity to see some pretty awesome artwork, both in-progress and finished pieces that tend to melt my eyes with their sheer radness.  Lately I’ve been following the development of a series of Nintendo/Day of the Dead mashup screen prints by the supremely cool Jesse Acosta

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I love these interpretations of Link, Mario and Mega Man!  Jesse’s been jumping feet first into the world of at-home screen printing and has been documenting his process as he’s worked on this series of video game dead characters.  I’ve been insanely curious myself, so it’s been fun watching him experiment and adjust to get these looking sharp.

I can’t wait to get these framed and put up in my new place…

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We’ve also been chatting a bit about movies and he’s got me super curious about the world of luchador flicks.  Being the super gracious guy he is, he sent me a copy of a really insane flick called Santo Las Momias de Guanajuato (or roughly The Saint vs. the Mummies of Guanajuato).  I can’t wait to get a chance to watch the flick and write up a review for the Cult Film Club.  He basically described it as the Latin wrestling hero version of the 60’s era Adam West Batman TV series, which sounds like fried gold to me!

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Jesse also included some of his mini comics in the care package, which were a really fun read.  If you get a second, do yourself a favor and check out Jesse’s blog, or hit him up on Twitter, you’ll be glad you did!  Also, check out his store where you can snag these Nintendo Dead designs on a T-Shirt!

I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you won’t need tokens…

Getting back into the swing of things around here and as luck would have it this week’s League assignment is a real peach!  Submitted by Jason over at Rediscover the 80s (who just started a pretty rad podcast that I totally am way behind in pimping), the topic is all about building a dream arcade in our homes.  Though I’m not much of a gamer these days, I did spend a decent amount of time playing the stand-up cabinets at the local pizza joints, mall arcades, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheese’s, and even in the converted utility closet of the 7-Eleven that was in my neighborhood growing up.  That being said, my dream arcade would probably fit in a utility closet now that I think about it…

So what would be in my dream arcade closet?  Only four cabinets.  Well, three cabinets and one cocktail table unit.  First up, the classic (at least for me), Galaga…

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This is my go-to game when I’m in the mood for a truly old school arcade experience.  It’s also the game I judge most pizza places on.  Sure, if a place makes a good NY style pizza, that’s good, but if there are arcade cabinets in the joint and Galaga is missing, so too will be my patronage.  For my money (and I will drop a considerable amount of coinage in a Galaga cabinet when I have a belly full of pizza) there no better combination than securing that double spaceship with the taste of sausage and onion in my mouth that was just recently washed down with coke sipped out of a clear red plastic cup.  Just a bit of heaven if you ask me.

Plucking some similar pizza place-centric nostalgia heart strings would be securing a Mrs. Pac-Man cocktail sit-down table.  Faux wood grain trim would be essential too…

Mrs Pacman Cocktail

Can’t count the number of times I played a unit that looked just like this while waiting for my personal pan pizza at my local Orlando area Pizza Hut as a kid.  Did I mention that the personal pan pizza in question would have invariable been free based on my appetite for reading and the Pizza Hut Book It program…

Now the next cabinet is not an arcade game in the strictest sense, but it did provide an arcade experience, and that’s the Nintendo PlayChoice-10…

PlayChoice-10

This unit was basically a way for Nintendo to “advertise” for the NES system by housing it and 10 games into one arcade cabinet.  We had one in my local 7-Eleven when I was growing up and it’s where I spent a good deal of time playing games like Ducktales, Goonies II, and more importantly Lifeforce.  I also learned a neat trick where if you could pull both of the joysticks to the right and mash down all the buttons you’d get free timed play on a handful of the games in the cabinet.  I used this method to play a shitton of Lifeforce before breaking down and begging my mom for an at-home copy of the game.  In other words, mission accomplished Nintendo.

Rounding out my dream arcade would be my favorite arcade game ever, a 6-player X-Men game cabinet…

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Not only was this game based on Pryde of the X-Men, my favorite X-Men cartoon of all time (the one-shot failed pilot produced by the wonderful folks over at Sunbow), but it features one of my favorite X-Men characters, the much underrated Dazzler.  My four friends during middle and high school were all X-Men nerds like me, so between the five of us we used to rock the crap out of this game at our local arcade/go cart track called Malibu Grand Prix.  All of us would beg our parents to go there for birthdays just so that we could spend a couple hours plunking quarters into the above machine.  I’m pretty sure we even came close to beating it one or two times.  Hands down some of my favorite arcade experiences surrounded time at the joystick playing either Wolverine or Dazzler.

About 10 years ago I ran across a very reasonably priced 6-Player X-Men cabinet, but was plagued with the ultimate nerd conundrum of how to justify a car payment on something so big and loud that would be next to impossible to move without a professional team and a forklift.  In the end I passed, but there has always been a part of me that regretted it…

So there you have it.  The Branded in the 80s Arcade.  Small, sure.  But for me, arcade heaven.  Pass me a slice of sausage and onion, and don’t worry, I’ve rigged all the cabinets so you don’t need tokens!

If you liked my shenanigans this week, why not check out these other rad League participants…

Pax, Cavalcade of Awesome (and my rad Cult Film Club co-host), lists his top 10 arcade games!

Classick Material, Cold Slither Podcast, goes the extra step and makes a fantasy show about his favorites!

Rich, The Nerd Nook, Moonwalks over to the 7-Eleven to play some Street Fighter II!

Kal, Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool, has a bone to pick with Dragon’s Lair!