Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Powerful Rebirth

Nintendo Power #1
If you read the post that I made yesterday, you know that by the late ‘90s, I had grown disillusioned with the once great Nintendo Power – mostly due to the magazine’s gaming gurus going ape over the lackluster N64 – and allowed my subscription to fade away. If I’d posted today about X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom or even Bart Simpson vs. the World, you’d probably think that me and the NP are splitsville and we spend our time avoiding each other at the parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs of mutual friends.

If I’d left it at yesterday’s rant, you’d never have known that things are different now. You’d never have known that Nintendo Power recaptured a glimmer of that passionate sunburst it once clutched to its metaphorical chest with the determination of 10,000 goombas.

Nintendo Power #100
If you were alive and more cognizant that a tomato in the ‘90s, you know that this particular decade did awful things to all of us. It’s the decade when Pauly Shore was able to become famous for headaches like Encino Man and Bio-Dome; when U2 started taking artistic advice from Bowser and Megatron and tried to light their own careers ablaze like a stack of dry straw and gasoline covered kittens (but to no avail); and when The Real Ghostbusters and Garfield and Friends were unceremoniously canceled to make room for news shows and Pokémon. It’s also the decade when the N64 almost singlehandedly killed my love of all things Nintendo and the industry giant fell behind a company that just three years earlier was releasing excrement like Last Action Hero for the Genesis and Cliffhanger for the Sega CD. I love the PlayStation line of products, don’t get me wrong – but sometimes I wondered if it was worth the price of losing my old friend, Pauly Shore. Err, Nintendo.

A funny thing happened after that: I grew up. I went to college, got a degree, got another, supposedly better degree and now I’ve joined my rightful place in the ranks of the underemployed masses. While all of this was going on, one day out of the blue, I received a phone call from my mother while she was at work.

NOT my mother
Not “How are you?” or “hello,” but instead my mother says, “Do you have a subscription to Nintendo Power?”

“No Mom,” I replied. “You know that by the late ‘90s, I had grown disillusioned with the once great Nintendo Power – mostly due to the magazine’s gaming gurus going ape over the – ”

“Oh, that’s right,” she said. “’When the N64 almost singlehandedly killed your love of all things Nintendo’ and all that. Well, I got you a new subscription because the girl at work was selling them as part of a cure for cancer benefit.”

And that was it: I was back in the loop. At first I was unexcited; after all, the Wii is my least favorite of the current crop of consoles. But when I opened my first new subscriber issue of Nintendo Power in more than 12 years, I found that something incredible had happened: No longer is the magazine run by people who only care about current gaming like it was in the late ‘90s. It’s now helmed by men and women who, like me, grew up with Nintendo controllers in our hands and spoonfuls of Cookie Crisp and Cap’n Crunch in our mouths. They are people who actually care about gaming as a whole; where we came from, where we are now, and where we’re going.

I’ve noticed that as humans, childhood is when we’re most passionate about the things we love, and our teenage years are sort of a lackadaisical, “cut it, print it and get it out the door” kind of existence. By the time the Nintendo 64 had hit the shelves, Nintendo Power had hit puberty and, it seemed to me, took much less care in crafting their product. It might have only been my skewed view of the world or an unwillingness to trade my NES Advantage and copy of Super Street Fighter II for the unfamiliar world of analogue control sticks and a punching, 3D Super Mario, but I’m pretty sure the drop in quality was real.

Nintendo Power #260
Something I’ve seen in my recent years is a return of that old passion for the things I love. The excitement and wonder aren't nearly as strong as they were when I was a child, but at least I can feel some of it again (all without the aid of prescription or illicit drugs, if that’s what you’re thinking). That’s what I see in the new Nintendo Power; it has hit its young adult phase too. The articles are worth reading and the magazine is worth subscribing to again. It’ll never be as awesome as it was in the early years, but the current NP staff knows that and is just trying to make a good product.

As I was berating that Star Fox 64 video yesterday, issue 260 of Nintendo Power arrived in my mailbox, adorned with no less that 35 iconic NES characters, all of which I knew. There was a 26 page article celebrating two and a half decades of the Nintendo Entertainment System and many, many people reminiscing about what their special games meant to them. A lot of their experiences were very similar to mine. It was almost like someone had ripped one more issue of old NP from the clutches of time. It even came with a two-sided poster of Super Mario, just like the old days. I felt my eyes get misty.

If anyone ever doubted that the new Nintendo Power is trying to be a quality publication, this issue should shut them up for a long time.

So, Nintendo Power, we’ve had our good times and our bad, but we’re both over being snotty teenagers. I’m glad to have you as my friend again.

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