Thereís lots of memories I can dredge up from my Super Nintendo childhood that can invoke nostalgia, but the ones I miss the most involve my old tattered issues of Nintendo Power. Gaming magazines were different back in those days: they were fun, they were immersive, and they were full of wonder. My Nintendo Power was a walkthrough through completely new and brilliantly conceived worlds where anything was possible for a 10-year old like myself.
Back then we had real walkthroughs. We didnít have Tipsínítricks, we had 6 full pages with horizontally connected screenshots of each entire stage. Youíd actually see the main character multiple times on the page, theyíd really just taken pictures of the real game and pasted them together to show us the side scrolling stages. And inbetween these cobbled-together exposes on what the stages looked like, there were gobs and gobs of flavorful information about the game, illustrations of enemies, backstory, exclamation marks and bad puns on the games themes.
It was as if the games developers had come together and filled us in on not just how to beat the boss, but how each stage of the game felt like to play, whether we had to watch out for flying enemies in this stage, and how shocking our arch nemesis would be when he shows up as a mid-stage boss. You could practically play the game right then and there just reading through the walkthroughs of my old Nintendo Power issues.
In fact, I did. Even though I didnít own the games, I played them in my head. I played them on every page of that walk through. Iíd devour every boss strategy and every item stat, every side route and bit of back story lore. Thatís where I truly fell in love with videogaming, and I think thatís where I truly fell in love with RPGs too.
See, RPGs were the best games to read walk throughs of. They were the meatiest. After all, my entertainment was not in the actual game itself, oh no. I fell in love with videogames because of everything else they brough with them: the art style, the back story, the wacky itemsÖ and RPG walkthroughs gave me by far the most of these things. RPGs or similar games were packed full of stores to point out, wacky characters to explain, items to pore over and locations to explore.
I canít count the number of times I read Nintendo Powerís walkthrough of Legend of Mystical Ninja. I didnít own the game, but by golly I was playing it right there, on the pages of my beloved magazine. I read the Goemon walk through so often that Iíd get hungry just by looking at the list of items I could buy at a restaurant and their effects. Earthbound was previewed, not as a game but as a set of wacky postcards, almost as if it wasnít a game but an exotic adventure that led me out of my front door. The Secret of Mana was a huge blowout in Nintendo Power: it was written in a journal format and on day one the hero was expelled from his village! Along the sides of the Secret of Mana guide was a listing of all the Secret of Mana weapons: they were illustrated and each had a little caption which invented a backstory for the weapon. I didnít care if the spriteís spear was really what the blurb said it was, I wanted to absorb everything I could about that game that I could read! And of courseÖ Zelda was a treasure trove. Nintendo Power convinced me that I wasnít just playing a Zelda game, I was immersing myself in a whole other universe where every single thing had a story behind it and a purpose and a meaning.
Ö I sorta miss that. Call me crazy, but thatís when the games were most real to me: whenever I had Secret of Mana on my TV screen and all three issues of Nintendo Power on my left. I would be in bed all night, poring over my Goemon sushi choices while wondering what in the world a ďlucky catĒ was. Earthbound was the singular most amazing game in my life, but before that it was a set of postcards from a kid called Ness who always asked his parents for pizza and money.
I guess thatís why RPGs are still in my blood even though Iíve hated the few modern RPGs that Iíve tried and to this day remain an unrelenting Nintendo fanboy. Iíll always be a bit of an RPGamerÖ because if I think about it thatís what RPGs really mean to me. Itís not so much the actual possession of them, the actual playing of them, itís that RPGs create an entire world for me to wonder about. They have infinite destinations that can capture my fascination, they have countless items that can arouse my obsession, and they have never-ending polishes that mean absolutely nothing to the game, but everything to a person intent on experiencing it.
Every page of my old Nintendo Power Magazines gave me a wondrous new world to dive into. And as much as the Final Fight walkthrough had itís highlights, reading about an RPG gave me the best new sights, sounds, tastes, wonders and experiences of all.
It didnít matter that by the time I finally played Goemon: Legend of Mystical Ninja I found out that the game had an unforgiving time limit and that I was too inept to beat it. I was already hopelessly in love with the game, and remain so to this very day.