It's very easy to forget the power of print media today, what with the internet being at our fingertips 24/7. Once upon a time, the most effective means of making sure your customers knew about your product was via the printed page – as was evidenced by the incredible clout and influence the North American magazine Nintendo Power held in the '80s and early '90s.
Here in the United Kingdom, there was no Nintendo Power – but we did have the next best thing, Club Nintendo. This was a very similar proposition to its North American sibling; an officially-sanctioned bi-monthly publication which essentially acted as a catalogue for all of the exciting new Nintendo games that were coming out that year. It was packed with features, guides and tips, and offered little in the way of critique or editorial opinion – it was intended to shift Nintendo software and hardware, first and foremost.
Nintendo wasn't the market leader in the UK in the early '90s – instead, the scene was dominated by home computers like the Spectrum, C64, Atari ST, Amstrad and Amiga, with the most popular console being the Sega Master System (soon to be replaced by the Mega Drive / Genesis). Back in 1990, I was a Sega owner, having received my Japanese Mega Drive around that time. My young mind viewed Nintendo as something of a rival; sure, I'd owned Game & Watch handhelds in the '80s, but my allegiance was with Sega, having sampled the amazing, arcade-perfect games on its 16-bit home system.
I don't mind admitting today that my resolve was shaken when I obtained a copy of Club Nintendo Classic. This 'bonus' issue was intended to focus on older titles that NES and Game Boy owners had perhaps missed, and was filled with features and guides on the likes of Super Mario Bros., Zelda II, Tetris, Super Mario Land and Metroid. I've looked online, and apparently, the issue was sent to subscribers – however, seeing as I never was one, I'm not entirely sure how I got my hands on it (perhaps copies were given away free to lure people into a sub?) – but I do know that it had a massive impact on me as a gamer.
I'd always been aware that Nintendo games were of high quality, although this was largely due to reading magazines like Mean Machines and C&VG (I only knew one person who owned a NES, everyone else either had a Master System or a computer). Leafing through this special one-off edition of Club Nintendo made me yearn for these titles; while they looked visually weaker than what I was enjoying on the Mega Drive at the time, the amazing artwork and fantastical worlds beckoned me regardless. Even back then, The Legend of Zelda was a series you simply couldn't help but want to jump right in to.
However, it would be the Game Boy that truly tempted me to join Nintendo's fold. It was a much newer product at this point, and the idea of having a 'proper' portable games console felt like the future (plus, I had my Mega Drive, so didn't need another home system). A friend who lived over the road from me owned one, and, armed with my copy of Club Nintendo Classic, I was able to quickly identify which of his games were worth playing. Tetris and Super Mario Land (my first ever Mario game) became solid favourites, even though I didn't actually get my own Game Boy system until about a year or so later.
Flicking through the pages of Club Nintendo Classic today is a sobering experience. Yes, it's clearly a cynical attempt to shift product, but it's packed with the kind of colourful joy that is so often absent from modern print media. I'm not sure if it's just because I was much younger and more impressionable back then, but the pages dripped with excitement, practically transforming me into a card-carrying Nintendo fan on the spot. Even now, many years later, this throwaway piece of marketing material still makes me smile.
Do you remember this issue of Club Nintendo? Share your own memories by posting a comment below.