Tag Archives: nintendo power

Pokémon Power!

An odd trend popped up in comics towards the end of the 20th century.  Instead of producing freshly drawn adaptations of film and television, publishers would use images straight from the screen to make a comic book.  With the right screen captures and well-inserted word balloons, an animated feature could become a comic book in no time.

Often referred to as cine-manga or ani-manga, these publications were widely used by companies like Disney or Tokyopop to make comics for young readers.  Some of the more prolific examples are Studio Ghibli film comics like Castle in the Sky, cartoon series like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and a certain video game about battling monsters. Continue reading Pokémon Power!

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Comical Advertisements

Like most kids who grew up in the 90s, the bulk of my video game information came from magazines.  Publications like GamePro, EGM, and Nintendo Power provided monthly dumps of news, previews, reviews, and (of course) advertisements.  It was from these printed pages that I first encountered comics based on video games.

While Nintendo Power had the market cornered on adaptations of their beloved franchises, other magazines featured their own short comics, many of which promoted the hot games at the time.  These paneled advertisements wormed their way into my brain thanks to numerous readings and re-readings of their magazine hosts.  Let’s take a look back to the days where print media was on top, and publishers relied on sequential art to sell their wares! Continue reading Comical Advertisements

It Should Be Called Super WARIO Adventures

Origin stories for Nintendo characters tend to be rather ambiguous.  Mario and Luigi could be plumbers born and raised in Brooklyn, or two lost children from the Mushroom Kingdom.  Donkey Kong has been the son of Cranky Kong, the grandson of Cranky Kong, or just some angry ape that kidnaps Pauline.  And don’t even get me started on Link and his mixed up timeline.  Amidst all of this confusion, it seems that a certain Nintendo mainstay has yet to get a proper point of origin in the wide world of video games: Wario.

Making his first appearance in 1992 as the antagonist of Super Mario Land 2, Wario was already a full-grown villain with no major backstory.  He wasn’t the lizard tyrant of a deposed kingdom.  He wasn’t an invader from outer space.  Wario was just a greedy guy who wanted a castle so he took Mario’s.  That’s it.

After Mario knocked the baddie off his usurped throne and everything was returned to the status quo, Wario became a sort of selfish antihero.  For the 17 games that followed, Wario concocted plenty of get-rich-quick schemes to add more treasure to his hoard (normally involving quirky platformers or hyper-odd minigames).  Second only to his love for money is Wario’s contempt for his goody two-shoes counterpart.

In Wario’s mind, Mario has had it easy his entire life; getting the glory and riches for nothing and gloating about it all the way.  You wouldn’t necessarily hear Wario voice this opinion in video games, save for the occasional snide comment (and constant sneer).  The backstory of these two once-best friends was detailed in January 1993, through a comic in Nintendo Power. Continue reading It Should Be Called Super WARIO Adventures

Beneath the Power Suit

One of the biggest points of both joy and contempt in the comic book world is when a character is redesigned.  This is a fairly common practice; costumes and physical features will receive an update depending on the current market or the artist handling the series.  A perfect case study for this is the evolution of the X-Men since their first appearance in 1963.  From yellow jerkins to shiny armor to black leather, every character in this series has had several make-overs, and not always for the better (see: Kitty Pryde’s various incarnations).

These sorts of updates occur in the video game world as well, often during a console generation shift.  Better resolution and processing speed provide developers with stronger tools to render characters and their outfits.  Classic armor and accessories can be further detailed, and the designs from concept art are better translated to the screen.  Nintendo’s bevy of beloved characters has been through some changes over the years, but these iconic designs have remained mostly stable since their inception.  One odd exception is the heroine of the Metroid series, Samus Aran. Continue reading Beneath the Power Suit

Combo Breaker!

Things will be a little different than usual for your weekly video game comics fix.  Instead of some commentary and brief highlights of a video game adaptation, how about an entire comic book to read?

Back in January 1996, Nintendo Power subscribers found a fun little bonus included with their latest issue: a special collector’s preview of the upcoming Killer Instinct comic.  This 18-page booklet featured a short story centered around a fight between Jago and B. Orchid along with some extra splashes of character art.  The full series, which ran for a whopping three issues, wouldn’t hit store shelves until June of the same year. Continue reading Combo Breaker!

Animals in Space

If I told the average person to come up with a game that features a fox, falcon, rabbit, and a frog, what sort of scenario would they create?  Perhaps they would describe a cartoon platformer where these animals would come to play, or a survival-type game in which players could choose an animal and compete for resources.  For anyone who grew up during the SNES or N64 era however, I imagine they couldn’t help but picture a science fiction world where these random animals make up a team of ace fighter pilots.

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Star Fox started from an attempt to render a single object as a polygon to turn in real-time, as opposed to drawing lots of images to display objects from different angles.  Thanks to the efforts of Dylan Cuthbert and the best brains at Nintendo, the Super FX chip was made and with it came the triangular Arwing spacecraft that impressed so many players in 1993.  After getting the tech established, the developers had to come up with a story that would match this flashy new game.  Shigeru Miyamoto didn’t want to follow the trend of superheroes flying around in giant robots, so he pitched the idea of using animal characters to inhabit this new world.  From this suggestion, Takaya Imamura came up with the Star Fox crew and its supporting characters; pulling plenty of inspiration from Japanese folk tales for the chosen animals.  Of course, these characters only set the framework within Star Fox for the actual gameplay.  Outside of some minor dialogue and the content featured in the instruction manual, there wasn’t much back story for Fox McCloud and his ragtag crew until they showed up in a certain gaming magazine…

StarFox1Star Fox made its comic debut in February 1993 as a feature in issue 45 of Nintendo Power.  Illustrated by Benimaru Itoh, the story ran for 11 issues, concluding in December of the same year.  Mr. Itoh has produced an impressive body of work for Nintendo: drawing comics for both Star Fox and Super Metroid, designing characters for classic games like Earthbound and Pokémon, and performing on guitar at “Mario & Zelda Big Band Live” in Tokyo in 2003.  These days he works at HAL Laboratory, where he continues to dedicate himself to the Kirby franchise.  For the Star Fox comics, Itoh expanded the story beyond the scope of the game, offering readers a glimpse into Fox’s life before Corneria.

StarFox2Our story begins with a two-page spread of Fox McCloud piloting some sort of speeder bike instead of his usual ride.  The vulpine hero is making off with goods from an imperial ship in order to redistribute the spoils to those in need on the planet of Papetoon.  He and his merry men regularly commit these sorts of crimes, following the “Golden Rule” (“Make the guy with the gold pay,” according to Peppy Hare).  After another successful heist, the crew receives a holographic message from General Pepper of Corneria’s Planetary Defense Council.  General Pepper has reached out to Fox and his gang in search of ace pilots to man the newly developed Arwing spacecraft in the fight against imperial lizard troops.  The Star Fox Team accepts and makes their way to Corneria as stowaways on a large star freighter.

StarFox3Once the crew arrives on Corneria and they are properly trained on the new Arwings, the story reverts to the plot of the Super Nintendo game, albeit with plenty of back story in-between the action-packed space battles.  The reader is introduced to Fara Phoenix, Fox’s love interest who only showed up outside of the comic in the unreleased Star Fox 2.  After the sequel was cancelled, Fara was pretty much removed from the series and Krystal the blue fox took over as McCloud’s romantic partner.  The comic also delves into how Fox met the delinquent Falco while he was enrolled at flight academy.  After becoming fast friends, Falco cleaned up his act and enrolled at the academy with Fox, where the two of them graduated as top pilots.  The greatest conflict within the story revolves around Andross, the villain who killed Fox’s father many years ago and who now sends his armies of lizard troops across the galaxy.  As the Star Fox Team make their way to Venom, the planet where Andross resides, there are battles with enemy spacecraft and creatures lifted directly from the video game, which makes for a nice touch.  Ultimately, Fox and his crew succeed at destroying the base on Venom and even though Andross escapes into a black hole, Fox believes that thanks to the efforts of his father, the citizens of Corneria have seen the last of the evil ape.

StarFox4Benimaru Itoh’s artwork is impressive throughout the Star Fox comic.  Heavy shading and complex line work make every character highly emotive and very animated.  The facial expressions on Fox are particularly fun to look at, fluctuating between lighthearted and angered moods that would look right at home on a real fox.  Interior backgrounds are richly detailed, with little bits and baubles to flesh out each area, while outdoor backgrounds are sparse to focus the action on the characters and ships.  The spacecrafts are well-drawn, along with all of the weapon and explosion effects in every battle.  The most notable detail is the wide range of colors used to illustrate action scenes.  Instead of relying on a palette of red, orange, and black to color explosions and battles, Itoh utilized varying shades of blue and purple which gives the comic a more fantasy sense of story.

Looking back, it is so strange for a game that is an on-rails space shooter at its core to have such a vibrant and detailed story about furry and feathered fighter pilots.  When I first played Star Fox, I had already encountered this wonderful comic in the pages of Nintendo Power, so I felt a distinct attachment to the characters upon my television.  Even though most of my time was spent dodging asteroids and firing off nova bombs, I imagined the Star Fox Team from the comic cracking wise and encouraging each other over their radios the entire time.  Shigeru Miyamoto may have taken the first step in distinguishing Star Fox by casting animals as the main characters, but it was Itoh’s comic that truly endeared this epic space story to so many players at the time.  That is the mark of a great comic adaptation: a story that is fun to read and enhances the experience of playing a video game.

Unlike the Super Mario Adventures and A Link to the Past, the Star Fox comic was never printed as a standalone product here in America.  But thanks to the efforts of the Arwing Landing Gallery, the entire comic is available to read online.  A big thank you to the folks behind the gallery for these fantastic scans!

Listmas 2013: Howard and Nester Comics

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For those of you who were readers during the glory days of Nintendo Power, your first exposure to video game comics probably involved Howard Phillips and his good friend Nester.  These goofy stories were a source of tips and humor in the earlier issues of NP.  As the president of the Nintendo Fun Club, Howard Phillips would play the straight-man to Nester’s stubborn and off-the-wall antics.  Over the course of 21 issues, the lovable pair were immersed into the hit video games of the day, often to comedic results.

As a celebration of Listmas 2013, I am taking a break from the usual comic book analysis to share my three favorite Howard and Nester stories from pages past (hit the issue links for the full comics).  Here we go!

March/April 1989

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As a kid who spent much of his time at the local library, the thought of finding a Legend of Zelda book seemed like a dream.  Granted, I wouldn’t have dismissed some of the classics like Nester here, but I definitely sought out the more off-beat stuff in the stacks.  I especially love Nester’s indignant reaction to finding Howard in his story, even though the bow-tied knight is just trying to help.

May/June 1990

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This comic was the first time I had ever heard of QA departments and play-testing in video games.  Until that time, I just assumed that the developers made the games correctly on the first try.  What can I say, I was a naïve kid.  At least I knew better than to assume the world of game testing was as fantastic as Howard and Nester would make it seem.  If only we could just hop into a game to test for bugs.  Then again, that’s a lot of pain and respawning for anyone who is testing Call of Duty…

December 2012

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Okay, so this one isn’t technically a “Howard and Nester” comic.  After Howard Phillips left Nintendo back in 1991, Nester carried the torch in his own adventures for many more issues.  It was in Issue 55 of Nintendo Power when Nester’s Adventures went on hiatus.  The plucky mascot showed up for three more special comic appearances: as a college student in #100, as a father in #231 (the twentieth anniversary of NP), and once more in the final issue of Nintendo Power, #285.  When the last issue hit store shelves, I made sure to secure a copy from my local bookstore.  This comic is a total tear-jerker to longtime readers of Nintendo Power (and to anyone with a heart).  I hope to someday share in this bittersweet sort of moment with my future children.

Looking back at these comics, I am really impressed with how well the artwork has stood up over time.  The facial expressions on Howard and Nester are very emotive, and the shading is especially nice throughout the series.  Special thanks to Tiny Cartridge for posting the final comic, and to the Howard and Nester Comics Archive, where you can find every one of these fun-filled stories.  Merry Listmas, everyone!