[Offbeat Hall of Fame is a showcase of the cool, often bizarre products and media from years past that celebrate videogames and gamer culture.]
Have you picked up your copy of the final Nintendo Power yet? Looking through it again, I still have trouble accepting that a piece of my childhood is gone for good. However, thanks to the magic of the Internet, a trip down memory lane is but a click away.
There are many things I loved about Nintendo Power -- the maps, the comics, the Classified Information cheats section that always devoted a page or two to Super Mario World -- but something about physical goodies always filled me with a special glee. And there was no better repository of Nintendo merchandise in the 90s than the Super Power Supplies catalog!
Before digital retailers became a thing, mail order catalogs were the only way to obtain nifty items unavailable in stores. For the Nintendo generation, Super Power Supplies was our shopping mecca. Because how cool was the kid wearing a sick-ass Fulgore mask on Halloween?
It's easy to forget just how great we have it these days. In the early 90s, aside from the rare Mario or Sonic merch, there was next to nothing on store shelves to feed our gaming appetites when we weren't actually playing games. The Internet has helped to turn the once isolated gaming community into a powerful network linked via cyberspace. Serving such people is as simple as making goods available anywhere. If it exists, we'll find it.
This is why digital storefronts like Fangamer and Meat Bun can be so successful. Literally anything you may want in order to express your gaming passion, from toys to music to clothing to the odd bit of paraphernalia, can be yours with a quick Google search and a few mouse clicks. Toss it all in a virtual basket and punch in a credit card number or PayPal password, and within a week your newest gadget or fashion statement will be in your hands.
Back in the 90s, ordering anything from the comfort of your home meant suffering the dreaded six-to-eight-week delivery period. If you phoned in your order, you might shave a week or two off that delivery time. Either way, you were waiting at least a full month before anything arrived. By then you probably forgot you had ordered anything at all!
On the flip side, coming home to a strange parcel on your doorstep was a little like Christmas. You wondered, what could it be? It's only when you saw the sender's address that you remembered what it was, then you tore open the box like a feverish child. There's nothing quite like being pleasantly surprised by something you forgot was coming in the mail.
Nintendo Power's Super Power Supplies catalog was really something out of a young Nintendo child's wildest fantasies. In many ways, it was the precursor to Club Nintendo. Only you spent real money instead of virtual coins. And there was more stuff to buy. And the selection wasn't shit.
After launching in 1994, new editions of the catalog would arrive seasonally, swapping out older items with newer ones that ranged from practical to downright strange. I mean, there was a 6.5' Donkey Kong Country inflatable raft shaped like a giant banana! I would love to meet the dude who still has one of those stuffed away in his garage!
Of course, there were always items to help with your ever-growing NP library -- plastic protectors, magazine binders and racks, and a full suite of Player's Guides. For your hardware storage needs, you had travel bags for handhelds, organizers for home consoles, and cases to keep the dust out of loose game cartridges. Nintendo gave us the means to fortify our gaming collection against any and all types of damage and degradation.
I paid an extra close eye on the available soundtracks. To this day, physical game albums are treated as a pointless novelty by most Western publishers, while Japan gets CDs for even the crappiest of C-grade filth. Nintendo seems especially averse to selling its music -- we're lucky that the Super Mario Galaxy games got the full CD treatment, but it still took a lot of teeth-pulling just to convince Nintendo to bundle the first Galaxy's OST with American Wiis.
It wasn't always like that. There was a time when Nintendo happily produced albums for all its biggest software hits and made them available for the NP army.
You wanted Killer Cuts, the aptly titled Killer Instinct soundtrack? It was yours!
You wanted a trilogy set that included the music from Super Mario 64, Star Fox 64, and Mario Kart 64? No problem, son!
You wanted Play It Loud!, a compilation CD that pulled tracks from Super Nintendo titles like F-Zero, Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, and more? Ain't no thing but a chicken wing!
My very first game soundtrack purchase was DK Jamz, the Donkey Kong Country OST. I bought that sucker on cassette -- remember those things? You had to rewind them and shit? I loved it! I didn't even own an SNES, much less the game itself, but combined with my copy of the DKC Player's Guide, I felt like I knew that game inside and out.
But the best were the special goodies brought out to commemorate Nintendo Power's 100th issue. You could score an "NP100"-stamped watch, T-shirt, or set of collector's coins, or you could hold out for the limited-edition gold N64 controller and Game Boy Pocket. I skipped out on the Game Boy (kinda wish I hadn't) but snatched up the controller. When that hotness showed up at my house two months later, I became the god of GoldenEye 007. I was invincible!
Suck on THAT, Gold Nunchuk!
I never did buy all that much stuff from Super Power Supplies -- there was no way my parents were buying anything over the phone with a credit card, and they saw mail order offers as not quite a scam but close enough to one. I was lucky enough to receive the items that I did; for the rest, I gazed longingly upon those pages.
Take usual fare such as shirts, hoodies, jackets, watches, plush dolls, action figures, wall clocks, console decals, hats, and posters, then toss in amazing pieces of gaming memorabilia like Yoshi's Island animation cels or Donkey Kong Country Blockbuster Video competition carts, and you've got Super Power Supplies. And when you consider that this was merely supplementary to the Nintendo Power reading experience, you can understand how it was so easy to get caught up in Nintendo mania.
Nintendo Power was a phenomenon, plain and simple. There will never be anything like it ever again, and that makes me incredibly sad. At the same time, I'm thankful that I was able to be part of a movement that literally changed my life and the lives of millions of others.
And if I was able to score some sweet gaming swag out of the deal, so much the better!
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