Combing Through the Pages: Nintendo Power #20

I owe Mario for getting me into gaming, but if there was a series that I gravitated to the most as a kid, that would be Capcom’s Mega Man. I always loved magazine coverage of Mega Man, as those pages usually had character art from the series, on top of any covers or posters the series would grace. Mega Man has seen better days compared to how he is featured today, but finding old collectibles featuring the series still remains exciting to me.


I’ve not been so lucky lately in finding issues of Tips & Tricks to pick up in the wild, but the area recently saw a wave of Nintendo Power issues trickling into the retro stores. Nintendo Power was the first video game magazine I ever subscribed to, so I do have a number of memories tied to the issues that covered the Nintendo Entertainment System through the Super Nintendo. My latest stop had Nintendo Power #20 in the stack, and this is the big Mega Man 3 issue. The price tag on it was a little higher than what I wanted to pay, but since I was striking out on finding games I was interested in, I figured I would spare the few extra bucks and add it to my collection.

Since I really like video games, it should come as no surprise that I also really like video gaming magazines. At times I leaf through issues of magazines such as Tips & Tricks, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Nintendo Power, and I would share bits and pieces of that content through tweets. After a handful of issues, I figured I should really just collect these thoughts and make proper features out of them for GemuBaka.

To preface this and get it out of the way – if you came here expecting to find a PDF or similar file that provides a perfectly-scanned collection of every single page of this magazine … I’m afraid you won’t find that here. The intent of this feature is to break down the magazine featured and then roll in my personal thoughts and experiences on the subject matter, along with tying those points into features on GemuBaka when it is applicable. Today’s feature is Nintendo Power issue 20 (January 1991).

The previous entry of Combing Through the Pages: Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine #1

Nintendo Power probably doesn’t need an introduction, but if you don’t know, the magazine was released by Nintendo itself in order to directly cover and promote the products that were developed for its gaming systems. There is likely a stigma online that the magazine was overly biased toward Nintendo-released items. While I can’t refute that there is a slice of bias here, I honestly don’t think it is to the degree most people believe. It might surprise you to look at the review scores the magazine gave to certain games, and a lot of service was paid to games from other developers, such as Capcom and Konami.

At the time these magazines were being released, they were a prime supply of game strategies, maps and codes, and magazines pages were what you had to rely on to find out about games before they were sold in stores. The magazine also slid into featuring more about the development of the games, and in picking up more issues that were published as Nintendo was transitioning from the Super Nintendo to the Nintendo 64, I’ve found the magazine’s deep coverage of games such as Killer Instinct with direct involvement from Rare was actually quite incredible.

I never subscribed to the Nintendo newsletter that preceded the magazine, but I received Nintendo Power issue 1 because my parents had filled out the warranty card that came included with the NES system. It came out of nowhere, and I was immediately hooked, probably reading that issue a thousand times over. Despite that, I probably didn’t have a subscription until I believe issue 6 (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the cover). I’d imagine that since issue 1 magically showed up at my home, my brain was slow to process the fact I needed to actively pay for more issues of the magazine.

I stuck with the magazine through most of the life of the Super Nintendo, and I believe issue 63 was the final issue I received from my original subscription. At that time, I was branching out into other gaming formats such as the SEGA Genesis and I was also starting to become more interested in arcade games. I then started reading Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro from that point forward.

I had a stack of my Nintendo Power issues in my closet for a number of years, but as EGM and GamePro started stacking on top of those, the “clutter” started to draw the ire of my parents. While the majority of the gaming items I own today are the originals I had when I was younger, my magazine collection is unfortunately not part of that. As a teenager, my parents forced me to throw away a significant number of magazines, which included my original Nintendo Power set, along with early Tips & Tricks and EGM issues. I’ve recollected enough magazines to have a sufficient supply to comb through every now and again, but there are definitely issues in that lot that I wish I could have back!


The NES Mega Man series found itself on three of Nintendo Power’s covers – Mega Man 2 was on issue 7, Mega Man 3 was on issue 20 and Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge (the debut of the “Rockman World” series on Game Boy). The Mega Man 2 and Mega Man GB covers really stick out in my mind because they had a really weird fixation on featuring Dr. Wily in his capsule as opposed to focusing on Mega Man himself. In this case, Mega Man 3 is the outlier, putting Mega Man and the debuting Rush as the prominent focus on the cover.

It’s an effective cover from a newsstand perspective, but it has strange features if you look at it very closely. The magazine attributes the cover design to Griffes Advertising and the photography to Darrell Peterson. Many of the older issues of Nintendo Power featured a lot of photographic elements – even if the cover didn’t feature human models dressed as game characters (such as the scene from issue 4 with Link standing before the sleeping Princess Zelda for Zelda II), most of them were photos of clay models (the iconic issue 1 featuring Super Mario Bros. 2) or set pieces. It took a few years before the covers started having consistency in using promotional game assets or artist renditions of characters from a featured game.

The more you look at the Mega Man 3 cover, the more you see elements of mixed media blending together to create this spread. Looking closely at Mega Man and Rush, the more I think they are photographed models (I don’t know if they would be clay or some sort of figure) that are then digitally painted over. There are oddly balanced sharp details such as the ridges of Mega Man’s helmet above his eyes, but then a number of soft details such as his face. Both Mega Man and Rush are glazed over with shiny details as the light reflects off them, but their eyes are overly glossed.

In the distance you see a pixel-based version of Dr. Wily’s Skull Castle taken straight from the game, and the landscape leading up the castle transitions from being pixel-based to a grassy set piece at the foreground. A lot of digital blurring technique is used to transition the pixel elements into the photography elements, which sticks out as very interesting to me as an adult, whereas this would go completely unnoticed by me as a kid. The extra touch is Wily’s capsule flying away in the background, and I would have to guess this is the same model the magazine used for its issue 7 cover with Mega Man 2.

It might sound like I’m nagging on the technique, but I really think it’s a case where, with the technology we have in 2023, it’s more noticeable what is going on in the photo now compared when I saw this at age 9 in 1991. In actuality, being able to have a guess as to how the people involved put this together with what I know today, makes the cover all the more fascinating to me. It’s interesting to see this mixed media approach, and I have a lot of respect for how this could have been set up using technology from 30 years ago. As I’ve already said, this is a great newsstand setup, as Mega Man takes up a lot of the cover space to the right, allowing for the magazine’s selling points to be featured along the left while the smaller details such as Wily’s castle are incorporated in the space.

Getting to the contents of the magazine, the cover promotes Mega Man 3, Deja Vu and The Immortal, along with a poster for Bart Simpson Vs. The Space Mutants.


np20tableNintendo Power #20 is actually a key issue, as it marks the first issue of the publication that was released on a monthly schedule. From July 1988 through December 1990, Nintendo Power released every two months or six times a year. Technically, this was sort of broken up by mid-1990, as Nintendo Power issued a strategy guide in between issues. The magazine did consider these guides to be “issues,” with the Super Mario Bros. 3 guide labeled as issue 13 and the Ninja Gaiden II guide labeled as issue 15, for example. However, starting in January 1991, the magazine proper now had a monthly installment.

Inside the cover of the issue, Nintendo Power was promoted at 12 issues per year at a subscription cost of $15 (the cover price of a magazine was $3.50 U.S., $4.50 Canada). The subscription bonus at this time was a “Team Power” pin you could pin to your coat. For a one-year subscription, you received a bronze pin, and for a two-year subscription, you received a silver pin.

Back issues from issues 7-19 could also be ordered for $4.50 each (plus $1 for postage and handling), with a “1st year set” of issues 1-6 also available at a price of $24.

Most of this section involves letters from people who have taken their Game Boy system to places around the world. This included Russia and Saudi Arabia, and one of the readers talked about playing Tetris on a trans-Atlantic flight. This player reached his personal best of 507,110, and photos of the scores were included. Pictured holding this Game Boy on a Concorde flight is none other than Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.

The section also included a fraternity from Eastern Michigan University talking about how popular the Game Boy was amongst its members, along with another club of game fans who had combined to beat a number of NES and Game Boy games. The club spoke of recording gameplay and game endings onto VHS tapes – something I didn’t quite figure out until the PlayStation and Nintendo 64 were nearly upon us.

The majority of Nintendo Power features game strategies and level maps, which admittedly don’t translate very well to the format of this feature. However, I’ll pick out notable details from these sections and try to remember the games as they were when they released.

Mega Man 3
Nintendo Power put its illustrator to work for this feature, crafting a number of drawings featuring Mega Man, Rush and the game’s robot masters. Of note is a schematic of Mega Man that indicates the ridges along the top and center of his helmet are slar panels. He also has a magna-joint and a pressure pump to help him jump and slide. He is billed as being 52 inches/4 feet, 4 inches (1320 mm) tall and 234 pounds (105 kg). The Rush Jet is also capable of flying at 556 mph (300 km/h).


Nintendo Power’s proposed order of taking down the robot masters is as follows: Magnet Man, Hard Man, Top Man, Shadow Man, Spark Man, Snake Man, Gemini Man, Needle Man.

It is in fact correct as an alias of Proto Man in Mega Man 3, but I’m still amused by the name Break Man. I recall a couple of instances where Proto Man’s Japanese name of Blues (ブルース) was translated as “Bruce.” I was beginning to think I was making that up, but I in fact found a page on Thrilling Old Tales of Video Games that backs that up and adds the mistranslation was done once again for a Card Fighters port.

This feature is chock full of stage maps and pointers of how to use the game’s special weapons. There isn’t much to say about it, honestly, as anyone I knew was able to at least get through the first eight robot masters with little to no help at all. As a kid, I remember thinking how worthless the Top Spin move was, but the years have proven me very wrong. I originally played through Mega Man 3 along with two other friends, and we spent way longer than I care to admit figuring out Shadow Man’s stage and boss fight. I was too curious how the Top Spin would play out in the final fight against Gamma, and absolutely lost it when the move destroyed the final boss of the game.


The stage revisits are also detailed in this issue, and while going through the stages again wasn’t so fun to me, it was a treat to see the Mega Man 2 robots return for another fight. In a neat sidebar feature, Nintendo Power does mention Mega Man and Mega Man 2, noting Dr. Light and Dr. Wily were once allies. I am at a loss because the notes for the first game indicate Dr. Wily was “the victim of a mind-altering accident,” and that is the first I’ve heard of this plot point. I’d like to know more about this lore and may try to search the web a little more on this one.

I suppose if I appreciate one thing Nintendo Power did in most of its strategy features, it didn’t plot out the final few stages of a game. The strategies built you up to that point, and usually the player had enough experience with the game to be able to experience and complete the game on their own. The Mega Man 3 guide drops you off at Dr. Wily’s Skull Castle and provides a few screen captures to preview the adventure. It notes the return of the “Rock Monster,” being the Yellow Devil from the first game, and I kind of chuckled when I read “There’s no Elec Man beam to save you this time!”

The Immortal
Truth be told, I still have not played this game, even though it is easily accessible through the Nintendo Switch NES Online service. It always looked pretty cool in the previews, thanks in part to the great graphics. The feature provides a number of stage maps, leading up to the faceoff against the end-game dragon. This is a pretty straight-forward strategy section with little in extras or behind the scenes of the game.

Deja Vu

np20dejavuKemco’s Deja Vu released on the NES as a sort of follow-up to the adventure game Shadowgate. I would say Deja Vu is a little less obtuse in its puzzle solutions compared to Shadowgate, and I think the presentation was done very well to match the detective/crime theme of the game.

What’s interest about Nintendo Power’s feature is that it is divided in two parts. The first section details the basics of the game’s commands and a “diary” that provides clues as to what the player should do in progressing through the game. Then, in part two, if the player should need the extra help, a “case history” section provides step-by-step details of how to beat the game. One side of this issue’s fold-out poster is a flowchart that maps out all of the areas of the game (with the aforementioned Bart Vs. The Space Mutants on the other side).

I didn’t play Deja Vu until years later. After nearly everyone had moved on to the Super Nintendo or SEGA Genesis, I had one friend who still had an NES hooked up in their bedroom, while the Super Nintendo was in the living room. At that point, only one store in town still rented out NES games, and we ended up renting this at some point because it was one of the few games in the rental lineup we hadn’t played. This was beyond the time frame of still having access to this issue of Nintendo Power, so we figured it out all on our own. There was a learning curve in figuring out what you could get away with, but once it clicked, we were invested until we could solve the case.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch
I’d say this is one Sunsoft game on the NES that doesn’t get talked about as much. It has great graphics and really challenging action, plus you get progressively better weapons and can find an assortment of unique powerups. This is yet another straight-forward strategy section, with stage maps and plenty of promotional photos of the gremlins from the movie.

Special Features
This issue of Nintendo Power starts a hardware feature that explains how your NES and its cartridges work. This magazine specifically talks about RAM and ROM, along with Memory Management Controllers (MMCs). The feature is interesting because it breaks down how different models of MMC were used with specific cartridges to get the desired results, leading up to the MMC5 being used in Castlevania III. There are also short sections on battery paks and compression.


The issue also has a short section detailing upcoming Game Boy releases. These include Dragon’s Lair, F-1 Race, Super Scrabble, Burai Fighter Deluxe and Mercenary Force.

The issue’s Howard and Nester comic is based on Solar Jetman.


There is also a preview feature for the Miracle Piano Teaching system, complete with a breakdown of the keyboard’s features.

The Player’s Poll Contest was a promotional tie-in with Valiant Comics, with one winner being selected to be featured as a character in a comic. Other prizes included a collector’s set of comics featuring Nintendo character and Nintendo Power jerseys.

Classified Information/Counselor’s Corner
The magazine’s sections for quick tips and codes included the following games in issue 20:
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse – Register your name as “HELP ME” to start with 10 lives.
Heavy Shreddin’ – At the title screen hold A, B and left on the controller and press start to begin with 99 lives.
Final Fantasy – There is an invisible character you can speak to in the first castle.
Dungeon Magic: Sword of the Elements – Watch the game’s opening story and when the image of the village appears, press the A button twice on controller two and press start on controller one for 100 gold coins at the start of the game.
Dragon Spirit – Press and hold A, B and up on controller two and reset the game for a sound test. On this screen, use controller two to press B, up, up, B, down, down and B to unlock the stage select. Also, after a game over, on the title screen, hold A and B on controller two and press start on controller one to begin a new game with 20 lives.
Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum – At the title screen, hold up and left and press A, B and select simultaneously to open a stage select option.
Image Fight – On controllers one and two, hold the A and B buttons and then press start on controller one for a stage select.
Skate or Die 2 – In the ramp mode, before entering the pipe, when the character scatches their head, press start, start, select to unlock unlimited lives. During the adventure mode, use controller two to simultaneously press start, A, select and B to trigger a level select (different directions on the pad warp to differnt areas).
Thunderbirds – During the attract mode, hold up and left and reset the system. When a blank screen appears, press A, B and select at the same time to unlock an options menu.

Game Boy
Daedalian Opus – Enter the password ZEAL to unlock a level select option.
Nemesis – In stage two, just after the second large starship, shoot the volcano on the ceiling and fly up to where it was for a bonus area. On stage four, defeat the Re-Bone in the third shaft and fly to the bottom of the screen for another bonus area.
The Counselor’s Corner section answered questions for Destiny of an Emperor, Dungeon Magic, Crystalis and Swords and Serpents on NES, and then Gargoyle’s Quest on Game Boy.

Now Playing
This is the magazine’s review section. The game reviewed in this issue were:
(The Power Meter Ratings are for Graphics and Sound, Play Control, Challenge, and Theme and Fun)
The Adventure of Rad Gravity (3.4, 3.1, 2.9, 3.3)
Arch Rivals (2.9, 2.9, 3.0, 3.3)
Chase HQ (2.7, 3.0, 2.7, 2.5)
Conquest of the Crystal Palace (3.4, 3.8, 3.4, 3.4)
Deja Vu (3.8, 3.8, 4.3, 4.5)
Dragon’s Lair (3.9, 2.1, 3.0, 3.4)
Fisher Price Fire House Rescue (2.4, 2.9, 1.8, 2.6)
Gremlins 2 (4.4, 3.7, 3.9, 4.1)
The Immortal (4.3, 3.7, 4.2, 4.3)
Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu (3.6, 3.7, 3.3, 3.2)
Little Ninja Brothers (3.1, 2.6, 2.2, 2.7)
Mega Man 3 (4.5, 4.2, 4.2, 4.0)
Miracle Piano Teaching System (3.9, 3.3, 3.6, 4.1)
Ninja Crusaders (2.8, 3.0, 2.8, 2.9)
Puzznic (3.1, 3.1, 3.4, 3.5)
Silver Surfer (3.6, 3.0, 2.9, 2.9)
Thunder and Lightning (2.7, 2.9, 2.6, 2.7)
Werewolf (3.5, 2.9, 3.2, 3.2)

Game Boy
Burai Fighter Deluxe (3.7, 3.6, 3.4, 3.4)
Dragon’s Lair (3.9, 2.8, 3.2, 3.3)
F1 Race (3.3, 3.7, 4.0, 4.0)
HAL Wrestling (2.7, 2.4, 2.2, 2.4)
Loopz (2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.9)
Mercenary Force (3.4, 3.1, 2.7, 2.8)
Radar Mission (3.7, 3.4, 3.1, 3.3)
Side Pocket (3.2, 3.2, 2.8, 2.9)
Super Scrabble (3.2, 3.5, 3.8, 3.8)

Top 30

np20top30The Volume 20 Top 30 games as ranked by polls were:
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
2. Final Fantasy
3. Crystalis
4. Mega Man 2
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
6. The Legend of Zelda
7. Tetris
8. Super Mario Bros. 2
9. Dragon Warrior II
10. Back to the Future
11. Blaster Master
12. Ninja Gaiden II
13. Battle of Olympus
14. Castlevania II
15. Batman
16. NES Play Action Football
17. Zelda II
18. Tecmo Bowl
19. Fester’s Quest
20. Super C
21. Castlevania III
22. Destiny of an Emporer
23. Adventures of Lolo II
24. Operation Wolf
25. Shooting Range
26. Double Dragon II
27. Knight Rider
28. Swords and Serpents
29. Solar Jetman
30. Wizardry

The Top 10 for the different polls included:
Players’ Picks
1. Final Fantasy
2. Ninja Gaiden II
3. Super Mario Bros. 3
4. Mega Man 2
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
6. Legend of Zelda
7. Zelda II
8. Super Mario Bros. 2
9. Super C
10. Castlevania II

Pros’ Picks
1. Crystalis
2. Final Fantasy
3. Super Mario Bros. 3
4. Mega Man 2
5. NES Play Action Football
6. Destiny of an Emporer
7. Battle of Olympus
8. Dragon Warrior II
9. Adventures of Lolo II
10. Castlevania III

Dealers’ Picks
1. Super Mario Bros. 3
2. Back to the Future
3. Blaster Master
4. Tetris
5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
6. Fester’s Quest
7. Super Mario Bros. 2
8. Operation Wolf
9. Shooting Range
10. Knight Rider

Looks like those licensed properties were actually pushing sales at stores at the time? The dealers’ points are the only thing that could explain Back to the Future hitting those charts.

Game Boy Top 10

1. Super Mario Land
2. Tetris
3. Gargoyle’s Quest
4. Batman
5. Final Fantasy Legend
6. Double Dragon
8. Paperboy
9. Spiderman
10. NFL Football

(We just featured Batman: The Video Game [GB] on the site as part of our Retro Achiever series!)

Celebrity Profile

np20celebrityThis issue’s celebrity profile is on The New Kids on the Block, which is mostly notable because it discusses an NES game being developed based on the music group by Parker Brothers and Absolute. The plot challenges the player to travel the world to prove they are the group’s biggest fan and win a chance to perform onstage with the members.

It was billed as a six-level game developed by Absolute (Simpsons and A Boy and His Blob), with cassette tapes featuring the group’s music having different action effects for the player. The interview asks about the group’s input on the game, and it was emphatically stated by Donnie Wahlburg and Danny Wood that “They don’t do anything unless we okay it.”

What is doubly interesting is the fact this game never released. It is said the only bit that exists from the game’s development was a prototype box made for marketing.

If Absolute was involved, that means David Crane was potentially involved in the project. However, this is project that seemingly never got far enough for it to have any existing media.

Pak Watch
This issue’s game previews included G.I. Joe, Metal Storm, Base Wars, “Helicopter” for the Laser Scope Voice Command Stereo Headset, Bill Elliot’s NASCAR Challenge, Pirates!, Monopoly, Zombie Nation, Uninvited, Galaxy 5000 and Mini-Putt.

The most notable previews come from what might be some of the first real previews of the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo). The issue states the system had been first unveiled at a show in Tokyo in August 1990, and previews are shown for Super Mario Bros. 4: Super Mario World, F-Zero and Pilotwings. The screenshots are very small, and the information on each game is very vague at this point in development. Probably the most notable thing about this feature looking at it in 2023 is the fact Super Mario World was being billed as Super Mario Bros. 4.


In the “gossip” section, Nintendo Power asks “Who are the Battletoads?” as Rare prepped its NES hit, Capcom was announced to be developing more Disney game with the next to be TaleSpin, Dan O’Bannon was reported to be working on a pilot for a live-action Double Dragon “program,” American Sammy was set to publish a port of the PC game The Magic Candle, Darkman was set to receive a video game, Data East announced its deal with Bo Jackson to create a sports game and Taito moved its U.S. headquarters to a location in Wheeling, Illinois.

On the note of Double Dragon, it’s written like this would have been a show, and not the movie, but I can’t tell by the description … I can’t find anything on a web search that suggests there may have been a live action TV show and there are no Double Dragon credits I can find for Dan O’Bannon. I can’t help but wonder how crazy that pitch may have been if it were true.

Oddly, it seemed like The Magic Candle released on the Famicom, but then never officially made its way to the U.S.

Earth Bound is listed in the “coming later” section, and this is referring to the original Mother game for NES (“Earthbound Origins”), and not the SNES game we eventually received.

Items “coming soon” for Game Boy were listed as Gremlins 2, Operation C, Nintendo World Cup, Double Dribble, Ultima and a sequel to Final Fantasy Legend. The previews also mention a “tank battle featuring super cool 3-D perspective graphics” by Nintendo (I can’t guess what this might have been) and a Kemco-Seika role-playing game starring a cat (this has to be Nekojara Monogatari, a game that never released in the U.S.).

Next Issue
Previewing the issue 21, the lead title being featured was TMNT II: The Arcade Game, but Startropics was ultimately the game that would land the cover image. Game Boy coverage was expected to feature basketball games and Gremlins 2. A behind-the-scenes feature was also planned to explain how the magazine reached its review scores it awarded games in the Now Playing section.


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Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka ( For business only: gemubaka at gmail


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