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Early NES magazine coverage (pics inside!)


 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 09:24:45 PM 
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Brain Breaker (1)
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So I just recently was able to fill in one of the last holes in my US classic gaming mag collection, and I thought this one might be of particular interest to you NES fans. It's the first issue Electronic Game Player, published at the end of '87/beginning of '88. This was the first "real" gaming magazine to emerge after the industry's NES driven post-crash comeback, but even then they had a terrible time getting any sort of real national distribution, so it's extremely rare. It wasn't until early '89, after Nintendo Power skyrocketed in popularity and a few other mags popped up, that they found any success, now under the name of Electronic Gaming Monthly (although with the exact same writers and layout). The rest, as they say, is history... Anyway, as you might expect, this first issue is heavily NES-centric at a time when the system barely got any print coverage outside of the Nintendo Fun Club News and a couple of very obscure newsletters (one of whcih was Top Score, the U.S. National Video Game Team newsletter that directly preceded EGP). I only attached a few pics here, but the whole mag is full of great NES stuff. A comprehensive review of every crappy third party joystick then available for the system, reviews and reports on most of the mid/late '87 NES lineup, one of the first "Quartermann" columns, etc. Sorry for the crappy quality, but I don't currently have a working scanner, just a dodgy digital camera. Anyway, a couple of notes on the pics:

That cover is awesome, eh? R.O.B. hurtling through space! I'm quite certain this is the only magazine issue to ever feature good old R.O.B. on its cover. Even in Japan, the Family Robot never scored a cover shot. Ironically, R.O.B. was discontinued right around when this was published, and the system really started to take off in popularity.

I couldn't resist including that last pic as a bonus. Now we know the REAL reason for Stadium Events being so rare: All of the retailers' orders had been sent to "Bandia America" by mistake!

 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 09:44:54 PM 
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Redivivus (10)
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Thats awesome! I love that pic with all the black box goodness!

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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 09:48:37 PM 
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TWarwick07 (29)

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it makes sense now that stadium events was sold at woolworths stores i didnt realize bandai america was located in NJ
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 09:56:42 PM 
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Redivivus (10)
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"All you need is a screwdriver to attach the converters." What was that about? 
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:30:41 PM 
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TheMegaman (34)


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"game cassette"


 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:58:04 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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Cool, I have this one myself! Don't suppose you have a spare #2?
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 10:58:25 PM 
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K.Thrower (95)


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lol @ "Bandia"

Thanks for sharing, these old EGPs are incredibly hard to come by.
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 11:06:30 PM 
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pats1717 (733)

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nice stuff thanks for sharing!
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 11:37:01 PM 
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bunnyboy (71)


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That ROB cover is great! And soooo 80s
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 Saturday, September 22, 2012 - 11:52:18 PM 
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Elijah (161)


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Very cool, thanks for sharing!
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 Sunday, September 23, 2012 - 11:29:15 AM 
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Brain Breaker (1)
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Originally posted by: TheRedEye

Cool, I have this one myself! Don't suppose you have a spare #2?

No, unfortunately. It seems that #2 is the rarest of them all. I'm not sure if it's really true, but one of the old EGM writers claims that it was quickly pulled from circulation due to Nintendo complaining about the cheesy cover art (a badly drawn Mario mixed in amongst a bunch of other game characters). I have a scan of the cover, but the only actual copy I've ever seen was in Kevin Gifford's collection, if I recall correctly. I did manage to come up with a copy of the (presumably) last issue of Top Score newsletter from Nov/Dec '87, though. It's interesting, in that they were clearly gearing up for EGP at that point. It's still mostly arcade news, but there's a Quartermann column that's almost identical to the one in the first EGP, a section where they give little one line reviews to most of the home games that were currently available, etc.

By the way, I noticed that very interesting pic of an early Super Mario Bros. review you posted a little while back. Could you let me know where that was from? As far as I'm aware, the only real video game coverage that existed in the US at that time was Ed Semrad's column in the Milwaukee Journal and the obscure "Computer Entertainer" newsletter.


 Monday, September 24, 2012 - 05:44:37 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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Yeah, Kevin's copy of #2 is safe and secure at the Strong Museum in Rochester. I tried to get him to scan it before he donated, but he didn't get around to it. Luckily part of that donation requires that every magazine gets scanned, so hopefully it will be soon. If not, you know where to find it if you just want to read it.

I have that same issue of Top Score, did you buy it from eBay? I don't have any other Top Scores, wish I did.

That Mario review is from a newsletter alternately called The Video Game Update or Computer Entertainer, depending on which year you read it. It's the only American video game publication to survive the crash and keep reporting on console stuff. I just had all 9+ years of it scanned by the Internet Archive, it will all be readable (with searchable text) very soon.
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 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 09:00:42 AM 
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buyatari2 (29)

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Is there a picture of the cover of issue #2 somewhere?

 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 11:48:54 AM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/3865...
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 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 12:35:41 PM 
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Bronty (58)


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ouch
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WTB Cdn sealed black boxes, sealed Cdn first party titles.    I.e. the "mattel" Cdn boxes with both french and english.   Mainly black boxes, zelda, link, and tyson, but let me know what you have.    I am interested in anything I don't already have!


 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 04:19:56 PM 
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Brain Breaker (1)
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Originally posted by: TheRedEye

Yeah, Kevin's copy of #2 is safe and secure at the Strong Museum in Rochester. I tried to get him to scan it before he donated, but he didn't get around to it. Luckily part of that donation requires that every magazine gets scanned, so hopefully it will be soon. If not, you know where to find it if you just want to read it.

I have that same issue of Top Score, did you buy it from eBay? I don't have any other Top Scores, wish I did.

That Mario review is from a newsletter alternately called The Video Game Update or Computer Entertainer, depending on which year you read it. It's the only American video game publication to survive the crash and keep reporting on console stuff. I just had all 9+ years of it scanned by the Internet Archive, it will all be readable (with searchable text) very soon.

Yeah, I had the opportunity to chat with Kevin a couple times about mag collecting a while back, as he seemed to be one of the only other people dedicated to this weird niche hobby (especially the Japanese material), but then I guess he finally decided to move on to other interests. Seems like a great guy, anyway.

I actually got the Top Score from a friend of mine who apparently received it from a former EGM writer. There's a guy who was selling the first issue, but I'm guessing it's long gone now. I sent him an e-mail inquiring about it a long time ago, but never got a response. You can see a little thumbnail of it on this page:

http://www.classicarcadegaming.co...

I'd guess the first few issues were all arcade news and high-score competition oriented, rather than the "pre-EGP" style of the one that we have.

That's FANTASTIC news about the Computer Entertainer scans! I've long thought that those would be an absolute goldmine of information, especially from the early NES era, but I've never been able to track any of them down. I've kind of gotten the impression that they were mainly circulated to people involved in the industry back then.

I'd love to start a project to archive my collection of vintage Japanese mags, as there's a ton of incredible gaming history buried in these things (aside from the fact that they're just amazing to look at), but the time and effort involved in this has made me question its feasibilty. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of issues here, most of them with many more pages than western game mags ever had, as well as numerous pull-outs, maps, strategy guides, etc. I do think it would be great to preserve and share some of this stuff though, as much of this particular collecting scene has gotten way out of control price-wise in Japan (demand has exploded, and supply is almost non-existent), and as I'm sure you know, we'll never see this ancient material scanned and released to the public by Japanese sources...

 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 06:24:00 PM 
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JHawkZZ (26)

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How cool! Thanks for sharing
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 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 06:26:14 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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Yeah, I had no luck tracking down any issues of Computer Entertainer either. Luckily its former editor had her one bound collection still in storage, she loaned it to me to get scanned. Then she's donating it to the Strong, to join Kevin's collection.

It is a goldmine indeed, every issue has a meticulously researched and updated release calendar for every computer and game console, ANYTHING that was announced (and they were very much on top of it, since they ran a mailorder business) was included in the newsletter in some form. You can actually track when Return of Donkey Kong was announced, delayed, and then finally cancelled. There are unreleased games in there that there are no references to online, since there weren't any game magazines around to talk about them (except this one!). It's great stuff. I already went through it all with a fine-toothed comb for NES announcements, can't wait to see the Atari and Sega guys do the same.
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 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 09:11:28 PM 
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Brain Breaker (1)
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Originally posted by: TheRedEye

Yeah, I had no luck tracking down any issues of Computer Entertainer either. Luckily its former editor had her one bound collection still in storage, she loaned it to me to get scanned. Then she's donating it to the Strong, to join Kevin's collection.

It is a goldmine indeed, every issue has a meticulously researched and updated release calendar for every computer and game console, ANYTHING that was announced (and they were very much on top of it, since they ran a mailorder business) was included in the newsletter in some form. You can actually track when Return of Donkey Kong was announced, delayed, and then finally cancelled. There are unreleased games in there that there are no references to online, since there weren't any game magazines around to talk about them (except this one!). It's great stuff. I already went through it all with a fine-toothed comb for NES announcements, can't wait to see the Atari and Sega guys do the same.

That's awesome! I sincerely thank you for the effort you've made in doing this, and can't wait to read these things myself. There was actually one other consistently good source of early NES news at that time, from a perhaps unexpected source. I'll post about that in a new thread.

Speaking of Return of Donkey Kong, that reminds me of another little nugget I was able to dig up. A few months ago, I took the time to chronologically go through all of Ed Semrad's old columns that are archived online (unfortunately, many are missing), and among many other things I noticed that he mentioned Return of Donkey Kong a few times, circa 1988. I'd have to go back and find the exact column again to get the proper quote, but I believe in one he mentioned the game as a good example of upcoming releases that are "totally unnecessary" or something along those lines. That would indicate to me that he may have actually seen the game at some point, or at least had better knowledge of what exactly it was than anyone else. It also seems to suggest that the game may really just have been an early title for Donkey Kong Classics, rather than the original game that the few known descriptions seem to indicate. I also remember reading somewhere (can't remember if it was in another Semrad column, an issue of EGP, or something else) that the original Donkey Kong had already been discontinued by then along with a few other early titles in order to make more room on store shelves for the flood of new games that had started to come out. So, it could also tie into that. Mysterious...


 Tuesday, September 25, 2012 - 10:27:07 PM 
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buyatari2 (29)

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Originally posted by: TheRedEye

Yeah, I had no luck tracking down any issues of Computer Entertainer either. Luckily its former editor had her one bound collection still in storage, she loaned it to me to get scanned. Then she's donating it to the Strong, to join Kevin's collection.

It is a goldmine indeed, every issue has a meticulously researched and updated release calendar for every computer and game console, ANYTHING that was announced (and they were very much on top of it, since they ran a mailorder business) was included in the newsletter in some form. You can actually track when Return of Donkey Kong was announced, delayed, and then finally cancelled. There are unreleased games in there that there are no references to online, since there weren't any game magazines around to talk about them (except this one!). It's great stuff. I already went through it all with a fine-toothed comb for NES announcements, can't wait to see the Atari and Sega guys do the same.

Woah !

Are these scans online?


 Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 12:52:54 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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OK, here's what I know about Return of Donkey Kong.

Product ID: NES-RD-USA (this is a unique ID, not used for Donkey Kong Classics)

Descriptions we've seen in Fun Club News and the Nintendo Player's Guide describe this as a game where you control Donkey Kong himself. Computer Entertainer substantiates this, saying the game "lets you control the great ape himself, tossing barrels and getting into plenty of mischief."

Seems to have been announced somewhere around November or early December, 1987. Was part of Nintendo's upcoming product lineup at Winter Consumer Electronics Show the following January but, as far as I can tell, wasn't playable.

It was planned to come out somewhere around April, according to a salesman's bible I have (I also have the order form, should we try??). Nintendo was NOT going to run dedicated advertising for the game, but they did plan dedicated ads for basically every other game (Punch-Out!!, Metroid, Rad Racer, R.C. Pro-Am, Ice Hockey, Zelda II and Dragon Warrior), which might mean they knew they had a dud.

In early 1988, pretty much right after the game was announced, they delayed it to the second half of the year due to the whole chip shortage fiasco. By Summer CES in June, 1988, the title was dropped, and Donkey Kong Classics was announced.
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 Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 01:00:45 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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Oh and to answer earlier question: Computer Entertainer is not online yet, but that's my fault. I want to talk to the editors and give it all proper context before just slapping it online, but I haven't had the opportunity yet.
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 Wednesday, September 26, 2012 - 01:02:18 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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Oh, and despite running the Fun Club News and co-editing the Player's Guide, Howard Phillips does not remember this game at all. Maybe something'll turn up now that he's digging through his boxes though?
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 Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 03:44:06 AM 
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Brain Breaker (1)
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Originally posted by: TheRedEye

OK, here's what I know about Return of Donkey Kong.

Product ID: NES-RD-USA (this is a unique ID, not used for Donkey Kong Classics)

Descriptions we've seen in Fun Club News and the Nintendo Player's Guide describe this as a game where you control Donkey Kong himself. Computer Entertainer substantiates this, saying the game "lets you control the great ape himself, tossing barrels and getting into plenty of mischief."

Seems to have been announced somewhere around November or early December, 1987. Was part of Nintendo's upcoming product lineup at Winter Consumer Electronics Show the following January but, as far as I can tell, wasn't playable.

It was planned to come out somewhere around April, according to a salesman's bible I have (I also have the order form, should we try??). Nintendo was NOT going to run dedicated advertising for the game, but they did plan dedicated ads for basically every other game (Punch-Out!!, Metroid, Rad Racer, R.C. Pro-Am, Ice Hockey, Zelda II and Dragon Warrior), which might mean they knew they had a dud.

In early 1988, pretty much right after the game was announced, they delayed it to the second half of the year due to the whole chip shortage fiasco. By Summer CES in June, 1988, the title was dropped, and Donkey Kong Classics was announced.


I went back through all of the available Semrad columns from October '87 to July '88, and here are all the Return of Donkey Kong references:

 

Jan. 16, 1988 (CES Report, listing all the upcoming NES titles):

 

"Nintendo - R.C. Pro-Am, Ice Hockey, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Return of Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. 2"

 

Feb. 27, 1988:

 

"The latest schedule for the new Nintendo games is: Ice Hockey and Pro-Am Racing - early March. Zelda II and Super Mario Bros. 2 - early June. The Return of Donkey Kong - sometime in the second half of 1988. Dragon Warrior - 1989. As you can see, everything got pushed back by quite a few months."

 

May 7, 1988 (A themed column about game sequels. Most interesting text is bolded):

 

"For Nintendo, there is Super Mario Bros. 2, Zelda II, The Return of Donkey Kong. For Sega, Zillion 2, Fantasy Zone 3, Alex Kid 2. The trend is good and bad. It's good because quest games like Gauntlet are very popular, few in quantity, and in demand. On the other hand, sequels are bad because companies get into the rerun mentality; BY JUST CHANGING A FEW CHARACTERS AND WEAPONS THEY CAN MAKE ANOTHER GAME. TITLES LIKE THE RETURN OF DONKEY KONG JUST AREN'T NEEDED. Sequels also inhibit new and innovative software. A company doesn't have to take a chance on possibly losing money on a new idea when when it is guaranteed some profit on an older title."

 

In his Summer CES report from June, '88 he lists Nintendo's upcoming titles, and Return of Donkey Kong was not among them. I don't believe he ever mentioned the game again.

 

So, after reviewing all of the available facts here, I've come up with a theory. Rather than being some mysterious original game, or just a different title for what would become Donkey Kong Classics, it was actually a slightly altered and enhanced version of the original Donkey Kong.

 

My thought process here goes something like this: In 1988, Nintendo released a few slightly altered or enhanced versions of early Famicom carts as FDS titles. There was Ice Climber (closer to the arcade version), Vs. Excite Bike, and most notably Kaettekita Mario Bros. (an edited version of which was eventually released in Europe in the early 90s, I believe). I'd even go so far as to speculate that the ultra-rare New Clu Clu Land, released as a blink-and-you'll-miss-it afterthought in 1992 when the FDS was as good as dead, was probably also designed during this time period but then delayed for unknown reasons. You'd imagine that Nintendo would also have considered one of their most venerable and popular franchises, Donkey Kong, for this special treatment. But perhaps this one just didn't quite cut it for whatever reason, even with some minor control tweaks, the ability to control Donkey Kong and throw barrels at Mario, etc. Maybe the few members of the gaming press who saw it, and ultimately Nintendo's own quality control people, gave it the big thumbs down. After all this, NOA might still have wanted to wring the last few dollars they could out of the aging franchise, so they just went ahead and released Donkey Kong Classics instead, justified by the fact that they were offering "two games for the price of one" and that the original titles had been unavailable for some time at that point. Nintendo did something similar in Japan (where the silver box re-releases of early games like DK were starting to go out of print and becoming difficult to find), releasing unaltered versions of both DK and DK Jr. as budget priced disk writer titles in 1988. This is all conjecture, of course, and I realize there are a lot of moving parts here. But, if you start to put them all together, a somewhat plausible explanation starts to emerge. In any case, I'll defer to your opinion on this matter, as I'm sure you've spent much more time researching the history of this title than I have.


 Thursday, September 27, 2012 - 12:23:38 PM 
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TheRedEye (5)

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I'm going to have to think about that a bit more but initially, it's a good theory. They'd dropped Donkey Kong from their lineup by this point despite it being a super popular title, it's easy to assume that whatever Return of Donkey Kong was, it was meant to replace it. And when it didn't materialize, they just put the 2-in-1 out instead.
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