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Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Official Nintendo 1993 Calendar

Ah, Nintendo. I cannot overstate the importance of Nintendo to Young Me. Nintendo was the almighty, the most important thing in the world, and I mean this quite literally. Food, love, oxygen...mere impotent sparklers in the face of the massive celestial body that was Nintendo. If you'd like evidence of this, please observe my recently unearthed copy of the rather oddly-named Nintendo Calendar: The Power Game 1993 Calendar. It was the physical manifestation of Nintendo's pixelated tendrils snaking into every single day of the year. I'm rather annoyed that the numbering scheme for the dates ALMOST but not quite matches up with next year (damn leap year, screwing everything up), so I can't put it up on the wall in 2016. But in life, much like in video games, you win some, you lose some, you trade some in to the store in exchange for newer ones.



Some numbered stray observations:

1. "The Power Game"? What the hell is that? Sounds like a USA Network original series.
2. Whatever Link is doing down there doing seems destined to end poorly for him.
3. Princess Toadstool's arms are in a weird position and it kind of looks like she's doing a version of the "suck it" gesture. Also she's brunette and has a ghost nose. I will not call her Princess Peach. I will not.
4. The perspective on this thing is really wacky and disorienting. It's like The Mystery Spot
5. Let's take a peek inside!



Here we observe Luigi and his baby body in a scene from Super Mario World. Since the entire bottom of the image is lava and monsters, with no dry land in sight, there is a decent chance that Luigi is leaping to his own demise. Perhaps the white sparkles that contain the calendar numbers are a visual representation of Luigi's soul escaping his body.



Up next, it's February. It's only fitting that the art for the most sensual month of the year has a bunch of phalluses (phalli?) on top. Oh man, remember when Washington's Birthday and Lincoln's Birthday were two separate holidays? Probably not. Aside from that, wheeeee, cars with crazy spoilers racing in a straight line! Big deal, I see that outside my apartment all the time.


1993 was an interesting time for video games, as the new hotness of the 16-bit systems was the belle of the ball while we awkwardly tried to tell the 8-bit systems that we still loved them just as much as we always had. To wit, here is, to many of us, THE 8-bit game: Super Mario Bros. Mario is following the precedent set by his brother in January by apparently jumping eagerly to his death, and Bowser couldn't be happier about it. Also, Bowser seems to be holding a papaya. On a tangentially-related note, I was Mario for Halloween one year and boy was it sweet:


That's my sister and I. Also, here's my sweet Super Mario Bros. 2 wallet!


Awww yeaaahhhh. That's a motion hologram Mario, and by moving the wallet back and forth you can see him lift and put down a gigantic mushroom! What you know about that???...Whoa, wait, I'm getting way off topic here. Back to the calendar.




April is my birth month and also the month that my grandmother started putting stickers on the calendar; why she neglected the previous months is beyond me. April features another 8-bit NES game, the classic and much-better-than-its-sequel The Legend of Zelda. It depicts Link fighting Aquamentus, the boss of the game's first dungeon. At this point I will note that each page of the calendar includes a tip about the game pictured; the one relates to beating this boss. The thing is, Aquamentus was the easiest boss of the easiest dungeon in the game. If you needed POWER TIPS to beat that goofy unicorn thing, then you were really in for a rough time.



Is the fact that the Powers That Be chose an overtly Russian game for the month containing Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day a reference to the Cold War? Most likely not. The iniquity of sticker distribution hits hard this month as Victoria Day gets no love. As for the game...it's Tetris. You've played it. Next.


A schoolboy's favorite month comes next, as June would herald the onset of summer vacation (indicated here by the thematically appropriate star sticker). We celebrate this occasion with Samus Aran and Metroid II, giving some love to Nintendo's deep space adventure series and the fledgling Game Boy. Elsewhere, familial politics rears its ugly head as you'll note that Father's Day gets a single heart sticker compared to Mother's Day's trio of hearts.


This is where you start to realize that, in late 1992-early 1993, Nintendo didn't have a lot of big first party franchises. No Pokemon, no Starfox, no Kirby. Kid Icarus wasn't exactly setting the world on fire and it's not like they were going to spend a whole month on Clu Clu Land. So we just get half a year of Mario. It's understandable, but I do wish they had made a little room for Punch Out! or something. Also, more anti-Canada bias as Canada Day is denied a sticker while the Fourth of July mocks it with a sticker so big that it covers the entire date square.


The most boring month, holiday-wise, is August, and we celebrate the lack of celebrations with that awkward Princess Toadstool from the cover. Maybe she looks so weird because she's using mental powers to move that turnip to her right. The uselessness of the tips hits its nadir as the fact that the Princess can float in Super Mario Bros. 2 if you hold the A button is mentioned. PROTIP: The "A" Button makes your characters jump as well!


September is a showcase of Dr. Mario's mind-bogglingly poor understanding of modern medicine, as he treats illness by bonking the offending viruses atop their pestilent noggins with vitamin capsules. Personally I prefer the sequel, Mario's Malpractice Suit. The financial ruin caused by said suit is the likely reason Mario had to take so many side jobs. A touch of antisemitism crops up in the sticker distribution as well, with clear snubs for both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Would've been nice to have seen a shofar or a Book of Life sticker.


October is the coolest month, and fittingly enough it has the coolest page, despite being yet another Super Mario World retread. Mario's ghost house adventure (and the Halloween sticker it inspired) is well-portrayed, despite the dismaying fact that our hero appears to once again be jumping straight into death's maw. There's no tip on this page, because I guess if you end up in this position in the game, you're pretty much screwed and the words of a calendar can no longer help you. In sticker news, Canada's holiday is predictably snubbed, as is the UN, while Columbus and his plague globe are venerated.


Possible greatest game of all time Super Mario Bros. 3 is the worthy poster boy for November. This month was chosen because Mario is mere moments away from processing Toad for use in a Thanksgiving side dish. Speaking of which, Thanksgiving gets the best sticker yet in its shiny turkey, Canada finally gets some residual sticker shine by virtue of having a holiday on the same date as an American one, and the '93 elections were apparently TERRIFYING.


December treats us to the holly jolly sight of a video game protagonist once again doing something dumb, as Zelda II's Link busts out an impotent thrust before a disbelieving horse. A fairy gazes forward dumbly, dreaming of brighter days. The Christmas sticker is adorable and, much like the holiday itself, so large that it absorbs the dates surrounding it. Naturally, the Jews and Canucks are once again left out in the cold sticker-wise. Was there really not a boxing glove or menorah sticker somewhere?


January is Pilotwings. You know, maybe they actually should have gone with Clu Clu Land.


Oh, and in case you're interested, here's the back of the calendar. It depicts Luigi collecting an extra life, which he will certainly need considering his propensity for propelling himself into certain death situations.
So that's the calendar! I hope you enjoyed this window into the video game culture of 22 years ago, when Nintendo was the figurative sugarplum fairy dancing in the collective heads of America's youth.
Nintendo's position was later usurped by a new life-dominating force in Magic: The Gathering, as you can see here. But that's another story entirely.


Joey Marsilio once took a brief break from playing games to write Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior, the Clu Clu Land of YA fiction novels.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Thank you for this wonderful look back at Nintendo’s 1993! Super Mario Bros. definitely hits a soft spot with me and with many Millennials, I’m sure. You interweave holidays, personal life, and crazy 8-bit pictorial interpretation in a seamlessly comedic way. You’re an excellent writer and thinker, Joey!