Looking Back: Nintendo Power Covers Mega Man

Yesterday, news broke that Nintendo Power magazine will soon be ending its nearly 25-year run as a print magazine, though there is some hope that it may continue as an online presence. When it comes to print magazines, Mega Man could not have asked for a better friend than Nintendo Power. Certainly, other magazines would cover his exploits, maybe even continue to praise some of his games, but few managed to keep it up the way Nintendo Power did. From the early issues' preview and cover story of Mega Man 2 (where he was first dubbed "the Blue Bomber") to putting Mega Man 10 on the cover of the subscriber copy of their 250th issue... if the Mega Man franchise and Nintendo ever crossed paths, Nintendo Power was there to give us the scoop.

So join us as we look back at the legacy of the longstanding relationship between Mega Man and Nintendo Power, through covers and unique art to other features which came up in-between. It's been nearly a quarter of a century for both, and much has been said.

The seventh issue of Nintendo Power, from July/August 1989 (back when it was bi-monthly), was Mega Man's first appearance on the cover of the then in-house publication, but it certainly wouldn't be his last. Check out the awesome clay(?) versions of Mega Man and Dr. Wily engaged in battle.

Scan courtesy of Retromags.

Prior to this issue, however, there was a four-page preview and a poster, all with original in-house art which lent a cartoony (well, cartoonier) aesthetic to Dr. Wily and his hated foe:

Get a load of the text where Wily is talking to Mega Man on that final page; looks like Fawful may have learned a thing or two about being an eccentric-speaking mad scientist from him.

Mega Man would also appear throughout the Mega Man 2 guide, though strangely enough, only one Robot Master would join him:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

On a personal note, these issues were where I first learned to draw Mega Man, along with a number of Skull Castle pics. It wouldn't be until Capcom themselves finally released some decent in-house art in their Mega Man 3 instruction manual that I would learn the "proper" way to draw him; it was like learning all over again.

The following issue woulds spotlight Mega Man 2 in the then-monthly comic, "Howard & Nester":

Images courtesy of The Howard & Nester Comics Archive.

Yes, we see what Wily is doing in the third-to-last panel; please try to keep it clean.

The next game would bring with it another cover, and some would argue rightfully so. After all, if any Classic series game were to give Mega Man 2 a run for its money as the greatest, it would be Mega Man 3:

Scan courtesy of Retromags.

As you can see, the staff took a different approach to this one, using a mixture of in-game assets, original art, and-- for some reason-- the same image of Dr. Wily in his Wily Machine which adorned the previous cover, despite it not appearing in the game. And much as the cover differed, so too did the art for the feature:

Scan courtesy of The Reploid Research Lavatory.

Just as before, in the issue prior to the one in which the game was covered, they included another fold-out poster showing off the new Robot Masters and Gamma in their new style.

As #20 points out, "many of the pictures NP’s art was based on were not widely published in the US in 1991 (if at all) so the only conclusion left is that the artist was working directly from Capcom’s own materials."

Just as before, the following issue would again feature Nester donning the Blue Bomber's tights:

Images courtesy of The Howard & Nester Comics Archive.

After Mega Man 3, the Blue Bomber would go on to debut somewhere he wasn't quite so blue-- the Game Boy, an event which not only warranted yet another cover on the 27th issue, but also a return to the full-model style:

Scan courtesy of Retromags.

And check that out-- this was when the Super NES was gearing up for its release, too!

The coverage itself featured a bit of the box art and a colored version of the Mega Man diagram from when you acquire a weapon, but there wasn't much otherwise-- just some original art of the minor enemies from the game:

Image courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

An interesting version of Sniper Joe, to be sure. Perhaps he could double for the version featured in The Protomen's songs?

In 1991, Nintendo began producing their own Player's Guides, kicking things off with the multi-title NES Game Atlas. Featuring many big-name titles and series from the NES, Mega Man's first three adventures were included with this art on the lead-in page:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs.

Mega Man would not grace the cover of the magazine again for a while yet, but coverage of each new release remained steady, while the quality of the art would be all over the place. In fact, it was after the above coverage that the series would soon reach an all-time low point within Nintendo Power's pages with Mega Man 4:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

What happened here seems rather clear: They tried to create images based directly on the pixel art, and it did. Not. Work. But at least Cossack and Wily's castles came out okay.

Then came Mega Man 2 for the Game Boy, which brought back some decent-to-good original art:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

Seemingly out of nowhere, the magazine even made a retro-strategy for the very first Mega Man game, using original art throughout its 42nd volume:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

A big turnaround came in volume 44, the January 1993 issue, as Nintendo Power presented a massive three-part, 16-page Mega Man blowout featuring coverage of Mega Man 3 for the Game Boy, Mega Man 5 for the NES, and sandwiched in between? The results of the first-ever Robot Master contest to allow North American participants:

Art such as what you see above (the pro stuff, not the submissions) was sprinkled throughout the coverage, and even included a cool recreation of Mega Man 5's box art. The eight Robot Masters, on the other hand, instead used Capcom's stock art... or art close enough that one could confuse the two, at any rate.

A couple of months later, Nintendo Power volume 46 would take a special look at Capcom. As one might expect, part of that feature included the following look at Mega Man, showing off some rare (to us, anyway) Japanese merchandise and just how many entries the contest received!

Image courtesy of The Reploid Research Lavatory.

Volume 50 in July 1993 would not give us any sweeping coverage, but it did give us an early look at a game which would transform the franchise forever...

Image courtesy of The Reploid Research Lavatory.

...and in all its glory, the fabled "White City" from the early version of the game.

In December 1993's volume 55, there would be coverage of both Mega Man 4 for the Game Boy and Mega Man 6 for the NES, the latter of which very nearly did not come to North America until Nintendo themselves stepped in. The art within for both games was more like what we saw from the Game Boy Mega Man 3/NES Mega Man 5 coverage, with the Mega Man 6 article wrapping up by revealing that Knight Man and Wind Man were the creations of two winners from their Robot Master contest.

Plus, there was also a sneak peek at what awaited next month with Mega Man X, including a look at his upgrades, a poster of Capcom's stock art for the X, Sigma, and the Mavericks, and some screens. Oddly enough, one of those screens showed regular X firing a blast only made possible by the X-Buster upgrade... in the intro stage.

When it came time to cover the game itself, luck was on X's side as his first release coincided with the bonus January 1994 issue. This meant that he got not one, but two covers!

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

On the left was the special cover, an embossed silver book cover which housed the magazine-- featuring the right-hand cover-- within. Though the one on the right is clearly based on official art, it isn't without its own unique touches; check out the rivets on X's upgraded armor and the hinged robotic fingers.

The art for the feature itself, however, was largely plain; the cover art for the game adorned the first page, with Capcom's stock art for the Mavericks and Sigma spread throughout. They did have some art for some of the Mechaniloids, but that seems to be about it.

In September that year, Mega Man 5 for the Game Boy and Super Game Boy came out, and though it did not get a cover, it did get a strategy review with some of the most unusual, interesting art to date:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

You can also see how some of the Stardroids and their minions came out here. They really seemed to be playing the art to the low-color output of the Super Game Boy, perhaps not wanting the actual color designs to show the adapter's capabilities up.

The last Mega Man cover for the next 15 years came with Volume 69 in February the next year, and featured Mega Man X2:

Images courtesy of The Mechanical Maniacs; click to see more from the set!

By this point, however, things had changed; though the covers still featured original images, the features did not. Instead, stock art of Mavericks, Mechaniloids, and a couple of pictures of X himself were included. Prior to this issue, however, was-- you guessed it-- a poster, one which did feature some original art based on the cover image of the game.

And so it would go from then on; Mega Man titles would receive coverage, so long as they were on Nintendo platforms, but no covers and only using Capcom stock art. At the time, seeing the original art was great; however, in this age of the internet and books such as the Mega Man Official Complete Works, where we see practically everything from Capcom, it's the original stuff which seems to hold the most charm and value.

In addition to game coverage, Nintendo Power would show Mega Man love in lots of other ways. When Mega Man X was released, they were the ones to distribute those pogs which you might have seen around. The next year, they released a set of eight trading cards with the Mavericks from Mega Man X2, and other randomized trading cards featuring various games in numerous issues after, several of which featured different Mega Man games of the day, complete with some facts about the games on the back.

More recently, Nintendo Power was the one to break the news that the long-awaited Mega Man 9 was on the way, and later Mega Man 10 as well, which would also adorn the cover of the subscriber copies of their 250th issue:

This would be the first Mega Man cover on a Nintendo Power magazine in 15 years, and by the look of things, quite possibly the last.

There would be numerous other articles, features, and tidbits over the years as well. To celebrate Majesco's re-release of Mega Man X on the Super NES, they featured a rather typo-ridden article called "Mega Man: The Deluxe Database," a guide to all of the bosses and weaknesses in the series up to that point.

Upcoming merchandise would be featured and fan art would be showcased, with interviews being given to the Archie staff behind the Mega Man comic on a couple of occasions. "Playbacks" would highlight Mega Man games from days past, while "Star Power" would examine the careers and histories of characters such as Mega Man and, most recently, Zero. And their online polls, especially in recent months, would ask various questions about fans' preferences regarding different aspects of the series, including favorite weapons from given games. And for Mega Man's 20th anniversary, a six-page article featured an interview with producer Takeshi Horinouchi and more.

But what may stick out most in many minds is the exclusive preview of Mega Man Legends 3. Due to the game's cancellation, Chris Hoffman is one of the few-- perhaps only-- people outside of Capcom to have ever played the game. Following the fall of the axe, he would answer fans' questions about the game for fellow Future production GamesRadar.

And that all brings us to today. There may be a few things we missed or skipped over, but as you can see, there was so much to cover.

We don't know the entire story regarding the fate of the magazine yet, such as when its last issue will be; one would expect that they would have celebrated Mega Man's 25th anniversary in some way, and if they manage to last out the rest of the year, we may yet see that. All the same, it's sad for us as Mega Man fans to see such a staunch supporter finally ride off into the sunset.

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And if I may speak on a personal note: I have been a follower of Nintendo Power since the beginning, and have formed a collection of nearly every issue made-- twice now, after an incident which saw many of my old issues callously disposed of late last year (I'm still missing a few issues, unfortunately). To me, the magazine is like a part of the soul of Nintendo, and has long felt like the company's last direct (semi-direct, I suppose, after the Future deal) connection with its fans.

Late last year, I finally got to fulfill a dream by writing for Nintendo Power magazine. For me, the opportunity was a pleasure and an honor, and I hope I will have the opportunity-- the privilege-- to write for it once more before all is said and done.

As you can tell, I'm extremely disappointed to see it go, and hope that something may be worked out for a continued existence online. May the Power live on!