thrift store finds: how to win at nintendo games #2

This week we’re looking at How to Win at Nintendo Games #2 by Jeff Rovin, published by St. Martin’s Press in 1989.

Cover price was $3.95… I paid a quarter.

I feel as though I grew up in the heyday of unauthorized paperback novels. A cartoon or toy would get popular and eventually some publisher big or small would look to cash in on the popularity with a quickie “Unauthorized Guide.”

These do still exist, but they’re often much more lavishly produced. I can recall seeing a TON of full color quickie books made for the Harry Potter books and movies a few years back… but the ones I grew up with were often black and white paperbacks, dense as hell and occasionally illuminating.

Video games were always a ripe mark for this treatment because of how little information there really was out there about them. I’ve talked before about my love for Nintendo Power… and yeah, that magazine was fun, but the party line was always “Nintendo is awesome and there is no room for argument or criticism in these pages.” GamePro was a good magazine but honestly… when you compare the wealth of resources a video game consumer has in 2012 with what existed in the early Nineties… it’s like comparing The Jetsons to The Flintsones.

Jeff Rovin wrote a small library’s worth of unauthorized takes on the video games of the 1980’s and 1990’s where criticism, however slight, was welcome.

Even if he didn’t read the blurb on the front of the book, it would be pretty easy for a kid to see this book is color-coded distinctly to cash in of the big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fad sweeping the country in ’89. Indeed, offered within this book are tips for the Ultra Games‘ adaptation of the property.

That game was (and remains) NOTORIOUSLY hard to beat. Indeed, I never got past the third level where you drive around the city in your Party Wagon. Rovin seems to give detailed instructions for only the first three levels of the game, after which he’s vague about what comes next.

I gotta wonder whether he was able to finish TMNT himself!

Also interesting, I noticed Rovin gave four pages of his book over to strategies for the SUPREMELY shitty NES adaptation of Ghostbusters, a game that seems like it should have been a slam dunk for Activision, but instead is a weird mix of maps, driving stages, shopping for guns, and awful graphics.

…I mean, COME ON. Look at that garbage!

Here’s an instance where and unauthorized guide comes in handy. I can tell you for a fact, had I the means as an 8 year old kid, I would have GLADLY shelled out $50 bucks for a Ghostbusters Nintendo game, sight unseen. I’m sure Nintendo and game creator Activision would have wanted to encourage this… but Rovin’s pretty uncomplimentary toward this cartridge.

He’s able to be frank because he’s beholden to no one… and that’s a helpful opinion to have. As it says on the front of the book:

Other games reviewed in this volume: Hudson’s Adventure Island (a Super Mario rip-off, but a fun one), Bionic Commando (awesome), Double Dragon (double awesome), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (awful), Milon’s Secret Castle (kinda awful), and Gauntlet.

The book makes QUITE a big deal out of reviewing Gauntlet as the cartridge was as unlicensed by Nintendo as this book was.

Tengen produced a whole slew of NES cartridges which were not cast in the usual Nintendo grey. These carts were black and while they played as well as any other Nintendo game, they were not officially endorsed by the company. I suppose it would make sense that an unlicensed strategy paperback would give you tips on an unlicensed game… and Gauntlet was fun as hell, regardless of its’ legitimacy.

At any rate, these books served a purpose and Rovin has an engaging enough prose to last him through four How to Win at Nintendo Games paperbacks and a half dozen other video game related books. These would have been worth the money at the time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try and beat that goddamn water/seaweed stage on TMNT.


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