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1995: The Year Nintendo Power Screwed Me

Nov 8, 2012 at 8:21:22 AM
Firebrandx (7)
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(Wolff Morrow) < Meka Chicken >
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Digging through my old photographs from over the years, I found some SNES gaming screenshots I took back in February of 1995 that I had forgotten about. Instead of giving me a nostalgia feeling seeing these shots again, they gave me a sick feeling of anger and betrayal. Yes, it was the time when I took on Nintendo Power's contests and "Pro" challenges. Here's how it went down:

I was soon to be 21 years old and living in Carrolton, Texas at the time, and I had just settled in after losing most everything I owned in a failed bid to make a living in Seattle the previous year (I was deep in the grunge crowd there when Cobain shot himself). Anyway, I started re-collecting all my favorite NES and SNES games, including buying new games like Demon's Crest (and completing that bastard 100%) as they came out. I had such a heavy new dose of Nintendo fever that I even re-subbed to Nintendo Power after a few years away from them during my Sega Genesis and Neo Geo years. Low and behold, I discover NP magazine has these contests where you take a photograph of your TV and console running the game with your high score on the screen.

I was an absolute master of Super Punch Out!! and decided to take on NP's gauntlet challenge of beating their "pro" records on a few of the boxers. Here's one of the challenges they laid out on three of the boxers:



After spending hours each evening, I eventually broke all known records for each and every boxer in the game (including the 3 in the above contest, using my nose to do the pause trick on Gabby-jay as Jeff Wittenhagen correctly determined), took photographs, and sent them in. Now keep in mind I followed all their rules. This included of course no cheating (game hacking devices), making sure the the screen score was visible, making sure the console with the game running was visible, making sure to include my full name and subscription information, etc. Here's one of my surviving pics, where you can see I beat their "pro" record by over 6 seconds:



Eventually, I received official letters from NoA congratulating me for my new records and that they have confirmed I followed all the rules properly. Unfortunately, my records were never published by Nintendo Power. I began to get paranoid it was one of a few reasons why I was snubbed in spite of my efforts:

1. They thought my rather unique name was bogus and didn't want to print it.

2. Their counselors couldn't believe one man could have beaten every one of their records, informing the contest admins that I HAD to have been cheating (which I wasn't). As it turns out, all my records would later be nicked be people using emulators and frame-by-frame timing sequences anyway.

3. Somehow even though I was congratulated, maybe my submission didn't arrive in time for the contest deadline. My photos were sent 3 weeks in advance, but I couldn't rule out that possibility.

And then came the final straw...

The February 1995 issue of Nintendo Power arrived in my mail. This time, there was a Final Fantasy III challenge. I loved this game and knew I could dominate anything they threw at me for a challenge on it. Here's what they had come up with:





Right, so I started my task with a methodical determination. I sketched out shortest paths in each of the areas, and even discovered little quirks in the programming of the step counter. For example, I found that if you held the directional pad as you passed into a doorway, it would count as two steps. if you just tapped the pad once you reached the doorway, it would only count as one step when you appeared on the other side. I was that frikken obsessive about doing as close to a perfect record as I could...

Ultimately, I finished with 5,826 steps. I took several photographs showing the TV screen and the game running in the console to show I wasn't cheating. I mailed several of the photographs in one package to Nintendo Power a full 5 weeks before the contest deadline. Yet again, I received a letter of congratulation from NoA, and yet again confirming I had followed all the rules set forth. Here's a scan of one of the photos I didn't send as it cut off too much of the console. It's all I have left to remind me of that record:








So, I then wait for the follow-up contest results, hoping to finally see my name and my efforts recognized by Nintendo Power. Finally the May 1995 issue arrived in my mail, and what did I see printed for the contest results? Look for yourself from this clip of the top 3 finishers:





That was the last damned straw. I wrote an angry F-U letter to Nintendo Power, cancelled my subscription, and immediately switched to the Sony Playstation when it came out later that year...


Update:

After several attempts and extensive research, I was able to put together a flawless run. No glitches, hacks, or other means of cheating were used. Old record of 5,826 steps done in February of 1995. New record of 5,696 steps done December 14, 2012. Please note that this is the SNES version of the game. The GBA version's perfect run would be 7 steps faster at 5,689 due to the Mog scenario screens being 7 less steps to navigate in total. Here's the final screenshot of the SNES perfect Mog record:







Edited: 11/08/2013 at 06:14 PM by Firebrandx

Nov 8, 2012 at 8:47:52 AM
m308gunner (62)
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(Jason ) < King Solomon >
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That blows. Still, you've got(had?) game with those kind of scores.

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Nov 8, 2012 at 9:02:23 AM
Zing (23)
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(Daniel Corban) < Ridley Wrangler >
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Yikes! From what I have read, Nintendo Power wasn't a smoothly running operation, so maybe some scores got lost in the shuffle.

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Nov 8, 2012 at 9:03:47 AM
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Dain (220)
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(Dain Anderson) < Founder >
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I really feel for you, but I have to say this was a really great story to read. Thanks for sharing.

Nov 8, 2012 at 9:17:51 AM
Alder (49)
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(Tom B.) < King Solomon >
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Dang, that sucks! Nice cardboard box shelf setup

Have you heard that Steve Wozniak kept getting the highest score on Tetris, so they stopped putting his name in the magazine? So he entered it backwards as "Evets Kainzow" and they actually printed it.

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Nov 8, 2012 at 9:30:47 AM
Firebrandx (7)
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(Wolff Morrow) < Meka Chicken >
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Originally posted by: Alder

Dang, that sucks! Nice cardboard box shelf setup

Have you heard that Steve Wozniak kept getting the highest score on Tetris, so they stopped putting his name in the magazine? So he entered it backwards as "Evets Kainzow" and they actually printed it.

The cardboard box shelf was a good example of how I had lost all my stuff. Naturally collecting Nintendo games came first befor furniture.

I didn't know that about Steve. That's pretty funny that he tricked them into printing it.

Anyway, I would later be vindicated in my skills by setting records for Twin Galaxies as well as other gaming adventures I listed in my introduction post.

Now though, I hardly do much gaming any more, and instead play blitz chess to entertain myself. I've lost a lot of that gaming prowess I used to have when I was younger.



Nov 8, 2012 at 9:31:43 AM
khog143 (69)
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(Kevin Holbrook) < El Ripper >
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That is a really interesting story. I always sent stuff into NP, but I never got a response or prize either. I don't think I ever really followed up on them, to be honest. It makes you wonder what the true high score was on that challenge, and other challenges for that matter.

Nov 8, 2012 at 9:37:01 AM
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jonebone (508)
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(N64 Fanatic) < Pit >
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Great story, sorry for the outcome. It's not like you only broke that record by one step, you shattered it! No idea why they didn't count it...

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Nov 8, 2012 at 9:49:25 AM
ulasamosa (278)
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(James Ulizza) < Bowser >
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good story, sucks NP screwed you out of eternal glory tho :-P. Same thing happened to my buddy on a Super Mario Kart challenge they had. He destroyed their record by like 25% faster time, sent it in, got the congratulations letter, then his name and time were never posted.

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Nov 8, 2012 at 10:01:35 AM
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Ferris Bueller (208)
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(Christian D) < King Solomon >
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Great read.

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My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at the Let's Play Gaming Expo last night. I guess it's pretty serious.

Oh, my WTB thread is very popular. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, Richard craniums - they all adore it. They think it's a righteous thread.
I'd also like to add that I've got my father's gun and a *scorching* price guide for aftermarket Nintendo games.
Between Dragon Warriors and nothing... I'll take Dragon Warriors - for any of my FT/FS/FO items.
 

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:01:53 AM
Cabanon (53)
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(Louis Duquet) < Lolo Lord >
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that suck a big hard time. this makes me reminder that i used to send times on MK64 as well. never got an answer so i check the rules and i see (EXCLUDE QUEBEC). shame on me (tho that was way before i could even read or speak english).

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:04:38 AM
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VGD (452)
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(RL ) < Master Higgins >
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Good story, poor outcome.

Maybe gamemaster Howard can shed some light on it?

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:07:35 AM
Mog (140)
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(Mr Mog) < King Solomon >
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That's odd, I don't remember joining your party at all.

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:39:57 AM
MyNameIsEarl (76)
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(Earl ) < Lolo Lord >
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Interesting story. Sorry to hear they never gave you the recognition you deserved.

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Do good things, good things happen. Do bad things, bad things happen.

Nov 8, 2012 at 10:55:26 AM
Redivivus (11)
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< King Solomon >
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Originally posted by: videogamedomain

Good story, poor outcome.

Maybe gamemaster Howard can shed some light on it?


Well, this is what happened when Howard left the mag. This, and George and Rob!

Nov 8, 2012 at 11:06:01 AM
WolfAlmighty (3)
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(Wolfgang Abenteuer) < El Ripper >
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I have a hunch that they got tens of thousands of these screenshots and instead of going through them all and recording all the scores they just took three or five random ones that beat the requisite high scores and listed them, and sent out the automated 'Conglaturation!' letter to everyone else sight-unseen. It would have been interesting if you would still have gotten a letter had you submitted a screenshot that DIDN'T beat the high score, just to see if they even checked. If you were able to completely destroy the record in FF3, I'd have to imagine that there were many others that made it well below the 6700 steps required to make the list as well (although you may well have been the best of them all...sadly we'll never know).

Also, what's up with the FF3 screenshot posted in NP? How the hell does it take anyone 50 hours to get Mog in the WoR? You can't blame it on grinding levels either since everyone is around level 20. I guess someone just left their game on for a couple of days?

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Nov 8, 2012 at 11:06:30 AM
WickedWonka (94)
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(Mike D) < El Ripper >
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Any chance you still have the letters from NoA? (Id have probably burned them when I was younger out of spite lol)

Nov 8, 2012 at 11:26:45 AM
Firebrandx (7)
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(Wolff Morrow) < Meka Chicken >
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Originally posted by: WickedWonka

Any chance you still have the letters from NoA? (Id have probably burned them when I was younger out of spite lol)


 I was so pissed off that I trashed  them and cancelled my sub to Nintendo Power. Now I wish I still had them for collector's reasons.

By the way, I just found one of my Super Punch Out!! photographs that I sent during that contest ( 0'13"26 on Mr. Sandman). If you guys like, I can update the main story with that picture and a scan of the "pro" time they posted.



Edited: 11/08/2012 at 11:27 AM by Firebrandx

Nov 8, 2012 at 12:41:25 PM
Firebrandx (7)
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(Wolff Morrow) < Meka Chicken >
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Just an update in that I added the surviving Super Punch Out!! picture and one of the contest challenges they printed for the game. You can see in the picture I was keen about keeping all the boxes to my games even back then :-)

Nov 8, 2012 at 2:49:41 PM
m308gunner (62)
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(Jason ) < King Solomon >
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Love the stack of boxes!

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Nov 8, 2012 at 2:54:08 PM
asv5029 (11)
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(Andrew VanGorder) < Eggplant Wizard >
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I really enjoyed reading this. Great scores, I wonder why you never got in the mag?

Nov 8, 2012 at 3:07:34 PM
Shogun (53)
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< El Ripper >
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Originally posted by: Mog

That's odd, I don't remember joining your party at all.



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Nov 8, 2012 at 3:35:02 PM
takeshi (13)
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(Takeshi C) < Meka Chicken >
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maybe Howard will know

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currently translating Legend of the River King for Famicom

Nov 8, 2012 at 3:42:57 PM
MrClutch (161)
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(Ron W) < King Solomon >
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Wow, awesome story. It sucks that you put so much time and effort into those records only to have them tossed aside.

I think you should trash the blitz chess and get back into SNES record setting.

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Nov 8, 2012 at 3:57:54 PM
Alder (49)
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(Tom B.) < King Solomon >
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Is that a boxed Demon's Crest I see?

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