A few days ago, I posted a news item about some Black Friday sales with a small tease to see if anyone could identify the picture I had used, posted here again for your convenience.
The origin, as I knew it, was in the Christmas Sears “Wish Book” catalogs. At least, I think that’s what they called them; I think we got them from JC Penny’s, Belk, and Sears, and I’m not sure if they all shared the “wish book” nomenclature. In any case, as The Video Game Museum shows in its Game Ads section (right hand side), this was an illustration used over and over again of a very strange-looking Bowser and a squad of his Koopa Troopas chased after a very normal looking Mario. I never really understood just why they used that picture, thinking maybe it was done in-house by an illustrator who looked at some screenshots. And in that regard, it was very good, and rather true to the appearance of the first Super Mario Bros. title.
However, I recently stumbled upon the truth and realized that I was very, very wrong about this peculiar-yet-nostalgic artwork. Turns out that it’s actually official.
A long, long time ago… before Player’s Guides were a normal, everyday part of the industry, and I think before even Nintendo Power itself took shape, Nintendo published a set of three guidebooks which I have long wanted for my collection: How to Win at Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda: Tips and Tactics, and The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide.
I had only been exposed to one of these guidebooks one time in my life: The Official Nintendo Player’s Guide at Toys “R” Us, back in the days when the aisles were set up like a grocery store, video game consoles were displayed out of the box in well-lit glass cases, and you had to take a ticket to the register to buy a game, which would then be given to you from this big enclosed booth they kept at the front of the store. The experience seemed so much more magical than today’s R-Zone, which is basically Any Electronics Department in Any Store, USA. But I digress.
I had a brief opportunity to glance through the guidebook there; I would have looked more, but my dad was never big on me treating any store I walked into like a library, nor did I have any money of my own with which to purchase it. But, I did discover that the book held a lot of details I never knew, such as those chains of fireballs in Bowser’s castles being called “fire wands,” if memory serves, and illustrations I had never seen before and never saw again until the advent of the internet. Well, one, anyway; the Link you see to your right, fully equipped with all the items found in the original Legend of Zelda game.
For things like that in a physical format alone, I have long wanted these books, though I never truly knew what the other two held. However, that recently changed.
I cannot recall what I had initially been searching for, but I came across a page known as TRsRockin.com, and was looking over the Old Mario-bilia section when I happened across the book, which was described as having “bizarre artwork that depicts Princess Toadstool as an actual mushroom!” In modern terms, as a “Toad” princess might be more accurate. Additionally, there is a picture of the mysterious “Mushroom King” who was rarely spoken of even more rarely ever seen, with the exception of the Super Mario Bros. comics from Valiant. As it happens, the two resemble each other to a moderate degree; I wouldn’t expect that it’s a coincidence. But inside is more strange artwork, some of which may be familiar to the real oldschool collectors, and one part struck me instantly: “The Super Mario Bros. Legend.”
Click for larger view
Hoping TRsRockin doesn’t mind me mirroring the page here (but be sure to check out the site through the link above, lots of neat stuff).
But not only do we get a different interpretation of Princess Toadstool, better known today by the first name “Peach,” and not only do we finally learn where the mysterious Sears art of Bowser and his minions originated, but we get even more in that style, plus a different “proto-Mario” to match! I’ve heard that the reason for the many different stylings was that they were still in a phase where they were trying to nail down the style and designs they wanted to use for the characters. And as much as I enjoy these early looks, I must say I am glad they settled on the designs that we see today.
So now, the mystery is solved, and yet, I do not feel satisfied, as I want these books now more than ever. Sadly, they are very old (say, 20 years or so) and definitely out of print. But they’ve definitely become desired items for my collection, and with any luck, I’ll someday manage to get my hands on some in decent condition. Of course, I also realize that by making this post, I’m probably kicking myself royally by creating a potential demand for these books. Yet, I felt this must be shared. Of course, the smarter course of action would have been to get the books, then tell this tale (with pics of my own), but I have no idea how long such a venture may take; from what I’ve seen, they don’t exactly come cheap.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of a Nintendo history lesson/nostalgia trip. Maybe sometime I can share what I know about some other little bit of retro-trivia, perhaps with a touch of my own memory mixed in.