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We’re formerly from the video game industry. Currently in the TV industry. Published authors. Producers. Geeks. Gamers. Collectors. Malcontents. Layabouts. Sassypants.

By Jason, Jenni & Steve
Made in Los Angeles

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©2014 Hands in the Air
Hands in the Air

Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo 2013 - Memorabilia and playable classics at the Video Game History Museum. Atari’s infamous “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” for the Atari 2600 was available to play!

Video game cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con 2013:

Tetris, Pac-Man & Blinky, Wreck-It Ralph’s Sugar Rush racers and Fix-It Felix, Princess Peach, Animal Crossing’s Villager and a Piranha Plant.

Nintendo cosplay (Hipster Luigi & Daisy!) & photo opps at San Diego Comic-Con 2013.

Hipster Luigi insists on using Fire Flowers as soon as possible because he likes things before they get cool.

One-thousand two-hundred coins later, we’ve earned our free reproduction of Nintendo’s Game & Watch: Ball LED game from Club Nintendo.

Jason & Jenni Uncensored: Their Exclusive & Complete Contributions to the Final Issue of Nintendo Power

Nintendo Power December 2012 coverJenni and I (Jason) are currently featured in the December 2012 issue of Nintendo Power, which is the last-ever issue of the 24-year-old magazine, but they didn’t include everything we wrote for the final edition. As former staff writers, we were asked to write about our favorite NP memories for the “Power Players” article, and Jenni says I should be offended that they cut out 50% of my contribution (Including my Majora’s Mask story! I’ll never let anyone forget that I localized that!). They edited out a lot less of Jenni, but her frosted pee story somehow made the cut.


Here’s the complete, unedited article we submitted:

Jason Leung:
I’ll always be grateful that writing for Nintendo Power led to me writing the English text for The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. My former editor became Nintendo of America's Localization Director, and she recruited me to punch up and localize the follow-up to Ocarina of Time. I spent months playing a rough version of the game before flying out to Kyoto to work at Nintendo headquarters with Mr. Miyamoto and his team on what is probably the darkest, most tragic plot line underscoring any of Link's adventures. The story was all about loss, regret and helping people move on, and my experience closely paralleled Link's (emotionally, at least) as I put in countless hours working on the script in an exotic, unfamiliar land far away from friends and family. I got to introduce Tingle (“Koolah-Limpah!”), come up with names I thought were clever (it took me a while to sell the team on naming the Zora band “The Indigo-Go's”) and write some sad, happy and sometimes silly dialogue. Majora's Mask credits The bickering skeletons in The Ancient Castle of Ikana (“Feeble!”) was particularly fun to write, and the “Behind the Mask” diary I wrote for the magazine of my experience is still the best and most heartfelt thing I’ve written professionally. Contributing to the Zelda canon was an amazing honor and opportunity, and it all happened because of Nintendo Power.

Jennifer Villarreal:
There are so many things I’m proud of from my time at Nintendo Power. 

One of the most challenging things I did at NP was writing The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons guide with Jason. We didn’t have an English build of the games until it was time to fact check. So we played both games in Japanese, and I learned a tiny amount of Kanji (long since forgotten) to read the menu items.Then we had to play through the games again super fast in English to check our work against the book we’d written. I was the first person at Nintendo of America to get all 120 stars in Mario Sunshine, which was way easier than playing a Zelda game in Japanese on a deadline. I also wrote one of the Pokemon player’s guides in a week, though honestly, I forget which one.

Jason:
Shortly after I started writing for the magazine, I somehow became the spokesperson for all of Nintendo’s publications and I starred in some videos where I was hawking Nintendo Power and the official Player’s Guides. One infomercial played on a loop on the floor-to-ceiling video wall across from one of the conference rooms at Nintendo of America, so I’d cringe whenever we had a meeting there and my giant head would be  through the meeting room’s window. The video also played at every Nintendo kiosk in every Target in America, so that’s probably the most exposure I could ever get away with in that store without getting arrested for exhibitionism. People still claim they remember seeing me in those ads.

Jenni:
One summer, there were only three writers (me, Jason Leung and Drew Williams) on staff, and a whole lot of player’s guides to write, plus the magazine. We would get there at 9 AM and stay ‘til sometimes as late as 3 AM, then start the process over the next day and even some weekends. It was grueling, but we got it done. Sure, I don’t remember anything about that summer, but I know people got their player’s guides and the magazine shipped on time. 

When we were working late, Jason and I liked to play stupid pranks. We would write ridiculous fake emails to the website team, to see if they’d pass them back as potential Player’s Pulse letters. We bought silly toys and sent them through interoffice mail to weird combinations of people, so they wouldn’t see the common thread and realize it was us who’d sent them. We’d rearrange people’s desks and the art on the walls. We posted fake ads for fake bands on the office bulletin board. I guess what I’m saying is sleep deprivation makes a lot of stupid things seem extremely funny.

Jason's Pokecenter Art
This is fake Pokemon fan art that Jason created for Jenni’s Pokecenter column. It was featured in an issue of Nintendo Power and attributed to a made-up reader. It was to commemorate Brock leaving the TV series. Nobody ever submitted Brock art.


Jason:

Toward the tail end of my tenure I started covering toys for the magazine, so when we partnered with toy company Joyride Studios, I got to work with them to create Nintendo Power-branded action figures such as Luigi and Link. I wrote their packaging copy and helped them design the look for Metroid’s Samus. imageThey wanted to know what she should look like without her helmet, and I suggested Grace Kelly or Laura Prepon. It still makes me laugh that if you find the toy, you’ll see that she looks an awful lot like that tall girl from “That ’70s Show.”

Jenni:

I named the Poltergust 3000 in Luigi’s Mansion, however, my first suggestion was much better: Boover. Shout out to NOA’s lawyers for saying no to so many awesome names, subtitles and whatever else I suggested to the localization team! I am also a voice in a GBA (heh AGB) game that came out only in Japan.

I was the person who suggested to Alan Averill that he use the blue slime from Dragon Warrior as his avatar in the magazine, then later did a little feature about him in Player’s Pulse. Frankly, I created a monster. He sort of owes me everything? Basically everything. If it were up to him, he would have been this weird, gnarled wooden figurine someone brought back from a trip somewhere, or a stained glass hippo lamp. You’re welcome, Alan. You’re welcome, fans.


Jason:
I wrote the box copy for Banjo-Kazooie’s N64 packaging. In Kirby Tilt ‘n’ Tumble, you can hear me saying the game name on the title screen.

Jenni:

When we got an early build of Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, Alan Averill would hole up in an empty office and play it, since it was top secret for NP eyes only. Jason and I would sometimes come in and watch, and then do dumb stuff like snatch the remote to raise and lower the volume, turn off the TV, or change the channel to make him think it was an insanity effect from the game. We even flickered the lights in the room because he played in the dark and frankly was asking for it. 

I tried my best in the Classified Information code section to explain the complicated series of button pushes that unlocked all the stuff in GoldenEye 007, but to this day, some people think we published bum codes. We didn’t! It was just super, super hard to enter the codes correctly and I guess my explanation was lacking. Whoops.

The NP Staff with Mario and Sonic
One day, we’ll all get back together and recreate this Nintendo Power staff photo like all those legendary jazz musicians are always doing.

Jason:
Jenni and I were the pranksters of the Nintendo Power staff, and we’d often do things to mess with the other geeks in the company. Once, we created a poster for a fake band called Orc Factor 5. It was a “Rock ‘n’ Role-Playing” ORChestra playing at the local renaissance fayre’s “Yeti Expedition Benefit Concert.” They were playing the stage between the leathersmith’s tent and Ye Olde Cinnabon Shoppe. We posted it on the bulletin board by the cafeteria, and let’s just say several geeks expressed interest in the band’s singles, “Pewter Figurine” and “Hobbit (Ye Can’t Stop It).” I’m looking at you, Alan.
 
Jenni:
This is probably too much for the mag, but: The top prank we ever played was on Mr. Drew Williams. He said he’d drink frosted pee and eat poop if the entire staff got WideBoys (N64-shaped carts that allowed you to play Game Boy/GBA games on your N64) for their desks. Well, we did. So for a week, we served Drew lemonade and poop-shaped foods (a slightly melted Baby Ruth, black beans piped from a tube into shape, a hot-dog-shaped hamburger sans bun, etc.) because I guess we can’t let things go. Don’t you wish you’d gotten to work with us?

So there you have it, the uncut director’s version. Be sure to check out our original Nintendo Power retrospective article, which is totally different from both this and what’s in the December 2012 issue. It includes more exclusive memories from us, Drew and Nate along with other writers who weren’t in the final issue, including Andy and Paul, plus designers Sonja, Tony, Matt, Emily and Sarah.
 
For more, stalk us 140 characters at a time on Twitter! @Hands_inthe_Air | Jenni @chickytown | Jason @pantsarama

Nintendo Power Staffers Remember

As former Nintendo Power greats, Jason and I (Jenni) took the news that Nintendo Power would soon be shipping its last issue like a Deku Nut to the head.

We’ve been seeing tributes around the internet, and decided to throw our two gold coins in. Then we thought, hey, we know a lot of the former staffers (spanning the heydays of the SNES to the Wii). Let’s ask them for their favorite memories, too!

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Paul Shinoda, Writer

Working from notes from Japan, I cited Falco’s last name as “Lombardi” in the Star Fox 64 player’s guide. I got it wrong. It was supposed to be “Rambaldi,” after Carlo Rambaldi, Italian sfx artist, whom Miyamoto admired. It appeared as “Lombardi” in official U.S. publications for YEARS.

Drew Williams, Writer

The comments from tour groups that used to walk by the Power area when it was next to Cafe Mario. One notable incident: I had been trying all morning to get gold medals for every level on an early build of “Rogue Leader.” As I was about to have an aneurysm, a dad in a passing tour group leaned down to his son and said, “Look, these people are [air quotes] “working.”

Sonja Morris, Designer

One of my favorite projects was the three-part Secret of Mana insert I worked on. It was a great collaboration for a great game.

 

Nate Bihldorff, Writer

Anyone who ever worked the Player’s Pulse pages remembers those giant bins of letters that arrived every month. It always blew my mind seeing those stacks, and whenever I felt burned out, opening a few letters would remind me of how it felt to be a kid with a new Nintendo game. While we all tended to write for as broad an audience as possible, in my mind, I was always writing for my ten-year old self that would have been writing those same letters—trying to reach back across the years to make that kid smile.

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Jason Leung, Writer

Besides getting paid to play video games and then write about them, my favorite memory of working at Nintendo Power was getting the opportunity to write the English screen text for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask and going to Kyoto, Japan for a month to work alongside Shigeru Miyamoto and his team on localizing game. It was an honor to be a tiny part of Nintendo and Zelda history, and it was also an honor to take part in other Nintendo Power shenanigans including: meeting Gary Coleman, Richard Kiel (Jaws from the James Bond movies), Tony Hawk (I think every Nintendo Power staffer has met him at least a dozen times) and getting paid to go to London with Jenni to chaperone a contest winner. Plus, I love the one time a bunch of us took a limo to the airport to fly to E3 because it was cheaper than each of us taking a cab, shuttle or parking, and then we ended up pulling up behind our boss at Sea-Tac who was baffled by our arrival.

 

Andy Myers, Writer

One of my most memorable NP assignments was going to Paris, France to meet up with Ubisoft reps and play a very early build of Red Steel for Wii.

I’d never been to France before. As luck would have it, I arrived smack dab in the middle of the 2005 French riots. The streets were full of masked youths blocking intersections and smashing cars. I got into a cab with a crazy Frenchman with a club, who would drive right into the middle of an occupied intersection, jump out of his car, then start waving his club and threatening all the young rioters until they dispersed. It was utter mayhem.

I stayed in the Paris for two days, conducted my business with Ubisoft, then hurried home. I’ve yet to return to the City of Love.

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Paul Shinoda, Writer (again)

After watching a work cut of the first episode of the dubbed Pokemon TV series, Mr. Tsuboike [NP Editor-in-Chief] and I agreed that it would NEVER be successful in the U.S.

 

Tony Sandoval, Designer

There are a lot of good memories from working on the mag. I’ll go for the knee-jerk reaction. The first thing that popped in my mind was working on a review for Tamagotchi. I created a character named MALF. I wanted to drive it til’ the wheels came off, so I fed him all the cake he wanted, then he would get sick and take a dukie, then I would give him shots to get better and then repeat! Poor little MALF didn’t live long, but I think he may have sprouted a little horn before he died. He left the screen spreading those little angel wings! What a funny game!

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Jenni Villarreal, Writer

Writing the Player’s Guides was my favorite part of the job, even though it was the hardest part…uh, if you did it right. I’m sure anyone can understand how satisfying it is to know that not only did you finish the hell out of a game, but you did it (mostly) on your own and sometimes in a language you didn’t understand…and then you wrote a book about it in like, a week or two. If you also managed to sneak in lyrics to songs like “Theme from ‘Mahogany’ (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” and “Radio, Radio”, or a handful of very clever double entendres, well, so much the better.

Paul Shinoda, Writer, Clearly Not an Editor (just kidding, <3 u Paul)

It’s amazing to consider the impact Nintendo Power had on a generation of gamers, including many who currently work in all capacities within the industry. Someone I’ve worked with for more than a decade in development, an art lead who is very serious about his work, and not one generally given to sentimentality, turned into a drooling fanboy when he found out I once worked on the magazine. We’ve been friends for years, but he suddenly seemed to be putting me somewhat on a pedestal, once he found out I was part of something so iconic to his childhood and his eventual career.

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This photo is like “The Last Supper” of Nintendo Power, except we’re doing a taste test of Pokemon cereal and Pop-Tarts. Either Jason or Pikachu is Jesus in this picture. Probably Pikachu.

Drew Williams, Writer (yeah one more, why not, I let Paul go on and on)

I’m pretty sure that working on the Conker’s Bad Fur Day guide was the most fun I had at Power. The writers nailed the “field manual” tone and designers created a thing of beauty—in spite of (or maybe because of) the lack of character art. 

When we shipped the guide, it was wrapped in plastic like a porn magazine. I think we sold about five of them.

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Jason Leung, Writer (look, he was there a long time…)

Runner-up memories: 1) Writing the Game Boy Camera Funtography Guide. I loved that gadget and spent countless hours snapping pictures and editing photos with it. Initially, almost every page of the guide had a picture of me on it, since I was taking all the photos myself. 2) The last day of Nintendo online chat with fans (a bunch of the staff chatted with fans every week). The kids got so emotional when Jenni and I announced we had resigned. (We resigned pretty much 10 years ago around this time, and 10 years later, now the magazine is calling it quits. Coincidence? Yes, a big one!) It turned into a really tender chat, and that’s when it really set in what an impact the magazine and writers had been having on everyone’s childhood.

 

Matt Fisher, Designer

Lots of great memories… being able to attend E3, the Nintendo press events and parties, sitting in the office overhearing Oliver’s conversations while playing Hey You, Pikachu!, working on the Conker’s Bad Fur Day guide… Good times, good times.

Emily Sakura Crowell, Designer

Definitely going to E3! The excitement of my first NP layout (Spider-Man) and the feeling of accomplishment of stuffing a Final Fantasy game down to 4 pages. Take that Final Fantasy! I did a timeline for it BEFORE facebook did a timeline. Getting together with everyone in the office to play some multi-player for a Metroid player’s guide during the workday. It had to be done. It was for work. And it was awesome. Being introduced to Pokémon…..not knowing just how much time I would eventually come to spend on it! And working on Twilight Princess.

Sarah Robinson, Designer

Getting to work on Dragon Warrior pretty much cemented my love for RPG games old and new!

 

Jenni Villarreal, Writer (it’s my Tumblr and I’ll hog it all I want!)

Remember all those amazing trips Nintendo Power gave away in the monthly contests? Yeah, we got to chaperone the winners. VIP tours at amusement parks, E3, Wrestlemania, a week in London…we were the hosts, there to show the winners a good time and do all kinds of awesome stuff on the company dime. So. Fun.

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Jason Leung, Writer (it’s his Tumblr, too)

I also got a kick out of being the TV spokesperson for the magazine, and one of the annual marketing videos of me hawking Nintendo Power and the Player’s Guides was featured at every Nintendo display in every Target store of America for a year. The video also played in a loop on the floor-to-ceiling video wall in a Nintendo merch display area in the office lobby across from one of our glass conference rooms. Whenever there was a meeting, I’m sure people would get distracted/annoyed/seduced by my giant head popping up on monitors. For years around that time, people would tell me they saw me on TV at Target.

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