In the earlier days of gaming, Nintendo Power was one of the most popular magazines in the industry. Sources say that at one point it was reaching nearly 2 million households per month, although it’s circulation shrunk to under 500,000 when it was cancelled in 2012 (it has since come back as a podcast). Bringing tips, tricks, announcements, articles, and more to Nintendo-adoring audience, it was a delightful sight when one showed up in the mail. Yours truly was a subscriber for many years until I cancelled because they began focusing on SNES titles, a console I wouldn’t have until it was too late.
But even a company that tries to avoid controversy as dutifully and rigorously as Nintendo will find itself mired in controversy every now and again. Nintendo Power was the platform for one such event when one of their early issues featured a cover that would send children hiding under their bed and parents calling in with indignation. That issue was #2, which promoted Konami’s 1988 sequel Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.
Featuring a man dressed up as Simon Belmont (although Simon never looked like that in the game), the cover showed the character holding the decapitated head of Dracula, whose eyes still burn bright red. Bathed in red with an unearthly fog rising from the bottom, the image is no worse nor better than many horror VHS covers from the 80’s. However, those films knew they were aimed at adults while Nintendo Power’s primary audience was children, which is the reason why this cover was the cause of countless nightmares. It also didn’t help that the first image of the cover article was Dracula drawn with an almost Japanese Oni-esque visage, his fangs capture between lips that are curled in a hideous and terrifying grin.
The rest of the article featured maps, advice on what items to buy, how to beat difficult obstacles, and more garish imagery, such as a bleeding brain, a blood-red eye and its optic nerve, and another eye with enough optic nerves that Lovecraft fans will undoubtedly get their tentacle fetish satisfied (no judgment, I assure you).
While it’s certainly tame by any horror fan’s standards, there was still a big hullabaloo that haunted the magazine for a while. In issue #50 of Nintendo Power, the Simon’s Quest cover was deemed “Worst Cover” and the editors wrote that, “…kids had nightmares and so did our phone reps who dealt with the complaints.”
As a staunch defender of Simon’s Quest, I still fully understand the issues that came with the cover. Parents simply wanted to defend their children from things that go bump in the night. However, that’s kinda exactly what the Castlevania series is all about. What a horrible night for a curse indeed…