News Article

The Secrets Of The Nintendo Power Line Experts Are Revealed

Posted by Damien McFerran

Game Counselors were mere mortals after all

Those of you in North America old enough to remember the days before the internet will no doubt recall the Nintendo Power Line. This telephone service offered gameplay tips and hints for struggling players, and was your only hope in a period where online FAQs and strategy guides didn't exist.

The service lost some of its importance with the emergence of the web, and was finally switched off on June 1, 2010. However, there's always been a part of us that admired the seemingly endless knowledge and wisdom of these gaming gods; how could they possibly know every Nintendo title inside out?

Turns out the reality is somewhat disappointing. Imgur user portnoyd has posted photos of two Nintendo Power Line binders, showing hastily-sketched maps, awkward illustrations and even clippings from magazines.

That's another childhood memory ruined, then.


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User Comments (40)



Chunky_Droid said:

Wow! I remember the Australian guys being interviewed for the (now defunct) Nintendo Magazine System back in the day. One of the questions was "how do you get a job as a Nintendo Game expert?", the reply was "you need to have completed every game on a Nintendo console!"

Thinking about it now, they sounded like idiots.



deejrandom said:

Actually this is pretty much what I had in mind when I was a kid. In fact, if you watched the movie The Wizard, it showed this stuff off in pretty good detail. I dunno - I never though the people on the end of the line had played the games they were talking about to death. I just assumed they had access to more material then I did.



paburrows said:

Yeah I remember calling them and could tell that they were trying to look up the answer that I was asking and of course since you were paying by the minute that added time to your parents bill.



Hejiru said:

2010? That recent? I figured they were turned off somewhere in the SNES or N64 days. I don't remember ever hearing about this back in 2010. Well, I mean, I'd heard of them but I didn't hear they will still running.



SteveW said:

I called about a game once and the guy took my phone number and sai he would call back, a couple of hours later he called, he had played up to the point where I was in the game and walked me through the part in question. I remember thinking how amazing the customer service was for that stuff.



Ron_DelVillano said:

My mom and I used to call the number way back when.

I'm also surprised that they were going until 2010. I guess I should have called more often!




Strangely enough, I remember once calling the Nintendo Power Line to get help with trying to find my way to Boom-Boom in the 1st Fortress of World 7 in Super Mario Bros. 3 when I was a little kid. Never knew that the service existed until 2010.



hYdeks said:

already knew this, this has been revealed before Did people actually think they had hundreds of games memorized? Come on



Mode7 said:

I'm pretty sure the smug expression guy is playing the dam level of TMNT.



tertium_quid said:

@Mode7 I think it looks like a Bugs Bunny game on the NES. It was called 'Crazy Castle' or something like that. (Of course, you could be right. I'm not sure.)



mushroomer said:

i never called this number but i did use to call the customer service department all the time.. just to talk about nothing.. they were my buddy.. my pals. they were so friendly and fun to talk to .. i still remember the phone number.. and it still works til this day. 18004222602

this number is forever burnt into my brain



HugoSmits said:

I actually know a few people who worked there... and yes, they did know all games by hearth.
Sure they have some maps and papers (didn’t we all have those?). But you could call them and ask them anything about Zelda and they know by listing to you (which items you had,etc) exactly which thing you missed or still had to do… and that’s not in the binder…



AcesHigh said:

Ummm... please tell me why "another childhood memory is ruined" Mr. McFerran. As you accurately stated, this was a time before the Internet and before Prima's hint guides were big business. It was even before Nintendo and even Sega (I was a game counselor at Sega in the '90s) had online knowledgebases. Those were really early times in the call center industry in general where a lot of the infrastructure to support callers simply didn't exist. The counselors did what they had to. They played the games in record time with the fervor of game testers to cover every nook and cranny just so they could turn arond and make binders and maps for themselves and their fellow game counsellors. In fact, we had to play new releases and complete them over the weekend, create guides and maps for our fellow counsellors by Monday to start taking calls. Try doing that with Phantasy Star III and covering all the different "generations". That was my project. And honestly, it ruined a game that I was SO looking forward to because I had to approach it clinically, in record time, taking notes all the way and basically produce an output where what I really wanted to do was let it sink in and enjoy it at my pace. But that's what we did to support callers the best way possible. but it was a team effort. Different members took on different games and we all shared what we created and learned with the other counselors so everyone who called in had the same level of support possible.

So just because everything was in binders, maps were hand drawn and we even took resources from other places like magazines when we had to (the media actually received review builds weeks before we did), doesn't mean that the magic created in the game counselor corners of Nintendo and Sega were any less meaningful. I look at this article with very fond memories of a time where people really did have to work hard and dig for information to create something we could all share with our fellow gamers. I think today we're all getting too fat, lazy and entitled to all of the information that is so readily available to us. This truly was a golden age in not only gaming but the whole gaming experience in general.



TheVideoGamer said:

Oh man do I remember calling that ph # from time to time!! Every few months that number would show up up the phone bill a couple times & my Dad would flip! The fact that it was a long distance # would actually make me put off calling sometimes & just keep trying myself, plugging away until I actually DID it myself, something i can't really say for gamers nowadays, as hittin up the net for a FAQ or Walkthrough is just oh so super convenient for gamers these days. Hell, you can do it from your smartphone & not even go to the computer/home phone anymore! Or just pause your game & go search online right then & there on the damn GamePad now on Wii U! Easy instant access to FAQS, Codes, Guides, Videos, everything you need to hold your hand just short of playing it FOR you now! See, even though back in the day you called this number, it still was all information that had to be conveyed through conversation. Nobody was answering saying "Oh I'll email/text you a picture of what I mean", no, these guys were good! And you had to pay attention, perhaps even keep notes (as I did when calling about, oh, say, Zelda II or Lolo back in the NES days) to make sure that all this amazing gaming knowledge from on high that was pouring into your ear wasn't just flowing out the other side, as it could be a lot of info to take in! Yeah @AcesHigh , those were the days eh? I would SO SO SO love to get my hand on even ONE of those binders though!!



AcesHigh said:

@TheVideoGamer, I wish I still had mine! I could use it when I play some of my older Master System games and Phantasy Star 1! I DO have the original slides of the screen shots I took for the back of Game Gear games like Shinobi, Woody Pop, Haley's Comet and Joe Montana Football (There's a reason why the Bills are playing the 49ers in the screen shots back then, taking screen shots was an art form! Had to get the right composition, action and framing!



SMW said:

No childhood memories ruined here. This was more of a look into the world of Nintendo's Gods.



ogo79 said:

so if those binders should end up on ebay, you guys would be willing to auction on them?



doctor_doak said:

Yeah.. Hearing advice for NES games like Ghosts 'n' Goblins would've been interesting. In fact most of them..

"Hello, yes...Um sir, the game is simply trying its hardest to kill you!! bye!!"



russellohh said:

@Kyloctopus My years as a QA tester were some of my best. Some people really hate the long hours and playing the same game, but I got to work on an open world RPG. I know that game world better than I know my top 3 favorite games, and I know every weapon and enemy well. That place felt like home far more than any job before or after. I moved on to similar work after my studio shut down, but it really was the best job ever.



StarDust4Ever said:

Nice article. I never called the hotlines though, because I knew my parents would skin me alive if I placed a call to a 1-900 number.



KingMike said:

I believe by 2010 it had become an exclusively machine service. The human service had been discontinued long before that.
Until 1995, it was "free", depending on whatever a standard phone call to the Seattle, Washington area costs you. It was then that they moved the machine respondents to the old number and put human respondents on the 900 number.



Chunky_Droid said:

@Svengoolie: Oh, someone taking my comment a little too seriously.

I referenced a well-known quote about binders in an article with a picture of binders, nothing more.

I'm not American, I have no strong opinions based for or against Romney, as I have no power on who gets voted in.

Though from my perspective I think Obama would have won regardless of whether Romney said something stupid or not.



Spooky said:

I used to work in the Nintendo UK customer support centre until not too long ago, it was the best job I have ever had and probably ever will. Once I was on a call helping with Ocarina of Time for 3 and a half hours!...we sent them a copy of the guide in the end. So many good times



Moviefan2k4 said:

@SethNintendo Contrary to popular belief, "The Wizard" actually had a decent plot; the games were just a way of showing the main character's intelligence. I wanted to be a Game Counselor when I grew up, too.



anniezaleski said:

@HugoSmits Hey! My name is Annie Zaleski, and I'm a journalist who's been trying to track down some of the experts who worked there for a piece — are you still in touch with anyone who worked there? Please let me know — would love to try to speak with a few. My email is: apstudiozaleski AT gmail DOT com. (You know the drill.) Thanks!

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