Oh no, it's time for another self-indulgent article!
Way back in the year 1999, you couldn't pester your favourite vid-con company via Twitter or Facebook or Youtube or whatever the kids are using nowadays. Your options were via email, telephone or- and I know you won't believe me- letters. It was at this time- back when I was 11 years old, obsessed with Pokémon and an avid reader of N64 magazine- that I got into the habit of annoying the living shit out of Nintendo's UK offices (initially THE Games Ltd., and later Nintendo Customer Support) by sending them letters every now and then, mostly because I was behind the curve and didn't have the internet yet. The best thing is, most of my questions were of the obscure kind (as if I'd ask anything else) so I have nothing but sympathy for the poor bastards who had to answer them. To be fair, I'm amazed they took the time to answer them at all!
So, what we have here are all the responses I've managed to save. There's not much, but it's still faintly interesting.
The first letter is also my favourite. My question was about the Game Boy Camera's 'Shoot' menu- as you can see here, it's got Shoot, Magic, Check, Item and... Run? Picking Run either takes you to this screen or one of these three faces (press A on these screens and sometimes they'll tell you 'don't be so silly!'), none of which clue you in as to what the option is supposed to do. I'm not entirely sure why I bothered trying to phone the Nintendo Hotline to get an answer to this question, but as the letter says, I was thwarted by the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Anyway, notice that Mr. Cousins pulls off a masterstroke move, by explaining what Final Fantasy is without mentioning the ultra-popular Playstation title Final Fantasy VII. Done like a master.
These next two are dull- a guide to finding two secret paths in Wario Land II - but hey, they were nice enough to send them.
These are also the last letters I have that use the THE Games Ltd letterhead. There must be someone out there who cares about that!
This letter is one where they got the wrong end of the stick. My question was actually who the Super Mario Club was- they're a subsidiary debug team who show up in the Special Thanks section of several Nintendo games, like Super Mario 64 and Mother 3, and you can find a little more info on them here. However, they thought I was asking about the Nintendo Club, which... Well, that doesn't exist either. It's actually Club Nintendo they're talking about, a quarterly newsletter/magazine exclusive to Europe, which you can find scans of at the excellent Out of Print Archive. As they say in the letter, it was replaced by the Nintendo Official Magazine which, at this point in time, was going through its painful "GREYSTATION SUXXX! NINTENDO R COOL GET YER JOYSTICK GOIN'!1!11" phase (which had readers sending in pictures of smashed Sega/Sony consoles). But hey, a free magazine is a free magazine, right?
The 'ex-demonstration' list they mention in this letter, by the way, was a catalogue of games without the original instructions or boxes used for display purposes that they'd sell to those who asked at mega-cheapo prices. Added bonus- you also received a photocopied manual with each purchase. Righteous!
Finally, this letter is damning evidence that I was an incredibly obnoxious Pokémon fan at this point in time. Well, c'mon, I wasn't that obsessed- all I did was import the games from the US, watch the cartoon series, play the trading card game, purchase a plushie or three... [HA HA HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! YOU WERE THE LAMEST 11-YEAR OLD EVER, MAN! - Ed] ANYWAY, the point is I needed to know all these things- when the original games were coming out in the UK (I needed more trading partners), when Pokémon Snap was coming out (I never bought it), whether they games were identical to the US ones (they were) and when more games would arrive (I imported those too). The last question here, by the way, was me asking where to find Zapdos- remember, I wasn't an internet user at the time (in my more innocent days). Note that the reply is essentially 'Be patient, kid'.
... But wait! While my parents were doing a clear out a while ago, they unearthed another letter that I'd completely forgotten about! This was probably in reply to one of the last ones I sent, and is probably from around the time I started collecting old video games- I must've been asking about their ex-demonstration listings to see if they had any old NES stuff left. Needless to say, they did not. There's also an answer about the Game Boy Printer because of course I had one of those, and as for the Donkey Kong Country bit at the end... I don't remember. The only thing it could possibly be is asking about the purpose of the hidden giant golden animals in the animal buddy bonus stages, because I didn't work out that they were meant to be item multipliers. Or something. Still wish I could find that Earthbound response I got, but this will have to end our story for now.
One more thing to note is that these replies would often come with goodie-bags containing gumf like buttons, stickers, posters (really small ones, like the one pictured above) and, on at least two non-consecutive occasions, the Killer Cuts CD that came free with Killer Instinct. Most of this stuff I've lost in the intervening thirteen years, though. Either this was company policy or they were sending this stuff my way to get me to shut the hell up.
That's all, folks!
I'd like to close by apologising to Richard Cousins, Ann Le Narechal and Suzanne Robbins, the three staff members who replied to my letters.
I was a really annoying 11-year old. Sorry, dudes!
And yes, this is a pretty self-indulgent article with almost no academic merit, but hey...
After three years of talking incessantly about video games, don't you think I deserve a break? Hmm?!
I WROTE THIS IN A DAY. I WAS DESPERATE, ALRIGHT?