Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light is now available on the Nintendo Switch, much to the delight of classic RPG fans. It’s an official localization of the very first Fire Emblem game that was released on the Famicom in 1990, and it’s surprisingly playable thanks to additions like rewind, fast-forward, and save states.
Some dedicated Fire Emblem enthusiasts grabbed the Fire Emblem 30th Anniversary Edition—not without some difficulty because of scarcity—and enjoyed several extra treats with their purchase. Notable extras in the 30th anniversary edition include a hardbound art book, a mock-up NES box for the game, and a fold-out poster that emulates a Nintendo Power. The cover is designed to make it look as if Fire Emblem is the spotlight in the phantom issue.
The poster is an interesting addition because it carries some curious design choices. Our own Editor-in-Chief Kat Bailey unboxed her own 30th anniversary edition and wondered aloud if Marth would be allowed to exist on the cover in all his shameless anime glory. In the ’90s, anime characters on game covers were usually redrawn to appeal to what marketers believed were Western tastes. If the fey-looking Marth was chosen to grace the cover of Nintendo Power in 1990, he would certainly be represented by a grimacing stand-in bristling with muscles.
But the refreshingly untouched artwork of Marth isn’t the only design choice that makes the mock Nintendo Power cover seem a little “off” for its time. Game preservationist Frank Cifaldi and hardcore Nintendo history collector (and Nintendo Power expert) Stephan Reese chimed in with their own observations.
“Typeface is wrong, I like the photo background, don’t know of literally any example of NP using original key art for a cover so I agree with you there,” he tweets. “they’d have commissioned a painting or if early enough dressed someone up for a photo.”
“You wouldn’t regularly start seeing composition like this till [issue] 37 with Lemmings,” Reese adds. “And then it still was all commissioned.”
In other words, the Fire Emblem Nintendo Power mock-up is a nice effort and a fun bonus, but the composition of the cover doesn’t match the mixed-media covers Nintendo cobbled together in the time Fire Emblem would have theoretically received a North American release. There was certainly a fascinating science behind these old designs that involved sculptures, photography, and unique props. Be sure to read our profile of Reese to get a good idea of the oft-bizarre work that went into making an oldschool Nintendo Power cover.