Nintendo is an odd creature, and while much has been written about the company over the years, often by far stronger voices than my own, it’s a gaming realm that I consider to have an air of holiness. Holy of course does not equal perfect, and even I will readily admit when Nintendo fails to treat its audience right. But I’m in a holiday sort of mood, and this post will likely be a celebration rather than a critique. Because you know what? In this world of flame wars and pointless console allegiances it might be a nice change of pace. Despite whatever negativity you may feel I deserve for defending the company, I hope it’ll give you a warm, fuzzy feeling of holiday cheer. But that may be optimistic on my part.
In an attempt to sound as little fanboyish as possible, I wish to clarify that my relationship with Nintendo is likely ten percent academic, twenty percent cultural, and seventy percent nostalgic. Academic in the sense that I love Nintendo’s bizarre history and place in the development of the industry. Cultural in that I consider Nintendo to have a premiere place in what makes the face, fans, and mindset of video games. Nostalgic because just by chance, Nintendo was what I grew up with.
I still remember a Christmas long ago when my grandparents snuck me an N64 against my parents’ wishes. There’s video evidence of my… extreme reaction somewhere in my house, but I don’t have the mental wherewithal to dig it up out of the hundreds of video cassette tapes my family had amassed. Before that was the astute Game Boy, on which I played Pac-Attack almost exclusively.
Yes, my video game beginnings were indeed humble, and had I began with a PlayStation (which was about a 50/50 chance), this would likely be a very different post, and I would indeed be a fairly different game enthusiast. That’s not to say I dislike PlayStation, in fact it’s quite the contrary. I play my PS3 all the time, but I don’t honor the history and prestige of Sony quite like I do Nintendo.
I think there’s something magical about being a kid and starting that digital life-long adventure. Getting introduced to the virtual realm was not an experience I took lightly and it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was something I would be doing for a good, long time. And so I thank Nintendo. had it not been for the likes of Super Mario 64, Pokemon Gold, and Star Fox, my own adoration of gaming would not have flourished to allow me to enjoy the likes of Mass Effect and Journey.
But in discussing Nintendo, I would be for the worse if I failed to discuss Nintendo’s present, as well as future. Yes, Nintendo’s past is rich and varied. But much of what Nintendo was is no longer, or at least that’s how it seems. Many lament that the charms of Nintendo’s older titles are lost to them now, as many consider the wave of new 2D Mario Games quick cash-ins and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to be a few steps in the wrong direction (among countless other observations). The general consensus is that Nintendo has changed for the worse, some going as far as to say that Nintendo has failed to capture the hardcore crowd since the SNES.
Yes. Nintendo has changed. In many ways it’s become somewhat irrelevant to the mainstay population thanks to the realization it had that games like Wii Fit will always outsell the Super Mario Galaxies of the world, often by pretty wide margins. But did the good games really go away? Can the Nintendo games of today leave the current generation with such a sense of wonder just as the games of the past did for the last generation?
I don’t know, and it’s not a question that can really be answered until the children of today grow up. All I can say is that in my video game identity, Nintendo is a cornerstone, and I bet it is for a number of you too. There’s an element of mystery and discovery that Nintendo games offer, not to mention a high standard of polish. It’s worth noting that I personally find it difficult to picture a Nintendo game in mid-development, almost as if they simple aren’t one day and are the next.
Nintendo in-house productions are strong because video games are all Nintendo knows. Sony and Microsoft can always rely on their other business ventures if, god forbid, their game departments shut production (although much more Microsoft than Sony, these days, unfortunately). If Nintendo stopped making games, Nintendo would cease to exist, and I can’t think of anything sadder.
Whether you play Nintendo games or not, I hope you can at least appreciate its respectable place in the industry and in the hearts of many a game enthusiast, myself included.