Monday, 25 November 2013

Leave Nintendo Alone!

This post was originally published on Forces Of Geek on the 14th November 2013. I've realised lately that I'm not the Nintendo naysayer I thought I was. 

Consoles aimed at families, full of the same characters and game franchises, re-hashes of previous games and endless peripherals, pretty much the same for over two decades. It's easy to criticise Nintendo, yet part of me will always want to defend them because their consoles have been home to The Legend of Zelda series, a game which resonated with me, even at a young age but also a game that helped me through some difficult periods of my life. Every time I hear the main theme I can't help but break out a smile, the nostalgia that accompanies the music is unparalleled.

via Etsy store I'mJustSayinInc
Of course, defending a company based on one game alone would be foolish and I'm often called an Xbox fangirl so why am I defending Nintendo's honour all of a sudden? Well, when I reminisce about my past gaming experiences, more often than not, they revolve around Nintendo games despite the fact I only ever owned Sega consoles (I had a Game Boy but I never owned my own Nintendo console until the age of 16).

I used to get my Nintendo fix at friends houses or whenever I spent time with one of my older cousins, those were times I cherished, not because I wanted desperately to play on a SNES or later, the N64 but mainly because I was gaming with other people.

I only have one sister, she's 5 years younger so I never wanted to play with her. My parents would sometimes play Columns with me but what sort of weird child wants to play video games with their parents?

My own history aside, Nintendo's humble origin began in 1889 producing card games, they were incredibly popular for many years but during the late seventies, after several failed attempts at branching out into other, eventually failed ventures in the fifties and sixties like taxi companies, rice and...vacuum cleaners (that's not even the weirdest thing - you should look it up!) they went back to their roots in games. However, these were games unlike their traditional card games which founded the company. Nintendo took a huge risk in 1974 and leapt into the world of electronic games and here they are, still going in 2013.

An advertisement from the late Meiji era in Japan

From card games to toys to video games and a myriad of other things in between, Nintendo have always been willing to take risks while other companies watched them and took notes and when they inevitably made mistakes or failed, unlike other companies they got back up and continued. First to make playing cards from plastic, the first to truly make handheld consoles popular, the first to make cross shaped D-Pad on controllers and the first to release a console with motion sensor controls (not just as a peripheral like the Sony EyeToy).

Other than a rather bad decision to stick with cartridges rather than convert to discs around the time of the N64, Nintendo often make bold, innovative moves with confidence and if they fail, they move on (unlike others who, as we've seen recently with Microsoft and the whole indie game controversy, can sometimes back track and falter under criticism).

Admittedly, I gravitated towards the Sony's PlayStation in my teens and my attitude to gaming changed. Gone were the social, multiplayer days of Nintendo, I was spending hours on my own and although I played some iconic and thoroughly enjoyable titles (Resident Evil, Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII to name a few!) somehow I still remember the Nintendo games more vividly. It might be a heightened sense of nostalgia but the fact remains, the majority of my gaming experience growing up was Nintendo based.

I miss my poor, obsolete GameCube
I took my GameCube to university and it turned out to be a good decision, it brought me and my friends together regularly and was a way of bonding our group, games like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. made it easy to socialise and I was able to expose my new friends to shinier versions of all those games I played on the GameCube and it's predecessors.

When the GameCube was first released I was finishing high school and I spent hours playing games I never had a chance to complete.

I specifically remember, when The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released, the limited edition came with new and updated versions of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

If Nintendo hadn't released this 2-disc extra with The Wind Waker, I might have never played Ocarina of Time and that's a scary thought because without a doubt, it's my favourite game...of time (hehe).

Sometimes, re-releasing previous titles pays off! 
I owe Nintendo for that and so do all of the kids and families that play their games, they might be repeating history and using the same characters over and over but that just means every generation has the chance to experience those games because they were amazing titles and Nintendo have every right to keep making them for that very reason, it's a formula that works for them.

To share something you love with people you care about is a great feeling, I know that in the future, if I ever have children there's a chance they'll be playing a new updated version of a Legend of Zelda game and it will be something I have in common with them, you know, other than genes, a family name, blood and all that other "actual" stuff.

If ever you read anything I've written criticising Nintendo, I hope you know that it's playful criticism, much in the same way I would tease a good friend without any spite because their games have always been there for me. Nintendo as a company is a constant reminder to persevere and never give up. Their name in Japanese even means "leave luck to Heaven".  

Very few companies can boast being established in 1889 and still existing today. Remember that when you accuse them of being a one-trick pony or relying too heavily on the same characters, they are resilient.

And anyway, if you want to criticise about starting with those awful Facebook games like Candy Crush Saga?

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