I have a bit of a history when it comes to Nintendo.
The Nintendo Entertainment System was my first ever console. I used to play Duck Hunt with my brother. The game had no story, ducks appeared and you shot them. I imagined that the person shooting the ducks was a hunter who later intended to eat the ducks. Evidently I was role playing as a maniac who ate a hundred ducks for dinner every day of his life.
Biowareís own Paul Barnett has said that every gamer has their own golden age. The golden age is a time when we play games obsessively and discover all the things we love about gaming.
Iíve thought about this and I find it hard to pin down my own golden age. Maybe I didnít have one. Or maybe it was my entire childhood, starting with the NES and ending with the Gamecube.
Christmas day 1997. That year, me and my brother opened up a Nintendo 64. It was a good day. I love Christmas in general. I love the food, the presents, the decorations, everything. That day in í97 I played Super Mario 64 for the first time.
I couldnít believe it. I had nothing to compare it to. Literally nothing. The last game I played before Super Mario 64 was probably, Shadow Dancer or Cool spot, Megadrive games.
I wonder if new gamers will ever get to have this kind of experience. Games are still young, but I donít see any big revolution on the horizon. It was a different time back then. These days, surprises are hard to come by. With the N64, I canít remember if I even knew what the controller would look like before I took it out of the box.
Maybe this was the start of my golden age. A time of magazines, cheat books and demo disks. I had just started high school, which I mostly hated. Most, if not all, of my friends played games which we would anticipate, play and discuss together.
The Pokemon phenomena, Final Fantasy VIII being on four discs, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions, Dreamcast, brief glimpses from the history of my gaming life. I played anything I could get my hands on but I had a special fondness for Nintendo.
Many consider the Gamecube a flop. I consider it one of the greatest consoles ever released. When I think of Gamecube, I think of change and innovation. On this console Nintendo took three of itís biggest names, Mario, Zelda and Metroid and released a trio of games unlike anything anyone would have expected. They also, for the last time that I can recall, launched a new IP in Pikmin.
Thanks to the Gamecube, I was sold on the Wii before I even knew it existed. In December 2006 I picked up Nintendoís new machine. Fully expecting it to be my main console for this generation.
Things started well with Twilight Princess. The game was large, technically impressive and filled with enough new ideas to keep things interesting. Perhaps I should have taken it as a warning that the only Wii game I was interested in at launch recieved a simultaneous release on Gamecube. At the time I was unconcerned.
The following year was a bad time to be a Wii owner. Most of 2007 saw only terrible third party games. Nintendo had created a console so new and unusual only they knew how to make games for it.
This was only part of the problem. The Wiiís hardware was hopelessly outmatched by both the Playstation 3 and the X-Box 360. This meant that third parties were placing all their big money into games which had no chance of being ported to the Wii. This also worked the other way. Developers had to either create a game dedicated to the Wii and the Wii alone, or else ignore it entirely.
The Wii languished. Without the third party support it so badly needed, it was up to Nintendo to carry the system on itís own. Think back to the Gamecube, Capcom alone released a string of incredible games, Killer 7, Resident Evil 4, Viewtiful Joe. Inventive, new, fun. Exactly what the Wii was in need of.
Despite how many worthy titles would eventually make their way to the Wii, the console was a failure in my eyes. In July 2008 Nintendo presented perhaps the most infamous E3 press conference of all time. The highlight of which was a spectacular demonstration of Wii Music. Thatís where Nintendo lost me and I suspect many others as well.
In the years following, Nintendo seemed to realise the error of their ways. A series of games were released appealing to long time Nintendo fans. New Super Mario Bros Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Mario Galaxy 2.
If I were to sum up all of these games in one statement, it would be this. Enjoyable but not exciting. Or perhaps, enjoyable but not surprising, which is more or less the same thing. It looked as if Nintendo had lost the creative spark I had enjoyed so much in the Gamecube era. No risks were being taken, which was unusual as DS and Wii sales would suggest Nintendo was in a better position than ever to be taking risks and trying new things.
Again, the problem was mostly with my perception. Games like Kirbyís Epic Yarn were out there but I had stopped looking.
In March 2011, Nintendo took another hit when they poorly handled the 3DS launch. My confidence in Nintendo had reached an all time low by the time Wii U was announced at E3 that year. Half heartedly, I examined footage of the Wii U. It was some what confusing. I couldnít tell if it was a new console or just a controller. What ever it was, I saw people throwing ninja stars and hitting golf balls off it. It was everything I didnít like about the Wii. I wasnít interested.
As I type this, there is, in my wallet, a slip of paper which is a receipt for the deposit of £10. This I payed to secure for myself a Wii U at launch. What happened, I can hardly say.
The three games that got me interested in the Wii U in the first place (Pikmin 3, Rayman Legends and Bayonetta 2) are all sequels. Which hardly fits in with what I just finished complaining about.
My understanding of the Wii U has changed. Having seen footage of the thing in action with actual games. To me, it looks like what the Wii U does is turn your TV into a giant DS. The day I thought this to myself was the day I seriously considered I might want a Wii U.
Back in the early days of the DS, I was playing a game called Another Code: Two Memories. It is a very clever game and to my mind no other game has better taken advantage of the unique properties of the system. There is a puzzle in Another Code that requires you to partially close the DS. As you do so, you may notice the image on the lower screen as it becomes overlaid with the reflected image of the top screen. At the moment this happened to me I near enough had a heart attack, I was so bowled over.
Picturing the Wii U as a kind of home console DS brought this to mind and other memories. Perhaps I can still be surprised. The point is I donít know what Nintendo will do with the Wii U but I am excited to find out.