Everybody's Favourite Super Mario

Everybody’s Favourite Super Mario

When I think of computer games, I immediately think Nintendo.  Growing up, I was always a Nintendo kid.  I spent hours playing Mario, Zelda, Starfox, and Super Metroid, to name but a few.  A lot of the games I grew up playing lent themselves to being played alone.  Of course, many worked better as multiplayers.  My friends and I spent hours on games like Mariocart, or Lylat Wars and you can’t talk about multiplayer games without mentioning Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64 (we still occasionally get together with that one).  


But the truth is, Zelda has always been my favourite.  I started with Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy and never looked back.  The fact is that when I first got my hands on The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo something changed.  I would be forever captivated by any game that offered the boy in the green hat and promised a swing or two of the Master Sword in the hope that it might live up to the old SNES classic.  On this front, Nintendo didn’t disappoint.  To this day there are few games that are as good as The Legend of  Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  It was a fantastic game when it was released in 1998, and it’s a fantastic game today in 2014. 


The world has changed dramatically however, since the old N64 days.  Sega stopped being Nintendo’s greatest rival and Sony and Microsoft got in on the act.  With the wave of smartphones, always-on broadband, and tablets, there has been speculation that the days of the traditional games console are numbered.  The truth is, they are not.  Yes things have changed, and multiplayer games don’t need the players to all be in the same room anymore, but that doesn’t mean that people are no longer playing on consoles.  Nintendo is as aware of this as anyone.  Just look at Pokémon X and Y.  Players can choose to battle and trade with each other anywhere in the world as long as they are connected to the web and many new players would probably ask “what’s a link cable?” if you told them how you traded on Red and Blue.


While Nintendo has embraced change in gaming trends, it has faced its share of difficulties.  The Gamecube, for all its merits, was largely overshadowed by its competitors.  When Nintendo launched the Wii in 2006 it looked like it had hit the nail on the head.  Rather than try to compete with Sony, Microsoft, and the PC market, it took another path.  At a time when online games were clearly becoming dominant, Nintendo offered a system that directly encouraged people to share the experience of playing together in a truly social way.  It also offered gamers the ability to experience the game as if they were in fact a part of it rather than simply bashing buttons.  Remember when Link finally arrived on the Wii in The Twilight Princess?  You had to swing the Wii remote as if it was a sword.  It was an inspired design that was unlike anything else on the market at the time.


Nintendo has reinvented the wheel many times in its history and it has tried to do it again with the 3DS.  This  hand-held took the gaming principles of the dual screen DS and incorporated a stereoscopic 3D effect into the top screen.  While the results were impressive, it meant that the device was expensive.  Concerns over the viability of Nintendo were raised by many in the media when Nintendo slashed almost a third off the price of the 3DS shortly after it launched and many said it was doomed.  But the 3DS has gone from strength to strength as more games have been released and demand continues to grow.  With the launch of the 3DS, Nintendo rereleased some of its old classics in 3D.  Games like Starfox 64 3D and Ocarina of Time 3D were what drew me to the console and as more and more games have been released, the 3DS has grown to be one of the most popular games consoles on the market.  It’s proved so popular in fact, that a 2D version has was launched for younger gamers who cannot afford the 3D version, but still want to play all of the games available for it.


The elephant in the room for the last 15 months has been the Wii U.  Nintendo’s latest flagship has struggled to gain any traction in the market, and has a rather limited number of games available compared to other consoles.  When it was first announced, there were many who weren’t sure what the Wii U was supposed to be.  It felt like an updated Wii, with a strange controller and there is no getting away from fact that the Wii U has not seen the success of its predecessor.  This is a problem that hasn’t really gone away in the time the console has been on the shelves.  The fact that Nintendo has just dramatically slashed their sales forecasts on the Wii U demonstrates this.


But the biggest hurdle for Nintendo has been where to go from here?  It is not all bad news.  Nintendo just recently released Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U and the 3DS, and it’s great.  Nintendo has a big year of releases ahead in 2014, with games like Super Smash Bros and Mariokart 8 in the pipeline.  Since the 3DS first came out, Nintendo has been very much going back to its roots.  Rereleasing some of the most popular N64 games just proves that.  But Nintendo has now taken the next step.  It is releasing games that are not just designed as a new game to play; these games are designed with people like me in mind.  Yes, there is enough in them that they stand as a good game on their own.  But what really makes them work is the nostalgia factor.  For me, Pokémon X and Y hit it out of the park on that front.  For the amount of fun I had discovering new Pokemon, I enjoyed even more, the fact that I was reliving my first experiences of Pokémon on my original GameBoy.  But Pokémon was just a taster.


The big release of 2013, the game that I was most excited about was The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.  A new Zelda game was always going to have me rushing out to buy it, but this one is slightly different.  This one is a direct sequel to A link to the Past on the Super Nintendo.  It only took 21 years, but it was worth the wait.  It feels like playing the original, but with better graphics and audio.  It has all the familiarity of a rerelease of the original; but at the same time it feels like a whole new game.  It’s a proper sequel from that perspective.  When playing it, it brings back all of the joy from the original but it has a new story to follow, so there’s a brand new adventure to enjoy when playing it too. 


The future of Nintendo games can be seen in the past.  As much as I love rereleases, there has got to be something new.  A band can’t just keep putting out greatest hits albums and expect to stay great, and neither can Nintendo.  They need to bring out games that feel fresh and new.  But if those games can tie into the ones that we all grew up with and reawaken that inner child who happily spend entire finger blistering summers in front of the TV playing Mario, then Nintendo will continue to be great.  Because after all, I’m still the same little boy who played those games all those years ago, and deep down, so are you

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