Ask any gamer around and the vast majority will tell you that their earliest memory in some way or another involved Mario and Nintendo. Whether it’s the NES, SNES or the N64, it’ll no doubt be one of them. For me, it would be playing Super Mario World on the SNES and loving every second of it. I played it inside out, backwards and forwards. A classic through and through.
For years Nintendo have remained a hallmark of quality when it comes to games, sure development times may run over but you pretty much are always guaranteed something worth the wait, and as Charles Cecil has said “people will remember you for the quality. They don't remember the fact that you shipped it late”.
Now however, with the gaming arms race moving up into the world of sixty frames per second and 4K quality, many are questioning where Nintendo stand. With bold statements from people such as ex Naughty Dog boss Jason Rubin claiming that the console makers are irrelevant in this era, are Nintendo really becoming irrelevant in the gaming world or are they simply forging alone down a path of slow evolution, choosing to focus on the core premise behind gaming itself? Fun. Good old fashioned fun, the reason each of us picked up that control pad as a child and continue to do so, well into our adult years.
Oddly it seems that one of Nintendo’s biggest problems is slowly becoming one of its stronger suits in a strange sort of way. You may remember some time back, around the time of the transition between its Gamecube into the Wii, that many gamers had come to the decision that while still enjoyable, Nintendo consoles no longer offered anything for the so called ‘hardcore gamer’.
This was due to an apparent lack of first person shooters and opting to not join the arms race of ‘graphics, graphics, graphics!’, but consider for a moment if Nintendo had joined the crowd and focused on farming out C.O.D 300, just where would gaming be? Better off? I highly doubt it.
Think of everything Nintendo Focused on offering, that competitors couldn't match, from its rich collection of RPG and JRPG titles such as Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Monster Hunter, to its Party games which spread the message that games are about fun for everyone, not just socially awkward teens.
In fact, considering how huge the gaming industry has become, with social acceptance so much wider, its hard to think that Nintendo and their focus on breaking down the barriers and concept of ‘gamers’, its almost silly to think that Nintendo didn't play a huge part in this transition!
This is largely due to the Nintendo Wii opting to utilise this strange set of controllers known as the wiimote and nunchuck. I’ll admit it, much like everyone else, when I first saw those motion controls I grew cold. I mean how can you play a serious game if you’ve got to actually move your body around and you’re not even equipped with a single piece of moulded plastic with ten buttons and two thumb sticks right? Right?!?!
Well actually, wrong. I was completely wrong.
Sure it was novelty at first, getting your nan up to throw a bowling ball around and have a punch up with your dad (perhaps even on Wii Boxing) but it was more than that. Just look at how many unique and exclusive titles were born on the Wii, simply because developers loved the idea of a brand new way to interact with games. From third party titles like Madworld, with its daring and chic monochrome cel shading or Muramasa: The Demon Blade, a gorgeous 2D scroller which just ebbed with charisma and beauty while offering blisteringly difficult battles and a rich story, to first party greats such as Super Mario Galaxy, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Metroid: Other M.
Looking back, you’ll find a long list of amazing games and in fact be hard pressed not to find something that will appease your gaming tastes and needs.
After all the chastisement of abandoning core gamers by adopting a brave new controller, the other big gaming platforms worked their hardest to retroactively adopt similar means. Sony went for the not so subtle imitation in the form of the Playstation move, while Microsoft went a step further with its Kinect, opting to remove the control pad completely. Now if moulding the future of a medium isn't considered relevance, then I seriously wonder what is.
In many ways Nintendo have always been pioneers of the home console market, Their pioneering work on motion controls from the early stages of devices such as the power glove, which can only be described as five oven gloves stitched together and a VHS player glued on top, but they've even attempted VR headsets long before the Oculus Rift became such a huge phenomenon through Kickstarter. The Virtual Boy may not have had a roaring success, but it gained some traction and to be fair it actually doesn't look that far off current competitors aesthetically, so you have to wonder if they weren't doing something right after all.
Fast forward to today and while, sure, you could say the Wii U didn't exactly have a stellar launch and are obviously still struggling to gain a foothold, but I still believe that Nintendo are once again pioneering with their gamepad, which not only promotes second screen gaming, it even gives you the second screen straight out of the box, which is more than can be said for Sony and their PS Vita or Microsoft asking you to pick a tablet yourself (it can be any tablet, as long as its the surface, if you want the real deal at least). The Wii U has even offers the ability of changing your main gaming screen from TV to tablet with ease, something that Sony have toiled with on their PS Vita for some time (and still not really succeeded) so once again it seems, Nintendo have the future down. Right?
I know what you're thinking thought. It's all well and good attempting to mould future tech, but if the graphics aren't the best and the online service isn't the most superior, then whats the point?
Now, while 1080p at 60 frames per second (super smooth graphics to you and me) is nice and has a bit of wow factor, if the game is pants its pants. Simple. Great gameplay is the goal, and its in demand more than ever with the massive rise in 2D scrollers along with 8-bit/16-bit games, as people are on the hunt for that retro feel. The chance to recapture that childhood fun of a tough as nails game with a qwerky (not technologically advanced) style. Something the Wii U is ready for, I'm looking at you Shovel Knight.
This new found love of retro, I believe, will eventually effect gamers opinions of online play also, with the eventual love of couch gaming making a come back. Something that modern multiplayer just can't replace. Sure, jumping on line and quick-scoping Chad from L.A is great, but sometimes you just want to invite your mate Dave round and lay the smack down in person, to really rub in that victory. That little bit of human contact is key after all, my best memories of playing amazing games such as Sonic and Streets of Rage as a kid, are of me playing while sitting with a friend, as close to the TV as I could get.
So think about it. I mean REALLY think about it. Are Nintendo irrelevant?
Although we may have to settle in for somewhat of a wait for the glorious first party exclusives we've been promised, Nintendo remain in my eyes, and I believe in many others, the biggest name in the industry with some of the best franchises around, which never seem to stumble. Continuing to remain the hallmark of quality and fun for anyone willing to pick up a gamepad, wii mote or classic controller!
I believe Nintendo are still as relevant as ever, we just need to give fun a chance!