Nintendo Needs A Mushroom
I used to be all about Nintendo. The original NES was a masterpiece of pure gameplay. I logged hundreds of hours. The SNES was a revelation and brought with it the three games I love most to this day: Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past and two-player fighty game par excellence Street Fighter II. The N64 brought 3D awesomeness and such classics as the seminal FPS Goldeneye. The GameCube brought with it supernatural thriller Eternal Darkness and Zelda: The Wind Waker, and formed the hardware basis for the Wii. And let us not forget the GameBoy, which I had to fight my mother over when she got addicted to Tetris.
Let me not mince my words: Nintendo birthed the modern gaming industry. They are to modern gaming as Apple is to modern computers. Sadly though, the revival and ascendence of Apple is not being mirrored by Nintendo. They are in trouble. The Wii sold a few consoles but not nearly enough games (the license fees from which give console-makers make most of their profits). The Wii U is an unmitigated non-event. The 3DS gives people headaches and eyestrain, me not least. Nintendo has lost its way.
But. Sneaking out almost unnoticed this week is news of a new handheld console, the 2DS. Cheaper, addmittedly ungainly (I’d say butt-ugly but not all butts are created equal) and aimed squarely at the contingent that believes lenticular 3D is the work of the devil. I miss Nintendo. I want them back in my life. I’m thinking of buying one.
But that doesn’t mean Nintendo is clean, sober, and ready to be a productive member of society again. Commentators think the 2DS is too little, too late. I think its hardware design is clunky and off-trend and its marketing is both ghastly and twee. There are people who think Nintendo should call it quits on hardware and simply write software for other platforms. While I don’t think they should give up on hardware, I believe strongly that they should release some of their best-selling franchises on iOS and Android.
While I might be contemplating the 2DS, I already have an iPad. It’s a brilliant (and immense) large-fomat handheld gaming platform as hundreds of iOS developers will attest. The brand power Nintendo commands would mean any competent release would be an instant success. I want Mario, Link, Metroid and Donkey Kong on my iPad. They are some of the best “casual” games ever written. I would buy them all, as would many others. The financial shot in the arm would do Nintendo some good, obviously, but more importantly, writing for a hardware platform they don’t control would force a kind of creativity I think is lacking. They have been playing in their own sandpit for too long. Necessity is the mother of invention and the imposition of constraint would force new approaches, new ideas and the kind of creativity, both in software and hardware, that they have been missing for years. There is a place in the console market for Nintendo, but they have to fight for it.
Please note, this post has been edited due to me being a fuckwit and forgetting the N64 existed 🙂