Has Nintendo Really Changed?

A look at why Nintendo has, but really hasn’t, changed.

By Greg Wampler. Posted 06/29/2010 13:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

Super Mario Bros. Screen Snippet

Ahhh, there you sit. Waiting for your dad by the door. He’s promised to buy you one of those “Nintendo Thingy’s” you’ve always wanted. The year is 1986 and a few of your friends have been bragging about theirs for a few months now.

Finally, you jump to your feet as you hear the garage door opening. You run to the back door and wait, looking out the window so as not to show how anxious you are.

Your dad then walks in and you see a bag out of the corner of your eye.

A Nintendo Entertainment System ConsoleSears. The bag says Sears,” you think. From what you can remember, Sears was well out of the way for your dad to stop there. You doubted that he would go there for anything else and you were pretty sure he didn’t need anything.

You quickly run behind your dad, but remain far enough away to make it seem like you’re not following him for any reason. Your dad, with a smirk slapped on his face, knows that you are and why you are, though.

At long last, he places the bag on the table and asks, “What was that electronic board game you wanted?”

You look at him, laugh and say, “It’s called a Nintendo, dad.”

“Ohhhh,” he says. “Well, everyone was sold out, so I bought you a VCR for your room instead.”

You completely break down. You don’t know what to think. One minute, you’re going crazy at the thought of playing Super Mario Bros., and the next minute, you feel lifeless. A quiet falls upon the room for a whole minute.

Your dad sees the frown on your face and just how heartbroken you are. He finally breaks the silence and says, “Why don’t you just open it? You may like what I got you even more.”

So, you figure, what the heck. He bought you something, you might as well open it, right?

You grab the bag off the table and notice it’s taped shut, oddly enough, to hide its contents. Once the adhesive is removed, you jump up in the air and scream, “Oh my god! It’s a Nintendo!”

Someone's Old Robotic Operating Buddy (R.O.B.)You then realize everything your dad said was smoke and mirrors. You do find out that he wasn’t completely lying, though. Sears was sold out of the “core” Nintendo bundle and only had the R.O.B. bundle. “This is great,” you thought. Not only can you play Super Mario Bros., which your dad bought separately due to the bundle only having Duck Hunt and Gyromite, but you can play with a robot, shoot the Zapper and even play The Legend of Zelda, which he also bought separately.

You knew you would owe your dad a lot of grass cutting in a few years, if it weren’t for only being 8 years old at the time.

I hope that short story got your mind in the right place, because I want you to compare that to what Nintendo has done with Wii. We’ll leave out the DS for this topic since it doesn’t come up much that Nintendo is “more childish” with its handhelds.

Now, think about the NES getting bundled with R.O.B. That was a robot peripheral that could be very much be thought of as childish today. Were kids mainly playing video games then? Yes, but that’s only because gaming went through a crash a few years earlier and adults didn’t mess with the NES. Even so, those children who were teens during the NES age didn’t pay much attention to the robot– at first, anyways.

My point is: gaming was for a younger demographic then. It wasn’t the games that seemed childish. It was how new and different gaming was from other hobbies.

The NES had a good bit of peripherals that came out for it, just like Wii. Yet those same Wii peripherals are often cited as making the Wii “not hardcore.” People always say that “the traditional controller is a true hardcore gamer’s weapon.”

Yet you know what was said about the NES’s controller? “It’s too weird. There isn’t a joystick. It uses a stupid direction pad for movement and has to be held in both hands, too!” Hmmm, this sounds rather similar to today’s Wii Remote bashing.

Later on, Nintendo would even get people exercising on NES with the Power Pad and World Class Track Meet game. Which, again, sounds very similar to Wii with its much more advanced Balance Board. Also, Nintendo would release the Power Glove. That glove was considered very hardcore, yet only certain games really worked well with its early (and stone age) motion controls. You also had to use the buttons with one hand. So, take that, bashers of the future!

Power Glove. So Bad.

But why was this considered “hardcore” then, and now Nintendo is kiddie play? Why was Super Mario Bros. 3 so badass, yet today Mario is childish? Is it the bright, vibrant colors? I mean, if you really want to break it down, the graphics in today’s “more realistic games” don’t look so real when comparing them to real world photos. There’s always something that doesn’t look quite right, be it the physics or textures. Then, look at a Mario game. There’s nothing to compare it to because it is much more artistic than realistic. The creativity put into those games is just astonishing.

But, what really keeps Nintendo looking “different” and “more childish?” Is it the Mario games; games that haven’t really changed in the look and feel department? I don’t see how. And it can’t be the controllers. Or is it?

The SNES added shoulder buttons and I can remember some fans leaving Nintendo for Sega over them. The N64 was the same way with its controller’s three-pronged design. But isn’t gaming all about the games? The games have changed with the times pretty well; Nintendo has kept up. The company may not be pushing the hardware specs they once did, but their games push the boundaries of what their machines are capable of. Nintendo may not release first person shooters left and right, but they put out new game ideas all the time. This is something they have always done and, probably, always will. Nintendo has always been about the games.

Third parties have been the ones to offer mature games on a routine basis. By the way, I mean “mature” by the rating, and nothing else. Nintendo offers games for all players and most of their games are rated Everyone. Some are rated Teen, and this has never changed.

Kirby's Epic Yarn Screenshot

The one thing that actually has changed about Nintendo is the one thing that should make all the naysayers happy. That’s the fact that Nintendo has really focused on making their hardware look more stylish and grown-up. Wii is a beautiful piece of hardware and DS has been upgraded considerably too. On the other hand, they haven’t changed from bringing us lots of hardware colors, but isn’t that a good thing?

So, I ask you this, has Nintendo changed, or have you? I think for many, it’s you. I’ll admit that I like some of the more mature games that Nintendo may never appreciate, but I will always go for a Nintendo-made game first and foremost. The sheer amount of fun and joy that comes from Nintendo games is just simply unheard of from any other developer on a consistent, reliable basis. It’s always been that way.

Finally, if you have been, please stop bashing Nintendo. They haven’t changed, you have. If you believe that you have grown away from Nintendo, then that’s you and not Nintendo. Don’t bash them and call them childish and say they aren’t the “old Nintendo.” If you want to miss out on Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Zelda: Skyward Sword, so be it, but do it on your own terms, and not Nintendo’s.

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