I got my first Nintendo system when I was nine-years-old. I was sitting on an airplane, ready to strap in for the five-hour flight to Barbados for our yearly family trip. Minutes before takeoff my mother leaned over and handed me a small purple and black case. I hastily unzipped it to see a beautiful purple Gameboy Advanced SP sitting there, the surface sleek and shiny. Not only was it my first Nintendo system, but my first video game console, period.
I spent the entire flight with the two games my mom had given me: Bionicles and Lord of the Rings. My eyes barely left the screen, remaining fixed on the bundles of pixels as they floated across the screen. From there my collection of games only grew, with several classic Nintendo games making up a good chunk of my library.
The countless hours I spent clicking away at the buttons on my GBA led me to eventually get a DS, then a Wii, then a 3DS, and even the struggling Wii U. Nintendo has played a vital role in my childhood and how I have developed as a gamer.
Nintendo has a long and storied past, and they know it. Their franchises are household names, known across the globe. Everyone’s at least heard of Super Mario, Donkey Kong, and Zelda. These series have started people’s gaming careers, so every time a new entry in one of these treasured series comes out, it’s an event.
Every company relies on nostalgia to an extent. It’s a great way to bring back loyal customers: remind them of the fun they had with the product in the past. Which explains why Nintendo continues to serve up variations on the same handful of titles. They are recognizable names with plenty of fans salivating at the thought of picking up the newest entry.
Grown men literally cried when The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was announced. And why was that? Because it was the Zelda game that fans of the series had envisioned and dreamt about for years. Their fantasies had become reality, and Nintendo knew that this was a surefire way to ensure that copies flew off shelves.
I’m as guilty of this as any Nintendo fan. I pick up every game with Mario or Zelda in the title, no matter how small or bizarre. But Nintendo doesn’t just rely on the success of its past to sell newer titles. It directly feeds off your memories and then slowly drains your wallet of all that spare change you’ve accumulated.
This started with the introduction of the virtual console on the Wii. A slew of old Nintendo classic that was previously trapped on past consoles were now just a click of a button and the input of a credit card number away. If you visit the Wii Virtual Console today you can grab classics like Super Mario Bros. 3, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Smash Bros, F-Zero X, and Super Mario 64, just to name a few. It’s a shame that you have to play them with the pill-shaped classic controller, which simply can’t live up to Nintendo’s past control pads, but old classics are suddenly made new again.
Because my first system was the GBA, I put a decent amount of money into oldies on the VC store. I slowly discovered Nintendo’s past; shooting Andross’ marsupial face in Star Fox 64; hopping up and down in rickety mine carts in Donkey Kong Country, and braving perilous dungeons in Ocarina of Time. Sure, the graphics weren’t the best but the gameplay withstood the test of time.
But I had the best of both worlds. I was buying old games but experiencing them for the first time. But this isn’t how it went for some people. Others have owned many of these titles on nearly every console they have been released, which is quite a few. And it will happen again when the Mini NES Classic is released this holiday. And the warm embrace of the tendrils of nostalgia will wrap itself around you, making you earn for the familiarity of crouching on the white block in Super Mario Bros. 3’s World 1-3 to get the warp whistle.
But Nintendo has gotten used to simply releasing new iterations on old properties instead of creating brand new experiences to draw in a new generation of players. Yes, we got Splatoon last year, but that was the first big new IP since Pikmin. At this point, Nintendo not only utilizes nostalgia in clever and inventive ways, it manipulates people’s nostalgia.
The Wii U will get The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which will blend the old and the new, but the NX will be the real litmus test for how Nintendo proceeds. Will it simply release new Mario games to show off their shiny new hardware, or create brand new experiences that will broaden and revitalize the tried and true Nintendo catalog? The latter is much more appealing.
I love Nintendo. I would definitely classify myself as a fanboy, but I want to see the company grow and evolve, not just rest on its laurels. The games it puts out are almost always spectacular, but something new that truly takes advantage of whatever new hardware the NX delivers could truly turn heads, much in the way Splatoon did.
I love the company’s past and everything they have accomplished, but I’ve trekked through a lot of their old games time and time again. Nostalgia should be used to enhance new experiences, not just fill the void in Nintendo’s catalog. The company has a history, but it shouldn’t be abused. Let’s remember the glory days while also looking forward to the future of the Big N.