Nintendo and I: Is the End is Nigh?

Image by Flickr user mauricio giraldo (CC)
Image by Flickr user mauricio giraldo (CC)

Three years ago, I contemplated why I had not yet established a relationship with the Wii U. The console had then been out for number of months, and as a self-prescribed “super” Nintendo fan, I had yet to jump on the Wii U bandwagon. Though I was enamored with the likes of Super Mario 3D World, and the prospect of new outings from Donkey Kong and Bayonetta, a number of factors, including timing and overall lack of games, prevented me from wanting to spend money on the console then. I did eventually receive the console as a gift, and I became hopeful that our life together would blossom. Here we are not quite three years later, and…five games. That’s exactly how many games I’ve played on the Wii U since receiving the thing at the tail end of 2013: five whole games in two years. Woo.

I have tried very hard over the past couple years to be excited for the Wii U exclusive games that have come on offer, such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, The Wonderful 101, and, most recently, Xenoblade Chronicles X, but the thought of me actually buying any of them always has me exhale a resounding “meh.” I’m just don’t feel that interested in these games any longer.

Ah, but then enters into the arena the Nintendo NX! Now here’s something that should have gotten all those Nintendo juices flowing again, right? It just seems all kind of cool! The rumors of it are still pretty wild at this point, but it seems like it’s going to be both a handheld and a console (I like that), it’s going to have cartridges (no more load screens, awesome!), and its games, like Link’s new adventures in Breath of the Wild, promise to compete with the best of anything from Microsoft and Sony (and it’s about time). What’s not to like?!

I should be excited, but I’m not, I’m simply not. Whatever spell Nintendo once held over me is slowly but surely dissipating. I’m more than happy to replay the Wii U games I have, but I’m sure not looking to add any of its games to my collection, not even its version of the fantastically appealing Breath of the Wild. And as intriguing as the NX sounds now, it’s just not something I see myself investing in whenever it does actually hit the store shelves.

At the risk of becoming too self-reflective, my gaming aspirations and relationships have shifted dramatically over the past decade. It really used to be that I was all about platformers, 2D and 3D. I was once pleased as punch to spend time collecting coins with Mario or defeating space pirates with Samus or bounding through the skies with Banjo and Kazooie. And the thing of it was, no matter what else I played, from fighting games to FPSs to RPGs on other consoles, Nintendo and its dazzling array of platformers always called me back. These games weren’t about wandering aimlessly looking for quests or trying to navigate through a complex story. No, you had your levels and your collectibles. You had goals to meet, secrets to uncover, and bosses to battle. And at the heart of it all were some of the most memorable and enjoyable characters in gaming.

I think things started to go downhill with Super Mario Sunshine. It was the first Mario game that I never completed, and the first one that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. It was one of those games where when things were going great, when I was in the groove with the controls and story, they were fantastic! But when things got just a little bit off, like when I just couldn’t get Mario’s main “weapon,” the F.L.U.D.D. (a super powered water shooter) to work right, they were downright terrible. It became one of the most frustrating games I had ever played. And at a certain point, my dislike of the game gave way to me trading it. I do regret that.

After that misstep, things between Nintendo and I picked speed again with the Nintendo DS, my favorite handheld to date. Not only did I find a companion in Mario again, but I found sooooo many games to like! I adventured with Samus in the wonderfully scary Metroid Fusion. I solved riddled and crimes with Professor Layton. I played through LEGO worlds with the cast of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. And I discovered what would become a few all-time favorite titles, like The World Ends with You and GTA: Chinatown Wars.

As any hill must be met with a valley, getting the Wii was just that. Oh, I had really high hopes for its motion controls and reportedly amazing set of games, which of course included Mario (in space!), but that story did not have a happy ending. I’ve written about that plenty, and there will be more to come as I wrap up Twilight Princess, which has reminded me quite heartily of how unpleasant the Wii’s controls can be.

Beyond simply have “good” or “bad” times with certain games, let’s talk numbers, because I have actually quantified my gaming history (because I’m cool like that).  As a matter of recent comparison, I count that I’ve played twelve games for the Wii since getting the console in 2007. Yeesh. That’s, like, a little over one game a year. So maybe I’m not doing all that bad with my five Wii U games in two years! Adding in previous Nintendo consoles paints a different picture. I count my hardcore “Nintendo years” as spanning from about 1986 to about 2010, which is when things really started to drop off. During those couple decades or so, I managed an average of completing three new games a year. That’s only counting games I finished. Who’s to say how many other games came in unfinished fits and starts? (And that’s also not counting multitudinous replays of favorites like Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and Super Metroid. And it also only counts compilations once — Super Mario All-Stars and Mega Man Anniversary Collection, etc.)

For even further perspective, since 2010,  of those seventeen Nintendo titles that I’ve played (twelve on the Wii and five on the Wii U), I’ve only fully completed six of them. When I finally beat Twilight Princess (and I will!), the grand total will become seven. Should this trend continue, I’ll eventually be down to less than one Nintendo game a year.

Inconceivable!

But it’s the unfortunate truth…unless the NX really wows me in some magical fashion. With the NX, not even the promise of exclusive titles, even those with the beloved figures of Yoshi, Mario, Samus, and Link, is enough to keep me on board at the moment. Fact is, I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. How about offering up something we’ve never seen before? Something…new?  Something different, something uncomfortable, something that could redefine but not upend the very name “Nintendo.” Anything? Maybe?

I have no wish to see Nintendo implode, and I want to NX to be nothing more than a rousing success for us, the gamers, and the company. I want future generations to find the joys, small and large, in hanging out with Nintendo’s flagship characters that have delighted gamers for years. I want Nintendo to make the best games it can for as many years as it can. But my future in Nintendo fandom remains tenuous, at best.

11 thoughts on “Nintendo and I: Is the End is Nigh?”

  1. I, too, am losing my love for Nintendo. For me, too many series I love have changed (Paper Mario, for example), ended (Banjo-Kazooie is no more), or just rarely come out with sequels (Zelda and Metroid, at least, as far as console releases go). I bought the Wii U around Christmas time a couple years back because it was practical, not because I was actually excited about it at that time, as I could save money by asking people to buy me games as Christmas presents.

    Now my Wii U is a glorified Wii. I have five Wii U games, which I am not very interested in, and I only completed two of them, when I typically finish nearly every game I own. I’m happy I got it because it allows me to easily record gameplay for Wii and Virtual Console games, but as an actual Wii U, it’s a bit pointless. I’m just more of a PlayStation person now. But I agree, I want to get interested in Nintendo again. I want the NX to be a big deal. But I don’t know if I’ll ever feel the same about Nintendo again.

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    1. I guess it’s natural that gaming should have its ebbs and flows, just like life. But a big part of what ever is up with Nintendo lately is that they’ve been releasing so few games that it’s hard to stay interested. I get that they’re probably going through some big changes with the NX, and that they’ve heavily relied on people’s love of their back catalog of games (I will always be a sucker for Super Mario World), but nostalgia has its limits. I really hope that whatever the NX is, it helps to propel Nintendo back into making great games. Not rehashing what’s already been done, not going so far off the beaten part that it feels alienating, but meeting everyone in the middle with games that are simply fun to play.

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  2. I love that you have the statistical data to confirm that, yes, you aren’t playing as many Nintendo games in recent years. I’m in a slightly different place to you vis a vis Nintendo, as I’ve been doing much of my gaming these past few years on non-Nintendo consoles but am now suddenly playing a bunch of Nintendo stuff on a new Wii U. Since getting the Wii U I’ve gone out and grabbed a bunch of games for it immediately without a second thought. That certainly wasn’t true when I got a PS3, and I know that’s because my history with Nintendo means games like Smash Bros, Star Fox Zero, Donkey Kong Country, Xenoblade X, Mario 3D World are complete no-brainers.

    Now having played some of those games, it’s funny to reflect on how many of the big Nintendo franchises have radically changed in some ways and yet remained almost identical in others. I mean it was almost scary how familiar Smash Bros for Wii U felt when I first tried it! It’s a bit weird coming to terms with the fact that even though the Wii U version may be the best version of Smash Bros yet, I’m unlikely to get that much out of it because that past familiarity is so strong.

    Anyway I’m sorry for a rambling comment. Mixed feelings! Still excited for NX though (not that I’ll get one for several years probably!).

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    1. See, that’s kind of how I *think* it should be with some consoles — getting games for it shouldn’t require a second thought! With previous Nintendo consoles, there was never any question in my mind about the games. When a new Mario game came out, I got it. When a new Zelda game (after Ocarina of Time) came out, I got it. When a new Yoshi game came out, I got it! It was never a matter of “if,” only “when.” It really wasn’t until the Wii and the Wii U that I started to second-guess purchasing games. (With the Wii U, the only “must” was the duo of Bayonetta games. I sat on Yoshi’s Woolly World for awhile before buying. The one game I was really looking forward to was DKC: Tropical Freeze. I still haven’t bought it and likely won’t.)

      But then again, as I alluded to in my comment to The Duck, every gamer sets off with games in different manners. You mention having a history with non-Nintendo games, and yet now you’ve found a path towards them. I have a long history with Nintendo games, and now I’m veering away from them. But maybe that’s how things need to go. Maybe I simply *need* to move out of the way so that other people can have a seat at the Nintendo table, too.:)

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      1. I hear you. I didn’t make it clear in my previous comment (that’s what late night commenting will do) but I have 20 year history with Nintendo at this point, and it’s only for the past 5 or so years that I’ve gamed primarily on non-Nintendo systems. Coming back to them after a break has been great in some ways, but as I say I have mixed feelings because the familiarity is still very strong with certain franchises. I envy anyone who is discovering Nintendo’s games for the first time as the stuff I’ve played so far on Wii U is of extremely high quality and so much of their back catalogue is available for download too!

        To be honest I think burn out is perfectly natural and understandable with any particular game company or franchise. With Nintendo it’s especially noticeable though because on Wii U especially their output completely dominate that console. On the other hand, I could easily be burned out on Sony’s franchises, say, and still easily turn to Bethesda or Capcom or Square Enix or whoever else for some variety on PS4, without having to swap consoles. Even the Wii, which was also very Nintendo-centric, had some amazing third party games like Trauma Team and Little King’s Story.

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      2. The issue of 3rd-party games could be another make or break one for Nintendo, because you’re right, at one time they had some of the most unique titles on offer! But then, things kind of nosedived with the Wii U. If the NX brings back some of that creative freedom, it could be really great! (And risky, maybe, but what does Nintendo have to lose at this point?)

        If nothing else, Nintendo does have the past to fall back upon. Can’t argue with its amazing pantheon of games!

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  3. Not excited for NX. Didn’t buy a Wii U either. It would need to have a lot of solid single player Nintendo games to be attractive at this point. (And that’s only if one of those games is a proper Metroid game. That’s been my problem with Wii U. Almost everything of note (i.e. their main series games) has had a multiplayer focus. There were no proper entries for any of their big series! Not one! Not unless you count multiplayer games or starfox (I don’t count starfox due to the utter weirdness of the controls).

    Like it or not, Nintendo has pigeonholed themselves as the company that makes specific kinds of games. The more they goof around outside of those games by experimenting with weird controls and focusing on multiplayer, the more of their old fans they’re going to lose. I mean I’d like to see new IP too of course, but not ones that focus on multiplayer or goofy controls!

    Simply put, Nintendo has gotten out of touch with their console customers, and it’s not going to look good for them if they’re unable to get back in touch.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good point — Nintendo has backed themselves into a corner with the types of games they produce. It used to be (in my household, anyway) that we’d prefer certain types on games on certain systems, and Nintendo was also the place to play lighter games, platformers and action-adventure games. Now it seems that Sony and Microsoft have done a decent job encompassing all games while Nintendo has barely progressed in that regard. Their focus on “unique” consoles rather than unique games has been unfortunate.

      One thing the NX has going for it is the move back to cartridge games. We all complain about load screens and long load times, and doing away with that would be pretty cool. Also, there’s an extremely strong nostalgia right now for all things 1980s permeating pop culture. It’s possible that the NX might tap into that trend and get a lot of people on board. No doubt the move could also be extremely alienating for long-time fans, but I guess we could all get that NES mini, haha…

      Whatever comes of the NX, it’ll be interesting (and hopefully not sad) to watch what happens. The next few years could be one that make or break for Nintendo.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually really got into gaming because of the Wii and Nintendo DS (before I discovered and wanted the Xbox 360). Since having purchased the Wii back in 2009, I too have not finished or played the few games in my possession for the Wii. I think I get more gameplay time in with the handhelds than the console itself. I was kinda interested in the Wii U, but have never slapped money down to finally purchase it. I guess it’s because there were maybe one or two games I was interested in playing and that’s it. Two games don’t justify purchasing a $100-$200+ console. I’m on the fence with the NX, but I think most of my investment in Nintendo will lie solely with their handheld systems.

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    1. Honestly, nothing right now can beat Nintendo when it comes to handhelds. I played more games on my Nintendo DS than any Nintendo system before it — it just had (and still has) some of the best games around! Plus, its catalog of games is gigantic, and there’s something for everyone. It’s that spirit that Nintendo has to imbue in the NX if it really hopes for it to take off.

      Fact is, there are so few games for the Wii U, it’s no wonder that it’s in the midst of flopping. (It’s actually a great console, and if there were better games for it, I would absolutely use it more!) Recently, I actually gave some serious thought into getting rid of both the Wii and the Wii U in favor of getting a DS again. The only reasons I’ve not gone through with that is because of the Virtual Console. It’s hard to argue with Nintendo’s back catalog when it comes to awesome games.

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  5. Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    Ever since first discovering the NES, I thought that Nintendo and I might grow old together. But in recent years my interest in the company’s games and consoles has waned significantly. Could it be that the end between us is near? I put my worries in writing on this subject over on United We Game.

    P. S. For more Nintendo musings, check out The Duck of Indeed’s recent UWG article, Pure Speculation: Will the NX Save Nintendo?

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