Cruising through my Twitter feed after Wednesday’s Nintendo Direct event, I was presented with pure magic. A new Yoshi’s Island. A new Mario & Luigi. A new Animal Crossing. A new mother-frakkin’ Link to the Past(!). Needless to say, I was excited, and I didn’t require in-depth preview coverage to get me excited. Neither did I need close friends babbling on about returning to their favorite video game worlds. Without even taking the time to seek out trailers, screenshots with some semblance of the childhood experiences seared to my blissful memory banks were enough to raise anticipation to an all-time high. Sure, Bravely Default is apparently pretty cool, but it’s the familiar things that tickle my Nintendo fancy.
Because Nintendo is nostalgia, and that’s okay.
Maybe it’s the same game on a different console. Frankly, I don’t care.
Not everybody believes that statement, and especially the second half of it. A common complaint against the company attacks its tendency to recycle old franchises each generation, revisiting the coveted Chamber of Gaming Greatness to select another Mario, another Metroid, and Zelda to slap on the newest Big N console to ensure strong sales. Naysayers claim this practice is lazy as in-house developers avoid exploring the next big (albeit risky) thing by sticking to the guaranteed hits.
But is that really so bad?
Those older Nintendo titles are some of the best games I’ve ever played to date (eat your heart out, HD graphics). While the jury’s still out as to whether this reality is due to actual game quality or my impressionable young mind, overall excellence has to have something to do with it. Nintendo classics tend to stand the tests of time better than almost anything else from the pre-polygonal era. Super Mario Bros. is still just as incredible today as it was when released in 1985, nearly 30 years ago, and I expect it will continue to be a blast with the passing of every future decade. With that in mind, why wouldn’t I want more of the same? Just like a pan of freshly-baked brownies is no less tasty today than it was when you were two, so too can similar experiences deliver equal levels of enjoyment regardless of what the rest of the industry is up to.
An unadulterated 37 minutes of pure nostalgic pleasure
Although not the exclusive issue with the system, Nintendo’s nostalgic structure can explain at least a portion of the poor Wii U sales. With nothing nostalgic to cling to, the console offers no must-haves to force old fans out of the woodwork. Argue for New Super Mario Bros. U and I’ll argue back that the 3DS’s New Super Mario Bros. 2 already satiated the audience’s thirst for that type of Nintendo game just prior to the Wii U launch. As far as Nintendo-published Wii U releases go, that leaves … nothing. No big-name titles to pick up the slack. No iconic franchises splashed across store shelves to satisfy loyalists. A Pikmin 3 release date and E3 wait-and-see promises are all we have, so we wait. And while we wait, we find our fixes via the 3DS. We fulfill our gameplay desires with Luigi’s Mansion, Paper Mario, Mario Kart, Ocarina of Time, and Star Fox. All based on generations-old franchises. All based on the good ol’ days when there wasn’t a new industry controversy causing a ruckus every single day. All based on nostalgia.
We want these games and play these games because they’re – quite simply – great games. Whether wholly unique adventures or rooted in Nintendo’s ’80s ancestry, those great games are all I care about. Even if it’s the only current-day claim to fame, Nintendo can be nostalgic.
And that’s okay.