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Nintendo is Magic


The earliest memory I have of playing video games might be one of my very first memories all together. I wasn’t very old, maybe about 4. I was at my Grandparents house, sitting with my Grandpa I think, in their office playing The Legend of Zelda for the NES. I remember seeing the green and brown character move up and down the screen, occasionally poking at things with a brown rectangle. From that point on it was pretty well established that if we went to my Grandparents house I’d be in whatever room had the NES, exploring their vast game library. I guess that’s when this all started. From that point on, Nintendo was special to me.

It’s been all about video games ever since and, more specifically, Nintendo. I grew up playing everything from Super Mario Bros. to Majora’s Mask and beyond. And while I was slowly introduced to other offerings in the world of gaming thanks to school friends and other relatives, for a long time it was all about Nintendo for me. It wasn’t like it is now.

I didn’t favor Nintendo because they had the exclusives or because their console specs were better. For the most part I wasn’t paying much attention to other consoles and game makers at all. Nintendo was simply magical in my mind. Like no one else could do what they did. I sang their praises to everyone I knew, and some of whom even sang them back. Super Mario 64 was an unforgettable experience thanks to the the whole family gathering around the TV to try and get every last star out of it. Super Smash Brothers and Tetris (and the more obscure Tetrisphere) gave birth to friendly rivalries among my sibling and our parents. To this day I don’t think I ever beat my sister at a game of Tetris or Wave Race. But I had the upper hand at Smash, playing as Link of course.

It’s these memories that solidify Nintendo as mainstay in my gaming habits. They’re what kept me hopeful during the dry back end of the Gamecube era and what kept me excited for Skyward Sword after I hadn’t dusted off my Wii in months. Nintendo resolves not only to make games, but to create unforgettable experiences that forge players into life long fans. And they do so by staying true to their oldest fans with consistent, but varied, game design and by taking advantage of their wide and wonderful imagination.

Anyone who’s played a Zelda game knows the setup: The Hero of TIme returns each and every time the land of Hyrule is threatened by an evil force bent on destroying the land and taking the power of The Triforce. The same is true with almost every game. But Nintendo reinvents it for each game. The WInd Waker is a good example of this. It takes the same setup used before but makes it feel more personal, more like it’s happening directly to the player. They accomplish this by introducing characters that evoke emotional reaction: the younger sister, the gentle and sweet grandma. It’s these characters that slowly unravel the players destiny, making it feel like they’re the ones supporting you on your quest, rather than the Gods or spirits telling you so. It’s this method of familiarity that immerses old players and captures the hearts and minds of new ones.

Going further, Nintendo has never been one to keep everything in their franchises entirely the same. Some may argue that their franchises largely don’t change, and perhaps that argument carries some weight. But consider Nintendo’s long lineage and all of their franchises. There have definitely been changes, and those changes are from their colorful and magnificent imagination.

The Kirby franchise is a good example. Although recently his outings have been sparse, he has gone through his fair share of warps and reboots. Originally Kirby was a side scrolling blob capable of eating enemies to gain their abilities. But more recently or pink hero has been made completely out of yarn and lived in a world made entirely out of patchwork blankets and felt. He’s even been devoid of limbs completely and relied on gravity to help him progress.

The same is true with Metroid, originally another side scroller with exploration and varied weaponry and abilities in mind, recently Samus has made her debut in full 3D environments with first person shooting and puzzle mechanics. So even though we keep returning to the storied franchises that built Nintendo to be what it is today, we always know we’re in for something new with each new installment, and that is tanks to Nintendo’s wildly creative and vibrant imagination.

Perhaps the most important thing Nintendo does is keep its fans happy. Sure, they make strange choices from time to time about what games they bring to which country, or how and who they choose to market to, but they always bring out the big guns when it comes to pleasing the people who’ve held them up for so many years. We see this with each new Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby and Donkey Kong game. There may have been a few dry patches through the years. But they come and go and in the end we always get what we want: more games from the franchises and developer we love. This may come off as a bit fanboy-ish, but it sure is true. Each and every new entry to each and every franchise I care about has me ready and waiting on Day 1 or their lifecycle, to say otherwise would be silly.

Nintendo has a way of filling you with a sense of joy and wonder when you’re young, so that when you grow up you remember those times and want more of it. To this day I can’t look at 1st party Nintendo game the same way I look at any other game. They’re something more, as if they exist not because people made them but simply because they do. I never fret over AI behavior, gameplay balance, or story details when playing a Nintendo game, they’re such magical experiences that anything beyond that experience doesn’t occur to me at all. And that’s a testament not only to Nintendo’s ability to make games, but also to their ability to create experiences that stick with you for a lifetime.