8-Bit of Nostalgia
Nintendo has always banked on my nostalgia. This is where I wish I had a montage of Christmas footage where I eagerly unwrapped each console on its respective glory day. What can I say? There’s a chubby Italian plumber conducting my heart.
Now the Wii U is set to usher in the eighth generation of video game consoles. The release adds a new element to the controller experience by inclusion of the “Game Pad”, an LCD touch screen device that has motion control, a front-facing camera, microphone, stereo speakers, rumble features, a sensor bar, support for Near Field Communication, and weighs in at 1.1 pounds. This device uses the 6.2-inch touch screen for supplemental game play, offering a different perspective and up to 5-player capabilities when applicable. Yes, it can be used as a TV remote. Yes, there’s a new online entertainment community called Miiverse. Yes, there is video chat. Yes, there is an Internet browser. Yes, there is Nintendo e-shop. But no, it will not lovingly embrace you at night.
Over the years, Nintendo has become very useful when it comes to backwards compatibility. Although the Wii U is an entirely new console, it supports most Wii games, the Wii Remote Plus, and Nunchuk controllers. Recycling the use of games, controllers, etc. works nicely with the gears of Nintendo company-wise. Think about why people keep buying these consoles generation after generation. Yes, there’s the certain amount of expected innovation, but the hint of familiarity is the real success factor. It’s having the same hero people have grown up with, and they’ve been able to evolve alongside him. Game after game the player is presented with new worlds, new challenges, and new functions. A familiar face makes all the difference when it comes to the unfamiliar, and so it has. At the introduction of each console generation, there’s something fantastic about hearing variations of “It’s a me, Mah-rio!”
Nintendo’s relationship with younger gamers has vastly improved over the years as well. T-shirts, toys, and other enthusiast merchandise are all within reach to anyone who seeks it. However, these products were exceptionally scarce 15 years ago. Sadly, one of the highlights of my early youth was when McDonalds included Super Mario Bros. 3 toys in Happy Meals. Outside of the games, there wasn’t much that kids could own to fulfill their love for Nintendo characters. Let’s face it, most kids want to be as involved as possible with the objects of their entertainment and affection. Luckily for future generations, all of that has changed. Those brave enough to take a stroll down a Wal-Mart toy isle, risk having a foot run over by a Mario Kart remote control vehicle.
The success of the Nintendo franchise as a whole has been amplified by one important realization: The importance of nostalgia, and continuing to manufacture it for years to come. The release of every system and traditional character game revolves around this important foundation.
New Super Mario Brothers Wii is one great example of this principal in action. The release shrugged 3D game play in substitution for an old familiar Mario Brothers style. The release gave nods to Mario history and introduced simultaneous 4-player, motion sensory, capability to the traditional Mario universe. Oh yeah, and it has sold upwards of 27 million copies and counting, making the New Super Mario Bros. series kind of a big deal. Of course this success prompted the recent New Super Mario Bros. 2, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii U. This past-and-present game style has found its place in the gaming world, and was pulled-off with flair. As well as paying homage to past games, Nintendo has been famous for revamping old classic games. These touch-ups have included anything from updating graphics to even adding new levels or missions. By doing so, it gives people like me a reason to repurchase the same classic, but receive a bit more flavor. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance for these games to reach a newer, younger generation of players. Overall, it’s impressive to see how older games have been able to co-exist and stay relevant in a field of rapid technological development. One could argue that it’s largely due to the simplicity of game play often associated with classic titles. However, it may in fact be that these are widely known games with popular familiar missions. Everyone knows that if you see a man with the letter M on his hat run by, he’s on his way to save the princess.
At this point you may be picturing me wearing a 1-Up t-shirt as I profess my admiration for the Nintendo Empire. While that is hardly the case, I did find it interesting to explore the possibilities of why so many people keep coming back for each system release. In an age where new technology is thrown in every direction, it’s comforting to know that someone will be on the forefront of it all, heading to the castle.