F*ck Nostalgia: Nintendo

July of 1998.  My parents take me to Toys “R” Us to scope out potential toys for my upcoming ninth birthday.  This included a trip down the video game aisle to see the latest and greatest PlayStation games.  At the age of seven, Santa Claus brought me my PlayStation, along with Crash Bandicoot.  Previously, my father had an NES and SNES that I occasionally played, but gaming was not a big deal to me.  That changed with the PlayStation.  Gaming became my favoritest thing in the whole wide world.  My forthcoming birthday would no doubt bring me to places I couldn’t even imagine.  What far out realms would my Sony device take me?

And then I saw Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64 demo display.  It looked way cooler than anything on PlayStation.  It had better graphics.  It had more stuff to do.  The worlds looked bigger.  I had to have it.  Low and behold, on July 11, Santa and the Easter Bunny gave word to their associate, the Birthday Badger, that I had been a good little girl and the Nintendo 64 arrived, complete with Banjo-Kazooie.  And I was totally hooked.  I became obsessed with finding every item that could be collected.  I spent the better part of two months doing it.  Then I beat it.  And I wasn’t happy about that.  In fact, I cried.

As a child, I wasn’t very expressive, and rarely emoted.  Crying was a super rare thing for me to do, and it broke my Mom and Dad’s hearts.  I remember my Father actually called the Nintendo consumer support number to find out when a sequel could be expected.  Mind you, this is only two months after the game came out.  Instead, we went to Software Etc. to find the closest Banjo substitute.  When we asked the clerk, he said that Banjo-Kazooie was really just a ripoff of Super Mario 64, and if I liked Banjo, I would love Mario.  What could go wrong?

Smaller levels.  Less to find.  Not as much stuff to collect.  Kind of easy.  Don’t get me wrong, still a great game.  But it was a huge letdown after Banjo.  If you ask people today which was the better game, they say Mario 64.  It wasn’t.  It was just the game they played first.  For most players, it was the first truly 3D game they played, and thus it created the best memories for them.  Some people actually have the audacity to call it the best 3D platformer to this day.  Really?  Over fifteen years later and the genre has never been done better?  That really makes you sound like you’re stuck in a time warp.

By the way, I treasure my memories of playing Banjo-Kazooie as a child, but I don't delude myself into saying it's a game that holds up to repeated play. I bought the Xbox Live Arcade port and immediately regretted the loss of $15. You know what? It's okay to say a game you loved from your childhood doesn't hold up today. If doing so spoils your memories of it, you probably know deep down you didn't like it as much as you thought.

Of the four branches of the Unholy Quartet of Gaming Nerds, Nintendo fanboys are probably the most docile these days.  That’s probably because it’s tough to be a cheerleader for a company that puts out systems named after the babytalk word for urination.  At the same time, they seem to suffer from Peter Pan Syndrome.  They never want to grow up.  They’re stuck playing reskinned, repackaged versions of the same games for their entire life.  If any deviation hits, the fans shit a collective brick.  Take Zelda, for example.  Ocarina of Time was brilliant.  Majora’s Mask was gutsy, but still kind of the same game.  Then came Wind Waker.  It was still the same game as the rest, but the graphics were changed to make it look like a living cartoon.  This was simply too much for the fanboys, who were left inconsolable by this besmirching of their manhood.  In fact, the first time I remember hearing the term “gay” used to describe something outside of San Francisco was someone talking about Wind Waker.  Right.  Obviously Nintendo’s plan was to demasculate the American dweeb population, setting the stage for Pearl Harbor II.

Nintendo wanted to try something different.  Probably because stamping out the same game year after year gets old.  But no, fanboys couldn’t handle it, so we returned to more of the same old shit with Twilight Princess.  Ocarina of Time was my first Zelda, so I didn’t have the 2D games as a reference point to chart the deterioration of the series.  Having said that, I was a veteran of three Zeldas by that point, and I got bored about halfway through Twilight Princess and never finished it.  It never at any point had me.  Ocarina of Time did.  Majora’s Mask did.  Wind Waker did.  All three of them had me from the very start.  Twilight Princess felt like an apology for Wind Waker, but I didn’t think Nintendo had anything to apologize for.  Just like that, Zelda wasn’t fun anymore.  Then they came out with Skyward Sword, which felt like it had less content than any previous 3D Zelda, and it had horrible, delayed, boring, exhausting motion control tacked on.  Different?   Yes.  Fun?  No.  Nintendo isn’t likely to experiment with actual gameplay anymore.  Different, less intuitive control inputs?  That’s fine.  As long as there’s an elf with a boomerang and a grappling hook, the fanboys won’t throw their first-born into a bonfire.

Skyward Sword felt like a step backwards.  Nintendo has become masters of that lately.  They brought out two 2D Super Mario games over the last generation, and they just set the internet abuzz with word that a game is coming called “Super Mario 4.”  I’m hearing things on Twitter like “finally!’ and “I always wanted a sequel to Super Mario Bros. 3.”  I guess Super Mario World, Super Mario World 2, Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, New Super Mario, New Super Mario Wii, Mario Galaxy, and Mario Galaxy 2 just weren’t sequelish enough for them and their lives have been incomplete ever since Bowser crashed through the last brick at the end of Mario 3.  Let’s talk about the New Super Mario games.  The ones with “new” in the title, named as such because adding a “4” would suggest some kind of advancement and “rehash” was frowned upon by the guys in marketing.  Nintendo had a chance to show they still had it.  In my opinion, they didn’t.

They should call the next Nintendo platform the "Nintendo Microwave" since all they'll use it for is rewarming old stuff.

I first really played the original Mario titles when they were ported to the Game Boy Advance and I thought they were just swell.  But there’s something very telling about the ordering of them that Nintendo chose.  They didn’t bring the games out in the order they were originally released.  First came Super Mario 2, then they went to Super Mario World, then Yoshi’s Island, then Super Mario Bros 3.  This is Nintendo admitting that they never did better than Mario 3.  That’s why they saved it for last.  So Nintendo has clearly stated what the benchmark is.  Then comes New Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo DS.  Not only did it feel like a gigantic step backwards from any of the four games listed above, but the real kick is Nintendo didn’t even try to make it better.  They were content releasing a stripped down, bare bones, no frills Mario game.  Sure, a whole generation of fans never were exposed to Mario, but even the fanboys beat themselves blistered over it.  The Wii version was the same way.  Both these games felt like deleted scenes from good Mario games.  Fans reacted to these half-assed efforts the only way Nintendo fans can: they made them two of the best-selling games of all time.  Gimmie an N!  Gimmie an I!  Gimmie an N!  Gimmie a T!..

Nostalgia should have a place in gaming.  But a company shouldn’t be able to live in cruise control based solely on it.  Nintendo can though, and it does.  And the fanboys treat every new Nintendo release like a reunion.  Maybe I’m not wired to be able to understand this.  I crave new experiences.  I can’t believe anyone out there anxiously awaits the announcement of yet another fucking Mario Kart that changes nothing.  “Oooh, which obscure character will join the roster this year?  I bet it will be Pauline from Donkey Kong!”  For real, show of hands, who here got bored and never finished Skyward Sword?  Mario Galaxy 2?  Metroid Prime 3?  New Super Mario Bros. Wii?  And be totally honest with yourself.  Were you having fun, or telling yourself that you were?  I’m not anti-Nintendo based on some kind of bizarre principle.  My favorite system ever is still the Nintendo DS, which gave me the most new and original experiences of any platform in recent history.  You know what though?  Fuck Nintendo.  What have they done for me lately?

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

17 Responses to F*ck Nostalgia: Nintendo

  1. It all went down hill after Zelda: The Minish Cap. After that I started feeling like the Zelda series were degrading to me. It’s by far my most favourite Zelda and I still enjoy playing it. It doesn’t even have anything to do with nostalgia for me, when I pick it up I still genuinely enjoy playing it. What can I say? It’s a well made game.

  2. kolphyre says:

    I actually did get hooked on Zelda: Twilight Princess. I finished it and I loved the game. But – with that said – I can honestly say that I don’t remember even a fraction of the game. And yet I can still remember most of the details of the two Lunar games on Playstation which came out years before. I think that says a lot right there.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      There’s actually a boring, sciencey answer to that based on age, not how good the games were. You see, when you’re younger, you’re better equipped at forming memories. Your brain is a sponge in your early years, soaking up everything, and the closer we get to adulthood, the less pronounced that becomes. The reason being is you get more acclimated to the things you will actually need in life, and so one off experiences don’t stick with you. When you’re a child and something happens that brings you huge pleasure, your brain assumes it’s something you’ll require doing a lot more of and makes a bigger effort to retain it. Thus you’ll remember your eighth birthday like it happened yesterday, but your twentieth doesn’t stick because by then, your brain has figured out that it doesn’t need to hold it long term.

      So when you played the Lunar games, the pleasure of the experience fooled your brain into thinking this would be something you would do often in order to survive. By time you got to Twilight Princess, your brain realized that retaining knowledge of entire game playthroughs had little or no benefit, so it deleted most information on it. And have I mentioned I’m incredibly boring in real life?

      • Kolphyre says:

        I have to admit – that is a REALLY good explanation (and I know you are absolutely right about the way the brain functions). The only problem is that I wasn’t a child anymore when I played the Lunar games (and now I feel old admitting this). Plus – I can remember the entire story of all three Mass Effect games rather well too (and I played those after Twilight Princess). So – your theory is sound, but I think in my case, I simply had a more ‘superficial’ enjoyment out of Twilight Princess which is the reason why I can’t remember anything from that game while I have had more ‘genuine’ enjoyment from Lunar and Mass Effect.

        Or – it could be because I’m crazy. That is a possibility. After all – I still remember almost every movie I have ever seen (including the crappy ones). I just never remember the titles – which is extremely frustrating.

        And I doubt your boring in real life – anyone who takes pictures of themselves threatening Sonic’s life with a scissors while biting his head off can’t be boring 😉

  3. gingerlink says:

    I both agree and disagree with things right the way through this article, so to avoid my comment becoming essay-like, I’m going to put it into bullet points.

    – I agree, Banjo-Kazooie is better than Mario 64 (and I played Mario 64 first then Banjo Tooie, then Banjo-Kazooie). On a side note, what did young Kairi think of Banjo Tooie?

    – I think Majora’s mask was more a deviation on the Zelda series than Wind Waker. It looked mostly the same as Nintendo took a short-cut approach to development and re-used most of the assets, but particularly the side-quest dynamic was thrown into a loop by the time system. You’re right that Wind Waker was the one that caused the uproar, but that was only because some fans had been expecting graphics shown off at spaceworld (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEF9Utdu-L0), far too concerned about graphics instead of aesthetics.

    -I enjoyed Twilight Princess, but I agree that it was much of a out with the new and and in with the old game. The bit that I really didn’t enjoy was the last three dungeons, going straight into one another with no break in between, the last two being particularly short and the final one basically offering no substantial puzzles. It’s only the final boss battle that stops it leaving a really sour taste in my mouth.

    – I’m odd, I accept that, I like the Wii’s (and Kinect’s) control scheme, although few games actually do them justice. A player’s enjoyment of Skyward Sword is 90% based around their experience with the control scheme. I can understand people disliking it, but personally I found it worked really well and it was the most fun I’ve had just playing a game in a long time. I will add though that I thought on several occasions throughout the game: ‘this would be incredible if it was the first Zelda game I’d played’.

    -Having only three areas is a mixed blessing in Skyward Sword. To me, it was a great example of gameplay density, because even though the same areas were being reused, I didn’t feel like it was repeating itself. However, it completely removed the exploration element, which is one of the most important factors of Zelda games, something that Wind Waker really shines at.

    -I’ve never really found too much to choose between the 2D Marios (except SMB2), so I don’t really understand the step backward comment about the ‘new’ rehash.

    -NSMBWii’s (which still sounds like someone coughing, sneezing and going down a slide at the same time) best bit was the multiplayer. Sure, not brilliant to cooperate with people in as you’d get in each other’s way, but hilarious to play with a group of dickheads.

    -I haven’t bought a 3DS (yet?), but I’ve demoed Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land and neither did anything for me.

    -I’ve finished Skyward Sword (except hero mode, f*** that), Mario Galaxy 2 (except for a handful of green stars) and NSMBWii (except for some coins and secret levels) for reals. I also thoroughly enjoyed all of them, that’s just how it is.

    -I genuinely did get bored and stop playing Metroid Prime 3 though.

    Final point: the best thing to come out of skyward sword:

  4. Dave Voyles says:

    Oh man, the Zelda games all went off a cliff after a 2D iterations. I went back to play Twilight Princess a few months back, and wow, is that game bad. Wind Waker still holds up very well visually, but the 3D games just don’t control well and are utterly boring.

    • Mr Confused says:

      That’s because Link can never walk straight. No matter how much you try he will always walk awkward and it has nothing to do with the controller.

    • Mr Confused says:

      Also your right about Wind Waker. It makes my GameCube happy. 🙂

      In the Forsaken Fortress if you are at the docking bay on the wall are actually diagrams of the search light functions you can look at. I wish there was some sort of back story to that though like where they got the search lights and I’d love to be able to CONTROL the search lights after defeating the bad guy.

      That would be so fun shining the search lights on everything.

  5. GaTechGrad says:

    I remember buying an N64 in high school, and I was disappointed in the launch lineup of $70 games. On launch, I bought Mario 64 and Cruisin’ USA. I think Pilotwings 64 was the other launch title. Mario was disappointing to me, because it left out many things that made the 2D Mario games great, like power-ups. Sure, there was the wing cap and metal cap, but those were few and far between. No kicking koopa turtle shells, but you could occasionally ride one. Mario 64 being “first 3D game” was just hype in my opinion, because Wolf3D and Doom came out years before and had much better graphics. Even multiple SNES games such as StarFox and Stunt Race FX were using 3D with the Super FX chip, which was built into the SNES cart. My other N64 game, Cruisin’, was okay because I no longer had to pop quarters at the local bowling alley arcade, but there wasn’t much to do once you’ve played through it a few times.
    Banjo on the other hand was a totally new experience. All of the characters had unique personalities. Mumbo gave you special powers on each level. All of the quests felt unique (except for collecting Jinjos and notes). Plus, most of the objectives to collect the puzzle pieces were clear, opposed to Mario 64 where I felt like whenever I collected a star I did it by accident. It also had a great way of remixing themes depending what area in a stage Banjo is located (such as underwater, in a cave, etc). It’s really disappointing that Microsoft bought out Rare and never did anything with them (aside from Grabbed by the Ghoulies). Rare never seemed to fail to make a hit. One of my first games for the NES was R.C. Pro-Am, another Rare game. Killer Instinct (also Rare) was one of the top arcade fighters back in the day alongside Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. It’s disappointing that there hasn’t been a KI sequel in over a decade, and there was never a true port of the original arcade game. The last KI game I owned was KI Gold for the N64, and it was good but still had that N64 low-poly feel to it.
    I seem to have the opposite opinion of everyone else in the world when it comes to Zelda games. I liked Zelda II The Adventure of Link. I didn’t care for Ocarina of Time. I liked Skyward Sword for the most part, but I didn’t care for the flying controls. Wind Waker was okay, but I hated the sailing from one end of the map to the other. I remember timing it once and it was over 5 minutes of just holding down one button to sail. Twilight Princess was unplayable to me, since the helper was annoying and digging up pearls as a dog was just not fun at all.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Rare ain’t been worth shit since leaving Nintendo, I must say. Nintendo really sold Microsoft a bill of goods with them.

    • Mr Confused says:

      I played the original Zelda game on a java emulator but since the save function was down I didn’t get to save so I only completed the first dungeon with that dragon.

      I like how in the original LOZ if your health is full you can shoot your sword at the enemies even though there is nothing to trigger the said shooting. 🙂

      A Link To The Past is all right but there is only one town and not enough places to heal. I think A Link To The Past could be remade today to be as big as TP but with a lot of content instead of a bare overworld.

      I also love the details of the graphics in Wind Waker like where if you use a Hyoi Pear you can become a seagull and fly around seeing all the sights and the lighting details of the forsaken fortress.

      I also liked how you can break all the china ware on the tables and there is a scene later in the game at some rich persons house they will fine $$ you if you smash any of their stuff and there is the auction house in Wind Waker.

      Modern Zelda sucks.

    • Mr Confused says:

      I also loved Majoras Mask and while the save system sucks if you use the song of time backwards you usually can get in and out of the 4 temples AND do the fairy side quest while still be home in time for supper.

  6. UnSubject says:

    I’m of the belief that for most people the word ‘original’ means ‘where you saw it first’. So that people pine call for the originality of certain games because they were the ones that made the first and deepest impact, not because they were actually the first with that particular feature set.

    … which is where Nintendo’s remakes of its own games have helped, because new players experience the ‘new’ version of the classic title with each new platform release. Mario et al wouldn’t be nearly as popular if Nintendo didn’t update them every 3 years or less.

    It doesn’t help much for existing fans, of course.

  7. Argamae says:

    Well, to a certain point you are your own logic’s victim there, Catherine. You played Banjo first, so of course this is by far the better game to you. Factually you are right on a number of issues: there was generally more of everything in Banjo: more collectibles, more detailed graphics, more vivid characters because of much more dialogue. Now, Super Mario 64 must have come as a let-down. However, having played 3D-titles before and after SM64, I need to add that in terms of level design and overall gameplay SM64 still beats the crap out of a lot of games today. Sure, the levels in Banjo were much bigger, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to better. SM64 had smaller worlds but in that way they were more concise in presenting their respective theme. Also, the more minimalist graphics is – at least in my opinion – much more a matter of design choice than design inadequacy. Or, in other words: this is a matter of personal taste and not so much of any lack on part of the designers.
    In the end I think that both titles have their merits and their fame in spearheading 3D world gaming. Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64 still count as the greatest games I have ever played.

    That said, I nevertheless enjoyed Mario Galaxy very, very much although it was just a rehash with a new control scheme bolted onto it. I know that Nintendo trives on regurgitating their Super Mario IP over and over again. But so far I was able to enjoy most of what they’ve done because they always put in something new if ever so small. Zelda, on the other hand, has worn a little thin. I never finished Twilight Princess, gotten bored with the “protect the carriage from the orcish thingies” mission. It was Ocarina and Wind Waker (of the 3D Zeldas) and The Minish Cap (of the 2D Zeldas) I liked the most.

    For me, the best Nintendo handheld is the (3)DS. It lets me play my DS-titles and gives me games like Mario Kart 7 (which imho is the best Mario Kart) and Super Mario 3D Land which I think is also very good. The 3D-neatTech is working for me.

    As for the rest of your article: you got me thinking. I have pre-ordered the new Nintendo flagship Wii U and now question myself whether I have done so out of “nostalgia” and “just because it’s a new Nintendo console”. Or am I really convinced to receive my share of new game experiences with it? I honestly don’t know. A separate screen in the controller? Well, the Dreamcast tried it but it didn’t help it from fading into legend. And the starting games line-up doesn’t include much innovation as far as I am concerned. Zombie U sure does look nice but it reeks a bit of warmed-over undead fare. However, I think that Nintendoland might be a good one. In the end it seems I need to re-think that purchase thoroughly. So thanks for making me go into this a bit deeper (no irony intended).

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