Those who have been reading this blog for some time may know how big of a Nintendo fan I am. While I’ve been a big supporter of a lot of the The Big N and what they’ve done over the years, they only recently re-entered my good graces.
Over at PlayingWithThoughts, a recent article talked a little bit about the GameCube and the legacy it left. I wrote a long-winded comment that ended up sprouting into an internal debate of whether or not I even cared about Nintendo around the point that it launched. As I thought about it more and more, I realized that between the Nintendo 64 and the 3DS, there is a gray area where I really didn’t care much for what Nintendo was doing. Let’s dive in.
The GameCube launched in 2001, but I didn’t get one until Christmas of 2003, along with some Wavebird controllers, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Metroid Prime, and that “super weird cartoony Zelda game” Wind Waker. While all these games ended up being incredible and some of the best I’ve ever played in recent years, the disappointment at the time ended up putting a huge dent in my love for Nintendo. Heck, I didn’t even finish Wind Waker or Metroid Prime until about two years ago.
It’s around the time I started college that I began to focus less on gaming and more on my passion of computer programming. But when I was gaming, it was all on PC. Around this time, PC gaming had really picked up Steam, literally, as Steam became the go-to method for obtaining games. My grandparents had bought me a powerhouse laptop for college and I could finally play those higher-end PC games, so I got pretty deep into World of Warcraft and Starcraft, as I found myself having more fun with friends than playing GameCube by myself.
Over the years, I picked up a decent collection of GameCube games, but most of them went largely unplayed. Even the popular ones weren’t enjoyable to me. Pikmin, which I have tried dozens of times to enjoy, just didn’t do it for me. I found it infuriating and couldn’t play for more than a half hour at a time, and could never even beat the second level. I tried playing it again about two years back, and still, nothing. Animal Crossing bored me to tears. To this day I never understand how people relax by doing errands for anthropomorphic creatures. Super Mario Sunshine? I never want to see that game ever again. I hated it. Super Mario 64 was such a perfect game and never once crossed that threshold into maddeningly frustrating territory. But Sunshine was a whole other beast and I barely got past the second world before rage-quitting. Years later and it turns out it wasn’t just me – that game is freaken difficult.
Years had passed, and my GameCube had gathered dust and been all but abandoned.
Around this time I also overpaid an eBay seller for a Nintendo DS, mostly due to wanting something portable. I wasn’t a fan of the touch screen controls, but mostly I just wanted to play the new Zelda games. Want to guess what happened next?
Yep – I hated both of them. The controls were garbage, the games were filled with menial tasks to fluff-up the gameplay time, every single thing about them I thought was terrible. Especially Spirit Tracks. To this day, I cringe every time I think about that game.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Nintendo DS didn’t have good games – much like the GameCube, it had some great ones, but the issue was that the first party games weren’t doing it for me anymore. A friend of mine introduced me to Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin which I played the crap out of and loved. Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime was another favorite. Final Fantasy IV was terrific. This was really a great system! You’ll notice though, that all three of those games (along with many others I enjoyed) were third-party. While I came to enjoy games like Mario Kart DS and Metroid Prime: Hunters in more recent years, still, I gravitated back towards PC, feeling disenfranchised with this beloved company I grew up on. To this day I don’t know exactly what happened that made me quit playing the DS, but having enough money to build a proper gaming PC was probably related.
Possibly, as you’re reading this, you can kind of see how I became a little more disconnected with Nintendo around this point. Which is why the next step was the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
It was the fall of 2006, and the Wii was being released. Suffering from a bad case of FOMO, or “fear of missing out” for the layman, a buddy and myself parked our butts outside a Best Buy in camping chairs, hoping to score a piece of the new Nintendo hardware to play the new Zelda game, Twilight Princess. Fast-forward 14 hours, and we finally had them!
Now, I tend to bring this up a lot, but as it stands now, in May 2017, I freaken hate motion controls. More than anything. I’ll play every game forever on a touch screen if it means I could rid the world of motion controls. I’m actually willing to do that for the good of humankind. They are unnecessary and atrocious in 99% of applications. Well back then, I had no opinion of them, because Nintendo hadn’t decided to slap gimmicks on to everything until the Wii. It wasn’t long before I realized, I despise motion controls. And basically every single Wii game was built around them. The Wiimote sucked, everything about it was terrible. I can already feel my blood pressure rising as a write this.
I eventually beat Twilight Princess a few years ago. On the GameCube. Yup, I restarted a 30 hour file that was saved at the beginning of the final temple just to avoid ever having to use those controls again. And I 100%’d it in 45 hours. Check and mate, Wii version of Twilight Princess.
All the games I ended up getting on the Wii were lackluster at best. I didn’t enjoy Super Paper Mario, although I do think it was a step in the right direction. Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, absolutely was not a fan of. Even third party games like Red Steel that looked so cool turned out to be terrible, and the sheer volume of shovelware built around this awful motion gimmick made me want to cry.
I promise there’s a happy ending here. First though, let’s list all the disappointments from Nintendo between the years 2003-2006:
- The entire GameCube system
- Zelda: Wind Waker (at the time)
- Metroid Prime (at the time)
- Super Mario Sunshine
- The entire Nintendo DS system minus third party titles
- Zelda: Spirit Tracks
- Zelda: Phantom Hourglass
- The entire Wii system
- Super Mario Galaxy 1 & 2
- Super Paper Mario
- Zelda: Twilight Princess (with the Wiimote controls)
That is a lot of invested money into things that I didn’t fully enjoy. Feeling burned when parting with money, especially as a young person without a lot of it, really stings. You know that, we’ve all been burned before. If I had bought a WiiU I’d probably never be writing here today. And of course, as discussed before, it’s important to note that especially in your teenaged years, your tastes change a lot. I was more into multiplayer gaming around this time, and I realized that Nintendo might have just not been my thing. But I tried to force myself to like it, to recapture the joy I had when I was younger. And that never works.
This long chain of disappointment turned me off to Nintendo for years to come. Almost ten years, in fact! It wasn’t until I went back to my roots, and started playing some Nintendo 64 games I never finished. I finished the train-wreck of Banjo-Tooie, and was about to start Majora’s Mask… when I realized something. There’s a copy of this for the 3DS? What the heck is the 3DS?! Is that the other iteration of that touch screen system I bailed on ten years ago?
Fast-forward to now – and Nintendo is back in my good graces. They absolutely killed it with the 3DS and have shown that when they have a good thing, they support the hell out of it. I’m confident in the Switch as much as it concerns me at times, but I believe they are in the right mindset to correct the wrongs of yesterday. It’s a huge amount of risk whenever a company tries to stir the pot in their established and beloved IPs, and Nintendo has learned firsthand that spin-offs don’t really do well. I hope they keep that in mind and go back to their roots, because that’s where the long-standing fans want them to be.
Either way, that’s my brief little history of my relationship with Nintendo: the Big Break from The Big N. As I tend to praise most of the things Nintendo does now, I think it’s important to reflect on where we all are and how we got here. As cheesy as that sounds, you need to balance out blind praise. And while the track record of Nintendo is anything but perfect, I still have quite a fondness for them, and hope they can continue to stay on the right tracks. So, the opposite of Spirit Tracks.
Have you always been a fan of your favorite video game behemoth? Has a system or series of games ever turned you off completely to a brand for years? Vent about it in the comments!