Nintendo stays Nintendo and that’s what makes them different from other gaming companies. It feels like they’ll never change at their core, but why change what isn’t broken? The company’s steadfastness to the Nintendo mentality means that when they do make a change to something, it’s not a case of “because we can” but an enhancement to their game in some way.
Above: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
When it comes to software, Nintendo catches a lot of flak for bringing the same handful of titles out time after time, but after seeing what they’ve done with them, why shouldn’t they? Take a look at Mario. Almost every Mario game brings some innovation, and the ones that don’t redefine the genre are refinements on the last game. There’s always an improvement. What started as a sidescolling platformer became so much more. Super Mario 64 brought us the first 3D platformer, and Nintendo nailed the concept so well on that first endeavor that it became the archetype for 3D platformers and control of third person cameras in 3D environments. When it looked like the formula could go no further, Mario Galaxy took 3D platformers another step beyond with spherical platforms. Today Mario is arguably the most recognized video game character in the world. That’s not a position you come into by being in games that are “only” great, and certainly not by redesigning iconic characters for no reason.
On the hardware front, people may think that the success of the Wii has made Nintendo shift away from powerful consoles to strange gimmicks. That’s just not true. Nintendo has always tried to innovate. The process has always been hit and miss, but it’s likely something that will remain until the company someday fades out of existence. R.O.B., the Power Glove, and the virtual boy are failures neither Nintendo nor consumers will ever fully forget. However at the same time, Nintendo attempts at innovation created the handheld market with the Game Boy, made the NES Zapper, and took the world by storm with the Wii mote.
Above: Everyone forgets the misses when the hits are impressive.
Amongst all this innovation though, some things never change. You can expect a certain level of quality in everything Nintendo puts out. Very rarely will Nintendo put out a game that looks or feels bad.When you put in a Mario game you know what you’re going to get, and contrary to popular belief, that’s a wonderful thing. I don’t want to put a Mario game into my latest Nintendo console and see that my familiar, mustachioed plumber friend has become a clean shaven, foul mouthed, half-angel half-demon twin brother to a Bowser that’s fighting the evil of cable news networks in a dark, gritty story.
The familiarity with Nintendo games that has been cultivated in me over the course of my lifetime is something I treasure. Change comes to everything with time, but Nintendo is a boulder. Eventually the elements will wear it away, but hopefully when that day comes I’ll be long gone. Nintendo remains Nintendo, and that’s how they’re different.
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