As you've probably noticed by now, I'm a bit of a Nintendo zealot. Over the 20 years I've been gaming, I've had some of the most fun and rewarding moments enjoying the fruits of the big N's efforts. Especially the N64, quite possibly the most magical console ever released.
But as I grew older and my tastes began to change, I started to covet the powerful and expansive adventures the PS2, PS3 and Xbox 360 had to offer. Every time I looked back on my childhood heroes it felt as if they had taken another step toward obscurity, becoming nothing but kids' playthings, and a mobilizer for grandparents.
Listen to this alternative GameCube start up sound as evidence. Honestly, as a teenager I didn't want to be seen having a purple console (complete with handle) that features a gaggle of kids giggling every time the console boots up.
I began to lose faith. I had found new friends in Microsoft and Sony, and they were promising me 60fps, 1080p visuals, teraflops, terabytes, Blu-Ray, subscription-based TV. You name it, these ultra-modern set-top boxes had it.
But why I'm writing this post today is, now that the aforementioned stats have become individual industry standards of gaming quality, I can't help but feel like something has been lost amongst this generation; a smidgen of the excitement that came from playing new generational games. And that feeling has made me really excited for what's NeXt to come.
Why I'm Looking Forward To Nintendo's NX
Back in the Spring, I wrote a post defending PlayStation Plus' monthly free games after the subscription based service was hit with a ton of vitriol from gamers jaded over the lack of quality titles offered.
At first I was saddened by the sheer gall of gamers' complaints regarding the dearth of quality AAA titles being offered alongside the indies. PlayStation Plus costs next to nothing per month and we get a ton of free games across 3 platforms. Let's check our privilege, people!
But as the months rolled on and Plus titles wavered in quality, I came to realize that their arguments were based on very fair irks, especially looking at this month's titles. August's Plus games on PS4 include another twin-stick shooter in Ultratron, Tricky Towers – a Tetris clone where you use... magic to keep your towers stable and the space grind 'em' up/No Man's Sky pallet-warmer Rebel Galaxy.
Though there is nothing wrong with getting the chance to play indie games that could have otherwise been left in obscurity, haven't we not seen these games a thousand times before? We're up to our eyeballs with twin-stick shooters!
And with, what I feel to be, a lack original IPs besides the Dark Souls series, Bloodborne, Grow Home, Rocket League, Abzû, The Last Guardian and a few others I've neglected to mention, few staples of forward thinking console gaming exist in a market packed with remasters, sequels and clones.
Have I Just Cause To Feel Aggrieved?
In PlayStation Store's current sale, I finally got around to picking up Just Cause 3, because I'd been meaning to sample its explosive charms for a while. When I finally got around to playing the game a day later – the install literally took forever – I lasted about 20 minutes in the main campaign, because it's nothing I haven't played before. And there was a bug that stopped me from actually being able to finish one of the early missions.
The game, for better or for worse, screams GTA 5, MGS 5 and Shadow of Mordor – albeit with prettier explosions. Of course, this is no fault of Avalanche Studios, JC3's developers. The market bays for these types of expansive open world action/adventures where there are a few fresh embellishments placed on last week's marble cake.
This really got me thinking, and you know what? I'm over 60fps, 1080p visuals, Blu-Ray, teraflops, terabytes and having to delete old content in order for the disc to install information on my PS4's HDD. I'd like something new; a fresh, unmissable gimmick and a return to the heroes that helped give speed to my imagination. No, not the drug.
The NX Cometh
If recent news is anything to go by, it sounds as if the NX is going to be the most powerful portable gaming device on the market. It will have the oomph of high-end smartdevices, the portability of a Game Boy and will more than likely release games on cartridges. Thank you, Nintendo.
Living in this age of post-nostalgia where everything that was cool once is now cool again, for Nintendo to prep a console with detachable controllers reminds me of 1984's Micro Vs. System which was basically a tiny dot matrix screen with two wired controllers attached.
But instead of going FULL RETRO *sound of explosions*, Nintendo has decided to blend together the past, the present and still keep an eye pointed towards the future. Microsoft and Sony are busy readying their Scorpios and Neos, which will be more powerful, much faster and pretty much unbeatable when it comes to rendering sweat on a sport-star's close-up forehead. Ninty, on the other hand, are changing the game.
The late and great Satoru Iwata once said that he wanted the Wii to be a solid console, packed with enough plastic to not break when it falls out of a kid's cycle basket. Iwata-san also said he wanted to break down the barriers between casual and die-hard gamers, and the console managed that. Aced it, actually. It managed to bring entire generations of gamers together, even though it was confined to the role of secondary console for most.
The NX will be another in a long line of secondary consoles for the grandparent of console gaming, because Nintendo aren't looking to compete with the powerhouses. They want to make something wholly different altogether.
In conversation with Bloomberg, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime was candid when probed regarding the NX's direction:
"For us, it’s not about specs, it’s not about teraflops, it’s not about the horsepower of a particular system. For us, it’s about the content.
We’re focused on bringing our best entertainment to both the Wii U as well as the NX in the future. So for us, whatever Microsoft and Sony are doing in terms of talking about new systems, that’s for them to fight out in that red ocean.”
Don't get me wrong, Nintendo has themselves fallen foul to clones, mad choices and churning out the same old content. Why the big N hasn't made a new Metroid game starring Samus Aran astounds me. And the recent side scrolling 2.5D Super Mario Bros. games were wholeheartedly bested by Rayman Origins & Legends in terms of originality, and being generally good games.
But what really gets me lifted is Nintendo's reluctance to be drawn into a phallus-measuring competition regarding console power. It seems as if it is planning to grab gaming by its horns and drag it back to an age of wide-eyed firsts and wonder. And, most importantly, the company wants to redeem itself after the failures of the Wii U.
There was something honest and sweet about Nintendo's gaming yesteryear. Kirby's Adventure, Metroid (which turns 30 in August!), Mario Bros., man. These were all original characters with original gaming mechanics to be enjoyed. But now that console gaming is over 40 years old, it's no surprise that it has come to feel a little stale.
Basically, all in all, I haven't felt the wonder of video games dissipate so quickly after tearing the wrappers off of a new console. It's been 20 years since the N64 was first released, and still its praises are sung. 20 years from now do you think the PS4 and Xbox One will get the same starry eyed treatment?
This is why I'm so stoked about the NX. A new Nintendo console that wants to smash boundaries and bring our favorite characters to our fingertips in ways never before fathomed. A console that you can play on the move and then plug into a dock for TV funs?
Come on, that's so sick!