Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Reflections of a gamer's memory.

I have heard rumor time and time again that the Wii is the best selling game system Nintendo has ever released. Even though the original N.E.S set the standard for commercial success in the gaming industry, and in my opinion the S.N.E.S. was the golden standard of gaming excellence; the Wii does surpass them all. As a system the Wii is different in many ways from its ancestors. When I got my N.E.S. , circa 1986, it came packed with Super Mario Bros(with two controllers), Duck Hunt(the Zapper), and World Class Track Meet (and the Power Pad which I maintain is inspiration for the Wii Fit).The best selling game for the NES was Super Mario Bros 3. That cemented firmly the Italian Plumber as the driving force behind the Nintendo empire.
When Christmas came around in 1990 I found myself wishing (and getting) my S.N.E.S. It came packed with Super Mario World (and two controllers). As the second generation Nintendo system it was a big step up from the 8 bit days of the N.E.S. To me the S.N.E.S was the enlightened golden age of gaming before the long dark ages of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube. The SNES had so many wildly successful games like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Final Fantasy IV and VI (released as 2 and 3). Link (being the pseudonym of my real life best friend) and I spent hours on end with the SNES. Though Nintendo expanded the Mario universe with games like Yoshi' Island the systems success was actually most profound in the library of of non-Nintendo developed games. Capcom, Square-Enix (original Square and in the SNES days Squaresoft), and Konami to name a few grew to greater importance in the gaming community. While Sonic the Hedgehog was becoming a name brand on the Genesis (which I didn't own until 1997) Nintendo was the big market leader.
Which was all well and good until Sony released the Playstation. Nintendo's answer for this was the Nintendo 64. I toyed with the idea of buying a 64 for a while but the system initially released with just the unit and one controller. They broke the formula of Mario success from their golden years! My ex wife actually bought me a 64 bundled with Pokemon Stadium (we were big Pokemon fans from the days of red and blue despite me nearing my 20s)Later I got Mario 64, Legend of Zelda:Ocarina of Time, and a few other titles, but to this day I only have a half dozen titles for the system. That is at least in part to the expense of buying extra controllers and the over all disappointment I felt for the 64.
I had always played PC games, but during the days of the 64 (with the exception of some time devoted to Ocarina and Mario 64) I stopped being a console gamer. When I returned some years later to console games it was to buy the PSone. Not long afterward I upgraded to a PS2 and became the fan of Sony systems that I am today. The PS2 I bought used with no games and two controllers, but since it was backwards compatible I just picked up where I left off with Final Fantasy Chronicles. All the while I took very little notice of the Gamecube. In fact I still do not own a Gamecube. I played Mario Sunshine on Amy's son's GC, and Link and I hooked our Gameboy Advances to his GC to play Final Fantasy:Crystal Chronicles. I was less than impressed. I didn't think I would see the day I would be that big into a Nintendo console again.
It is worth saying that I have two Gameboy Colors, a Gameboy Advance, and a DS. As far as portable gaming goes I haven't ever left the Nintendo. Sure my PSP may see regular play but so does the DS. The point here is I am talking about Nintendo consoles not handhelds!
Last Christmas I bought my daughter a Wii in Germany. Little did I know that my parents had sprung for me a PS3 at the same time. I unwrapped the PS3 with genuine excitement and surprise. Being that we were in Germany I ended up with a European 40 GB PS3. I came to discover that would mean that the already limited backward compatibility (PSone only) would be eliminated because of region code restrictions. Though the system came without a game and with only one controller and I couldn't play my PS2 or PSone games, it wasn't a total loss. I was able to download Mortal Kombat II, Warhawk, and Super Stardust HD.
We really spent our game time though with the Wii.It came with Wii Sports and one Wii-mote with Nunchuck. My parents, my daughter, and I passed that controller around for days afterward before giving in and buying Wii play to get a second controller. I felt the system was going to be a big let down because it did not come with a Mario game. I could not have been more wrong.
This Christmas my parents decided I needed a Wii because of how much I enjoyed my daughter's Wii. They got me the same Wii Sports package and Wii Play. I think we actually played more with my Wii than with my daughters. Since Christmas my Wii catalog has grown with Mario kart and Mario Galaxies. I have also been picking up a few Gamecube titles along the way (Paper Mario, Mario Sunshine, LoZ:Windwaker).Mario is more the golden standard of gaming than ever before. I was amazed at how much fun it was to be Mario in a Bee suit. Amy and I have been working our way through Galaxies with enough fervor that we have only played Mario kart once.
Th biggest thing that Nintendo has done right was to pick up the thing that Sony did right before. They gave us backward compatibility to the Gamecube and then via the Wii store have been giving us NES, SNES, and N64 downloads. I find it Ironic since Sony decided not the make the PS3 fully backward compatible. Kudos to Nintendo for picking up some slack. Let us hope they just keep it up going forward!
Well I am low on my daily Wii time. Time to get back to it!

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