When Nintendo formally announced the Wii U, itís upcoming home console, at the 2011 E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), it gave me pause to think about my storied past with the video game colossus, what it has meant to me, and if our relationship is headed for a dead end.
When I was a little kid, I was in love with Nintendo. Iíd play my NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) until my thumbs were sore, and then Iíd keep playing. I didnít have very many games, and I wasnít particularly amazing at them, but that didnít stop me from attempting the the same level in Ninja Gaiden more times than I could possibly stand to now. Maybe Iíve lost my patience, maybe I just didnít know any better, but I was a machine.
Years later, my parents bought me a Sega Genesis instead of a SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). I would endlessly argue the superiority of my Genesis with my SNES-having friends, and then I would go over to their houses and play their Super Nintendos. There were great games for both, but it was hard to compete with Super Mario World, Donkey Kong Country, and Final Fantasy.
Mortal Kombat was a bit of a sticking point. MK for Genesis had marginally inferior graphics to the SNES version, but it had blood, whereas SNES just had lame sweat, and to an adolescent Aaron, that was a game-winning argument in my favor. I rubbed this point in the smug faces of my SNES-wielding friends at every chance I could, but I knew it was a stolen victory.
When the Nintendo 64 surfaced, I was ready to convert back to Nintendo. To this day, the N64 is the product I have most eagerly anticipated in my life (including my beloved iPhone). I got a promotional VHS in the mail from Nintendo with a reel of Super Mario 64 footage, and I watched it every day. I finally got my grody little hands on both the console and the game, and it. was. awesome. I got all 120 stars and everything.
In the years that followed, I owned a PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and an Xbox 360. Youíll notice that the Nintendo GameCube is conspicuously missing from this list. Why? Because I didnít care about it. From mid-high school to post-college, Nintendo was an old girlfriend that Iíd fallen out of touch with. I was into big-kid games with fancy polygons and realistically rendered guts. None of that kids stuff.
Then came the Wii. In short, the Nintendo Wii replaced the precision of a standard controller with pointing and spastic waggling, and in doing so opened up the world of gaming to a whole new audience: Women and babies. I kid, I kid! Sort of.
As a moderately ďhardcoreĒ gamer, I wanted to hate the Wii and the shift to casual gaming it represented, but when my wife proclaimed that she wanted one, it gave me an excuse to let my walls crumble. Sure enough I found myself calling local retailers trying to hunt down my very own little white Wii.
It worked! We got one, brought it home, played some tennis, threw our shoulders out, ate dinner, and watched TV. That scene repeated itself several times with several friends and relatives when they stopped by. This period with the Wii was like going to dinner with that old girlfriend who you havenít seen in years, during which the conversation starts well enough, but after a couple drinks you realize that you donít have much in common anymore, and it gets awkward.
A majority of the games for the Wii are crap. Thereís a tidy pile of truly great titles, and a junkyard full of mediocre to bad ones next to it. The good ones tend to be updates to franchises established in the NES and SNES days, and they will always sell because, well, you never forget your first girlfriend. They have us by the heartstrings and they know it.
My Wii now sits there looking cute and gathering dust, much like yours probably does -- unless you have babies. It just couldnít hold my attention, but when Nintendo announced the Wii U, I was all ears. This HD modern marvel solves all the problems of the Wii, and was greeted with a collective, ďHuh?Ē
After years of telling us that motion controls are the future, Nintendo is introducing a system whose primary controller is closer to a PlayStation Sixaxis than the wand and nunchuck of the Wii, except that it has a giant touch screen... and a camera, and a sensor strip, and infrared something or other. Confused? Yeah, me too. You can play this thing in seven different configurations. Seven! I donít like to be brainwashed, but I do like to understand a companyís vision of a product. After its E3 press conference, I can only guess that Nintendo wants me to feel like I can do whatever I want with this identity crisis of a machine, but instead I want nothing to do with it.
The dinner with the ex-girlfriend has gone stale. The infatuation has run its course, and Iím starting to notice her nose hairs and that thing stuck in her teeth. My romance with Nintendo is at an end, but weíll always have the sore thumbs and sweaty palms of my pajama-clad youth.
I had a daughter on March 16th. Maybe Iíll get her Wii U.
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