Monday, September 26, 2005

Nintendo's Power

Sleep evades me for the moment, so in its stead I thought I'd share some of my thoughts about Nintendo's new controller.

If you're a video game nerd, you've been paying attention to the commentary taking place across the internet. Some people are convinced that Nintendo will usher in a golden age of gaming. Others think that they've completely lost it and will eventually become just another game-maker for Sony or XBox the same way Sega simply makes games for Nintendo now.

While I'm still somewhat skeptical about the controller, mainly for not having any real games out of it yet or having tried it myself, I'm inclined to give Nintendo the benefit of the doubt. I mean, they've pulled crazy stuff before and been all right for it. Let's look at some history:

Think of the many peripherals Nintendo has come out with in the past. On the original Nintendo, they had several: the Light Gun, the PowerPad, the PowerGlove, ROB . . . the Gun and the PowerPad were probably the best attempts. Do remember, Nintendo was really getting the whole industry going at this time. Yeah, there had been Atari and such before that, but the appearance of the NES took gaming to a new level. In any case, the Light Gun was a pretty popular attempt as far as peripherals go. The PowerPad was ahead of its time; unpopular back in the 80's, but if they'd come up with Dance Dance Revolution then, well . . .

Next came the Super NES. The premiere game sparked a lot of interest in me, but I remember thinking, "Mario rides around on a dinosaur with a freaking saddle? This is going to be dumb. They give him a cape? Lame!" Boy, was I wrong. The game was a smash. Mario Kart? "A Mario racing game?! Lame!" Wrong again, Hal. And yes, some of the peripherals for the SNES were failures; the Super Scope was just not as well-received as the Light Gun had been, but Nintendo was at least experimenting.

Flash forward to the N64. Nintendo brought in a rumble pack, and it's changed the way games have been played since (Although . . . did Sony do this first with the PS1? I can't recall . . .). And the games? When I first heard about Mario Party from a friend, I was in disbelief. "So, it's a board game . . . only on the N64 . . . and you play with Mario and such . . . that has to be so boring." Now there's a 6th volume of Mario Party. Smash Brothers? "It's a fighting game, only with Mario and Pikachu and other Nintendo characters? Nintendo must be out of ideas, because that has to be dumb and unplayable." I just didn't get it, apparently, because at this point I've wasted so many hours of my life playing that game it's ridiculous.

Even with the GameCube, there were reasons to be skeptical. The premiere title left Mario out of the spotlight and gave it to Luigi! What was Nintendo thinking?! Well, actually, probably something genius, because the game turned out to be pretty darn popular (and fun to play, too).

What's my point out of all of this? Nintendo has been doing this a long, long time. They've had successes and failures during that time, but they've been learning how things work. And often times, when Nintendo innovates, the rest of the industry follows suit.

In this case, a lot of people are skeptical about the Revolution because it is a radical departure from what we've expected from video game consoles. However, Nintendo has surprised me before with their innovations, and in many cases those have been incredible successes. I'm not making any predictions about how well the Revolution's design will do, but I am willing to give it a chance and see if the games that come from it will be fun.

And if it's fun . . . then I think the nay-sayers will be eating their words. While taking their Revolution home from Best Buy.

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