Three years ago, I contemplated why I had not yet established a relationship with the Wii U. The console had then been out for number of months, and as a self-prescribed “super” Nintendo fan, I had yet to jump on the Wii U bandwagon. Though I was enamored with the likes of Super Mario 3D World, and the prospect of new outings from Donkey Kong and Bayonetta, a number of factors, including timing and overall lack of games, prevented me from wanting to spend money on the console then. I did eventually receive the console as a gift, and I became hopeful that our life together would blossom. Here we are not quite three years later, and…five games. That’s exactly how many games I’ve played on the Wii U since receiving the thing at the tail end of 2013: five whole games in two years. Woo.
I have tried very hard over the past couple years to be excited for the Wii U exclusive games that have come on offer, such as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, The Wonderful 101, and, most recently, Xenoblade Chronicles X, but the thought of me actually buying any of them always has me exhale a resounding “meh.” I’m just don’t feel that interested in these games any longer.
Ah, but then enters into the arena the Nintendo NX! Now here’s something that should have gotten all those Nintendo juices flowing again, right? It just seems all kind of cool! The rumors of it are still pretty wild at this point, but it seems like it’s going to be both a handheld and a console (I like that), it’s going to have cartridges (no more load screens, awesome!), and its games, like Link’s new adventures in Breath of the Wild, promise to compete with the best of anything from Microsoft and Sony (and it’s about time). What’s not to like?!
I should be excited, but I’m not, I’m simply not. Whatever spell Nintendo once held over me is slowly but surely dissipating. I’m more than happy to replay the Wii U games I have, but I’m sure not looking to add any of its games to my collection, not even its version of the fantastically appealing Breath of the Wild. And as intriguing as the NX sounds now, it’s just not something I see myself investing in whenever it does actually hit the store shelves.
At the risk of becoming too self-reflective, my gaming aspirations and relationships have shifted dramatically over the past decade. It really used to be that I was all about platformers, 2D and 3D. I was once pleased as punch to spend time collecting coins with Mario or defeating space pirates with Samus or bounding through the skies with Banjo and Kazooie. And the thing of it was, no matter what else I played, from fighting games to FPSs to RPGs on other consoles, Nintendo and its dazzling array of platformers always called me back. These games weren’t about wandering aimlessly looking for quests or trying to navigate through a complex story. No, you had your levels and your collectibles. You had goals to meet, secrets to uncover, and bosses to battle. And at the heart of it all were some of the most memorable and enjoyable characters in gaming.
I think things started to go downhill with Super Mario Sunshine. It was the first Mario game that I never completed, and the first one that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy. It was one of those games where when things were going great, when I was in the groove with the controls and story, they were fantastic! But when things got just a little bit off, like when I just couldn’t get Mario’s main “weapon,” the F.L.U.D.D. (a super powered water shooter) to work right, they were downright terrible. It became one of the most frustrating games I had ever played. And at a certain point, my dislike of the game gave way to me trading it. I do regret that.
After that misstep, things between Nintendo and I picked speed again with the Nintendo DS, my favorite handheld to date. Not only did I find a companion in Mario again, but I found sooooo many games to like! I adventured with Samus in the wonderfully scary Metroid Fusion. I solved riddled and crimes with Professor Layton. I played through LEGO worlds with the cast of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. And I discovered what would become a few all-time favorite titles, like The World Ends with You and GTA: Chinatown Wars.
As any hill must be met with a valley, getting the Wii was just that. Oh, I had really high hopes for its motion controls and reportedly amazing set of games, which of course included Mario (in space!), but that story did not have a happy ending. I’ve written about that plenty, and there will be more to come as I wrap up Twilight Princess, which has reminded me quite heartily of how unpleasant the Wii’s controls can be.
Beyond simply have “good” or “bad” times with certain games, let’s talk numbers, because I have actually quantified my gaming history (because I’m cool like that). As a matter of recent comparison, I count that I’ve played twelve games for the Wii since getting the console in 2007. Yeesh. That’s, like, a little over one game a year. So maybe I’m not doing all that bad with my five Wii U games in two years! Adding in previous Nintendo consoles paints a different picture. I count my hardcore “Nintendo years” as spanning from about 1986 to about 2010, which is when things really started to drop off. During those couple decades or so, I managed an average of completing three new games a year. That’s only counting games I finished. Who’s to say how many other games came in unfinished fits and starts? (And that’s also not counting multitudinous replays of favorites like Super Mario 3, Super Mario World, and Super Metroid. And it also only counts compilations once — Super Mario All-Stars and Mega Man Anniversary Collection, etc.)
For even further perspective, since 2010, of those seventeen Nintendo titles that I’ve played (twelve on the Wii and five on the Wii U), I’ve only fully completed six of them. When I finally beat Twilight Princess (and I will!), the grand total will become seven. Should this trend continue, I’ll eventually be down to less than one Nintendo game a year.
But it’s the unfortunate truth…unless the NX really wows me in some magical fashion. With the NX, not even the promise of exclusive titles, even those with the beloved figures of Yoshi, Mario, Samus, and Link, is enough to keep me on board at the moment. Fact is, I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. How about offering up something we’ve never seen before? Something…new? Something different, something uncomfortable, something that could redefine but not upend the very name “Nintendo.” Anything? Maybe?
I have no wish to see Nintendo implode, and I want to NX to be nothing more than a rousing success for us, the gamers, and the company. I want future generations to find the joys, small and large, in hanging out with Nintendo’s flagship characters that have delighted gamers for years. I want Nintendo to make the best games it can for as many years as it can. But my future in Nintendo fandom remains tenuous, at best.