Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Nintendo, that great leviathan which has survived the trends, storms and triumphs of their past. Ever does it appear that they have toiled to generate an unpopular opinion from me, and mostly they have made good on their efforts. I am just going to go ahead and say it, My name is John and I do not like Nintendo very much. Can we still be friends or shall I get my coat? How about I just have a go at explaining myself and we’ll see who is left?
I shall begin with the condescensions. I am more than happy to concede that Super Mario World is the best platform game ever and unto ages of ages. It really is, and similarly Super Mario Kart is the greatest racing game. They represent that rarefied air of something which transcends a medium and becomes truly art. I have discussed NiGHTS into Dreams already and have no objection to slotting both of those Super’s in there. I preferred the Mega Drive over the Super Nintendo but it was blow-for-blow stuff between them.
The Nintendo 64
Then came the silicone graphics machine with the sex device controller. The Nintendo 64 was the talk of the town everywhere as soon as it first launched in Japan and Mario 64 was suddenly and singularly what defined the nature of gaming. Over the course of its lifetime, I would buy two of these machines and although I got to know it pretty well, I never really got it.
Firstly and not without consequence, it arrived too late to a culture that had shifted towards the more mature and ambient. I bought one because that much, and more still, had been said about Mario 64 that it must be what they said it was. And it kind of was for me, but the sheen of exploring large three dimensional spaces with impressive fidelity had come off a little because I had played through Tomb Raider on the Saturn by the time the Nintendo 64 came out.
Mario 64 played the beat faster and sharper but they were playing similar patterns. Mario 64 had a chipper attitude though and a bright sense of style. Now, I say style, but everything about how the machine made graphics happen made them smudgy. Playing Mario 64 kept my eyes in a constant state of tuning, trying to draw focus from the smeared colours. Sometimes they closed their aperture in an attempt to find edges on the objects around me and then they would open entirely and de-focus to find some definition like when I make them look at a magic eye picture of a badger and its set. It worked for the badger, but not for any Nintendo 64 game that I could find.
Does Mario have a drinking problem?
It was like the machine was drunk, and to be honest I wasn’t sure that Mario himself hadn’t been on the sauce. He was a squirrely customer to control this time around. In Super Mario World he had been the last word in precise control. On the new machine he loped and leaped about like a Geordie at a funeral. Oh, he could move when he needed to, and at speed, but just where that figured to his space in the surroundings was anybody’s guess by the time he landed and you had the camera sorted.
And the controller did not help. Yes it was sophisticated, but it was just too big and somehow simultaneously both over and under engineered. Oh dear, but at least they had a new Mario Kart on the way. ..
I bought that too, and would regularly rent a couple of extra controllers to get a four-way going. It was a blast in multi-player but the tension of the old two-way Mario Kart was gone and replaced with a curly Cumberland sausage of floppiness. Again, where had the precision gone? By 1997 I think most people had come to terms with the fact that polygons were not as fast or intuitive as sprites, but the better examples had already gotten pretty close. Virtua Fighter 2 moved like lightning and WipEout 2097 had its own futuristic kart physics down pat.
I know the characters in Mario Kart 64 were pre-rendered but the rest of it was good old fashioned polygons, and where WipEout 2097 flowed this seemed to roll, but not like cheese down a hill, rather like sausages falling over in a frying pan and hissing. And again of course it got all kinds of busy with the smudgy graphics.
Oh dear, but no matter, as good news was incoming: a new Zelda was on the way.
Zelda and me
Now I never did Zelda on the Super Nintendo, not even a little bit, but this new 3-D adventure Zelda was getting more hype than all the last Nintendo games that led my attention elsewhere. Edge magazine even gave it 10/10 and they were really into how unimpressed they were by video games generally. This must be good. I braced my wallet for another go on someone else’s promises and had the foreknowledge that come whatever it will look smudgy.
I actually think that Zelda on the Nintendo 64 was a disgrace.
Which Zelda did, albeit now with a resolution lower than comprehension itself could go. It was a very brown looking thing and barren as a winter’s field. I could live with that, but the frame rate, oh my… I just can’t play with polygons once the update drops below the unreasonable. Daytona USA on the Saturn was my absolute limit. Zelda had no limit and appeared to run without a thought for smoothness. No wonder the game had to auto-jump for you. It had to auto almost everything because you would never have been able to perfect the timing amongst the choppiness of it all.
Dodging Nintendo in the 21st century
So I skipped on the GameQuad when that came out, although I did purchase a GameBoy Advance and that little toy felt far more like Nintendo. I still preferred the Neo Geo Pocket Colour, as it had that completely charming version of SNK vs Capcom, but Nintendo and portable consoles are like Sega and arcade machines. They are good marriages. The Wii came into my house sometime after its release and gathered dust after the sport game had been exhausted, and I wasn’t in the mood to test my luck with anymore 3-D Mario.
Recently a Switch has entered my home and I am reliably informed by friends that already great things have happened. There is a Zelda that is the best thing ever. I cannot play it though because I value the friendships too much to lose them.
If you are still reading then thank you. This has not been a cry for help nor else an effort to put distance between us. My name is John and I do not like Nintendo that much. Oh dear.
John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90’s Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.