I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m playing not one, but two versions of Super Smash Bros. I had a sum total of zero intention of buying either version, until word of mouth started perforating my usually strong iron will, and interest into the saccharine sweet beat ’em up started seeping into my brain. After being laughed out of the store when I went in cold to buy the Wii U version the morning it launched, I begrudgingly picked up the 3DS version. I liked it. And so the Wii U version followed. Suddenly I’m Super Smash Bros crazy, and although I’m confining myself to the incredibly well fleshed-out single player portions of the game, the games are so good I reckon I’d buy it again if Nintendo had a third pillar.
More than anything, though, Super Smash Bros reminded me just how rich Nintendo’s history is. Although my history is relatively short, beginning and ending with Nintendo’s handhelds – I was a bit of a Gameboy tragic – until the Gamecube came along, for North America and Japan where Nintendo dominated throughout the 80’s and 90’s I can only imagine the endless stream of warm and fuzzy feelings the game sends their way. Even for me it’s a great trip, often down someone else’s memory lane, and a great tribute to the japanese giant – not to mention a very clever device to keep people playing. Everyone loves an in-game collectible and Super Smash Bros is collecting at its very best.
And then there’s Amiibos. There is no questioning that’s Nintendo’s intention with its ridiculously and unexpectedly figurines, which finally caught Lucius not long ago, and I suspect he’s not off the hook just yet. I haven’t fallen yet, but I know exactly where my line is, and I’m sure its only a matter of time until Nintendo gets there. So the question is: where is that line?
I didn’t know I realised exactly where that line was when I unlocked the Ashley trophy – the mischievous but cute as a button witch-in-training – in Super Smash Bros for 3DS. Thats the very same time I realised that it’s not the usual suspects – the Super Mario Lands, Donkey Kong Lands or Kirby’s Dream Lands – that evoke the greatest feelings of Nostalgia for me. Rather it was that little Microgame collection released in 2004, the game that in and of itself was a gigantic homage to its own company’s heritage, that holds within it all of my fondest Nintendo memories. That game is WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames! – and to a very slightly lesser extent its sequels even though i’m well aware that Twisted! at the very least is a better game. Regardless, they are bloody fantastic.
Unlike most games that I hold dear, sometimes for very good reason and others with a severe case of rose-tinted glasses, the first Warioware game came out when I was just about to leave my teenage years. Its clever self-referential and offbeat tone and its seemingly very deliberate attempt to capture the 8-bit magic of a simpler time. Oddly, Warioware was my first taste of the Nintendo of the 80’s that the internet seems so awfully fond of. Before Warioware (and arguably even after it, if you’re being technical) I’d never set eyes on let alone played the classics like Punch Out and Duck Hunt – in much the same way that Animal Crossing was my gateway to Excitebike and Balloon Fight. And it’s this juxtaposition of these old games with the simplistic and minimalist that to me made it such an endearing game, and in some ways, ahead of its time for its neo retro-ness. There was always something very retro feeling about Warioware as a franchise, so much so that I think my brain has been tricked into thinking its older than it actually is.
Look, I’m well aware that Warioware is far from ‘old’ Nintendo, and that in the pantheon of Nintendo characters Wario is practically a newborn. But for me – that is someone that was weaned kicking and screaming into the world of consoles from home computers – Nintendo was just another company that made consoles and then made games to play on them. It wasn’t the company with the cute roster of characters with a penchant for quality, that company that defined video games in the 90’s, or the company that practically invented – or at least refined – a fair chunk of the gameplay mechanics we rely so heavily on today. It was just Nintendo the maker of the Game Boy, the alternative to Sega, and eventually, the company usurped by Sony.
But Warioware changed that. Suddenly it all made sense, the way Nintendo was held so dearly by so many, suddenly it’s as though I finally got it. The game was a perfect mix of zany characters, beautiful art style and sound design, and gameplay that perfectly walked the very fine line between being simple and being boring. But most of all it was the game’s concept that caught me and indoctrinated me into the world of Nintendo. It was an utterly ridiculous concept – Wario starting the titular Warioware Inc video game company to make games and capitalise on rising game sales – that was impossible not to love. Somewhat serendipitously but suitably, Warioware the game about making games, defined the company for me. And in doing so made its characters – and those like Ashley that came in later games – my own personal mascots for the company.
Without a rich history of Nintendo nostalgia, while I love the Marios and Yoshis as much as the next man, I haven’t felt the need to run out and buy into Nintendo’s latest money-making scheme. But everyone has their achilles heal, and I’m afraid of what will happen should the funkmaster Jimmy T or jack-of-all trades Mona, make their way to store shelves. Because I’d like nothing more than to have the faces of those that define my relationship with Nintendo staring right back at me from atop my mantelpiece.
Not delved into the world of amiibo yet? Where is your line? Tell us in the comments below!