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1-Ups And Downs: Reflecting On Nintendo's Past

Nintendo has an incredibly loyal fan base. The Game Informer office is filled with editors who were raised on the company's games and hardware, and we have more fond Nintendo memories than we could possibly share in one article. But, as with any company that's remained relevant for so long, Nintendo also has its low points. In this article the staff of Game Informer sounds off on our personal ups and downs with the Big N. 

Dan Ryckert

High: As a six year old, the only thing that mattered to me was Mario. I lost count of how many times I beat the first three Super Mario Bros. games on NES, and I obsessed over every detail of the upcoming Super Mario World that I read in Nintendo Power. When my dad read an article about the game and said “I think it’s coming out on a new system,” I had no idea what he meant. The NES was all I knew, and the concept of playing a game on something different was foreign to me. Despite my initial concerns, the day I received my Super Nintendo was one of the best (and most important) days of my gaming history. It came with Super Mario World and I received The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as a present. On the same day, I was introduced to two of my favorite games of all time.

Low: As much as I love the 3D Zeldas, there’s a part of me that always wanted to revisit the style of A Link to the Past. That’s why I was so excited by the announcement of Four Swords Adventures. It looked like A Link to the Past, but I’d be able to play it on a TV with three friends. At least, that’s what I thought I’d be able to do. When it released, I found that it was difficult to assemble three friends with Game Boy Advances, let alone three friends with GBAs and the required GameCube connectivity cable. To this day, it’s one of the only Zelda games that I haven’t beaten.

Andy McNamara

High: In 1990, I was a poor college dropout who loved playing videos, playing in a rock band, and working at Funcoland, the place where I got my start in video games. Back then, there were maybe 10 or 13 Funcolands in the nation, and somehow I convinced my boss that we really needed to get a Japanese Famicom in with Super Mario World so people could check it out before it released in the states. Thankfully, he agreed, and so I proceeded to sit in the store after it closed until the wee hours of the morning playing Super Mario World, which at the time, featured mind-blowing graphics and check it out…this controller had soooo many buttons! Anyway, that was the first game I played for the 16-bit Nintendo and it marked the beginning of my love affair with the Super Nintendo, which is still my favorite console of all-time.

Low: I'm sure I will get hate for this choice, but the Nintendo Wii is my low-point. It was the first time in my life I didn't line up to get a Nintendo system, as I felt like Nintendo really abandoned its hardcore audience with this console. Eventually, we got some classics on the platform but it still feels to this day like the biggest misstep in Nintendo's history (even though I know it is/was a commercial success). 

Tim Turi

High: I remember stumbling across Super Smash Bros. at the video rental store one day. I must have missed the game’s previews in my magazines, because the concept sounded too good to be true. You mean my friends and I can beat the crap out of each other as Nintendo characters like Link, Kirby, and Mario? It only took one rental of the game before my friends and I pooled our money and scored the game. I remember being equally impressed by the gameplay, and the fact that Nintendo allowed Hal Laboratories to let these iconic characters duke it out.

Low: My mom gave me a Game Boy Advance close to the system’s release. I loved Castlevania: Symphony of the night, and I couldn’t wait to recapture some of the magic with the GBA’s Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Unfortunately, the GBA wasn’t backlit. Somewhere during development of the handheld, Nintendo decided adding a backlit screen was a bad idea. To make matters work, Circle of the Moon is a very dark game. This deadly combination mellowed my enthusiasm for the GBA until the release of the backlit SP. {Editor's Note: Originally, I mistakenly said the Game Boy Color had a backlit screen. It did not. That would've been awesome, though.]

Matt Helgeson

High: I can't be certain, but I'd guess it was sometime in 1986 -- when the NES was rolled out into most U.S. markets after a limited New York City release the previous holiday season. My friend Dan told me about this new system he'd gotten -- "awesome" to hear him tell it. At that time, the Atari was long dead and most of our gaming was things like Oregon Trail or Odell Lake or Tut's Typer in the school computer lab. In any case, one weekend I had Dan over for a sleepover, and he brought the NES with him, Super Mario Bros. and Kung Fu in tow. Oddly, Kung Fu, which now seems pretty slight, was the game that captured our imagination. We stayed up well past our agreed-upon bedtime, karate kicking to our heart's content. I remember being floored by the experience -- the new type of controller, the graphics, everything. The next morning, I set upon getting my parents to buy me one of my own.

Low: I started at Game Informer as an unpaid intern during college; I played in a band with Andy and he took pity on a unaccomplished Mass Communication major and let me be an intern to puff up my resume. Game Informer is a treasure trove of gaming history, and one of the first things I wanted to try out was the rare Nintendo Virtual Boy 3D console, which I'd heard about but never seen in the wild. So, I set up the red googles on their stand, and began to play the Mario Tennis game that had been released for Virtual Boy (I've always been a fan of video game tennis). Suddenly, my eyes were assaulted by a blurry, red-tinged graphics. A splitting headache soon worked its way through my brain, as my neck and shoulders tensed from hunching over the desk and leaning forward into the Virtual Boy goggles. In the space of 15 minutes, my interest dissolved into hatred for what might still be the very worst game system ever made.

Jeff Marchiafava

High: After saving up our allowance for months, my brother and I were finally allowed to buy a Super Nintendo, our first real console (not counting our father’s old Bally Astrocade). Nintendo’s impressive 16-bit library didn’t disappoint, and the SNES is still probably my favorite console. Super Metroid, Super Mario World, and A Link to the Past are still my favorite installments in Nintendo’s three biggest franchises.

Low: My love affair with Nintendo’s home consoles has gone downhill ever since. I thoroughly enjoyed my Nintendo 64 as well, but it had some obvious flaws. The GameCube did nothing for me, and while I was initially intrigued by the Wii, the hardware was only used for cheap gimmicks, and the software library was plagued by shovelware. Maybe the Wii U can reignite the flame, but my only real interest in Nintendo from the past 10 years has been for the company’s handhelds.  

Kimberly Wallace

High: This is a tough one. Some of my best childhood memories include playing the early Mario games with friends, especially Super Mario Bros. 3, but the Super Nintendo defined me as an RPG fan. I fell in love with the genre by playing Earthbound, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger. Finding your true gaming passion is a special moment; it shaped me as a gamer. 

Low: Confession time. I sold my Sega Genesis and all its games to fund a Nintendo 64. To this day, it’s one of my biggest regrets. I played the hell out of Super Mario 64, but other than Nintendo’s main franchises, not many games garnered my interest. Sometimes I stand in the Game Informer vault and glance over at the Sega Genesis games and reminisce (and secretly cry) about all the great ones I sold off. Since my Nintendo 64 fiasco, I’m always on the fence about buying consoles with few must-buy launch titles. 

Ben Hanson

High: I was an ignorant child; I loved games but lacked the friends to steer me in the right direction. I was happy with my Game Gear and Apple II, wholly unaware that brilliant game design was in another castle. When I was in sixth grade I sensed a cultural shockwave reverberating through the halls, Pokémon Red and Blue had been released. I forced a privileged Game Boy-owning friend of mine to explain the concept: "It's basically cockfighting" was his best description. My generous friend let me erase his saved game and take out Brock with my very own Squirtle. Also my first RPG experience, I was immediately intoxicated by the game's structure and the need to memorize the original 151 monsters. It was a phenomenon, and also the first time I was in the loop with the evolution of games.

Low: Hell is other people. More specifically, hell is listening to others wax nostalgic for their own childhood (thanks for reading this article, by the way). I missed the boat on the glory of the NES and SNES, and I will forever pay the price. Working in this industry I'm bombarded by people regaling me with stories of their cherished first experiences with Super Mario Bros. 3 and Link to the Past. I play these games and feel nothing; avoiding them as a kid has made them strictly academic. People long for a new Mario game that looks like the old ones, or complain that new Zelda games don't capture the magic and freedom of the old games. Listening to others demand that Nintendo mine their nostalgia has become a background hum of the gaming industry that I can't avoid.

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