wii-console

But, I’ve been burned by the Nintendo hype machine before…

That’s a thought that has been running through my mind lately. With the upcoming NX still shrouded in mystery and my excitement going through the roof, I’m often reminded that nearly 10 years ago to the day, I felt the same way about another Nintendo product that sat just around the corner.

I was there on an autumn morning some time in 2006, standing with my college friends in huddles around the entrance to our local GameStop. I was the fourth person in line, guaranteeing me a reservation for Nintendo’s upcoming console, the enigmatic Wii. The new motion-controls were clearly going to be the future of gaming, and no game showed that off better than Red Steel, destined to be the most ground-breaking FPS released since Halo or maybe even GoldenEye.

And The Legend of Zelda was waiting for me at launch with open arms and promises of a new adventure with Link. What could possibly go wrong?

Here we are, a full decade later, and I’m still gaming with traditional controllers and the usual button layouts. The Wii turned out to be, without question, the most disappointing console I ever purchased and certainly the console I spent the least time with. I would say the PlayStation 4 is giving it a run for its money, but the difference here is that I never really had that high expectations for this latest console generation.

The Wii was something different, though. The Wii had me excited to be a Nintendo fan again. It promised new possibilities and experiences that were not possible on other consoles, and Nintendo was leading us into a new age of innovation.

It had genuine hype behind it that petered out for a good many of the 100 million people that bought it. But, I was not among them.

What happened with the Wii? Well, the launch didn’t go as smoothly as planned. I nabbed up The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess only to find that it was an exceptionally slow and depressing game, and Capcom’s PlayStation 2 cult-classic Okami ran circles around it as the superior of these weird wolf-based action adventures. Red Steel could give No Man’s Sky detractors a lesson or two in how to deal with disappointment, and the third game I picked up, Rayman Raving Rabbids, nearly exhausted my shoulders to the point of falling off.

At least Wii Sports was fun, but it was when I picked up Elebits that I became totally dishonest with myself when I said I would rather be playing it than Gears of War or Rainbow Six: Vegas. Two months later, I owned an Xbox 360 and was soaring through city skylines in Crackdown. Eventually, I fell into the “Finish the Fight” hype for Halo 3 and traveled the galaxy as Commander Shepard.

Meanwhile, my Wii saw less and less play as these new, exciting, bigger games came out. Being the loyal sheep that I am, I picked up Super Mario Galaxy and desperately tried to convince myself I would rather be playing it than a third or fourth playthrough of Mass Effect. I know a lot of people say Nintendo’s first-party games saved the Wii, but I’m sorry. I don’t agree. I go back to Super Mario Sunshine or Super Mario 3D Land more than either Galaxy game nowadays. Neither of the Wii’s Legend of Zelda games brought me the same magic that the previous games had, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, motion-controls and all, was far weaker than the two games that had come before it.

And yes, even myself, a lifelong loyalist to Japanese video games, couldn’t ignore that the emerging market for Western-developed HD games was exciting! Mass Effect, BioShock, Assassin’s Creed, Halo 3, Uncharted, Grand Theft Auto 4. There was a period of my life for about three years when this was all gaming was, and I felt my Japanese gaming roots were slipping away as the console releases from the country became less and less inspiring. The Wii didn’t help that at all, and not until I played Valkyria Chronicles, Demon’s Souls, or Persona 3 FES did I feel them coming back.

Of course, the Game Boy Advance released some of my all time favorite Japanese handheld games, and the Nintendo DS followed suit, but this is console gaming! This is what I had lived for, the main attraction of my life for the last twenty years! Handheld gaming shouldn’t be the force that drives my hobby should it?

But, in the present say, this point now lies at the very heart of why I am letting myself slip back into the Nintendo hype machine with a lot more confidence. Handheld gaming does dominate my life, and Nintendo is playing right into that.

Fire Emblem

Video gaming for Ron in 2016

I think we’re all convinced at this point that the Nintendo NX is going to be a hybrid console that bridges consoles and handheld games. The Pokémon Company President Tsunekaze Ishihara’s recent comments give us the most solid evidence yet! Not only is this a fabulous idea for Nintendo, which has much more consistently dominated the handheld market than the console market, but it also caters directly to my gaming habits right now. I primarily play games on my Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita, leaving my Wii U and PlayStation 4 on my entertainment stand to collect dust.

I have morphed into an in-motion gamer who plays a majority of his experiences rolling through the Japanese countryside on distant bound trains. I find that when I come home, I would much rather continue the experience I was having on the train than fire up something else. I have a few more levels to grind in Dragon Quest or a Pokémon I really want to catch, and I don’t want to turn it off for whatever game I am struggling to stay interested in on my PlayStation 4.

Tossing my current experience from my hand directly onto the TV when I roll home from a rough day of teaching is exactly what the NX’s rumors are promising. Not a revolution with motion controls or some fantastic way to advance gameplay, just further advancing the way I currently consume and enjoy games.

Now, all that awaits is to see if the software follows suit. Here in lies another advantage that the NX has over the Wii, and that’s that the AAA market is now far more boring than it was in 2007! The early allure of HD gaming has long since faded, and nowadays, if I pick up a game dedicated for consoles, I feel like I’m going through the motions rather than setting off on a new adventure. Turn on the game, play through an intro mission, hit the open-world, and start jumping between waypoints on my sub-map.

For some people, that’s what they want, and good for them. I’m not saying these kinds of games shouldn’t exist, and if they didn’t, it means no Final Fantasy XV for me. What I’m saying is that, personally, I don’t see the AAA scene dragging me away from Nintendo like it did 10 years ago. Nintendo’s games on the Wii U and especially on the 3DS have been exceptionally solid, and that’s already looking true on the NX with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

But then again, I thought the same thing about Twilight Princess.

Plus, I have no doubt plenty of Japanese developers are going to flock to it as well once it takes off in its home country. Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, you name it! Plenty of popular Japanese franchises are going to appear on the NX because developing for it will be cheap and every Japanese kid is going to want to buy one.

For me, the handheld market dominates my gaming time, and if Nintendo can find a way to get enough power into it to look great on an HD television set as well, then it very well could be my ideal console. Just please, Nintendo. I’m begging you, don’t muck up Virtual Console this time.