Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rank Up! - Nintendo Consoles

Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, announced a worldwide launch for the company's upcoming Wii U. Rumors say the console could be anywhere between 2X-5X the power of the Xbox 360, and that Nintendo is possibly considering a name change. Regardless, you should always take any rumor with a grain of salt.

It seems like an opportune time to play Rank Up! This segment is where I take a series of games (or in this case consoles) and rank them from least favorite to most favorite. Our subject this go around is a different specimen entirely. Instead of ranking games, I'll be ranking consoles-- Nintendo's five to be exact. Let's see what five they are for those unaware:

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
Nintendo 64 (N64)
Nintendo GameCube (GCN)
Nintendo Wii (Wii)

Nintendo is pretty much synonymous with gaming, and the public knows that. Many competitors have attempted to oust the company out of the industry with rivaling products, but Nintendo rolls on. Even when they were in a far and away third place in the GameCube era, they still made money (they only took a loss late in the gen). This is a company that knows how to do well for itself, and they have a crazy fanbase that backs them up through thick and thin. I truly believe that without Nintendo, their competitors would have no one to imitate.

5) Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

The system that brought an industry back from the grave, the Nintendo Entertainment System or NES (aka the Famicom in Japan) was originally bundled with R.O.B the robot in the states because retailers would not carry full-fledged game systems after the infamous video game crash. Nintendo got around this by saying the NES was a toy, thus including R.O.B. I have a few fond memories of the system, but I never cared for 8-bit sprites or music. Games in this era gave me constant headaches, and apart from the birth of many popular franchises that go on to this day such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest, and Castlevania, the NES pales in comparison to Nintendo's future efforts. Some NES games held the moniker of being "Nintendo hard;" they were quite difficult with some being obtuse in how you had to come at them. That notwithstanding, the NES is still a wonderful console that many share loving memories for.

4) Nintendo 64 (N64)

It may have been the most powerful platform of its generation, but it was also the beginning of Nintendo well-known struggles with third-parties. The decision to persist on using cartridges instead of the new compact disc format that the up and coming PlayStation used made many companies jump ship like Squaresoft and Capcom who took their Final Fantasy and Mega Man franchises to Sony's gray box. Despite this, the Nintendo 64 had Rare in their prime, releasing such incredible titles like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, GoldenEye 007, Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64, Blast Corps, and Killer Instinct Gold, to name the majority of them. Then you had Nintendo's output which was quite good, too. Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, Wave Race 64, Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Party 1-3, Paper Mario, and many more. Unfortunately, this gen also introduced Nintendo fans to the infamous software droughts that Nintendo systems are now known all too well for. All in all, the Nintendo 64 may have started the downward spiral of the company's system successes, but the quality content, the introduction of an analog stick, rumble, four control ports, and the then excellent graphics might have made up for it.

3) Nintendo GameCube (GCN)

Last place (not counting the Dreamcast) in sales but number one in Nintendo fans' hearts, the GameCube was Nintendo's first attempt at optical media. Using mini DVDs instead of traditional DVDs (which peeved some developers), the GameCube received the fair share of third-party content, even getting some nice exclusives like the still gorgeous Resident Evil remake and Resident Evil 0, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, Tales of Symphonia (in the West at least) and Gotcha Force. Nintendo produced and developed some of their best games in this gen and some decent software, too, like Super Mario Sunshine, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, F-Zero GX (developed by Amusement Vision), Animal Crossing, Wave Race: Blue Storm, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Twilight Princess, Custom Robo, Chibi Robo, Star Fox Assault, Luigi's Mansion, Pikmin 1 and 2, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and a lot more. However, the mantra that "third-party games don't sell on Nintendo systems" began with the GameCube. By the end of its life cycle, the Cube got little in the way of third-party support. This would continue to haunt Nintendo all the way through to their next console and onto the current day.

2) Nintendo Wii (Wii)

Nintendo struck gaming gold with their Wii, and the competition struggled to keep up for years. It sold record-breaking amounts of both hardware and software, and it elevated Nintendo to heaven. When the Wii remote was initially revealed at the Tokyo Game Show (where they seldom attend) to be the controller for the system and its various uses were shown, message boards all over exploded with comments berating it or wondering if Ashton Kutcher punk'd them (that's still a popular show, right? Ah, I don't care). At the following E3, crowds stormed through Sony's booth just to try out the controller for themselves. With titles for both the core and the casual, an intuitive control method, and a low price, the Wii had a blitzkrieg in sales. Games like Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Party, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl., Mario Kart Wii, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Excite Truck, Excitebots: Trick Racing, Wario Land: Shake It!, Just Dance 1-3, Zumba Fitness, the Rabbids games, Kirby's Return to Dream Land, and Kirby's Epic Yarn either sold well and/or were critically acclaimed. The Wii showcases Nintendo's best first-party output since the next console on my Rank Up! list.

1) Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

The king is here. Nintendo's best console (known as the Super Famicom in Japan) comes from the 16-bit era where they were pitted against a worthy adversary in Sega's Genesis/Mega Drive system. The phrase "Sega does what Nintendon't" was popular in ads, but Nintendo prevailed regardless. Nintendo added shoulder buttons and two more face buttons to create the SNES controller. Having a robust line of first-party software like Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country 1-3, Kirby Super Star, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Pilotwings, Super Mario Kart, Super Mario RPG, among others and a plentiful amount of third-party content from past and present storied series such as Final Fantasy, Dragon Warrior/Quest, Mega Man, Castlevania, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and more, the Super Nintendo is only rivaled by the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's own DS as having the greatest library of titles in the albeit brief history of video games.


What are your favorite consoles that Nintendo has released? Are you excited for the Wii U? Feel free to answer these questions or add your own thoughts on this piece in the comments section.


Matt Sainsbury said...

For me, the best console was the GameCube, which I got a whole lot of play time out of despite the limited number of releases. It was the best console for four player local multiplayer ever, thanks almost entirely to Super Smash Bros. Melee.

It also has Baten Kaitos, one of the best forgotten JRPGs.

The Wii is my second favourite, thanks largely to Fire Emblem, Chocobo and Samurai Warriors 3. There's also the Virtual Console, which gave me most of the N64, SNES and NES games I wanted on the same console anyway.

Unknown said...

I didn't want to mention the VC as that would have been unfair in my eyes. Though we all know it's an awesome feature. Yes, indeed.

Parko said...

I will always consider the NES my favourite Nintendo console with the SNES coming up as a close second.

The others all have individual traits that make them great as well, but for me the NES/SNES carry a lot of nostalgia and that for me is hard to beat.

Reggie White Jr. said...

I love these Rank Up! features. =)

Like you, Super Philip, my favorite Nintendo system is the SNES. I own about 70 games for it and still have more titles that I'd like to pick up. Even today, a lot of the visuals from SNES games are impressive to me along with the sound.

Glad to see the Wii ranked high with you. I know it takes a lot of heat, but it really has had some fantastic games.

Unknown said...

I think the Wii is going to be one of those consoles that is looked back on more fondly in the future than it is now.