Relationships are an awfully complicated matter. By managing to affect our emotions in ways we sometimes did not even know were possible, they make us feel like heaven even when the slightest details click together, but – at the same time – a tiny mishap may cause a hurricane of emotions that, when not properly handled, can create a big deal of hurting. It is roller-coaster ride full of ups and downs beyond compare, and while some of those adventures last for a lifetime, others end before one is able to notice. One of the main differences between everlasting rides and short ones comes down to people’s ability to – when reaching the bottom of the steepest slopes – gather up all broken pieces and start climbing up together towards another peak. Doing so takes time and, most importantly, forgiveness, which can be brought by the sweet remembrance that those great moments that built the relationship in the first place can still happen many times if the disappointment or bitterness is forgotten.
Even though that mostly applies to human relationships, anyone who has ever been passionate about a sports team or devoted to a rock band can relate to those feelings quite well. As it turns out, videogames are no exception. It is hard not to find a gamer who did not once claim that they had the greatest day just because another great-looking installment of their favorite series was announced; or that was sulking in disappointment when a highly anticipated title got a harsh reaction from a media outlet. Whenever there is passion, time, money, or dedication involved, there will most likely be intense emotions, and to most gamers watching a company that is a personal favorite do well is similar to watching one’s team win a championship, a beloved rock group walk into the Hall of Fame, or even patching things up with someone they care for.
With over thirty years of gaming on their backs, Nintendo and their fanbase have been through as many crises as a couple who has been married for the same amount of time. How could fans possibly forget the day Nintendo decided to dump Sony and their CD add-on to the Super Nintendo? Firstly, it led to the creation of the Playstation brand, which would go on to take away most of the third-party support that made the Super Nintendo so ridiculously great, a heist to which Nintendo itself lent yet another helping hand when it opted to embrace cartridges (which were more expensive and limited than the CDs used by the Playstation) during the Nintendo 64 era.
Secondly, Nintendo’s break-up with Sony would also cause the Big N to strike a deal with Philips for the creation of another CD add-on. If things were not already bad enough, Nintendo would also dump Philips and, through some sort of bizarre loophole in the contract, the company would gain rights to produce three The Legend of Zelda games. Nintendo’s failure to see that CDs were the future made the company lose its software support, and – to top it all off – put a big stain on the Zelda franchise, whose fans will forever be haunted by The Faces of Evil, The Wand of Gamelon, and Zelda’s Adventure.
Ever since landing on the gaming market, that has not been Nintendo’s only corporate decision to hurt their fans. In fact, due to how immediately its effects were felt, the Rareware debacle possibly caused much more heartbreak than the Super Nintendo and its CD add-on. Alongside Nintendo, Rareware carried the Nintendo 64 on their backs, taking it to good gaming standards. In less than a decade, Rare made shooters relevant on consoles with Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark, beat Mario on his own platforming domain with Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, crafted the only racing game that was able to compete against Mario Kart with Diddy Kong Racing, made the biggest game of the system with Donkey Kong 64, dared to manufacture a space opera when systems could barely dream of supporting something so large with Jet Force Gemini, and built a theatrical comedy dressed up as a platformer that went against all political correctness one expects from games published by Nintendo with Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
That stellar track record on the Nintendo 64, paired up with the company’s past successes on the Super Nintendo – which included, among others, the inauguration of the Donkey Kong franchise as a platforming series in Donkey Kong Country – were not enough to stop Nintendo from, instead of treating the company as one of their most valuable assets, dealing it to Microsoft as if it were a cheap commodity. Fans could do nothing but sit and watch as some of their favorite franchises sailed into the sun.
For a company known for its consistently amazing franchises, it is surprising to see that Nintendo’s poor decisions extend past the business realm and occasionally reach their own characters. In 1994, Nintendo released Super Metroid, a game that is often considered to be the best title on the Super Nintendo – a system packed to the hull with amazing software – and the best sidescroller of all time. Undoubtedly, the character of Samus was at the peak of her popularity and the ground was more than set for the start of an incredible series of releases. However, instead of following Super Metroid with a sequel, Nintendo proceeded to keep Samus away from the spotlight for almost a decade. It is the gaming equivalent of an actor following an Oscar-winning performance by going nuts, deciding to live inside a cave, and making everybody wonder if we would ever see him again.
On the list of characters – and fans – who suffered the pains of Nintendo’s baffling decisions, Link and Samus are, unfortunately, not alone. After a successful string of glorious platforming gems – including the flawless Donkey Kong Country 2 – Nintendo seemed unable to know what to do with the simian. And since the answer “more platformers” apparently lacks controversial and heartbreaking potential, Nintendo decided to hand him and pair of Bongos and make the Kong family’s most notable member star on Nintendo’s unappealing response to Guitar Hero. A similar fate fell on Fox’s head, when instead of producing more space shoot ’em up masterpieces to follow Star Fox 64, the character was taken out of his Airwing to star in Star Fox Adventures, which felt like a The Legend of Zelda imitation; Star Fox Assault, whose on-foot missions were closer to dull than to thrilling; and Star Fox Command, whose focus on strategy and all-range-mode combats stripped the franchise off its traditional frantic missions.
Even the company’s biggest superstar is not safe from being a source of frustration and conflict in the relationship between Nintendo and their fans. Anyone who is able to recognize the names Mario is Missing, Mario Clash, Mario’s Time Machine and Hotel Mario knows that while the plumber does have the ability to turn unpopular genres into quality best-sellers – Mario Tennis and Mario Golf – his presence alone does not make a broken game good. With the exception of Mario Clash, which was featured in a system whose concept was simply too far ahead of current technology, those titles are the fruits of an era where Nintendo was licensing Mario to other companies as if the character did not have a legacy to protect, and the results were embarrassing at best.
Speaking of hardware mishaps, such as is the case of the Virtual Boy, most recently Nintendo made yet another mistake with one of its platforms: the Nintendo Wii U. Trying to surf on the Wii’s success, the company opted use the name of the platform’s predecessor in an attempt to boost sales; however, the choice of using a letter to designate the evolution between the systems rather than a number left a whole lot of casual fans confused as to whether the machine was a new platform or an overhauled version of the Nintendo Wii.
Moreover, outside of the branding scope, the Nintendo Wii U was born fueled by the concept of asymmetrical gameplay, which was allowed by the Gamepad’s screen and the fact it could show a different view than the one that appeared on the TV. What seemed like an alluring idea, though, was left completely unexplored not only by third parties, but also – shockingly – by Nintendo itself. The Gamepad’s screen, alluded to as the system’s key feature, was so poorly utilized that it failed to add new twists to Nintendo’s franchises – differently from what had happened with the Wii’s motion controls and pointer; and by the end of the console’s life cycle it was either being used to show the exact same view that appeared on the television or was left turned off altogether during gameplay.
Through so many years of so many letdowns, it is clear that some fans turned their backs on Nintendo either due to one of those doubtful moves or because of the sum of all parts. However, the number of people who decided to forgive, wait and develop – once more – trust in the company’s abilities were fairly rewarded. For every appealing Eastern game that was not localized to the West there was an incredible RPG; for every year that Samus stayed in the limbo there were five hours of gameplay in the fantastic trilogy that followed the lull; for every horrible Mario game there was an adventure featuring the plumber that blasted into historical greatness; for every ridiculous song in Donkey Konga there was a stage exploding in creativity in Donkey Kong Country Returns and its sequel; for every CD-i Zelda game there were many unforgettable Hylian adventures; for every inadequate Star Fox game there was a new IP or a fun adventure starring a reborn Kirby; for every botched up relationship with third-parties there were unexpected partnerships that resulted in incredible titles; and for every disastrous system there were more than plenty of successful ones.
The energy that it takes to forgive is directly proportional to the emotional distress that brought harm. Thankfully, by realizing that some relationships are worth rescuing, humans are totally capable of finding, in the potential of a partnership and in the good memories of the past, the will to let bygones be bygones. The reward is powerful: though past adventures are sweet, the best might still lie ahead and it might remain forever undiscovered if the ability to forgive is not achieved. If everything still goes wrong, there will always be old pictures to look at every once in a while, or that old dusty Super Nintendo with cartridges full of bits of gaming greatness.