Editor's note: This week is the 30th anniversary of Nintendo Game Boy. To celebrate, I'm running an updated version of a story I wrote on March 4, 2017, shortly after the Switch was released.
I pick up the Nintendo Switch and in a few moments I'm Link running through the grassy hills of Hyrule in Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's been 10 years since I owned a Nintendo console, and after only 20 minutes that old Nintendo feel is back. The Switch is Nintendo's latest console, and is absolutely a transformer – literally. It is a mobile gaming device that can seamlessly transform into a home console.
Nintendo has pulled the strings from the heart of nostalgia lately, launching the Nintendo Classic Edition (also known as NES Mini, also known as the one you still can not buy) and bringing Mario back to the Android / iOS Super Mario Run game. Switch is not about reviving the past. It's about translating the essence of Nintendo into a modern and unique console, and it attracted me a lot.
My resume from Nintendo
When I was a kid, I had the original NES and games like Super Mario Bros, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon II and Final Fantasy. My favorite was The Legend of Zelda – yes, the original. The first time I played as Link, I could not believe how quickly I got absorbed in the game.
Zelda was the first NES game to allow you to save your progress. Its distinctive gold-colored cartridge housed a battery and a memory chip – the first from Nintendo. This save feature made Zelda unlike any other video game I played. Zelda's story stretched for weeks, making the overall experience of the game more immersive and complex, like reading a good book.
The original NES was a Swiss army pocketknife capable of playing alone, while at the same time it was a great draw for the public. I spent hours in the shrunken recreation room with friends around a wooden closet television watching and playing Punch-Out !! Mike Tyson, Duck Hunt, Teco Super Bowl, Kung Fu and Excitebike. The NES has defined this essence of Nintendo with its balance between fun, accessibility, social magnetism and strangeness – remember the NES Zapper and the NES Power Glove?
Years later, the GameCube had this essence of Nintendo. Initially, I bought to play Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. What have I done, at every opportunity – yes, who needs a girlfriend? But there were also games like Mario Kart: Double Dash, which easily became the centerpiece in group encounters for two-player epic competitions, especially when connected to a projector.
Between the NES and the GameCube, I had the original Game Boy that made the console-style games portable. I've been through so many AA batteries that my parents' house probably has a half-life now.
My brother and I had Game Boy systems and we had a cable linking them so we could play against each other in games like the F-1 Race.
There was nothing like the Game Boy when it came out; that green screen was definitely one of the reasons why I needed glasses when I was a teenager. But the Game Boy had the same essence of Nintendo as the NES. While the graphics were rude, I was still playing console style games at something I could take anywhere.
Although I have not owned all the Nintendo consoles, I enjoyed games in others that the friends had: Super Mario World in Super NES, GoldenEye 007 on Nintendo 64 and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess on Wii.
As I got older, I was drawn to other consoles that roommates and friends had, such as the PlayStation and the Xbox. It's not that Nintendo lost its way, it was only because I grew up away from Nintendo – it looked more child-friendly than someone in their 20s. No, I never entered Pokémon; I avoided and, over time, I lost interest in all things Nintendo.
This essence of Nintendo
In the video game industry, Nintendo stands in its own corner, building sandcastles – even if the princess is in another. I own a PlayStation 4 Slim and for me a game like Uncharted 4: The Thief's End is absolutely brilliant. It's honestly one of the best games I've ever played. But it's not Nintendo yet – which is good because it's not trying to be. Neither is Nintendo trying to be a PlayStation or an Xbox. It's like when people try to argue Star Wars versus Star Trek – they are very different things and – despite what some fanboys would say – one is not necessarily better than the other.
Nintendo is the fun two-seater convertible car, ideal for fun rides. And while there are faster and better made cars, a person can own, the sheer essence of Nintendo is unique. It is an intangible that is difficult to explain. However, like many technology products, when that connection is there, you can feel it.
I do not want to buy the Switch to relive great memories of my past; this is for the Nintendo Classic Edition. I want a Switch because it is filled with the same essence of Nintendo that the original NES and Game Boy had: fun gameplay, accessibility and the whole bringing people to the side.
The Switch also does something else I've always dreamed of: it's a portable gaming device powerful enough to function as a living room console. Nintendo has found a way to do this without problems. It's so much fun switching from a handheld console to a tablet with Wii type controls to a living room console on a big screen television. This versatility will appeal to both children and adults.
The switches and buttons on the Switch seemed a bit small to me – the Joy-Cons are the size of a biscotti. But I quickly adapted to them and within minutes the console disappeared, plus I played Zelda.
So there are the little jokes from Nintendo, like the click sound satisfactory when you assemble Joy-Cons on the screen! Even the slit TV dock is the magic of Nintendo. Who would make such a dock for a game console? This reminds me of the Apple PowerBook Duo dock in 1992.
For me, the Switch overflows with the best of Nintendo's DNA. He looks capable of providing a wonderful experience for a single player and I can not wait to try out a two-player game like "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe" – the Joy-Cons fit into the steering wheel controls, just saying.
Now that the Switch has renewed my interest in Nintendo, I hope that by the time you finish playing Breath of the Wild, other Switch games are ready to buy and play – or maybe Nintendo will add some of those old NES games. games for him in the meantime.
Editor's note: This week is the 30th anniversary of Nintendo Game Boy. To commemorate, I'm running an updated version of a story I wrote on March 4, 2017, shortly after the release of Switch.