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2013: The Year of Nintendo
Rewind back to one year ago, nearly a month after the lukewarm release of the Wii U. Remember the criticism leveled towards Nintendo and the heated debates that raged in various comments, forums, and blog pieces? Doubters spoke of Nintendo’s impending demise and need to change course, while self-confessed “fanboys” felt the need to emerge out of the woodwork and come to the company’s defense.
Now, fast forward to earlier this year, when Nintendo president Satoru Iwata declared 2013 to be the “Year of Luigi” that served to commemorate his 30th anniversary following a series of announcements that featured Mario’s awkward brother. It was an odd statement that ended up being the butt of many jokes, simply because we all knew it was a tall order to fill if Nintendo really wanted to make Luigi its 2013 star. Sure, he was in several notable titles of the year, but I’d hardly declare this his breakout year. Instead, I’d like to go out on a limb and make a declaration that might just be as out there as some of the statements detractors have said in the past: 2013 has not been the year of Luigi, but it has most certainly been the year of Nintendo.
I feel like I should clarify something before I explain my reasoning: I’m not a die hard Nintendo fangirl. I’ve loved my fair share of Nintendo games and continue to support them as an important part of the industry, but I have also shared many of the same sentiments as its other critics in the past. However, as we sit back and evaluate the year of 2013 as a whole, I can’t help but feel like the company has truly delivered much, much more than so many of its competitors.
If anything can be said about 2013, it’s that this has been a year of noise; a year of hype, melodrama, controversy, and discussion that has ranged from being tame discourse to an all-out slugfest of fans willing to go to the deepest depths in order to prove their undying devotion to a platform or series.
It’s largely the recent console launches that have given rise to this, essentially locking 2013 in an awkward place that saw many on the internet taking arguments to each other while those of us in the middle were caught right in the crossfire. Bickering over design choices, exclusive games and content, visual fidelity, and processing power all dominated the debate over which was the more superior system, and which would come out on top come release day. It’s been a veritable whirlwind as exciting as it is exhausting.
In my mind, however, the most notable noise generated by the year was the seeming silence on Nintendo’s end. As we saw with their deliberate absence from E3, the company decided to spend 2013 by not jumping in on the fight at all, but by staying on the outside and doing what they do best: releasing games. No, they haven’t had the most impressive sales figures for the Wii U, and some of the games themselves might not have sold as well as their triple-A counterparts. But I’m not considering their success in terms of strict dollar signs. Rather, I’m considering the fact that Nintendo released an impressive amount of critically successful games.
This is especially true of the 3DS, where players were able to try and catch ’em all in both Pokemon X and Y, once again explore Hyrule in A Link Between Worlds, lead their warriors into battle in Fire Emblem: Awakening, take to the courtroom in a new Phoenix Wright, and even lose hours of their lives to building a small town in Animal Crossing: New Leaf.
Even the Wii U, a console that had been criticized for having lackluster software at launch, had a bevvy of releases that were nothing short of fantastic. We re-lived the adventure of Wind Waker in gorgeous HD, used strategy in Pikmin 3, and were even treated to Super Mario 3D World, a game that has been claimed by many to stand among the best Mario games ever made.
And one can’t think about 2013 without considering the Virtual Console and all of the great releases seen on there, including Super Metroid, Donkey Kong Country 3D, classic Mega Man titles, and even the wild card internet darling Earthbound.
In a year where so many of our games were buried under a thick layer of grit, cynicism, and anger, Nintendo has offered us a fantastic assortment of titles that took us on an adventure, challenged our skill, treated us, and really embraced a true sense of fun. Sure, there have been occasional outliers in their lineup, including the disappointing Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Mario Party: Island Tour, but Nintendo’s ratio of great to mediocre games has far outshown that of virtually every other platform this year.
It’s largely because of this that I’m pretty confident in saying Nintendo has all but dominated 2013.