2021 Nintendo Anniversary Challenge

Nintendo as a company has existed since 1889 and has celebrated a number of milestones on its way to becoming the richest company in Japan. This past year marked the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. which made the portly plumber Mario the most significant character in video game history. Nintendo, for whatever the reason, chose to commemorate the occasion by releasing Super Mario 3D All-Stars, which contained HD ports of Mario 64, Sunshine and Galaxy, as well as the free-to-play battle royale game – Mario 35 as timed exclusives on the Nintendo Switch, which will only be available until the end of March.

Another notable Nintendo series celebrated its 30th anniversary this past year – Fire Emblem. The very first Fire Emblem game, which until then had only been available in Japan, was released as yet another timed exclusive for the Switch.

As we begin a new year in 2021, there’s a number of long-time Nintendo franchises that will have significant anniversaries, starting with the 40th anniversary of the original Donkey Kong. It will also be 35 years since the arrival of The Legend of Zelda and Metroid series, two games which have gone on to influence countless other video games in many ways. Along with the aforementioned franchises, 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of Pokémon Red & Green being first released in Japan, resulting in a cultural phenomenon simply called, Poké-mania at the time.

Over the course of the past week, I came up with yet another quest to complete before the year is over – to finish at least one entry from each of the big Nintendo franchises celebrating anniversaries this year – Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid, Pokémon. Of course, there are many more game series with significant dates in 2021 such as Castlevania or Street Fighter, but for the impact that Nintendo games have had on my own life, as well as to keep this list relatively short, I will focus on a select few for the time being. Here’s just a few of the Nintendo games I have never finished that I WILL see to completion over the course of the year…

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong made his gaming debut on July 9, 1981 in Japanese arcades(with North America a few weeks later) and this July will mark the 40th anniversary of Nintendo’s gargantuan ape mascot. DK was considered one of the grandfathers of gaming, and had faded from prominence before being rejuvenated by Rare in 1994 with the SNES classic – Donkey Kong Country. Another DK game released the same year that went very much under the radar was the Game Boy game simply titled Donkey Kong. I had always been under the assumption the game was simply another port of the arcade version of Donkey Kong. This is not completely inaccurate as the first few levels of the game replicate the arcade classic, but following the completion of the initial levels the game features a number of puzzle-platforming levels one would understandably have no awareness of. One of the other few DK games I have not played is Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, though I do not currently own the Gamecube or Wii version of the game(Bongos either) and decided to throw an original Game Boy game into the mix…

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda was first released on February 21 1986 for the Famicom Disk System in Japan, before being released the following year in North America and Europe. I’ve known of the Zelda games my entire life – being born only two months prior to its initial release, but had played the two NES releases only a few times. For the longest time I was a little intimidated by the franchise and it’s legion of rabid fans and it wasn’t until Ocarina of Time was released on the Nintendo 64 that I felt like I truly “got” what made the games beloved by so many. I have played every mainline Zelda game ever since that time(not including the infamous CD-i releases – The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon), but have only completed about half of them.

I got Skyward Sword back when it was released in 2011and have only ever made it about three or so hours into the game. I enjoyed it well enough, but I got to the first dungeon(I think?) and then just…kinda…wound up playing something else. I’ve always heard how good some of the later dungeons and areas are, but like myself, many others have stated how the pacing of the game is pretty slow, especially in the beginning of the game, which starts with an extended tutorial. I fully intend to play through Skyward Sword in its entirety by the time November rolls around, which will mark ten years since its release.

Metroid

The 35th anniversary of Samus Aran’s first appearance on the Famicom Disk System will be August 6, 1986. I’ve loved the Metroid games ever since first playing them as a kid, with Super Metroid and Metroid Prime being two of my all-time favorites. Being arguably my favorite of Nintendo’s main franchises, I plan on playing through every Metroid game over the course of the year, yes I’m even gonna play Metroid Prime Pinball…

One of the more…divisive games in the series is Metroid: Other M – Nintendo and Team Ninja’s 2010 release for the Wii. The prospect of Tecmo’s Team Ninja developing a third-person Metroid game sounded intriguing, but it has since gone on to be considered one of Samus’ lesser outings due to the inconsistent gameplay as well as her characterization. Similar to Skyward Sword, I’ve played the game a few times, but have never finished it. I’m curious to see if the disdain towards Other M is justified once I finally finish the game; I’ve played it enough to know not to expect anything close to the experience of playing the Metroid Prime games, but surely there’s something to appreciate about it…right?

Pokémon

February 27 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the very first Pokémon games – Red & Green, being released in Japan in 1996(North America was not until 1998), thus beginning Poké-mania. I can still vividly remember getting my copy of Red as a kid and playing on my Game Boy Color and spent endless hours after that collecting, battling, and evolving Pokémon. I played Pokémon Red and Gold, but after that ended up missing a generation or two, playing only Diamond and then Y before playing Pokémon Shield after it was released on the Nintendo Switch. I still have not played any of the Gen 3(Ruby/Sapphire), 5(Black/White), or 7(Sun/Moon) releases. I do, however have a copy of Omega Ruby for my 3DS that I will be working on in my spare time. With as many mainline releases and spin-offs as there are for the Pokémon games, I wouldn’t have to look too far for something I haven’t played yet. I’d still like to eventually give Pokémon Black a try, as well as checking out New Pokémon Snap when it’s released for the Switch on April 30.

I will also take this opportunity to mention that a special Pokémon retrospective event organized by fellow blogger NekoJonez is set to go live on February 27 to commemorate the series’ 25th anniversary. I will be taking part in the collaboration as well as a number of other trainers bloggers, so keep an eye out for that within the next month.

Gaming Memories

A common practice while I sit at my desk working throughout the day is to read through the blog sites that I follow here on WordPress. In catching up with today’s blogs, Athena from The AmbiGamingCorner has written another blog post for Dragon Age Month titled – The Interesting Case of Dragon Age: Origins, or Multisensory Experiences and Memory. In the article, Athena discussed the connection between the way that our memories are formed and stored within our minds. Also mentioned within the post was how certain sensory details can trigger memories, such as the song played at your wedding or high school graduation. Simply hearing this combination of notes and sounds can bring with it an array of sensory details as you may remember a certain sight or smell, along with the type of things you were feeling at the time of such memories. The post got me thinking of examples of the feelings and emotions a few brief seconds of audio, whether sound effects or music, can bring forward. I decided shortly thereafter, it may be slightly less-restrictive to wax nostalgic in a separate post rather than leave an enormous collection of scattered thoughts in the comments section. Here are just a few of the games and associated memories/details that arise from hearing a split-second of intro music…

Note: For a more coherent description of what I attempt to say in the above paragraph, check out the original post. If you are not already familiar with Athena’s great blog site I strongly urge you to do so, as it contains a wealth of Dragon Age and Mass Effect knowledge, among other things.

Donkey Kong Country

It takes only a split-second of hearing Kranky Kong turn the gramophone playing the first few notes of the opening sequence of Donkey Kong Country before I come down with nostalgia overload. Immediately, I recall sitting in my neighbor’s living room playing DKC for the first time after school way back in November of 1994. I still remember how the tv/entertainment center was along the east wall or the color of the carpeting as I sat on the floor fixated on this SNES game. I can still vividly see the beige/tan sofa that sat to my right along the living room windows, I even remember the smell of the air freshener used in the house. I still remember staying there for sleepovers and sitting up until the early morning hours playing DKC trying to beat some of the stages like Millstone Mayhem or, god forbid, Minecart Madness. Another track from Donkey Kong Country I’ve mentioned numerous times is Aquatic Ambience, which is used in the underwater levels of the game(a gorilla collecting bananas underwater while riding a swordfish?) and feels almost heart-wrenching upon hearing. It’s one of those pieces of music that has the inexplicable ability to stir something within you, despite not being able to articulate just what it is that makes you feel this way.

Pokemon Red

Another title song that instantly transports me back to the days of my youth. Pokémon Red starts by the dramatic building of tension as the battle music begins, before showing a contest between Gengar and Nidoran, depicted in the black/gray hues of the Game Boy. Nearly anyone who has played a mainline Pokémon game can likely tell you the first time they heard the now-iconic battle theme that ushered millions of kids into what could only be described at the time as “Pokémania”. I’m unable to put my finger on precisely when I was first introduced to the newest phenomenon known as Pokémon in the late 90’s, though I’d wager “how” would be from flipping through issues of Nintendo Power as a kid. Hearing the Pokémon main battle theme to this day, I can still feel the yellow plastic of my Game Boy Color as I would sit and play Pokémon Red the entire way from school. I can still smell the warm spring air or the dust swirled about from beind the car as the final stretch of the drive home was on a dirt road. I remember how I would often sit behind the driver’s seat of the car and the feel of the fabric of the seats, or even the occasional creaking noise from the vinyl upholstery of the dashboard. Hell, I even remember times where I would realize I had been sitting in the car in the driveway for about 20 minutes before moving inside to continue my journey to become Pokémon Master of the Kanto Region…

Banjo-Kazooie

Yes, here we are, I’m talking about Banjo-Kazooie….again. I often feel a tinge of embarrassment when I enthusiastically gush about a game that I loved as a kid, now an adult, but I can’t deny its significance. I remember first seeing the commercial for the game while watching Nickelodeon cartoons(most likely) one summer afternoon before deciding I wanted to play the game more than anything else I could think of. In our local town there was a small store which rented out VHS tapes, video games, along with a small assortment of knicknacks, and I remember my mom finally agreeing to let me rent Banjo-Kazooie from the store. Of course, I was fortunate enough the store also rented out a few Nintendo 64(and Playstation) consoles so I could actually play the game as I didn’t even have an N64 of my own at that point. I still remember the excitement of bringing the game home along with the rental console that was safely housed inside the big plastic, foam-lined briefcase and hurrying back to my bedroom to hook up to my little tv with the one broken antenna. All it takes is to hear the first musical notes(from a banjo, naturally) and I can almost smell the pungent odor of the secondhand smoke that penetrated the rental cases as the lady that ran the store sat behind the counter and smoked cigarettes all day. I have many memories of sitting alone in my bedroom in moments of quiet solitude playing Banjo-Kazooie and would love to dedicate a full-length blog post to expressing, or attempting to, what the game has meant to me over the years…

Thanks for reading!