Sin & Redemption
When the N64 lauched in 1996, we all thought Nintendo had it in the bag. They had a stronger processor (courtesy of Silicon Graphics Inc.), a revolutionary control scheme, and Super Mario 64. When it released in America, there were only two games. The aforementioned Mario title, and Pilotwings 64, a sequel to a game that had accompanied the Super Famicom. Unfortunately for Nintendo and Hiroshi Yamauchi, they had overestimated themselves.
After Square had completed Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the SNES (Fun Fact: The game brought together two masters in the art of game music for the only time ever: Nobuo Uematsu from the Final Fantasy camp and Legend of Zelda/Mario's Koji Kondo.), they had grabbed hold to Sony's wing. And with them went Enix's Dragon Quest, Capcom's Mega Man, Konami's Metal Gear, and a plethora of other valuable properties. The paradigm had shifted. Things had changed. Nintendo was, for the most part, alone.
But, while Nintendo's public relations side was certainly feeling the pain, the development house was becoming more prosperous than they had ever been. After Super Mario 64, resident genius Shigeru Miyamoto released hit after hit with titles like Starfox 64, Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, and F-Zero X. Not only that, but partners like our old friends at Rareware were able to consisently release games that easily fit into the adult-oriented market with aces like Goldeneye, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and Perfect Dark.
Because of this, and the fact that the N64 managed to stay profitable despite all concerns, Nintendo had, in a way, fulfilled their own prophecy by sustaining their console almost all by themselves. Realists would point out that they had lost a significant amount of market share, though, and as gaining a sour reputation that would follow them to this day, and they'd be right. It was as if Nintendo was so obsessed with their short-term happiness in being hailed as a creative powerhouse that they had completely neglected remaining a positive figure in the minds of Average Joe.
One direct result of the aforementioned was the weeding out of casual Nintendo fans. Whereas anyone could enjoy the variety of the NES or SNES, the N64 was definitely aimed more precisely at hardcore Big N-ers. Nintendo became all about their franchises, and so did their followers. Some would say it spawned the birth of the ever-present "Nintendo Fanboy." Others would say they simply caught Sega Syndrome. In reality, it's probably a bit of both.
And these fans were most assuredly rewarded by the end of their console of choice's lifespan. Games like Perfect Dark, Conker, Super Smash Bros., Sin & Punishment, Paper Mario (known as Mario RPG 2 for a while, if you can believe it), etc. Unfortunately, once they had gone past their prime, software delivery fell almost dead, and the transition to the next console in Nintendo's legacy would have a tough time erasing that blunder. But that's for another time...
So let's take a good look at what happened between 1996 and 2001. Nintendo went from the number-one name in gaming, the pinnacle of quality in almost every genre, and the company synonymous with the industry to a second-place console that was practically alone in sustaining its popularity, and faltered greatly. While its library quality is unquestionable, the number of hits (both commercially and critically) were outnumbered by its contemporaries.
They say you need to do ten things right to cover up one mistake. Well, in that case, Nintendo had a whole lot of awesome to start cooking up to erase the blunders of that generation. And did they? Did the GameCube bring them back to their former glory? We'll have to take a rain check on that answer.
Instead, let's start talking about something else. Something a little more... cute. Something furry. Pika-pika, bitches.
See ya next time, folks.
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