Nintendo is Evil and Holding Minds Hostage
April 20th, 2021 at 4:10 PM by Kugee
I'm sure this company needs little introduction... at least one of us here has to have played one of the games put out under this giant name. It's ingrained in the back of the minds of many generations, and I think it would be safe to say that Mario is more famous than Mickey Mouse now. 1 People love their games with good reason - they've tended to be very well refined and innovative, and that has made all the countless hours spent playing them very much worthwhile.
I am no exception to this. Way back in the prehistoric era of 1999, I got my first Nintendo system, a Game Boy Color for playing Tetris DX. Since then, the very same cartridge has stuck with me the whole way through, and my brain has developed some extremely efficient routines to drop Tetriminoes exactly where I want them at nearly any speed. Even well before I started getting damn good enough to finally max out the score, Tetris DX was a great thing to have on hand in situations where there was nothing else to do.
With Nintendo offering so many different ways for all kinds of players to wind down and experience other worlds, it seems natural to believe this company is the do-gooder of the world. For sure, with quarantine still under way, there's little room to argue against the point that they helped maintain the sanity of millions of people all across the world. It's quite clear, to me anyway, that many of those developing games at Nintendo are passionate about their craft, wanting to assemble the best experience they possibly can. Whether this is purely in their own will or a lot of corporate/cultural pressure plays into it, I cannot say.
But lately, a lot of things have really slipped through the cracks... that's putting it too lightly, isn't it? What Nintendo has done in recent years is simply atrocious... yet it may just be them returning to their old selves in a way. I'm sure you've heard some of that before; a Smash tournament gets shut down because of a Slippi mod, fan works like AM2R get C&D'd to death, a Mario game is no longer playable after not even a year, and a tribute to Etika in the form of joycons gets the boot.
Just how the fuck does Nintendo get away with all of this? Simple... gamers suck at boycotting, and a large portion of Nintendo's audience may not even have the capacity to be alarmed by such vices at this point in time. The savvy of us are left to pick up the slack, basically helpless to resist their enormous influence unless we're willing to give up a large portion of gaming. I, not being so much of a gamer, had it easy when I was driven to cut off any and all ideas of ever buying a new Nintendo thing ever again. This is not so much the case for a lot of others. To no fault of their own, their minds are being held hostage. They want something from Nintendo to get by, but often can't even shake it off when they find themselves disgusted by a recent cold-blooded decision. Basically, no matter what happens, they remain at the mercy of this corrupt company. We're locked in the same cycle... isn't there anything that can be done to break those chains?
It's hard to say. Sentimentality continues to run deep towards companies like Nintendo even though the love is clearly not mutual. All I can really tell you is my own experience with Nintendo and what eventually made me cut off from them, hoping it'll prove that it is possible for those who were so reliant on their platforms to break free. That's not to say I don't still play some games of theirs here and there, but, well, you know...
Getting N And Getting Out
Of course, Tetris DX was only the first of a bountiful of games I enjoyed on my Game Boy Color. Never got into Pokémon like my older brother in the height of the craze over here in the US, but there were many, many other Game Boy games we had on hand, both new and old, presumably leftovers from someone's friend who was racking up those games previously or acquisitions from a used game shop or garage sale en masse. I didn't care too much for the age of games, thanks to the GBC's backwards compatibility making the usage of both DMG and CGB cartridges seamless, and the same mindset applied when the Game Boy Advance maintained that backwards compatibility.
I was the one left to mostly the older stuff while my brother stayed more up to date on all the latest games. While I did have that classic sibling jealousy here and there from him having all more of these advanced gizmos I didn't, I was basically fine with it for the most part. Even when I got a GameCube, I didn't play many games on it apart from the first two Super Monkey Ball games, though part of it had to do with me despising the vibration feature a lot of newer controllers had.
Come the late 2000's when online multiplayer on consoles was really taking off, I didn't want anything to do with it, and so you can guess I really got a lot out of the Virtual Console library once it arrived. It was a great answer for such alienated folk like myself to achieve the same ultimate goal as those who caught on to the online shooter craze, even though I'd have to say $5 is not a good price for a single NES game being sold in 2007 - digitally, might I add.
Around this time, I also learned about emulators and started using one myself. Everyone's favorite VisualBoyAdvance proved to be highly useful for a technical reason... to elaborate, out of nowhere, I kind of figured it might be interesting to try my hand at a Pokémon game and see what the hell all that hype was about. Maybe this rowdy kid who dropped by at my house here and there compelled me to do just that. Either way, I took my brother's largely forgotten Sapphire cartridge and started a new adventure with Torchic because I was a total noob who didn't know what I was getting into because this game is way too complex and shit. After getting a Prima book for it, I kind of got a better grip on the mechanics, but not so much to have the patience for a well balanced party.
It naturally came to my mind... I had a Silver cartridge years before then, but it was unfortunately sold off in a garage sale before I got any idea of how I'm suppoosed to play that damn game. Thanks to YouTube videos and what be, I was starting to find it more appealing than Sapphire, and in turn, I learned about the enhanced Crystal version. I decided to have a chore done for me where a used copy of that game would be acquired at GameStop, and I was having a blast when I got it... until the battery dried up. Shit, there goes that "investment"! How was I supposed to press forward, leave the game running 24/7 with a GBA SP's power adapter plugged in? Take up soldering and risk setting a battery on fire? I'm sure I could fix the cartridge now, but sure as hell not back then!
My brother was telling me that emulators were illegal except for ROM hacks or whatever, which is definitely a strange take, but eventually I shook off the pressure and downloaded a ROM of the game I got a fucking dead cartridge for. So clearly emulation saved the day here, allowing me to finally experience what I didn't have the capacity for back then. I soon saw YouTube videos demonstrating the early works of ROM hacker Koolboyman, and was quite impressed by what he pulled off compared to most others. This point is key, as it comes into play much later.
I thought highly of Nintendo even in their notoriously embarassing years (cue Wii Music), and came to know several other individuals in school who thought much the same. If it be of interest, one of them happened to be LooneyDude, who had a similar enthusiasm for classic titles from Namco, Sega, and of course Nintendo. We made a ton of cheap drawings about Galaga and what not back in those days, but now I've fallen way behind his caliber when it comes to drawing.
Another Nintendo enthusiast I knew there was a girl who was also big into Japanese culture, compelling me to attempt to learn the language and introducing me to Sailor Moon - a thing I ended up never caring about, but nonetheless, she was cool to have around. Unfortunately, she also scared me away from emulation for a couple years because she reinforced the point that emulators were illegal and should never be used. The fear of getting thrown in jail for whatever dumb reason that could be made up was already something lingering in my mind, so I just sucked up to that... okay, just buy games, comply with the law... god damn, it sure would be nice to load up Dr. Mario, though...? NO. JUST GET A CARTRIDGE OFF SCAM NATION EBAY, TAKE THE RISK. I don't hold anything against her for this, but still, it kind of made me miss out on more of which I could've gotten.
So, for a while I was actually collecting physical copies of old Nintendo games, but not all that much. It was more about a lack of legal availability elsewhere than actually wanting to go through the trouble of getting pricey cartridges. For instance, I got Tetris for the NES simply because it wasn't available on Virtual Console. I wanted to try my hand at it thanks to some videos from Spectre255, but of course licensing issues make it considerably harder than it should be to access different versions of Tetris with technical variations, so unless Nintendo has rights they can't sell their versions of the game. It doesn't paint a good image, either, when Arika was already taking down videos of Tetris fan games. Are we, the passionate, seriously being held at gunpoint for trying to get access to such old games through easier means and expanding upon them?
There was this unwelcoming aura that was beginning to become visible, but I didn't bother trying to challenge it for some time, especially as I had become a devoted Kirby fanatic in 2009. As I grew with this, some creative part of me was starting to really take form, and the richness of Nintendo content provided some template for my own ideas. I meddled with Blender for a bit, hoping maybe I would have an easy way to possibly make a live action/3DCG hybrid video series, but never got a grip on the tools enough to accomplish such an ambitious endeavor. Any talks I had with my best friend in junior high school about making a fan game of some kind never beared fruit, either. Nonetheless, we proudly incorporated him in some of the few videos we made together, by means of the Kirby plush collection I was accumulating.
Getting myself actively involved with a pretty toxic group online in the following year forced me to ditch more and more of what I loved for the sake of building up perceivable testosterone, if I am to put it in some blunt form. It drove me to a point where I just sold off all my Kirby plushes, trying to suppress my old self out of a belief that I needed to appease a bunch of internet warriors that would've never cared for me anyway. I thought I could do it, but plenty of things still slipped through the cracks of my mind, including an old name...
It turns out that as I was tending to other things, Koolboyman had taken great strides in one of his ROM hacking projects, Pokémon Prism. I played the Summer 2010 demo, and was blown away by what he had accomplished with the help of some others - grappling custom music, new types, neat polishings at many corners, and tons of new ideas that Game Freak wouldn't have dared to try, at least until Prism came to light. The more advanced dialogue clearly being written with an older fanbase in mind (though toned down near the final release) also played a part in ingraining this hack at the back of my mind. Something occurred to me... a certain niche having to do with perceivably cute monster-ish characters being involved in serious and deep storylines may be much larger than I previously believed. I know I got a kick out of it, and wanted to do something like it myself. Still, difficulty in learning what tools I could potentially use for the task at hand as well as my own ideas just being a complete clusterfuck brought nothing to light.
I assume you've already read some tidbit on my website on how a longplay of Gimmick shocked my mind so much as to end up having an image of some brand new, actually original character stuck in my mind for many years. I can't say much about that as my ideas for the character have changed drastically over time, but at least Gimmick saved me the burden of investing further imagination into a mere fan game that would prove to be futile later on.
Jumping forward to 2014, I purchased what would end up being my very last Nintendo products - a 3DS XL with two games, one being Kirby Triple Deluxe. I really loved that game, of course, and figured maybe the future of Kirby would be looking much brighter. (IT'S NOT, IT'S JUST MORE OF THE SAME LMAO) Around this same time, or possibly the year before, I came across a certain YouTuber who was notorious for his extreme criticisms of Nintendo. He definitely wasn't the only one, but was prominent enough to get a bountiful of people in a stir. We got in a number of arguments that felt pretty humiliating on my end. Some of you may be able to guess who I'm referring to... yes, he was a dick and a hack, but even beyond some of his dumber points, he saw something that not many people would have back then. It's that kind of thing that makes you go "aw shit, he was right man!"
80's Nintendo Sucked, Too
Nintendo was a scumbag company for a long time - not just in the near present with their decision to absolutely disallow monetization of footage of their games, but even as far back as the start of their prime. As the Famicom boom progressed, Nintendo was starting to hold less regard for their partners which were critical to the console's success. Most notably, Namco's port of The Tower of Druaga held the position as the most technically advanced game on the system until Super Mario Bros., and drew many more players in to attempt to complete that super cryptic game more effectively than they could have in a game center.
When Namco's little special treatment from Nintendo expired in 1989, Nakamura was infuriated about Nintendo suddenly not wanting to do more to compensate for Namco playing such a huge role in the Famicom's success. Nup... just Nintendo telling all third parties they are basically lesser than the big house now. Atari/Tengen had similar sentiments towards this attitude and went on the route of defiance, completely bypassing the super-tight regulations of Nintendo of America's licensing process by making their own unauthorized cartridges. A number of other companies did the same, but of course all of them were shut out with the exception of Wisdom Tree, who had the advantage of the wrath of God.
Meanwhile, Konami had to create a spinoff company called Ultra Games just to work around the game limit (or something else?) so they could get more of their high quality games localized. That still didn't help much given some of their more advanced games like Gradius II and Contra had to be grinded down to comply with another strange policy where only Nintendo MMCs could be used in the West rather than Konami's own. (edit: either that, or they had no chance of releasing, which was the fate the former suffered) Nobody took kindly to this, but put up with it anyway, as evidenced by a testimony from a former Sunsoft employee in words like this: "MMC3 was a good chip, but NOA was a bitch to work with since they NEVER compromised." 2
Some of these points were used in the aforementioned channel's arguments. There's no reason for us to doubt their validity now, but back then a lot of people like myself were still trying to defend a company that didn't love us. I mean, shit, he brought up how the Game Corner in HG/SS was changed from a big winning slot machine to some fucking stupid Sudoku-ish puzzle that's too hard to play in the name of family-friendliness. I knew I hated that shit, and a feeling was still growing in me that I was being resented for even merely appreciating Nintendo games at large, but I still had trouble coming to terms with the whole thing. Stockholm syndrome is a very real thing when it comes to video games...
Then came 2016, a very bloody year for Nintendo fans. Fan works left and right were suddenly receiving takedown notices, including AM2R and... guess what... Pokémon Prism. A game that had been the product of nine years of perfectionist work, and now in such an incredibly polished state far beyond what any other ROM hacker or Game Freak themselves had ever pulled off. All of that loving craft basically went down the drain shortly before the scheduled release, if not for a team leaking the source code. Adam, who was behind the name Koolboyman, was understandably very miserable following the takedown. As I recall, he still told everyone to please support Nintendo's official products, but this was just too much for me. Even though I've still yet to play Prism, I knew at this point that I was done trying to support Nintendo with all the bullshit they've dished out. It's why I will never buy a Nintendo Switch now.
Great job spitting in the face of your customers more and more with many more issues on top of draconian copyright enforcement, like joycon drift, games that go the way of Darkspore, and profaning the graves of some of your most charismatic fans! I hope you're happy with that big ass revenue you accumulate in spite of your antics, because it's never going to change the fact that you've botched your integrity a fuckton for those who were once so passionate for all that you've put out in the past.
It boggles my mind that a company like Nintendo can be so bad as to spite so many people with the mind of an executioner. What's going to happen next? Will they shut down this very article, or perhaps this one goofy video I made around eight years ago? What will be the justification for the takedown of an article like this, the Larvitar drawing up on top? NOA legal team, I fucking dare you to try... I'm sure you'll have your way, but not without infuriating an important faction of Nintendo's customers once again. Seems like such a farfetched idea, but anything's possible at this rate.
More Intelligent Routes...
There are tried and true actions Nintendo could be taking instead of throwing a fit at the slightest perceivable violation of copyright. What's the first thing that comes to your mind? Of course, Sonic Mania! It's a game created by fans hired by Sega, and one that turned out extraordinarily well. Sega's not the only one who knows how to embrace fan work, either.
A bedroom programmer Hideki Konishi worked on a highly authentic port of Darius to the PC. Out of understandable concerns regarding legality, it was never published, but I saw many videos of his back in 2015 and was very much impressed by what he pulled off. He then worked on a Genesis/Mega Drive port of the same game some time after that, in collaboration with M2. While Taito is pretty hard to nag on, they came around and greenlit the project for the upcoming miniature version of that console... making it the first officially licensed game since Frogger back in 1998. Bravo!
It's not just fan games and conversions, either. Something as simple as artwork can have the potential to make its way into the ranks of official products. Have you seen Paul Johnson's 80's-style R-Type anime? From what I recall seeing, Irem gladly adopted some of his artwork to promote the sale of an SD2SNES cartridge containing Super R-Type and R-Type III. I have trouble finding evidence of this now, but know that this is the kind of device that gets smeared as a piracy tool even though several companies who developed these old games willingly sell ROMs of them for such a thing. I gotta say, that is awesome. Send me a link or screenshot if you can find where this promotion came from if you can, and I'll put it in the footnotes...
These are all Japanese companies we're talking about here, so it's invalid to say that being so cutthroat on copyright enforcement is a national trait, as convenient as it sounds to put all the developers under that blanket. After all, companies rooted in the United States have that exact same problem of aimlessly firing guns at anyone who does as much as even mentioning the name of an intellectual property. Remember when Viacom attempted to obtain the unfiltered records of every single YouTube user in a court of law? Or how it took up until 2016 for the song "Happy Birthday to You" to reach the public domain?
With such absurdities like these, it's impossible to take copyright seriously. Yes, I have a copyright notice at the footer of my website, but does it really mean anything? I'm still only one level or two above obscure, and so a "copyright violation" of the original contents of my website which I don't even profit off of would be of benefit to its growth. Of course I would prefer you link back to the materials I create, but it's not like you committed a violent act if you took it for yourself. Copyright was meant to protect authors for a reasonable period of time so they could sell their creations, but over the course of the last century, its scope has grown too large, so what's the point of even regarding it if you're not doing any commercial work? We're only beginning to close in on the day Steamboat Willie enters the public domain, and we'll probably be dead before Super Mario Bros. does unless things change.
Hasn't it ever occurred to Nintendo that maybe, just maybe, they ought to try a different approach so they can win a fuckton bigger? Embracing modding worked wonders for id Software and Valve, and many, many people continue to mod Nintendo games despite the pressure of being C&D'd. Imagine the potential there would be for some truly amazing products and events if Nintendo worked alongside the community... I don't remember who pitched this, but some YouTuber brought up the idea of a retro-style sprite-based Pokémon game at the end of his own video talking about when Prism got C&D'd. I have to agree with him, and I know for a fact it would be very successful. Nostalgia pandering has worked very well for the companies involved in this franchise, to a point where some fan gathering event film brought in several factors more money than the laughable US box office of the fifth movie.
At the very least, Nintendo should've let Prism be. There's simply no way it could have been a real threat to the sales of their official products. But even if they absolutely had to stop Koolboyman from finishing it for whatever paranoid reason they had on mind, for fuck's sake, why didn't they just hire him right there and then to help work on such a thing? I would've been much less bitter about the takedown if they tried. I'm sure some compromises would have to be made in order to reach the widest possible audience, but so many new ideas could be brought mainstream with active input from the outside!
What does any of this rambling mean, though... it's not going to put a dent in the mindset Nintendo is running with. Not unless people start to go after its shareholders... yes... maybe only by then will things start to change for the better, because you simply can't count on boycotts when it comes to video games. Sure, you can boycott, I can boycott, but will others do the same? Whether you love Nintendo or not, you have to acknowledge that they've been very cruel to the public, especially in recent years.
1 When Mario was first taking off, many people talked about how he was becoming more widely recognized than Mickey Mouse. According to some old interview I don't remember the source of, Shigeru Miyamoto stated that it would not be fair to discuss who is more famous until 50 years after Mario's creation. I'd say 40 is plenty enough to start having that conversation, though.