This Week in Nintendo History: November 29th to December 5th
Howdy folks, and welcome once again to another fun and fact filled edition of This Week in Nintendo History. This week we go snowboarding, gardening and we get into a big melee. We’ll look at the first Virtual Console releases of December in 2006 and we’ll play some sports. Let’s hop right into it this week.
Star Tropics was one of the few NES games that was developed specifically for a western audience and never intended to be released in Japan. The game hit North American shores on December 1st, 1990. This Zelda style RPG saw main character Mike Jones traveling to a tropical island to visit his uncle, Dr. J. When he arrives on C-Island he discovers his uncle is missing and he sets out to find him. Unlike many similar RPGs Star Tropics follows a very linear storyline and there is very little open exploration of the top down 2D world. Mike is initially armed only with a Yo-Yo, but can later upgrade to use additional weapons. One of the more unique features of the game was the inclusion of a letter in the games package that at one point, players would actually have to dip in water to reveal clues to further the story. That has been changed in subsequent digital releases of the game to a digital letter that you can dip into a digital bucket. It was a very immersive experience for the time. RPG fans regard Star Tropics as one of the best games released on the NES.
Hit the slopes with 1080 Avalanche on the GameCube. This snowboard racer was released by Nintendo on December 1st, 2003. It was a sequel to 1080 Snowboarding on the Nintendo 64, but focused more on racing rather than tricks. Each rider in the game had boards that were unique to them and you could unlock additional boards through gameplay. The game was originally going to be called 1080: White Storm, but the name was changed before release.
Arcade racing fans had been playing the next release for two years before its December 3rd, 1996 debut on the Nintendo 64. Cruis’n USA was developed by Midway and saw huge success in the arcades before being moved to home consoles. The game follows a racing series as they travel from San Francisco to Washington D.C. People were initially promised that the game would be a perfect port of the arcade version, but the technology proved to be too much for the system to handle and as a result most of the graphics were downscaled for the home launch.
December 3rd, 2001 was a day of huge releases for Nintendo. Their first release that day was Super Smash Bros. Melee. This follow-up to 1999’s Super Smash Bros. introduced us to 26 characters, which was 14 more than the original game. Some of the newcomers were Bowser, Falco, Ganondorf, Marth, Mr. Game & Watch, and Peach. The game featured a single player experience called Adventure Mode where you traveled through levels in a platform style game. Many of the areas in that mode had characters fighting through familiar areas against familiar enemies. It also was the cause in the rise of popularity of franchises like Fire Emblem, which hadn’t been released outside of Japan prior to the game’s release. Super Smash Bros. Melee features a wide variety of music from many of Nintendo’s most popular franchises and people like it so much that a soundtrack featuring over 60 minutes of music was released in January of 2003.
The other big release on that day was Pikmin. This game famously came about because of Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto’s love of gardening. Pikmin is a 3D strategy game where you control the character known as Olimar. He is followed around by the titular Pikmin who have different abilities based on their color. Olimar’s ship has crashed and he needs to use these new friends to help him recover parts to his damaged ship so he can leave the planet. The biggest part of the game revolves around a time mechanic. Olimar has 30 days to recover 25 pieces of his ship, with each day lasting about 15 minutes in real time. IF he’s successful the ship is repaired and he blasts off into space. If not, then he dies from oxygen poisoning. This mechanic was widely criticized and because of that it was removed for the sequel. Pikmin was re-released in March of 2009 for the Wii under the New Play Control banner. The controls for the game were reworked to allow you to use the Wii Remote’s pointer to control much of the action on the screen.
December 4th, 2006 was Virtual Console day in North America. On that day Columns and Ristar were released for the Sega Genesis, Victory Run was released for the Turbo-Grafix 16, and Donkey Kong Jr. was released for the NES.
Kirby temporarily received a touch screen makeover in 2005 with Kirby Canvas Curse. Series developer HAL Laboratories went back to Kirby’s roots for Kirby’s Squeak Squad, which was released on December 4th, 2006. This game featured traditional Kirby game play using the DS face buttons. In the game Kirby has just settled down to eat a nice piece of strawberry shortcake when it suddenly vanishes. Kirby suspects King Dedede, but after the first level he discovers it is actually the work of the Squeak Squad, a group of thieving mice and Kirby hunts them down to retrieve his stolen cake. It was received fairly well by critics, but was criticized for its unoriginal game play elements and unnecessary use of the touch screen.
December 5th, 2005 saw the release of three franchises across three different systems for Nintendo. The first was the DS version of Animal Crossing, Animal Crossing: Wild World. Gameplay in this portable Animal Crossing was similar to the GameCube predecessor, but took advantage of many of the DS’ unique abilities, such as the touch screen and multiple displays. In the game you maintained a small town, helping residents with tasks and collecting bells, the game’s currency. Because the DS has built in Wi-Fi abilities you were able to visit other player’s towns, send them messages and leave them gifts. It made for a truly interactive experience. Animal Crossing: Wild World was almost universally praised and many consider it to be the best release in the franchise to date.
Our second release of the day saw Mario and company hit the pitch for Super Mario Strikers on the GameCube. This was the Mushroom Kingdom’s take on soccer and featured a large variety of power ups that you could use to attack opposing players. Each of the games various fields was surrounded by an electric fence that you could knock opponents in shocking them and causing them to be taken out of the game temporarily. It was only vaguely reminiscent of its real life counterpart. Each team consisted of a captain who was one of the main characters in the Mario world like Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser or Wario and they had a team made up of sidekicks such as Shy Guys, Goombas and Koopa Troopas. The captain of the team had the ability to unleash a “Super Strike” by powering up before attempting to score a goal. This would grant you the ability to score up to three goals at one time. It was positively received and lauded for its unique take on soccer.
The last release of that day was Mario Tennis: Power Tour for the Game Boy Advance. This game saw you entering a Tennis Academy and striving to become the school’s champion after seeing a group of masked players defeat the previous champs. Unlike many of the Mario sports games this one featuring an RPG element that allowed you to level up your characters making them better as you advanced.
Our last entry of the week was release on December 5th, 2006 and it was Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. This was the second game in the series released on the DS and the first to feature co-operative multiplayer play. Portrait of Ruin is set in 1944 Europe during World War II, and is a continuation of the story from Castlevania: Bloodlines. The game saw you, as Jonathan Morris or Charlotte Aulin taking down the vampire Brauner. Each character had unique powers that could be combined with devestating effects. Anyone that pre-ordered the game received a 20th Annivesary Pre-order bundle which included a sleeve with a plastic seal of the Castlevania logo, a CD soundtrack and a timeline poster. The game was praised overall, with very few exceptions.
That’s it for this week in our look back at Nintendo’s history. I really hope you’re enjoying the article. Feel free to leave comments, or head to the forums to discuss what was talked about. If you know of anything that’s coming up you’d like to see included please feel free to let me know by sending me an email. It will probably be included in future editions.