SNES Mini, Hype, Disappointment

Its 20 days until SNES Mini Classic (Or Super NES Classic Edition if you like) lands, after several weeks of crazy hype. People are offering it for sale at inflated prices before they even have one to sell, and the internet is alight with early accusations of short stock and assumptions of disappointment for many. I’m lucky, I made friends at my local game store, which helped me secure a pre-order for which I’ve already paid – so I will be adding the console to my collection soon. Here are some thoughts on the fervour around the thing.

A year ago the world received the first of Nintendo’s mini series of nostalgia consoles – the NES Mini. Even before release we knew there were not enough of them to fulfil even pre-orders, let alone satisfy those who may have intended to walk into a shop and buy it at a later time. Months later, it is no longer in production and Nintendo have issued some wishy-washy statement saying that they never intended it to be anything more than a one-time, low-production toy. Meanwhile commentators speak out in surprise that the big-N will not make any more, given that they could sell thousands more – making their fans happy whilst lining their already impressive wallets.

With SNES Mini fast approaching, people are expecting more of the same. Nintendo have made (again, vague) suggestions that they have “learned” from last year and will be making sufficient supply of this one, but no one believes them. Perhaps fairly – Nintendo have a terrible track record for underestimating demand for their products. I have memories of every console as far back as Gamecube being unavailable for months after release. Switch is even now difficult to find, 6 months after initial release, and extra controllers sold out all around. There is evidence that even N64, SNES and NES were in short supply in a similar manner in their respective times. So why, after three decades of disappointing consumers, does Nintendo continue with this practice?

The obvious answer, one you’ll have heard before, is that it generates massive hype for their products. People want what they can’t have, often blindly. Think of two boys in a school playground. One is enjoying his delicious yellow sweets, then sees the other child enjoying some blue sweets. He suddenly doesn’t want his yellow ones, he wants the blue ones! Such is the mentality that fuels the hype train for these silly little retro machines. And it works! Just browse retro gaming on twitter and you’ll see many examples of “Nintendo-related stuff? AWESOME!” Sometimes even when it’s not awesome at all.

Nintendo have lots of money. Serious cash. They are larger than Sony (all of Sony, not just the PlayStation section). Largest Japanese company, full stop. And they made a lot of that money through contemptuous business practices. From monopolising the American market in the mid-80s to charging a premium for their games, to the currently discussed practice of under-production. Nintendo also control the price of their products in stores, not allowing shops to reduce the prices until they say so, which is why you will find their games at full price long after games on other systems are being sold at 20% of full price. So it’s not like Nintendo products “hold their value” so much as Nintendo holds the value of their products artificially. For all their fun, family image, they are as cut-throat as a business gets. For further evidence look at recent events on YouTube, where content creators must give their advertising revenues to the company whenever they use content from any of their games.

Don’t expect this to change any time soon. Scarcity is the way they work, and the way they will continue to work. For all the suggestions that Nintendo is the “loser” in each generation (since NES, Nintendo’s home consoles have sold fewer than their competition, at least in Europe (America is another story, and one that doesn’t need to be told again), they sure seem to be doing alright.

So, on September 29th you don’t get a SNES Mini. You wait 6 months, never see one for less than double the RRP. What are your options? I’ll discuss this in a separate article soon. Maybe even later today.

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Penguins In Video Games

For some reason I asked the people of Twitter what my first blogpost should be about. I got two more replies than I expected (two…) both requesting that I write about penguins in video games. Surprisingly enough it’s a subject about which I have some small experience (as does everyone who played games through the 1990s, as entry number one will suggest!), so here are some thoughts about… Penguins In Video Games! Thanks to @The_Stonecreek and @Sydark71 for the inspiration. Oh, and Bob.

Surprisingly, there are quite a few examples of this topic. Unsurprisingly a lot of them come out of Japan. Here are a few that I have personally experienced at one time or other in my life.

1. Tuxie – Super Mario 64

Early on in the game, you’ll find yourself in the snow-based level Cool, Cool Mountain, and from the off you hear the cries of the baby penguins lost and roaming about the level. Making your way to the bottom of the mountain you find a giant penguin sitting in a pool of water, who asks you (in the second level of this stage) to find her missing daughter, Tuxie. It turns out that only one of the many baby penguins is Tuxie, which begs the question – where are the parents? I assume they slipped on ice and fell into oblivion off the edge of the map. Find Tuxie, return her to her negligent mum, and take your reward – a lovely, shiny star!

2. Pentarou – Parodius: Non-Sense Fantasy

Starring in a number of Japanese games prior, it was Parodius that introduced Pentarou to the West. The game is a parody of Gradius, hence the title. Pentarou acts as one of the ships from which you make your choice, with her own weapons and power-ups, alongside Gradius‘ Vicviper, Octopus and Twinbee, each of whom come from various Konami licences. Parodius games have appeared on various systems, but for me it’s the SNES one that lights up my nostalgia the best. Give it a go, you’ll probably like it.

3. Prinny – Disgaea

Perhaps the most well-known penguin in gaming, Prinny has appeared in multiple Disgaea games, and in their own series. I say “their” because Prinny is not a single character, but a race of penguin-a-likes. They are quite upbeat considering their story. Their first appearance was in 2003’s Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, in which those guilty of mortal sins (such as suicide) have their souls sewn into a Prinny. Due to the unstable nature of a human soul, Prinnies are prone to explode when hit hard enough… A fun character, my experience with Disgaea is slight, but I enjoyed what I played, and certainly recommend you give one of them a go if you haven’t, Dood.

4. King Dedede – Kirby Series

This is for my friend Elininis (look her up on Twitter). King Dedede is the main antagonist of Nintendo’s Kirby, appearing in most entries in the series and most of the Smash Bros series. He is considered a “frenemy” of Kirby rather than a straight enemy, due to his motives being greed rather than malice. Much like my favourite Nintendo baddie, Wario. His attacks are similar to Kirby’s own, spitting with some force, which seems irresponsible considering the series’ otherwise child-friendly aesthetic.

5. Piplup – Pokemon

Appearing as the starter Water Pokemon in Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, Piplup appears as a blue penguin – much like the others in this list so far! It evolves later into Prinplup and then Empoleon at levels 16 and 36 respectively. Piplup has appeared in two Smash Bros games – Super Smash Bros Brawl (Wii) and Super Smash Bros for Wii U (Wii U) and appears in several Pokemon side games, with a cameo in Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire.

6. The Poor Penguin From Penguin Toss (Mobile + Flash)

The first game that came to my mind when I took on this task – I used to enjoy Penguin Toss more than my job, and so I became pretty good at it. One of those physics-based games, in which you press a key to select your angle, then again to set the power of your throw. Mr Penguin then goes flying across the terrain, landing with a thud and leaving a trail of blood as he tumbles to a stop. The simple aim of the simple game is to throw the hapless bird the furthest. It’s old now, but still available and still silly fun.

Honourable mentions

Penpen – an enemy in the Mega Man games

Penta Penguin – appears in Crash Bandicoot 3 and later games

Sgt. James Byrd – of Spyro