The 'Shroom:Issue LXXIX/A History of Video Games
Chuck Ballymoo here, the NEW resident video game historian. This month I'll delve into the project codenames of Nintendo's last three home consoles before the Wii U.
2 Decades Ago
Twenty years ago, in the fall of 1993, saw the announcement of the Nintendo's next-gen hardware... Three years before it hit the shelves. In our time, it's very unusual if new consoles are announced a year and a half before they reach the shelves, as was the recent case of the Wii U (the Xbox One and the PS4 was merely half of that even!). This hasn't always been the case. In the Fall of 1993, Nintendo unveiled their next platform, codename Project Reality. Nintendo had already unsuccessfully tried to bring about a 32-bit console, so many did not believe that Nintendo could deliver the 64-bits they were promising at a reasonable price. But they all turned out to be obdurate, as the N64 launched at only $199.99.
Back in 1999
Nintendo's next console was announced in May 1999, as was known as codename Project Dolphin. It was originally unclear whether the system would be released in 2000 or 2001. It's major selling-point was graphics that rival the PS2. Because the new system would use disks, it was already known at this point that it would be easier to develop games for the system, so more third-partiers got onboard. In one of the last major releases for the Nintendo 64, the character Saberman made a cameo in Banjo-Tooie. While asleep he can be heard saying "I wonder what adventures await me...maybe I'll ride a dolphin." See the warm benefits of knowing video game history? You get cool references like that when you play games. But little did Rare know it would be bought off by Microsoft in 2002. By early 2001, Project Dolphin finally had a name: Nintendo GameCube.
Like the Wii U and the 3DS, the Cube got off to a slow start. Some thought that what stopped the GCs from flying from the shelves was the absence of a Mario game (even though it launched with Luigi's Mansion, [Happy Halloween BTW] goodness knows why that wasn't considered one). But that game went on to be regarded as a classic. The game introduced King Boo, who went on to appear as a boss in Super Mario Sunshine and a final boss once again in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon from earlier this year. But I digress, the GameCube got off to a horribly slow start, that actually led many fans of the Big N worried that the unthinkable would happen: Nintendo would go out of business. But it didn't take too long for them to bounce back with Super Smash Bros. Melee. Despite it's bounce-back, in hindsight, the GC did good, but not great. The 3DS started off abysmally, but now is an amazing success and is outselling all other consoles. The Wii U is, well, making late 2001 for the GameCube look good. Currently, even the original DS is outselling the Wii U! But hopefully the next Smash (along with games starring the other great franchises) can bring it back, as Melee did for the Cube a dozen years ago. So only time will tell if the Wii U turns out like the other two Nintendo systems that got off to a slow start: The GameCube (decent) or the 3DS (magnificent). No matter what happens, thanks to the amazing success of Nintendo's handhelds, there is certainly no danger of Nintendo becoming a third-party developer this time around! They've got plenty of moola!
Nintendo Revolution is the ONLY Solution!
Just like the Dolphin, Nintendo's next project, the Nintendo Revolution, was also announced in May, only this time, six years later in 2005. The prototype released on that day looked exactly like the Wii would eventually look. However, one thing was missing: The controller. In May 2005, Nintendo showed the console itself, but NOT the controller. Which is amazing if you think about, for the Wiimote is what armed the revolution! And that console, known today as the Nintendo Wii, won the console war against even the Xbox 360 and the PS3, which came in last. Circa Christmas of 2009, the Wii shattered all sales records for the holiday season, three years after it's release! And it's library of great games such as Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Donkey Kong Country Returns, will be treasured for years to come, just as the 22-year-old Super NES has a whole library of still beloved games. Have a Happy Halloween, and remember to support the Wii U!