TIME Magazine: Why Nintendo president Satoru Iwata mattered…

TIME (by Matt Peckham):

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata has died at only 55 years old after battling cancer for over a year. His unexpected passing marks the end of a wildly inventive and broadly celebrated 13-year stretch helming the iconic Kyoto video games company.

Iwata, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1959, was only the fourth person to lead Nintendo since its inception as a playing card company in 1889, and the first president unrelated to the founding Yamauchi family. His ascent to the topmost Nintendo position in 2002 was unusual as it followed a career in software engineering, making him one of the industry’s only corporate luminaries with substantial hands-on game creation experience.

In an exclusive interview with TIME this spring — Iwata’s last with a Western media outlet — he talked about how personally involved he remained in helping drive and evaluate the company’s hallmark unorthodox inventions. He called Nintendo “a company of Kyoto craftsman” and joking “this is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.

At Tokyo-based Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory during the 1980s and 90s, Iwata helped develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable games. That list includes Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, the opening salvo in a critically lauded and financially lucrative fighting series starring Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong that’s since sold in the tens of millions for the company. After he was promoted to president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, he continued to work personally on the company’s products, including several titles in Nintendo’s wildly popular Pokémon series.

Iwata’s move to Nintendo came in 2000, when he assumed management of the company’s corporate planning division. Just two years later, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had helmed the company since 1949, decided to retire, allowing Iwata to step in and steer Nintendo through its most inventive period yet.

It was under Iwata that Nintendo ushered in the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen gaming handheld that succeeded the popular Game Boy, eventually going on to challenge Sony for the title of “bestselling games platform of all time.” Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii, now arguably the most recognizable video game system in the industry’s history, arrived in 2006, another Iwata-led gamble that paid incredible dividends following the company’s lackluster GameCube, which launched in 2001. And while Iwata’s critics often accused the company of reacting too slowly to industry trends, Iwata wasn’t afraid to enact radical change: after years of financial downturns (exacerbated by the company’s poorly received Wii U game console), he unveiled plans this March to develop games for smartphones and tablets. The world will now remember Iwata as the Nintendo leader who tore down the wall between the company’s heavily guarded iconic IP and non-Nintendo platforms.

But it was Iwata’s playful, almost mischievous and refreshingly candid personal style that so endeared him to the company’s fans. In 2011, he helped launch a video series dubbed Nintendo Direct, personally emceeing the company’s biggest surprises, often with quirky framing twists, like an effects-laden mock kung-fu brawl with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé for E3 2014. At Nintendo’s E3 2015 presentation last month, he appeared as a Muppet designed by The Jim Henson Company.

Iwata’s other significant public relations innovation was “Iwata Asks,” a remarkable series in which Iwata interviewed members of Nintendo’s many development teams, delving into the anecdotal history of some of the company’s best loved projects. It was a Nintendophile’s dream come true.

Above all, Iwata established and maintained a decorous tone often at odds with his competitors. In lieu of visually splashy, clamorous stage-led events at annual game shows, Iwata chose charmingly simple, almost dignified presentational vignettes. When fans responded negatively to a new Nintendo idea, Iwata’s reaction was often swift and direct: after an upcoming Nintendo DS game built on a hallowed Nintendo franchise was waved off by fans at E3 last month, Iwata tweeted his thanks to fans for their feedback and promised to meet their expectations.

Iwata’s health problems were first aired just before E3 in June 2014, when Iwata, who had been planning to attend the show (I was scheduled to meet with him), mysteriously backed out. At the time, Nintendo said Iwata’s doctors had warned him against travel, but didn’t say why. A few weeks later, the company disclosed Iwata was battling cancer, specifically a tumor in his bile duct. At that point he’d had surgery, and his prospects sounded hopeful because the doctors had apparently found the tumor early. When he resumed appearing in Nintendo Direct videos following E3, he was clearly thinner, but seemed otherwise unfazed. Though he again missed this year’s E3, he remained publicly active to the end, participating in Nintendo’s last shareholder meeting just a few weeks ago.

Japanese netizens rediscover “Full Armor Game Boy,” question how the ’90s defined portability

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Japanese netizens are reintroduced to the “Full Armor Game Boy”

RocketNews 24:

Despite the Game Boy’s revolutionary specs for its time, the small screen, the lack of a backlight and minuscule speaker left much to be desired for gamers in the 1990s. And although many just considered the Game Boy’s limitations a minor price to pay to take the fun of Nintendo anywhere they wanted, some accessory makers brought a few products to market to jazz it up a bit.

Recently Japanese netizens came across a picture of one such accessory that tripled the size of the Game Boy, calling to question just how “portable” this gaming option was.

A retro gaming enthusiast tweeted out a photo last week from a 1994 issue of the Japanese video game magazine Famitsu that shows a tricked-out version of the Game Boy he dubbed “Full Armor Game Boy.” The oversized device looks practically indestructible, almost like it came from the war room where military scientists engineered it to control missiles.

The somewhat awkward-looking add-ons are from an officially licensed Nintendo product called the Handy Boy (which you can still buy for US$29.99 on Amazon). The Handy Boy includes an adjustable magnifying screen, speakers, a light to for those nighttime Game Boy sessions, larger buttons, a miniature joystick and a neck strap to make holding the even bulkier device possible. Even though some YouTube reviewers of the Handy Boy say it makes the Game Boy a “wee bit top-heavy,” the packaging claims it is “lightweight” and has a “compact design.”

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Japanese netizens were taken aback at just how big all of these accessories made the Game Boy and wondered how this could possible be called a handheld video game console. While others wondered how uncomfortable it would be to actually play with everything attached like that. And for those that actually remembered squinting at the tiny green screen, they looked at this image in envy of the lucky kid whose parents bought them this Game Boy holy grail.

– “This is multitasking: video games AND weightlifting at the same time!”
– “Looks like a Game Boy crossed with a Transformer”
– “This is really stretching the limits of portability…”

Did you ever use the Handy Boy to trick out your Game Boy or wish you had? Let us know in the comments section below if you remember the joys (and perhaps still lingering neck pain) of playing Tetris on a magnified, lit-up screen with stereo sound!

 

Zelda and Pokémon ceramic plates will add a touch of class to any gamer’s dining room

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RocketNews 24:

Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve probably seen, and can recognize, what’s known as the Willow pattern. A mainstay of European ceramic tableware since the 1700s, the design takes cues from Chinese porcelain and features a characteristic blue and white color scheme.

Given its long history, even modern examples of Willow pattern dishware tend to feature quant depictions of trappings of life from a bygone era. Sailing ships and windmills are common subjects, but one artist felt the Willow pattern would also be an appropriate platform for showcasing the video game art of yesteryear, and created these plates featuring old-school artwork from Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda and Pokémon.

Despite the self-effacing nature of the drawing, though, it’s clear that Moss has a deep respect for the artistry that goes into creating video games. As a matter of fact, he’s even lending a bit of legitimacy to the art form himself. Although most of Moss’ publicly displayed work, as seen on his website here, is done in the style of movie posters, he recently decided to try his hand at illustrating two ceramic plates, and here are the impressive results.

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If you came into the series with Ocarina of Time or Twilight Princess, it may take a moment to realize what you’re looking at, but that’s a Zelda scene done in the graphical style from before the franchise went polygonal. Specifically, it seems to be based on the pixel art from the 1993 Game Boy title Link’s Awakening, the visual style of which was in turn a derivative of that used in 1991’s A Link to the Past, the sole Zelda installment to be released for the Super NES.

Speaking of Nintendo properties that used to be on the monochrome Game Boy, here’s Moss’ Willow pattern rendition of Pokémon.

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Not only is the plate’s central area filled with lovingly recreated retro sprites, there’re extra nods to the series around the lip of the plate, which is decorated with Poké Balls and even more pocket monsters.

And to prove these aren’t just flat graphics manipulated to look like they’re on plates, here’re a few alternate angles of the dishes.

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Feel lame and old by watching kids react to a Nintendo Game Boy for the first time

 

In the latest episode of their popular “React” series, YouTubers The Fine Bros decided to give their group of tech-savvy kids none other than an original Nintendo Game Boy to see what they’d make of it. As you might expect, what with the portable console now being roughly 25 years old, many of the kids had absolutely no idea what it was, nor even how to turn the thing on.

So join us after the jump to see little kids fumbling to insert game cartridges, failing to find the power switch and saying things like “You have to actually press buttons” and “I kinda feel sad for the people in the past.

Aged between six and 13, the kids are given a chance to play around with the Nintendo portable before being asked for their thoughts on it. Their reactions are at once amusing and slightly depressing for anyone who once owned and treasured one of these chunky little consoles, and hint at how far technology has come in our lifetimes.