Monday, September 9, 2013

7 of Nintendo's Best Practical Jokes That Were Actually Completely Serious

Nintendo has always marched to the beat of its own bongos so it's to be expected that they'd have a few weird and unexpected ideas along the way. Surely, a lot of thought was put into each crazy new product and idea, but all the public saw with each announcement was the off-the-wall finished product with the explanation only coming later. At times, it was honestly hard to tell whether Nintendo's latest announcement was an elaborate practical joke or an actual product. Here are some of the best examples of when actual Nintendo products and announcements could have been confused as jokes:

1986 - I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater lets you design and order real sweaters
It's the 80s and Christmas is approaching. You know that your kids want that new floppy disk reader for their Famicom, but you also know that Christmas wouldn't be complete without an ugly Christmas sweater. It's a conundrum that's all too common for parents each year. If only there was a way to kill these two birds with one stone...
But there is! Nintendo (actually Royal Industries Co. Ltd.) has got you covered with I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater for the Famicom Disk System. While the service was available, this game / application allowed you to design your own sweater and then send in the game to order an actual sweater from your design for the low, low price of 2,900 yen. Surely, this is every parent's and child's dream come true!

1996 - Nintendo 64 controller is built for three-handed people
"Guys, guys, guys! Sega and Sony are making next gen games on CDs!! How are we gonna compete with that?!"
"Hmm......... They may have CDs, but do they have... three-handed controllers?!"
"They don't, sir! This'll open up a whole new market of previously ignored three-handed people! Brilliant!"
And so, the Nintendo 64 controller was born. Surely, when it was first announced, there was some confusion about how to hold it and why there were three handles on it. Even in practice, N64 games rarely used the D-Pad, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a completely terrible idea. The N64 was in a transition period and 3D games on consoles were relatively new. Supposing a developer didn't want to mess with all that variety of motion, the option was still there to use the good old-fashioned D-Pad. It's a lot like the Wii remote in that regard, which you can either hold like a remote (ideal for motion controls), like a NES controller (ideal for traditional controls), or connect to a nunchuck (ideal for a combination of traditional and new). At any rate, in the event of a three-handed alien invasion, we'll be prepared in advance thanks to the N64.

2001 - Scan cards just like your mom does at the grocery store, but with an e-Reader 
That's not to say that your dad can't do the grocery shopping or anything.
Sometimes GameBoyAdvance games were just too good and the system was just too portable. For those times, Nintendo released the e-Reader, which attached to the top of the GBA in an only slightly less unwieldy way than all those Sega Genesis attachments. Not only that, it could play games that were simple enough to be entirely contained in dots printed on ordinary trading cards. All you had to do was scan five cards, twice, and you could be playing classic NES games like Balloon Fight and Golf. If that sounds like a hassle, that's because it was. The joy of swiping cards wears off quick. On the other hand, collecting trading cards never gets old, and e-Reader cards weren't completely limited to NES games; there were also cards that unlocked new content in Animal Crossing, Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire, and Super Mario Advance 4. There was even a Mario Party card game that utilized the e-Reader, albeit in rather forgettable ways.

It seems that the e-Reader met with more success in Japan, where there were actually two versions of the device (the second one added the link cable port as an F U to all the early adopters who bought the first version). It never seemed to catch on much in the US, and for good reason; the unlockables and simple games it provided simply weren't worth the trouble and cost. Not to mention that the cards weren't all that special since you could just print your own with the right printer settings.

2005 - Nintendo's next console, code-named "Revolution", is officially called Wii
Super Pii Pii Brothers, via ThinkGeek
Imagine, if you can, the hype of a new Nintendo console announcement, specifically the successor to the GameCube code-named "Revolution". Nintendo's higher ups had been dropping hints for a while that something was going to be different about this next console. Then, finally, they reveal the remote shaped controller and its motion sensing capabilities! For my young mind it seemed that the age of virtual reality was upon us. But then I heard the official name of the next console: Wii. 

"What? 'Wii'? Like, 'I have to go wee wee' or 'a wee little man'?" I thought to myself. My friend who was informing me of this news simply had to be joking. It turned out that it was "we" as in the first person plural pronoun. Even with that being true, it didn't make sense why a Japanese company would base their console's name on an English word. Who knows what kind of meaning "Wii" might have in other languages or what kind of puns it's vulnerable to. Don't even get me started on all the people who only saw it written and couldn't figure out how to pronounce it because of the "i"s. "Wii" still may be the weirdest name for a video game console, but it must have done something right since it's one of the best selling consoles ever.

2009 - Wii Vitality Sensor peripheral for tracking player's pulse is announced
"Oh, thank goodness! I'm still alive! I just had to pop on this Wii Vitality Sensor™ to be sure."
E3 is when all the game companies bust out their latest and greatest upcoming games, consoles, and accessories. It's a joyous time of hype that is celebrated by gamers each year. That's why when Nintendo revealed their Vitality Sensor accessory for Wii, everyone watching was put in an awkward position. Should they laugh at the joke or should they politely clap just in case this was a real thing? Well, if you paid attention to this article's title, you already know this was a real thing. Basically, it did it all: checked your pulse, tested blood sugar, trimmed your nails, recognized your fingerprints, gave manicures, and predicted the future... 

Nah, just kidding, it only checked your pulse and, indirectly, the oxygen saturation of your blood. It never even had any announced games or applications to go with it, but Satoru Iwata assured the audience of the E3 press conference that it could be useful "in games used for relaxation, sometime, maybe, I guess". Since then, the Vitality Sensor was scarcely heard from again apart from a quiet mention of its discontinued development. Even though it never made it to market, Nintendo was totally serious with this. Or maybe it was a joke all along and they just played it off as a real product when nobody laughed.

2013 - Wii Fit Trainer is a playable character in the next Super Smash Bros.
"Yoga-nna regret picking a fight with me!"
(Dang, that pun sucked.)
A bunch of different Nintendo characters fighting each other is pretty much Super Smash Bros. in a nutshell. The series has even had unexpected characters before like R.O.B. and Mr. Game & Watch, so it shouldn't have been such a surprise to see that the Wii Fit Trainer was going to be in the next iteration of Smash Bros.. But it was a surprise. Wii Fit isn't exactly the sort of game from which you'd expect to have a character for a fighting game taken, considering all you do in the game is stretch, exercise, and do balancing minigames. It isn't even the sort of game you'd associate with having any recognizable characters. Surely the trainers couldn't work, they're just pale colored humanoid examples for how to do the exercises. The character choice and timing (after the main E3 announcements) was just so unexpected, I had to double check to make sure the reveal trailer wasn't just an elaborate spoof. It wasn't, but by now, most fans have gotten used to the idea of a Wii Fit Trainer in the roster. Now we're just waiting to see what Kirby looks like with her ability.

2013 - A 3DS model is announced that lacks 3D, called 2DS
For all the people out there who were on the fence about getting a 3DS and just wanted something without all that 3D, portability, and stereo audio, Nintendo delivered when they announced the 2DS. It plays all the 3DS and DS games you know and love, but it doesn't have any of that pesky 3D, so you don't have to worry getting too immersed in a game.
Honestly though, as weird as it looks, the 2DS made some decent business sense. Set to be released at the same time as the new Pokemon X & Y games, it offered a cheaper, more durable alternative for parents looking to get their kids playing the new Pokemon games on the cheap. Still, that won't protect it from becoming the butt of many a joke in the future or from making the spoof product, the 1DS, actually look believable by comparison.

Are you a Nintendo fan? Then maybe these lesser known, but still awesome N64 games would be relevant to your interests.
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