On the Road with Nintendo

I now realize that basically everything Nintendo makes is meant to be portable.

Last weekend I did quite a bit of portable gaming, but it wasn’t the handheld variety. Instead of pocketing a DS or Vita, I packed up my Wii U and headed over to Jorge Albor’s place to play Mario Kart and invent new curse words. The process of bundling up my normally sedentary console made me realize that every Nintendo console that I’ve ever owned has had at least some component of mobility thanks either to the marquee games or novel hardware.

Before launching down memory lane, it’s worth noting that the Wii U is a troublesome travel companion. The Wii ushered in an avalanche of plastic accessories, all of which carry forward to the latest system. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a tangled mess of Wii-motes, Nunchuks, and classic controllers. Of course there’s also the balance board, Wii Motion Plus dongles, and the new Pro controller to add to the pile. The system itself has also started to sprawl. The gamepad has its power source, which is separate from the console’s power brick. Don’t forget the sensor bar, its little cradle, and the tangle-prone cord tethering it to the console. By the time I had everything packed up, my bag looked like a doomsday device.

Of course, it was all worth it once the shrieks of despair that follow a blue shell started up. Like every other Nintendo console I’ve ever used, the Wii U is built to inspire quasi-mobility.


The earliest memory I have of the NES is when my uncle brought it over for the family to play during the holidays. We took up our traditional stations (on the floor crammed close to the television in our grandma’s living room) and marveled at what was clearly the coolest thing in the world. Duck Hunt was a fan favorite, largely because the analogy to reality was so obvious. People of any age understood the concept and the form, which was something Nintendo would come back to decades later.


I don’t remember lugging my Super Nintendo around very much, probably because all my friends seemed to have one. I do remember it being the era of the traveling peripheral. A few of us had multi taps, which meant lots of controllers and lots of Bomberman. These controllers weren’t always blessed with the Nintendo Seal of Quality. I seem to remember all manner of weird turbo buttons and rad 90s color schemes. This being the era of Street Fighter meant that going over to someone else’s house meant bringing your controller of choice with you.

The N64

Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Super Smash Bros.. This system was meant to be shared. Its pricey cartridges and lack of Squaresoft games also meant that not everyone would have one. The system and its odd three-pronged controller inevitably found its way to parties and continued to do so long past the release of its successor. No optical drive and a surprisingly sturdy casing meant one would inevitably be lugged around to various college parties.

The GameCube

The thing literally had a handle on it. It was a portable Smash Bros. box.

The Wii

Roughly 20 years after the NES, the Wii used the same approach to hitch rides. The controller was a familiar object and using it to roll a bowling ball or swing a tennis racket provided the same real world analogy as the Zapper. Its games usually accommodated a crowd and elicited the same type of banter that a traditional board game or ping pong match would create. The early games in particular did a good job of getting the most out of the motion controls while masking some of their limitations. Hearing about how swinging a virtual baseball bat was as easy as swinging your controller was one thing; directly experiencing it made it real.

This “seeing is believing” phenomenon is already catching on with the impending wave of VR headsets. Devices like the Oculus are easy to grasp from an intellectual standpoint, but feeling it in the pit of your (potentially nauseous) stomach is the real thing that wins converts. Like many of these Nintendo systems, it’s small enough to lug around and the early software lends itself well to the parlor-game approach that makes an impression at parties. From the earliest days, Nintendo has combined the in-person, social multiplayer approach with novel hardware and the result has been systems and peripherals that tend to escape the walls of their normal homes. If history is any indication, whatever it is that sits on my entertainment center after the Wii U will make some cross-town excursions as well.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

Keep reading... Show less

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

Keep reading... Show less

Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

Keep reading... Show less

Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.