God of Gaming
"What exactly does the word 'Nintendo' mean?". An often asked question in magazines, especially those quality magazines (Edge, NGC), writing about the Kyoto, Japan-based company.
"Nintendo" is, you guessed it, Japanese, but the correct (or complete) translation isn't easy. First of all, it isn't just one word. It's a sentence. "Work hard and in the end you'll be rewarded" or "It's in God's hands" are closest to being correct.
"God, of course, being Shigeru Miyamoto"
(Tim Weaver, NGC Magazine).
That's absolutely correct. Mr. Miyamoto is a genius. Without him, Nintendo would be just another company, coincidentally making games. Now they are amongst the best.
Mister Miyamoto ("Shigsy" pour les amis) is Mario's father. Zelda's dad. Donkey Kong's papa. It's clear. He invented the world's most beloved game-characters. They're his!
In 1981, a young and talented man, stepped inside Nintendo's office. He had a revolutionary idea. An idea that would change the way we look at games forever.
A damsel (in distress) was captured by a huge gorilla. One young plumber was courageous enough to go after her and challenge the ape. Aptly titled "Kong" (the "Donkey"-bit was added later, as Mr. Miyamoto would claim, "because it sounded good") and "Mr. Jumpman" (Mario), the game soon found its way to arcades around the world.
It was an instant succes. Its impact is of an unspeakable value. Even now, it's rated as one of the best games ever, together with that previous monster arcade-hit, "Space Invaders" (1978). The game had, at least, two sequels (without Shigeru's input, which shows off ... number three is still seen as one of the biggest game-travesties ever), countless imitations, found a second life as a "Game&Watch"-title (with sequel, too), found a third life inside a GameBoy-cartridge ("Donkey Kong" - 1994) and was included as a secret in Rare's "Donkey Kong 64" (1999).
Nintendo knew what a brilliant coder Shigeru Miyamoto was - and still is. Of course, he doesn't make the games anymore. But every idea he gets, is produced, written and tested by him. He has the freedom to do whatever he wants. He invented Zelda and Link. He created a wonderful world around Mario, with famous co-stars as Princess "Peach" Toadstool, his brother Luigi, Toad, his rideable dinosaur Yoshi and many, many more.
He keeps the stock of the Nintendo Company steady whenever a new game is delayed. He's Nintendo's lucky charm. But, he insists on getting a 'normal' salary. He respects every nameless Nintendo-employee and, therefore, doesn't agree with exuberant paycheques.
A good anekdote to show you just how adored the man is : in 1998, Shigeru was shopping in a local, Japanese supermarket. When he came at the desk, the young man behind the counter asked him "Are you who I think you are?". Miyamoto said : "Yes". The boy replied : "What the hell are you doing here?! Shouldn't you be at work finishing the new Zelda?!"
And once a year, he writes a new, bold yet refreshing game-story and turns the software-world upside down ...
Mario Kart (1992/1996/2003), Super Mario RPG (1994), Super Mario 64 (1996), Mario Golf (1999), The Legend of Zelda : Ocarina of Time (1998), Super Smash Bros (1999/2001) ... and it still continues.
For Gamecube, he already made the absolutely delightful and completely groundbreaking Pikmin (2001) and has only recently completed Super Mario Sunshine. I CAN'T wait to play that one!
And now he and his team are busy with the new Zelda! It's good to be a Nintendo-owner these days.
And most of this magic came via one man. One of my heroes. Shigeru Miyamoto, I salute you!
Julian, 22 August 2002