Going Back To Nintendo After 10 Years Away Is Like Stepping Into A Secret World

I have a confession to make. The last time I owned and used a Nintendo games console was nearly 10 years ago. It was a purple transparent Game Boy Advance, and it was the end of an era.

Or, rather, the start of one.

From that point on I moved to PC gaming and then -- realising I'd need to find two more jobs just to pay for a new graphics card -- I begrudgingly moved over to Xbox and finally PlayStation. As the years ticked over I felt more and more distant from the days where I would spend five minutes here or there playing my GameBoy, and honestly I was glad.

Two weeks ago, I went back. This is what happened next.

From an outsider, Nintendo has always been a strange, quirky club full of people that never seem to have a bad word to say about either the company or its games. That's not to say they're wrong, it just seems to be a straightforward subculture. Not excluding, but exclusive.

From Nintendo's perspective, at least economically, being a subculture is tough work. The Japanese former-giant has had a bumpy ride of late and honestly, it wasn't until I clasped eyes on the 3DS XL and in particular the New Nintendo 3DS XL, that I finally caved in and decided to give Mario another go.

So with a lovingly pre-owned 3DS XL in hand, and some generously donated second-hand games, I was ready to step back into the world that I'd ditched all those years ago.

And... I can't put the bloody thing down. Where I go, the 3DS XL goes. At first, I couldn't understand it. The graphics aren't great, the battery life is nothing on the Vita and the 3D on the original XL is laughably difficult to keep in focus. Finally there's the volume button. Nintendo placed the volume button at just the right point on the original XL so that even if you turn it down, your left hand will immediately turn it back up as soon as you do anything. Ludicrous.

And yet. I can't stop.

So far I've built a town called 'Ankh' (imaginary prizes for those who get the reference), drift boosted my way through a solar system and saved a princess from a giant turtle with anger management issues. It has been glorious.

I'm not alone. Having accidentally treated most of the Victoria Line to the soundtrack of New Super Mario Bros 2 for the third time I looked up and sure enough, among the faces of hate were two that smiled in recognition. I'm not the only one.

Who are these smiling compatriots? They're people like me. They're teachers, suited city workers, engineers, receptionists, bankers. If you had the chance to rummage through every briefcase and shoulder bag in the City of London you'd find more 3DS consoles than you'd believe.

Why? To even have a hope of working out what makes Nintendo games so playable I'd highly recommend that you go back and read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. No other company thrives so completely on people's happiness and well being, certainly no other company that exists at any rate.

Every single decision Nintendo makes is about making you happier, for bad and for worse. For a highly cynical bastard like myself, opening up that lid is a delightful breath of fresh air that allows me to momentarily forget that the human race is intrinsically full of arseholes.

There are no arseholes in Nintendo's world, just people who are 'being cheeky'.

In a world that thrives on misery and melodrama, being a company that thrives on happiness can be a financially rocky road. Indeed as we reported just last week, Nintendo has had to halve its operating forecasts.

But as with any fairytale, there's a happy ending. The plucky 3DS along with Nintendo's iconic characters are keeping the company afloat. Since its launch Nintendo has sold 50.4 million 3DS consoles. 50 million. It sold 9 million in this last quarter alone.

That's an astonishing number for a console which is ostensibly now five years old.

This no compromise approach is infectious. I was worried that Nintendo's games might have lost the technical proficiency that made them so playable despite their visual shortcomings. They haven't, Mario Kart7 might involve throwing bananas around and firing giant turtle shells but it's still one of the hardest racing games to truly master and yet, is instantly gratifying to play for a novice. Name another game that has that pick up and play secret ingredient, the likelihood is it'll be a Nintendo game.

I still think that sometimes Nintendo fans, and indeed journalists can lose themselves inside the 'club' but in the few weeks that I've gone back into the fold its easy to see that while Nintendo hasn't, we have, and not for the better.

If I could prescribe anything for the overworked, overtired inhabitant of this country it would be to eat better, read more books and every now and then, play some Nintendo, it'll put a smile on your face.