A reader reports back on the only Nintendo-dedicated shop in the world and discovers a mix of exclusive merchandise and unique museum pieces.
Close to the Rockefeller Center in New York City is situated Nintendo World, a store dedicated as a pantheon to the companys past, present, and future direction, encapsulated in 10,000 square foot of retail estate. This is my second occasion to visit Nintendo World, my affection for the gaming behemoth having wavered to a degree in this generation of games console but whose appeal and attraction is unmatched with their presentation and spirit. The central bustling streets of Manhattan give way to the cool, crisp, and clean presentation that has come to be a trademark and style of Nintendo, the interior welcoming and minimal in certain aspects but not sparse in content.
Primarily on the ground floor are the exclusive T-shirts and merchandise available only in the Nintendo World store. This has been expanded into youth and baby clothing featuring the various brands and mascot logos, a new addition since my previous visit in 2014. Towards the back of the ground floor are the Mario shirts and merchandise, given his prominence and association with the brand, a clear key decision to familiarise visitors both new and old with its most famous asset.
Marios most famous associates and friends are also present on the ground floor, with a separate merchandise range available for the great ape Donkey Kong as well as soft plush toys for both his friends and enemies in the Mushroom Kingdom. Heading towards the second level reveals an almost hidden display area behind the stairs featuring Marios green-themed brother Luigi and Toad. Theres a great pleasure in walking around a retail store such as this and discovering these small hidden gems that are both a testament and reminder of Nintendos broad universe and lore.
The second floor of Nintendo World provides a treasure trove of Nintendos legacy and future direction, an assortment of merchandise from the companys other franchises, from Pokémon to Zelda as well as a large demonstration area and assortment of the companys new Labo accessories. Its a bold direction for a company that has objectively, lagged behind its competitors in relation to unit sales but regardless or despite this failure continues to set the agenda in its own unique style.
There was great enthusiasm from all in attendance on the day to demonstrate and play the various titles on display, despite no grand new demonstrations or exclusives. This is a stark contrast to the dark, cool aesthetic both Microsoft and Sony attempt to capture with their presentation and events. Nintendo, unwittingly or by design pursue the bright, open approach championed by Apple in their stores and create a genuinely welcoming environment to visit and explore on a whim.
The dominant majority of the merchandise on the second floor is given to Pokémon and Zelda, with two large sections dedicated to each series. The Pokémon titles I have enjoyed on and off over my lifetime, and if you are a fan of this series you are well catered for. Available to purchase a series of plush toys of the different characters, action figures, and comics as well as other more unique items you wouldnt consider necessary in your life but of course providing a temptation.
Of the most unusual items available that I had to resist on my trip was a Pikachu-shaped cake mould. Perhaps it was the memories and emotions evoked by the Great British Bake Off but you do wonder just how well received a Pikachu cake would be at a tea party. I did however pick up a Pokémon themed gift for myself Ill discuss at a later date. Whether you desire a Snorlax cushion, a Meowth plush toy, or a Pikachu cooking utensil Nintendo World has a wide variety of goods and gifts to suit your needs and tastes.
The purpose and one of the key motivations to returning to Nintendo World on a second occasion was to obtain one of the stores exclusive T-shirts framed around one of its iconic characters. Originally a broader series of designs this, seemingly, has been narrowed down now to two variations, Mario emerging from a storm drain on 5th Avenue and my desired item: Link with his more cartoonish Wind Waker variation, sitting lazily in Central Park.
Ill readily admit it was my own feelings towards the title itself that coloured my purchasing decision last time, one I have regretted since that time. For what I imagine are licensing requirements or decisions from Nintendo, these shirts are only available to buy from physically visiting the store, the website providing no further explanation on the matter. Mario, the more recognisable and commented shirt I have worn on my travels, but I did have a desire for this specific shirt and thankfully the store still stocked it.
In addition, perhaps showing its strength as one of the companys core titles, the range of merchandise rivalled, if not surpassed that of Mario on the ground floor. Around a dozen designs and variants were available to buy, centred around both Breath Of The Wild as well as the franchises legacy. Ocarina Of Time was a defining and instrumental title in my gaming life, the memory of emerging onto Hyrule Field burned not only on my memory but was also clearly a generational moment.
Whilst, personally my experience and desire to follow Nintendos series has waned with the necessity to invest in the hardware in recent years, as a company they continue to honour Zeldas past, reflected in a series of merchandise and items covering the history and remit of the franchise. The range of goods available cover everything from puzzles to water bottles, backpacks, T-shirts, and comics. As a franchise title, having a replica Master Sword present was a nice touch and again adds to the prestige of series. My intention was to obtain that Zelda T-shirt and once accomplished I succumbed and purchased another variant of the logo.
Indulging in the various merchandise of Nintendos franchises, its surprisingly easy to almost lose yourself in the nostalgia of the occasion. However, as a retail store Nintendo World provides as a purveyor of its current platforms, an assortment of titles and hardware available to buy. I was taken aback at the scale dedicated to the Labo series, itself a bold and unique take on the accessories formally associated with the hard plastic quality and finish that has permeated throughout the history of the games console.
The extent and floor space would suggest this is greater than a momentary dalliance, however this is Nintendo. One of their greatest frustrations is their unpredictability in their choice of direction, but to pursue a more recyclable and environmentally friendly design and finish is fitting with the global agenda. Perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not, the company once more is pushing the agenda.
Equally, as a sign of its confidence in its own legacy there was a plethora of items on display that provided a visual and, to a degree, an emotional journey through the series past. For those with a penchant of a collector, a range of amiibo figures were a visual treat. Certainly, having a fondness for the Zelda series the different Link and Zelda figures and designs were a delight.
Opposite the cabinet of figures were the history of Nintendos consoles, an example of both their home and portable series from the original Game Boy and NES to the current Switch and 3DS platform, and all variations and releases between. Certainly some of these were recognisable having owned a number of Nintendo consoles. Others, such as the Virtual Boy, Ive only known about through familiarity, so was interested and curious to see a unit on display.
Setting its own direction and course has always been a resolute Nintendo premise and as such provides them with the due respect to present both a museum and flagship store, highlighting its past, the present generation of consoles, and the direction of the company in the future ahead. It attracts both casual and hardcore gamers to celebrate and partake in its brand. As someone whose interest in the Nintendo brand has waned since the Wii, I still find enjoyment from the company and its legacy, perhaps more so of its history and respect paid towards its titles that I have enjoyed.
One specific item captured my attention as my visit was coming to a close, one that I found both surprising in its inclusion but also respectful to its presence. The original Game Boy has long held a reputation of durability, amongst my peers it was called the Brick Boy due to the toughness of the unit. On display in the Nintendo store nestled amongst the various Labo controllers was a functioning Game Boy that had suffered extensive damage to its external shell during a bombing in the Gulf War.
Perhaps pulling somewhat against the grain of the companys protected image of being family friendly, the US as a country is proud in its memory and service of its armed forces. This one item, a small reminder of Nintendos use outside its carefully presented environment. That the console could survive a bomb detonation was remarkable in itself, that the unit still worked and was running Tetris was nothing short of astonishing.
By reader ATBonfire (Facebook)/around.the.bonfire (Instagram)/ATBonfire (WordPress)
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