Nintendo of America recently revealed what the Platinum and Gold members of this region’s version of Club Nintendo would be getting as their year-end bonus for 2014: Their choice of one free game to download. And to my mind, there has been only one thing to follow that.

Disappointment.

Some who were looking forward to this have been angry, others indifferent, and still others happy. For what it’s worth, the selection of games is actually quite good: Game & Wario, NES Remix, EarthBound, Dr. Luigi, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Fluidity: Spin Cycle, Dillon’s Rolling Western, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Super Mario Bros., Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Donkey Kong 3, Wario Land 2, Metroid, and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (the last eight are only available to Gold members, whereas the entire list is available to Platinum).

luigi-statueSome people are upset that we didn’t get our usual physical-goods nicknacks this year, with the suggestion being that they “blew their load” on the Luigi’s Mansion statues that sold out quickly earlier in the year (just before I got the Coins necessary, too. I’d have tried harder had I known they were in limited supply; I thought they were taking orders up to a certain date and fulfilling them). Rather, my issue is more with precisely what is being offered. Put simply, Club Nintendo is basically a loyalty/rewards program for purchasing Nintendo products. The problem here is that the more loyal you are, the fewer your options, as there is a good chance that to reach Gold and especially Platinum, there’s a good chance you’ve already gotten a number of those games.

Personally speaking, I really only lack three games here I have any desire of getting: EarthBound, which we always intended to purchase with our own money in order to show support for the franchise; Donkey Kong 3, which I’ve never been big on– even with a small selection, it really doesn’t say “Platinum reward” to me; and Wario Land 2, which I went with for lack of anything better to choose. And as much as I’m happy for those who are able to net a big score such as a $30+ retail game, it kind of stings to know I don’t have much better an option than to go with the $5 option.

Over on Press The Buttons, Matt asked “how many free Club Nintendo games does it take to make us happy?” The truth, though, is that for some of us, quantity is irrelevant; selection is the problem. As noted, I could have my pick from more than a dozen, and while I guess that would make me feel a little better about it, it doesn’t change the fact that I already have most of what’s here. (Full disclosure: Yeah, I did get a lot of them by way of reviewing them– that’s probably why I’m more “disappointed” than “outraged,” etc.)

I guess if nothing else, I’d have an early Christmas for several of my friends.

According to the Club Nintendo support page, “Members that earn enough Coins during the Club Nintendo year (July 1 – June 30) to reach Gold or Platinum Elite Status will receive exclusive gifts.” Games anyone can purchase at any time of the year– with the increasing likelihood that they have to reach those levels in the first place– are hardly exclusive.

Doc_Louis's_Punch-Out!!A couple of years ago, they offered an download of Doc Louis’s Punch-Out!!, an exclusive round against none other than Little Mac’s trainer himself, as seen in the Wii Punch-Out!! title.

What’s more, this isn’t the first time such a thing has been offered through Club Nintendo– the Japanese version has been offering exclusive games for years, including Tingle’s Balloon Fight DS and Exclamation Warriors Sakeburein. A localized version of either of those would have been good– Tingle’s Balloon Fight DS, especially, with or without Tingle. I actually managed to get that one on eBay and I love it. Nothing against Tingle, but I’d still love a version that focuses more on the Balloon Fighter than Tingle.

There are a few options that Nintendo could have followed through with here to ensure that they were offering games which Platinum members were at least unlikely to have. Early access to some as-yet unreleased Virtual Console titles, for one. None of the Super Mario Advance titles besides Yoshi’s Island are currently available, for instance, and there are plenty more where that came from. Or how about Pilotwings 64? I’ve been waiting forever for the likes of that and would grab it in a heartbeat, to say nothing of Star Fox, Stunt Race FX, and the Super NES version of Yoshi’s Island– though those last three being Super FX Chip games is suggested as why we’ve not received them yet.

And if said game(s) were to become available later, that’s fine, but at least I know I don’t have it right now, as I do with most of what’s on offer. That’s a nice little compromise.

Those aren’t the only options. In Japan, Advance Wars: Days of Ruin was never released, and instead became a downloadable Platinum reward for the Nintendo 3DS. That said, Nintendo of America could have thrown us a bone and allow us to download some games that were never released here– Last Window (the sequel to Hotel Dusk) or Disaster: Day of Crisis, for example. I’d love to play both of them, as they were released in Japan and, more importantly, Europe (with localization), but never North America. They might be deemed too risky for a retail or even a regular Nintendo eShop release, but who else would want them more than Nintendo’s most loyal customers, i.e. the guys who got Platinum or Gold status in Club Nintendo?

The truth is, though, that North America’s Club Nintendo has been going downhill for a while now. Ignoring the year-end rewards for a moment, someone on NeoGAF made a post which shows the tremendous disparity between Japan, Europe, and North America’s versions of the program. Just to be safe, I’m mirroring the images here:

Japan:

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Plus they get twice as many points when they choose to purchase the digital version of a game, rather than the physical.

Europe:

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And finally, North America:

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Admittedly, despite a vastly superior selection of items, I’ve heard that Europe doesn’t have it all that great. For instance, they apparently get no year-end rewards of any kind, and according to my fellow Nintendo Force scribe NintenDaan, something as basic as a notebook can take 16 games to be able to afford.

Over on Press The Buttons, Matt has put together his Top 5 Dream Club Nintendo Elite Awards. While I’d happily go for any one of the proposed items there, the truth is I’ve long had my own wish list of items to appear on Club Nintendo– not just as Elite Awards, but just in some form, period.

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Nintendo Power comics

A long, long time ago, Nintendo Power magazine would include monthly comics based on current games to run alongside their usual strategies, news, and other coverage. Upon completing their runs, Super Mario Adventures and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past were gathered up and released in a trade paperback-styled format. However, the books aren’t especially common, and the main way to read them now is to try to dig up scans online. Reprinting these would provide fans with pristine copies they could keep on their bookshelves and read whenever they want.

Moreover, Super Mario Adventures was actually gathered up and printed before the series was complete– it contains the 12 regular Super Mario Adventures chapters, which were based on Super Mario World, and the first Mario vs. Wario story that was based on Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, but not the second Mario vs. Wario story, wherein the two battle for Princess Peach’s affections on her birthday by trying to obtain a coveted Samus doll.

Either or both of these would be great on their own, but there’s more!

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In the years that followed, Nintendo Power would run two more comics: One based on the original Super NES Star Fox adventure, and the other a shorter-lived tale based on Super Metroid, which inspired (or perhaps just revealed) certain key aspects of Metroid lore. What’s more, neither of these stories has ever been collected in print. Unlike Super Mario Adventures and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, these two were one and done, but are deserving (Star Fox especially) of being collected into a singular bound volume.

Speaking of the beloved magazine of most of my young and adult life…

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Nintendo Power collection

For 285 issues and nearly 25 years, Nintendo Power was the source for news, tips, and more, “straight from the pros at Nintendo.” Maybe a little less so in those last few years under the Future umbrella, but the fact remains that Nintendo Power magazine had a legacy that remains engrained in the minds of those who grew up in the late 80s, 90s, and 00s. To have a full collection of the magazine– perhaps released in volumes, or as a complete set– on disc, on a special NP thumb drive, or by some other means would surely be an attractive prospect, especially for those who may have lost their collections, either by their own volition or that of another, likely behind their back (it’s a pain I know too well).

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Club Nintendo comics

In addition to being the name of Nintendo’s loyalty rewards program, “Club Nintendo” is also the name of a German publication which was essentially their equivalent of Nintendo Power. And, much like our magazine, theirs also began running comics in the early 90s, and lasted until the magazine was acquired by Computec Media in 2000.

Unlike our comics, though, Club Nintendo ran fewer serials based on individual games, and had more one-off stories (albeit with a few multi-parters) which would follow Mario or other Nintendo characters, sometimes even crossing them over (see above). In addition to Nintendo’s own characters mingling, characters from other companies– such as Mega Man and Dr. Light– would get involved as well. While those stories might be more difficult or more costly to bring over, it would still be great to have bound and translated print collections of these exotic tales at our fingertips.

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Online Video DVDs

Nintendo Video is (was?) a cool way to watch the three Kid Icarus: Uprising shorts, but those are long gone now, and even so, they weren’t exactly the most ideal way to watch for Kid Icarus fans. Similarly, though Pokemon TV still has the four Pokemon Origins episodes available to stream online, there’s a certain lack of permanence that is desirable among fans.

While Pokemon Origins received its own DVD and Blu-ray releases in Japan, it’s only available beyond Pokemon TV through iTunes and Hulu in North America. If Nintendo and The Pokemon Company have no plans for a widespread DVD/Blu-ray release here, then Club Nintendo would be a great avenue for it. Similarly, I can’t imagine a DVD as short the three Kid Icarus: Uprising cartoons together would be likely for retail, but as a Club Nintendo reward? Sold!

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Original Soundtrack CDs

Once upon a time, through the Nintendo Power Super Power Supplies catalog, Nintendo used to release soundtrack CDs for their games. They were one of the first to do so, and released quite a few, in fact. But aside from a soundtrack for The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask released as a Platinum prize for 2013, Nintendo has released strikingly few soundtracks in recent years (and there was no re-release of Majora’s Mask announced at E3 nor anywhere on the horizon, making it an odd choice).

Meanwhile, in Europe and Japan…

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This is but one of many soundtracks being offered as a regular prize in their Club Nintendo programs. CDs are fairly cheap to manufacture, so why not here in North America?

Nintendo commercials on DVD

It’s always fascinating to look back at classic commercials from years gone by and to see how things have changed since. That goes doubly so with video game commercials, and it would be great to be able to get a DVD containing as many of these classic ads as possible– especially if they’re able to do so in a better quality than you’re likely to find on YouTube! If Shout! Factory could pull together a bunch of Transformers commercials for their DVD release (albeit with blurred faces, but that’s a small price to pay), then one would hope Nintendo might be capable of doing the same thing.

(Even better would be if they included the ones they tried to make themselves before allowing professionals to do it!)

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Tingle’s Balloon Fight DS

I mentioned this before, but I’m bringing it up here again. I’m not expecting a remake of Balloon Fight any time soon, so I’d love to see this make it into Club Nintendo’s stockpile somehow– even if they have to edit Tingle out of it to appeal to a broader audience. Heck, as a fan of the original, I’d almost prefer it, just to play as a graphically-updated Balloon Fighter!

And yes, I know about “Balloon Trip” in Nintendo Land. It’s quite good, but it’s not quite the same, at least where the actual “balloon fighting” is concerned. It nails its namesake, but that’s largely it.

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Honorable Mention: Hanafuda Cards

These are an honorable mention seeing as they were available in Club Nintendo before– emphasis on “were.” Personally speaking, I think given the ties Hanafuda cards have to Nintendo, they should never not have these in stock, in some form, but here we are.

After I got the replica Game & Watch Ball game, this was the next item on my “must have” list for that very reason. Unfortunately for me, they sold out just before I had enough Coins saved up, and they’ve not only never been restocked, but were ultimately removed from the “out of stock” list as well.

As it stands, part of me wonders if the reason for this year’s poor Club Nintendo showing is due to the trouble Nintendo has had with the Wii U. It would make sense that decisions about the Club Nintendo year-end rewards were made before Mario Kart 8 and the E3 lineup started making headlines saying “Oh, Hey, Maybe the Wii U is Worth Owning After All!” I do hope that might be the case, and that things will improve again with time.

If the whole thing is simply proving too expensive for them somehow, I hope that they might consider revamping it a little bit. I know at least one person who seems to hate the entire exclusivity bit, and while I wouldn’t want that to go away– at least, not for the year-end stuff– perhaps there is a way to balance it all out? Maybe they could open things up a little bit and allow Club Nintendo members the option of paying for items from the catalog, or shipping, or both. Coins could then be used to get discounts, perhaps.

nintendopowersuperpowerclublogoIn fact, Nintendo used to do that very thing. The aforementioned Nintendo Power Super Power Club supplies catalog featured a ton of different items available at a regular price, but by collecting stamps acquired by subscribing, getting new catalogs, etc., you could redeem them to save money on their selection of cool and sometimes strange merchandise. Maybe bringing an idea like that back would allow them to offer a better selection and have the option of making money from it while still offering discounts, or potential freebies?

These are all just ideas, though, and if money is a problem, a lot of them would hopefully be more cost-effective while still providing unique and quality goods to those who desire them most. I know Nintendo can do better than this– heck, they are doing better than this elsewhere. I just hope they somehow manage to save or salvage the concept here before it’s too late.

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  • Albirieo

    I remember when I got the Megaman X collectible nintendo power issue where you not only got a Super Power Club bonus, it was like 50 points. Who knows how much it mattered, but POINTS. Tons of pogs based on the bosses that I would dream about fighting one day, and a incredibly cool alternate art cover that was dome in a metallic silver color.