I am PekoponTAS. I have tourette's syndrome, and I have been a gamer my whole life. My favourite franchise is Kirby, and my all time favourite game is The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX. I'm a big fan of underrated hidden gems, and I tend to have opinions on games that really conflict with the popular opinion. Anyways, glad to meet you all and stuff.
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If you recall, Matthew Razak wrote an editorial about how the New Super Mario Bros. series shouldn't be judged as harshly as other Mario platformers because they're spin-off titles rather than main entries in the series. Before you read this blog, I suggest you go read that one to catch up on what I'm talking about.
This statement alone is questionable for many reasons which I'll get into, but let's pretend for a moment that this makes perfect sense and say that the New Super Mario Bros. games are spin-offs, and we should lower our expectations because of it.
It doesn't change the fact that even by spin-off standards, the New Super Mario Bros. games are bad spin-offs.
I've never quite understood the logic behind setting our standards lower for a spin-off. Why? Because it's not like the games that we KNOW are good? Why do spin-offs have to be treated as something that's inferior to the originals? There are a lot of spin-offs that I really love that are either just as good as the main series, or even better. Pokemon Ranger, Super Mario RPG, Dragon Quest Heroes Rocket Slime, Prinny Can I Really Be the Hero?, and Kirby Canvas Curse are all amazing spin-offs, and with the exception of Canvas Curse, those games are my favourite games in their respective series.
When we take a look at these spin-offs, there are two common elements among them. Either the main character is replaced with a supporting character from the original series, or it's a completely different genre than the original series. These are the two key elements in making a spin-off, and If you don't have either one, you're just left with a mediocre game in the main series. Calling New Super Mario Bros. a spin-off is like calling Kirby Squeak Squad or The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages a spin-off simply because they were mediocre and boring.
But even THOSE games have more of an excuse to be considered a spin-off than New Super Mario Bros. does. At least Kirby Squeak Squad and Oracle of Ages can try to claim they're spin-offs because they were made by Capcom. New Super Mario Bros. was not only made by Nintendo, but it's exactly like the old games, and stars the same main character. There is absolutely NOTHING about this game that gives it the right to call itself a spin-off.
But even if we WERE to accept them as spin-offs, and say that the amount of innovation put into it should only be on the standards of a sequel to a spin-off, it STILL isn't meeting current expectations.
Let's look at the Pokemon Ranger games. Pokemon Ranger Shadows of Almia added a lot of neat ideas to it, and even made BIG changes to the game's core mechanics due to fan feedback. Many people complained that the original Pokemon Ranger was overly difficult, so when The Pokemon Company took over the series after Hal jumped off after the first game, they tweaked the gameplay to make it easier, and it completely altered how the game was played. I personally didn't like how the game was dumbed down, nor did I even think the original game was that overly difficult. I thought the series was poorer for it, but they DID make some big changes to try and improve it, which is something a sequel should do.
Then the third game came along and addressed several issues that the second game had. People complained that the second game recycled music from the original, was WAY too long, had really poor pacing, and was way too easy. Again, the series listened to fan response and changed it to have a lot more action, a MUCH better soundtrack that not only had better music, but much better audio quality, and they once again changed some core mechanics to make the game more difficult, but not to the point of the original. They even added an entirely new mechanic around the guardian signs, and riding on the legendary beast Pokemon.
Now, how many things have people been complaining about New Super Mario Bros., and how many of those issues have they fixed? The soundtrack is still uninspired, the gameplay is still exactly the same, the visual style is still ugly and doesn't take advantage of the hardware, all of the worlds are still the same environments, and it still has less features than even Super Mario Bros. 3 had. It also doesn't make a SINGLE change to the core mechanics that isn't ripping off something from other Mario games.
So in the end, theNew Super Mario Bros. games can not POSSIBLY be considered spin-offs. They are simply mediocre entries to the main series of games. One could argue that it's a separate series because of New Super Mario Bros. 2, but does that mean Super Mario Galaxy is not part of the main series because it had a direct sequel?
I think what it all boils down to in the end is that it doesn't matter if it's a "spin-off" or an entry of the "main series". What matters is that it's a Mario game made by Nintendo, and thus it should be held to the same standards they've set for their other Mario games. Be they spin-offs or not, it doesn't change the fact that they're boring, mediocre, uninspired Mario games, and we expect better from a company that has been making these games for over 20 years.