Hello, my name is Shade, and I'm a Nintendo fanboy.
- Hi, Shade.
I love Nintendo. I love their games, their handhelds, their overall quirkiness, and yes, even their consoles. I wouldn't be a gamer today if it wasn't for Nintendo, and they made many of my favorite games of all time; I owe them one. More than one, come to think of it.
So while everyone else was out slamming the Xbox One and hyping over Sony's presentation, I was doing other things. Working mostly, because hey, someone's gotta do it. Microsoft consoles have never interested me in the slightest, to the point where my only response to the Xbox One is still to have a good-hearted laugh about the entire mess, and while Sony is already much more interesting to me, it's still not enough to convince me to watch its entire presentation. But I'm still a gamer, and a self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboy at that, so every year I make a point of following Nintendo's conference live. As we all know, this year it was a Nintendo Direct rather than a press conference, but it ultimately came down to the same thing.
So how does someone like me feel about this Nintendo Direct?
It was...decent. Nintendo showed plenty of games, and pretty great ones at that. A new 3D Mario, Donkey Kong Country, the untitled Monolith Soft project, and Smash Bros. were all awesome games that you can bet your ass I'm going to go out of my way to buy. There was a problem, however.
I have always defended Nintendo's use of its old IPs. I see a lot of people complaining about another Mario game, another Zelda, and so on. These people think that Nintendo is unoriginal, that they don't have a grain of creativity left. After all, if they still had cool ideas, why aren't we seeing new characters anymore? Is Pikmin really the best they had? Myself, I have always rejected this notion very strongly. Nintendo actually has more creativity in its right pinkie toe than most developers do in their entire body.
The reasoning is very simple; just because Nintendo decides to put its familiar faces out there doesn't mean they don't have new ideas anymore. Just look at the Mario series, for example. It started as a 2D platformer, which saw several other installments all vastly improving the tech and Mario's abilities. On the Nintendo 64, however, it took a massive leap into the third dimension. Super Mario 64 singlehandedly changed gaming, and the Mario franchise, forever. The next Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, also changed the formula significantly. Mario was given a new setting to play around in, new goals to fulfill, new enemies to fight, and a boatload of new abilities all combined in FLUDD. Next, of course, came Super Mario Galaxy. While it was the standard fare of Mario running and jumping around trying to save Peach, Galaxy saw a whole slew of new mechanics by virtue of the planetoids he now inhabited. The new physics made Super Mario Galaxy an adventure unlike any seen before.
- Pictured: Creativity
As such, over the course of a couple of games, all starring the familiar plumber completely unchanged, Nintendo showed creativity in gameplay that few other developers can even begin to match. And that's not even taking into account the spin-offs, such as the always awesome Paper Mario series.
The same goes for many other series. Metroid went from a 2D action-adventure to the massive secret-ridden Super Metroid, to the amazing 3D version that was the original Metroid Prime, to an entire new control scheme in Metroid Prime 3. Even Metroid: Other M tried to change up the formula by having a mix of 2D and 3D, and a focus on story. I actually liked Other M more than most, but since it's a controversial game let's just leave it at that.
My final example will be Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was originally a top-down 2D game, then became a side-scroller for its second adventure before returning to top-down again. It too took the jump into 3D, and gloriously at that, with Ocarina of Time. Majora's Mask changed things up by adding time mechanics as well as the ability to change into a bunch of different characters. Wind Waker turned the world into an ocean, making level progression vastly different from the previous games. The DS games both turned the control scheme on its head by making it touch-only. Finally, Skyward Sword (and Twilight Princess to a lesser extent) implemented motion controls to give the player direct control over Link's sword, paving the way for many creative new ways of using it to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
It's true that Nintendo banks on nostalgia a lot. It's also true that many of the games I mentioned just now could have been new IPs. But hey, we all love Nintendo characters, so what's the harm? As long as the gameplay is as unique as it is, by all means slap a familiar face on there. I don't need Prince Fluff when the game can be made equally well with Kirby. Even Kid Icarus: Uprising featured an old character, but they gave him such a massive overhaul that he's barely even recognizable anymore. Isn't that just as good as a new IP? The face is the same, the game is different.
That, right there, is the Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that made the world fall in love with its characters. That's the Nintendo I'll fanboy over.
That is my Nintendo.
Unfortunately, it's not 2007 anymore. It's E3 2013 now, and Mario Galaxy has been done. So has Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword. I'm ready for Nintendo to show its stuff again. But after watching the Nintendo Direct, I have to wonder. Where is my Nintendo?
During the Direct, Nintendo showed a number of games from existing franchises. As I've explained above, I don't mind that at all as long as they're unique and interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't get that impression this year. A lot of the stuff they showed seemed like regular continuations of what Nintendo has already been doing. A lot of it seemed simple. Safe. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD looks absolutely fucking fantastic, but it's still just The Wind Waker again. Mario Kart 8 is...well, it's just kind of Mario Kart 8, isn't it? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is another game that looks amazing, but where's the difference with Returns? New enemies and camera angles? Underwater levels? Seems a tad weak, to be honest. And what about Pikmin 3? It's going to be great, but what is it going to do differently?
Even the announcement of the new 3D Mario didn't blow me away like it should have. When it was announced that we were going to see the new WiiU Mario, I was ready for the new step. The game that is to Galaxy what Galaxy was to Sunshine. We didn't get that. Instead, we got Super Mario 3D World. Again, it looks like a fine game that I'll be buying, but at the end of the day it seems like it's going to be pretty much the same as Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. I actually got confused and thought that it was a 3DS game at first (the title doesn't help).
Besides that, a number of characters remain on the sidelines while Nintendo focuses all of its energy on Mario and Link. Why haven't we heard anything about a Star Fox game for WiiU, for example? When will we get a new Wario platformer again (Shake it was amazing)? How has Metroid been doing since Other M? Come to think of it, how are things progressing with Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei? And most importantly, what happened to Captain Falcon? He could've been great for WiiU, as I've already pointed out last year, but he's nowhere to be found. These are all series that could easily bring something new to the table, or at least something that we haven't seen in a long time. Unfortunately, none were present yesterday.
- The new Smash Bros. was announced, but Captain Falcon hasn't been in a new game since Brawl. That's kinda sad.
The only game they showed in Nintendo Direct that got me excited not just because it's a Nintendo game but because it seems to want to do something new was X, the otherwise untitled Monolith Soft project. This may be the fanboy in me speaking (I'm a Monolith Soft fanboy just as much as a Nintendo one, if not more so), but I thought it looked fantastic. It takes some notes from Xenoblade, always a good sign to me, but it also strives to make a fully seamless open world, has monsters which have far outgrown what Xenoblade was able to show, seems to have a big focus on transforming mechs, and has been hinted to include online multiplayer. Those are things that get me excited enough to think that it may be something more than just a safe sequel. The Wonderful 101 is another game that looks really quirky, fun and unique, but it's not Nintendo's own.
Maybe I'm being too negative over this. After all, Mario Galaxy had Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid Prime had Metroid Prime 2, and Zelda had Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks. All followed an old formula without much innovation, but we still saw cool new things afterwards. Hope is not lost, obviously. Maybe we're just at the point in time where all series simultaneously take a bit of a break before going into full overdrive again. We also have that new WiiU Zelda to look forward to, after all.
A Fitting Hopespot
Regardless of how much of a sign Nintendo's showing yesterday was for its game design philosophy from now on, there was one thing that got it exactly right. One thing that shows me that Nintendo's still got its stuff. One thing that shows my Nintendo. And it may not be what you think.
It's the inclusion of the Wii Fit Trainer in the new Super Smash Bros.
At first, this may seem like an odd thing to say. Doesn't the Wii Fit Trainer represent everything we don't want? Doesn't she represent Nintendo's fall into casual bullshit nobody cares about? How could she possibly be the best thing Nintendo's done all week?
Because it's the silliest fucking thing!
At first, I honestly didn't know what to make of her inclusion. I was confused. But the more I thought about it, and the more I saw from her, the more I realized that this is perfect.
Like Sakurai said in his Smash Bros. developer video, nobody saw her coming. This is pretty much undeniable, yeah. Nintendo is showing that it still knows how to dig deep and surprise us. Sure it would be cool to see Shulk make it into the game (I told you didn't I? Monolith fanboy), but what could possibly be cooler than going on www.smashbros.com and seeing a new trailer for a character you never even imagined possible?
But more than that, Nintendo has managed to make a character whose only purpose in her own game was to "show you the moves", if I may quote a certain someone, into a veritable fighter. They even managed to take a whole bunch of yoga moves and tie them to the various abilities we know and love from the Smash Bros. series. She dodges by doing a yoga move, she does a smash attack by doing a yoga move, she poses for a taunt, she twirls hoops around for an Up+B attack. She does all these thing that you wouldn't think could make sense for even a second...and yet they do! She's a normal human, a standard fighter, and yet she looks hella fun to play as right between Bowser, Samus, Kirby and the rest of Nintendo's best and brightest.
The utter strangeness of her inclusion makes her so special to me, paired with the fact that she works so well. Just think about it! At some point during the past year, Nintendo must have had a internal roundtable. They were discussing which characters to include in the next Smash Bros. Mario and the old gang are all in of course, but who should be new? The main character from Animal Crossing would be a good fit. He's already had his own stage in Brawl, after all. Who else? Maybe we could get Mega Man in here, since we had Sonic already? Let's see, more. And right at that moment someone, some amazingly brilliant eccentric gloriousness of a person, stood up and said "You know what we should do? We should get the Wii Fit Trainer in there!"
And they rolled with it.
That's the quirky, silly, creative Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that's showing me they can take anything, and make it awesome. The Wii Fit Trainer is my hope that Nintendo will find its creativity again, and that Super Mario 3D World isn't the prime example of Nintendo starting to just play it safe.
She embodies my Nintendo this E3.