In what is the coolest jobs I've ever had, I write about toys for a living. All day, nothing but toys. It's amazing. When I'm not writing at work I'm writing at home, either working on my screenplay or my children's novel. When I'm not doing any of that I try to get in some video game time. I'm currently rocking Nintendo only consoles because dammit, I love Nintendo. More than Nintendo, I love platform games. Even though my favorite game isn't a platformer (The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker), it is my favorite genre of games.
Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/thekillerbees and add me to your 3DS Friends List (1633-4277-3240 and let me know so I can add you to mine.) I'd love to meet some people who want play some Kid Icarus, Resident Evil: Revelations and Mario Kart 7.
For me e3 2013 will always be remembered not for its games nor its surprising reveals, but for the terrible lag on Nintendoís presentation. Nintendo made headlines when it announced it would eschew the normal massive e3 presentation for a deluxe version of its Nintendo Directs. In the past, these Directs have been highly successful. Theyíve introduced gamers to new games and provided reasons to talk about the company in a positive light all year round. At e3, with the streaming problems, they blew it. Which is a shame because a positive light is something that Nintendo has been missing in the past several months. While the Wii U got off to a strong start, January on has seen the company stumble again and again. Sometimes the stumbling has been its fault (no January games) and sometimes 3rd parties are to blame (Rayman Legendsí sudden move), but no matter who is to blame the end result is the same: for half of a year the Wii U has had no buzz. Being the internet and the generally negative society we are, that negative press has pretty much eclipsed all the positive strides the 3DS has made in the same time period. Positive press from Nintendo Directís are quickly forgotten as each sales report comes out and every developer under the sun speaks out about how itís time for Nintendo to hang it up as a console manufacturer. Nintendo fans like myself have painted this negative press as some sort of anti-Japan, anti-Nintendo smear campaign by western journalists who just donít understand Nintendo like I do. Quite frankly Iíve been fooling myself thinking like that and with e3 2013, I realize now that itís not an anti-Nintendo sentiment (though I know that exists) that is dragging Nintendo down but a battle Nintendo is waging against itself that it just canít seem to win.
I came to this realization after the 10th viewing of the Super Smash Bros. trailer. The original Super Smash Bros. was a celebration of the greatest games Nintendo put out. Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl were love letters to Nintendo as a whole. But with this next game there is something missing that wasnít really missing before. The reason Nintendo fans loved to have the opportunity to watch Mario, Luigi, Fox, Captain Falcon, Jigglypuff, Samus, Kirby, Ness, Link and Donkey Kong fight was because we loved playing as those characters in their own games. We wouldnít give a shit about Fox had we not played Star Fox. Captain Falcon would mean nothing without F-Zero. Samus would just be random space marine if not for Metroid. We beat the snot out of those characters because they came from games we treasured.
Remember when these were the joke Smash Bros. characters?
Itís been seven years since the last new Star Fox game was released. Itís been nine years since the last new F-Zero. American gamers havenít seen an Earthbound game since 1995. 28 years since the last Ice Climbers, Pikmin was teased for eight years before 3 was announced and Kid Icarus was out for 21 years before we finally got a new game from that series. Instead of making those games Nintendo has supplied a steady stream of Mario titles and long periods of nothing. Make no mistake, I love Mario platform games. I really, really do. I am completely looking forward Super Mario 3D World. But the series is nearing a saturation point with six platform games released in the last five years. I criticize Call of Duty for being a yearly franchise but Nintendo is doing just the same with Mario platformers. Itís an easier pill to swallow when you realize those games are across three different systems, but itís a lot of Mario nonetheless.
I canít blame Nintendo for going back to Mario. Afterall, on threads Iíve come across people are always asking when the next Mario title is releasing. So there is demand even among itís most dedicated fans. Now those six titles are just the platformers. If you include every game Mario appeared in during the Wii/DS/pre-2013 3DS era, across all genres, the number of Mario featured titles would be 30. 30 games with Mario as a main character or heavily featured character in just eight years.
Clearly there is a reason they do this: Mario sells. But so does Star Fox and so does F-Zero. They may not sell the same numbers as Mario, but they sell. And sales of those games might drive more people to Nintendo consoles and handhelds because it shows Nintendo is ready to use the full gamut of itís characters to entice gamers; and not just in a brawler setting.
If you were primarily a fan of Star Fox there is no reason for you to buy a Wii U. If youíre an F-Zero fan youíre out of luck as well. Metroid fans will have to probably wait another year before we get any news and the same goes for Kirby fans. Nintendo has put itself in a bubble where itís constantly pleasing fans of three franchises on a regular basis: Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokemon. Those are the only games with a regular release schedule, even if many of the Zelda games are re-releases. Nintendo is in the unfortunate position where all of their franchises are seemingly ďin development.Ē Anytime any journalist asks about game weíre always reassured that Nintendo has not forgotten about said franchise and is yadda-yadda-yadda. They canít surprise us anymore because weíre always expecting and theyíre always producing the same predictable franchises that we expect. Donít get me wrong the reveal of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was a nice surprise. As a platform gamer I am excited about the thought of Super Mario 3D World, DKC Tropical Freeze, Sonic Lost World, Rayman Legends and Ducktales Remastered all coming out on the same system. Those games (as well as Watch Dogs) are the reason Iím going to buy a Wii U this holiday season. But if Nintendo had launched the system with Star Fox, I would have bought it. If they released a new Ice Climbers in the past six months I would have bought it. If they sent out a new F-Zero... well Iím not a fan of that franchise but Iím sure that would have been a system seller for some. Nintendo has many different franchises that represent many different reasons to buy their consoles and handhelds, yet they are content to only gives us a few.
Of course, this argument is based only on the franchises we grew up with. While e3 2013 for Nintendo might have been missing newly announced IPís, Nintendo has given U.S. gamers more than 25 new IPís over the Wii/DS/pre-2013 3DS era. Some of these, like Pushmo and the Fluidity, are download exclusive; while others, like Nintendogs, Brain Age and Big Brain Academy seem to be part of just a passing fad. In the Wii/DS era I commended Nintendo for its ability to be the tastemaker in gaming. It led the pack, Nintendo didnít follow anyone and its risk and confidence in an idea paid off in the form of billions and billions of dollars. So why the hell canít it do that now?
Pictured: Not the type of innovation we were expecting.
Nintendo is no longer bringing the innovative ideas it once did, or at least itís also failing to adequately support its own innovative hardware. The Gamecube processing power gave birth to Pikmin. Motion controls on the Wii brought us Wii Sports. The Balance Board was built for Wii Fit. The Wii U Gamepad made Nintendoland a possibility. And thatís where most of those innovative achievements end. Nintendo didnít release any other significant software to truly utilize the Balance Board. Motion controls sputtered along through the various Wii Series games and went out with a bang with Skyward Sword; but it was other companies that made fully realized motion controlled golf and tennis games. The IR pointer was nicely used in Metroid Prime 3 and not much else from the developer. Most Nintendo games had slight motion control aspects added to them, like Mario Galaxyís spin attack. The Nintendo to GBA cord on the Gamecube was also vastly underused by Nintendo while the DSí ability to sync up with the Wii was basically ignored. Nintendo makes some great, innovative hardware but they sure as hell are stubborn to support it. Beyond any franchise revivals or new IPs, Nintendoís lack of Gamepad necessary games at e3 seemed to once again show everyone that Nintendo is unable or unwilling to capitalize on its own unique hardware design choices. And if they wonít go through the trouble, why should third parties?
Maybe itís that lack of certain franchises from Nintendo and the failure to capture the genius of the Gamepad that has made so many Nintendo fans, at least the ones that hang out online, into such negative nancies. Case in point, after the completely hilarious Wii Fit Trainer was announced for Super Smash Bros., I kept reading post after post about how she better not be taking the spot of a more ďdeservingĒ character.
Is that what weíve become? Super Smash Bros. is a celebration of all things Nintendo. Wii Fit was a huge part of the Wiiís success and will hopefully be a huge part of the Wii Uís success. Why shouldnít they include a character from that game? Beyond the Trainer there is a general lack of excitement for Nintendoís e3 presser from its hardcore fans; fans who expect certain games to be made certain ways otherwise theyíre disappointed. From people who wanted the new 3D Mario to be more like Galaxy to those who didnít want Retroís next game to be another Donkey Kong, Nintendo is in the awkward position of having to rally its own fans while gaining new ones. But as I said above this is the first e3 in the post-Nintendo Direct environment. Had Nintendo never put on a direct and did the usual e3 madness there is no doubt people would be saying they had a hell of a show. If they didnít have the Nintendo Directs, games like: X, LoZ: A Link Between Worlds, Bayonetta 2, Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Yoshiís New Story, New Super Luigi U and Wind Waker HD would have been all new, in addition to the new titles they announced this year. Had that line up been new it would be entirely in the realm of possibilities that you could say Nintendo ďwonĒ this e3. But if they continue with the Nintendo Directs, theyíll never win e3 again because weíll always be well informed of the games in development. What would you rather have: huge surprises once a year at e3 or the current Nintendo Direct format?
Nintendo has backed itself into a corner. By giving us new game news year round it no longer pack the punch they used to at e3. By overly-focusing on franchises and characters that gamers demand the company passes over the other series that made them the powerhouse they are today. And by failing to show asymmetrical gameplay at its finest Nintendo is not leading the innovative movement on the Wii U. Nintendo isnít out of the game yet, though even iíll admit it will be a tough road ahead. With Sonyís stellar price and slew of awesome games combined with missing out on such system sellers as Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, the Wii U will be more of a ďNintendo BoxĒ than any system before it. I hope that Nintendo is able to find its footing with this system because itís the only company making the games that keep me gaming.
If it canít, at least I have the 3DS.
BTW: I'd rather have images like this than another goddamn gritty shooter any day.