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megatron0016 avatar 9:01 PM on 07.10.2009  (server time)
Fanboy Weekly: Nintendo Online

Welcome to Fanboy Weekly: Once More With Feeling Edition. For those that haven't checked it out yet I have been writing a new weekly feature for Game Observer. I thought I would repost the older issues so that those that haven't scoped it out yet can enjoy them and that hopefully you will all like it enough to head over to Game Observer to check the newer and current issues of Fanboy Weekly.

Welcome back once again to Fanboy Weekly. Settle in and get comfy, because this week weíre in it for the long haul as weíll be talking a bit of history and some hopes for the future when it comes to online and MMOís in particular. Itís something that both of Nintendoís competitors have jumped into at one point or another. The 360 has been there for a few years already with Final Fantasy XI and Sony has done the same with Final Fantasy XI on the PS2 as well as Monster Hunter and even Home could be considered an MMO to some extent on the PS3.

Laggy online history

But what of Nintendo history in this realm? While there isnít a deep history here, there is a history short as it may be. To my recollection this online history did start with the NES though it had nothing to do with games nor did it ever come to the U.S., but there was a modem for the NES that was actually used for checking and trading stocks. So there you have it. Nintendoís online history started with the stock market.

Now letís fast forward and get a little more relevant. Letís take a look at the Game Cube. For those of us that were curious and flipped their Game Cubeís over you will have noticed that there are a couple of removable covers. One of those was for an expansion port which would eventually be used for the Gameboy Player, which is worth its weight in gold, especially since the DSi doesnít have a Gameboy slot anymore. Then there were those other couple of ports. There was the dial-up modem port and then there was the broadband adapter port. Seeing that got my hopes up on the prospect of online play. However that never quite came to fruition. There was of course Mario Kart Double Dash that for the tech savvy you could jimmy rig online play and then there was Phantasy Star Online.

Phantasy Star Online is a very dangerous subject matter for me. Iíve lost well in excess of 1500 hours to this game. I still occasionally lose a day or two of my life to it from time to time. And on a related note, those that want to lose a day or two at a time in the same manor with me I do still play it online so get in touch with me at [email protected] because I love having people to play online with. Back to the topic at hand however, the Phantasy Star Online games for the Game Cube were the only games that ever utilized an actual online service on the console and let you actually freely converse and play with others on the ďCubeĒ. In an entire life cycle we got two online games for the system and only one of them was really worthwhile. Thatís a little disheartening.

Then along comes the DS, and with it the promise of online gaming on the go. It took a bit for Nintendo to get things going but they did finally get the ball rolling with Mario Kart DS, and to Mario Kartís credit made it very easy to find a game online to play in. What it also did was make playing online with your friends a pain in the ass. Funnily enough, Tony Hawkís American Skateland came out the same day and had a much better online setup. Later on news of Metroid Prime Hunters came up saying that it was even going to have voice chat and I rejoiced at the thought that Nintendo was finally wising up. Sadly, so far that and the Pokemon games for the DS seem to be the pinnacle of online play on the platform.

Plenty of good models for Nintendo out there

Now onto the Wii. Unfortunately things seemed to have regressed when it comes to Nintendoís approach to online when you get to the Wii. The most advanced online offering for the Wii is actually Animal Crossing Wild World, as itís the only game for the system that allows voice chat between players. A few things that give me hope are developers like High Voltage Software who are currently working on The Conduit, which by the way if itís not on your radar it freaking should be. HVS gives me hope because they seem to be attempting to push all aspects of the system, including the fact that they even had a system link mode up and running when they were working on the multiplayer, though Nintendo actually made them drop it. However they will offer voice chat and with any luck it will be with anyone that youíre playing with and not just people on your friends list.

Now that we have that bit of history out of the way, letís get back to talking about MMOs. As I said before, itís been touched on by a Nintendo system with Phantasy Star Online and hopefully that kind of online setup will be included in the upcoming Phantasy Star Zero for the DS. What saddens me is that we havenít seen any attempts at a full blown MMO for either the DS or the Wii. Whatís worse is that there a couple of prime candidates that seem like they would fit quite well on a Nintendo system. Maple Story in particular comes to mind. Worse still is that itís been proven very workable on the DS since there is a single player version of the game overseas. All that itís missing to be in business is an online structure.

However I would much rather see a game like Maple Story on my TV on Wii. Iíve played quite a bit of Maple Story on my PC and I can tell you that what you need to run the game itself isnít that big since most of the assets are stored online on the servers and you are essentially just running a piece of software that lets you access those servers. With that fact in mind, I wouldnít mind paying five or ten bucks to download the game to my Wii, even though itís free on the PC, and be able to boot it up and play on a server or set of servers that are just people playing Maple Story on the Wii. And I can tell you full well that the Wii can handle playing a game like Maple Story considering itís a pretty simple-looking, sprite-based MMO.

Whatís more is that I wouldnít even be heartbroken about a lack of voice chat considering that the Wii has a USB port that I can plug in a keyboard to. Iíve often thought to myself while playing it on my pc that I would much rather play the majority of the game with a controller like the classic joystick or even something as simple as the Wiimote turned sideways and to be able to use the pointer functionality of the Wiimote in place of a mouse. What really makes me think that a game like Maple Story is well suited to the Wii more than anything, is the tone of the game. Maple Story is a very family friendly styled game and its success has seemingly recently spawned countless other free online MMOs that use this very child friendly approach. Frankly I think Nintendo is missing a huge opportunity by not picking up on games like this and putting them onto their systems. Who knows, maybe one day yet Nintendo will wise up and even put out their very own MMO, and no, Animal Crossing doesnít count.

The Fanboy has spoken.

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