I’ve always had faith in Super Mario 3D World. While much of the world dismissed it as more of the same, as just another iterative sequel in a long list of iterative sequels, I’ve always seen something more beneath the surface. Maybe it has something to do with my faith in EAD Tokyo, the studio at the helm of the new game, whose last big console titles were the two Mario Galaxy games on Wii. Maybe I just had way too much fun with the game at E3.
As we’ve seen the game take shape, I’ve noticed that my original perspective has been a bit off the mark. I’ve been looking too closely at EAD Tokyo’s involvement, and as such my view of the game has always been filtered in terms of Galaxy and 3D Land. In reality, 3D World is really more like the modern-day equivalent of Super Mario 64.
Ever since A Link Between Worlds was first announced, I’ve been really careful not to get too overhyped. Nintendo’s tried their hands at a number of posthumous classic sequels lately – New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns, Metroid: Other M – and since some have been better than others, I thought it best to try not to drink too much of the Nintendo kool-aid.
It’s been many months since then. I’ve gotten a taste of how the game plays, and recently Nintendo’s finally been giving us glimpses of the real meat of the experience – the world, dungeons, items, and other adventuresome elements. Eiji Aonuma has been touting the team’s approach with A Link Between Worlds as representative of a larger shift the series is taking toward more non-linear exploration and greater overall player freedom. And I know this will be a shock to many of you who follow my criticism of the Zelda series… but I think Mr. Aonuma’s right on point.
If A Link Between Worlds is an old-school take on the future of Zelda, then that’s a future I’m excited about.
Zelda games are often seen as chief showcases of a Nintendo console’s power – that’s why Nintendo constantly uses the franchise to stage tech demos for new hardware. It’s been true for every system since the Nintendo 64. Zelda appeared in an early tech demo for Nintendo’s first 3D engine, returned as an example of the GameCube’s technical prowess, was adapted to present how motion controls and traditional games could go together on Wii, and made a comeback as a graphical showcase on Wii U.
Usually, when I see a tech demo, I expect that tech demo to give me a good impression of what the franchise it depicts will be like on the system. It was the case for Ocarina of Time – the battles were dramatic and ground-breaking for a 3D game at the time; it was the case for Twilight Princess – the game’s motion controls worked pretty much as advertised. But it wasn’t the case for the SpaceWorld demo. Instead of a game that resembled a next-generation Ocarina of Time, we got The Wind Waker.
Don’t get me wrong – I love The Wind Waker. But a part of me still really wants to see that more advanced Ocarina of Time take shape. Having seen how the Twilight Princess high fantasy look could be expressed in HD, I’m also really interested to see how Nintendo could take that popular style in a bold direction with some new, original content. And I know lots of other people are, too – the response to the Wii U tech demo was overwhelmingly positive.
Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t seem interested in turning those tech demo dreams into reality.
While Pokémon has seen a number of iterative changes over the years, the series’ core ideas have largely remained the same – a top-down 2D adventure, punctuated by RPG battles with elementally-themed monsters. With the release of Pokémon X & Y, the series has finally taken the long-awaited leap to 3D visuals… but what else has changed? Has 3D mega-evolved the series, or are the gameplay shifts in X & Y more in line with the evolution we’ve seen in the past?
Nintendo’s messaging for A Link Between Worlds is starting to come together pretty nicely. At first, they seemed hesitant to show off anything new from the game, insisting instead that it’s “a new adventure with a new story, set in the world of A Link to the Past.” Combine that description and a few shots of areas that looked eerily familiar, and it sounded more like a glorified remake than a full-blown sequel.
Even early on, though, the seeds for something much bigger had been planted. We heard that the game would feature the Dark World, but that this time we’d discover a whole kingdom, parallel to Hyrule. Given that the original Dark World was pretty barren, largely setting the stage for a string of dangerous dungeons, the prospect of revisiting it in greater detail seemed exciting from the get go.
Now that the Dark World has been revealed as Lorule, it seems as though Nintendo’s really taken the idea of a parallel kingdom seriously. Yet I can’t help but shake the feeling that it’s still mostly “been there, done that.” Why is it that something as significant as an alternate Hyrule civilization – which is, as Princess Hilda said, brimming with potential – comes off as so flat?
With the major announcement of SteamOS and the nature of Valve, the news surrounding SteamOS is quite a buzz. A new OS for Steam, based off of Linux which “brings Steam to the living room.” There are a few features announced for SteamOS however the exact details of the operating system are scarce. The main four features of SteamOS are In-home Streaming, Music, TV and Movies, Family Sharing and Family Options. Of these four the one that seems to hold the most grandeur is In-home Streaming. Aside from these major pillars there are many other facets of SteamOS that I’ll try to discuss with some feasible and plausible opinions. And possibly impossible depending on how you look at it.
Today I lost all hope that Wii U will ever actually attract the expanded market Nintendo won with Wii. You may be thinking, “That’s crazy. Nintendo just announced a new Wii Sports for Wii U – and it has online multiplayer!” Normally I’d agree. It’s an objective fact that Wii Sports was one of the best console-driving titles in the history of video games – if not the best. However, when it comes to this new Wii Sports Club, it’s clear the Wii magic just isn’t there anymore.
On paper, Wii Sports Club sounds like a great idea. It incorporates Wii MotionPlus into every sport, meaning the depth of control is greater and games don’t boil down to timed waggle. It adds competitive online multiplayer, meaning play isn’t limited to solo practice or drunken Wii parties. And it’s all in HD. I’m actually pretty much down with everything I’ve seen on the software side, and I’m pretty likely to purchase Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling when they’re available on November 7.
The problem is that, beyond being a better version of Wii Sports, Wii Sports Club seems wrongly-poised in just about every other aspect.
The last few generations, we’ve heard it like a clashing refrain: console companies need to cater to third-party publishers. There’s some value to that statement, of course. After all, the vast majority of titles released for any given console come from outside teams and developers.
But the fact of the matter is that console makers are running their own businesses, too, and those businesses revolve just as much around their own software development as those of other content creators for their platforms. We may look at “console sales” as a metric for success, but there’s a lot more to it than that – we have to look at what’s been healthy for profitability, for sales of first-party software, and for the overall health of the consoles’ brands, too.
And taking all that into account, I think the conventional wisdom regarding efforts to attract third parties falls short.
Ever since Nintendo introduced the DS Lite – and really even further back than that, to the days of the original DS and Game Boy Advance SP – handheld gamers have grown kind of used to “clamshell” designs with their fancy hinged screens. I’m not too surprised that one of the common reactions I’ve seen to the newly-announced 2DS, which ditches this design for a “slate”-like form factor, is “why would anyone want this?” I was a little skeptical at first, too.
However, the more I look at the 2DS – the more I think about the more brick-like design, the form factor, and the decision to back away from the 3D effect – the more I like it. It just makes sense, given the goals Nintendo is hoping to achieve.
Aside from leaving out stereoscopic 3D, the biggest difference between Nintendo’s standard 3DS and the newly-announced 2DS is that the latter handheld does not feature the foldable ‘clamshell’ design. Do people really want a handheld that they can’t put in their pocket? Scott Moffitt, Nintendo’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, addressed this issue, but his answer leaves something to be desired.
Yesterday, Sony and Microsoft revealed their hands for launch day: Sony’s set to have 23 games by the end of 2013 – 15 at retail and another 8 as digital exclusives – while Microsoft’s got 23 at-retail titles in a row for day one.
For both platforms, first-party day one games are pretty scarce, and many launch games are cross-generational multiplatform titles like Assassin’s Creed IV or Call of Duty. In an effort to diversify their lineups, Xbox has lined up a few big exclusives and Sony’s ramped up its indie outreach. The result is two launch catalogs that look the same at first glance, but are quite different when you dig deeper.
But which company’s bringing the better offerings at launch? The answer might not be so simple.
During today’s Gamescom press conference, Sony demoed PS Vita Remote Play for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. As a self-professed fan of Wii U’s Off-TV Play, which includes a similar feature out-of-the-box via the GamePad, I was really looking forward to Sony flooring me with what their Gaikai teams have been able to achieve.
Frankly, I didn’t come away satisfied. If anything, the on-stage presentation of PS4 Remote Play left me more apprehensive than ever about whether the feature is really as seamless and as powerful as it’s cracked up to be.