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Lost In Translation : Nintendo

Although I missed out on the NES, I’ve managed to experience every Nintendo console from the SNES through to the Wii, including all handhelds. The Wii-U has yet to really grab my attention so you could say that it’s been a veritable Nintendo sandwich over these many years, sealed between two tasteless lumps of plastic.

In other words: I’m more qualified than most to have an opinion – even if it’s one that you won’t like.

I start-out on the defence as I know that I’ll need to, given the near religious fervour that Nintendo loyalists tend to whip themselves up into, the first sign of any criticism. Not that my protective efforts will matter, mind you – wax voodoo dolls of my likeness are no doubt being cast this very minute, needles at the ready.

And that’s kind of my point.

Nintendo have made some truly stunning games, that goes without saying, and have performed with greater longevity and greater consistency than perhaps anyone else in the business. But does that mean that they automatically deserve my undying loyalty? Does that put them beyond reproach? Does being the elder statesman mean that you’re incapable of putting a foot wrong?

I am so bored of this character, it almost hurts

I am so painfully bored of this character, it almost hurts

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Nintendo produce something that’s truly pricked my ears up. Yes, I know that what they have produced is well-polished and highly playable, but their apparent stubbornness to experiment with new IP, move with the times, get a grip online and not treat their fans like dumb junkies, smacks of a tremendous amount of arrogance to me.

Would it really be too much to ask to leave Mario behind? Just for a bit? Would it really be too much to ask to not insert him into every genre imaginable? Would some new sound effects on their key franchises really be that blasphemous? Would decent third-party-support be such a big thing to ask? Would investing in cutting edge hardware really kill them? Is repeatedly shipping dated hardware in a new colour or a dinky new case really the best that these supposedly messianic beings can manage?

“That’s not the point of Nintendo”, I hear you scream. And you have a point – really, you do. Nintendo always have, and arguably always will, go their own way. But with desperately flagging Wii-U sales so close to the real launch of the next-gen and with the Wii quite simply bled to death:  has the merry-go-round finally stopped? The 3DS has, it seems, finally begun to pick-up-the-pace, but is that really going to keep Nintendo afloat over the next console cycle?

If Nintendo were to fall upon seriously hard times, it would be a sad chapter in the history of gaming. Their unquestionable mastery of a certain type of game-design might be lost forever – and the world would be a little bit less wonderful as a result.

The thing is, I just can’t escape the feeling that they’d only have themselves to blame.

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  1. On many aspects of this I agree with you completely. Nintendo have made such painfully obvious and well warned mistakes with the WiiU, it almost defies logic that a company who has produced so many great gaming systems and games could make so many blatant errors in such a short space of time.
    Simple ports of 3DS games (as mentioned by Simon previously), a couple of quickly made HD Gamecube or Wii remasters. It was SO very very easy to keep games appearing. Wii kept momentum because it had hardware that people were fundamentally excited about, and because the launch title was so magnificent at showing the hardware off it could manage a software gap.
    I had a Gamecube. I sat and watched as game after game missed the system. A fantastic piece of hardware constantly under-utilised and under represented. Every time a big game gave it momentum it just seemed to get sapped away.
    For a company who has consistently delivered some of the best software titles in the world for almost 30 years to fundamentally miss the importance of said software is beyond a joke. If Nintendo were based in the US or Europe I think they would have taken action. But then if they were based here they wouldn’t be Nintendo.
    On the other hand. Whilst I agree many of the titles in which Mario appears are a pain in the ass, when the better titles are of the quality of Sunshine, Galaxy 1/2, Land 3DS, Paper Mario and Smash Bros, I can never grow bored of them. The frequency of key Mario games (bar NSMB) is infrequent enough that they stand alone as excellent experiences. 580,000 grey, dimly lit, self-important, average playing FPS/3rd person shooting games are released every year it seems, and no one complains about being tired of those, apart from me.
    Oh and as for hardware, I had one simple point that I made prior to WiiU shipping:
    They don’t need to make it as powerful as PS4/720, but they HAVE to make it obviously more powerful than the PS3/360 at launch. Otherwise people outside the Nintendo core audience won’t see the point.
    I think I was right.

  2. If Nintendo did disappear, then we would be left with just Sony and Microsoft– imagine how boring gaming would be.
    With the Mario thing, I agree with Rob, although Nintendo use his character in everything under the sun, they are very careful with the key, main Mario games. Since Mario Sunshine in 2002 there have only been 2 main Mario games on console. Same with Zelda, Metroid etc, with 1 or in very rare circumstances, 2 games per console cycle. Compare that with Halo, in the same space of time that we have seen 3 mario games(3D Land included), there have been, what 8 Halo games? 4 Gears of War, 12 Ratchet and Clank titles?
    So, yes while they use the character set a lot, they are very, very careful with the main games.
    I also don’t agree with that fact that they are masters of a certain type of game design. By and large, whatever they have turned their hands to, they have made ‘best in’ games. Real time strategy? Pikmin. First person shooter(ish)? Metroid Prime. Social/community games?(of which there are now a bazzillion), Animal Crossing. Racing, F-Zero GX RPG and turn based games? Paper Mario, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem. The list goes on and on.
    And of course, the ultimate Ghostbuster’s game, Luigi’s Mansion 😉
    True, they don’t make gritty, cover based shooters and street racing games. Thank God.
    I do agree that they have to listen to fans, use more older franchises and, although they do create lots of new ip, they don’t shout it from the rooftops enough. I basically think they need to get their release schedule properly sorted out, time releases better and sort the bloody online prices out.

    • Simon Burns They might be careful with how many main games they put Mario in, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that they saturate their entire brand with him. After decades of it, I’m just bored is all I’m saying. It smacks of a lack of ambition and imagination and it’s not as if the character’s that interesting in the first place. It’s like some weird comfort-blanket-fetish for them. 
      When I say they’ve mastered a certain type of game design, I mean their more platform-centric work. Yes, they’ve put out quality titles in other genres but it’s been sporadic and a little one-dimensional. Everything is generally very family-friendly, which is fine – and certainly plays massively to the nature of the platform genre, but in other genres I find it rather tepid. 
      Pixar films, for example, are amazing works of art, just like Nintendo games, but you wouldn’t dream of an adult-themed Pixar film competing with the likes of The Godfather?! 
      The irony is, when Nintendo do venture out beyond the comfort of Mario and the family-arena, they produce generally brilliant works that take their sense of a robust blue-print and hang different clothes on it. They have so much to offer – they’re just so bloody narrow minded about the ways in which they channel their energies! 
      Personally, I think they should follow Sega, ditch making hardware, let more of the world experience their software and learn the hard way that you need to listen to your market and evolve with them. I think it would be the making of them and dissolve their apparent ‘Mohammed must come to the mountain’ attitude towards gamers.

  3. I dread the day they stop making hardware, and the videogame industry turns into something like the TV hardware, Blu Ray hardware industry; dull as dishwater and one step removed from the vacuum cleaner industry.Without Nintendo around, it wouldn’t be long at all until both Sony and Microsoft licensed out Xbox and PlayStation hardware, until every TV or set top box came with one or the other, until they would eventually become so similar that they would be amalgamated into one, grey, dull option on your TV.
    Select ‘game’ have access to Call of Duty for 2 days!

    • Luke Martin VAAnd look what has happened to Sega— now completely risk averse, not producing anything even close to their best and dying a long, protracted death. A Japanese, poor performing EA.

      • Simon Burns Luke Martin VA Fair point, but I don’t think they were ever quite in the sane league as Nintendo in terms of game design. I think Nintendo are strong enough to rise above that.

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