Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nintendo Conservatism

Well, the Switch is going to be out soon and (if recent Nintendo hardware launches are any indication) chances are demand will vastly outstrip supply.  Most likely we'll see speculators and scalpers on eBay, along with folks lining up in front of stores long before they open for business.  As much as it makes me look like a curmudgeonly old killjoy though, I have to ask, "what's the rush?"

Pretty much every console in the history of video games has suffered from slim pickings for the first six to twelve months after release.  The Switch is no exception here with launch window titles being few and lacking in variety, or perhaps a better way of wording it would be lacking in originality.  Sure we got Zelda (now with open-world survival crafting elements!), Mario (*spoilers* the princess gets kidnapped again), and Splatoon 2 (the unofficial tie-in game for the movie Rainbow War), but none of these franchises are going outside their established comfort zones.  In the past Nintendo has shown a willingness to put their iconic characters in circumstances outside norm, take Dr. Mario or Zelda II: Adventures of Link for example.  Even if current Nintendo leadership doesn't want to risk tarnishing the image of their mascots, they still have the option to innovate by creating new experimental IPs.  Case in point, the Mode 7 gameplay pioneered in F-Zero paved the way for Mario Kart, while Stunt Race did a lot of the ground work on the FX chip which made Yoshi's Island possible.  Of course not every experiment was a success (Pilotwings, anyone?), but still it demonstrated a desire on Nintendo's part to try new things and advance the industry.  That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.

At the very least they could dust off some of their neglected, but still beloved franchises like Earthbound or Ogre Battle.  As is, it feels like without Fire Emblem there wouldn't be a single strategy game in their current gen library.  Granted, it was never Nintendo's genre of choice, but what little they did have in the past (Advanced Wars, Front Mission, and King Arthur's World) were all quality products.  JRPGs have also dried up for the most part.  Gone are the days of Final Fantasy, Crono Trigger, Secret of Mana and Illusion of Gia.  Part of this dearth of homeland backing comes from Nintendo's less-than-stellar third party support.  It's an issue that began in earnest with the release of the Wii and has only grown worse during the lifespan of the Wii U.  Aside from that ongoing issue, Nintendo really should consider revisiting some of their more creative eras.

When people bring up the possibility of an new 2-D Mario on the Switch, I find myself wishing that they'd revive the unusual gameplay found in Super Mario Brothers 2 (A.K.A. Doki Doki Panic).  The ability to pick up and throw objects or enemies still has a lot of untapped potential, particularly in a co-op driven experience.  The dreamland-like setting would also allow the development team a bit more creative freedom in terms of design aesthetics.  Will it happen?  Probably not.  In all likelihood Nintendo's resources are focused predominately on safe bets such as Mario Kart 9, a double digit Mario Party and more Super Smash Bros. I assure you that work on an official 2020 Tokyo Olympics video game is in the pre-production phase as well.  After all, if there's something Nintendo doesn't have enough of already it's mini-game collections...*sigh*

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