Wednesday, March 02, 2011


(cross-posted from The Other Blog)

Everything at once maddening yet undeniable about Nintendo's dual-existence as a corporate entity and Colonial Governor of a generation's memories; summarized in a single image:

Giving the keynote at GDC, President Satoru Iwata focused heavily on the upcoming 3DS handheld and dropped the customary not-in-any-way-shocking announcement that a new Mario title was in-production for the system. No screenshots or even title were given, save for the detail that it's being developed by the "Galaxy" team. Oh, and the "Super Mario" logo's shadow... has a familiar-looking TAIL.

And... there you have it. Waaaay more than half of any fans "on the fence" about the 3DS just made up their mind. That's another several-million systems presold, regardless of price or availability. Not because of a feature, or because of a full-lineup, or even because of a tangible game... but because they've vaguely intimated that we might at some point see Tanooki (re: Raccoon) Mario again after a 22 year absence.

THIS is why everyone else whose ever tried to sell a handheld console went bald early.


Christian said...

Eh. It'll be nice to see a 3D version of the Raccoon Suit, but I'm not really worked into a frenzy over it. Probably 'cause I'm already dead set on not getting a 3DS until they introduce a version with a longer battery life.

Show me an image for Majora's Mask 3D, on the other hand, and then they can have my money.

Mitch Small said...

Not gonna lie. Made me pretty happy to see that tail.

I feel like a drone ;___;

Adam said...

Such a conundrum. I really wish Nintendo would take their talent and quality control (with their first party games anyways) and truly do something new once in a while. And yet I will never say no to a new Mario, Zelda, Metroid...

Speeking of which that new Zelda trailer wasn't half bad either.

Aaron said...

I don't want to be the stick in the mud, but the Tanooki suit was garbage. Never used it. I always though Mario 3 was overrated. I think world is a much better game.

Dave said...

@ Adam

The problem with that is that by doing something new, they might have to leave the arena of games that only they make anymore.

It's easy to be the king of platformers when only you, sega, shovelware companies and a half dozen indie devs noone knows about actually make them. And of those only the last has any real creative talent.

In short, nintendo won't do that until they are forced. It's far too easy to succeed in a vaccuum despite your increasing irrelevance in game development.

And nintendo won't be forced to do that until the crowd of people who buy things based on brand name stop being willing to buy the same damn games over and over again because they were fun when they were 13.

In short nintendo will branch out when Call of Duty stops selling.

Arturo said...

Oh Nintendo, you magnificent bastard...

you know your fans too well.

Nick said...

At first I thought it was a glitch on my monitor. Then I realized... oh my god. Wow. Just... wow.

Adam said...

@Dave Oh I don't know. It's true that the Big N is the undisputed king of platformers but that certainly isn't all that they make. Zelda, Metroid, Star Fox, Pikmin (speaking of which where is THAT game hiding), if you go back they have their fingers in many of the main genres of video games. If they wanted to do something they could. And anything that's listed as being developed by them (as opposed to just publishing) is going to automatically draw attention, so they have an advantage so many companies don't.

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

Tanooki suit? The one that let you turn into a statue? Feh. I want my big friggin' windup boot!

Dave said...

@ Adam.

Actually that kind helps my point. Aside from the zelda series, are any one of those noteable anymore?

The last good metroid game was Corruption. Which cooincidentally was in a genre that few other developers touch. Other M returned to the side scrolling metroidvania game style...and unfortunately, we had played shadow complex a year previous. And despite being cheaper, made by a company that had never made the game style before, and working with fewer resources, it managed to be better than other M in everyway.

When was the last great star fox game you played? The first had groundbreaking graphics, the second had voice overs and force feedback. Both were also good games.

But adventures was pretty damn boring, armada was known for peaking with the first mission and assault....well that was also a game that was released.

The last pikmin game was released back when nintendo was the only one making them. Now at the very least we have the overlord series and pikmin is nowhere to be seen.

"And anything that's listed as being developed by them (as opposed to just publishing) is going to automatically draw attention, so they have an advantage so many companies don't."

That's also my point. Nintendo is at this point, surviving off its brand name. They used to do it off innovative and genre defining gameplay, but the list of genres where they are even relevant only extends as far as the genres they are the only ones making games in. but as long as they have the brand name, people will keep flocking and not demand better.

Chris Cesarano said...

If that turns out to be a cat tail instead I'm going to laugh so hard.

Dave - Other M was the same and different, and wasn't completely side-scrolling. In fact, it felt like an excellent hybridization. I roamed 3-D environments, but with the refined feel of a 2-D game.

I think it's all due to building levels around a specified camera rather than trying to work a camera in a pre-built level, but that's a whole other rant. I'm pretty sure Mario Galaxy does the same thing. I know it sounds weird, but maybe developers ought to take a cue from film directors when building a level. The "set" is built around the kind of shot intended. Levels ought to be built with a preconceived notion of "the camera will be here" instead.

That'll get rid of a TON of camera issues.

But that's off-topic.

Adam said...

Actually I liked Other M but that's beside the point. Metroid is an odd example because while it's a lauded series but it has never been THAT popular, especially compared to Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon. And I think to say Nintendo survives purely on their name isn't quite right because the majority of the games they make are really good. As much as people denounce them for their market focus these past few years that's why everyone pays attention everytime they do something, because they know that few developers are as good as they are at what they do. Which goes back to my earlier point. They can do good. After the last few years they have substantial resources. Making one new game a year doesn't seem like that much to ask.

Dave said...


The majority of the games they MADE were good. Their current gen development has been lacking. The only real standout is Mario Galaxy.

Zelda was a gamecube port, smash bros and fire emblem both shipped BROKEN and were never fixed and the rest of the lineup has been casual shovelware (and to prevent the inveitable strawman argument I don't have a problem with casual games. I own a couple. Kinect adventures and yourshape fitness are both fun and actually good for weight loss...whereas their wii equivalents...not so mch) and games that on any other platform would have been considered pricy at 20 dollars.

If the wii truly is part of this generation of consoles, then it must be held to the same standards. And by the standards of this generation, Nintendo has been a footnote when it came to game development.

Now alot of this isn't all their fault. A widespread loss of relevance and prestige is something of an epidemic in japanese game development.

The difference is, when Square enix or Capcom blatantly milk franchises and release disappointing games, people call them on it.

Adam said...

Twilight Princess - Why doesn't this count? I don't quite follow. Being released at the tail end of the GC's lifespan and beginning of the Wii's puts it in some sort of nebulous zone? And Resident Evil 4 and Okami both got Wii ports that most people agree improved the original games.

"The difference is, when Square enix or Capcom blatantly milk franchises and release disappointing games, people call them on it."

Seeing the outcry from people over Metroid: Other M and the obvious cash-in of Super Mario All-Stars I can definitely say that isn't true. Metroid even saw sub-par sales and as while All-Stars sold out everyone I saw on the internet called it pretty lazy.

Dave said...

Why doesn't a gamecube port count? The fact that it is a gamecube port for one. As I said, if the wii is part of this generation, then it doesn't get to have different standards. A game that looks no better thna a gamecube game, with midi music and no voice acting has no place on a current gen system. Hell, it was dated on the previous gen systems.

And even if we were to allow it to count, it was a launch title. There is a MUCH smaller number of high quality wii exclusive games than there are on the other two consoles.

Regarding other M, people were all over it pre release. It was only after they played it and found out how the satory went from sexist retcons to poor translation to massive continuity errors that the criticism started.

New Super Mario bros and Donkey kong both sold well, despit being for all intents and purposes, virtual console games.

Nintendo's faithful have stopped demanding excellentce fomr them and are content with whatever nintendo deigns to give them. It doens't take an expert to know that won't end well.

Adam said...

Yeah, I don’t agree on Zelda. A few years ago the PS2 was STILL getting games. Generations don’t just begin and end. The gradually fade in and out with overlap.

Your Metroid stand makes no sense. How were people supposed to know about the story problems or gameplay issues before the game came out? They couldn’t get that from a few short trailers. And the reviews were very mixed on that game. Some said it was good but flawed and several others said it was average or even worse. And in sales it hasn’t even cracked 500,000 if Wikipedia is to be believed. I really don’t get what you expect people to have done here. Most people passed on it. Some did give it a chance and most appear to believe it wasn’t up snuff and said so. What more do you want?

And NSMBW and DKR were both generally praised by review sites, particularly DKR. Games like Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect 2 were both considered great games but neither of them significantly pushed games forward in any way I can see. But they were all great games that gamers appreciate having especially when you consider how much crap is out there.

Dave said...

@ Adam

And if we were talking about the gamecube, you might have a point. But the wii was suppossed to be a next generation console. Its killer app being a game you could get on the last generation system isn't exactly great for it now is it.

And my position on metroid makes perfect sense. People were all over the game because nostalgia caused them to overlook the whole "this will cost 500% what the same game cost on the xbox" issue.

And that is what nintendo's infustry has run on as of late. People buying things not because of their quality but becaue of the brand name. The fact that the game was being played with an NES controller should have clued people in that it was going to be a more shallow experence.

"What more do you want?"

I want nintenod to put actual eefort into game development again. I want a return to the philosophy that had them make supermario world whne sega made sonic, and Mario 64 when Naughty dog made crash bandicoot. I want nintendo to become a forward thinking company again and lead by being better than the others, not because they are more adept at fleecing soccer moms. I want thgem to give a damn about their fans again instead of just delivering uninspired rehashes.

I want the nintendo that invented the analog stick. Not the nintendo that seems to hate the analog stick. I don't want the most consistently innovative force among the 3 hardware manufacturers to be microsoft.

And that's not going to happen while people are still buying New super Mario bros and donkey kong and kirby and enabling nintendo's slacking off. This is excatly the shit that led to their fall in the 90s and the next time they piss off their consumers enough to lose a large portion of them, there might not be a way of getting them back.

Dave said...

@ Adam

"Mass Effect 2 were both considered great games but neither of them significantly pushed games forward in any way I can see"

I'm just going to marvel at that statement for awhile. That explains so damn much. If you honestly can't see why intimately bridging hundreds of story choices across 3 games to create a unique sotryline and character createdon the fly by the player themselves, if you can't see how putting the player in the shoes of the character so completely and immersively by showing them the consequences of command first hand, then there is really nothing to discuss.

ME2 method of storytelling pretty much single handedly proves gaming's superiority over film as a narrative format. I'd call that pretty damn forward thinking.

And considering that nintendo's entire justification for having a weaker system would be new and innovative gameplay, saying that other companies aren't living up to the promis nintendo made is not an excuse for nintenod not living up to it....because they actually are providing what they promised....and what nintendo promised. At this stage, nintendo is providing neither.

The 3DS is excellent proof. the entire point of the DS was new, innovative gameplay and long battery life. What's the draw of the 3ds? Pretty graphics. Except the PSP2 will have those, and possible a better battery life and it actually has innovative features like twin touch surfaces.

Adam said...

"What more do you want?"

I was referring to how the fans reacted to M:OM. Not Nintendo. As far as I'm concerned the public resposne to M:oM was what it should have been.

And I defnitely agree that Nintendo hasn't delivered on motion controls yet. Perhaps the next Zelda will finally do it, but we'll see.

"And that's not going to happen while people are still buying New super Mario bros and donkey kong and kirby and enabling nintendo's slacking off. This is excatly the shit that led to their fall in the 90s"

Actually that was because Nintendo had its feet in the cement and was still making cartridge based games when CD based was clearly the wave of the future. Nintendo still made great games then, but they were nearly the only ones for their system as they no longer ruled the industry with an iron fist and Sony's offerings were so much more inviting and friendler to developers.

And ME2 has great writing yes, but sorry I have yet to see a game that trumps the narrative experience that the best of film (or literature for that matter) has to offer.

Bob said...


They're only a "footnote" in the development of game types YOU care about - in terms of the actual development industry, right now they are right at the forefront.

For better or for worse, "Wii Sports" is THE game of this generation. I don't particularly care for it, but there's no denying that that's what changed-up the whole business this time. Sony and MS rebuilt their whole strategy around trying to re-make that game. THAT'S being a leader in development. Again, not saying it's leadership in a necessarily "good" direction, but it's leadership.

Dave said...

@ Bob


In terms of making money they aren't a footnote. But that's not what we are talking about. But in terms of actual game development they've been actively regressive. In terms of every damn criteria that makes gaming distinctive, they have been almost irrelevant.

Leadership is only valuable when it is good leadership and no matter what rhetorical games you play to make nbintendo #1, their contribution to any aspect of the industry other than their own pocketbook is minimal.

Advancements in graphics? No.
Gameplay? No.
Story telling? No.
Online? No.

In every major category they are an afterthought at best. In previous generations this was not the case. Nintendo essentially defined every major innovation of the n64 era. And likely would have done so for the generation after had the xbox not stolen its thunder.

But this gen there only contribution has been motion control...which both their competitors have improved on.

Which leave nintendo with the least capable system from every angle. Except brand name. Which brings my argument full circle.

Smpoza said...


Can we really say that any medium is "better" than any other medium? They're all good at different things (Video games, for example, are unparalleled in tales of choice and responsibility), but it seems silly to me to try to so arbitrarily quantify art. That said, I agree that Nintendo's recent games, while IMHO SUPERB, are also very disappointing. While Super Mario Galaxy 2 might be my all-time favorite platformer and Donkey Kong Country Returns was one of my top games of last holiday season, if you look at what the other consoles are doing, it's a bit sad. Their games are both fun AND say things about stuff (gameplay takes priority, obviously, but I think it's good to have both, especially if you're arguing the medium has as much artistic potential as Film or Literature). Games like Bioshock and Mass Effect 2 are not only fun, but also tell profound stories and tell these stories in ways that only work in a video game. And while Nintendo's franchises have the gameplay part NAILED, they're pretty lacking in the story bits. The only way I can see a game like Super Mario Brothers 3 (which, by the way, is one of my favorite retro-games of all time) having artistic weight is with the "homage to Joseph Campbell" route, which seems like an easy out to me. I mean, if having several different environments and repeating, "classic" themes is all it takes, Transformers 2 also qualifies as a tribute, and it's a festering pile of dogshit.

Bob said...


You're talking about two different things at the same time.

Leadership is only valuable when it's good, this is true - but it's still LEADERSHIP. The issue is whether or not they're a mere "footnote," not whether or not their status as significantly more than that is a good thing overall.

Again, setting aside the entire seperate issue of whether or not the games in question are GOOD, they are the developers of far and away the most prominently played, purchased, discussed, debated, reported-on and imitated game(s) of this entire console generation. That part isn't even debatable - it's a matter of record and verifiable numerical fact. And that it IS a fact means that the notion that this particular developer is not important in the realm of game development is a provable impossibility.

You or I don't have to "like" it, but the fact of the matter is that the ONLY game on ANY of the three consoles that's been a genuine earth-shaker in this generation as opposed to a "shinier" version of a game from a previous generation (re: GoW3, Halo3, Mario Galaxy, etc) is Wii Sports... and they made that. That's not a footnote - it's a foot-PRINT. A big one.

Dave said...

@ Bob

And if all we care about is that nintendo makes tons of money, that's fine. But that was never what I was talking about.

No one is debating that nintendo is good at making money.

But as I said from the very beginning their contributions to anything other than their bottom line in this gen have been negligible. Achievements? DlC? Online play? Coop? Indie Games? Community features?

In all of those they are a generation or more behind the curve. A situation that noone would accept from Microsoft or Sony...or even sega back in the day.

The one major contribution was to be the first to make money off a specific genre of game. Only the second anyone else made any serious effort at that genre, nintendo's efforts were quickly eclipsed.

Aside from making a shitload of money, nintendo hasn't contributed anything meaningful o gaming since the launch of the wii. Every innovation and advancement has come form them and what little they did do was easily improved on.

And if we actually care about gaming as a medium and not just that the company we favoured before we developed our pretentious mid 20s angst is making alot of money, that is a problem.

Look at activision. They have a gaming history even longer than nintendo's. But not they exist to resell call of duty every year. They shut down talented studios and generally go out of their way to exploit their customers as much as possible. And to compete, many other games feel they need to offer what COD offers, which leads to the glut of fairly uninteresting Military shooters.

And as long as activision keeps getting money...what do they care if the industry as a whole is hurt?

Smpoza said...


What's sad is that so many people tend to overlook Activision. So many people still view EA as the "evil corporate satan" of video games, and while their marketing campaigns are pathetic, their acquisition practices are just as bad (if not worse than) Activision's, and Madden will continue to suck until they make the other team space monsters, look at their track record recently. Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age, Left 4 Dead (on consoles, EA publishes some of Valve's games), Crysis, Bulletstorm-all of these are really, really good games that have (or will, in the case of Bulletstorm) spawn big ol' franchises. But EA has allowed their developer partners to TAKE THEIR TIME making these games, so they can be good and so that we won't start to get sick of them. Activision, on the other hand, basically relies SOLELY on Call of Duty, and has promised to release one EVERY SINGLE STUPID YEAR, because that worked SO well for Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero and Bobby Kotick needs a money bath so they'll just take these franchises and take a club and break their legs and smack them until they're paste on the floor and just keep hitting them with the club, hitting them again and again and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AAAAAAGGG

Honestly, even Nintendo knows to take their sweet old time making their big franchises.

Dave said...

Smpoza. Indeed. The only 'big' publisher whose made such a turnaround was THQ, who vent from shovelware to some really good games. Darksiders was a really fun take on the zelda game, and Homefront looks to make far better use of Red Dawn nostalgia than any other game in the increasingly popular "US gets invaded" genre.

Smpoza said...

I agree, but I dunno if I'm gonna get Homefront. While I'm "okay" with military shooters and found Red Dawn a well-made (if a completely repugnant and frightening example of well-made propaganda) action film, but Homefront is missing out on a big opportunity: as far as I know, neither Kim Jong-Il nor his wacky sons will be appearing in the game. Imagine that guy cursing at you in Korean in a giant robot while you load your rocket launcher...sheer brilliance.

Getting back to the tail tease that started this post, why is it all about Mario 3 these days? I know it was glorious and brilliant and probably the most revolutionary side-scroller of all time, but when can Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island get some love? Yes, I know SMG2 was a form of this, but I WANT THE CAPE IN 3D! You could fly indefinitely and kill anything by pirouetting! Granted, Mario doesn't look as cool as he does dressed in a full-body raccoon suit, but c'mon!

Bob said...


Every one of the "innovations" you listed, aside from Achievements, are only innovative in the sense that moving something that'd been already tried and tested on PCs for almost a decade to consoles was a pretty good idea.

This isn't even a "Nintendo is great" observation as much as it's a "the industry is stagnant" observation: The only thing that's even CLOSE to an analog-stick-level innovation in game-development this generation was a "look at me!!!" saving-throw from the most change-resistant player in the console game.

Oh, and there's a very simple explanation for why EA takes more crap than Activision - because Activision's blatant cash-cows are franchises "traditional" gamers actually LIKE; while EA's is Madden.

Dave said...

@ Smpoza

To be fair, the second you ground anything in reality it makes it harder to deal with. Look at the trouble EA had with Medal of Honor. The entire games was one giant reacharound for coalition soldiers (comeplete with a 10 paragraph long and unskippable thank you at the end) but because you can play as the taliban in multiplayer, there was controvercy. Homefront is already being edited for Japan. And honestly the idea of Kim jong Il being able to beat the US is ridiculous. It only really works with the new timeline they've created where we can pretend Korea is ruled by a competent dictator.

Regarding Mario 3 the answer is nostalgia. 80s kids are ruled by it. And by and large, the kids who grew up with nintendo as the ONLY option are about the only hardcore fanbase they've got left at this point.

Dave said...

@ Bob.

You can't have it both ways. If the thingsd I listed aren't innovations because they wer available in more primitive forms on the pc then neither is the analog stick, since it was available on the sega saturn, and the atari 5200.

The reason WHY the N64's was so innovative was because it moved gaming forward. Whereas Crash Bandicoot was essentially a sidescroller (the levels were linear and tube shaped), Mario 64 showed that with 360 degree movement came a complete and equally ambitious change in game design.

The wiimote hasn't exactly led to much change in the way that games are made. Only to whom they are sold.

Online play has absolutely changed how games are made....and even what games get made. 10 years ago, I never would have been able to play a game like braid of super meat boy. And don't get me started on left4dead In fact the entire retro gaming scene that you love to such an unreasonable degree would not even exist because making primitive sidescrollers and such wouldn't be commercially viable.

While nintendo may have expanded gaming, they did so to people who don't care about it. A family friend bought a wii for the exercise but sold it the second kinect came out. To me that's crazy. Consoles aren't something to be thrown away...even when they are technologically obsolete they are still fascinating bits of technological history.

Which brings us back to my initial point...which curiously seems to get ignored a great deal...