Nintendo Articles

Our exclusive editorials about the 3DS and its games, as well as Nintendo as a whole.

Donkey Kong 3D; What I’d Hope to See

Yes I know the game isn’t likely to exist at the moment and that GameStop have mentioned that them having the box art/display up was a mistake on their part, but if there is a Donkey Kong Country 3DS game being revealed at E3, this is what I’d hope would be in it.

1. Kremlings and K Rool as villains

As decent as the tikis were as villains, they’re just nothing compared to good old King K Rool and the Kremlings.  Not one spot of personality to the tikis, nor much in the way of interesting character design.

Hence in the inevitable 3DS game, Retro Studios should just accept the tikis weren’t that well received and move on. Bring back the Kremlings, stop trying to introduce characters based purely on ‘gameplay’ and just have it so people’s favourite Donkey Kong Country enemies are back.

This bunch are better than the tikis any day of the week

Not that they should be the only returning bad guys, I think those Zingers (bees/wasps) would be a good choice to bring back as well. Especially as that with the exception of Jungle Beat, they had a perfect attendance record before Donkey Kong Country Returns came out.  Besides, killer wasps make spiky tikis look average in comparison, don’t you think?

Everything’s definitely worse with bees.  Well, if you’re a Kong.

2. Not a port/Donkey Kong Land version of Donkey Kong Country Returns

Not that anything was wrong with either the Donkey Kong Land series or Donkey Kong Country Returns, it’s just I don’t want another Donkey Kong game with the exact same themes, level concepts, enemies and characters.  Because as we all know, the chances are that if they just made a Donkey Kong Land Returns, we’d end up with more freaking tikis instead of Kremlings and the same massive TWO animal buddies Returns has for a second game running.

Not what we want.

3. More playable Kongs (perhaps four player multiplayer)

True, Donkey Kong Country Returns worked well enough with just two characters, but with Rare gone and modern Nintendo seemingly unlikely to make a Donkey Kong game where Donkey Kong himself isn’t playable, this seems like the only plausible way to get Dixie Kong in another game.

Dixie Kong would be a neat third playable character.

As well as literally the only method possible of ever seeing Kiddy Kong again.

Besides, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland and Rayman Origins is proof a four player platformer can work well, so why not make Donkey Kong 3D another successful example?

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Why Mario & Luigi is a better RPG series than Paper Mario

Paper Mario is an extremely popular Mario spinoff on the internet, so this probably won’t be a popular opinion to hold, but the title says it all.  I prefer the Mario & Luigi series to the Paper Mario series and honestly think the former are closer to a good Mario RPG than the latter.  Here’s why.

1. Mario & Luigi battle system is actually like a Mario game

This is why I adore the battle system in those games so much, because they actually feel completely different from the battle systems in every other Japanese RPG.  Instead of the all so common quick time event like button presses that games such as Paper Mario and Mario RPG fall back on so often (these have no real connection to what’s going on in the battle itself and exist purely to add interactivity to what would otherwise be a purely ‘strategic’ affair), you actually feel like you’re making Mario and Luigi jump out of the way or attacks or hammer away projectiles and line up their special moves properly.

Above: Blocking the Shadow Queen’s attacks or timing your own isn’t too logical.

While battling Dark Bowser here feels more like playing a Mario game, and is easier to learn

Skill plays much more of a role than intellect because of this, and I like it that way.  If you’d be able to logically dodge an attack then you can, and you’re not limited to any strict timing window (you can repeatedly jump or hammer away attacks at will until either you deflect the shot or get hit).  It means it’s much easier to beat enemies through skill despite a massive level difference due to how easy it is to time dodging their attacks.

It’s hard to explain, but the battle system just seems more logical in Mario & Luigi than in Paper Mario, and is most intuitive to learn as well.

2. The style of the Mario & Luigi series is much more like the platformers than that of Paper Mario

Both have fantastic art styles, but the later Mario & Luigi games are far less offputting to your standard New Super Mario Bros player than the later Paper Mario ones due to how much more similar to the generic ‘Mario’ style they look.  Compare below:

Both styles are well designed and look really nice, but I think the Mario & Luigi look is just closer to what a Mario game should look like.

It’s not that any one style here is bad, just that the Mario & Luigi series art style works best for the franchise in general, and is more ‘accessible’ to the casual gamer brought up on the 2D/3D platformers and sports spinoff games. The Paper Mario one is arguably what will forever keep it a bit of a niche series.

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Mario won’t become a yearly franchise like Call of Duty says Nintendo

Along with various other interesting bits of information confirmed by an interview of Koichi Hayashida by the website Modojo.  Indeed, there’s a lot of interesting things said here which should interest people who want more Super Mario 3D Land, as well as about the Mario series in general, so read on!

They first ask:

Do you see this as a possible series? Could there be a Super Mario 3D Land 2?

To which Koichi replies:

Well I guess I have to turn around and ask, is that something you’d like to see?

Immediately this is getting interesting.  They’re not counting out direct sequels to Mario games!  Then again, is that really a surprise? First we had Super Mario Galaxy 2, then recently we had Pokémon Black and White version 2, I think a Super Mario 3D Land 2 seems like a fairly plausible choice of sequel for Nintendo to make.  I also love how naive the guy is when he asks ‘is that something you’d like to see?’  Because apparently, there are some people on the planet who would say they don’t want a sequel and would be disappointed if one was made.

Would you consider adding downloadable content to the game? How easy is it to create new levels?

This question seems pretty interesting too.  Good thing they asked how difficult it is to make new levels, my experience in the past indicates that making a new level in any video game is much a more difficult challenge than it looks.  But hey, Super Mario 3D Land has a fairly simple graphics style which relies almost on 3D tiles for making up the levels, so it can’t be that difficult, right?

It’s not something we had initially thought about. Thinking about it now, there would be some challenges, but if there was a really good opportunity to use the stereoscopic effect to create some interesting new elements to introduce to the game, I suppose it’s a possibility.

However, the response worries me.  I think Nintendo are putting far too much stock in ‘gimmicks’ with their recent titles.  Why not just make it so you make fun levels?  No one cares if you come up with ‘interesting’ new elements using the stereoscopic effect other than elitist ‘critics’ who think that games should be all art like.  The rest of us just want fun levels regardless of how technically fancy they are.

I guess if you look at the staff credits for the game, including the localization teams at NOA and NOE, it would come out to about 100 total?

When asked how many people worked on the game.  I won’t quote the full interview for legal reasons, but it comes out as about 100 people and two years of development.

What do you think of Mario becoming a yearly franchise like Call of Duty?

Yikes, talk about a difficult question to ask someone on the internet!  Have you seen how much hate Activision gets for releasing games every year with minor changes?

Well, the way we approach the Mario series is through evolving hardware. Every time we have a new piece of hardware, we look at it and say, what can we do with this? What sort of gameplay experiences can we create? Then we take that and try and match it to the world of Mario, the kind of expressions you would find in Mario games.

Unfortunately, the answer given worries me even more.  In fact, some will say that its Nintendo’s biggest problem with their recent titles, they seem to be designing them based on the hardware rather than just letting the games dictate the console.  Putting the cart before the horse or something.

Really, as much as his ideas are rather disliked, Sean Malstrom said it best with this quote:

A video games console is just a box people buy to play video games.

Paraphrased of course, but you know what he means there.  People don’t enjoy buying games consoles for their own sake, they’re just there as a means to play the games  It’s best if Nintendo realised this and just made their games just as good games first and foremost and the console ‘gimmicks’ thrown in where appropriate to the series and game design.

If we were going to come out with a Mario game every single year, the only way we could really do this is if we also came out with new hardware every single year, which starts to get a little difficult to imagine.

Well no, you could also just make some new Mario games that aren’t designed around the hardware, or just make more use of the existing hardware.  Like Super Mario Galaxy 2 was.  Or Super Mario Land 2 on Game Boy was.  Or heck, like Super Mario Bros 2 and the Lost Levels were back on NES.  The whole one Mario game a system stuff was a fairly recent invention if you look back at Mario history, it only held true of the SNES (assuming you don’t count Yoshi’s Island), Nintendo 64 and Gamecube.  Hell, if you were bored enough and wanted a change, you could even have a successful Nintendo system with no mainstream/new Mario games at all like the Game Boy Advance.

What about the possibility of a Super Mario Bros. level editor? Would it do more harm than good to the franchise to give users that sort of power?

I’d love to see some sort of level editor.  Because it’s not that hard to make one given how every Mario game to date has had an unofficial one built by fans.  Is it really that difficult a concept to release an official equivalent to Lunar Magic or Toad’s Tool?

so we’re certainly not opposed to the concept of introducing a level editor

So it’s not entirely hopeless.

but in my mind, it’s not really about the users having power or hurting the way the franchise is viewed, but rather, whether we can see the possibility to create a really unique and fun experience with that level editor. It’s not something we’ve explored in any detail yet with the Mario universe, but as with everything, if we sense a good idea and a good possibility, it’s certainly something we’d pursue.

Yet while hope for an official level editor exists, it seems Nintendo’s staff seem to have missed one key point.  See the bolded.

No one finds a level editor fun in itself.  What is fun is playing the levels others have made and sharing your work with other people.  That’s not something that can support a whole game (hence why fairly few people bought WarioWare DIY), but it should still be an optional feature or tool you can either get for free or buy seperately.  No one who would use a level editor would give a toss whether it was fun to use in a conventional sense.

You can look at this as comparable to an art set or a writing/office program.  No one thinks paint in itself is ‘fun’ in the same way a video game is fun, but they enjoy the activity in a different way.  No one thinks using Microsoft Word in itself is an entertaining activity but they might like writing a novel  Any level editor for the Mario series would be enjoyed in the same way.

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Should a 3D Mario Platformer with Co-op be released on 3DS?

With the rise in the number of 2D platformers with a multiplayer option (New Super Mario Bros Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Kirby’s Return to Dreamland being key examples), I personally think now would be a good time to revisit this idea.

First though, here’s a quick history lesson.  You see, Nintendo have been working on trying to implement multiplayer in the 3D Mario platformers for a rather long time.  Indeed, right back in the 90s there was a plan to make a ‘Super Mario 64 2’ on the 64DD, and that was supposed to feature multiple playable characters and at least two player co-op as well.  While no real screens seemed to surface of the game (Nintendo only mentioned the features planned when confirming the game was cancelled), this was what people imagined it would work like:

This April Fool's Day joke illustrates what people imagined Mario 64 2's co-op to be

They then tried again those years later in Super Mario 64 DS (remember it was called Super Mario 64 x 4 at one point after all).  Yet alas, while we got cool screens like the one showing all four playable heroes flying around with the wing cap at once, the game itself was a strictly single player affair outside of a boring, limited multiplayer mode.

Isn't this what Mario fans once dreamed of?

But since then, Nintendo has never even tried to bring co-op into the 3D Mario games (outside the 2nd person being able to move a cursor around in the Mario Galaxy series).  However, here’s why I think a 3D Mario platformer with such a feature should be released on the 3DS at some point in the future.

1. The 3DS is the first handheld with new 3D Mario games, and it avoids camera issues

The first point being what makes such a game feasible (Super Mario 3D Land was the first ‘new’ handheld 3D Mario game after all), the second being what makes it possible.

So why is the camera such a problem usually?  Well, let me explain.  In a platformer which has co-op multiplayer, or any such game with the feature in general, you need to be able to keep all players on screen at the same time.  In a 2D game, this usually works by having the camera generally follow the player in the lead (or player 1 if such a designation exists) while sort of zooming out the camera to show everyone up to a certain point.  Then, if you’re too far away you’re either killed or warped to the group/first player.  Think of how New Super Mario Bros Wii, Super Smash Bros Brawl’s Subspace Emissary or Donkey Kong Country Returns does it.

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Flight was Planned in Super Mario 3D Land but Scrapped; Other Interesting Mechanics were to return

As you may or may not know, Nintendo have been hosting a talk about Super Mario 3D Land at the Game Developer’s Conference that’s been going on at the moment.  And while some of their remarks about the game are the standard development ‘talk’ regarding creativity and other nebulous concepts, some seem to be about features that were once planned for the game yet scrapped. Wonder why the Tanooki Suit can’t fly any more?  Read on.

Tanooki Mario returned in Super Mario 3D Land but couldn't fly.

Of course we tried letting players fly around a little bit, but we realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work out too well. Of course we tried letting players fly around a little bit, but we realized very quickly that it wasn’t going to work out too well.

He then goes on to say that it didn’t work because the levels were built like movie sets and meant to be viewed from a fixed camera angle.  Presumably the other sides of various objects and backdrops weren’t actually textured or properly modelled in game and flight let you see how disjointed the levels are.  Think of it like how TV shows only show three sides of a scene, and how having the camera able to look towards the fourth wall would show you all the studio technology and special effects used to keep the program working.  Or how you only see background scenery from one or two angles to hide the fact they’re just cardboard cut outs.

This is what he says:

as soon as the camera gets too high and goes over the set, you see the other side of the backdrop and things can get a little strange… which requires us to spend too much time managing what the player can see from any angle.

If you need an example, here’s someone moon jumping in Mario Kart Wii:

Yes it’s not quite like Mario 3D Land, but the same design principles apply.  Only the stuff closest to the level actually exists, anything behind is just floating in water or a black void.  Like this:

Hey, my house is just a cardboard cut out!

Presumably that’s what your average Mario 3D Land level looks like from ‘behind the scenes’. If you had the player able to fly, this just becomes blatantly obvious.  And hence so instead of making sure the game world made sense when seen from every possible angle, they removed the flight ability from the Tanooki Suit.

There was always a discussion of whether or not flight was necessary from a game design perspective.

Now, they don’t expand on this point, but I think what they mean is that the game wasn’t designed to allow you to fly about at random.  So to have flight in, they’d need to:

  1. Design areas where flight is actually a useful ability for more than just breaking the level.
  2. Figure out how to use both a fixed camera AND free roam flying without the character being impossible to see/control.  That’s difficult.  Ever tried breaking Luigi’s Mansion or Wario World?  Now imagine if you could fly in them and how much hell that’d be to set up. You’d basically go cross eyed every time the camera changed angle in mid flight.
  3. Trying to stop people going outside the playing field in a realistic way.  Invisible walls look ridiculous and make no logical sense and instant kill out of bounds mechanics and border patrol enemies annoy more than they help.  This is one big advantage of 2D in some games, you can just make the screen not scroll when people go away from the intended route and people won’t question it.  In a 3D world though, everyone expects to go an infinite distance in any one direction until some physical object gets in the way, and the opportunities for flight breaking it increase significantly.
  4. Avoiding people just flying over the whole level.  See, Super Mario World.  Sure, you can stop people going out of bounds, but that doesn’t fix the fundamental issue that the world has infinite height and that flying lets people just glide straight over all the enemies and obstacles that keep the levels at any reasonable difficulty level.
  5. Beta testing and bug fixing all the above.  You do not want people half clipping through walls and getting instant killed by going out of bounds for just making a small mistake.  It’s extremely hard to properly beta test a game with free roam flight.
Mario's corpse flies freely through the air

Above is one type of problem they could have run into with flight in Super Mario 3D Land.  Then again, without a health bar, you’d probably have invisible flying dead Mario.

in Mario Galaxy Mario could fly, but that was connected to a certain objective in game play — you had to fly around and collect 100 purple coins. In Super Mario 3D Land, the main objective of the stages is to reach the end, the flag pole. We have to think about what kind of gameplay works with that objective and creates a fun experience.”

They pretty much mirror my points above here. Also, they mention how flight tends to work best in games designed around it, and usually games where a fair amount of exploration is encouraged rather than the linear gameplay of Super Mario 3D Land.

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