Our exclusive editorials about the 3DS and its games, as well as Nintendo as a whole.
With Skyward Sword only selling about 3 million copies and the recent slew of internet articles about how Zelda is going downhill, it seems like an increasing amount of people want the series to go back to like how it was in the NES days. But that’s a mistake. What worked then doesn’t work now, and the sales figures for the individual games in the series has honestly given me a much better idea about how the Legend of Zelda franchise could be popular once more.
1. Style should be realistic
This doesn’t mean I hate the toon style of The Wind Waker or the hybrid style of Skyward Sword, but just that sales wise a realistic style makes much more sense. Those games with it sell greatly (Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess are top of the overall worldwide sales lists for the series), those without sell worse.
Personally, I think this comes down to a few things. The more realistic, gritty style is more popular in the west in general (note how the best selling fantasy games/RPGs/action adventures are those with such an art style), it tends to cause an explosion of hype online which gets the Zelda fan community interested (note how much more popular the trailers for Twilight Princess were compared to Skyward Sword) and it generally brings back memories of Ocarina of Time.
Keep in mind that this was probably the most well received game trailers ever released for the series:
Just hear that crowd when the game was announced. People were jumping from their seats and the internet hype train was about to explode with excitement. There’s just something about a more realistic or just darker style which interests people, and Nintendo should just accept that by now.
Oh, and Nintendo, if you’re doing this to attempt to make the series popular in Japan. Don’t bother. People outside of Japan don’t generally like ‘cute’ for a franchise like this one, and as much as I hate to say it, America is basically the biggest market for the series. It’s not that popular in Japan, and honestly, various trends over there have made it irrelevant. Don’t bother.
2. This type of game should be the very next game after Skyward Sword
In release order, obviously. That way, you don’t accidentally further kill off the series by releasing what turns out to be a poorly selling game straight after a previous one. People don’t like to be sold multiple games they don’t like in a row, and ignoring this and trying to be creative as often ended as many series as you can count. By Nintendo not considering this in the past, they literally killed off Donkey Kong’s sales for about two generations in a row (every game from 64 to Returns bar the ports has failed at retail). Not to mention the Wario series, which went from World to Master of Disguise to Shake Dimension and has literally lost more than half its audience.
Don’t rush out games either, that pretty much killed half the series Activision owned.
But yes, you want a massively high selling Zelda game out on either 3DS or Wii U in a few years time. And it really needs to win back the crowd.
3. Have a decent overworld
Ocarina was closest, but the games from Wind Waker onwards have all failed in this regard in some way or another. Wind Waker had a mainly empty ocean (yes I know there were technically islands in each square, it’s just that about half only had either reefs or rocky stacks with nothing to really do), Twilight Princess had too little content for a vast world and the sky in Skyward Sword seems empty and overall quite dull. Oh, and let’s not even mention Spirit Tracks…
For this game, there should be no gimmicks. That’s not to say sailing or flight couldn’t be used to expand the world a bit and as additional extras you can unlock later in the game, but the basic world should be entirely interconnected, filled with content and geographically varied in the same way a real country is.
There should be multiple towns and villages. Sure there’d be a castle town/market with side quests, shops, Hyrule Castle and other such things, but there’d also be a Kakariko Village type area or three with their own assortment of things to do and their own unique characters.
And the sky and sea wouldn’t be empty, nor as large as in Skyward Sword. When you find a boat you get to explore a few islands with their own dungeons and side quests. Maybe even a town on some remote island. When you learn some method of flight, you then get to explore the sky and higher mountains with their own secrets and perhaps more towns, mini games and dungeons to explore. An ideal overworld should tastefully mix in the transport mechanics from the past few games but actually have enough content that no one ‘realm’ is boring to traverse.
Enemies should play a bigger part in making the world interesting as well. Pirates would roam the seas, Bokoblin and Moblin troops march across the plains and through the forests and Guays and flying monsters would attack anyone in mid flight. For a more interesting experience, the types of enemies you face on the overworld would change as you progress through the story, with the early game having weaker ones and later game having the villain’s tougher troops sent out to take down Link. Perhaps bring back the system from Ocarina where clearing out a region would get rid of the monsters there for good too.
Similarly, night would also change the creatures you found wandering about. Remember how at night in OoT you had Stalchildren come out the ground and attack when in the past? Well similar to that, the overworld should have monsters like Stalfos and maybe Redeads and such like attack at night in larger numbers and have even the towns filled with the forces of evil when the sun goes down. Have it so the shops and houses (bar maybe Link’s own) are locked/bolted shut at night and you’ve made the world so much more interesting. Can you survive the night with no NPCs, Ganon’s (or whoever the bad guy is) soldiers roaming Hyrule looking for Link and random monsters trying to ambush you even in the middle of Castle Town or Kakariko Village?
Optional things like side quests could be improved too. Why not have whole bonus dungeons with bonus bosses like in RPGs? You know, with really nice rewards found for beating them like a double magic meter or greater strength or an infinity plus one sword? That’d then let Nintendo provide a dangerous gauntlet filled with tough monsters for those that can handle it while letting those that can’t have a game they can still finish.
Secrets should also be packed into every corner. Every rock, island and floating landmass should have at least some rupees or a significant bonus gauntlet to find, a cave of ordeals like location should exit and fishing should return as well.
Bringing back the day and night system would be good too, with the change that it should only stop when in dungeons. That way, people can’t play chicken and just stay in their friendly village for hours on end (admit it, a lot of people who played Ocarina or Wind Waker did this, didn’t they?) and those that did would find themselves surrounded by enemies very quickly. Have it so side quests can only be undertaken at certain times of the day like in Majora’s Mask and the world would be so much better and more life like in general.
Oh, and more variety in areas. Why were there only three provinces in Skyward Sword anyway? I mean, it was nice how you had to return to each one twice and how each had at least two dungeons in them, but a truly great Zelda game needs about 15 or 20 seperate areas with that amount of content in each.
Because let’s face it, Nintendo’s never been a company that’s been very good at balance in competitive games, and Mario Kart, Smash Bros and Pokemon have ended up so broken as to be nearly ridiculous. And with Kid Icarus Uprising seemingly aiming to be a Super Smash Bros level free for all fighting/shooting/online multiplayer focused game, I have to wonder how it’s going to avoid these two problems:
1. One weapon/item/character being so overpowered as to be near enough impossible to counter
With the hundreds of the possible weapon combinations due to being able to unlock different types, plus the many ways you can fuse them, I have to wonder how Nintendo plans to make sure no one combination is overpowered to the point of making all others redundant.
Pokemon fell straight into this problem (see Garchomp in Diamond and Peal, Wobbuffet in earlier gens and dream world abilities in Black and White), and Super Smash Bros Brawl’s tier list is well known (and what do you know, Meta Knight turned out to be so good he ended up in his own tier and banned from some tournaments).
I just really worry that we’ll see someone find some ‘best’ combination of weapons to fuse together and end up with everyone using the same stuff, limiting the variety of the game. Like how in Mario Kart Wii, it ended up being more like ‘Funky Bowser Bike Wii’ given how little variety there was online.
2. The game falling prey to tons of glitches due to all the weird things the items can do
Anyone who’s played Mario Kart online or ever checked out Metroid Prime Hunters should know exactly what I mean by this. Complicated games with a ton of content and game mechanics are practically impossible to thoroughly playtest prior to the game’s release, and all the titles mentioned have near enough been rendered unplayable due to glitch abuse.
Remember how a lot of hype has made about the AR cards you can get for Kid Icarus Uprising to have the game’s characters battle each other on your desk through augumented reality? Or how supposedly, you’re supposed to get these cards through purchases or events?
Well, Nintendo has come up with a rather novel way of distributing them in Europe. And by novel, I mean a way that’s pretty much annoying as hell.
You get 6 free with the game. If you pre order it, you get another 24. But if you want more?
You’ll also be able to get hold of exclusive Kid Icarus AR Cards through Club Nintendo. For 250 Stars you’ll be able to get 2 packs containing 6 AR cards each. Some packs will also include extremely rare cards.
1. Nintendo’s Games are only available on Nintendo
In my opinion, the number one big problem with all arguments about Nintendo being doomed or made obsolete, and the biggest advantage Nintendo has on its competitors is that Nintendo makes both its own hardware and its own software.
Sure, Microsoft and Sony have some first party series, and Microsoft owns Rare (who’s gone downhill recently and been relegated to making avatar starring games for the Kinect). But by and large, all their best sellers are from third parties. If Activision says Call of Duty isn’t coming to the Xbox 720 or Rockstar says Grand Theft Auto isn’t coming to the PS4, those consoles are pretty much in trouble.
And that’s the difference which explains why Sony and Microsoft might be in trouble of being disrupted by tablets and cheap downloadable games, but Nintendo aren’t’. Those big third party titles can very easily be moved to the app store if the publisher for them wants them to be, and neither Microsoft or Sony, short of giving the company millions to get the game as an exclusive, can do nothing about it. And believe you me it’ll happen eventually, since these cheap games are what the big game publisher’s business minds think are the next big thing, the replacement to video game consoles.
But this won’t affect Nintendo. Nintendo can simply not release Mario, or Zelda, or Pokemon or whatever else they make on the app store, and people have no choice but to buy their consoles to play them. Sure they’ll maybe annoy a few investors and be seen as crazy by the business community, but that’s Nintendo’s major advantage. Look ahead at the 3DS games and all the good titles we’re getting that can be found NOWHERE else:
- New 2D Mario title
- Kid Icarus Uprising
- Super Smash Bros
- Luigi’s Mansion 2
- Paper Mario
- Animal Crossing
- Fire Emblem
- Mario Tennis
- And most likely, Pokemon
You want those games, you’ll need to own a 3DS. No ifs or buts. And in a world where every new Mario game sells over 10 million copies and Pokemon breaks video game sales records in two days, that’s one advantage Nintendo won’t be losing any time soon.
2. Some games only work well on proper consoles
Have you ever tried to play a game on a device with only a touch screen? It’s not an optimal solution for a control scheme, and many, many genres just simply do not work with it. Here are some genres where this is the case:
Okay, maybe comparing Mario Kart to its pirated equivalent Mole Kart isn’t fair. But considering the games are pretty much the exact same thing bar a few barely edited graphics and some extremely shoddy physics in the latter, it’s a good illustration of how touch screen controls really don’t work with racing games:
Look at it here:
First thing you’ll notice is that the guy who’s playing has to move his thumb on some kind of impromptu D Pad to the bottom left. Which for starters, completely blocks out a fair amount of the screen and leaves you open to any opponents or items that might happen to be coming from the bottom left of the track. There’s a good reason most DS games which used touch controls didn’t make you view the game world on the touch screen, and that’s because it drastically hampers your ability to see what’s going on.
You’ve also got the issue that without buttons, game designers have to add their own home made controls to the touch screen. Try using them, and that’s just almost unnatural, to have to reach random parts of the screen and tap them to use various abilities in the middle of a race. Basically, it’s much easier and more much intuitive to press a button. Sure you can theoretically do a lot of fancy stuff with only a touch screen, but it just seems like to do so is basically trying to use WarioWare style microgame controls for a retail title.
True, there’s already been a post devoted to my wishlist for New Super Mario Bros 3DS. But as anyone who read it should have figured out, the list was very much a best case scenario, what the game would have if by some miracle Nintendo gave us the perfect 2D Mario game.
Unfortunately, Nintendo isn’t a perfect company, and the New Super Mario Bros games were certainly not perfect games, having shown signs of less effort being invested in them than the 3D ones and with some questionable design decisions (more so in the DS original than the Wii one).
So here’s a realistic list of things I think Nintendo will have in the next 2D Mario game. And by realistic, I mean that if this list turns out to be completely wrong I will be shocked.
1. It will be a New Super Mario Bros game
Because the last two 2D Mario platformers have been New Super Mario Bros games, and it seems Nintendo is desperate to keep using the brand for everything and anything (note how the visual stylings and general theme of these games is now running through the 3D games, Mario Kart and even Paper Mario). I assume Nintendo will do the same for the upcoming 2D game. Maybe they’ll call it New Super Mario World, maybe not, but I fully expect them to keep using the brand simply because of customer confidence and brand recognition.
2. A Super Mario World theme will run throughout and Reznor will return
Look at past history a few minutes, there’s gradually been more and more ‘retro’ elements reintroduced as the series has moved on, whether in the 2D games or the 3D ones. New Super Mario Bros introduced flagpoles and the general 2D concept, Super Mario Galaxy airships and Magikoopas. New Super Mario Bros Wii brought back the Koopalings and Yoshi, Super Mario Galaxy 2 Hammer Bros and Super Mario 3D Land Boom Boom.
The general pattern is that near enough every single 2D Mario platformer element that fans have wanted have made a return, so by process of elimination only Reznor, Chargin’ Chuck and Fishin’ Boo are really left as far as enemies go.
Not that these are the only things they could bring back. The Hammer Suit, the Cape and the P Balloon are also left, and given the general pattern of bringing back one classic power up per Mario game, I think one of those seems likely to be in this game as well. Probably either the Cape or Hammer Suit really, they’re much better things to use to advertise than the P Balloon with its memories of the dreaded Tubular.
Although… is this a good thing? I’m not sure. Reznor would make a nice boss for a few fortresses or maybe a single castle, but given Nintendo’s tendencies of cramming the new ‘boss character’ of the moment in nigh on every single level with a boss in it, do we really want to fight Reznor seven times?
The Super Mario World theme in general seems to be another given, since they’ve practically beaten the Super Mario Bros 3 horse to death by now, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before Nintendo ever thinks to revisit Super Mario Bros 2 or the Lost Levels.