Nintendo Articles

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

My thoughts on… Replay Value.

Well, it’s clear that everyone loves replay value. When we finish the main story of a game we revisit our favourite parts of the game, looking for secrets that we missed the first time. Or, seperate modes which encourage us to power that game up one more time. These are largely enjoyable, for the most part.

But to what extent should replay value go??
In my opinion, Nintendo has flirted with the idea of replay value in recent games. My 3 examples are Super Mario Galaxy 2 (SMG2), The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (SS) and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (HBP) . Now, how exactly did these implement replay value?? Well, SMG2 had it’s Comet Medals and Green stars. These forced you to revisit EVERY SINGLE LEVEL in order to 100% the game. Replay value gone too far? I think so. As brilliant as the game was, I had no desire to revisit the less enjoyable galaxies (Shiverburn holding particularly bad memories) and this prevented me from 100% the game. Now, in my opinion, this feature should have been toned down slightly, or been completely re-invented like Super Mario 3D Land. Not make me do the same galaxies all over again to finish the game. So, this game could have done with less emphasis on re-playing levels.
SS had, in my opinion, a similair problem, but it was unavoidable. Replay value here was provided by Boss Rush and Hero Mode. Now, the Boss Rush is enjoyable and is a perfect example of how replay value should be implemented. It provided a series of quick challenges, that were unessential for the story, but gave a great sense of achievement. This is replay value at it’s best. Sadly, Hero Mode suffers from the same problem as SMG2. You’re forced to play through the whole story, with enemies dealing twice the damage and no hearts lying around. The whole story. Including the iffy bits like the Silent Realms. This again, I would see as replay value taken to the extreme. Being forced to replay the entire game with minor changes may not appeal to everyone…
And finally, onto the HBP. I put this here purely to demonstrate a mediocre replay value system. Once you finish the game you’re placed in a mode called Endless Day, where you can roam as you wish. You collect Mini-crests and Crests to unlock characters and places in multi-player duelling (which, if you bought the movie, were all unlocked anyway). This gets boring after… ooh, half an hour. Multi-player duelling is what gives it it’s longevity, and even that isn’t a perfect.

So, in summary, SMG2 stretched the concept of replay value to it’s maximum, almost ruining the concept. SS hit it on the head in the Boss Rush, but lost it’s way a bit with Hero Mode. And HBP… Well, let’s leave that on the Pre-owned shelf, eh?
Thanks for reading.

Mario Kart; My Thoughts on the series so far

Surprisingly, I don’t just go considering Mario Kart 7 the best in the series because it’s a 3DS game.  But out of all the games in the series of which I’ve tried (aka, not Super Mario Kart) or that could be written about in comparison to other games (not Super Mario Kart because it was what all these games had to live up to), here are what I think of each one.

 Mario Kart 64

Admittedly I didn’t really play this game all too much considering that I rarely bought video games at all in the Nintendo 64 era and merely rented it a few times, but I do have to say the tracks weren’t exactly the greatest.

That’s not because they were particularly badly designed (they obviously weren’t), but because they just dragged on for far too long.  Yes Nintendo 64 games had to tone down background detail in multiplayer games to keep the frame rate at a management level (see, F-Zero X), but it seems your average Mario Kart 64 track just went on for about twice as long as it needed to.  Look at Kalimari Desert and tell me that level needed to be as long as it was.  Same with Banshee Boardwalk and Bowser’s Castle.  That’s not even getting into the hell that was Rainbow Road…

Above: Two minutes a lap is probably overkill if you ask me.  It meant people had to use the shortcut/glitch to even be able to save their course ghost/best time.

To add the fact that this was an early Nintendo 64 game and the areas weren’t as interesting as those in Rare’s works like Banjo Tooie and Donkey Kong 64, and it meant the tracks seemed to drag on way too much and without a whole lot happening to make them interesting.

The rubber band AI was over the top as well, and could literally catch your character in seconds even with an enormous lead.  Was this since toned down in future games?  Hard to tell, but it was certainly more noticeable back here because of the lack of overpowered items.

Mario Kart 64, good but generally a bit dated in this day and age.

Mario Kart Super Circuit

Terrible physics made this game nowhere near as good as it should have been.

Which was a bit of a pity considering how many fantastic ideas for tracks the game had and how much work was put into making it feel like a proper Mario Kart game (it had more content than most games before or since).  You had the entire track list of Super Mario Kart to unlock once you beat the new ones. That’s a nice freebie.  And some of the tracks looked pretty nice:

But the physics of the game just held it back drastically.  Mini Turbos did absolutely nothing of value whatsoever, you didn’t so much steer as do a 90 degree turn or random slide in the general direction you held on the D Pad and gravity was so low that using a Mushroom off a ramp shot you about twenty feet into the air.  Not joking on the last one, the best runs on Ribbon Road and the game’s version of Rainbow Road seem to come down to skipping half the track:

Above: Shortcuts in Mario Kart Super Circuit were easier than ever.  Then again, the game was just flawed in general:

Above: Blink and get last place was the standard in the Japanese version…

It was nice of them to include all the tracks from the original SNES version of Mario Kart though.  Pity they removed all the obstacles from the tracks (and you thought making the Koopa Cape pipe underwater was a stupid change).  Not to mention these nightmare controls meant that the tight turns required to do well in some retro tracks were practically impossible to pull off consistently without slamming straight into the nearest wall.

Above: No Thwomps + poor physics equals a let down

Not to mention the coin system in this game was the harshest it’s ever been and causes you to spin out on any contact with an opponent if you don’t have any coins.  Did I mention you needed to get some insanely high number of coins to get triple star ranks in all the cups and that your only reward for it was the sky on the title screen changing colour?

Yeah, Mario Kart Super Circuit was sort of fun with a difficulty brick wall that took away much of the game’s accessibility.

Mario Kart Double Dash

Probably one of the more party game like instalments of the series, this was very much meant for local multiplayer and people who didn’t care too much about playing it seriously.  Kind of like a proto Mario kart Wii in some respects.

You can see this with a lot of the new additions to the game.  The two players per kart and carrying two items at once for instance helps to make the item system really over the top and rather random, the addition of the winged Spiny Shell serves simply to screw up first place and absolutely no one else while the new items are generally designed to be a bit on the chaotic side.  Just look at those Bowser Shells and Giant Bananas and you know exactly what I mean.

Above: The Mario Kart Wii equivalent of its day.

The tracks also seemed to be designed to accommodate casual play, with generally wide paths and gentle turns that seem to be more designed for a party setting than hardcore Mario Kart players (of course, Wario Coliseum, Bowser’s Castle and Rainbow Road seem to be exceptions here but the others tend to be quite easy)

As for how well the two players in a kart works, fairly well.  It’s actually rather fun if you can find someone bored enough they’re willing to play co-op with you and take on the Grand Prix mode as a team and I hear it makes dodging Blue Shells much easier.  Plus you can steal items, which is nice.

The game does have a bit of a problem with content though, in that there isn’t enough of it.  One player vs. mode and one player battle mode don’t exist, wifi obviously hasn’t been implemented as this point in the series (outside of some unofficial hacks utilising the LAN system) and there’s practically no variety in tracks with only sixteen total.  That’s the least in the series.

Some of this I guess is made up for by the interesting level themes; Daisy Cruiser and Dino Dino Jungle being rather unique levels that you wouldn’t find before or again.  But it still doesn’t quite make up for the fact you have literally zero freedom in this game. Every track has fifty foot high invisible walls bordering it on every sides or counts you as out of bounds if you go even a foot past the boundary line, and the tracks seem to have been designed to stop you finding anything out for yourself.  Even cutting corners is fairly difficult considering how few places give you a chance to do so and the game couldn’t have possibly been more obvious with the intended side routes if it tried.  Guess you could say it worked though, only two shortcuts have ever been found since the game’s release back in the Gamecube days:

Above: Who ever thought a Blue Shell could actually help someone?

Interesting that Mario Kart 7 beat the game’s record within a week of its release, right?  None the less, perhaps they went a bit overboard considering how linear the tracks ended up being.

I also hear the controls weren’t too great and the kart physics a bit off, but that doesn’t match up with my experience of the game at all.

All in all, Mario Kart Double Dash was an interesting addition to the series, although its party game like nature meant reaction to it was mixed to say the least.

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Could a back to basics ‘New Legend of Zelda’ really work?

In the way New Super Mario Bros seemed to revitalise the Mario series again and sell millions of copies on a dime?  While some individuals such as Sean Malstrom argue such a game would be successful in this day and age, and there have been some argue such a game would fix the problems found in the Zelda series as stated in that controversial Kotaku article, I’m not so sure.  Here’s why:

1. Action Adventure Games have moved on drastically, platformers haven’t

This is probably the key issue here.  While platformers like Mario have stayed pretty much the same the last ten or so years, 2D ones even more so, action adventure games really haven’t.  Keep in mind for instance that New Super Mario Bros, for all the lack of effort Nintendo supposedly put into it, is pretty much up to the current level of quality expected from a game in that genre. People still like and hence still buy 2D platformers.

But that’s not really the same for action adventures.  When the hell was the last successful 2D one?  For good examples of an action adventure title now, people look to Zelda, or The Elder Scrolls or such like, 3D games with vast worlds and almost insanely huge amounts of content.  They don’t seem to have that great an interest in those old games with top down views, no real story and no map.

And releasing such a Zelda game now would be an extremely risky proposition to boot, there’s no indication past Zelda games sold that many more copies than recent ones and the game would literally be the only (at least, only retail) game in its genre on the market.  No one knows how well the game would do, and I honestly don’t think it’d convince many people used to stuff like Skyrim.

Not to mention some of the types of design decisions found in the older Zelda games would be received extremely poorly in this day and age, like randomly having to bomb walls and burn bushes to find secrets and even the actual dungeons you need to explore to advance the plot, or the fake walls, or just how arbitary and confusing most of the ways you need to advance are.

To make this even worse, most recent attempts to bring back the style but tone down the confusing crap you need to figure out haven’t really done too well, Four Swords Adventures is the current worst selling game in the entire Zelda series, and even the Minish Cap didn’t do that well sales wise.  So for starters, it seems like demand for such a game might not be too high and the odds are against it doing well.

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Space allowed for eShop games is 2GB; What are they using it for?

Yes, far from the paltry 40MB WiiWare allowed developers for submissions, the amount of space a single 3DS eShop game can use is 2GB.  But one question has always bugged me about these space limits… what the hell do game developers need them for?

I mean, 2GB is literally enough space for an entire 3DS retail game to be made available on the eShop.  And as much as this could be a good idea in future (can you imagine how many people would buy the 3DS if you could literally get Mario Kart 7 as a download game for about ten dollars?), why not release any game that size as an actual retail one?

Like, sell it in proper shops already.  It obvious has enough content and work put into it that people might actually pay full price for it, don’t you think?

As for those games which are meant for quick downloads or to be retraux (aka, to mimic the style of a NES or SNES generation title to capitalise on nostalgia, like many indie games now), they really don’t need more than a few hundred MB.  Seriously, have people seen the average size of an eight or sixteen bit video game?  Super Mario Bros 1 is less than a single MB, your average SNES game is about four MB and heck, apparently you could fit a whole Wii game in if the size allowed for an eShop title was just doubled.  It just makes me think that if you can’t fit a game in the given file space allowed for these services that its probably poorly programmed or wasteful to the nth degree.

Also of interest, the amount of space on the default 3DS SD card is only 2GB, so any massive eShop game would pretty much require a new card.  Not that it’d be expensive to buy one, but it seems more trouble than its worth for just a single downloadable title.

Still, I guess if it makes the games that are available on the eShop better than the mediocre selection found on WiiWare its worth it, don’t you think?

What the Legend of Zelda really needs to be more successful

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.

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