Aqua Blue 3DS being discontinued?

Seems like this is so, at least in Japan.  Yes, Nintendo have confirmed that they’re not making any more of this 3DS colour for the Japanese market (presumably because they want to replace the old style with the new models that have been steadily released since).

Scheduled to end production shortly

Thankfully this shouldn’t affect anyone in the US or Europe where this colour of 3DS console is still being made (and where Nintendo have no plans to cease production of it), but it’s interesting to note that they’re shutting down production of a certain hardware design regardless.

So yes, if you want an Aqua Blue 3DS and you live in Japan, you’d better buy one quick.

How come it takes so long for eShop games to be released?

Nintendo really needs to admit that their download services are honestly far too slow to update (especially compared to the likes of the app store or other such services).

For example, why does it seem to take three whole months (or even more) for a virtual console game to be released outside of Japan? I mean, I understand that it some cases there might be legal issues to sort out, but these are games which are already available on the exact same service in other regions.  It’s not like Nintendo has much rights negotiating left to do with Capcom or Sega or Konami or the like at that point, the companies willingly submitted said game to the service.

But even stranger is when this happens with Nintendo owned/published/developed games.  Look at Kirby’s Block Ball for example.  It has taken six months for just this one game to be released in all regions.  Six months to release a game which Nintendo themselves likely owns all rights to, on a platform they themselves run.

Even if you assume it’s got something to do with HAL or whoever owns the Kirby series, surely you’d think the next game mentioned should be out in all regions by now, right?  That game?  Wario Land Super Mario Land 3.  It’s been developed by Nintendo Research and Development 1, published by Nintendo and is pretty much 100% Nintendo’s own property.  So why is it still not out on eShop in the US?

Maybe it’s because of age ratings and what not, that whole ESRB/PEGI thing.  But why even bother to rerate it?  The game’s already been given a perfectly reasonable age rating ten or twenty years ago, and the content’s hardly going to be changed much since then for an identical port.  If 3D’s added, just up any 3+ ratings to 7+ ones because of the whole 3D and bad for your eyes thing.

More to the point, these ratings are practically meaningless anyway.  In the US there’s no legislation saying a game needs to be rated, it’s only recommended because many shops won’t sell them otherwise. The 3DS eShop doesn’t need any support from brick and mortar retailers due to being an online service, so in theory Nintendo could just release games straight to it with their own in house parental guidelines and not have anything to worry about.

As for the UK, while PEGI ratings are supposedly legally mandated, there are a few interesting get out clauses for Nintendo.  From videostandards.org.uk:

What is Not Covered by the Act?

Video games are also exempt but it should be remembered that if the software product is not a game in the first place it cannot claim exemption unless it is designed to inform, educate or instruct or is concerned with sport, religion or music.

From another site on law:

 it is not an offence to sell a PEGI rated game to someone under the age rating.

And from the European Government’s ‘Video Recordings (Labelling) Regulations 2012 ‘:

The new requirements for labelling of video games will only apply to those games that are suitable for persons aged 12 years and over.

In practical terms, unless a game would be rated 12+ or above under the PEGI system, it doesn’t need to be rated.  Nintendo hence wouldn’t theoretically need to do anything about these series, and could probably just skip the whole thing for them:

  • Mario series (nearly never has a Mario game got above a 3+ rating)
  • Donkey Kong (all games bar Jungle Beat have a 3+ rating)
  • Wario (all Wario games get either 3+ or 7+.  Wario Land 4 got the former, Shake Dimension the latter)
  • Kirby (almost all games get 3+ rating, one or two get 7+ rating)
  • Pokemon
  • Mega Man
  • Tetris
  • Sonic the Hedgehog

You could probably add all 2D Zelda games to the list as well, they tend to get just 7+/E ratings.  For point of interest, here’s what all the ambassador games got:

  1. Super Mario Bros (3+)
  2. Wario Land 4 (3+)
  3. Mario Kart Super Circut (3+)
  4. Mario vs Donkey Kong (3+)
  5. Metroid Fusion (7+)
  6. Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3 (3+)
  7. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror (3+)
  8. F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (3+)
  9. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (7+)
  10. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (7+)
  11. Donkey Kong Jr (3+)
  12. WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ (7+)
  13. Balloon Fight (3+)
  14. The Legend of Zelda (7+)
  15. Ice Climber (3+)
  16. Wrecking Crew (3+)
  17. Metroid (7+)
  18. Zelda II (7+)
  19. NES Open Tournament Golf (3+)
  20. Yoshi (3+)

Pretty much all of them are suitable for all persons, hence wouldn’t have needed rating.  I’d say in theory most virtual console games on the 3DS eShop so far are the same way.

So I think that counts out age ratings as much of a factor for this, right?

I don’t think it’s due to difficulty of porting the games over either.  Some maybe (I hear Yoshi’s Island for the SNES and some other Super FX/mode 7 using games have problems), but most are probably as easy to add as running the game on an included/built in emulator.

With all that then said, why exactly does it take so long to release a virtual console game (like the ones on the 3DS eShop) in all regions?  Why can’t Nintendo just release them in all regions simultaneously and make piracy a much less attractive option than it arguably is at the moment (admit it, if games were easily available at the same time in all regions, the amount of copies stolen would be much, much less since it’d be more conveniant to buy it on eShop/Virtual Console than use an emulator).

Kirby Games Heading to eShop Soon

One in Europe, one in North America too.

Over in the US, you’ll be getting Kirby’s Block Ball on May 17th 2012.  It’s a bit late compared to in every other country (Europe got it in February, and Japan got it LAST YEAR), but I suppose it’s better late than never.

Meanwhile Europe is getting Kirby’s Dream Land 2 on May 17th.  Again it’s pretty late compared to when the game was released in Japan (did we really need a three month gap between the release of a virtual game in different regions?) but it’s a good game none the less and one that’s much needed on the Virtual Console.

Here are some screenshots of it:

The game that introduced the villain Dark Matter too I think, the same enemy that ended up being the villain in the third Dream Land game and Zero in Kirby 64.

If you like the Kirby series and want to buy a nice new game from the series this May, buy Kirby’s Block Ball or Kirby’s Dream Land 2 when they come out!

Is New Super Mario Bros 2 Simple for a Reason?

People have been criticising New Super Mario Bros 2 for being too similar to the last few games and not being particularly innovative.  To some extent they’re probably right.  However, are people missing the real reasons that Nintendo has decided to make New Super Mario Bros 2 fairly plain and not overly different from the last installments?  Because while laziness may be one reason, I don’t think it’s the only one.

1. ‘Original’ art styles don’t often sell

This is not going to be a popular judgement to make, but look at it objectively from a sales perspective.

‘Arty’ games and original styles don’t tend to help games sell very well, while simple/boring realistic ones do.  What types of games have sold really well in recent history?  Either fairly simple looking ones like New Super Mario Bros and Wii Sports or overly realistic attempting ones like Call of Duty and Skyrim.

Meanwhile, what games haven’t sold as well recently?  Original looking games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Okami, Rayman Origins, etc.

Fact of the matter is, average joes seem slightly put off by attempts at ‘creative’ art styles.  Maybe it’s like the animation is for kids ghetto that seems fairly common, or maybe it’s the overly stupid attempts at being ‘cool’ made by young kids nowadays, but there’s been a pretty long history of fancy/artistic looking games being ignored by the mainstream in favour of more… mass market works.

And Nintendo wants to sell to that kind of gamer, the one who made New Super Mario Bros and New Super Mario Bros Wii a blockbuster success with about 20 million copies sold, compared to the likes of Kirby’s Epic Yarn (which sold only about 2 million copies)

Because of this maybe they think making the art style better would cause the game to sell less?

2. Tile based, simple graphic styles can often make a game mechanically better

Hard to explain what I mean here, but basically video game physics work by assuming any object is made of boxes/cubes/basic shapes, right?  If you touch the edge of the box, you interact with the object.  If any decoration is outside the solid part of the object, it basically doesn’t do anything.

Think of it like how older games used 8 x 8, 16 x 16 or 24 x 24 pixel interaction, and made tilesets with each tile being that same size.  I’m pretty sure that’s roughly how the New Super Mario Bros games work physics wise.

What’s this got to do with simple art styles you may be wondering, correct?

Well look at this example here:

This is an example tile from New Super Mario Bros Wii (thanks to Mario Fan Games Galaxy for this).  As you can see, you can figure out exactly where Mario’s interaction with this tile starts and ends by merely looking at it.   This makes it very useful to line up your jumps properly.

On the other hand, here’s a Super Princess Peach level tile:

It looks more fancy, yes.  However interaction wise it’s questionable.  If the game uses 8 x 8 pixel tile interaction, anything to the left of the green line would theoretically be thin air.  If it uses 16 x 16 pixel tile interaction, anything to the left of the red line would act as thin air.  This means if you used an engine similar to Super Mario Bros 3 or Super Mario World with these graphics, it would be pretty possible to either end up standing on thin air or falling straight through the floor to an unfair death. Simple tiles make it easier to judge jumps, and from a programming perspective make sure players don’t end up having Mario and co fall through what appear to be solid tiles or standing on nothing.

3. It’s easier to use simple, tile based graphics

Considering New Super Mario Bros 2 has presumably been made in record time and is due out this year, this rather important.  You see, the likes of New Super Mario Bros’ graphics are easy to assemble, meaning that your average level designer will get to spent more time actually designing the level than merely slotting together a few hundred random tiles into an aethestically pleasing way.

Which of these looks more fun to make jigsaw puzzle style?  The simple style of New Super Mario Bros, or Super Mario Bros 1-3, or Super Mario World:

Or the insanely complex graphics of Donkey Kong Country?

Donkey Kong Country has fantastic graphics and is a great game, but it was probably more difficult to build levels in that style than the simple one used in New Super Mario Bros.  Simple graphics make levels easier to build for the game’s designers.

However…

This doesn’t really mean New Super Mario Bros 2 shouldn’t be a more ambitious game than it seems to be.  Indeed, even the whole ‘coming out this year’ thing can’t really be used as a defence of them keeping the same art style as the last few games, since Donkey Kong Country 2 itself came out just a year after the first game and was different in just about every way possible. So a great game that’s completely unlike the first one is very much possible to achieve in only a year or less.

Just keep in mind that Nintendo do have actual reasons for making New Super Mario Bros 2 look the way it does and seemingly be similar to the earlier games in the sub series.  They’re not just doing it out of spite or because they’re untalented or lazy or whatever else you may wish to call them.

Nintendo announces what glitches are being fixed in Mario Kart 7

Yeah, there’s a notice here about it:

http://mariokart7.nintendo.com/announcement/

Apparently Wuhu Mountain Loop, Wuhu Island Loop and Bowser Castle 1 are being fixed and the shortcuts patched out of them.  Glad to see they’ve realised more than just Maka Wuhu have game breaking bugs, don’t you agree?

So to recap, these three will be fixed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnv62Yk_moc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJ-xQ0_HPQk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwindhtGeeY

However, there’s still a minor issue, namely that these two won’t be fixed (the shortcuts in Koopa Cape and DK Jungle):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj2kzx5Gtaw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9wPBUpAtqc

Now DK Jungle’s glitch I see basically being useless online given how it’s right near the end of the track, but I do fear that if someone can consistently pull off the Koopa Cape one, it could easily be the next major exploit.  That’d be terrible really, considering how ridiculously imprecise and how annoyingly hard the glitch is to get working.

Also interestingly, it says in online multiplayer these glitches will be eliminated, not offline.  So presumably you can still use them in time trials or gp mode, just not against other players?

Still, it’s better than I thought it’d be, since Nintendo is at least removing three major glitches rather than just the most well known one.  This way we at least won’t end up with Wuhu Island Loop or Bowser Castle 1 spammed online in place on Wuhu Mountain Loop, right?

Congrats to Nintendo on fixing these glitches and seemingly not doing a half assed job of it.