The Bridge Over the River ‘Why?’
So the response to my introductory column here on Vooks was overall positive and it’s awesome to see so many original readers of N64 and Nintendo Gamer still trouncing about in the world of videogames, but there was some anger too.
“Emo” was one word used to describe my current stance on all-things Nintendo, and I guess it could be construed as that, if it wasn’t for having actually lived and breathed the company, its products and my fandom of them, for the better part of all my life until I became a professional games journo (I’ll cop flak for that statement too, I’m sure). But to be as cut and dry about it as possible, the point of my intro was to simply say that at this stage, I feel Nintendo has a bit of an uphill battle to reclaim any footing of the likes they had during the N64 and GameCube cycles, especially for gamers like myself.
And this brings me to my second column. Ninty’s announcement of an HD ‘remake’ of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker brought about more than a few smiles, but it raises an interesting question. Aounuma-san mentioned that the remake is coming in part because their official Wii U Zelda title was running longer in development than they anticipated, but why wasn’t any of this stuff ready for Wii U’s release? The Nintendo stop-gap is its flagship franchises: Mario, Zelda and Metroid, but none of these, in proper form, were ready or even officially announced in relation to Wii U’s release hype. Moreover, Nintendo made a point to mention they wanted their core audience back and reinvigorated. So again, why wasn’t anything ready?
If we look back at The Big-N’s last three home consoles a pattern emerges regarding time. Nintendo, in the core space of their business, does things at a snail’s pace and top franchises like true Mario, Zelda or Metroid aren’t released near each other — they’re evenly paced for the hardcore masses to equally pace out the life of the platform. On Wii it was probably the most glaring, and jokes of that console being a paper-weight or dust-collector were more rampant than any other console ever released.
You could argue then, that Nintendo’s usual core development time has been utilised to push the company’s more recent ‘innovation[s]’, but I’d argue it’s that the videogame development landscape has not only caught up with Nintendo’s design strengths and abilities, but in many ways surpassed them. To this end, development in-house there has slowed to analyse what’s working and what’s not, as can be construed by Miyamoto’s comments regarding wanting to see what a Western studio could do with the Zelda franchise. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, but having “lived and breathed the company” for so long, I do feel I have at least some working knowledge of how Nintendo likes to do things.
So the inner gamer in me, the guy who now plays most anything, regardless of platform, looks at the current Wii U lineup, as well as its launch window, and wonders where any of the games originally designed to keep that fanbase engaged are. I know they’re coming, but on the back of promises (and a little bit of hope) it’s just feeling more and more like Nintendo is dropping the ball over and over. And throwing us an HD remake of Wind Waker to tide us over until Zelda Wii U proper is actually a bit of a slap in the face, if you remove the want to play that game in HD.
From the reaction to that announcement, it becomes plainly obvious that Wind Waker is a fan favourite, and in HD it’s looking fricking good. It probably should have been on the cards all along. It would have felt less cheap and reactionary if Nintendo just took the launch reigns and released a Zelda title with Wii U, the console would then at least look like it was going to serve up that Nintendo gaming flavour we all love so much.
The other spectrum here is, of course, that we’re now getting two Zelda titles on Wii U and that I should probably stop complaining, and it would be a reasonable sentiment. I’m not above realising that I’m disgruntled with Nintendo’s lack of catering specifically to me in the in-between years, but at some point you really have to question where the company is at today. The Wii U launch lineup was filled with old third-party titles and very, very little in the core department from Nintendo. Moreover, what was released was party-centric (read: mainstream). The N64 released with Super Mario 64. I honestly don’t need to paint a better picture than that because the parallel speaks for itself.
Nintendo is also further behind the mark than they may realise, and a lack of any of their core franchises or flagship IPs simply shows they’ve lost touch with the rest of the gaming world. The PlayStation 4 has been officially announced and early demos show a powerhouse of a platform. The next Xbox is a stone throw away from being fully unveiled, and both systems launch this year. March is also almost here and Nintendo barely has anything on the horizon worth jumping up and down for, beyond the aforementioned Wind Waker. There are a handful of third-party titles, but you’ll be able to play most of these on other platforms anyway such as Resident Evil Revelations and Watch Dogs (there’s also Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and LEGO City Undercover, but you can count all of these games on one hand).
In short, Nintendo needs one heck of an E3 showing, or to give us something to cling onto now, because E3 is halfway through 2013 leaving the countdown for the next-gen just another five or so months away. Can Wind Waker really make up for all of this?
I’ll play the shit out of Wind Waker in HD, and will play the Wii U-specific Zelda release because my life has been leading up to an official HD next-gen entry in the series as far as I’m concerned, but I tread carefully around Nintendo and its releases these days, if only because it feels like they’re not treading at all.
Next: A more upbeat trip down memory lane.