Sunday Soapbox: A Diamond in the Rough

We’re wrapping up a successful week here at I played, beat, and reviewed Super Mario Galaxy 2, and Riddles did fuck-all. Y’know, the usual. I’m more than okay with it though, I obviously enjoyed Galaxy 2 quite a bit and it was nice playing a top-notch Nintendo game again.

Ultimately, that’s what I want to talk about. How can Nintendo do something so incredibly right with the Mario Galaxy series and continue to mess everything else up? Since the release of the Wii, it’s been a constant downhill ride for all Nintendo fanboys. I’ll admit that I was still one of those back in 2006. I had confidence that Nintendo could bring the heat with the Wii and that the system would live up to its codename, Revolution. While getting HD systems and games of my own definitely helped in my disillusionment, Nintendo also worked hard to lose my vote. I actually had a lot of fun with Wii Sports, but after the novelty wore out, it was easier to notice that the Wiimote wasn’t everything the hype cracked it up to be. Sadly, the Wii Sports games still make the best use of the controller while still feeling like you’re not in complete control.

12 years ago, Nintendo paved the road in cutting-edge console software

Unfortunately, this was the first step. Wii Sports concentrated on showcasing the underwhelming and overpriced motion controls, when the actual advancement of the Wii is pointer controls. Although pointer controls are intuitive, quick, and inspire innovation, Nintendo continues to push the thought that the Wii is all about swinging your arms around in a vague attempt to make a game do what you want. It was a downward spiral after this. Mario Kart is a broken game, Wii Music is embarrassing, and the Wii interface continues to fall further and further behind while Nintendo claims that nobody wants the things that the system is missing. People don’t care about HD, they say! Who needs a persistent online ID and well integrated storefront? People want to feel completely alone with their console experience! Achievement systems devalue gameplay! Funny, then, that Nintendo includes achievement systems in some of their bigger titles like Metroid Prime 3 and Wii Sports Resort.

And when Nintendo finally does play catch-up, it’s way too little way too late. SD Card support for WiiWare and Virtual Console titles should have happened at least 12 months earlier than it did, and Wii MotionPlus charges you to fix your Wiimote to be (still a little less than) what it promised to be 4 years ago!

Instead of releasing games that would showcase the system’s “capabilities” like a Pikmin or Pilotwings sequel, they release New Super Mario Bros. which plays like a Super Nintendo game and Super Smash Brothers which is best played with a Gamecube Controller.

To “fix” this problem, apparently the answer is to “simplify” the controls for a “complicated” game like Zelda. I’m sorry, but the controls for Mario are just as “complex” as Zelda’s but Galaxy 2 chose to cleverly include ways for new players to not feel overwhelmed while not holding back advanced players. That, of course, is my main point, but I’ll get back to that in a second.

Even the most dedicated fanboys couldn't defend this one...

I’m sorry, Nintendo, but you have enough software for the casual audience to not take steps backward in your prize franchises. Why not incorporate a skill level rating on your games? LEGO does it, I’m sure you could too. The point is that Nintendo is just confused. I actually think that Wii Fit is a fine piece of software. But it requires a whole new peripheral to even function. They want to bring everything to everyone, and in the process, it has resulted in the complete isolation of their original fanbase. My grandmother will never want to play Zelda, why cater to the audience that has proven will not buy the software anyway?

But I could rant like this all night, the point is that why – amidst all this confusion and watering-down – has Nintendo also come out with their strongest software of the decade? My gushing review says it all. I think Nintendo did very little wrong with their latest release. Excepting the lack of HD, Super Mario Galaxy 2 radiates all the care, effort, and production values from the Nintendo glory days. They were able to make a game that actually is appealing to lots of different people, not the sort of “all ages” that caters to the lowest common denominator. Although Zelda’s structure isn’t exactly built for the same sort of intuitive multi-tiered difficulty levels, it stills seems like Ninty is going the lazy route as they’ve done with everything else. Just compare Nintendo’s philosophy with Mario Galaxy to the other extreme, Wii Music. Both are games “everybody can play”, but one doesn’t treat the player like an idiot, and the other – frankly – does.

Admittedly, even Nintendo seems to regret Wii Music, but that doesn’t mean that the game doesn’t represent a magnified version of their still current stance.

Ultimately, although the Super Mario Galaxy games are good signs that Nintendo is still capable of producing excellent software while managing to also coddle their precious casual crowd, it’s been too long to expect any of sort philosophy change in the near future. E3 very likely won’t bring the death of friend codes or the birth of a Wii HD. For every Metroid: Other M announcement, we’ll have 10 Wii Vitality Sensor announcements. Nonetheless I’m happy to enjoy a game like Galaxy 2 that will hopefully one day no longer just be a diamond in the rough.

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4 Responses to “Sunday Soapbox: A Diamond in the Rough”

  1. SiliconNooB says:

    Honestly, I think Miyamoto is the only thing still holding the classic franchises together.

  2. Ethos says:

    I don’t know, I’m even wary of him these days. Remember that he was backing up Wii Music as well and stating that nobody wants epic games like Zelda anymore.

  3. SiliconNooB says:

    True I had forgotten/repressed that.

  4. DarthGibblet says:

    There’s actually one guy named Frank stuck in some middle management position at Nintendo who’s their last hardcore gamer representative. They only let him out once every few years to make a Mario Galaxy game, then they put him back in his closet.

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