E3 Week 2017 – NintenRant VII – Nintendo, Innovation and Imitation

Welcome back everyone once again to #NSE3Week, where I will be posting new articles relating to E3 every day until the broadcast at E3 2017 (look back through the last few posts for the last few days’ articles). This one is a little late, so I apologise for that, but let’s get on with it shall we? Now, it wouldn’t be an E3 Week without a NintenRant would it and I’ve got just the topic. So sit back, relax, maybe grab a tea, and try not to get too angry.

Nintendo are not the same as they were. I know what you’re thinking, to expect a company to remain the same in outlook and views for all of their business lifetime is far too much to ask. But the thing is, I’m not decrying the fact that Nintendo have changed, more that they have (in most areas I can think of) become much, much worse than what they were when I fell in love with them. The main area that this matters is in the title of this article, but it is an incredibly complex issue, so is not as simple as just hashing it out and hoping. This is simply because Nintendo really can’t decide on which side they fall.

The thing is, the Nintendo I remember were the great innovators, almost every inch forward by the games industry as a whole has been started by them. The move into explorative 3D was entirely nailed by the big N, touch controls for games, motion controls, the analog stick (arguably), the list can go on. Then there’s the innovations in software; most of the best and most interesting games I can think of were made by Nintendo or are exclusive to Nintendo platforms. I mean, I can’t imagine what the phenomenal The World Ends With You is like to play now it is on mobile, but it can’t be a patch on playing it on the Nintendo DS. Even the Switch, of which I initially had doubts, is a thoroughly impressive and innovative piece of technology. There’s a very good case to be made for Nintendo being the greatest innovators in video game history.

So what has happened? The Nintendo of the modern era seem mostly content with imitation of what others are doing to the detriment of themselves and their players, either lazily taking aspects from other games that are “popular” or going far further with some of the more insincere modern games industry tactics. The first example that springs to mind, and I will likely get flamed once again for this is Breath of the Wild. I understand and accept that this is my opinion (therefore politely request others do the same), but the whole game feels like an amalgamation of different imitated aspects of other games. With the “open world” being popular, it seems like Nintendo have used this attribute of modern gaming without thinking about whether it was necessary for them to add to the game to create a grandiose Zelda experience. The less said about the “combat” at this point the better, as I will just be repeating previous points made by writers far more eloquent than me, but even that (one of the arguable staples of the series to date) feels like a poor imitation of other hugely popular games of recent times with the changes that have been made to the core mechanics. I’d like to stress again at this point that I don’t think Breath of the Wild is a bad game, just one that is flawed because of slapdash imitations. Besides, I don’t think the core game is the worst aspect of imitation in the new Zelda.

Oh yes, I’m talking about the Season Pass. Now, Nintendo have had an interesting history with this particular concept that modern gaming appears to have accepted as the norm. With Zelda they have elected for the “locking bits that should be in the core game behind a paywall” model that is favoured by certain unscrupulous developers. Let’s be frank, the hard mode should be in the game. There have been hard modes in almost every Zelda title (to my knowledge) and to place it out of the reach of ordinary players is simply ludicrous. The worst aspect of this is that Nintendo have previously done Season Passes perfectly, in which Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors come to mind. Full titles in their own right with tonnes of mileage in them, supplemented and enhanced by additional content. Hyrule Warriors had several difficulty levels within the game itself, which unlocked different items and weapons for characters as you progressed, and this was BEFORE the Season Pass. It’s a sad thing to admit, but Nintendo just aren’t consistent with their DLC practices, wavering along a line between excellent and totally unnecessary.

I’m not saying, of course that Nintendo are the worst when it comes to DLC and Season Passes, far from it, but the fact that they can’t seem to decide whether they land on the good or bad end of the spectrum is more than a little worrying. It just doesn’t inspire much faith in the buying public when Nintendo do occasionally decide to imitate the worst practices in the industry for their DLC models, screwing their fans out of unnecessary money out of sheer laziness, or barely concealed malice. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Breath of the Wild Season Pass was announced BEFORE the game’s release, begging the question as to why the day one aspects of it weren’t in the core game at all (I know that these amount to silly aesthetic things, but it still stands as insulting). I know what many will think at this point, and if you can accept these sort of DLC practices because “it’s just how things are now” more power to you. But that doesn’t make them any less of a ridiculous concept.

As a final point, loosely connected to the previous one, Nintendo also has a shocking track record with the internet. For every fantastic moment like Mario Kart 8’s online modes, you have Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, with it’s inability to play online with friends (and that is a game that sorely needed something to save it). I have covered this particular topic in a previous NintenRave, but the fact that nothing has changed in all this time with Nintendo and the internet, it does bear repeating. It just feels like Nintendo are floundering with the internet, unable to really decide what to do with it; although as a heads up, it probably doesn’t involve friend codes. I genuinely hope that this isn’t the case, but Nintendo just doesn’t feel like they have much up their sleeves anymore in terms of innovation. I genuinely want to be wrong on this, but with Season Passes and poor online modes continuing to be prevalent, I doubt I am. Prove me wrong Nintendo. I have so much respect for you, just think about what you’re doing.

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