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The Nintendo NX: how will it compete with the Big Boys?

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The simple answer to the question proposed in this article’s title is: don’t compete. Innovate and stand apart from the rest, produce something that is both unique and immediately intuitive for a mass audience, believe in the idea that the consumer doesn’t know what they want until they get it and execute command – simple, right? Regardless of whether Nintendo has built themselves a device capable of redefining gaming as we know it, they will need to avoid the treacherous pitfalls that have plagued its current home console, the misunderstood yet oh-so-appealing Wii U. By now industry followers are aware of the twelve million units sold for the Wii U and how these sales figures fare against the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One (AKA the Big Boys). Released a year before both consoles, the Wii U stumbles way behind Sony’s behemoth, which even as we speak is increasing beyond the announced 35-million units sold. The battle and the war is lost for the Wii U, but maybe some good can come of this devastating defeat. This isn’t the late 1980’s anymore and Nintendo can no longer lean on its ubiquity, so if they can’t deliver the evolution of gaming to our living rooms then how else can they ensure success and compete with the big boys with the release of the NX?

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It’s telling that this is a time when the big boys, even with their lack of first-party exclusives, can still capitalise on the constant stream of AAA third-party titles. More-often-than-not the calendar for the Big Boys is perfectly laid out, ensuring there is never a gaming drought for the Big Boy faithful, more than can be said for the Wii U. Nintendo’s console might boast of its illustrious dominance in the first-party market, but 2016 appears to be the emptiest year yet, and while this might be due to the imminent arrival of its successor,  Nintendo still needs the Nintendo faithful to adopt their new system. Nintendo will need to take a page out of the Big Boys’ book if it wants its NX to thrive in a highly competitive market.

One of the developers for popular Xbox One title Ori and the Blind Forest, Thomas Mahler, is already frustrated with Nintendo’s approach: he explains how ‘With Nintendo not having any devkits out there at this point and probably wanting to sell it in 2016, I can already guarantee that they’ll just not have any software support, since nobody can just jumble games together in less than a year.’ If this is Nintendo’s approach then there’s an immediate problem looming over the company and their historically unique outlook on the gaming industry. Nintendo will need to attract the Big Boy besties Ubisoft, Square Enix, EA etc if they’re to gain a foothold in the console market. Gamers game, and the Nintendo faithful might not be too happy if they’ve got nothing to play aside from very few first-party titles. The third-party studios needed the devkits months ago to truly understand the interactive implications for Nintendo’s new device, and – as Mahler mentioned – developers need time to create a good game. If developers don’t have the devkits by now it might already be too late.

Like it or not 1080p and 60fps are selling points that can prove detrimental to a title’s success. The Uncharted and Metal Gear Solid series are prime examples of top-quality games with high-end production values catered to those with a taste for the cinematic. Their reliance on an audience’s identification and familiarity with contemporary filmic tropes bridges the once-awkward gap between the world of video games and film/television. It’s this inter-textual satisfaction that guarantees the success of the huge AAA titles, and it’s only getting stronger with the likes of Kiefer Sutherland of 24 fame providing the voice of Snake in Metal Gear Solid 5 and Xbox One title Quantum Break incorporating live-action television excerpts into its narrative experience. Games with Mario in the title sell for certain, but would it hurt to expand the Nintendo horizon? Maybe an excursion into the cinematic? It’s no secret that the Wii U is notoriously difficult to develop for – the translation of AAA titles such as Batman Arkham City and Mass Effect 3 onto the Wii U proved both frustrating from a development point of view, and much too late especially when both games had been released on the competition’s consoles prior to the release of the Wii U. A lesson for Nintendo: make the console user-friendly to attract the developers, and then inspire them to create exclusive NX titles – games that wouldn’t be welcome in the Big Boys yard.

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Finally, the consumer will need to know exactly what the NX is and what it can actually do. The E3 2011 debut of the Wii U proved divisive and, at best, confusing among consumers and industry professionals. Was it just a controller? Where’s the console? Was it a mere add-on for the Wii? Nintendo had failed dismally when explaining what the Wii U actually was, and it’s this shoddy marketing that predicated the Wii U downward trajectory. Nintendo will need to cascade the NX information with a focus on clarity and the surprise it has (so far) been successful in retaining, but they cannot afford to withhold any important information such as price, release date etc. Absolute transparency will work in Nintendo’s favour and could even sway the naysayers of the Big Boy faithful, but they will also require pace and a promisingly fresh launch line-up to give that extra push to those still sitting on the fence. To summarise: If Nintendo has a machine that is easily programmable to attract developers and said developer knows exactly what the machine can do, then soon the third-party will adopt the system and use what they know from other systems to adapt the formula for a Nintendo audience. Software sells gaming systems and only by doing this can Nintendo, itself, become one of the Big Boys – simple, right?

 

Films, games and music: the big three! If you like any of these, chances are we're going to get on just fine. I'm just a balding, goggle-eyed 26-year old Masters graduate from the UK, and I'm here to talk games! Let's dance.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. okay dokay

    April 4, 2016 at 1:49 am

    joke

  2. John Cal McCormick

    April 4, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    I honestly think it’s pointless for them to try and compete now. I’ve long advocated them either getting out of hardware entirely and just concentrating on games or embracing their position as a second-tier console and stripping the new system of all the extraneous bullshit to drop the price as much as possible. It’s also difficult for them since they’ll be entering the fray in the middle of a generation and going up against two of the best selling consoles of all time. If I were a betting man I’d probably bet against the NX being a huge success unless they’ve come up with something truly revolutionary.

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Game Reviews

‘Coffee Talk’ Review: The Best Brew in Town

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

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It’s 9:00pm. The rain just started coming down softly a few minutes ago, and the street outside is reflecting the lights above it. Neon signs shine brightly in the distance, although it’s hard to make out the words. You unlock the doors to the coffee shop and wipe down the counters in order to get them clean for the customers. The rain makes a soft sound as it hits the glass and passerby speed up their walking pace to avoid it. The bells chime as a tall, green orc walks in and sits down at your table in silence. You wonder what their story is…

I wanted to set the tone for this review because of how important atmosphere and audio/visual design is in the world of Coffee Talk. While it’s easy to boil the game down as a visual novel-type experience, it’s honestly so much more than that. A unique cast of characters, incredible user interface, and a mysterious protagonist combine to form the most enjoyable experience I’ve had this year on Switch.

Coffee Talk
Some of the subject matter can be pretty serious in nature…

Coffee Talk is beautiful because of how simple it is. The entire game takes place within a single coffee shop. As the barista, you’re tasked with making drinks for the patrons of the shop as well as making conversations with them. The twist is that earth is populated with creatures like orcs, werewolves, and succubi. The relationship between the various races is handled very well throughout the story, and some interesting parallels are made to the real world.

Making drinks is as simple as putting together a combination of three ingredients and hitting the ‘Serve’ button. If a unique drink is made, it will be added to a recipe list that can be referenced on the barista’s cell phone. This is where the awesome user interface comes in, as the phone has a series of apps that can be accessed at any moment in the game. One app houses your recipe list, another acts as a facebook for the characters in the game, one allows you to switch between songs, and the other houses a series of short stories that one of the characters in the game writes as it progresses. It’s one of the coolest parts of the whole experience and helps it stand out from other games in the genre.

Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen.

Coffee Talk cycles between talking with customers and making drinks for them. In the beginning, they will ask for basic beverages that can be brewed on the fly. Later on however, they may ask for a specific type of drink that has a unique title. These drinks often have certain descriptive features that hint at other possibilities in terms of unique dialogue. If the wrong drink is made, you’ll have five chances to trash it and make a new one. If the wrong drink is made, don’t expect the customer to be pleased about it.

The gameplay really is not the focus here though; it’s the characters and their stories that take center stage. An elf with relationship issues, a writer that can’t seem to pin down her next story, and an alien whose sole goal is to mate with an earthling are just a few of the examples of the characters you’ll meet during the story. There are tons of memorable moments throughout Coffee Talk, with every character bringing something unique to the table. The barista develops an interesting relationship with many of these characters as well.

Coffee Talk
Appearances can often be deceiving in this game.

Even though serving the wrong drinks can change some of the dialogue, don’t expect any sort of options or branching paths in terms of the story. It’s not that kind of experience; the story should simply be enjoyed for what it is. I found myself glued to the screen at the end of each of the in-game days, waiting to see what would happen in the morning. The first playthrough also doesn’t answer all of the game’s questions, as the second one is filled with all kinds of surprises that I won’t spoil here.


Coffee Talk is as quaint as your local coffee shop. It’s relatively short, wonderfully sweet, and absolutely committed to the art form of telling a story through a video game screen. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone who loves video games, not just visual novel fans. There are characters in the game that I’ll certainly be thinking about for a long time, especially when the setting brings out the best in them. Don’t pass this one up.

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The Magic of Nintendo: How Mario and Zelda Connect us to Our Inner Child

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Magic of Nintendo

Nintendo is special. Many excellent developers depend upon story or progression systems to entice engagement, but not Nintendo. Nintendo games captivate because of their immediate charm. There is no need for a payoff. The games, themselves, are enough: they elicit feelings, hard to find in adulthood. Through intrepid discovery, playful presentation, and unfiltered whimsy, the best of Nintendo connects gamers to their childlike selves.

The heart of any great Nintendo game is discovery and no encounter encapsulates this better than Breath of the Wild’s Eventide Island. First, finding the island requires genuine gumption. Found far from Hyrule’s shore, the island is only clearly visible from other islands, and even then, it’s only a speck in the distance. Reaching the island requires players to brave the open ocean and head towards something … that could be nothing. Then, upon arriving on the beach, a spirit takes all the player’s gear, including clothes and food. Link, literally, is left in his underwear. From there, players must make clever use of Link’s base skills in order to steal enemy weapons and make traps. The scenario creates a marvelous sense of self-sufficiency brought on by one’s own desire to discover. The player comes to the island purely of their own choosing, tackles the sea, and then overcomes obstacles without the aid of their strongest tools. The game turns players into plucky children who are discovering they can take care of themselves.

The intrepidity of Breath of the Wild and other Nintendo greats mirrors the feelings Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of many Nintendo franchises, experienced as a child. “I can still recall the kind of sensation I had when I was in a small river, and I was searching with my hands beneath a rock, and something hit my finger, and I noticed it was a fish,” Miyamoto told the New Yorker. “That’s something that I just can’t express in words. It’s such an unusual situation.” In sequences like Eventide Island, players don’t just understand what Miyamoto describes, they feel it: Apprehension gives way to exhilaration as the unknown becomes a place of play.

 Nintendo’s intrepid gameplay is often amplified by playful presentation with Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island being the quintessential example. The game’s visuals, defined by pastel colors and simple hand-drawings, appear crayoned by a child while the celestial chimes that punctuate the jubilant soundtrack evoke shooting stars. The overall effect cannot be understated. It takes the surreal and turns it real, allowing players to interact, tangibly, with imagination.

Super Mario Odyssey Wooden Kingdom

Even if one removes the presentation and gameplay from Nintendo’s masterpieces, an unabashed creativity remains that bucks norm and convention. The arbiter is fun; reason and logic have no say. For instance, Super Mario Odyssey’s Wooded Kingdom, takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting akin to Nier Automata. Players explore the metal remnants of a civilization that has become a lush home to robotic beings. However, unlike Nier, the dark undertones of the past have no bearing on the game or those who inhabit its universe. The post-apocalyptic setting is just a fun backdrop. It’s as though a bunch of children got together, began playing with toys, and one of the kids brought along his sibling’s adult action figures. There is no attention paid to the context, only unfiltered imagination.

When they’re at their best the creators at Nintendo invite gamers to come and play, like a parent arranging a play date. Pulled along by joyful gameplay that expands in unforeseen ways, players desire to play for the sake of play. It’s a halcyon state of being: No messy thoughts or contradiction, just joy.

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Games

‘Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind’: An Utterly Shameless Cash Grab

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some other trash.

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Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

In the 15 year long history of DLC, we have seen some really shameless displays. The notorious horse armor incident of 2006 and a notable day one DLC for the ending game of a trilogy notwithstanding, few companies have had the utter audacity to offer so little content for such a high price point. Enter Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind.

Coming in at a $40 price point (!!!) Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind offers an 80% recycled campaign, a boss rush mode, and some social media nonsense for people who really hate themselves. That’s really it, that’s what you get. Honestly, Square-Enix should be utterly embarrassed by this DLC.

It’s been one year: 365 days, 8760 hours, 525600 minutes, or 31556952 seconds, since the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Let that sink in as you begin the meat of Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind. Think of it as the extended version of a movie you really like… you know, the kind where they add 4 minutes to the 120 minute runtime.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind, really is that cynical. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the game literally starts with an exact cut scene from the base game, and a cut scene that happens to be available from the theater mode of the main game that you’ve already bought if you’re playing this DLC. Yes, the introduction to this new content is… content you’ve already seen.

In fact, that’s kind of the sticking point here: most of what you get for your hard-earned cash is footage you’ve already seen, and battles you’ve already fought, and story you’ve already experienced, just with slight alterations for context. Remember back in the 2000s, when we were super obsessed with prequels? This is like that, except even more egregious.

Generally I’m not so unforgiving as to call a company out for a forthright cash grab, but that’s absolutely what Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is. There’s just no other way to put it. You might find someone in the marketing department for Square-Enix who would disagree, but being a company that has faced just these sort of allegations for their last two major releases, Square-Enix either doesn’t read the news, or doesn’t care what people think of their products.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Square-Enix was roundly accused of shipping unfinished products in the case of both Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III — their two most high profile releases of the last decade. I personally gave mostly positive reviews of both games for this very website but if you want ammo to suggest that this company is deliberately trading on the nostalgia and passion of its fan base in order to make financial headway, there are few examples you could draw from that are as obvious as this DLC.

Look, maybe you’re a really big Kingdom Hearts fan. Maybe you just really wanted to know what the context was for that cliffhanger ending in Kingdom Hearts III. Maybe you just don’t do much research before you buy something. Or maybe… you just really trust this company for some reason.

Hey, I’m not judging… hell, I bought this DLC for $40 same as anyone else. I oughta be honest that I’m not reviewing Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind as some holier than thou critic, talking down to you from my position of privilege. No, I’m an angry consumer in this particular case. I’m a person who spent enough to replace a flat tire on my car, or buy my family dinner, on a game that is clearly playing off of my love for a franchise, and using it to bilk me out of money in a method that is so clear, and so concise, that those involved in the entire endeavor should be totally embarrassed for their part in the creation, marketing, pricing, and distribution of this expansion.

Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind

Yes, fans had their complaints about Kingdom Hearts III. “Where are the hardcore boss battles? Where are the Final Fantasy characters? Where are the secret areas? Where are the hidden plot developments?” Still, to address these particular complaints by hammering a few minutes or seconds here and there into already existing content is truly like spitting in the faces of the people who have built the house you’re living in.

I haven’t sat in the board rooms at Square-Enix and I haven’t been in email chains about the planning of projects at their company but what I can say is that there is something rotten in Denmark if this is what passes for a satisfying piece of content for the wildly devoted fans of a hugely popular franchise in 2020. Kingdom Hearts III: Re:Mind is literally, truthfully, and succinctly, the worst piece of DLC I’ve ever purchased.

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