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When is Nintendo Going to Finally Get Some Achievements?

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Nintendo Achievements

(Featured image credit goes to Imgur user chiefspartan. You can check out his excellent Nintendo Achievement mock-ups here.)

It was 12 years ago, back in 2005, when Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 and introduced the first achievement system to the world in the form of the Gamerscore. Though there were those who initially thumbed their noses with skepticism at the idea, it wasn’t long before it was catching on industry-wide. Well almost industry-wide, that is.

While Steam developed an achievement system in 2007, and Sony crafted one of their own in 2008, there is still one major outlier that has been sitting on the sidelines of the idea for years. Yes, we are of course speaking of that Beatnik-hippie-dinosaur we all know and love (most of the time), Nintendo.

Why on earth, nearly 10 years after every other major platform has adopted achievements, is Nintendo still ignoring the idea? As my podcasting compatriot John Cal McCormick so eloquently put it: no one hates achievements — either they like them or they’re indifferent to them. So why is Nintendo still rocking an achievement-free system on the Switch?

Let me take you back a few years to E3 2014, and the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be coming to the PS4. Now, as you might recall, the announcement was initially greeted with stunned silence and a bit of awkward applause. Obviously, at the time, everyone in the audience had expected Square-Enix to announce the long anticipated FFVII remake (which they would, in turn, announce the following E3).

Achievement unlocked: “Glorious Nostalgia”

What does this have to do with Nintendo and the notion of achievements, you ask. Well, a quick look at the numbers for the PS4 version of FFVII will give you an idea of the kind of sales that a small addition like trophies can offer to a classic game that everyone has bought five times already, and played through probably more times than that.

Why Nintendo, the company with easily the largest back-catalog of beloved, nostalgia-laden, classic games would not buy into this idea whole-heartedly is beyond me. Imagine, just for a second the kind of fantastic moments this could lead to for people who are even moderately into achievements.

Pulling out the master sword in Ocarina of Time: Achievement unlocked — “Hero of Time.” Finishing off Mother Brain at the end of Super Metroid: Achievement unlocked — “Braindead.” Flying for the first time in Super Mario Bros. 3: Achievement unlocked — “When Tanookis Fly!”

I could literally do this all day but I think you get the idea. Nintendo’s got more cache with gamers than anyone else in the business, and nothing ingratiates people to a company more than giving them more ways to enjoy something they already love. Why do you think companies are suddenly supporting their major releases with new updates and content for years on end? It’s a cheap and effective way to produce revenue while giving fans what they want, which is more of a good thing. It’s a win for everyone.

xenoblade_chronicles_ending

Monolithsoft has already handed Nintendo a couple of rough drafts. What more do they need?

This is just half the question, though, as classic games are only a part of the potential of this idea being introduced by Nintendo. As Xenoblade Chronicles showed all the way back in 2012 (!), an effective achievement system can easily be developed and implemented into a Nintendo exclusive game. It’s as if Monolithsoft were nudging Nintendo awake while they slept through the best parts of the movie.

This doesn’t just apply to exclusives either, as when a multi-platform game launches, what motivation does one have to pick it up on a Nintendo console? Generally, in most generations, the Nintendo console has been the weakest in terms of hardware, so you’re certainly not going to go their way for graphics or performance. Meanwhile, every other platform has better performance, and extra features (like achievements) that you can’t get on the Nintendo platform. With that in mind, barring folks who only own Nintendo consoles, what reason would anyone possibly have to grab a multiplatform game on the Wii,  Wii U, or Switch?

Now, I know what some of you might be thinking: what’s in it for Nintendo? Well aside from the good will this sort of thing would engender toward the Big N, how about parity with the competition? But, no, I know what you’re really asking: where’s the financial motivation to implement an achievement system?

Well the answer is actually really simple. Anyone who went from the Wii to the Wii U, and transferred over their virtual console games will recall that they were given the chance to purchase a slightly upgraded Wii U version of their software for the meager price of around $1. The new Wii U version had things like Restore points, and other features not found in the Wii version of the software. So the easy answer, then, is to launch an achievement system with the virtual console on the Switch, and again give people the opportunity to simply upgrade their software. Simple enough right?

Open world games

Nintendo is already soaking up a ton of good will in 2017, might as well keep the trend going.

Nintendo has already built up a ton of good will this year with the launch of the Switch and its game of the year contender, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Hell, they even announced not one, but two, new Metroid games. If they want to keep riding the wave of good will, why not give people something else they want, and something that can be developed and implemented for a relatively low cost?

What would come next? Well, just a veritable acre of folks Facebook sharing, Tweeting and whatever-the-hell-elsing their various Nintendo achievements, while talking endlessly about how much fun they’re having working their way through some of their favorite Nintendo games again.

Finally, there’s one more great reason that this idea would benefit Nintendo. At the moment, the software for the Switch is still relatively sparse. For Nintendo, though, any time spent playing the Switch over another console is still good for business, and it justifies the price of buying a new console, while giving Switch-preferential players something to do while they wait for the next big release.

So, there you have it, not just one reason but a laundry list of them for why Nintendo should absolutely, and unequivocally, get onboard the achievement train. It benefits them, and it benefits us… so what are they waiting for? Coins, stars, whatever you want Nintendo, just get on it!

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

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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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