Connect with us
Advertisement

Games

The Highs & Lows: A Look Back at Nintendo’s 2015

Published

on

With 2015 in the record books, let’s take a look back and what Nintendo did right, and where they fumbled over the last 365 days.

nintendo_2015_3

nintendo_2015_6

Most level editors are either extremely basic and lackluster, or overly complicated and not very user friendly. Enter Super Mario Maker. Nintendo manages to mesh depth with simplicity in such a way that anyone with even just an inkling of creativity can pick up the gamepad and create with ease.

Prior to the announcement of Super Mario Maker you’d be hard pressed to find anyone willing to bet that Nintendo’s biggest game of 2015 would be a level editor, and that’s just the way Nintendo wants it. They’ve become known for coming out of left field with wacky ideas and excelling well beyond anyone’s expectations. Nintendo continues to be at the forefront of innovation within the industry, and they continue to prove they’re willing to push the envelope into areas other big developers haven’t even considered yet.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Super Mario Maker is the risk involved in the creation such a project. Let’s face it, level creation isn’t exactly something the gaming community as a whole was asking for from Nintendo, and the announcement of Mario Maker was met with mixed reactions, but that didn’t deter them from following their vision till the end and creating a product that was ultimately very well received.

2015 was not only a year of innovation for Mario, but also a year for an entirely new Nintendo made franchise to step into the limelight. Nintendo has never been known to simply copy what the other big dogs are doing, so their announcement of a online multiplayer shooter was a bit surprising, but sure enough they had their own unique twist on the genre in mind. Splatoon is far from your conventional shooter, mixing new mechanics and game modes into the well established competitive arena, resulting in an all new addictive and unique experience.

Their willingness to persist through adversity and doubt, and innovate with both classic franchises and new IPs alike highlights one of Nintendo’s greatest strengths: their ability to constantly bring new ideas into the industry.

nintendo_2015_5

2015 was an excellent year for Nintendo in terms of the supplying additional content for their biggest titles. From additional racers and tracks for Mario Kart 8, to new weapons and arenas in Splatoon, Nintendo has been pumping out high quality updates all year long.

One of 2015’s most shocking moments had to be the announcement of Cloud Strife, of Final Fantasy fame, becoming a playable character in Super Smash Brothers. I mean, honestly, who saw this coming? It seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream prior to the announcement, but Nintendo somehow made it happen. In an age of information leaks and companies announcing things years ahead of their release, Nintendo still manages to keep their secrets held tight, and shock their fans with massive announcements out of nowhere.

nintendo_2015_7

It’s no secret that the WiiU hasn’t been doing exceedingly well in terms of sales. Aside from Mario Maker, even Nintendo themselves have had a hard time making good use of the gamepad, with some of their biggest titles (like DKC: Tropical Freeze) simply ignoring the device altogether. The system’s online infrastructure is sub-par, and 3rd party support is non-existent. Despite all this, I fully expected Nintendo to let the WiiU drag on for a couple more years before announcing a new home console. But, much to my surprise, Nintendo seems to have an aggressive stance on getting back into the console race, and they even seem to want to be an industry leader in terms of hardware!

In 2015 we received confirmation that Nintendo has been sending out development kits for their new console, code named “NX”, and during a press conference Square-Enix announced that Dragon Quest 11 will be coming to the NX, making it the first game to be officially announced for the console. It’s a widely accepted belief that Zelda WiiU was delayed this year so that it could be launched next year as a WiiU and NX title, potentially giving the NX a killer app right out of the gate. And to top it all off, it’s rumored that the console will feature “industry-leading chips“, meaning it won’t only compete with the PS4 & Xbox One, but may surpass them in terms of raw power.

The WiiU is barely 3 years old, so while its certainly disappointing to see it’s run come to an end so soon, it’s the right move by Nintendo to move on. It’s far too early and we have far too little information on the NX to speculate on whether or not it will be capable of clawing Nintendo back into the console wars, but it’s extremely exciting to see Nintendo taking initiative and indicating that they still want to be seen as competition to Sony and Microsoft.

 

nintendo_2015_2

nintendo_2015_1

Looking at our list of the 15 best games released on Nintendo consoles this year, it’s clear that the WiiU and 3DS were home to more than a handful of good games in 2015, but this list also makes a few not-so-positive things very apparent.

Four of the 15 titles are games which were released on other platforms years prior, and seven games on the list are indie titles. Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with indie games, but the mass majority of them are rather short-lived experiences. While Super Mario Maker is great for what it is, it doesn’t offer the robust campaign of previous games in the series. Xenoblade Chronicles X is the only game on the list that offers a single player campaign that will last you well over 25 hours. Sure, Splatoon and FAST Racing NEO are time sinks, but they don’t offer the traditional story modes many gamers crave.

The glaring omission from this list, when compared to best of lists for the other consoles, is obviously the lack of triple-A 3rd party titles. Nintendo loyalists can’t boot up The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, or Metal Gear Solid 5 on their WiiU. At this point, it’s like beating a dead horse, but gamers who only own a WiiU are missing out on a lot if high quality titles. Is there anything Nintendo could have done in 2015 to prevent this? No, they made their bed, and they’ve had to lie in it, but it still needs to be pointed out as the console’s greatest flaw.

nintendo_2015_4

Due to a lack of solid 3rd party support dating way back to the N64 era, Nintendo has taken to commissioning the development of smaller titles under the branding umbrella of their bigger franchises with the intention of filling the gaps in the sparse release schedules of their consoles. 2015 saw the release of several of these filler games, which were met with sub-par reviews, and ultimately serve as a blemish on Nintendo’s track record.

Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes are prime examples of games Nintendo shouldn’t be wasting resources on. Neither of these games live up to the standards of the franchises they’re named after, neither of them innovate in any way, and both of them feel like they should be cheap downloadable games yet both were released as full priced 3DS titles.

The WiiU wasn’t immune to these filler games either, as Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash was quite the disappointment. Where Mario’s previous ventures into various sports have yielded great games with unique modes and tons of replay value, Ultra Smash feels empty. It lacks any sort heart, and the game is extremely shallow when it comes to modes and game play features. It feels like the people making the game wanted to be doing something else, and they simply went through the motions and created the most basic game imaginable.

It may seem contradictory to bash on Nintendo consoles for their lack of games, and then a couple of paragraphs later berate them for releasing games, but the fact of the matter is these filler games are not the answer to Nintendo’s problems. At this point in the WiiU’s life we can’t expect a bunch of great 3rd party support to just appear out of thin air, but at the same time, I think most fans don’t want Nintendo to create these games for the sole purpose of meeting a quota. Games with the words Animal Crossing or The Legend of Zelda in their title should be highly anticipated and well received, not shrugged off.

nintendo_2015_8

Nintendo deciding to release an under powered console for the second generation a row has put the WiiU in the awkward position of being considered a ‘complimentary console’ rather than actual competition to the PS4 and Xbox One. While the figureheads at Nintendo seem fine with this notion, someone really needs to give a heads up to their marketing department. As of December 2015, a baseline WiiU SKU in Canada will run you $330, where as the baseline Xbox One SKU is $400. Now, can someone explain to me why the console that’s one year older and has far inferior hardware only costs $70 dollars less?

The WiiU continues to fall further and further behind in the sales charts, and while Microsoft and Sony aggressively drop prices in order to keep their sales up, Nintendo stands pat on their overpriced system. Let’s face facts: the WiiU should be between 200-250 dollars at this point. And while they’re dropping the price of their console, they should take a look at the prices of their games as well. Why is it that Nintendo’s first party titles never seem to drop in price? New Super Mario Bros. U, a game released in 2012, is still selling for the price it launched at! It’s no wonder why Nintendo’s sales numbers have been in the gutter this generation.

Nintendo’s reluctance to follow the basic principles of supply and demand does not bode well for the future of the NX. Reports indicate that Nintendo intends for their next console to be the most powerful machine on the market, meaning it certainly won’t be cheap to make. How will the price it? Launching a console smack dab in the middle of the PS4 & Xbox One’s life cycles is risky enough, but if Nintendo over prices their new machine, it’s possible that they’ll put themselves in a massive hole right off the bat.

 

Overall, 2015 has been quite similar to a lot of recent years for Nintendo. They continue to innovate and produce quality games, but the limitations of the hardware are clearly holding the WiiU back from reaching a wider market. Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon. Nintendo seems to be aggressively pushing forward with the NX, and 2016 will undoubtedly be a very interesting year for the Big N.

 

"When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." - Eddard Stark

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Ricky D Fernandes

    December 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm

    I expected you to be more critical. And perhaps for the very first time, I agree with everything you have to say in this article. But if Zelda, Star Fox and other titles such as Rive and Mighty Number 9 weren’t delayed, I would say Nintendo would have had a better line-up of games in 2015 than Microsoft. I think 2016 is going to be a terrible year for Nintendo. We shall see.

  2. Matt De Azevedo

    December 29, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Oh, I could have been more critical, and pointed out things like none of the games on our Top 15 Nintendo games would even make my personal list of top 30 games of the year, but I try to keep it as objective as possible ;P

    Mighty #9 is going to be on all platforms, and Star Fox honestly looks like poop, so neither of them would have helped Nintendo’s cause very much. Zelda sure would have… but the install base for the WiiU is so low, I agree with the delay, as long as they really do intend to make it a launch title for the NX.

    2016 could go terribly wrong for Nintendo, or amazingly well, I’m on the fence about how its going to go, but either way it’ll certainly be interesting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Advertisement

Games

‘Tecmo Bowl, the Godfather of NFL Games

Published

on

Tecmo Bowl Retrospective

Tecmo Bowl was a big deal back in 1989!

With Madden growing more popular and even more complex every year, we sometimes forget about the game that started it all.

I cannot stress the importance of Tecmo Bowl twenty-nine years after its release. Originally an arcade game, Tecmo Bowl was ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System by the makers of such classics as Ninja Gaiden, Mighty Bomb Jack, and Solomon’s Key, and it took everyone by surprise by just how good it was. Nobody expected the Japanese developers of puzzle games and 2D platformers to succeed in creating a sports game, much less an American sports game, but they did. Named NES Sports Game of the Year, Tecmo Bowl provided players with the best football experience found on the NES console back in 1989 and it paved the way for what became the biggest trend in sports games to this day.

Although Tecmo didn’t have the official NFL license to use the actual team names and logos (the teams in the game are identified by their home city or state), the game features players from 12 NFL franchises due to being licensed by the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association). Nowadays this doesn’t seem like a big deal but back in 1989 it was huge! Tecmo Bowl features some of football’s greatest players including John Elway, Bo Jackson, Marcus Allen, Mike Singletary, Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Walter Payton, and Dan Marino, and when it shipped 29 years ago, it changed everything for sports video games.

Long before football video games became just as complex as real-life football, Tecmo Bowl laid the groundwork for what would be the standard moving forward. There aren’t many plays to choose from but you’re given the choice of 4 plays while on offense and another 4 while on defense. In addition, the game features three different modes: Single Player, Two Player, and Coaching mode which allows you to call plays while letting the CPU control the players on the field. The simple and responsive controls work perfectly within the framework of the game, and it is this simplicity that makes the game fun to play to this day. And regardless if you know don’t know much about the sport, anyone can easily follow along thanks to the broadcast camera view and two-button controls.

Tecmo_Celebration_1280w

Tecmo Bowl is a seemingly effortless game in which everything falls neatly into place. It stripped football down to its basic elements and created a fun arcade experience anyone can enjoy. Tecmo Bowl was Madden before Madden was a household name. It’s the game that started the football franchise craze in video games and laid the groundwork for the even better, Tecmo Super Bowl. American football games have come a long way over the years, but what hasn’t changed is the sheer enjoyment any football fan can have when playing Tecmo Bowl.

Tecmo Bowl is without a doubt the granddaddy of football games, and there’s something to be said for the back-to-basics formula that Tecmo Bowl employed. With technological enhancements in gameplay, graphics, power, and speed, the original Tecmo Bowl seems incredibly dated in 2016, but surprisingly the game holds up nearly three decades later.

Side Note: There were two NES versions of the game released in the U.S. The first release is easily identified by its black and gold seal of quality and the second version by its white and gold seal. It should also be noted that the names of players were removed on the virtual console release.

Tecmo Bowl
Continue Reading

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.

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Games

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

Published

on

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.

Continue Reading

Popular