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« The Stanley Parable - A Source Mod With A Difference | Main | Xbox Live Arcade - The 10 Games You Should Already Own And Love »
Tuesday
Jul192011

Innovating The Established

Now, as dry and boring as the above title is I must assure you, dear reader, that I plan on making this article as wet as a young filly getting fingered on the back of a double-decker bus, whilst the driver is giving out Ecstasy and lube with every ticket. Get your waders on, cling to a rubber ring, ‘cos it’s gonna make you wetter than Nora the Nymphomaniac in a hardcore Carry On film, and she’ll be pumping out all manner of things moist. Phwoar!

Nintendo. Not only one of the major video game companies in the world, but a considerable influence over my childhood and subsequent memories. From 1995 to 2001 I would visit my dear, sweet grandparent’s house every weekend and with my cousins we would switch on a small grey box. This box was connected to a television, and by inserting different boxes into the box they would transform from a boring, monochrome assortment of nondescript containers into a rocket ship, an adventure on an alien planet, a ship sailing over an opalescent ocean into a world of discovery and rainbows. Or, Mortal Kombat 2, a bloody and brutal back-alley fight with even the victor losing enough blood to satiate Satan’s own army of vampires. It was more than the sum of the technology; the Super Nintendo Entertainment System was one of the great gaming systems of the era. It was the system which brought more detail to the established NES classics, and made their characters’ stars shine that little bit brighter, bringing each game closer to what Nintendo ultimately wanted. There was Donkey Kong Country winning awards for graphics, Super Metroid getting radically updated graphics, gameplay mechanics and striking bosses (Kraid!), and Mario Kart and Star-Fox making the pseudo-step towards 3D rendering. Which, to put in context, was released at a time when games had a choice of top-down, side-scroll, or blasé RPG, and after Nintendo surpassed them all in the established fields, they did again by inventing the Pseudo-3D genre; subsequently creating the N64 and full on 3D. This is roughly comparable to, say, Microsoft making the step into full-blown virtual reality with their next console, with free DLC for life and an always available butler who isn’t shy about doing a thorough wipe down service.

Nintendo created a whole host of games of which just the mention of their names is like the first slurp of a sexy cocktail mixed with 2 parts nostalgia, 2 parts respect, and 4 parts serotonin, all served in a glass with ice and Haribo Tangfastics. Need I elaborate on Zelda: A Link to the Past, or Super Mario All-Stars? Two delicately crafted mixtures of epiphany and epitome of their respective genres.

However, Nintendo have a record of using their stock of established characters in a variety of uncharacteristic and atypical formats. Nowhere is this more evident than a title like Mario Baseball, or several other similar titles that have marred some well known activity with the “Mario treatment”. I can see the obvious advantage – Mario is now a brand and a video game hero, and brands sell unrelated products when combined and Nintendo are savvy enough to spot this trend; I’m guilty of owning a Donkey Kong T-Shirt regardless of the gaming experience it offered. However, they have abused branding with such classics as Mario Paint, Dr Mario, Dance Dance Revolution Mario, and around 400 Mario Party games to name a few. Something isn’t quite right in the universe when a portly plumber starts break dancing, and it makes me question Nintendo’s integrity. Is their first thought to the game and overall quality of a product, or the cash?

Maybe this is what Nintendo have always wanted for Mario and his band of merry merchandisable men, that they always were building up to his great adventure in an epic tale told through many instalments where he would finally triumph over Bowser and defeat him in a body popping dance routine. But, whereas that may seem obscure or arcane, what is strikingly obvious is that they couldn’t give a shit about franchise purity. They have created some outstanding games (The platform based series up to Sunshine and most of the Kart series and more), but the chaff is always there. There are always a few kids pissing into a swimming pool, and a scabby old grandma whose plasters keep falling loose and drifting perilously close to your mouth. Whilst walking home you don’t think about the stunning beauty whose body was carved by the buxom God of fucking hot bods, but that scabby pair in the deep-end who were obviously petting heavily, and the curiously pink water which followed; and floating, a red sodden cotton ‘submarine’.

Thankfully, Nintendo can be relied upon to try and innovate as they develop –with constant hardware development which evolved the humble Gameboy to the 3DS, and recently igniting the motion control obsession after unveiling and enchanting with the Wii.

Although, with the latest showing at E3 and the promises of more Mario Kart and Zelda, I can’t help hope that they would quit with some series while they’re ahead. The Zelda tale has been told, and better graphics won’t make up for the fact that it basically boils down to: boy beats evil man and saves princess. Come on Nintendo, you’ve been telling that same monotonous story with different graphics, on different formats for twenty years, but there’s only so many times we’re going to buy the same flavourless meat coated in a different sauce. The same can be said about Mario Kart, which peaked with the DS version, and since its groundbreaking release on the SNES has been reinvented time and time again. Thankfully the quality has been consistently high with Mario Kart, but after seeing the latest version I can’t see the racing being excitingly and electrifying effervescent, only shambolic gimmickry which tarnishes the experience of the whole.

 I’d like to excuse Nintendo on the grounds that each new game in a series they could be building up to tell the tale or create the game they envisaged years ago, yet didn’t have the hardware to produce. Then again, I can’t look anybody in the eye and say that Pokémon Black has captured my heart with its motley crew of ‘Mon in the same way as Squirtle and Charmander, or any of the original myriad of ‘Mon (with the exception of Pidgey who has the charisma of a builder’s brick.). As well as being able to maintain eye contact and announce that the Zelda saga is incomplete. I think that they either don’t have the creative team to forward a new world, or that the bosses of Nintendo won’t take a punt on trying to sell something new. Why bother when you can slap Mario’s cheery mug onto any concept and get a guaranteed sale?

I propose renovation, change, and pump fresh air into a stale fart miasma of an ideas boardroom. LSD laced Frappacinos given to random boardroom employees so the strange and extraordinary ideas mix with the conventional thinking we currently have. With cocaine for the guys who have to pitch it, because the guy selling the original Super Mario must have been a mix of exuberant and evocative to get that commissioned. I envisage:
“It’s about a man, no! A PLUMBER! A humble down-to-earth plumber, connect with everyone, identify with the working class yeah? His boss is an evil cowardly monster, like Godzilla a bit but like a... a... turtle! Yeah, and he’s ugly and steals this plumber’s money... No wait...”
“Wallet? Identity? Pint? Queen?”
“Nah, not a dusty old Queen, needs to be younger, yeah? Princess, oh yeah! Sexy little lovely princess gets kidnapped and Mario needs to save her!”
“Heh, heh, dudes how cool would it be to have it set in a mushroom kingdom, like toadstool people and magic mushrooms and gold coins everywhere heh heh heh heh...”

They must have been thinking outside the box, and less said about the creation of the anthropomorphic crew of the Starfox the better.

On the other hand, I’m not saying that’s how Shigsy rolls. In the midst of amazing games which he and Nintendo contribute to the world, compared to him I’m not worthy to lick his boots. I do hope for a return to form for Nintendo, and that they should continue to take gambles on quirky and untested ideas because this is how they innovate, delight, and continue to improve. They alone created the legacy of a simple man determined to rescue a princess from an irate ape, which formed the basis of a series of adventures and resulted in a fictional moustachioed man being more famous than Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, or David Cameron.

They can do this again, just believe Shigsy.

- KENZI199 is a very good friend of mine and part-time, amateur freelance writer. He writes what he wants, when he wants, how he wants and then sends it to me. As such, his articles may not necessarily be the most relevent, but if I didn't think they were well worth a read, then they wouldn't be on the site. So enjoy!

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