So I am sure that the majority of you reading this have most likely either played Super Mario Maker, or watched several of the infinity billion “Let’s Plays” available on YouTube, Twitch, or your annoying cousin’s Facebook page, either way, it’s a fairly popular game right now and for the past couple of month’s it seems to be a hit in the eyes of both Nintendo and fans of Nintendo.
But that is something you most likely already know. However, after watching several levels with variations from semi-clever, quirky, the ever so wonderful “Auto-Mario” (sorry, they haven’t invented a font for sarcasm yet), and the infamous “WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS SO IMPOSSIBLY HARD, I HATE YOU SO MUCH FOR THE THINGS YOU CHOOSE TO BE!!” levels, I can’t help but wonder a few things.
The first being, do these levels reveal something about each designer’s psyche, which probably is a Doctoral Thesis, waiting to happen. And the second being, is this game, for all the fun it is providing right now, nothing more than hollow casing that shows the kind of trouble Nintendo is in? Before everyone on the Internet gathers their pitch forks and begins throwing “facts” at me, allow me to clarify a few things. Yes, I know that Nintendo has more money stored away than several small countries combined and could last longer than a lot of other companies, if they were faced with similar issues. And yes, I will always believe that Miyamoto has a truly wonderful and child-like joy/mindset that has helped to give us all both wonderful games and memories. And finally, I also know that the tragic loss of Iwata earlier this year is a loss that was felt by many, not just the company.
All of this being said; the trouble I am talking about is from a creative stand point. Lately I can’t help but feel there is something lacking in the new idea department over at Nintendo. Right now, it seems fairly accurate to say that the company is about to move on from the Wii U, and to its next project: The Nintendo NX. Now all I have heard so far about this product is more or less speculation, so we will save talking about that for another time.
For now I want to focus on a specific event in the WiiU lifespan. Let’s wind the clocks back to 2014 (I’d put an Ocarina of Time joke here, but I’ll stay away from the low hanging fruit for now), most specifically to June 10th, 2014. That’s right I am talking about E3, when Nintendo gave us a Nintendo Direct that took most of us off guard. Many people, including myself, assumed that doing a Direct as opposed to a stage presentation meant that they had nothing to show us that year. Oh how wrong we were.
We got showcases for both versions of Super Smash Bros, Hyrule Warriors, and Bayonetta 2. And then there were announcements for new titles including Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Splatoon, a new Star Fox, and what made me the most happy: a new Legend of Zelda! (Have you all figured out I’m a Zelda fan yet?). All of it was presented in a Robot Chicken skit….and I was happy about that! But most importantly, I was excited as a feeling that had become rare during the most recent E3 events encompassed me. In fact, I was so excited, that this Nintendo Direct was what sold me on buying a Wii U, I just knew I had to have one. So, I bought one, simple as that.
Now let’s fast forward exactly one year from that day, to E3 2015. It was another direct, and unlike last year, I was really eager to see what Nintendo was going to show. Also unlike last year I, just like a lot of people, was very disappointed with what I saw. We got a semi-confusing title for the next Star Fox, Star Fox: ZERO, some kinda-sorta-not really- related Metroid game, a new Zelda hand-held that is all about playing dress-up (I’m sure this appeals to a lot of people and I know I’m reviewing it, but it just seems silly to me), and a big push for Mario Maker……..yay.
This kind of brings us full circle. Where was the Wii U Zelda we were all excited for? Why are we not getting a real Metroid game? Is this Star Fox a prequel, a sequel, or a reboot? Is Splatoon still the only truly new IP? And finally, are you so out of ideas for Mario that you’re basically telling everyone to go make their own game? It seems very possible that Nintendo is simply saying “We’ve got writer’s block.” This is something I do not feel alone in thinking. I have come across similar echoes of concern in various comments and videos. If it’s becoming that obvious to your audience, then I can only imagine how much it is affecting those who work there.
Think about the last main Mario game that had anything truly new or different in it, some would think Super Mario 3D World, and while I could see that since it was the most recent one and it was enjoyable, I disagree simply because the main things different were Cat Mario and Peach wasn’t kidnapped this time. I would say the last console Mario to do anything fairly new, and more open to a mainstream audience, was Mario Galaxy. I say that because games like Paper Mario and the Mario and Luigi sagas tend to have a touch more of a niche audience, even if they are fun. And to quote a paraphrase from History of Power Rangers: “Once a series goes into space, everything else just feels like a step backwards.”
While this isn’t exactly a persistent problem, it’s one that seems to be plaguing Nintendo right now, at the very minimum the Mario franchise. Think about it, Mario has saved the entire universe, twice, in a row. Where do you go from there? Sure, some of you may be saying “Well if you think that’s the problem, why don’t you tell them how to fix it.” That’s not my goal here. My goal is merely to express my concern.
The ultimate drawbacks to me offering any kind of solution would be: A. My “Totally smarter than you are Nintendo” offer would merely be drowned in the nonsense ocean that is the Internet. And most importantly B, if by some snow ball’s chance in the Devil’s oven they actually listened to my ideas, well then I would miss out on the joy of being surprised by what I believe they can come up with on their own, after they have gotten over this slump. I still love this company, and I always will. With that love will always come concern. My hope is simply that they take a step back, breathe, and that inspiration will come their way. Right now the feeling I get from them is nervousness, but I want to believe that in a gaming world filled with shooters, incomplete games, and annual releases of the same game, Nintendo will find a way to do what they do best. And that is to simply makes games that are both well- made and fun.