Ask the people: Sam and Matt

I decided to ask a few of my Twitter followers, Facebook pokers and general e-mates what they thought of Nintendo for 2011 and 2012. This is batch two of three.

 Can you introduce yourself and make any plugs that you wish to plug:

My name is Sam Hawes. I’m a lover, a fighter and a gamer. You’ll catch me on NeoGAF.com as Mr. Sam posting about games; on Twitter as SkeletalSam tweeting about games; on SquaresCircle.com occasionally writing about trivial stuff with tenuous connections to games. Oh, and on forums.wrestlezone.com talking about how hilariously poor WWE ’12 is as a game, among other things. As you do.

I’ve been playing video games since I can remember. My earliest gaming memory is watching my brother play Earthworm Jim on the SNES, which probably makes me something of a newcomer compared to a lot of people. Like most gamers worth their salt, I’ve a special connection to Nintendo. Super Mario World taught me how to platform, Mario Kart taught me how to race, Zelda taught me how to traverse dungeons, Pokemon taught me how to play a role and, perhaps most importantly, Goldeneye taught me how to shoot people in the face. Ouromov really, really deserved it.

However, Nintendo’s sort of become like an old flame in recent years. The GameCube was barely a blip on my radar. Super Smash Bros. Melee was a ludicrously fun party game, as were Mario Kart: Double Dash, WrestleMania X8 and a few other prolific GC titles. It just paled in comparison to my beloved PlayStation 2. I thought the Wii might make more of an impression, and early signs were promising. Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart returned to my social circle, but, again, little else has made an impact. I’ll mess you up with R.O.B. by the way. Seriously. Don’t try me.

I now own a Xbox 360 and a PlayStation 3 and find myself maintaining my hobby by snapping up bargains. Dark Souls for £25? Yes, please! Rayman Origins for £18? How could I say no!? Bulletstorm for £8? Sure thing. You’ll also occasionally find me ganking dudes on League of Legends. Very occasionally. My relationship with Nintendo is primarily maintained with quick flings with the most critically lauded DS titles. I worry the rise of iOS devices and surprisingly high quality 99p titles might sever my link with Nintendo once and for all. The 3DS and the Wii U certainly have their work cut out for them.

I’m Matthew Jessup, also known as Cobra T. Washington, cowriter of the wrestling game show podcast Shoot Promo. You can listen to the podcast by subscribing on iTunes or visiting the website at http://shootpromoshow.podomatic.com, and be sure to follow us on twitter @ShootPromoShow.

Nintendo had a mix bag in 2011, what were your overall feelings on it?

Nintendo’s 2011 was definitely a game of two halves. One half not good and one half– um, less not good. Ahem.

The first half was unremarkable and, at times, just plain bad. The 3DS, by all accounts, had a bad start. Financially, it was really the first serious misstep for Nintendo in some time; since the launch of the Wii, really. Otherwise, it was a microcosm for what a lot of people think of modern Nintendo – gimmicky hardware supported by Nintendogs and the re-release of a game over a decade old. You could argue that Nintendo isn’t the lantern of shovelware and tired franchises that some say it is, but the 3DS’s poor launch encouraged critics instead of silencing them. In the face of the crisis, the price of the 3DS was cut dramatically. Early adopters, despite a generous enough compensation package, were left high and dry. Only PSN being compromised can be said to have been more of an embarrassment in 2011, and both led to Japanese blokes in suits bowing in apology.

The second half was definitely better – though that wasn’t ever going to be a difficult feat, was it? I don’t think the release of Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land is the rejuvenation that the 3DS needed, but its sales figures have perked up significantly. I don’t yet own a 3DS, but I had significant hands-on time with both new Mario titles at the Eurogamer Expo and they were fantastic; better than my already high expectations. Couple them with the Zelda and Star Fox remakes and you’ve got a really solid four. Underrated titles like Shinobi and WWE All Stars help make up a decent and variable roster. Thing is, even at launch, I don’t think such a small collection of quality software is good enough in today’s day and age. If you’re not high on those six games – and, admittedly, some of them are difficult not to be high on – then what are you to do?

Skyward Sword – and the Wii itself – obviously can’t be ignored, but it felt isolated. It felt to me like the only AAA game released on the Wii all year, which might speak more of my ignorance than the Wii’s actual quality. While the other platforms were being flooded with these big budget super-titles, the Wii drought continued.

Skyward Swords is the game that justifies the Wii’s existence,” said some. “One game isn’t enough to justify a console, especially not this late in the day,” said others.

Overall, I feel Nintendo had some very high points (The 3DS price cut leading to better sales, several excellent releases, exciting E3 announcements) that were broken up by long stretches where nothing particularly interesting happened at all.

What was your favourite Nintendo released game of 2011?

There’s no competition for Pokemon Black & White. No, literally – there’s no competition for Pokemon Black & White. I’m not sure if I played anything else that could qualify for my favourite Nintendo released game of 2011. If I’d played more than fifteen minutes of Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Ocarina of Time, Star Fox or Skyward Sword, perhaps they’d have overtaken Pokemon. But I didn’t, so they haven’t. It’s a one horse race.

It was quite the one horse race, mind you. In terms of my games of the year, as they currently stand without my entire backlog cleared, Black and White is only behind Portal 2, Batman: Arkham City and Rayman Origins. I bought both versions of it. That’s the first time I’ve ever done that for a Pokemon game, and I’ve played every generation since Red & Blue; that’s how much I loved it.

It doesn’t push boundaries in terms of graphics, physics, structure or story. It doesn’t push boundaries. A charming, polished, inventive take on a well-established formula. That’s Nintendo in a nutshell, isn’t it?

I’ll hopefully find the time to revisit it sometime soon. I need to finish fleshing my Ultimate Steel Team out.

Bit of a cliché answer, but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. It’s gorgeous, fun, and harnesses the Wii’s potential better than any other game I’ve played on it to date (Though No More Heroes did come close!)

Most Nintendo bloggers out there have noted that Nintendo had a terrible start but a great end. Do you think they can maintain their momentum in Q1?

I feel 2011 took the wind out of Nintendo. It recovered towards the end, regained its poise a little, but it’s still in a weakened position compared to this time last year. 2012 is the year in which Nintendo will face a huge amount of uncertainty. In Q1, I’d see Nintendo keeping this comfortable cruising pace. Q4, when we’ll presumably see the Wii U rear its ugly head, is the earliest that they’ll really put the foot on the gas.

The PlayStation Vita is on the horizon. I don’t actually think the 3DS has much to fear here. It seems to me that Sony are walking into the same traps and then some. I’m not sure what the exact launch line up will be, but even if every game I know of gets released at launch it isn’t looking fantastic. The only game that interests me is WipEout 2048, and I’m hoping Sony will do what they eventually did with the PSP exclusives and cave and stick them on the home consoles at a discounted price. Having to buy a memory card on top of the initial package, putting it on uneven financial footing with the 3DS is a dopey idea. Not to mention that Sony already tried to bring digital distribution to the masses with the PSP Go and that was, uh, less than a success.

Microsoft and Sony are likely to announce new consoles at E3 this year. It will be interesting to see how they’ll compare to the Wii U. That they’ll be more powerful is pretty much a given, unless Sony and Microsoft decide to start removing processing power. Somehow doesn’t seem likely. Microsoft are likely to move forward with a heavy focus on Kinect, which is something I dread. Hopefully Sony will have learned from the whole Sixaxis debacle and stay out of that whole mess. I don’t see Move playing much of a role in the future.

Apple’s accidental empire will continue to grow. Make no mistake, iOS devices are the real competition now and, for all intents and purposes, they are kicking arse. Nintendo’s positioned itself in a market of its own creation, away from the Xbox and the PlayStation. Without even meaning to, by selling addictive, creative little games for the price of the lint in your pocket, Apple encroached on this territory in a big way, and it’s almost their game to lose at this point.

Absolutely. I think companies, after seeing how well the Wii did, will want to put more stock into Nintendo. The 3DS is a great device with a lot of power and potential to go on top of the 3D gimmick. I think we’ll be seeing a lot from the big N in Q1.

Which game are you most looking forward to Nintendo wise in 2012?

I’m really looking forward to the 3DS port of Rayman Origins. That’s kind of sad, isn’t it? I doubt I’ll even end up getting it, though I do plan to pick up a 3DS shortly.

I’m not exactly familiar with the release schedules of either the Wii or the 3DS, so I’m not really the one to ask about this. Just taking a quick look, there’s nothing that really hits me in the face as being a must buy. I’m very, very unlikely to pick up a Wii this late in its life-cycle.

Nor do I really buy games like that. Unless I am seriously hyped about a game, I never pick up a game day one anymore. I let a game come out, let reviewers and the filthy masses rub their grubby mitts over every nook and cranny, see how it fares and, if it still holds together, wait for a price drop. Games shouldn’t be over £20 – they just shouldn’t.

Basically, I’m looking forward to whatever surprises the 3DS sees fit to throw at me. And hey, who knows, the Wii U could be a dark horse.

Apart from the usual suspects – Mario, Zelda, Super Smash Bros. – I can’t really pinpoint a specific Nintendo game I’m really looking forward to. I’m sure they’re out there, I just haven’t heard enough about them to really be anticipating them. I’m hoping there’ll be a new Metroid to look forward to in the new year, though.

What about the Wii? Is there life in the old girl yet or does the Last Story, Pandora’s Tower and The Last Story mark the end?

The Wii hasn’t competed for my attention for a while. It hasn’t even tried to. For me, it’s just been sailing on a calm sea of non-interest for a couple of years now. There’s the occasional lesser known title that piques my interest, but I can find high quality obscure titles in bargain bins and in Steam sales. The Wii’s been dead to me for some time, though a PlayStation 2-esque late-in-the-day sprint to the finish isn’t totally off the cards.

So, um, a new Okami maybe?

As I said before, Skyward Sword has shown that the Wii can still go strong. Hopefully more companies will want to take advantage of what the Wii has, rather than complaining about what it doesn’t.

The first half of the year will all be about the 3DS. After the price cut, change of marketing, system updates and some big titles what does it need during 2012?

I don’t mean to harp on it about it, but I’m going to have to – the iPad and the iPhone have put the 3DS onthe back foot. On a technical level, the iOS games aren’t even handicapped. Infinity Blade II looks as good as, if not better than, anything on the 3DS, and it a fraction of the price. So then – very little to fear from Sony, much to fear from Apple.

What I’m worried about is that we’ll get an early revision of the hardware – that’s what it doesn’t need. OK, so it has some issues; poor battery life, a lack of dual analogue sticks and screens which damage one another. But let’s not kick the dog to death before it even has rabies.

Keep course and release those first party blockbusters two at a time and at regular intervals. That’s what I want.

The 3DS needs more original properties, as well as new installments of existing properties. Personally, even though Star Fox 64 may be one of my favorite games of all time, I still haven’t gotten the 3DS version because it’s just too similar to the N64 version. Now a whole new Star Fox would be great fun and I’d definitely buy that. Fewer remakes, more original installments. (Though if they do want to do more N64 remakes, I’d love to see a 3D version of Majora’s Mask!)

What game are you looking forward to most on the 3DS?

Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic games.

But seriously, probably Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D. I don’t think the Metal Gear franchise has been treated particularly well on portables, but now that they have the power – and the thumbsticks – to do them justice it will pretty interesting.

The reason I bought a 3DS in the first place: “Good People Die”, the sequel to the brilliant 2010 game 999.

When do you think we’ll see the WiiU?

I’m not really the guy to ask. I haven’t paid close attention to Wii U speculation since the whole “Is this a peripheral or a controller or what?” debacle at its initial launch. Gun to my head – Q4. Wouldn’t be amazed to seeing it pushed back to next year.

The WiiU I believe is coming some time late in 2012. To be honest, I’m surprised with how it seems to have fallen off the radar. I thought it would have received tons more press than it did. But I don’t think Nintendo will miss the next Christmas season.

What are your initial thoughts on it?

The latest in a long line of hardware developments that has bemused me. The cynic in me says that Nintendo has thrown everything at the wall to see what will stick. The optimist – what’s left of him – says that Nintendo more than knows what it’s doing, one stumble aside.

If it launches with some decent software and a decent price tag, maybe I’ll even pick on up. Maybe.

I think it looks like a Wii that needs to go on a diet. The tablet interface is intriguing, though. It could definitely be useful similar to how a DS’s second screen is useful, and the added motion control opens up a world of possibilities in the way both could interact. It needs some streamlining and some really good games that use the technology as a way to enhance the experience rather than as a gimmick before I’m sold.

I personally think that there needs to be at least two major Nintendo games on launch. Which game would you like to see and which one would be likely?

Super Mario Galaxy 3 could be interesting, couldn’t it? It doesn’t seem Nintendo’s style to stick a direct sequel in a launch line-up, but they’ve surprised me a lot in the past. The Galaxy series has been exceptional.

The Smash Bros. series is perhaps the most due for an update, and falls in that nice crevice between new Nintendo and old Nintendo.

The one I would like to see would be Metroid. The tablet could be used as a map screen, an inventory to switch between weapons, a way to control Morph Ball mode, or it could utilize the motion controls as a way to look through the visor and aim your cannons at enemies. As for what is likely, I would say a Mario game is a safe bet. As one of Nintendo’s biggest properties, he’s sure to sell and be quality at the same time.

What does Nintendo need to do to make the WiiU launch a success?

Four or five quality pieces of software. When Nintendo is on, they’re better than anyone else in the world. A low price tag wouldn’t go admiss.

To make it a success, Nintendo needs to promote. Two things hurt the 3DS on its initial launch: The high price, and the fact that it felt to the public like an enhanced DS similar to the DSi when it was a whole new system. Nintendo needs to promote this new system as just that: A new system.

Do you think that the console will bring back the MIA third party developers or will it be much of the same?

I don’t see third party developers running back to Nintendo any time soon. You know the drill – we’ll have Zelda, Mario, Metroid, Star Fox and the gang, accompanied by Wii Sports Autumn and Nintendogs & Cats & Hamsters. Nothing wrong with that.

Maybe one of the dozen or so teams that EA’s crammed beneath the BioWare banner will develop something nice.

I think the third party developers will see how successful the Wii was and want to get in on that. Combine that with the fact that the WiiU looks to be as powerful as competing consoles and you have a recipe for a successful system.

Lastly give me some E3 predictions, the crazier the better.

The Wii U will be renamed to the Revolution, and it’ll turn out that the 3DS will act as its controller. Metroid will be reborn as a third person cover shooter, crammed full of chest high walls.

The PlayStation 4 will be an add-on to the cartridge-based Revolution, while Microsoft cuts out the middle man and starts selling hula hoops. You know, for kids.

Mega Man and Mega Man 2 will be announced for the 3DS Classics line, to tie in with the announcement that he will be playable in Super Smash Bros. WiiU.

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Posted on 15/01/2012, in Features. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I pretty much take ’em as I get ’em with games, I’m not picky, if I like something I buy it, but I don’t go around coming up with things to want since if I did I’d probably never get them anyway. I also usually say new games are better than remakes…

    But I want Majora’s Mask 3D. After playing Ocarina in 3D I’m dying to see it’s sequel in the same way. I always liked Majora’s Mask a bit better anyway, and it’s the one I’ve been more keen on replaying. I never thought I’d ask for a game I could get for 30 dollars less either, but this one would be worth it.

  2. Dem paragraphs. Dem paragraphs.

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