Say what you will about Nintendo, the fact remains that it either never understood the value of a patent, or it truly believed imitation was the sincerest form of flattery.
In the early 90s, it was partnered with Sony in the development of a joint CD-based platform to take gaming to new heights of realism and immersion. Nintendo then had a change of heart and pulled out, leaving Sony to finish the job alone. It eventually came up with a little grey box called a PlayStation.
Next, Nintendo created and implemented a new method of pin-sharp analogue control for the N64. The analogue stick was heralded as a revolution and then, within a year, and by bizarre coincidence, ‘interpretations’ of it appeared on all the latest peripherals of its rivals.
In the noughties, it, yet again, revolutionised how games were played, spending millions in research and development to produce a financially viable motion control system, with great success, and now Sony and Microsoft have done playing catch-up and are all set to put motion control devices of their own on sale.
With its most recent innovation, however, the Big N has not only raised the bar, but may have got a very tall man to stand on the shoulders of his very tall twin brother and put the bar on the highest shelf they could find, way out of the reach of everyone else.
Bad analogies aside, the screen of the 3DS is a technological breakthrough, so complex in design, yet simple in premise and operation. And Nintendo’s competitors have no way of emulating it without risking billions in breaking into the handheld market themselves.
If the Wii has taught us anything, though, it’s that innovation means little if the system is supported by a library of games that are, on average, absolute bobbins. But early signs for the 3DS look good, with Zelda, Mario Kart, Starfox, Pilotwings and Metal Gear Solid, in particular, being five names that do a system’s chances no harm. Still, Nintendo has a few more potential aces up its sleeve that are just crying out for the 3D makeover.
Here are 10 franchises Nintendo could, nay, should,choose to revisit:
Originally a showcase for the Mode-7 tech on the SNES, F-Zero was given a reboot for the N64 and was again seen as a breakthrough, succeeding in displaying thirty ships on screen at once while never dipping below 60fps.
The downside of all this was that the game was as ugly as an open wound, a drawback promptly addressed in the extremely pretty SEGA-produced Gamecube incarnation, F-Zero GX.
Seeing thirty ships swooping at six hundred miles an hour around a zero gravity track in 3D would be truly brilliant, even on a small screen, and due to the nifty way the 3DS renders each frame (one frame, split vertically into two, one for each eye), silky smooth 60fps would not only be feasible, but highly likely.
Metroid Prime is one of the most successful reimaginings in videogame history. It was a huge departure from previous entries in the series in viewpoint (third person to first), dimensions (two to three) and genre (shoot-em-up to, erm, explore-jump-and-shoot-em-up), and yet it retained the essence of the older games brilliantly. And, in addition, it was bloody lovely to look at.
A first-person game such as this is one of the genres that would benefit hugely from a real perception of depth, as the platforming sections, in particular, could become tiresome after a misjudgement of distance sent you, once again, plummeting to your doom. More superficial benefits would be no less appealing, though, as a true sense of massive scale for bosses and locations could be achieved with 3D, and zipline sections (like those in Corruption) would have us whooping like demented idiots.
A critical and commercial success on its release on the N64 in 1998, 1080° won praise for its graphical detail, precise control and sense of speed. Tiny things, like the boards leaving tracks in the snow and realistic lens flare, may not seem so exciting now to all you little scamps who don’t know even know you’re born, but back in ‘the day’ they were a big deal. So, there.
Racing games seem fairly obvious in their leanings towards the 3D treatment, and this one would probably work rather well. Dodging lethal pine trees and getting ‘serious air’ hitting jumps, while snow is kicked back at the camera could, in theory, look bloody marvellous, and this is one franchise that is well overdue an update. Even an Ocarina-esque N64 port would be effective, but a game built ground up for the platform is what we’d all really want, isn’t it?
….or 3DS Wars, or whatever. The ‘most addictive game of all time’ thrived on the GBA and DS, not because it boasted whizz-bang effects and cinematic FMV, but because it was simple, refined, perfectly balanced and exceedingly difficult.
So, while a game whose graphics serve the gameplay, and not vice-versa, may not be the ideal choice to show off the 3D, it could be forgotten that not every game has to. Some will not want things jumping out at their faces all the time, and the system may also cater for these people. A franchise like Advance Wars is not likely to be left to pasture, and the sooner a new instalment arrives, the better.
Retro Studios is handling the upcoming Wii version of Donkey Kong, and it’s not completely ridiculous to envisage them also signing on for a 3DS version. It could turn up as a port of the Wii game, a 2D scrolling platformer with pseudo-3D effects (think New Super Mario Bros), or a brand new 3D adventure taking advantage of the 3DS’s party piece, more similar in style to Donkey Kong 64.
What many of us would prefer, of course, is a new Diddy Kong Racing. But this is neither here nor there. Just a mild plea on the remote off chance that someone with the power to make this happen may be reading. If you are… Ah, go on.
This one is quite simple: The Death Star Trench. In 3D. The Battle of Hoth. In 3D. Endor’s Speeder Bikes In 3D. The Battle of Endor. In 3D.
Factor 5, the development studio responsible for the previous games, is involved in a spot of litigious brouhaha at the moment as it seems to have stopped paying its staff and has bravely started to fire them all instead. Unsurprisingly, output appears to have been halted for the moment.
This is one case where a port of the older games would be sufficient, though. Preferably Rogue Squadron III, please. Come on Nintendo, don’t make us beg.
Excitebike / Excite Truck
Excitebike, originally appearing on the NES, produced both the sequel, Excitebike 64, and the spiritual sequel on the Wii, Excite Truck. Its main selling point was its disregard for anything approaching realism, throwing the player off huge jumps, sheer cliffs and bumpy terrain, rewarding successful stunts with preposterous speed boosts. Gran Turismo this was not.
Excitetruck was a release title for the Wii, receiving positive reviews early in the system’s life, so clearly Nintendo considers it a worthy franchise and one it may be keen to revisit in further launches. The ridiculous altitudes achieved by hitting bumps in the landscape the size of hedgehogs would be accentuated by the 3D effect, and as a showcase for this, a return to the Excite series seems fairly likely. No bad thing, either.
Super Smash Brothers
Smash Brothers has appeared in some form on the last three non-handheld Nintendo platforms and has been one of the company’s biggest hits, both critically and commercially. However, the main selling point, the four pissed people around one telly multiplayer mode, just wouldn’t translate to a handheld, requiring either the impersonal Internet multiplayer or four people in the same room with four separate systems, both of which pale in comparison to sharing a single screen and swearing wholeheartedly at your friends.
Nevertheless, Nintendo will be loathe to ignore the sheer popularity of these titles, and if it can find a way to bring the series to the 3DS with a bang, it would bring the legions of slaphappy Smash Bros fans right along with it.
Again, the N64 version (itself a sequel to the simplistic Game Boy original) was considered a technical marvel on its release, with water physics so realistic they made players feel ever so slightly moist. A further sequel followed on the Gamecube, and just fine it was too, although by this time, realistic physics were ten a penny and the ‘wow’ factor was gone, leaving only a fairly solid racer behind.
Its sheer persistence over the years shows Nintendo has little intention of letting the series die, and, like 1080°, the 3D could be used to further the impression of realism and speed. Huge waves careering towards the screen, splashes from the back of the jet ski causing you to flinch, acrobatic leaps and their subsequent rapid returns to sea level turning your stomach, lots of people being violently sick all over their screens. For this reason alone, this should be put into production immediately.
The chances of a Mario game not being in development as we speak are roughly the same as looking down one day and finding your bellybutton has turned into a tiny version of Bob Carolgees, so it’s not really a question of ‘will it happen’, more one of ‘how’.
That is, will they opt for the 2D loveliness of New Super Mario Bros., thus negating their own 3D voodoo and witchcraft? Not bloody likely.
Nintendo will be extremely keen to show off its new technology with a new Mario title, so, will a roaming platfomer, i.e. Super Mario 64 or Sunshine, appear? Or will they opt for the swooping, zero gravity mentality of Galaxy? Most folks would probably be hoping for the latter, as its style would benefit most from an extra dimension.
Whatever happens, we can be sure that it will (a) demonstrate the 3D in fantastic and imaginative new ways, and (b) be completely and utterly brilliant.
These franchises, coupled with those already announced plus the imminent influx of third-party titles, seem to stand the 3DS in good stead, indeed, although whether it will enjoy as many original games as it deserves or simply become a dumping ground for lazy 3D ports of existing titles remains to be seen.
The Wii’s library of games is not a positive advertisement for Nintendo’s quality control, but the DS’s is, so, hopefully, that is the example it will follow.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
What would you most like to see arrive on the 3DS? Add your top choices to the comments….