In less than two weeks’ time, the successor to the Nintendo Wii, currently codenamed Project Café (better known to its friends as the Nintendo Stream, or Wii 2) will be a reality.
We will have seen it in the flesh at E3 rather than on some blurry ‘secretly’ filmed footage (which was probably faked), and several lucky journalists will probably have played games on the device itself, and experienced its super duper new controller.
We all know Nintendo. Fantastic first party games are a given. Its new system is sure to see its fair share of Mario, Zelda and Metroid during its lifespan, and doubtless we will love them. As amazing as it would be for Nintendo to announce all three as launch titles, however, this isn’t particularly likely, given the development time needed for such franchises.
As we know, The Legend Of Zelda: Skyward Sword is due to be the Wii’s last hurrah, and is currently set for release before the end of the year. An HD version of the game for Café is a possibility, of course, but perhaps unlikely given that it would take the wind out of the sails of the current gen version. Also, the release dates are much further apart than the last time Nintendo launched a Zelda game across two platforms, when Twilight Princess appeared on both the Wii and its predecessor, the GameCube, in 2006.
One option for Nintendo is to somehow incorporate some HD upscaling tech, either in the emulation side of the hardware itself, or within the game’s code. This would be a good trick, to say, “Buy the new Zelda now, play it on your Wii, and then when you buy our new console next year, it will look even better – and you won’t have to buy it again!”
Whether this is possible within Nintendo’s budget, or even desirable as a marketing tool is questionable, however, as is whether the game would work without the much-hyped motion plus controls, which may or may not be part of the new Café controller.
So if we remove Zelda from our calculations of big franchises that could launch with the console, that would leave Mario and Metroid. Super Mario 3DS will probably be out around the holiday period, and despite the fact that the development team behind the first Super Mario Galaxy seem to have been very quiet of late, I can’t personally see two 3D Mario games launched within a few months of each other.
Team Ninja’s version of Metroid had a mixed reception, its fair to say. Although many loved it, and its more story driven approach, many missed the atmospheric first-person adventure and creepy atmosphere of the Prime series. Given that we know Retro Studios is working on a Café title, is it likely we will see a new game in the Prime series, or at least one with similar leanings? Retro will certainly be working on a franchise game of some description. If it isn’t Metroid, then I would guess at F-Zero, as this is another, much missed franchise that would look great in HD.
My predictions for the first party launch titles, then? I’m going with a new Metroid Prime game and F-Zero. And maybe also the launch of a brand new franchise, with a more traditional Nintendo ‘look’ that we haven’t seen before, to balance the sci-fi feel of the other two games. Something unique to show off the controller, maybe even another Kid Icarus game, if Nintendo is keen to reinvigorate that series in addition to the 3DS title.
That brings me on to the controller itself. What will the ‘streaming’ element bring to games? I’m certain that Nintendo has some great ideas for this that would put mine in the shade. But for my money, it won’t be enough to merely use the touch screen as a something like a map in the same way that the bottom DS screen was sometimes used. The controller view must be incorporated into the game in some way.
How about an ActRaiser type game (remember that, retro gaming fans?), where the touch screen is used to place and manipulate objects on the main TV screen to build a city to adventure in, or a Mario RPG title where you control two characters at once, one on your TV screen, and one on your controller screen? It would be like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time, but in a fun way.
Having said that, it would also be a good move to allow full games to be shown and played on the controller screen when access to the TV isn’t possible, although obviously only in a small radius of the console itself, to avoid competition with the 3DS as a portable console.
What I’m hoping to see from the show floor, though, is actually something that many will already know about, or have seen footage of. Namely, Modern Warfare 3, Batman: Arkham City and Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. The chances are, if the new Nintendo console launches around this time next year, it will see conversions of the three previously mentioned games, which are fully expected to sell like anything worn by Kate Middleton.
The question is, however, whether Nintendo’s new console will host fairly straightforward 360 ports of these games, or something more ambitious. If it does take the 360 or PS3 versions as its lead, then in my own humble view, the console itself will fail to set the world on fire. Why would faithful PS3 or 360 owners choose to ‘upgrade’ to a new system which isn’t much more powerful than the one they own already, just to play some Mario games they haven’t been into since they were 12?
Alternatively, just imagine for a moment that Nintendo actually means what it has said about courting the third parties. What if everyone tries that little bit harder to make the Nintendo versions of these games the best?
All three of these games will be getting PC versions, and it’s fair to say that, in most cases, the PC version of every multi-format release over the last few years has been graphically superior to their console brethren. The tech specs we have seen for the Nintendo console, if accurate, are similar to a fairly top of the range PC from roughly 18 months ago, so why not port the PC versions instead? They natively display at 1080p and have better lighting and shading than the current gen console versions.
The developers could match that with a real use for the mysterious rumoured controller screen, like an inventory/magic selector for Skyrim, or a constant first person ‘detective view’ for Arkham City.
The combination of superior graphics and must have additional features would then mark the Nintendo versions of these games as the ones to get, and Nintendo may just find themselves with a few million more fans. Oh, and maybe Rockstar might like to announce Grand Theft Auto V to launch with the system as well…