When I started this blog, it was essentially a platform for me to gush about Nintendo games. I was a Nintendo kid growing up, a closet Nintendo teen prior to being an “out of the closet” fan when I achieved adulthood. When the Switch launched, I was blown away with Nintendo’s early releases, but since then, things have steadily gone downhill, and today I am going to ramble on a bit as to how, and maybe why.
The Early Days
Let’s be real, real quick alright? Breath of the Wild (BotW) is a masterpiece of a game. Is it flawed?Yes, of course. But that doesn’t detract from what this meant to Nintendo fans across the world. BotW redefined what it is to be a 3D Zelda title. Gone are the pseudo open worlds, gone are the scripted dungeons and creatively bankrupt puzzles, gone is the flatness of the world. BotW took Zelda and showed the world that Nintendo was no longer afraid to take risks and make huge, sweeping changes to its flagship series.
Then bam, Nintendo dropped another bombshell. Mario Odyssey landed to universal critical acclaim and instantly became one of the most beloved Mario games of all time. Mario had become stagnant over the years – once the pinnacle of creativity and platforming, each title started to get formulaic, stale and ultimately, disappointing. Once again Nintendo showed us that they were willing to throw caution to the wind with not just one of their flagships, but with the biggest name in gaming. It paid off in droves. Mario Odyssey is a game with so much creativity and freedom that the game itself isn’t enough to satiate a person’s need to experiment and explore its vast levels.
After all of that drama, the year comes to a close and we get Super Smash Brothers Ultimate – a game that puts every other fighting game to shame with its unmatched roster, stage selection, side content and bevy of collectables. Whilst not revolutionary in the same way the previous titles mentioned, it still went to town in terms of reception and community feedback.
The Middling Period
After the big 3 dropped, things do start to take a noticeable nose-dive in terms of quality, innovative releases. ARM’s was an over the shoulder 3D fighter with extendable limbs. A novel concept with some truly fantastic gameplay that was hindered by a serious lack of content. This didn’t go unnoticed by gamers and eventually the game got unceremoniously dropped as Nintendo more or less stopped supporting it with substantial updates.
Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee launched showing us how an HD, home console Pokemon game would look and feel. Poor motion controls and a rehashed rendition of the now ancient gameboy title – Pokemon Yellow, took no risks and advanced the core formula nowhere. At least not substantially. It was a run of the mill, starting up port at best. This is a worrying omen in general as Mario Kart 8, among many, many other titles would soon see ports materialise (technically Mario Kart was already released at this point).
Splatoon 2 turned out to be more of Splatoon, which is awesome since the game is brimming with quality content and fun – but it was ultimately just more Splatoon. Super Mario Party is almost the exact same game, rehashed for what feels like the 38th time. Kirby Star Allies was a short, disappointing Kirby release that did very little to entice anyone to play it. Heck, throw Yoshi’s Crafted World in there too.
The Time Of Strife
Things took a turn for the worse as Nintendo began churning out even more ports of games that people simply didn’t care for, and further exemplified Nintendo’s desire to not take risks – despite previous risks paying off massively. This really came to a head with New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. Whilst a competent title on the Wii U, it was hardly anything special and completely failed to do anything remotely interesting with the Mario formula. The ‘Deluxe’ port is packaged with some DLC, and that’s about it. A substandard experience pushed out of the door with minimal effort.
Recently Paper Mario got a new entry in the form of Origami King and needless to say – it is mordern paper mario through and through, with some minor changes here and there to give the illusion of substantial change. As a series, Paper Mario has disappointed fans for over a decade and the latest entry, whilst a noticeable improvement, only barely masks the barren wasteland that is Nintendo’s 2020 release schedule.
Animal Crossing New Horizons is a fantastic game, but it also gets a quick mention here as it simply doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel. It’s a game series known for its abysmal game design disguised as quaint charm, and whilst New Horizons does manage to fix some of those painful quality of life issues, many still remain. So attached to the mechanics that were present in the original Animal Crossing, Nintendo simply didn’t want to make obvious, objectively better decisions during its creation.
Now I love Pikmin more than I love most things in life, so the announcement that Pikmin 3 Deluxe was coming to Switch got me hyped to play Pikmin again – but it’s still just Pikmin 3, a seven year old game with some minor gameplay additions. Fans of the series have been chomping at the bit to get their hands on Pikmin 4. Instead we get another port. Like everything else modern Nintendo seems to create, it feels lazy.
The Dark Ages
We now come to the final (probably) section of this ramble – communication. Nintendo Directs are essentially a sneak peak at what Nintendo are planning in the coming year. Exciting new First Party games are announced and teased, giving people an idea of what to expect in the coming year. Not this year though. Nintendo haven’t had full blown Nintendo Direct in over 12 months, have revealed nothing new, have provided updates on zero highly anticipated titles such as – Metroid Prime 4, Breath of the Wild 2 and the aforementioned Pikmin 4. As a result Nintendo fans have been left in the dark with nothing but 14 month old information to hold onto as Nintendo refuses to budge. This is even more noticeable when you consider their competitors, Microsoft and Sony, have not only announced a whole new console generation, but also a bunch of exciting new games.
The worst part about all of this, is that these half arsed attempts to fill the gap between truly innovative content have been selling incredibly well. Of course I want Nintendo to be successful, but the level of success in relation to the effort they have put in, does not bode well. Why do something new, when they can do the same thing, for less?
A Sad Conclusion
It felt like Nintendo were modernising their approach to game development when the Switch launched, but as the years have gone on, it has become clear that they are the same old, tired company looking to rehash the same games over, and over again. I genuinely hope we get some of that early Nintendo magic at some point, because it’s been rough for quite some time now.
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