I know I’m complaining to the wrong person on this subject, but I have to comment on what I see as disservice to both Classic Nintendo and GameCube Nintendo fans: the transformation of 2D and 3D Mario games into a “mono-genre”.
I grew up with NES and Super NES and when N64 came out I followed Nintendo there even though they lost a lot of 3rd party support. I do remember, thinking back to that time, that I realized there was a true difference between 2D Mario and 3D Mario but over time I came to accept that 3D Mario was Nintendo’s direction. And I did love 3D Mario – really it was Pilotwings 64 and Super Mario 64 that convinced me to pick the N64.
I received NSMB 2 and Super Mario 3D Land last Christmas and I decided to give each game a brief go before picking one to focus on (NSMB 2 won even though it’s arguably the inferior product). What I noticed is the more I played 3D Land and NSMB 2, the more they felt exactly alike. I’m traveling through the same old grass and dessert and snow worlda, each level I’m seeking the same 3 Star Coins, passing the same mid-way goal, and finding the same goal post – or the same old “hidden route” goal post. This is not
Part of the problem is the actual quality of the games themselves: 3D Land feels “B-class” and NSMB 2 feels “C-class”. But even so, these games should not be the same! I shouldn’t be solving puzzles and scavenger hunting for coins in 2D Mario: I should be running and jumping like hell to beat enemies and avoid pitfalls. I also shouldn’t be following a linear path to a goalpost in 3D Mario: I should be navigating 3D landscapes and searching for stars.
The 2D Mario problems actually lie more in the pure lack of effort than the move towards scavenger hunting, but it’s still a mistake. 3D Mario trying to mimic 2D Mario is more notable my opinion because the 3D gameplay will never be crisp enough to match 2D Mario – the extra axis is just too annoying. Ironically, I wonder if Nintendo went down this path after reading your old articles that exposed the difference between the true Super Mario Bros. gameplay of running and stomping your way to a goalpost
versus 3D Mario gameplay of hunting for stars?
If 3D controls aren’t crisp enough to mimic 2D Mario gameplay what are they good for? Exploration! You’ve discussed the importance of choice in your blog before and Super Mario 64 was full of it: you and I could each have 20 stars and one of us may have unlocked 7 levels while the other might still be working on level 3. You could beat the game without ever playing Tik Tok Clock and I might find every star in the game before I beat it. Even within any given level the player normally had access to the majority of
the stars right from the start and could uncover them in many different sequences. I think Nintendo could actually take that formula further and have a far superior 3D Mario game – imagine an open world 3D Mario game where the player could walk from the castle to level 1 to level 3, and if he picks up a star he must choose between going back to the safe Castle to power up or carrying on to find another star, with appropriate penalties for being too adventurous. It may sound like I’m yoinking ideas from GTA, Skyrim or Minecraft, but this is actually the vision I’m sure a lot of players had for 3D Mario as soon as they started playing Super Mario 64.
Of course I’m beating a dead horse here: 3D Mario doesn’t sell consoles and actually, the sales charts I checked show Mario 3D Land is approaching Galaxy and Super Mario 64 in sales, so maybe these are just the incoherent ramblings of a former hardcore gamer! But I do think Nintendo’s attempts to make these games alike results in a factory made feel that is cheapening the Super Mario franchise. Proper attention needs to go to 2D Mario and 3D Mario should be sidelined and maybe re-imagined after 2D Mario regains its
Miyamoto’s plan is to make 3d Mario so similar to 2d Mario that 2d Mario becomes absorbed into 3d Mario. There will just be ‘Mario’ which would be Miyamoto’s 3d Mario.
Nintendo has declared console war. The war is not against Microsoft or Sony or ‘non-game’ entertainment. No. The war is against Malstrom. The war is against you, the beautiful gamer. Nintendo has no desire to make games people want. They only desire to make games THEY want. Nintendo does not ask, “What can we make that will excite people?” They ask, “What can we make that excites us AS WELL as excite people?” It is one thing for entertainers to be inspired, but I keep seeing the same thing over and over.
Mario: How do we shove 3d down everyone’s throats? That is the only Mario we want to make is 3d.
Zelda: How do we get Aonuma’s Zelda down everyone’s throat? That is the only Zelda we want to make.
Metroid: How do we get Sakamoto’s Emo Metroid down everyone’s throat? That is the only Metroid Sakamoto wants to make.
Clearly, that is the task of the marketers and underlings who get no say. Iwata, being a former game developer, says the software developers call the shots. “You cannot tell them what to do.” But I, the long time customer, can, in fact, tell them what to do. It is so painfully obvious to me how Miyamoto is really trying to cram 3d Mario down our throats. I’d talk more on the subject, but I get too angry.
You mention a good point about how the content is always the same. The same desert world. The same crap over and over again. It didn’t used to be this way. Super Mario World was DINOSAUR LAND which was completely different from what we saw. Super Mario Brothers 3 was detailed Mushroom Worlds which we hadn’t seen before. Doki Doki Panic had Sub-con. Mario 64 even had Peach’s Castle. There is nothing memorable or fresh in the later Mario games. There is no content rich enough that could be gathered to make a cartoon show for example.
There is ADVENTURE there. What does the Mario Galaxies offer? Just flying around space in areas that seem like Mushroom World was blended together? And don’t get me started on Super Mario Sunshine. At least Nintendo offered something new.
I know for a fact, because I lived through it, that it was content, not just gameplay mechanics, that created the Nintendo phenomenons. Content is what allows our imaginations to go wild. Nintendo doesn’t offer any new content. All it offers is reservings of the same shit. I’m fine with Grassland and Hell being Worlds 1 and Worlds 8 but can we get something new? (Yes, I know Super Mario 3d World offers something ‘new’. Note how Miyamoto intentionally saved it for the 3d Mario as well as playable Peach. For 2d Mario, Miyamoto lied through his teeth saying he couldn’t put in Peach because of ‘dress physics’. By this rate, I bet 3d Mario will have Internet multiplayer before 2d Mario. For the next ‘big’ feature of 2d Mario, Miyamoto will probably ‘allow’ ‘greater Mii-Verse integration’ as if anyone cares.)
BTW, why is the Mega Man cartoon intro so well done?