Posted by: seanmalstrom | December 31, 2013

Email: Thoughts on 3d World, Link Between Worlds, and Cult of Personality

Hello Master Malstrom,

Since you’re using your readers as your eyes and ears on Nintendo’s latest releases I thought I’d offer my two cents on Mario 3D World and Zelda ALBW, and I’m pleased to say that my time with them has been positive for the most part.

I spent a few solid hours with Mario 3D World playing with family and friends on multiplayer, and I’ll have to preface by saying that multiplayer is my only experience with the game.  That said, we had a blast, it felt very “arcade-y” and not for the least of which because at the end of each level the game ranks each player by how many points they scored, and though the only prize for the top score is bragging rights, it was great to have this mechanic back that no game ever uses anymore.

I think the dirty secret to what makes the game work (in multiplayer mode, at least) is that the game isn’t really 3D the way we’ve come to expect it.  The camera doesn’t float around or spin all over the place following the one character around, and instead maintains a comfortable distance so you can see where everyone’s at.  You’re no longer thinking about moving ‘forward’ or making turns, you’re just moving up, down, left, right.  I thought New Super Mario Bros for Wii was great fun with two players but got a little tedious with three or four as it felt like you just didn’t really have enough room to move around; with 3D World there’s just more space for everyone to run around in and I think a bit better suited for 4-players.  It reminds me of those 4-player arcade games of the 90s in that respect.

As for ALBW, I was ready to hate the game after its beginning, which is easily its weakest point, where it introduces its main two new characters: the villain and the merchant you rent/buy items from.  Too much unnecessary dialogue and the characters themselves are weird and don’t really fit the A Link to the Past style (and it’s not even that I mind an androgynous villain: it could be used to a good ‘alien’ effect, or it could also be used in a comedic manner like Mystical Ninja 64.  My problem with this villain is I get the sense that he wasn’t really meant to come off androgynous).

But things definitely get better after the beginning (which is at least nowhere near as long or involved as other recent Zelda games).  I like the open nature of it, and Link’s movements are snappy and the amount of enemies help keep the pace up with more action; oh, and I think this has some of the better boss battles of the series.  The whole “wall thing” has been a bit overblown; it’s mostly a way of looking behind/around buildings and crossing long chasms.  The game overuses it but it’s harmless and actually has you eager to use it as you start thinking “I wonder what’s behind THOSE buildings” once you get the ability.

The rental system is a bit of a dud.  The prices to rent the items are too cheap; luckily you can buy the items if you like, too, and the price to do so is suitably extravagant, so that’s what I did.  Still, in the end, it would have been better to have us discover the items ourselves.  If they don’t want it to impede the “any order” nature of the dungeons, then just have them scattered through the overworld; there are plenty of caves and secret passages where the prize is a quarter-heart container or giant rupee that would have been much more satisfying if they held items (in fairness, there are still items that you discover in chests in the dungeons).

Does the game have lots of puzzles?  Yeah, it does.  But I don’t feel like there’s all that many more than there were in A Link to the Past (to be honest, this is where Puzzelda really started as far as I’m concerned).  Dungeons feel shorter, which I don’t mind, especially considering this is a handheld game.  Speaking of which, I hated how Twilight Princess was this sprawling 40-hour or whatever game but didn’t actually offer more dungeons or more places to go… everything was just bigger and took more time to traverse.  Give me dungeons of the same length and space, just give me more of ’em!

As for the story… oh, I don’t care.  It involves Link and Zelda and Gannon and the Triforce and feels suitably important and dangerous and doesn’t feel like a ‘sidequest’, and doesn’t bog the game down in minutes-long cut scenes or too much linearity, and that’s all I really ask for.

In the end, ALBW is neither a glorious redemption nor is it some kind of malicious attempt to usurp the 2D Zelda legacy.  I’d say ‘return to form’ is apt, but I probably mean that in less dramatic terms than most people who use that term to describe it.  If you could tolerate Twilight Princess (from the sounds of it), you’d be fine with ALBW.

The best thing I can say about it is that it feels genuine.  It reminds me of a singer or a band that makes an album more in the style of their breakthrough after a few that they made for their own sake.  It doesn’t quite get it right, they can’t seem to stop all of their bad habits, and it even comes off a little patronizing, but dammit you stick with it because at least they’re finally trying to give you what (they think) you want and are not just following their whatever whimsy.

If you’re still with me at this point, I did also want to point out an observation of mine, in that I think some of your readers have formed a kind of cult of personality around you.  Not literally, but I definitely get the sense that some of them read your blog and have ‘had their eyes opened’ and then try to warp their own viewpoint according to how they think you would view the situation.  A lot of the emails you’re getting seem to be coming from people trying to emulate this popular vision of you as this cranky, paranoid stick-in-the-mud and I think it’s hilarious those times where you snap them out of it (the guy who called the 2DS a “ghetto DS” whose sole purpose was to be sent out to die made me laugh out loud, and the recent guy who theorized that the Wii was the product of outside help just reeks of a guy trying to hop on an “anti-Nintendo bandwagon” that he thinks the blog currently represents).

I don’t know if it’s just me or if you’ve gotten this impression as well, but I’m also getting that feeling with some of the emails you’re posting concerning A Link Between Worlds in particular.  Being vigilant is fine, but not EVERYTHING Nintendo does is some ulterior attempt at destroying everything good and pure with videogames, folks, and treating everything through that lens doesn’t make us look like discriminating hardasses.

If you’ve read through this whole email, thanks for reading, and you can call me Master Scott if you like.

Master Scott? You aren’t married? Remember, mister is for men who are married but master for the guys who aren’t married (such as mrs and miss for women). To anyone who doubts this, know how correct the phrase is that a man who gets married ‘is no longer the master’. hahaha

I’m not being vigilant. People rush to judgement about games for some explicable reason. Especially with Nintendo franchises, it is better to wait at least six months before you have a remotest idea of where it might fit in the quality of a 25 year plus series. A good game will still be good six months from now. And judging from NSMB DS and Mario 64 DS, the price of the game will remain the same for a decade. What’s the rush?

If I am vigilant about anything, it is against marketers and their propaganda. Thanksgiving is time for my family, not a time for me to set up the Nintendo console and try to ‘manipulate’ the family into buying Nintendo products (this is what the marketers wish us to do).

One of the big things that helped people get behind Nintendo with the DS and Wii was that people believed in the company. They believed Nintendo cared about putting out quality game experiences. People were even defending the Virtual Boy. “At least it was DIFFERENT and INNOVATIVE.” Nintendo’s interests coincided with the customers’ interests. No longer is this the case.

There are too many examples of Nintendo not caring about putting out quality game experiences. If it were due to business concerns, this might be excusable. However, it isn’t. It is over ideological concerns among the developers at Nintendo. Here are a taste of few of them:

-2d Mario gets a C string team and a low budget. 3d Mario gets the A team and a massive budget.

-The most hated Zelda game, Wind Waker, gets to be the first ‘HD Zelda’. Iwata’s announcement said, “We want Wind Waker to be seen by more people than it had on the Gamecube install base.” Translated, that means Nintendo likes Wind Waker and wants more people to play it. They assumed Wii U console would be far more popular than the Gamecube console.

-3DS is designed around ‘3d’ because old fart Nintendo developers have invested their lives in 3d gaming technology and still refuse to admit the Virtual Boy was a failure. (This is not hyperbole.)

-Sakamoto destroys the Metroid franchise with Metroid Other M. Instead of giving people a game they want to play, Sakamoto puts forth a game where he gets to be ‘narrative director’ and ‘creative god’.

-Pikmin 3 is a sequel to the failed Pikmin series of games on the Gamecube. Pikmin 3 wasn’t made because people wanted it. It was made because Nintendo developers wanted to make it. In 2008, Miyamoto said that Pikmin 3 would be a good fit for Wii because of the pointer. That was horseshit as Pikmin 3 was delayed so it could be made ‘right’. Meanwhile, the 2d Mario of NSMB U doesn’t get delayed but thrown out there at launch because Nintendo developers don’t give a shit about 2d Mario.

-No account system.

-Internet gaming sucks on the Nintendo consoles. No one asked for this Miiverse crap. Nintendo thinks it is ‘special’ because it is ‘different’. But it doesn’t do the job we want it to do.

-Wii U is a Gamecube HD with Wii branding. This was intentional. Nintendo is trying to direct the market to want games their developers wish to make. It is the market that tells you what games to make. The developers don’t get to tell the market what games it will have. It seems like Nintendo developers have been too distant from the Real World. Can you imagine a normal person with the gall of telling the labor market of what job it will be in demand? Of course not. The labor market tells you what jobs are in demand, not the other way around. And if people could tell the labor market what jobs would be in demand, it would all be the same type of job: a job that is a leisurely office job where they get to be ‘creative’. Nintendo developers being leisurely (recycling Gamecube games) and being ‘creative’ is a function of the workers trying to tell the market what job skills it demands. They are entirely upside down.

I can go on and on with the litany of complaints, but it boils down to Nintendo losing its company reputation with the crap it has been putting out (and it has been putting out crap). When people say, “No account system!”, they aren’t just talking about the account system. They’re saying they don’t trust the company itself.

The issue isn’t about ‘finding the right game’, the issue is a reputation problem.

I hear that the Wii U might get a version of Minecraft. This is laughable. Who is running this company? Minecraft is the most influential video game since Tetris. And yet, Nintendo ignored Minecraft forever. Why? I know exactly why. It is because Nintendo developers, such as Miyamoto, thumb their nose at PC games especially indie games that are made by one person. These stupid, childish developer ideologies are hurting everything. Nintendo should be reminded that GTA 1 and 2 were PC games before the franchise exploded. Call of Duty was a PC game too before the franchise exploded. Nintendo may not be able to get big industry third party games with their bizarro Japanese hardware mentality, but they can still get third party indie games where the system requirements are much, much less. Unfortunately for Nintendo gamers, Nintendo assumes they are trash and don’t even bother trying to get them onboard. Sony, however, is.

I am not a mind reader. I do not know what goes on in Iwata or Miyamoto or anyone else at Nintendo’s minds. All I can see are actions. The thoughts going on that made Nintendo think that the 3DS and Wii U would be ‘break out hits’ are some of the craziest science fiction and fantasy I can ever imagine. All I am doing is wondering, “How did they think this was a good idea???”

Nintendo developers and certain hardcore gamers might be on the same page. However, the mass market and Nintendo developers are not on the same page. There is a gulf between them. And it is not the mass market’s job to do what the Nintendo developers wish to do. It is the other way around. This is the issue I see that is wreaking havoc throughout Nintendo output for the latter part of Generation 7 and, so far, all of Generation 8. I know I sound like a grouch for articulating it, but look at the sales. Something is very, very wrong. Maybe everything said here is completely wrong. Maybe the issue is something else. But one this is for sure, Nintendo needs to stop doing what it has been doing for 3DS and Wii U and needs to change its thinking, whatever thinking that may be.



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