I think the key word in your immersion rant is Continuity. That right there is probably the biggest thing Nintendo has been lacking.
Since Super Mario World, the games basically just hit the reset button every time. This is mostly demonstrated in us going back to the mushoom kingdom every time a new game comes out.
While Zelda has a timeline, the games tend to not have much connecting each other inside of themselves. It can fall under similar criticism, then, for just going back to hyrule to save zelda again.
Pokemon Gold and Silver took place 3 years after Red and Blue, and showed the results of Red (you, the player). Since then, though, the games all take place at the same time in different areas. (apparently there’s some alternate reality they’re branching off into, further hurting continuity) Another criticism is that the games are getting MORE childish even though it doesn’t sell to a demographic so much as it sells in very high numbers to its original fans (who themselves were in that demographic when they first became fans). It’s one thing to play for gameplay and ignore the story, but the story has been becoming harder to tolerate, with 10 year old love interests shoved down your throat)
Star Fox Zero removes the characters introduced in Assault. When does this game take place? I wonder if this was influenced by Miyamoto.
Metroid had s certain level of continuity until Fusion. Now every Metroid takes place before it (the prime series is probably “an alternate timeline” or some such, making the matter worse)
This is a good point. The reason why continuity is outlawed in Nintendo games is because Nintendo developers believe nothing has the right to dampen their creativity. They are already pissed they have to make franchise games (because that is what people buy).
There is market evidence to suggest that continuity does sell games. The Ultima series spanned from the late 1970s to the the 1990s. Wing Commander 1, 2, 3, 4, and Prophecy (yech!) was continuity. Blizzard games follow continuity (quiet you Starcraft 2 critics!). You have Warcraft to Warcraft 2 to Warcraft 3 to World of Warcraft and its endless expansions. You have Diablo 1, 2, and 3. You have Starcraft 1 and 2. I’m scared Blizzard is abandoning the continuity model too which makes their games seem more and more worthless to me.
Now, I do not expect continuity in Super Mario Brothers, for example, but I do want to see further immersion into Mushroom Kingdom like we got from SMB 1 to SMB 3. This is why SMB 3 is so loved in great part. The worlds had MAPS (gamers LOVE maps!). Zelda used to be a continuation as well. Zelda 2 was to see what was next. Link to the Past was a prequel but so good. Metroid was a continuity.
I haven’t played Mass Effect, but I hear people played that series for its continuity. Halo certainly had its share of continuity.
I know Nintendo representative is reading this blog saying, “And how many millions of games have YOU sold, Master Malstrom?” Just because millions of games were sold doesn’t mean the person who made it knows why.
“But what about new audiences?”
This is the real reason why you do not see continuity. People want to sell to ‘new audiences’ and won’t they be scared by the continuity? The answer is no. The new audience will be curious about the continuity. The series is around for a while, therefore, it must be good somehow. They want to find out! If they like it, then they GO BACKWARDS and obtain the older games.
Book publishers love series for this very reason. When book 13 comes out, people read it and then go back to buy books 1-12 if they like it.
All that fuss about the Zelda timeline is about continuity. If Nintendo is so stupid not to realize the link between the timeline fuss and continuity, they deserve to go out of business.
Nintendo has a mantra that gameplay > fantasy. I don’t disagree with this. However, it should be gameplay > or = fantasy. Look, we know that graphics are a HUGE selling point in game consoles and games. What do graphics do? Graphics sell the fantasy. This is why fantasy books have those amazing cover art. Magic the Gathering has incredible art on the cards. If gameplay was all that mattered, why have this art?
above: Atari fans will acknowledge that the Atari game cartridge art was an integral ingredient to the experience.