Or: Why Nintendo is trying to lose my business
I’m sure many gamers can remember the first time they played “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” Released in 1998 on a (at the time) unheard of 32-megabyte cartridge for the Nintendo 64, (or N64) its breakthrough 3D graphics blew players away. Sure, “Super Mario 64” and “Star Fox 64” came first chronically, but the real beauty and awe from the 3D graphics was awarded to “Ocarina of Time,” which improved on the look and gameplay when it came to a 3D environment and abilities.
Of course, time marches on and, when it comes knocking, bears the gifts of new technology. Handheld gaming devices made way for newer and newer editions that would have better graphics and faster frame rates, making gameplay smoother and more fun. Tilt screen made way for touch screen, until we finally arrived at the most obvious conclusion, thanks to the trend in other mediums: the 3DS.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, the 3DS is Nintendo’s latest version of their handheld gaming device. What started as the “Gameboy” later became the “Nintendo DS” (with “DS” either standing for “Developer’s System” or “Dual Screen,” depending on who you ask), which introduced the idea of having two screens available for gameplay. The DSi gave gamers the ability to use a camera for “real action/live action” games and to make mini-movies with the handheld device, while the 3DS introduced the idea of adding a third dimension to those movies and games.
“Good!” you might say. “It’s about time! When I play ‘Super Mario Bros’ I want to be able to see Mario swing ALL the way around that flagpole at the end of the level!”
Well, good for you. However, while you’re taking the time during the victory ending to check out that little plumber’s butt as he swings around the pole (you creeper, you), there are some of us that prefer the old-school style of gaming.
Personally, I like the side-scrollers and the little adventure sprites. I like the original “Super Mario Bros” and still have my original Nintendo console. I like the “Zelda” games on the Gameboy Color and the (granted, improved) “Pokemon” games on the Nintendo DS. I am not a fan of the whole 3D thing when it comes to gaming: namely because I lack the survival skills.
In “Ocarina of Time,” you would have to use a toggle stick on the N64 controller to move the camera around. Granted, the ability to look up into a tree or out over a huge lake as the sun set was a wonderful way to explore the improved graphics. However, I never got the hang of using it. I would scroll past things too quickly or too slowly, usually resulting in losing sight of an object, character, or enemy at a key moment. Worst yet was when my finger slipped, sending the carefully fixed camera swinging wildly across the room.
The use of game’s newly-developed “z-targeting” (which allowed a player to lock onto a target, be it enemy or object) was the only way I had any hopes of keeping Link facing the right way. If, in the middle of a fight, the enemy moved too quickly or jumped too high, the z-targeting would break and I would be stuck staring at a wall as Link was quickly overcome with a bad case of “being killed due to the player being unable to figure out the camera toggle.” He succumbed to this disease quite often when I played.
None of this should really matter, though. After the N64, there was no other consoles that supported proper 3D-graphics in the same way until the Wii came around and, by that point, I was very happy with my Nintendo DS, which actually supplied games that I enjoyed. I always appreciated the fact that the Nintendo DS had a Gameboy Advance slot, allowing it to be backwards-compatible with my collection of older games. Sure, I hung onto my older handheld devices, mostly out of sentimental value, but it was still nice that I didn’t have to keep buying batteries for them, since the Nintendo DS ran on a rechargeable battery. Yup, as long as I could keep buying and playing games on the Nintendo DS, I was one happy casual gamer.
And then Nintendo announced that they would be putting out the next level of handheld gaming: the Nintendo 3DS.
Like I said, I am a casual gamer. I don’t play all the time and only use it for entertainment purposes, such as when I’m stressed or taking some serious downtime. You’re more likely to find a book in my hand than a game controller. But I like the adventures, the puzzles, and the escapism that gaming has to offer, so I try to keep my handheld up-to-date, usually two or three generations behind the most “current” edition. So I didn’t immediately groan when the 3DS was released. After all, Nintendo was, at that time, still releasing games for the DS. There was absolutely no threat to my supply of games.
But now Nintendo is only releasing games for the 3DS. There aren’t all that many out yet, but by narrowing their release scope to the newest console format ONLY, it means I will eventually have to shell out the money to purchase a 3DS and start playing 3D-styled games or stop purchasing games from Nintendo.
As a casual gamer, I’m annoyed. I don’t have the time (or personal preference) to learn how to use the new toggle stick. Even worse, though, is that I feel like I am being isolated as a consumer! At some point, as with all technology, it is a given that the older formats will eventually become endangered and go extinct, but the Nintendo DS isn’t that old! It took the “Gameboy Color” cartridges 14 years to get to the point where they could no longer be played on the newest handheld device—so why is Nintendo forcing their gamers to conform to the 3DS after only eight years? At least DVDs are being released in BluRay AND regular format! Why does “Super Mario Bros” need to be in 3D? Why does “50 Classic Arcade games” or “Cooking Mama” have to released solely in 3D?
Granted, some games just look better in 3D. The fact that Nintendo is releasing “Ocarina of Time” in 3D to be true to the original look is a nice touch for those who remember sitting down in front of the N64 and wasting hours touring the Water temple in frustration. But why does “Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion,” which is listed as an “up-coming side scrolling” game need to be released ONLY in 3D? How will that work if the game is going to be a side-scroller?
In the end, it won’t matter. Time marches on and, like a petulant child, the casual gamer must be forced to march along or risk being left behind. Eventually, there will be something that surpasses the idea of 3D and, when that happens, there will undoubtedly be a mark-down on the prices of 3DS devices to the point where I will be able to obtain one. Perhaps, by that time, I will be ready to tackle my issues, buckle down, and buy one.