Played Out: Or, Why I’m Ready to Give Up on Nintendo

Pity us Nintendo fans. It’s not easy you know.

It’s like being an Arsenal supporter – a lot of emotional reminiscing about the glory days, the rigid adherence to the right way of doing things, the agonizing promise that maybe they’ll step up and compete this time.

It never comes to anything for Nintendo fans either. Which doesn’t matter so much when you consider that the Japanese giant has consistently turned a profit on its consoles and has assets of $14.6 billion.

But as a Nintendo gamer for many years I can’t help feeling that the company’s most creative moments are behind it.

Wii Who?

As I mentioned in my recent E3 review, the Wii U is not selling. It’s not selling to the point where the original Wii is outselling it.

This can be turned around – if you have games to promote your console.

But 2013 has been barren. Pikmin 3, the real-time bug/flower management sim, is in the unlikely position of being the Wii U’s flagship title. It’s certainly a solid enough game, and cute and clever, but it’s not a system seller.

And the system hasn’t distinguished itself from the original Wii. The Wii U hardware is too similar, and the new GamePad tablet-style controller is not revolutionary in the way that the Wii Remote Controller was.

The harder issue for me is the lack of ambition for Nintendo’s big three franchises – Mario, Metroid, and Zelda.

Super Mario

Super Mario Galaxy was going to be hard to beat, but Nintendo isn’t even trying. The focus remains on multiplayer, with New Super Mario Bros. U and the upcoming Super Mario 3D World, a sequel to the 3DS original:

Super Mario 3D World will be a lot of fun, but these games are just not interesting enough, and don’t advance the gameplay which Nintendo has so brilliantly refined from Super Mario 64 through Super Mario Galaxy.


Pity us Nintendo fans, but also pity poor Samus Aran – one of the few feminist gaming icons, a mercenary raised by an intelligent alien civilization, reduced to an immature whiner in Metroid: Other M.

Apart from poor characterization, the clunky control scheme should have been a non-issue, had Nintendo used the analog stick for movement and the Wii Remote Controller for aiming/shooting.

Since that space-wreck in 2010, and the apparent decision to discontinue Retro Studios’ excellent Metroid Prime series, there has been no sign of a Metroid reboot and it’s unclear what Nintendo’s plans are for Samus’ return.

The Legend of Zelda

The HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is set for a fall release, and this remastering is undoubtedly gorgeous:

But The Wind Waker remains one of the weaker Zelda titles – a game which was clearly unfinished in 2003. The sailing – much derided by gamers at the time – is actually one of the best features, immersive and mesmerizing, but the sense of exploration, the art style, and the music, are not enough to entice me to buy again.

What concerns me is that The Legend of Zelda has stopped taking risks. When playing The Wind Waker I expected that docking at each new island would bring me to a place like Majora’s Mask’s Clock Town – a world with “real” people and their work and worries. After all, it would make sense to refine the three-day cycle from Majora’s Mask – maybe even spread mini-Clock Towns across the Great Sea.

But it never happened.

Then we had Twilight Princess (2006), an attempt to outdo Ocarina of Time – featuring a Hyrule about twice as large and half as interactive. The game ached with nostalgia. Padded and graphically washed out, Twilight Princess was, in the end, a bit of a grind.

Skyward Sword (2011) went a long way to redress this. Vibrant, colorful, and dense – in geography, gameplay, and characters. But while this was the best Legend of Zelda in years, it still suffers from tedious handholding and backtracking.

I’m being hard on Nintendo. I’m consciously ignoring the handheld Zelda games, which have been consistently excellent over the last decade or so.

But Nintendo has not created a Zelda title that has since matched the grand adventure of Ocarina of Time in 1998, or the deeper, more emotional complement of Majora’s Mask in 2000.

Where the Games Aren’t

Nintendo rushed out the Wii U to beat Sony and Microsoft to market. If they had the games to support it, they would have been in a strong position right now. But the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are bearing down on the Wii U, and Nintendo has to deal with the fact that their new console is a near-flop.

As a long-time gamer I’m supposed to go where the games are. And right now they’re not on Wii U, which feels like Wii v1.1.

The Japanese company may need to reconsider the Wii U entirely – is this a stop-gap system? If so, what next? And how quickly can Nintendo design a new console?

I’m still a Nintendo fan, and will continue to enjoy Zelda, Metroid, and Mario. But new IP, more compelling flagship games, and better third-party support are needed, or Nintendo may be played out.

Read the original article on Metro’s GameCentral.

3 responses to “Played Out: Or, Why I’m Ready to Give Up on Nintendo

    • As Eurogamer pointed, as of May of this year Nintendo has sold 3.45 million Wii U consoles, but 3.06 million of those were sold in the first month of release. Sales have fallen away in 2013.

      According to Nintendo’s recent sales figures, between April and June 2013 160,000 Wii U systems were sold around the world. This breaks down as: 90,000 consoles in Japan; 60,000 in North and South America; and only 10,000 in Europe/rest of world. These are dire figures.

      To put it in context, the original Wii outperformed the Wii U – selling 210,000 units in the same period. Or, the current-gen PlayStation3 sells over 132,000 units around the world weekly. The Wii U is in trouble.


  1. I agree with some of your points, but regarding Zelda: Twilight Princess is the highlight of the series for me. Total genius – immersive and enthralling. I recently tried to re-play Ocarina of Time and it hasn’t aged well. Bored, I gave up. Even back in 1998 it was over hyped and didn’t have the same impact as Mario 64 a year and half earlier. And what’s with the unnecessary Super Mario 3D World bashing? You can guarantee this will be another great Mario game. Clearly Nintendo just can’t win. And don’t you think the Wind Waker remake is to redress the problems you mention? And Pikmin 3 is a “solid” game? It’s brilliant!

    I think gamers are losing sight of reality in a world of endless CoD and GTA titles. Whilst the Wii U does need more games, there is already an incredible list available. As well as the back catologue of the Wii, and the Virtual Console’s impressive list of N64 and SNES classics. I read there are 100 games in production for the Xbox 360. Who the hell has time to a) Earn money to buy that lot? and, b) Sit down and play them all? I certainly don’t. What I love are Nintendo’s games and, not even a year into the machine’s life, I think I’ll remain optimistic for the future. I’m sure as heck not forking out £430+ for an Xbox One to play yet another CoD title.


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