Miyamoto ISN’T retiring

The big news last night was that Shigeru Miyamoto, the saviour of home consoles, was to retire from Nintendo. An announcement like that unsurprisingly sent shockwaves throughout the gaming community ranging from those saddened by such news and others (ignorantly) cheerful that Miyamoto would be leaving games. But as with so many things on the internet, the facts have become somewhat misunderstood. The original story was from Wired.com who stated that in an interview with Miyamoto (59), the legendary creator said he wanted to retire from his current position and take on a smaller role still within Nintendo, allowing younger designers to be in charge. His plan was not to ever really leave the company but focus on less demanding games and was excited to show off his first mini project next year.

Shortly after the news spread online, Nintendo was quick to clear up the potential PR nightmare by issuing a statement (via Reuters) saying this was not true and that what he has said all along is that he want to train the younger generation.

“He has no intention of stepping down. Please do not be concerned.”

And why should we be concerned? Firstly, it’s not ‘we’ as such but investors in Nintendo whose market stock has been rather turbulent ever since the launch of the 3DS which didn’t go exactly to plan. But in the last couple of months, after the price drop and release of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, things have started really kicking off for Nintendo’s handheld. So when the man responsible and who has very direct links to all of the company’s main IPs – the games that people buy Nintendo hardware for – confidence will naturally begin to falter.

However it does indeed have an effect on the everyday gamer as Miyamoto’s influence is pretty much everywhere. Most if not all platform games look to the Mario franchise for inspiration and the Mario games themselves are nearly always superb in their execution. And even further a field, game designers are applying ideas from Miyamoto’s games in titles that you’d never expect. Cliff Bleszinski of Epic games was famously quoted in saying that Gear of War was like Mario without the jumping. And of course, there’s the Z-targeting. Pioneered in Ocarina of Time, Z-targeting has become such a staple of third-person action games that it’s hard to think of a time when it didn’t exist. Lastly, we have motion controls. Love them or hate them, they’re now a huge focus for all the main platform holders and if it wasn’t for Nintendo and Miyamoto’s desire to push the boundaries of video game interaction, we wouldn’t be where we are today in the industry. The neigh-sayers may argue that motion controls and casual games are ruining the hardcore but in reality, that’s not exactly true so their importance is very much valid.

The idea that a visionary like Miyamoto could be working on smaller games that may not feature any of the usual characters is quite an exciting one indeed. The 3DS has the space and delivery method for these smaller games to exist and the chance that new IPs may spring up with of the same quality of Mario and Zelda is reason itself for at least some of the original story of Miyamoto’s stepping down to be true. But whether it’s PR tidying or delaying the truth, the fact is that one day Miyamoto will have to retire and even sooner, younger designers should be allowed to take control of Nintendo’s top franchises though for now, I’m quite happy to see Miyamoto on stage at each E3 to reveal the next big thing from Nintendo. Apart from Wii Music.

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3DS gets a price drop already?

If I can afford it, I tend to be one of the early adopters of hardware, eager to dabble in the latest gaming tech. I know it’s an expensive habit but if I save all my pennies long enough in advance of a system launch, then a new system I shall have. After all, no company drops the price of a new piece of hardware for a fair amount of time right? Well, that used to be the case until the struggling sales of 3DS has forced Nintendo to cut around a third off the RRP less than five months after its release on August 12th (via Eurogamer).

As you can imagine, day-one buyers will probably be a little pissed at the news. I know I am. Not because I don’t think the 3DS was worth the £200 I paid but because if I were a patient man, I could have saved myself a few quid. Nintendo have acknowledged the potential upset they’ve caused with the announcement saying:

“We are aware this may cause you, the loyal fans who supported Nintendo 3DS from the beginning, to lose trust in us, and this is not our intention in any way.”

And before out of pocket supporters claimed death to Nintendo, the humbled company revealed something called The Ambassador program. Anyone who buys a 3DS before the price drop will get ten exclusive GameBoy Advance games via the Virtual Console for free. The full list hasn’t been revealed just yet but so far Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare and Mario vs. Donkey Kong are all confirmed. But the apologetic gifts don’t stop there, Ambassadors will also be given ten free NES games like Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr. and The Legend of Zelda.

Now I know the prospect of having cold hard cash is always better than being given a bunch of old games but all that have been announced so far are some of Nintendo’s best. It certainly makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing knowing that 20 classic titles will be winging their way to me in the next couple of months without costing me any extra. Well, other than about a third of the price of a 3DS that is.

Celebrations continue for Link

Remember how The Legend of Zelda series turned 25 exactly last Monday? Nintendo have confirmed they will indeed celebrate with the gravitas a milestone like this is privy to but didn’t say what those celebrations entail. All that was said is that Shigeru Miyamoto is “working on a plan that will allow all Zelda lovers to celebrate together.” Together? Here we go, Zelda MMO confirmed! Right!? Don’t be silly. To celebrate Mario’s silver anniversary, Nintendo re-released the 16Bit collection of classic Mario games, Super Mario All-Stars complete with a book of early development ideas and a soundtrack. Perhaps Zelda will be treated to something similar, bundling the 8 and 16Bit games onto one Wii disc. But the remake of The Ocarina of Time coming to the 3DS later this year is fast becoming celebration enough if the new screenshots are anything to go by. Dodgy port this isn’t as Nintendo are seemingly sprucing up every pixel and polygon, adding detail where there was once a blurry smudge. Whatever this collective celebration of Zelda may be from Miyamoto, right now it’s taking second place to all these lovely new images (found on Siliconera).

It’s dangerous to go alone (for twenty five years)

When you’ve been around as long as Nintendo has, there’s a good chance you’ll be dripping with nostalgic value for gamers older than they’d care to admit. The company live and die by their franchises first and foremost which are as plentiful as they are everlasting with a second reaching its 25th anniversary. Last year, the celebrations began for Mario’s silver jubilee but dates were vague and the festivities have continued on into this year. For Zelda however, things are a little more specific. In fact, today, February 21st is exactly twenty-five years since gamers first met Link and joined him on the eternal quest to save the princess.

In 1986 I was five and hadn’t properly started gaming but not long after, my parents bought me a NES. I didn’t have a great number of games but was aware of The Legend of Zelda and the epic adventure within. Famously, series creator Shigeru Miyamoto based the rough idea on his days as a young boy playing outdoors. He didn’t have a sword or shield but these two items are the iconic weaponry of Link as is his green attire, pointy hat and lack of speech. The games usually begin with Link and end against Ganon, the main antagonist for the franchise. His piggish appearance has changed over the years but is no less dangerous. Princess Zelda, the damsel in distress, is ironically more famous than Link since her name is in every game and a lot of my friends as a youngster thought he was actually called Zelda. What can I say? Kids can be stupid.

Video games today would look very different without the influences of The Legend of Zelda franchise. From the beginning, its popularity helped pave the way for nonlinear experiences which in itself is an evolutionary step from the text-adventure. Any game that uses some form of a lock-on targeting system should tip their hats in appreciation for Zelda just as those who like to take their music and score seriously. Considered one of if not the greatest game to date, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is quite possibly the first open-world adventure, a genre that has been often mimicked to a varying degree of success and will soon be recreated for a brand new audience when its released for the 3DS.

But even with its timeless appeal, Zelda games do have their critics who chastise the series for sticking to a similar formula for each of the major releases. Regardless of this potential franchise killer, the franchise has sold over 59 million units and the excitement for the next game, Skyward Sword, is optimistically strong. So happy birthday Link, Kudos Zelda for giving him reason and shame on you Ganon, your constant interfering and kidnapping is becoming tiresome!

“Darksiders better than Zelda” claims Sterling

Jim Sterling of Destructoid fame likes to speak his mind inciting a multitude of reactions. His latest article to divide the masses centers on why he thinks Darksiders is better than Zelda. Comparisons of the two seem the best way to explain what Darksiders represents  – a Zelda-esque experience though taking ideas from one of Nintendo’s biggest franchises may suggest that it will always be the inferior copy-cat to Zelda‘s originality. Sterling believes this isn’t the case. He claims that Link is less of a man than War from Darksiders and lacks the awesome weaponry that War has. Something harder to argue with is the inclusion of voice acting genius, Mark Hamill who appears as The Watcher in Darksiders. Sterling ranted that “The Legend of Zelda doesn’t even have voice acting, marking it as the clearly inferior product.” He does have a point. Even die hard Zelda fans have called for real voice acting for their favoured game. The bashing continues in his rather amusing article with the conclusion that “If you’ve played one Zelda game, you’ve played them all” due to the glaring similarities of every Zelda title.

It’s definitely worth a read regardless of your feelings and made me, a fan of Link’s adventures, want to play Darksiders even more.

Motion carried

The Legend of Zelda - she's behind you Link!

The half-announced second helping of The Legend of Zelda on the Wii will make us feel as if we’re in the pointy shoes of Link by means of the Wii MotionPlus reveals Shigeru Miyamoto. GameLife translated notes from a Japanese Q&A session where Miyamoto said the following:

“In this [version], we’re using MotionPlus to make you feel much more like you’re actually fighting while holding a sword in your hand. [As for targeting enemies] in the previous game, you aimed at things by pointing at the screen, but this time we’ll use MotionPlus to create a much more convenient targeting system and a more pleasurable playing experience.”

I’m in two minds about this one. While playing Twilight Princess I always felt that the combat would have been more enjoyable and responsive it were done with button presses rather than waggling. Using Wii MotionPlus may add another level of precision to the Wii remote but it could still so very easily become a nuisance. On the other hand, Swordplay was one of the best events in Wii Sports Resort so if Nintendo can produce something similar for the next Zelda, we could be onto a winner.