With the revealing of the Nintendo NX’s March 2017 worldwide release (pending any more delays), we are now fully aware of a new console generation beginning, Nintendo once again starting it off. However this generation will be starting so early, it almost feels correct to actually consider the Nintendo NX the company’s second console entry into this current generation.
The Nintendo Wii U did, let’s be honest here, poorly. I don’t think there’s anyone questioning that, as sales were nowhere near the Wii’s numbers, they at no point ever came close to catching up to the #2 spot, let alone challenging the PS4 for the #1 spot in sales for this current generation. And there’s many reasons as to why this happened, they didn’t release enough third-party games, their main franchises didn’t have many major entries (still no Metroid game) and if they did, they were released so sporadically. But the most indicting reason in my opinion was the tablet gimmick the console had with the Wii U Gamepad.
Which is why I firmly believe that for the Nintendo NX to not only succeed but challenge the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, it has to be released as a console with zero gimmicks. I think the NX has to be the 2017 version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).
What does every game from the 90s remember about the SNES? It’s not some cool controller, it’s not some gimmick like the Light Gun or the Virtual Boy. It was the games, the mecca that is and was the Super Nintendo library.
Just to hammer the point home, here’s just a few games that were released on the SNES:
- Super Mario World
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
- Donkey Kong Country
- Super Metroid
- Chrono Trigger
- Final Fantasy II & III (aka IV & VI)
- Super Mario Kart
- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
- Mega Man X
- Star Fox
- Secret of Mana
- Super Castlevania IV
- Street Fighter II
That’s just 15 games, folks. 15 games on a console that you’d struggle to pick a top 50 out of its library. But why did that console have so many classics on it? Well for starters, there weren’t any gimmicks to build upon. No motion controls, no second screens. Admittedly, the only gimmick the NX will have to pay attention is online play, something that during the SNES era, game developers were years away in thinking about that. But when it comes to a good chunk of their games that won’t use online, at least not as a core gameplay mechanic, having no other gimmicks will give developers less to worry about and more time to just focus on the game they’re building.
Let’s take The Legend of Zelda for example. I know many people loved it, but I could not stand Skyward Sword. Not because it was a bad game, but because of the controls. When I’m playing a Zelda game, I want to play it and get lost in it for hours, it’s not as easy to do that when my wrist is getting sore from all the waving and shaking it’s doing with the Wiimote.
And with the Wii U, the Gamepad is freakishly huge and not the kind of controller you want to be playing with for hours on end. I’m aware of the Wii U Pro Controller, but why should I be shilling out more money for a more comfortable controller, should that not be released with the console?
The gimmicks worked for one console in the Wii, it’s very clear that the casual marketplace that all stood in massive lines at WalMart during the holidays were not planning on spending another $300+ on a new console so soon. Nintendo reached on another crazy idea, but this time it didn’t pay off so well. So instead of taking another shot at a crazy idea, why not try an even crazier idea and not pick another crazy idea?
Take a game like the Metroid Prime series. Could you not imagine this game in 1080p glory on a console like the PlayStation 4? It’s a first-person shooter, it makes perfect sense to be on a non-gimmicky console, perhaps that’s why the only Metroid games lately have been on the 3DS, they just do not work on the Wii U Gamepad, it makes no sense. Going back to the basics allows the games to flourish on their own merits, not because the game “immerses” you further by making you move with the game a la motion controls or the more recent VR additions to gaming. You enjoy the game because it’s a good game, not because the motion controls are actually solid with this game compared to others. I got pretty sick and tired of review scores ignoring the bad motion controls just because almost every Wii game had bad motion controls. If the controls are bad, they’re bad!
Other major players in Nintendo’s library don’t need the gimmicks either. Mario doesn’t need it (although I’ll say the motion controls worked pretty well for Mario Kart), Smash certainly doesn’t need it, Zelda doesn’t need it, Pokémon doesn’t need it unless it’s a new Pokémon Snap, there’s a lot of major games that would be perfectly fine and probably even better if there weren’t any gimmicky controls added into the mix. Why are games like Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Smash Bros. Melee so highly regarded? Because they’re well-made games, plain and simple. There’s no crazy gimmick that brings you in like a Wii Sports or Red Steel, the game is just that damn good. It needs no gimmicks.
We still don’t know much about the Nintendo NX or what its real name will actually be, but as far as I’m concerned, the console absolutely has to go back to basics and just be a gaming console. Not a family entertainment center, not a motion control showcase and especially not a virtual reality console. The Nintendo NX, whatever it may be, must be the second-coming of the Super Nintendo. It must be a console with a consistent run of good games with many classics to boot. And yes, they can rely on the older games in the early running, absolutely have all the old classics available. Better yet, have a limited edition (or make it full-time if you want) classic SNES controller to play the old games on, looking a lot like the old controller, that would be awesome!
Nintendo has become a walking gimmick since the Wii and while it worked in the early going, it’s very clear that time has run out on it. It’s time for Nintendo to revert back to the time they were at their very best, making a constant barrage of instant classics. Most importantly, with the console being far simpler and without crazy gimmicks to add into every game, they will most certainly get back some third-party attention. Games like Assassin’s Creed would have had their game on the newest Nintendo console for sure if not for the gimmicky controls, the developers didn’t want to waste any more time than they had to on their games, do you really think Ubisoft would pass a chance at more sales unless they had a good reason? If the Nintendo NX is a lot easier to develop games on, aka being able to just straight port it from Xbox One/PlayStation 4 onto it, they will do it, it’s more sales for not as much work.
The ball is in your court, Nintendo. Make it happen. Let’s see the good ol’ days return!