Wow! It is a new week! It can hardly be believed. Time moves forward (or sideways, or up, or outward, or inward) and we are presented with what we like to call a new day. A new week. Soon to be a new month. I would call these designations pointless and arbitrary, but I do not fully believe that to be the case. Just because something is made up does not mean it is pointless. Somebody made up my favourite books and movies and music and video games, but they have all had a profound impact on me.
Sometimes all it takes is something as contrived as New Years to get a feeling of a fresh start, or Christmas to remember to love people, or to visit tradition as a reminder of what made us who we are in the first place.
Nintendo has relied on tradition for the majority of their time as a gaming company. On one hand, it does not let the developer forget about their dedication to what tends to arguably be the most satisfying and fine-tuned gameplay mechanics in the industry and it also allows their flagship series to maintain an impressive sense of cohesion, familiarity, and comfort. On the other hand, an over-reliance on tradition also breeds stagnation, predictability, and an unhealthy ignorance of leaps forward made by other companies.
With the release of A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World one gets the sense that Nintendo got tradition right this time. Instead of painting by the numbers, Nintendo has looked back into its history and realized what made their games so unforgettable in the first place, choosing to attempt to recreate that magic instead of just impressively imitating it. Well, there is a fair dose of imitation as well, but it is overwhelmed by the sense of renewed inspiration for good ol’ Ninty, and it could not come at a more crucial time.
I Suppose I Should Have Started The Subheadings By Now
Sorry, I did not expect that intro to go on for so long, but 3D World and LBW are very exciting games.
Let Us Start With Mario
Super Mario 3D World feels like Nintendo finally understanding its own place in the hearts of modern gamers. It satisfies all of its own stringent requirements for bringing new young gamers into the fold, but it combines ideas from Super Mario Galaxy and NSMB multiplayer in a way that suggests that Nintendo understands the most fun and frustrating parts of both those games and adjusted accordingly. Then, after that solid groundwork, it feels like the result created a flurry of inspiration that caused new ideas to keep pouring in.
Creative level design is not particularly new for Nintendo, as Super Mario Galaxy 2 proves, but 3D World reinvigorates gameplay with nonstop ideas, power-ups, and ways to make couch co-op exciting and nearly integral to get the most out of the game. The game is fun and exciting in addition to being solid and satisfying to play. It might be minor compared to other companies, but Nintendo’s willingness to change up the formula is palpable. In fact, it seems strange that the game initially appears to follow the traditional pattern of its overworld (grass, desert, etc), because the levels themselves only appear to have a passing interest in the theme.
I enjoyed Super Mario 3D Land quite a bit, but 3D World is a more distinct sign that Nintendo is willing and able to take its tried and true gameplay style in a refreshing new direction. Now if it could just fix its multiplayer camera and make it such that players do not pick up their allies accidentally, we would really be talking.
Dude. A Link Between Worlds
I have not kept it a secret that while I really enjoy A Link to the Past, I have rarely progressed past the first five hours. It has still been enough to instill a sense of nostalgia for some musical, visual, and gameplay elements, but it has largely been a footnote in my not-so-hidden love that tends to focus on the more recent Zelda titles.
Link Between Worlds might be the game that will make me finally go back and beat LttP. It is the strongest case for looking backward to move forward. It is proof that old gameplay is not dated gameplay, and that perhaps the Link to the Past style of Zelda games died too soon despite the continued excellence of the new style. This is not a paint-by-numbers Zelda although so much will be extremely familiar. It would be easy to phone in a game like that, but it is obvious that Nintendo was inspired by visiting a style that they have not in nearly 20 years.
I love the cinematic emotional stories of recent Zelda games, but there is a distinct charm to a game that will say less and let exploring tell the story. Link Between Worlds essentially gives the player the map and says “go nuts”. There is still structure and a linear story, but the freedom the game gives to the player so quickly is truly exciting. It seems as though Nintendo is not only reminding us of why Link to the Past remains such a popular title, but also reminding themselves. Modern Zelda director Eiji Aonuma has spoken about his excitement and re-invigoration with the series, and I cannot wait to see how Link Between Worlds informs the direction of the next console title.
Still no Q&A! But can you blame me? Nintendo released two of its most exciting titles in years on the same day, so fuck all of you. Have you guys tried these titles yet? The Wii U is a disaster built upon weird decision-making, but if anything can save Nintendo, it is their software, and Super Mario 3D World is a hell of a piece of software. Anyway, comments below.