Nintendo’s first truly original Zelda installment on the 3DS – not to dismiss the tremendous effort it took to make Ocarina look that gorgeous on such a painfully small screen – delves into the series’ past for inspiration. Yet calling A Link Between Worlds a “sequel” to 1995’s A Link to the Past only serves the definition in the most clinical sense.
The top-down perspective and setting are lifted from the SNES classic, but Between Worlds is very much its own game. It achieves a unique feel through its mechanics and thoughtful, unobtrusive use of three-dimensional gameplay. It’s a kinetic adventure where the familiar – what we’ve come to know as “Quintessential Zelda” through the years – is infused with small, progressive tweaks and an expanded suite of free-roam options, creating this refreshing cocktail of old school design and modern innovation.
Pardon my pun a thousand times over, but it’s the best of both worlds.
Nintendo Ain’t Backing Down From Console Biz
In the face of some pretty dire losses as reported Friday during a company press conference, head honcho Satoru Iwata agrees its time for Nintendo to rethink their strategy. But that still doesn’t mean you’ll find Mario leaping onto smartphones.
The Wii U pegged as a central cause of financial disappointment, Nintendo has lowered their original projection of 9 million units sold all the way down to 2.8 million for the fiscal year ending in March. Industry analysts are already comparing the struggling Wii U to Sega’s doomed vessel the Dreamcast. The Dreamcast’s unfortunate – and, may history not forget, heartbreaking – failure dumped Sega out of the hardware business, forcing them to recoup their losses in software; subsequently publishing first-party IP’s like Sonic the Hedgehog onto former rivals’ machines.
Investors are seemingly pushing for a similarly drastic overhaul in Nintendo’s business, narrowing their eyes on the potential profit to be mined by releasing the company’s world renown properties on mobile and home devices not manufactured by the Japanese juggernaut.
Iwata, though illustrating his thoughts more eloquently, obviously believes that’s horseshit.
“The spread of smart devices does not spell the end of game consoles,” said Nintendo’s president to The Wall Street Journal. “It’s not that simple. It doesn’t mean that we should put Mario on smartphones.” Dishing out titles such as Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, or Pokemon on other platforms would only disrupt Nintendo’s current success: the 3DS.
While the sales forecast for their handheld has also been lowered, the disparity is nowhere near as severe – down from 18 million units to 13.5. With the 3DS having dominated the hardware market worldwide in 2013 (even outpacing both the PS4 and Xbox One’s total sales in the month of December), it’s no wonder Nintendo doesn’t want to shut down its manufacturing shops.
While Iwata stands by the Wii U as a product, he subscribes to the notion that, at the end of the day, games will sell a console. And, once again, Nintendo relies on its flagship titles to do the convincing. For some, this strategy won’t cut it.
Stock analyst and notable talking head Michael “Pach-Attack” Pachter thinks it’s already too late for the Wii U, stating in February’s Game Informer, “I don’t think they recover. I think they screwed [the Wii U] up royally. They’re going to have to scrap it.”
Even suffering losses and a constantly shifting market, I wouldn’t soon expect Nintendo to drastically change how they rule the kingdom they’ve spent decades building. We’re not just talking about a financial player here – this is a development/publishing/manufacturing powerhouse that helped define modern gaming. Trends, tastes, and practices all change. Through it all, Nintendo has somehow remained constant.
That’s not to excuse the Wii U and the underwhelming decisions keeping it out of gamers’ living rooms (mine included). And that’s not to say I wouldn’t be tickled pink at the opportunity to play Zelda on my PlayStation 4. Christ, I would love that. It’s just, if that happened, I’d have to accept Hell has frozen solid and that the sky was moments away from crushing me. I don’t see it happening but, then again, if I were old enough to invest in Sega right before the Dreamcast launched… Let’s– Let’s just cut the article here, huh?
Naughty Dog Founder Calls Nintendo “Irrelevant” in the Console Biz
Mr. Jason Rubin, co-founder of acclaimed studio Naughty Dog as well as the last CEO at the helm of THQ before its public dissolution, recently had some biting remarks for industry titan and household name Nintendo.
A frequent, and outspoken, guest of the Geoff Keighley hosted Bonus Round, conversation on a recent episode gravitated from who will be successful in the new next-gen console race (Sony or Microsoft) to how Nintendo, in Rubin’s opinion, barely qualifies as a contender.
Rubin says both Sony and Microsoft stand to do “extremely well” because “Nintendo has stumbled.” Then he landed this juicy sound byte on the Japanese publisher’s chin: “Nintendo is irrelevant as a hardware manufacturer in the console business right now.”
In a cordial showing of impromptu damage control, Rubin rained praise on the company, calling them a “worldwide treasure” and that no developer alive “will ever be Miyamoto,” as in Shigeru, the living legend responsible for creating almost every A-list first-party franchise in Nintendo’s catalog. Rubin's singeing comments stem, no doubt, from the year old Wii U’s struggle to place itself in consumer’s living rooms. To add some perspective, IGN noted that the PlayStation 4 outpaced the Wii U’s life-to-date sales in the U.K. over the weekend.
Hearing that, it’s easy to chart the Sega course for Nintendo, in which they burn up their manufacturing business and stick strictly to software, doomed to becoming a third-party publisher in order to keep breathing. For Rubin, that may be the ideal outcome. “It is a crime that we do not play those games on the systems that we have.”
But Nintendo could hardly be called “irrelevant” when it comes to the handheld market, which they have in a damn sleeper hold. The 3DS and its various incarnations are dominating the world, time and time again topping the NPD’s hardware list. Sony’s own bid at handheld success, the PS Vita, has fought to find even remotely the same traction since its launch.
Rubin’s words may sting, but if truth hurts, they sting for a reason. The Wii U left a gaping maw of an opportunity for the competition to seize upon. For now, the console war is between two companies, and despite helping define the home console as we know it today, Nintendo is not one of them.
Zelda Alert: A New Link to the Past Heading to the 3DS This Holiday
Whether you truck with Ocarina of Time or Wind Waker or even Zelda II (weirdo), you won’t hear much argument when someone bursts into the room and proclaims 1992’s A Link to the Past as the best Zeldagame ever made. Because even if you don’t agree, it’s too damn hard to build a case against one of the very best adventures game of...
Project X Zone Heading West This Summer
Given its severely niche nature, I almost gave up hope on seeing this Namco/Capcom/Sega mashup grace Western shores. But low and behold, Namco Bandai has announced it would be localizing the 3DS’ Project X Zone for release in the U.S. and European markets this very summer.
The spiritual successor to Namco X Capcom, a PS2 crossover oddity that remained only in Japan, Project X Zone (wherein the “X” means “Cross” somehow) carries on the tactical RPG gameplay and 2D sprite visuals found in that title, but adds a little dimension to the affair thanks to the 3DS’ functionality. Combining over 200 characters from each publishers’ library of franchises (over 50 of which are playable), players will participate in teams of two paired heroes fighting freely on battle grids based on recognizable gaming locales.
Basically, you get into ludicrously awesome encounters like Space Channel 5’s Ulala cracking knuckle against Nemesis’ face. If that isn’t worth wiping the dust off my 3DS, nothing in this world is.