Iterative vs. Redesigned Experiences

Everyone seems to have a solution for Nintendo. They need to develop for iOS. They need to stop making consoles. They need to be purchased by Disney. My two cents? They need to reinvent their properties.

The Nintendo 64 is my favorite video game console. It’s not due to the use of polygons, 3D environments, and the fact that it looked much better than Playstation. It’s that beloved franchises were reimagined, reinvented, and redesigned.

Super Smash Bros. Wii U was released yesterday. I’ve played all of the versions prior, and they are all fine games, but they are all iterative. For this reason, I hesitated to drop another $59.99 on an experience I’d already had. Needless to say I made the purchase after soaring reviews, but a morsel of remorse lingers. I more or less know what I’ll be getting.

Super Mario 64 could have just as easily been another side-scroller, albeit with better visuals. The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time could have been another top-down adventure. Donkey Kong 64 could have gone a number of pre-existing directions. Sure the Metroid series skipped the Nintendo 64 generation but Metroid Prime could have been another 2D platformer. The fact of the matter is that these titles reinvented their respective franchises. The worlds and characters we loved were shown in a new light and perspective. Sure, they are great games but they reinvented the way we thought about the franchises. This is what makes them so special.

Nintendo stepped out of the box to deliver entirely new experiences. Super Mario 64 was a new way to think about Mario; a new standard in-addition-to, not in-lieu-of: Mac vs. iPhone; not iPad vs. iPhone.

Super Mario Bros. 2, 3, World, and 3D Land/World are iterative of Super Mario Bros. while Super Marios Sunshine and Galaxy are iterative of Super Mario 64. This is not the same problem as sequels and spin-offs.

If the doomsayers are correct and Nintendo’s failure is eminent, redesigns are going to be required to prevent it. So far, the majority of first-party titles on Wii U are iterative: Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros. Wii U, Super Mario 3D World, Pikmin 3, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. While not every redesign has worked in Nintendo’s favor (I’m looking at you, _Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is genius; while it’s not a new take on a old classic (because there is no old classic!), it’s a new perspective from the Mushroom Kingdom. Until then, it’s back to smashing and karting.