Talking Point: The Role of the N64 on the 3DS
Posted by Mark Reece
Classic games for a new audience
It's no secret that Nintendo has been having something of a tough time of it in regards to the 3DS. Since its launch in late March of this year, Nintendo's newest handheld has battled through a significant price drop, a shaky start as far as its online functionality is concerned, complaints about poor battery life and relatively low sales, that can arguably be attributed to a distinct lack of top-tier games to play on it. This has no doubt come as a major shock to Nintendo, a company that has traditionally dominated the handheld console market since the Game Boy launched in 1989.
Of course, Nintendo is fully aware of the problems it's been facing with the 3DS. There has been acknowledgment that maybe the 3DS was launched too early, with an over-reliance on third party support to drive hardware sales in the launch period, when said support just wasn't sufficient. Nintendo is, after all, well known for its first party franchises and it probably wouldn't be too big a stretch to say that the majority of those who buy Nintendo's consoles - be that home or portable - do so because of the constant and dependable stream of quality first party titles. Nintendo currently has Tetris Axis, Super Mario 3D Land, Pokémon Rumble Blast and Mario Kart 7 all lined up for 3DS owners before the end of 2011. After that, 2012 will see Kid Icarus: Uprising and Luigi’s Mansion 2 hit store shelves, with new instalments in the Mario Tennis, Fire Emblem, Animal Crossing and Paper Mario franchises also on the way.
But is that enough? You could argue that there's plenty there to keep 3DS players who're particularly avid Nintendo fans thoroughly entertained for quite some time, but what if there was a way to garner even more sales with minimal costs, while guaranteeing that gamers would be throwing their money at genuinely brilliant titles?
We are, perhaps controversially, referring to remakes, which have already been a mainstay in the 3DS software library up to this point, whether they be third party titles such as Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell 3D and Rayman 3D that garnered mixed responses, or Nintendo's own The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D, which earned more praise. But why should Nintendo stop there when it has a plethora of classic games in its back catalogue and a developer worthy of updating these games to meet current handheld standards?
That developer is Grezzo, the company responsible for Ocarina of Time 3D. They spruced it up visually, streamlined its menus and user interface, added new modes and even altered certain aspects of the gameplay and in-game items to take advantage of the 3DS' unique capabilities. The result was a game that, remarkably, is even better than the already nigh-on flawless title it was back in its glory days on the N64. Grezzo also developed The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition, proving further that it is trusted to bring Nintendo titles to the 3DS platform. It could be a shrewd move on Nintendo's part to seize the opportunity presenting itself, take Grezzo under its wing and put them to work on updating more of its older titles for the 3DS.
It could be a shrewd move on Nintendo's part to seize the opportunity presenting itself, take Grezzo under its wing and put them to work on updating more of its older titles for the 3DS.
But what console should Grezzo look to when deciding on which games to remaster? What immediately springs to mind is the N64, during the lifespan of which many of Nintendo's properties embarked into uncharted territory. The console saw Mario, Zelda and many other franchises transcend their humble 2D beginnings and make the leap into fully-realised 3D worlds, brimming with opportunities not only for exploration on the part of the player, but also for the developers themselves to evolve tried and tested gameplay mechanics and even create brand new ones. There's an obvious comparison to be made, therefore, between the N64 and 3DS, as that same ideal holds true with Nintendo's current handheld. True 3D visuals are giving developers the ability to again further push the boundaries of what we, as gamers, experience. Star Fox 64 3D, for example, has benefited exponentially - both graphically and in terms of actual gameplay - from the added sense of depth that comes from appearing in 3D.
So what better way is there to pay homage to those N64 classics than to give players the chance to experience them all over again, or perhaps for the first time, but see them in the same light as we saw them over a decade ago? Many of you will fondly remember being floored by expansive 3D worlds for the first time on N64, whether that be skimming across choppy seas in Wave Race 64 or tempting those more elusive Pokémon out of hiding before lining up a perfect shot in Pokémon Snap. What if Nintendo and Grezzo could transport you back to the mid-Nineties and let you experience titles like these, but this time in true 3D?
It is common for remade games to often ride in tandem with an inevitable onslaught of abuse from naysayers, to whom remakes are considered blatant attempts at lazy money-grabbing. While many people might well moan at a deluge of 3DS titles that are merely old games with a fresh coat of paint, a simple approach to side-stepping the controversy would be for Nintendo to package them as their own budget-priced range of games. After all, when any company re-releases one of its past titles, the main concern raised is more often than not the price of the product. Is it worth forking over the RRP of a brand new 3DS game for something we already played and paid for 15 years ago? Were Nintendo to clearly distinguish 3DS remakes from brand new releases with range-specific packaging, a reduction on the RRP and market them as an accompaniment to standard 3DS games rather than full priced products in their own right, they could very well be onto a winner.
There's no doubt that the 3DS still has a few hurdles to overcome if it's to match the commercial and critical success of its DS and Game Boy predecessors, and Nintendo has gone some way to correct the mistakes made this year. There is, however, another lifeline just waiting to be taken advantage of in the form of Nintendo's own fantastic back catalogue, along with Grezzo, who has already proved itself a dab hand at substantially rejuvenating an already highly revered game.
What say you, though? No doubt many of you have played Ocarina of Time 3D and Star Fox 64 3D already, but would you begrudge Nintendo releasing more N64 remakes on 3DS if it were for the greater good? Would you be happy to throw a lower retail price in Nintendo's direction for re-mastered versions of titles such as Pokémon Snap, Wave Race 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, if it meant that Nintendo had more funding for new releases further down the line? Let us know what you think in the comments below.