Feature: Reinventing Nintendo's Legacy Franchises on Wii U
Posted by Gaz Plant
It's comeback time
Despite often being criticized for a perceived lack of new franchises, Nintendo’s back catalogue offers a wealth of unique games which have each carved out their own place in the company’s legacy. From Mario to Link to lesser known characters such as Ness and the Ice Climbers, it is clear that Nintendo has a diverse range of games and gameplay styles from which to draw material in the coming generation. But many of these franchises haven’t been seen in quite some time, leading many to consider them dead.
Last month we looked back at some of Nintendo’s major franchises that failed to make an appearance on Wii, and considered how they could be reinvented on Wii U. This time it’s the turn of the legacy franchises, the forgotten and almost cult games that once defined a generation, but have since fallen by the wayside. A year ago many would have said a return would be impossible, but with the successful revival of Pit in Kid Icarus: Uprising and a new generation of gaming just beginning, anything is possible.
Propelled to fame thanks to their inclusion in Super Smash Bros Melee, Popo and Nana offer exactly what the title says on the cartridge – they climb ice. The original, and currently only Ice Climber game for NES tasked you with scaling short segments of mountain without falling, or being attacked by Polar Bears wearing sunglasses. It’s a simple concept at heart, but one that could fit perfectly with Wii U’s asymmetric philosophy.
Using two GamePads – which will apparently be an option for Wii U owners in the future — a competitive co-op game could be created, with each player seeing their individual Ice Climber on their screen, while the TV displays a larger map. It’s a simple race to the top, but some areas may require teamwork, creating the need for co-ordination for a speedy ascent. Aside from using two GamePads, the TV could be used as the main ascent screen for four players (much like the Icicle Mountain stage in Super Smash Bros Melee) while the GamePad player places obstacles and sunglasses-clad Polar Bears in the climbing team’s way, much like ZombiU’s competitive multiplayer mode.
A Nintendo Land style compilation seems like it would be an ideal home for a reimagining of this classic NES title, and with considerable support for the climbing duo thanks to their inclusion in Smash Bros, we could see a HD revival for Ice Climbers sometime in the next few years.
When Metroid Prime 3: Corruption launched in 2007, it showed exactly why the Wii Remote was the perfect controller for shooting games. This was followed up by the announcement of the Wii Zapper, Nintendo’s answer to increasing plastic shell sales, alongside the news that it would be bundled in with a game that would make full use of the new peripheral. For many, there was only one game that fit the bill – Duck Hunt. In the end the game turned out to be Link’s Crossbow Training, and despite a clear fit for Duck Hunt, the Wii never saw the classic shooter revived.
The original Duck Hunt for NES introduced the then revolutionary Zapper to the world, offering duck hunting from the comfort of your own home, along with your own personal dog to mock you on every failed attempt. It was simple and it was fun, and has gained something of a cult following since its inception in 1984. Wii U offers another chance for a return.
The heart of Duck Hunt is that it’s a simple yet fun shooting game from a fixed position, with a lot of classic Nintendo charm thrown in, so it’s important that any potential revival keeps that as its core concept. Unveiled at E3 2011, it’s clear that Nintendo envisions a Wii U Zapper which not only houses the GamePad, but also the Wii Remote, creating the perfect opportunity to create another bundle. While the core gameplay would be the same, the TV would display the field, while the GamePad itself would display a scoped view for shooting down the ducks. It’s a simple idea, but with additional levels and challenges it would be the perfect way to introduce the concept of a new Zapper. And of course, you still can’t shoot the dog.
Something of a frozen brother to the Wave Race series, 1080° is another example of Nintendo trying its hand at more serious gaming, offering up an engaging snowboarding sim. It also holds the dubious honour of being the most requested game in the comments of our last feature.
At the time of release, 1080° was at the forefront of the N64’s graphical capabilities, and with the recent snowboarding game revival thanks to the warmly received SSX, perhaps it’s time to bring the series out of retirement and really show what Wii U can do. That said, it should be emphasised that while Wave Race recently had its trademark renewed, we haven’t heard anything about 1080° since its last appearance on GameCube.
Another example of less innovation is more, 1080° could provide enough excitement without throwing in another screen to perform complex actions. Instead, the GamePad could offer race positions and a map screen, which while not the most innovative of ideas, does free the TV up to create spectacular landscapes and have a greater focus on the action. Wii Fit and Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games also gave us a glimpse into using the criminally underused Balance Board for snowboarding, something that could be used for cross-promotion with Wii Fit U when it eventually launches.
Another game that has gained something of a cult following, this NES classic utilised the Zapper in a very unique and interesting way. With main character Mr Stevenson continually moving to the right, the player had to shoot obstacles out of the way using their limited ammo, or failing that, shoot (not literally) Mr Stevenson to make him jump. A great example of Nintendo’s creativity at its finest, Gumshoe is another game that could be a great fit for the GamePad.
Realistically there are two options for a Gumshoe revival – use the touch screen or use the Wii U Zapper. In both cases the core mechanic stays the same, interact with things to remove them/make Mr Stevenson jump, but the implementation would be very different. With the Zapper, the GamePad could display a zoomed in segment while the TV displays the overall map, while the touch option would again show a zoomed in segment on the GamePad, but task you with tapping objects rather than shooting at them.
A more interesting approach though could be to use the Wii Zapper and create a competitive multiplayer game. While the TV player controls Mr Stevenson’s progress with the Zapper, the GamePad player could position approaching obstacles in an attempt to slow him down, creating another example of Wii U asymmetric gameplay.
Some consider Wii U to be the formal introduction of asymmetrical multiplayer to the gaming world, though titles such as Pac-Man Vs on GameCube are popular early examples. In fact, Nintendo was developing asymmetric gameplay way back in 1985, with the invention of the Robotic Operation Buddy, or as we know him, R.O.B.
The most famous example of R.O.B.’s implementation was in Gyromite, a game which saw you advancing through platforming stages but coming across colour coded doors. You could then signal to R.O.B. who would then pick up a gyro and place it on the door button, allowing you to progress. It was slow, it was cumbersome, but it’s hard to disagree that it was great for its time. The other usage of R.O.B. was in Stack-Up, where players were tasked with aligning a real-life stack of blocks in line with those on screen, using only R.O.B.
While we’re not suggesting Nintendo release another £100 robot peripheral for Wii U, the concepts of R.O.B. are an interesting avenue to explore, especially with the asymmetric nature of the GamePad. If we look at Gyromite as an example, while one player uses the TV to advance through the level, the GamePad player would be tasked with opening the corresponding doors. Obviously this is simple and boring, so the GamePad player could be tasked with solving puzzles, akin to Professor Layton, which when solved would allow the TV player to advance — clever puzzles would require both players to be actively involved in unique ways. Similarly with Stack-Up, co-ordination between the two players would be the only way to get the blocks in the right order. Think of it as a steady, more puzzle-orientated version of the Rayman Legends co-op ideas.
While individually these concepts are not retail worthy, perhaps a R.O.B. Collection or an eShop release of similar asymmetric games could be in order. If Nintendo wants to promote asymmetry on Wii U, it really needs to look no further than 1985!
Holding the title of “Most Requested Game Ever”, the Earthbound series, or Mother as it is known in Japan, has created a huge cult following thanks to the inclusion of Ness and Lucas in the Smash Bros series. With only Earthbound on SNES making it to the US, and no titles ever making it to Europe, fans of the series have continually campaigned for a release of the trio of games in the West, and with Nintendo looking to build its fan-base of all ages, Earthbound could be the series to do just that.
The Earthbound series is a traditional RPG, featuring battles with enemies and vast exploration, but due to a heavy text component and a perceived lack of Western interest, has failed to make a mark outside of Japan. In fact, the last Earthbound game was released in 2006 for the GBA after an extensive development period, and since then the only reference to the series has been in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, with the addition of Lucas and New Pork City to the roster.
With Wii U, Nintendo has a great opportunity to create a lot of goodwill with only a minor effort on its part. 2014 marks the 25th Anniversary of the original game’s release, so what better way to celebrate it than to release worldwide the original trio of games on Wii U. Such is the demand for the games that even a simple port – perhaps at a cheaper price on the eShop — with limited GamePad functionality would be warmly received, and would be a great way to test whether Western gamers actually want the series in the future.
If that’s a success, then who knows what the future holds? Maybe Wii U will be home to the first console based Earthbound since the SNES, and Super Smash Bros. 4 will feature even more Earthbound references (and this time, ones that we actually know!). Based solely on internet chatter, the demand is certainly there for Earthbound to make a glorious appearance in the West, and with an important anniversary coming up, there is every chance we might finally get to experience the games in English.
While none of these games are even rumoured to be in development, Nintendo’s commitment to bringing back fans with Wii U should warrant the consideration of at least a few of these becoming a reality. Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and when done right in games such as Kid Icarus: Uprising, can not only bring a franchise back from the dead, but also create a whole new generation of fans. Whether or not we see any more big revivals this generation is debatable, but there always remains the potential for classics such as Ice Climbers to make a return soon.
What legacy franchises would you like to see on Wii U? Or are you just waiting for Earthbound? Let us know in the comments below!