The announcement of Cadence of Hyrule – Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda (to give its unwieldy full name) in yesterday’s Nindies Direct presentation was a delightful surprise. Although we’d heard whispers of another 2D Zelda possibly releasing this year, this collaboration with an indie studio Brace Yourself Games – a developer with just one (very successful) game to its name – is somewhat unprecedented; Nintendo is letting an indie developer play with one of its big-name franchises. It wasn’t long ago when Nintendo wouldn’t acknowledge the existence of small developers unless they had a non-residential office address.
The company’s approach to indies has evidently changed a lot since the WiiWare days. It all seems to have come about thanks to a DLC pitch by the team for Crypt of the NecroDancer which really fired up Nintendo’s interest. It's heartening to see the company embracing the spirit and talent of these studios - yesterday’s ‘Nindies’ Direct was full of strong titles across a variety of genres. The strategy of using these reveal videos to plug gaps between bigger Directs seems to be working very well. Indeed, some might argue that yesterday’s video was better than some of the company’s more lacklustre Directs.
Nintendo has often used outside studios to support or fully develop games using its biggest stars. Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a very successful recent crossover, taking the plumber and his friends into a new realm of XCOM-style turn-based combat, but other franchises have seen traditional entries coming from teams outside Nintendo’s wheelhouse – the Capcom developed Zelda games on Game Boy and GBA, for example, or Sega with F-Zero GX. There have been numerous collaborations with Bandai Namco over the years. More recently, Mercury Steam was trusted with Metroid: Samus Returns, and the crossover with Starlink: Battle For Atlas is arguably the best Star Fox content we’ve seen in a long time.
However, those all come from established third-party studios with many high-profile games to their names – giving indie developer the keys to the Zelda franchise feels daring and the trailer itself sizzles with energy and freshness. Of course, we’ve yet to sample the game but if it’s anything like as good as Crypt of the NecroDancer, we’re surely in for a musical treat. It makes you wonder why the company has taken so long to tap the potential and enthusiasm of hungry upstart developers.
Nintendo will, of course, continue to develop the majority of its tentpole series games in-house, but seeing as it’s beginning to trust top tier franchises to smaller studios, we thought we’d take a light-hearted look at some of their other treasured properties that could work well in the hands of a talented indie dev; we doubt that COHCOTNDFTLOZ (as absolutely no-one is, or will ever be, calling it) will be the last.
Do we think these are likely to happen? Of course not, but with all sorts of unlikely crossovers occurring throughout the industry, stranger things are coming to pass every day. So, sit back and take a gander at our crossover suggestions...
Axiom Verge X Samus
When Axiom Verge first came to Wii U, developer Thomas Happ wanted to include an unlockable Samus costume for the game’s protagonist, Trace, to wear. Despite enthusiasm, ultimately the powers-that-be in Nintendo HQ decided that it wasn’t appropriate, but this excellent Metroidvania has held over many a fan as they wait for the next 2D entry in the Metroid series. Of course, the Wii U version is finally getting a physical release at the end of the month (yes, this month!).
With the 2D branch of the Metroid series seemingly lying dormant, a cross over with Axiom Verge would be a fine way to bring Samus back to the second dimension. Failing that, thanks to the incredible work of indie developers in the genre, there’s a long list of brilliant alternatives to choose from – check out our selection of the best Metroidvanias on Switch and take your pick.
Fast RMX X Blue Falcon
Okay, while we know there are many differences between Fast RMX – the updated version of the futuristic Wii U racer that launched with the Switch – and F-Zero’s particular brand of twitchy high-speed racing, but Nintendo seems content to let the franchise lie in state. The best we’ve had since Sega’s excellent turn at the wheel with F-Zero GX sixteen years ago is a Mii-based minigame in Nintendo Land, some charming nods in Mario Kart 8 and Captain Falcon’s inclusion in the Smash Bros. roster. As lovely as an amiibo is, why shouldn’t Nintendo let an enthusiastic indie have a crack in the Blue Falcon? Sixteen years!!!
A Cracking Platformer X Mario
This would really be the daddy – a bona fide 2D Mario platformer from an outside company. Super Mario Bros. is possibly the most played, most analysed video game in existence, but it would take a brave, audacious developer to attempt a Mario game – not only to nail the basics, but also to have the courage to add new ideas rather than create a homage. There are too many options to pick just one - take a look at our selection of the best 2D platformers on Switch for a couple of ideas.
One area that could definitely use some fresh ideas is the aesthetic. The New Super Mario Bros. art style served the plumber fine, but it’s surely time for a change. The fan game Super Mario Forever shows above what a pixel-based alternative could look like, but the sky’s the limit.
With Super Mario Maker 2 enabling gamers themselves to make their own Mario, why not give a small developer the opportunity to spice up the tried-and-tested 2D Mario recipe? Worst case scenario? Just make another one.
Cuphead X Yoshi
The rumour of Cuphead coming to Switch was confirmed during the opening of the latest Nindies Direct and we’re ecstatic that it’s been liberated from the console confines of Xbox One thanks to some behind the scenes dealings between Nintendo, Microsoft and the game’s developer, Studio MDHR. Its 1930s-style animation perfectly captures the look-and-feel of cartoons of the era and it’ll be a joy play on-the-go on Switch.
So now Cuphead and Mugman have arrived on a Nintendo platform, why not get Yoshi in on the action? He's going through every other art style he can get his hands on, so why not rubber hose Fleischer animation? It would be refreshing to see the dinosaur in a rock-hard platformer, a far cry from his usual relaxing fare.
Owlboy X Kid Icarus
Another dormant Nintendo franchise. We’ve seen some Kid Icarus-style games before (remember NyxQuest: Kindred Spirits?) but it’s been a while since Kid Icarus: Uprising on 3DS. Now that we’ve recovered from the hand cramps induced by that game's awkward controls, a crossover with D-Pad Studios’ Owlboy would return the series to the platforming roots of the original game and we’d love to see Pit back in action in a non-Smash context. Director and designer Simon Stafsnes Andersen originally took inspiration from Kid Icarus, and judging by the result, there’s no-one better to handle the series’ return.
Wargroove X Advance Wars
Possibly the least work-intensive proposal from this list of ideas, Chucklefish’s Wargroove is heavily inspired by Nintendo’s turn-based Advance Wars games, from the art style down to the mechanics. Of course, there are differences, but an official collaboration would be an excellent way to satisfy fans of the series while Intelligent Systems concentrates on the Fire Emblem franchise.
A good party game X Mario
Oh-no-we-didn’t! Okay, calm down, calm down – we love Mario Party, as our review of the latest entry attests. However, it’s tough to argue that every single game in the long-running series has been a winner. Some of the minigames can be hit-and-miss, which can seriously put a dampener on any party. After all, party-goers need constant diversion – it only takes a 30-second lull to burst the bubble. Imagine, if you will, a genuinely hilarious, Jackbox-style party game featuring the Mushroom Kingdom crowd. Alternatively, something along the lines of Wii U’s unsung Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party might help freshen up the slightly sterile Mario Party formula. It couldn’t hurt to experiment with the series – Lord knows there’ll be another entry along soon enough.
Which one of these has the most potential? Can you think of any other fitting crossovers between Nintendo franchises and indie titles? Think Olli Olli X 1080° Snowboarding sounds promising? How about Meat Boy X Mario? Pop into the comments to share your ideas.