I think you’ll like this.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Derek Mason admits he hasn’t had much time to stop and think since being named Vanderbilt’s coach just weeks before national signing day last month.
Yesterday, Nintendo fans around the world were treated to a Nintendo Direct that detailed the hotly-anticipated fourth installment of the Smash Bros. series. Originally coming out on the Nintendo 64 as “Super Smash Bros.”, it pitted Nintendo All-Stars in a fight to see who could come out on top. Its sequel was the all-time classic “Super Smash Bros. Melee” on the GameCube, a fixture in my top-3 favorite games of all time. It is still played in tournaments all over the world and has recently undergone a renaissance. The third installment is “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” for the Wii, in which the director (Masahiro Sakurai) aimed to move away from the highly competitive and technical Melee to the slower Brawl (which included fun things like spontaneous tripping). For Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS (henceforth referred to as Smash4 together, and SmashU and Smash(3)DS separately), Sakurai has taken a middle ground between the technical, fast-paced Melee and the slow, floaty, ‘fun’ Brawl. I’ll tackle my thoughts on the direct in the order they appeared.
As of right now, SmashDS releases this summer and SmashU releases this winter.
I don’t think that anyone was expecting a split release, but it makes sense for a number of reasons. First, and most importantly, it avoids cannibalism. Paying for both simultaneously is a larger financial strain than having 6 months post-SmashDS to save up (and anticipate) the Wii U version. With SmashU coming out around Christmas, Nintendo will be able to increase their console count due to holiday sales and release a Christmas bundle. SmashU gives the Wii U a hit when it will face stiff competition from more-mature PS4 and Xbox One titles. Similarly, a summer release for SmashDS gives Nintendo a summer windfall, which will make investors happy.
60 frames per second, including when in full 3D. Excellent. Making Pokémon and Assist Trophies run at 30 fps was a good compromise to ensure that the framerate remains smooth—that’s the number one goal. I find it odd that Sakurai didn’t mention any frame data on the Wii U version, but given that there are still many months to go, he may not have found the right balance on that. The U should have no problems running at 60fps for all on-screen elements and backgrounds (unless literally every item in the game is going off at the same time). If there was a problems with this, I hope they make the same compromise they did with the 3DS.
Differences Between Versions
Same fighters, new stages—I definitely think that’s the best way to handle this, especially since the stages are platform specific. In terms of sharing options, hopefully you’ll be able to share control schemes/customizations between the two. It’s odd that there hasn’t been much 3DS–Wii U exchange yet.
Let’s be clear—online play in Super Smash Bros. Brawl was absolute garbage. The new system that they’ve implemented is far better. No more Friend Code bullsh*t (still don’t understand how that arcane system works), as your Nintendo Network ID and associated Mii are now used (no more taunt parties!). Additionally, there are two play modes: “For Fun” and “For Glory”. “For Glory” This, to me, is an indication that Sakurai has been listening to fans in addressing Brawl’s shortcomings and better appealing to hardcore players (like myself). “For Fun” involves every stage but Final Destination, and all items are turned on for maximum mayhem. In “For Glory”, Final Destination is chosen and no items are used. This is excellent for players like myself who never play with items (I haven’t in years). To eliminate fatigue, Sakurai & Co. have created Final Destination forms of most of the other stages in the game, so that we can enjoy their art and music as well. (I hope that these forms are available for local multiplayer as well; it’s probably the only way I’d play). It is a brilliant idea that really shows that the team thought about the needs of hardcore players while still making things fun for the younger ones who play with all items and on all manner of crazy stages.
There are a couple of drawbacks to “For Glory”, namely the limitation of Final Destination and Timed vs. Stock nature of the matches. What about the other neutral stage, Battlefield? There should be versions of this stage as well, as Battlefield is better than Final Destination for characters like Marth, Zero Suit Samus, King DeDeDe, and more while Final Destination serves as an advantage for characters like Sonic and Samus. If there were varying stage forms with a battlefield-like setup, I would be very pleased.
In tournaments, rounds are set to 4 stocks with an 8 minute time limit on the match. But it seems as though there will be some sort of time limit on “For Glory” matches without it being a stock round, and this poses a problem. When a character gets a kill, the killer gets +1 and the killed receives –1 for their scores. But to win, the killer only needs to have a number greater than the killed, not necessarily kill the other player a set amount of times. Take the following example: Player 1 and 2 have high damage, there are 30 seconds remaining in the match, the score is tied at 0. Player 1 kills 2 with 10 seconds left, making the score +1/–1 respectively. Player 2 still has time to return to the stage and get a kill for the tie. But what happens when Player 1 Self-destructs (worth –1)? The score becomes 0/–1, and now Player 2 has virtually no chance of getting a kill and taking the lead with the limited time remaining. This is why tournaments don’t use time matches, as stock matches encourage survival. Should “For Glory” use time matches instead of stock matches, the phenomenon I gave in the example will lead to “self destruct finishes”. It’s not fair, and hopefully they realize this over in Japan.
A note of miscellany: online voice chat was not mentioned, and with it being Nintendo, I don’t expect it.
Bonus: The Wii LAN adapter apparently works with the Wii U and can help with a great connection. I sense that a lot of these will be purchased soon; I know I’ll be grabbing one. Unfortunately, since it’s over USB, the max theoretical is 10/100 gbps. Ouch, but that may still be better than the Wii U’s Wi-Fi a/g/n.
Global Smash Power
Rather than a simple ranking system #1–#of players, the Smash team has implemented ‘Global Smash Power’. This is a ranking that simply states “you are better than x number of people”, making a larger number more covetable. It’s certainly more easy to rank people this way, as you can create a formula based on events completed/wins to determine definitively what players are better than others without having to crown a #1. It’s a very Nintendo way of doing things.
Items, Pokéballs, and Master Pokéballs.
I don’t play with them, so they don’t mean too much to me. Glad to know the good ones are there though. I must say, I fist pumped when I saw Dark Samus as an assist trophy though.
Zero Suit Samus! Sweet, glad she’s back—even though Sakurai was playing games in the Direct, making it look like she wouldn’t be back for a second. Her jet boots seem to be inspired by the classic “Haloid” short by Monty Oum that came out way back in about 2007(!). The fact that Samus and Zero Suit exist as separate characters is fine with me, as one really couldn’t actively switch between the two characters in-game. (Yes, I know that it is possible to transform from Samus to Zero Suit in Brawl without a Smash Ball, but it was a one-off event.) I may actually want to play with Smash Balls with Samus now that I know I won’t be playing a completely different character after I use it.
Shiek and Zelda, split? It will certainly be a big change for Zelda/Shiek mains, but many Shiek players didn’t play the traditionally terrible Zelda anyway. They will benefit from having a new side and down special, however.
Charizard, I don’t really care about. Interesting that they took out Pokemon Trainer, but that works well for people that only liked ⅓ or ⅔ of the Pokémon Trainer. Alas, that also means that Squirtle and Ivysoar are most likely gone, but I’m sure most would have picked Charizard out of the three to carry the torch.
Yoshi: I really don’t care about him. At least he stands up correctly, as he’s been awkwardly hunched over in the past, just like Bowser. Hopefully they’ll smooth over Samus’ run animation too, but I wouldn’t hold my breath—I’d die before the game even made it to the eShop.
New Movesets: I’m glad that Sakurai went ahead and spelled out the move sets for the new characters (Mega Man, Villager, Wii Fit Trainer). That really takes a load off of the Internet trying to piece it together from videos. Not sure who I’ll like out of them yet.
New character Graninja: No idea who he is, but he looks interesting. I’ll give him a shot. He rounds out the quota for Pokemon, as the last Pokéslot should go to Jigglypuff.
Honestly, I really don’t have much to say about this, other than that it should be an awesome, fun diversion from the main game as well as a way to have more fun with other modes of the game.
Custom Movesets came out of nowhere, and I have no idea what to make of it. I’ll have to get some more information. It looks cool, especially since you can play with custom fighters online with your friends (only) in addition to local. I look forward to returning Samus’ missiles to their former glory if Sakurai hasn’t fixed them yet. I suspect that this mode limited to the Wii U, just as Smash Run is limited to the 3DS.
Overall Thoughts and Observations
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is a reduction in the ‘randomness’ of certain attributes of the game (e.g. no more tripping, and King Dedede now throws Gordos exclusively rather than 8% of the time), and an acknowledgement that hardcore fans enjoy the game differently—but no less so. The “For Glory” mode is very much appreciated, and I look forward to playing online much more often (I’m sick of playing level 9 CPUs, and they don’t lend themselves to player development like playing against humans do). I really appreciate how the game now better appeals to hardcore and casual players, rather than just casual players. At the end of the day, it’ll be the hardcore players who will still be playing the game 10 years from now, just as we’re the ones with GameCubes and N64s still playing Melee and Smash64. By my estimate, Melee is the most popular form of Smash on campus, and I don’t expect that to change for another 3 or 4 years.
There are no GamePad-specific features for the game, so it’ll be all Pro Controller for me. It would reduce a big headache for me if they said “Alright, Pro Controller only” for the control scheme. Naturally and deservedly so, that would raise an uproar, but dealing with Classic Controller Pros, Wiimotes, Wiimote + Nunchuks, Pro Controllers, and GamePads is a massive headache. It’s also easier to explain to newbies when everyone has the same controller.
All in all, I’m very excited for the game (if you couldn’t tell by the massive blog post). I think it will be what Brawl should have been, and that it won’t cause the great divide in the Smash community that Brawl did and instead serve as a unifying game. I know I’ll be picking up both copies on release day, and that most free moments will be filled by playing the new Smash. Here’s to the future.
Making the Wii U Relevant
I’m a big Nintendo fan. Always have been, always will be, and those of you who have read this blog regularly know. But with their latest console—the Wii U—they’ve blown a head start and have already been counted as out of the race by many technology pundits. The Nintendo 3DS started out is the same way, but with a price cut and release of some highly-anticipated games, it’s taken off. The main difference here, however, is that the 3DS never really had any competition (the Vita is a joke). The Wii U can go the way of the 3DS instead of the GameCube (great titles, but not very many customers to enjoy them)—but it’s up to Nintendo to make that decision. Nintendo needs to make some things happen at E3, and beyond.
What Nintendo needs to do for E3:
Bring out the first party heavy hitters—but not Mario
Let me get this out of the way first: no more Mario. We’ve sen a ton of him throughout 2011 and 2012, and Nintendo has plenty of other franchises it can pull from to excite fans and the media. Give us some more information—and release dates— for Yoshi’s Yarn, the next Smash, and the next Kirby. Best of all, throw us all for a loop: let’s see F-Zero.
Many current console owners would be appeased by some new demos to play; we’re impatient, and Nintendo owes us. We bought the console early, and have been let down by no major releases since launch. It’s now April. I think that Nintendo should let us download the first few minutes of Wind Waker HD and give us a glimpse of what Yoshi’s yarn can look like.
“Hardcore” fans need to be addressed, if only because we’re the loudest and can make or break a system’s popularity. We know that Nintendo scored on Bayonetta 2. But what’s it look like? What’s the story? What is the gameplay like, especially for those of us that haven’t played the first one? We’ve gotta see that in action. Nintendo has to deliver on this, and tell us when it will be available—hopefully Summer 2014. Metroid is Nintendo’s first-party hardcore experience, and we’ll all be happy to see a return to Prime shape in Samus’ house. Letting us fly her ship between planets, chase down the Galactic Federation or rival bounty hunter, and switch between first and third person modes I think will be the future for this franchise. I think. Samus should have a voice—Nintendo should have at least one character that isn’t an empty shell—but she need to be written and portrayed well. She doesn’t have to say much. Retro, I think, could handle this balance well.
2. We Need Retro
Arguably, the strongest thing Nintendo has up its sleeve is whatever Retro Studios is working on. Widely and deservedly acclaimed for the Metroid Prime series as well as the Donkey Kong Country Returns reboot, anything they touch is essentially gold. Rumors have their new project to be one of two franchises: Metroid or Star Fox. Though I’m a huge Metroid fan and greatly revere what the team has done in reviving that series, it’s Star Fox that needs the revival treatment. It’s been 8 years since the last installment—interestingly, the same length of time between Super Metroid and Retro-developed Metroid Prime. Also note that both franchises skipped a Nintendo home console. It’s time for Star Fox to get its due. I don’t know what angle Retro can approach the game from, but I know that everyone believes that they know what they’re doing.
3. Third Parties
We need to know that certain third party titles are coming to the platform. We know that Nintendo has never been strong in this regard, but it would certainly be nice to see. Let’s have Nintendo fighting for us in the background: where’s the Mass Effect Trilogy? Where’s Bayonetta 1? Even going back on some last-gen classics would do well with those of us who only one one console—Nintendo’s.
Nintendo is going to have a lot of competition at E3, and new hardware will be all of the buzz. Only top-notch software is going to allow Nintendo to steal the limelight, and boy do they need it.
Long term, the Wii U needs a number things to happen: drop the basic set or include Nintendo Land with it, introduce a serious marketing campaign, and partner up. The basic set is confusing, a poor value, and useless. Make the deluxe available in white or black. I personally wanted a white console, but didn’t want to get ripped off. Additionally, include Nintendo Land with all hardware sold. Nintendo Land helps players to ‘get it’. Nintendo needs as many people to ‘get it’ as possible. I’ve barely seen any ads for the Wii U. Make it clear that this is new, badass, and is a gaming machine. The precious few ads I’ve seen haven’t done that. This is where Nintendo needs to be willing to break the bank: no console sales, no revenue. It takes spending money to make money, and Nintendo has the dough. They just need to direct it in the right way. Lastly, as I’ve said in previous posts, Nintendo’s history is it’s greatest strength. Partner up to allow us to experience this history in new ways. The best example of this is Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Wii U Edition.
If all of this happens (and I hope to God it will), then no one will worry about Nintendo; they’ll be the talk of the town and the industry’s darling. But more than virtually every company (but Apple), Nintendo’s fate is in it7
s own hands.
A couple of days ago, I wrote “The Sad State of Nintendo Gaming“. That article was prompted by my frustrations in playing Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 on the Xbox 360 with my cousins and siblings (that’s the eloquent way of saying that I got absolutely decimated on a repeated basis). At the end of the article, I had this to say:
“But with that, I’d like them to be able to stick with their standard dual-analog format with the Pro Controller, and I could simply use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo…
Let me end this post with my look at my dream console: A Nintendo-branded console in full HD console with a modern wireless communication network between consoles that get full ports of killer games on other consoles. And one that does so while providing innovation, customizability, and backwards-compatibility. Is that too hard to ask?”
Well, the day when that happens won’t be here for a while. But the day when GoldenEye 007 for the Wii comes out has already come and gone. I did some research on the best FPS on the Wii, and GoldenEye reigned victorious. I picked up a copy yesterday, and am already a big fan. And the best part? The game’s controls are bring-your-own-controller-and-customize-it-to-your-hearts-content. Wii Remote + Nunchuck, Wii Zapper, Classic Controller Pro, GameCube controller… eat your heart out. Seriously. I’ve been tinkering with the precise controls constantly.
On a slightly related note, I found the limited-edition Metroid Prime Trilogy in GameStop today. It was swiftly picked up along with GoldenEye. Trilogy uses the Wiimote + Nunchuck combination that I love so much for first-person shooters; I believe that it has the perfect control scheme. Prime Trilogy really takes all of the thinking out of navigating with Samus. If I can extend that to Bond… I’ll be invincible (well, as invincible as I can be without Super Missiles…).
It helps that GoldenEye has an excellent multi-player mode; that means that I can invite some friends over next year and take care of ‘em with ease, whether they’re dual-analog or not. Unfortunately, the Wii U won’t have support for GameCube controllers (which makes sense; it did come out in 2001); the Cube controller was one of the most comfortable and well-designed ever—especially with the asymmetric ABXY layout. Fortunately, the Wii U Pro Controller looks to fix some of the shortcomings of the ‘Cube controller (no Z equivalent on the left side, no select button, small C-Stick nub)—and it will be wireless.
Get ready. Oddjob’s gunning for you.
…and it’s called the iPhone 4S. People. C’mon. Few things irritate me more than when people ask me when the iPhone 5 will come out. I [maybe a bit flippantly] reply that “It’s here now; pick it up at any place that sells iPhones.”
It’s important to note that with the iPod and Mac lines, Apple does not append the name with the generation number for its devices (e.g. the iPod nano 5). It simply refers to these machines in official documentation as the product name with the generation number in parentheses (e.g. iPod nano (5th generation)). It’s simply the iPhone line and the iPad 2 that break this pattern. And we all know that Apple is a company of pattern.
People’s confusion stems mostly due to Apple’s iPhone naming system. The original iPhone was simply “iPhone”. But when the second generation came out, it was called the iPhone 3G. This was because this was the first iPhone that had 3G networking; everyone knew that it wasn’t the third iPhone. The third phone was called the iPhone 3GS. Easy to remember, and it had the “3” in it too. Enter the iPhone 4: one of the few Apple products that has its generation number in its official title (along with the iPad 2). Now, before the Apple enthusiasts caught on to Apple’s tick-tock strategy, there were a number of debates on the Apple enthusiast corner of the Internet over whether the next iPhone would be named “iPhone 5″ or “iPhone 4S”. Apple proved that the 4S camp guessed right.
When the iPhone 3GS came out in 2009, it started a tick-tock pattern for Apple. An overhaul of a product would come out, and then Apple would refine and perfect it next generation and append the name accordingly. This was also apparent in Mac OS X with Snow Leopard succeeding Leopard in 2009 and Mountain Lion succeeding Lion in 2012.
But for some reason, people stopped making sense. “Oh, the iPhone 5 didn’t come out this year, they released the 4S. So I guess it’ll come out next year!” That makes no sense. Apple just released the “iPhone 5″ with a different name. Don’t be a lemming. Call the next iPhone simply “The next iPhone” or “iPhone 6th generation”. Because you know what? No one outside of the top people at Apple know what it’ll be called, so let’s not assume. But we know it won’t be the iPhone 5.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I’ll reward you by reading the previous 427 words with this:
I love Nintendo. I’m a huge fan, as is all of my family. But the company is in more trouble than their earnings would report. Despite some quarters at a loss, the place where they’ve really been losing is in the living room.
First, some background contextual information:
In the 90s, Nintendo was king. Coming from the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 80s, the Super Nintendo was released in 1990–1991 and owned the 16-bit era of 1990–1995. (much to the disappointment of us Sega Genesis fans). But when the Sony Playstation came out in 1994, things started to change and gamers started to see the future of video games: on discs. Nintendo’s next console was the venerable cartridge-based N64, and while it wasn’t as popular as the PlayStation, It was still loved and spawned a number of wonders; notably Super Mario 64 (the first great 3D Platformer in a free world), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (with the first implementation of Lock-On), and GoldenEye 007 (one of the first great modern first person shooters).
The subsequent generation of consoles, I think, was the last “fair fight” of the console wars. This era included the Sega Dreamcast (discontinued prematurely), the Nintendo GameCube, the Microsoft XBOX, and the Sony PlayStation 2. In this generation, most things were fairly equal: the graphics were all about the same, all consoles but the PS2 supported 4 controllers, games could be ported to run on all of the systems. Only first party games separated the consoles—save for the DVD support of the PS2. But this was the point in time when Nintendo started to lose ground. Here are the numbers of consoles sold at the time of discontinuation/succession:
Do you see that? The PS2 had more than all of the other consoles combined. And doubled. Doubled. And with that came a change in gaming culture focus. Instead of platformers and epic adventures owning gamer mindshare, games like Halo, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto rose to prominence among a large number of gamers. Nintendo consoles have not been known for this kind of gameplay. They are known for Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Smash Bros., Star Fox, Animal Crossing, and essentially a lot of first-party franchises. Titles that while mom and pop may get for their little 9 year old, 14-year-old Jimmy isn’t talking about with his friends at the middle school lunch table.
Now Nintendo claims that they’ve expanded to new gamers and demographics with titles like WiiFit and Nintendogs. But with the advent of the iPhone, iPad, and the App Store and the rise of mobile phone gaming, those customers have essentially been ceded to Apple. Nintendo needs to find a way to recapture the hardcore gaming market. Especially with the upcoming launch of the WiiU, Nintendo really needs to basically expand outside of the hardcore Nintendo fans (like me) and into the hardcore gamer fans who enjoy Call of Duty on an HDTV at 1080p online [without cumbersome Friend Codes] with voice chat handled wirelessly through the system. They have to get to both, while still giving Grandma and Grandpa a reason to get one. And that will be relatively difficult to do.
One of the best ways to do that will be to leverage the advantages of their WiiU GamePad to developers, yet make the WiiU Pro Controller available for geeks to play Call of Duty. I personally don’t like dual-analog control for first-person shooters. I’m relatively new to the genre, and for me, it has a fairly steep learning curve. However, aiming and shooting with a Wii Remote and nunchuk is quite easy and intuitive for me (mostly thanks to spurts with The Conduit and adventures with Metroid Prime 3). I’d love to have the opportunity to face a dual-analog expert on equal terms with a good Wii-Remote and Nunchuk combo.
A quick aside: I think that the Wii Remote and Nunchuck combo is the best console controller. It allows for so many options for game control, but is also easily compatible with more classic button configurations. A good example of this is control options for Twilight Princess on the GameCube vs. Twilight Princess on the Wii.
Having had a GameCube/Wii during my youth, pre-teen, and teen years as well as an overprotective set of parents, I didn’t gave access to Halo or Grand Theft Auto as a kid. And even when my family finally did get an Xbox (doesn’t even sound right to this day) at Christmas 2010, I never really got into it. (I also had a 10 year old brother, so still no M-rated games). But now I’m heading to college, and I’d love to keep playing video games (despite how expensive it can get to keep up).
I’d also love to have the option to play games that the 360 and PS3s will be running, as well as the next Smash Bros. and Metroid title from Nintendo. But with that, I’d like them to be able to stick with their standard dual-analog format with the Pro Controller, and I could simply use a Wii Remote and Nunchuk combo. (But, with my luck, I’d be stuck with using the GamePad’s dual-analog sticks with some games anyway.) Having a WiiU would also probably result in my 3DS getting some love. I haven’t touched it in months. (Granted, when I had Ocarina of Time 3D I couldn’t put it down, but that’s just a remake).
Let me end this post with my look at my dream console: A Nintendo-branded console in full HD console with a modern wireless communication network between consoles that get full ports of killer games on other consoles. And one that does so while providing innovation, customizability, and backwards-compatibility. Is that too hard to ask?