Watercrown Productions

Two paths.

by on Sep.05, 2011, under Opinions

So I’m playing Radiant Historia right now, a brilliant little DS JRPG published by Atlus. Fans of Chrono Trigger are already familiar with the possibilities of time travel in RPGs; fans of Chrono Cross (an excellent game, thank you very much) know what alternate realities can bring to the table. Now imagine the two of them brought together in one game. The very first choice in Radiant Historia sets off its major storytelling gimmick: the game progresses along two dramatically different courses, both of which much be experienced in order to bring the story to its conclusion. Events along one path affect the other, much like that fun little puzzle in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past where you had to fill the moat in the Light World to make it fill in the Dark World.

Of course, time is not nearly so wibbly in the real world (at least, not until someone finally invents the Doctor). But there’s little doubt in my mind that someone at Nintendo really wishes they had the White Chronicle right around now.

The Wii really did seem like a good idea at the time. Nintendo has always been of the mindset that they make toys for small children; their attempts to do otherwise have traditionally met with disaster. In this respect, taking the casual market by storm and letting the hardcore crowd play with its PS3s and XBox 360s was the logical choice. Now the casual market has slipped from their grasp, the 3DS has been met with apathy by the public and disappointment by developers, and the Wii U’s E3 showing left the crowds perplexed instead of awed. Their ironclad belief that the 6-12 crowd is their primary audience has left them crippled with ridiculous Friend Codes and parental control-mandated region locking. Were they wrong to aim for the casual crowd? Not at the time, no. But it’s clear that ignoring – or rather, actively alienating – the hardcore audience has reaped a bitter harvest for them.

Now they stand at the gates of Historia, the mysterious time travelers Lippti and Teo gently chiding them that doing what seemed like the obvious “right” course of action has wrought despair and destruction. And they have a choice of two paths. Nintendo wants to have its cake and eat it, and they must decide which is more important.

The “Have Cake” Route: Follow in Sega’s footsteps and pull out of hardware entirely. This is not a bad ending for them. Nintendo’s consoles have long been entrenched about five years behind the curve: they eschewed optical media on the Nintendo 64, marginalized online play on Gamecube, and refused to implement a real online infrastructure for Wii. The Operation Rainfall fiasco proves they simply cannot be trusted as a first-party publisher. Their strength has always been in their own games, and even if the Wii U is the final Nintendo-branded console, there is little doubt in my mind that Mario and Zelda will still have a home on some platform. In many ways, the game industry will be a better place with them removed from a position of power and authority.

The “Eat Cake” Route: Go beyond mere apologies and price cuts and actually address the issues that are holding them back. Killing Friend Codes once and for all will earn them plenty of friends. Developing a proper online infrastructure with usernames, messaging, and the ability to tie purchases to a shop account will go even further. Now that the casual market is no longer their exclusive domain, they need to focus their efforts on winning back the hardcore crowd by casting aside their pretense of making games for little kids and their grandmothers and bringing both the games and the functionality that will allow the 3DS and Wii U to actually compete against the Vita, PS3, and XBox 360. Nintendo can emerge triumphant yet again if they’re willing to fight for it.

As far as I’m concerned, both these paths lead to happy endings. Nintendo triumphs, either as a purveyor of casual shovelware games, or as the rethroned king of the game industry. Of course, in Radiant Historia, there are many branching paths which lead to ruin and destruction, so we can’t ignore the possibility of…

The “Cake Gets Smashed On The Ground” Route: Nintendo continues on just as it is right now, trying to peddle $250 game systems and $40 games to little kids who can play those exact same games for five bucks a pop on their PCs or their parents’ cellphones, incapable of reconciling their ironclad belief in their own infallibility with the brutal reality of their increasing irrelevance. After a string of drastic price cuts and megaton announcements of minor hardware updates refuses to stop the bleeding, Nintendo loses all hope and sanity and finally outsources all of its major franchises to Ninja Theory, at which point both the company and said franchises are effectively dead.

Nintendo, this is Jacob Marley calling. Change your ways or become a sad historical footnote. You have until your next console release. Choose your path wisely.

6 Comments for this entry

  • Touya(EnchantedARM)

    I play rpgs mainly and that’s what I look forward to. I was disappointed with DS in this regard, but if i look past that to games like radiant historia, phoenix wright, valkyrie profile: cotp, brain age and a few select others it’s not so bad.

    One of the reasons I love nintendo is that it doesn’t “quasi-mandate” online play. It has other restrictions, though; the most annoying being the ESRB ratings agenda.

    Chrono Cross is I think Mitsuda’s magnus opus that, tragically, will never be recognized.

    I think the 3DS library at the moment is barebones, with zelda as the only must-own title.

    Wait until we see a mario title and metal gear solid, then we’ll see that hardware move like crazy. Nintendo will never bow out of the hardware market, they have too much to offer.

    In semi-related news, have you seen the info about persona 4 being remade/enhanced(ly) ported to the vita? It has online functionality and more suggestive scenes included.

    • Ryusui

      Yes, I’ve heard of Persona 4: The Golden. It turned Vita from “sounds cool” to “definitely must have.”

      There have been grumblings regarding the Vita’s price point to the effect that “3DS floundered at $250; what makes Sony think they can sell the Vita for that much?” People seem to forget that the PSP launched for that exact same price; not that it didn’t struggle, but it’s worth noting that the Vita is definitely aimed at the hardcore crowd, which is typically more willing to invest in new hardware.

      I’ll put it bluntly: I think the Vita is worth $250. The 3DS, on the other hand, is not. I estimated the maximum viability threshold of the 3DS at $220; anything over that would have been shooting themselves in the foot, and I’m sorry to see my predictions panned out. If anything, the price cut – far more than necessary, even if vastly appreciated – is a signal to the industry that Nintendo is in fire sale mode, trying desperately to wring some profit out of what they’ve (prematurely) identified as the system’s complete and total failure.

      Let me clarify a point I made in my post. Nintendo does not think they are making toys for small children. They are making toys for small children. Their hardware is expressly designed for nongamers; the fact that both Wii and DS have excellent hardcore games available is purely an accident, as far as they’re concerned. And now that the nongamers have gone elsewhere for their Angry Birds and whatnot, they’re trying to recapture the audience that grew up with them without actually changing their hardware strategy from last gen. 3DS is a casual system launched at a hardcore price point, thus alienating both their audiences, much like the Wii U threatens to do with its schizophrenic combination of modern HD graphical prowess (with a price point to match) and gimmicky tablet controller.

  • Touya(EnchantedARM)

    Well, I was going to try to defend nintendo, but when I got home from work I saw this and thought “what’s the point?”


    What an unprecedentedly weird thing to do.

  • Ryusui

    The news has actually put me at ease, somewhat. All signs point to the analog stick add-on being a peripheral for Monster Hunter 3G, a game which Capcom has officially said will never be released outside of Japan. Even then, the game can still be played without it. So perhaps the rumors are only half-true?

  • Touya(EnchantedARM)

    Ys: Celceta no Jukai was announced for Vita. My japanese is terrible, but isn’t that related to Ys: 4?

    Judging from a few screenshots and videos, there are 3 people on the team which seems to contradict the style of Ys: 4.

    Just wondering if you could provide any insight, as I’m clueless.

  • Ryusui

    Ys IV is an odd duck in that there are two different games both bearing the title, neither one actually developed by Falcom themselves.

    To answer your question, yes, Celceta: Sea of Trees is to Ys IV what The Oath in Felghana is to Ys III. It’s using Ys Seven’s gameplay style (and engine, IIRC), much the same as how Felghana uses Ys VI’s gameplay style and engine. And since this is the first time Falcom has made its own take on Ys IV, expect it to be dramatically different from The Dawn of Ys and Mask of the Sun in and of itself.

    At the rate things are going, the entire Ys series will be playable in one form or another on PSP/Vita. I just hope that Falcom sees fit to remake Ys VI as well, or at least port it themselves (at this point, the lack of a number in the U.S. version’s title isn’t nearly as upsetting as the fact that Konami handled the whole thing from start to finish, with questionable results).

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