Bigger isn’t always Better

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was one of the highlights, if not one of the best games shown at this year’s E3 press conference. They seem to be doing all the right things and taking the series in the right direction. The art style is simply gorgeous, matching that of gouache painted landscape. The exclusion of a hand holding tutorial and an open world in which I can explore is something I’ve longed for in ages.

There were so many positive additions to the game – forging, cooking, climbing, various weapons and armour, just to name a few. The new gameplay mechanics that saw Link having to consume food to stay alive, whether that be gathered through foraging or hunting. The temperature gauge, that saw him losing hearts if he was stationed in a cold area for too long, meaning Link would have to acquire warmer clothes to stay alive. It was brilliant, finally, Nintendo seemed to be getting everything right.

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A screenshot taken from the 2014 trailer when the game was set for a 2015 launch and was known as The Legend of Zelda Wii U. This is the game that I was looking forward too.

Then the exploration was shown, I managed to watch the whole Nintendo Treehouse event and throughout I couldn’t help but feel that the Map was a little sparse and empty. Now I know that towns and storyline related NPC’s were stripped from the demo due to Nintendo not wanting to show too much at E3. The map was also restricted to just 1% of the final size, in order to not reveal too much.

All that aside, I felt as though the map lacked any real density. They mentioned how Breath of the Wild’s open world is 12 times bigger than that of Twilight Princess, as if bigger is always better? Personally, I’d rather have a map half the size but densely packed full of life, something that thrives and feels lived in, where the deep forests feel overgrown and uncharted and the valleys are bursting with personality.

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Screenshots taken from the 2016 trailer. Set for a 2017 launch. The difference is all most polar oppisite compared to the screenshot above, where as this should be the better version. It’s a dreary set of images when stacked up against that of the 2014 trailer screenshot.

After playing the Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 last year, the bar was set higher than ever for open world games. Traversing through those worlds made me want to explore every nook and cranny and leave no stone unturned. Both worlds were packed full of places to explore. Even walking through a small wood in The Witcher 3 proved to be an exciting experience. The grass was long and overgrown, the trees shadowing over you, danger arose greatly as bears and beasts roamed in the area, you’d feel a real sense of Adventure and exploration from the map design alone. Whereas I just didn’t get that from Breath of the Wild.

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Horizon: Zero Dawn, another open world game set for 2017. This game features a densley packed world that looks deep and condensed, similar to that of the Legend of Zelda screenshot from the 2014 trailer, but a million miles away from the most recent 2016 ones. Not a good sign.

What we’d seen in the first trailer didn’t seem to represent the full game. The trailer seemed to be rich in life and dense in nature where the game demo lacked any real personality as if the game was bare beforehand and a few trees and camps were plonked within it to give an effect of a stocked landscape. Eiji Aonuma recently spoke about the games density.

“We talked a little bit about the idea of density, how dense to make this big world” Aonuma explained. The team realised that filling the vast landscape with things to do and explore would be a lot of work.

As the team experienced moving around on horseback or climbing up to a high place to paraglide down, they realised that their desire to see what’s ahead of the next horizon grew. At the same time, the team realised some moments should be subtle as you explore. “We realised that it’s OK if there’s pocket of emptiness”

– Interview source: IGN.com

I don’t want pockets of emptiness, what good is a huge world if that’s the case? why not a world half the size that isn’t as sparse? The encampments and shrines seem to be quite similar too. I’m aware each shrine will feature different puzzles and treasures but the game seems to resemble Far Cry in a way where you traverse to different outposts in order to overcome them, something that got boring quite quickly. A similar resemblance was shown many times in the demo with Bokoblin camps and each one seemed to be a similar setup. If this is representative of how each camp in the game is going to be, it’ll grow tiresome quite quickly.

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A Bokoblin camp, again the texture and setting of the world fail to resemble that of the 2014 trailer screenshot toward the top of this article.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the Zelda game I’ve always wanted, but in terms of exploration I’m a little worried. I don’t know if it’s the lack of power on the Wii U, the stripped back demo or just bad examples used throughout their official game trailer and demos. I want this game to succeed on all levels but seeing something like the examples above gets me a little worried. This is a detrimental time for Nintendo and all I want to see is them return to form.

I hope I’m proved wrong, I hope this is just due to parts of the game being stripped back for the purpose of the demo. I’m curious to see what awaits over the horizon within the game. I don’t voice these opinions because I want to put Nintendo down or because I’m not fond of the game, I do it because I genuinely care and I want the game to be as best as it possibly can be. If the game is slated for its sparse appearance or lack of density it’ll be a blow, not just to Nintendo, but to myself and those of us that love the series.

It seems that the nature of the games industry is that “bigger is always better”, that the bigger a map can be made the better it will be, as if it’s some kind of achievement, regardless of what lies within it. In general, I’d rather have a map that was half the size and full of personality, rich and alive, as opposed to something huge, barren and boring. Let’s hope as more of the game is unveiled my worries for its lack of density disappear.

/ CR

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What I’d love to see NeXt from Nintendo

It seems the life of the Wii U has been short and not so sweet for Nintendo. Less than two and a half year into its life and plans for a new console have already been revealed. It doesn’t really say a lot for Nintendo, chucking the towel in already, with not very many upcoming titles announced and word of a new home console already on the horizon. I think it’s fair to say I’d feel a little disappointed if I’d just bought a Wii U. But who can blame them for not wanting to stay on a sinking ship?

They’ve thrown a lot of heavy hitters at it recently to try and keep the console a float. Games such as Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD and more couldn’t give the Wii U the sales that were desired. Yet the console still suffers massively and has one of the least appealing line-ups on a Nintendo console to date.

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U offered the best smash game since Melee, but could have reached a bigger audience if the console had sold more.

Now I’ve owned every Nintendo console since the SNES. I was brought up on Nintendo, if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t have gotten into gaming. I was greatly drawn to each home console and handheld system they released, and then came the Wii. Don’t get me wrong the Wii was fantastic console and Nintendo always seem to lead the way with innovation, it seemed to open up the medium of video games for many, allowing them to edge more and more into the mainstream. For me it just wasn’t the type of console I wanted. Compared to the likes of the Gamecube, N64, SNES and NES – the Wii just didn’t seem to stack up.

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The Gamecube holds so many fantastic gaming memories for me.

Wii U wasn’t much better either, the gamepad controller seemed clunky and unneeded, although it may have been useful to some players, I just simply preferred the generic controller, so much so as soon as I bought a Wii U I instantly picked up the pro controller to go along with it. This is something I wish the console had shipped with in the first place.

The launch line up wasn’t much better either, from the start it looked like Wii U was going to continue to get the third party titles it needed. Fast-forward two year and the momentum from the Wii, which the Wii U was riding on, had seemed to greatly diminish. Third party support became a distant memory and the total lack of games made the Wii U an undesirable purchase for many.

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The Wii U launch games lacked any hard hitters, something that the 3DS also shared but thankfully recovered from.

I still have my Wii U but it doesn’t get half as much of a look in compared to my other consoles, it saddens me to be honest, I remember when I played nothing but Nintendo. Nowadays if they want to grab the attention of the average gamer there’s a lot of changes that need to be made. There’s so much the console doesn’t offer compared to its competitors, but there’s nothing I’d love more than to see Nintendo make a huge comeback!

With the announcement of the NX it got me thinking, what would I love to see in their next home console? Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has already said that a new control method is already in the works for the NX, offering a “brand new concept”. The name is something that got me thinking as soon as it was announced; NX sounds more mature, gritty, sharp and powerful compared to the likes of the Wii and Wii U – it doesn’t seem as out of place when lining it up with the naming conventions of the N64 or Gamecube.

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The New 3DS is one of the weirdest named consoles I’ve ever heard which seems like an unneeded improvement, maybe something to help Nintendo sell more.. along with Amiibos.

To me the NX holds another meaning, rather than thinking of the X spelt ‘ex’ I see it more as ‘cross’, insinuating cross platform, cross device. If Nintendo could some how combine the popularity of it’s handheld consoles and incorporate that into their home console then could that be something that creates vast popularity for both? The Nintendo 3DS seems to stand on a platform that can’t be matched by any other. Also with the introduction of Nintendo ‘s plans to create content for mobile then a home console that can some how combine (or cross) all these platforms together doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

Now before I start ranting and raving about what I’d like to see next I’d just like to say I’m no console or marketing expert, I don’t have all the answers, this is all just my own personal opinion and ideas I’d like to see implemented. First of all, I’d like to see a console that harnesses the same power as it’s competitors, running in 1080p and holding the same frame rate and power of those that it stands amongst it. Seeing the likes of Wind Waker and MK8 in HD was a beautiful site. More power and even better graphic capabilities could do no harm for Nintendo.

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Games such as Wind Waker and Mario Kart 8 looked simply stunning in HD.

Another main feature that has been a struggling factor for Nintendo is third party support. Nintendo just HAS to be able to provide support for third parties if it’s to compete with other consoles. I’m not wanting it to copy exactly what the other consoles offer, but to compete, Nintendo should be able to offer the likes of popular franchises to consumers of their console – games such as GTA, Fallout, Call of Duty, Fifa, Destiny, Minecraft etc.

None of these games would have ever been possible on the Wii U, not just due to the consoles lack of power but because of the lack of support. If Nintendo could create a console powerful enough to harness games of this calibre as well as catering for it’s vast catalogue of Nintendo classics then it would have some of the richest array of games to offer.

On the back of that feature it’d be good to see a reworked identity and online system finally be implemented into Nintendo consoles, an actual profile for my Mii, similar to how avatars are used on Xbox, more customisation options and adding an identity that can be used over all systems, rather than using friend codes to interact with one another. I’d like to see an achievement system that actually offers the user something as opposed to Xbox Achievements and PS Trophies.

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Taking away Club Nintendo seemed like a somewhat odd decision, I’d love to see it make it’s valiant return offering many more features when the new console arrives.

Bring back a reworked Club Nintendo, something that offers the user a set amount of stars for completing a game rather than offering it to them on a plate, then allow the user to spend those stars on DLC for the game, costumes, new characters, game modes etc. Similar to the achievement system on Xbox, and having your stars total up but also being able to buy themes, avatar clothing for your Mii, allow the user to work for their stars and offer better incentives to play for them, rather than receiving them straight out of the box. This is something I’ve always wanted to see in video games, some sort of incentive for finishing your games or putting as much time into them as possible.

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The community aspect within Nintendo has always lacked any real foundations or structure. I think it’s something that has the potential to do much more, an area that could do with a needed makeover.

I’d like to see more emphasis on local co-op as well as a better online community aspect, it’d be great to find out more about what my friends were playing, what achievements they’d accomplished etc. Make it easier to drop into each other’s games, have a new re-worked controller that took note from the ergonomics of the Gamecube pad, a collection of games that catered for all audiences – young and old.

How about a strong launch line up? hell I’d even keep The upcoming Legend of Zelda for the NX rather than releasing it for Wii U. Releasing it alongside a new Mario game, Animal Crossing, Star Fox, FZero, Metroid a line up that was just to good to turn away from. I’d also like to see some new IP from Nintendo, Splatoon seems like it has the potential there to be an interesting contender, as much as I love the likes of Mario and company, when will it end? Surely it can’t go on forever, can it?

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Splatoon has the potential to be a great new IP for Nintendo, lets hope no rash decisions are made before release.

There are so many more features I’d add, but I could go on forever. By combining all these with the cross plat forming aspect mentioned earlier I don’t see how this couldn’t be a new introduction of a console that can cater for all gamers. I’d go in the opposite direction of having a media console and focus more on the games.

Offering the likes of Netflix, blu-ray players are great features to implement but the sole purpose of buying a console is usually always to play games, something I think some companies often forget. There’s nothing I’d like more than to see Nintendo back on top and here’s to hoping they can get everything right this time… as opposed to the majority wrong.