Four Nintendo Franchises in Need of Revival
Possibly the saddest thing modern day Nintendo has done is that they’ve pared down the number of their franchises they’re doing anything with. We’ve seen more Mario games than we can imagine, and we’ve seen some oldies revised into modern incarnations like Kid Icarus, but Nintendo has also completely ignored a large number of excellent franchises in favor of novelties like Wii Music and releasing another game with Mario’s face on the front.
We know Mario makes the most money, but is that really all Nintendo has to be about? They have so many good franchises, abandoned to the ravages of time. Let’s take a look at some of them!
When I was younger, F-Zero was the hottest thing since sliced bread. Really, F-Zero was the tops. Mario Kart was good, but F-Zero was faster, it had more attitude, and it was a lot more fun to play. I like Mario Kart just fine, but I loved F-Zero. The sense of speed and the focus on quality racing instead of random weapons made it a much more enjoyable single player experience.
It’s had a curious history, too. The original SNES game wasn’t fantastic, but the 64 iteration was great. Following on the heels of that was an expansion for the ill-fated 64DD which would have allowed us to create our own tracks, years before modern games like Modnation Racers would build franchises around that very idea. F-Zero for the 64DD not being released in North America numbers among my greatest gaming disappointments.
The last game in the series was F-Zero GX for the Gamecube, developed by SEGA of all people. It was by far the best entry in the series: fast, expansive, and featuring more characters than you could possibly imagine. The races were visceral, and the game offered a lot of character to go with races you could play for hours. It’s a game I come back to every few months, because of its level of polish and just how damn enjoyable it is.
A modern F-Zero could be done a lot of ways. It could end up as a Wii or WiiU title, using next generation visuals to impress the player. It could be a flagship title for the U, with online multiplayer and a large, complicated collection of races; maybe it could even follow fulfill its long forgotten promise and give us a track editor.
The most important thing, though, would be customization. The coolest, and most unfulfilled, part of F-Zero GX was the ability to make new crafts to race in, to fine tune them with parts you won in races. It was a really cool idea that unfortunately didn’t work out. The ship building in GX was clunky and rarely produced racers that could compete against the premade ones. A new F-Zero could take this idea and run with it. While many would favor parity in a racing game like this, I think it would be fantastic to have a game where I can race my own custom racer against someone else’s instead of just picking stock vehicles. It sounds like fantastic fun, and it’s a feature I’d love to see in a new F-Zero.
There’s a number of really cool Nintendo properties that have seen only spotty American releases. Fire Emblem is obviously the big name (and there are some fears that the newest game won’t make it to American shores) but no less memorable was robot build and battler series Custom Robo. I have fond memories of the time I spent in college with the Gamecube iteration of Custom Robo, one of the few to reach America.
At its core, Custom Robo is a little bit like Pokemon meets Mechwarrior. You fight missions Mechwarrior style, gather parts, and then build fantastic robots. What makes it more like Pokemon is how the fighting is structured: if your first robo dies, you bring out the next one on the list to continue the battle. Building your robots was great, but the combat was exciting and visceral too, with battles against massive ships and against pesky other robots.
Nintendo’s last release in the series was Custom Robo Arena for the DS in 2007/2008. It received good reviews but absolutely no publicity from Nintendo (to the point where I, someone who likes the series, didn’t know it existed until about five seconds ago), and it went into the market to die. We’ve seen no hide nor hair of it since.
Looking at the franchise, it’s easy to see it following the same imagined path as F-Zero. If Nintendo’s looking for franchises that could really position the WiiU as a competitor to the other major games platforms, Custom Robo is the kind of franchise that has the frantic gameplay, action, and graphical potential to really show off a new console. Take it and make it multiplayer, and we’ve got one a franchise that could definitely appeal to the west. I mean, who doesn’t like explosions? Who? You? Put your hand down, you like explosions.
Alternatively, it could work wonders on the 3DS, focusing on competitive multiplayer on Nintendo’s new handheld. It could scratch a very similar itch to Pokemon and focus on the collection and building elements, creating a kind of game where you pit your carefully crafted force against an opponents. Possibly something more appealing to Japan, but with proper marketing it could be a hit over here in the States.
If you’ve not played the original Ice Climbers by this point, I do believe you’ve been consciously avoiding it. Most recently it’s been released on the 3DS as one of the free ambassador games, but it’s been pretty much everywhere else since Nana and Popo were included in the two sequels to Super Smash Brothers.
As a game it is an extremely finicky arcade platformer that is in the top half of the recently released 3DS titles only because it is better than Joust-alike Balloon Fight, the abysmal but charming Wrecking Crew, and Yoshi, a game so utterly abysmal that its existence has been declared a crime against humanity by the United Nations; its creators are now on trial for inflicting this game on us not only on the NES but also on the Wii and 3DS.
Ice Climbers isn’t as bad as genocide, but it’s about as good as Kid Icarus. And if any “franchise” in Nintendo’s stable needs a makeover as much as the soon to be madeover Kid Icarus, it is Ice Climbers. The less like the original game it is, the better.
I could definitely see Ice Climbers becoming some sort of cooperative puzzle platformer, emphasizing teamwork like Portal 2′s co-op or even (to go way back) like in old arcade games like Bubble Bobble. It could differ in emphasizing exploring giant, beautiful mountains, or finding treasures located in difficult places that you can only access by working together with your friends. It could feature exploration much like offbeat Nintendo title Endless Ocean, where you’d explore the ocean without much in the way of antagonist.
That’s the kind of stuff Nintendo likes, right? Working with your friends and E ratings? And not much sounds like more fun than working with someone to explore a giant, beautiful mountain. Oh, and running from yetis, who would for some reason try to build bridges.
You don’t know what Star Fox is? You’re kidding, right?
No, you have to be. Sure, the original Star Fox was uglier than the mythical Two Waluigi’s, One Cup, and sure, the series pretty much completely imploded after its one good entry (Star Fox 64, or, shall I say, the recently rereleased Star Fox 64), but man was that one good entry fantastic. Star Fox 64 was perhaps the defining game of my childhood, and I’d love a good and proper sequel.
Okay, Nintendo. No screwing around. No plot littered with obscure furry characters. No goddamn dinosaur people who speak their own bullshit gibberish language but don’t have a word for General Scales, their great leader, except in English. No on-foot segments.
Here’s what I want: I want a game where I can fly an Arwing through some straightforward levels, occasionally go into “All-Range Mode!” and Slippy to be a retarded, gender indecisive frog. Maybe be able to customize my own Arwing—though I might be too into customizing things. A story that doesn’t involve dinosaurs and doesn’t get in my way. Bill.
In short, I want a Star Fox game, not some experimental take or other game shoehorned into the franchise to move more units. I want a game where I fly an Arwing, blow up enemy ships, and have Peppy telling me to do a barrel roll. Ideally, it would be as zany and not serious about itself as it could be, because Star Fox isn’t the most serious of things.
Most of all, something classic and fun. It’s only worked for every other Nintendo franchise; why couldn’t it work for Star Fox?