Monday, March 16, 2009

Common Forum Mistakes - 1

nintendo sux . they keep making the same mario and zelda games over and over again and @ssh0les keep buying them . sony rulez

I came pretty late to the Nintendo party; they really never got a hold on the UK while the ZX Spectrum and C64 ruled the roost, followed by the Amiga and Atari ST. A console by its nature was restricted in what games it could provide (try playing The Hobbit or Gunship on a NES) and those console games cost a lot, lot more. These home computers also gave myself, and many others, the taste for doing our own programming, without having to worry about silly stuff like licensing and IP laws.

I raise all of the above in explaining that I never actually played on a Nintendo console until my wife one day told me she really liked playing Mario while she was an au pair. Being the first time I had ever heard her express any sentiment on any game, I ran out and got an N64 and Mario64, from a mobile phone shop I had seen them still for sale (they had been discontinued well before). I connected it up, invited said wife in and showed her the Mario game.
"What's that, then?"
"Its the Mario game you talked about!"
"I've never seen it before..."
It appears she had been playing a Super Mario game on the NES... but no matter, I sat down and played a Mario game for the first time. It was a revelation for me; it was the first time in years I had been blown away by any game and I played it for quite a long time thereafter. I'd never seen so much crammed into a game before, the fluidity of the controls and the excellent, never getting in the way, camera.

All this leads me back to the original statement shown above; it is very, very wrong in every way conceivable. Let's look at the Mario games:

Super Mario Bros. 3 (1990) is a side-on scrolling platform game and considered one of the best examples of game design ever created. It showed what could be done with the with a platform game and how well simple controls could be used. The game still plays well today, even if it still has that old-school difficulty that I'm just not used to anymore; you know, when you were expected to practice a game to become good at it. The amount of secrets in the game was impressive and the variety in the levels is somewhat surprising given the limits of the NES.

Super Mario 64 (1996) was the first real, free-roaming 3d platform game (ignoring fixed perspective 3d games like Knight Lore and Head over Heals many years previously). Amazingly, though it was the first, it got so many things right that other games have still not managed to do as well to this day, one specifically being the camera. It was designed around the analogue controller for the N64 console; although it is worth noting that this controller was not, as many have stated, the first analogue joystick ever released (I think, personally, that the Vectrex may hold that honour). I cannot emphasis enough how good this game actually is to play; although it didn't work very well as a re-release on the Nintendo DS (NDS) hand-held console; pretty much due to the NDS not having an analogue controller.

Super Mario Galaxy (2007) took the genre to a completely new level, again, with gravity-bending planet hopping in a very, very 3d environment and, once again, utilising a totally new kind of controller; the one released with the Wii console. Special mention should go to the music for this one and the running story book as you progress through the game. The thought and planning that had gone into the game design for this and pretty much every other Super Mario game (yes, I do include Sunshine in that list) puts most other games to shame.

Then there are sport games like Mario Strikers, multi-player games like Mario Party and the rarely equaled racing game series Mario Kart (also considered a classic genre-creating game and one of the only games my wife will play) amongst many others. The upshot of all this being that since Mario is the Nintendo mascot, his image is used in a lot of their games. To say they are all the same would be like saying that just because you are born in a certain month, you will go out and do the same things as everyone else who was born in the month with the same name.

As far as Zelda goes, if you've read the previous posts you will know my thoughts around the original Legend of Zelda game; however, Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is also considered to be one of the best games ever made (and one I enjoyed greatly myself) and bears little resemblance to Wind Waker, Link to the Past or the Gameboy Colour exclusive titles. The distinction is more subtle in the Zelda games if you haven't actually played them.

Ironically, these games get a lot of stick for having the same backstory but completely different gameplay, whereas FPS games get accolade when using the same gameplay with a different backstory.

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