The Devolution of Paper Mario Scott's Thoughts

I remember being drawn to the first Paper Mario like a magnet.

It was in a video rental store, and I saw the N64 cartridge sitting on the bottom shelf. I didn’t know why Mario was paper, or why it was turn-based, but I immediately brought it home.

Of course, an RPG like Paper Mario can’t really be explored and beaten during a rental period, so I ended up buying it. I had to! The story, the characters, and the gameplay were so compelling that I had to see the adventure through to the end.

The Thousand Year Door was a beautiful follow-up on GameCube, which I first laid eyes upon at a WalMart. It was one of those demo kiosks where you had to stare up at the ceiling and snap your head backward to see. It continued the wonderful characterizations, thickened the plot, and introduced exciting new transformations for Mario that shook up the gameplay.

Super Paper Mario was memorable. Although stripping out the beloved traditional RPG elements, the game introduced a compelling tale of love and tragedy, alongside an interesting 2D-to-3D mechanic.

And then it all went downhill.

Unique, lovable, captivating characters were replaced with gimmicks of stickers and paint.

This image sums it up well.

The modern entries have their own merit, and bring some amount of charm. But along the way, the franchise lost focus. Paper Mario became more about churning out a quick win for sales and marketing than it was about world-building.

It might have been when the father of Mario gave the Sticker Star team these directions:
There were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—”It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?” and “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.”Iwata Asks

Miyamoto was wrong.

Nintendo’s Job ≠ Parents’ Job Scott's Thoughts

I grew up with three parents: Mom, Dad, and Nintendo.

My mother and father were great—kept me out of trouble, let me earn trust, and gave me some slack on the leash.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has always been the stereotypical helicopter parent.

And still is.

When I moved out of my Mom and Dad’s house, I took my Nintendo games with me. Along with them, I brought some overbearing restrictions along for the ride.

I got my own place to live, my own car to ride, and my own job to cover my bills. That’s what we call “adulting.” Unfortunately, I still feel like a kid when I try to play online and use the limited internet services built into Nintendo systems.

This company from Japan thinks it’s their job to raise me. It’s not, and it never was.

If Nintendo wants to provide a parental control app—great. The one for Switch has some neat features. That needs to be the end of their responsibilities, so parents can do the rest.

It would sure be nice to talk to my friends… or even my competitors if I want to!

Innovation vs. Iteration Scott's Thoughts

Innovation: to revolutionize, change, transform, or evolve.

Iteration: to repeat, improve, patch, or expand.

Historically, Nintendo is a very iterative company. Most of their characters and concepts came from the mid-80s, when the company created its first batch of games for NES.

For many subsequent generations, they’ve followed the formulae, making a Mario game. A Zelda game. A Metroid game. Sequels got marginally better, improving upon past issues.

They’ve been honing their craft. Perfecting.

The only problem with this tradition is that it’s not very exciting. People start saying things like “if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all,” and “they keep recycling the same story over and over again.”

Nintendo Wii was the company’s first major hardware innovation in a long time—and they knew it, naming it codename “Revolution.” We were starting to see a brand that was ready to transform the gaming industry. Funny enough, the console’s success caused the console-maker to follow up with a safe “half-step” successor, but the masses weren’t listening anymore.

The good news is: innovative Nintendo is back, and that culture is seeping into their most beloved franchises. Breath of the Wild and Odyssey took a big leap in evolving the gameplay front. Next, we’ll see bigger shifts in story and presentation.

Buckle up! Your responsibility is being open to the change.

Nintendo Fans are Running the Company Scott's Thoughts

For a few years now, Nintendo execs have been talking about passing the torch. Younger developers are starting to take the reigns on new intellectual property like Splatoon and ARMS, as well as helping more seasoned devs shake up existing franchises that have stagnated.

These youthful employees are of a new generation, cut from a different cloth than Nintendo management has typically been made up of.

They’re Nintendo fans.

Kids who grew up a couple decades ago have been playing the company’s games their whole life, learned how to design and code, then landed a job at the Big N itself.

There’s a lot of respect for Nintendo’s stable of franchises, yet, the new employees aren’t as emotionally attached. That distinction allows for more change, experimentation, and advancement than we have previously seen.

When Nintendo fans run the company, you start seeing decisions that make more sense (to us fellow Nintendo fans). Things that we would actually come up with! Like naming a two-dimensional 3DS the 2DS. Like bringing back Star Fox 2 on a Classic Edition. Like reproducing the excellent GameCube controller for Super Smash Bros. 4.

We’re in good hands!

Will Nintendo Ever Make a Pro Console? Scott’s Thoughts

Nintendo fans know the drill by now; their products are innovative and fun, but always underpowered.

Competitors are releasing impressive systems that end in “Pro” and “X,” which process teraflops like nobody’s business…

Will the Big N ever enter the computing arms race?

It would certainly make it easier for third-parties to bring their multiplatform software over. Of course, the trade-off is always price, and it seems that Nintendo is unwilling to be the most expensive option on the market.

Historically, that kind of price tag didn’t serve the PS3 well, or the Xbox One in the following generation.

Nintendo has picked their battles wisely, because they know their audience and how to reach them.

2DS and 3DS are the current entry-level offerings, while Switch is their only product on the high-end. What if another tier existed at the top (a third-pillar, so to speak) that appealed to the more spec-savvy crowd?

I’d like to have the option. Nintendo will likely sit back this generation and watch how Microsoft and Sony’s top-of-the-line hardware performs before considering an equivalent.

tldr; no—probably not.

The Simple Reason Miitomo Failed Scott’s Thoughts

As both a Nintendo fan, and an Apple fan, seeing Miyamoto walk onstage during an iPhone keynote was pretty incredible.
I was on board with the Big N’s foray into mobile gaming from the outset.

Now, three games and a weird social sim later, the partnership with DeNA has proved to be an interesting one.
Development on these iPhone and Android games is sure taking longer than anyone expected, with the set of 5 games from the DeNA partnership still incomplete after multiple delays.

Miitomo turned out as a fun take on social media and online interaction, but was nowhere near snappy enough to have staying power. Social apps are all about long feeds and quick interactions. When tapping Like (or “Yeah” – whatever Nintendo is calling it) takes 15 seconds, it discourages users from coming back.

They’re mobile efforts are bogged down by long loading times, and assets that live on servers rather than the user’s device.
This is not how mobile gaming is supposed to be, and it’s certainly not how social media is supposed to be.

Instant startup followed by a few quick wins. That’s all we usually have time for on our phones.
If there is more time, I’m likely to turn on my Switch instead.

How to Make a Non-Horrible Movie Tie-In Game Scott’s Thoughts

You can sell a kid a movie ticket for $10, a DVD for $20, and plush of their favorite character for $15. But a video game tie-in to your movie franchise? That’ll run ‘em $60.

You see why businessmen mandate development projects like this. It’s lucrative. Kids get home from the theater singing songs from the animated film, pretending to be the heroes, and talking to all their friends about how awesome it was. All manner of merchandise make their way onto Christmas lists, but none so expensive as _________ The Movie The Game.

These titles are purchased based on their cover, not their contents. These are not developer passion projects, instead, they’re corporate cash-ins. That’s why they are utter shovelware.

Speaking generally, you’ll find this to be true. For the rare developer who actually puts effort into making a compelling product, unfortunately, the industry doesn’t always pay attention because wolf has been cried too many times.

There is a way to create a movie tie-in that isn’t complete garbage, and it’s simple: Build off one aspect of the franchise’s world.

The most common mistake is recreating the movie beat-by-beat and trying to make the same story playable. That’s wrong, boring, and not fun. Movies are made to be watched, not played. The film is always better than the game that tries to recreate it with lower-paid writers, worse graphic engines, junior voice actors, all directed by people who don’t love video games.

Rather than churning out a sub-par interpretation of the movie, get into that world. Grab ahold of one fascinating thing. Make a game about it.

These ones did it right:

Quidditch is a sport from the world of Harry Potter. The movie-to-game adaptations are trash, but Quidditch stands on its own as a unique and compelling experience. It’s perfect for a video game; competitive, full of fantastical elements, and featured heavily in the movies.

What kid coming home from the movies wouldn’t want to race on a broom or in a podracer? The best way to do that is through video games.
And let’s be honest, this isn’t just about children. Star Wars: The Force awakens debuted in winter of 2015, and a huge portion of the Earth’s population were in the mood for some wars of the star variety. Look no further than Battlefront.

The movie-game is a trap. Instead, look to people who are passionate about the source material and want to bring the world to life in a tangible way through gaming. Put them in charge.

The Copious Console Color Curse Scott’s Thoughts

If you’ve ever bought a Nintendo handheld, this has happened to you: you saved up, bought your system, and seemingly the next day Nintendo releases the hardware in a different color.

This is becoming a problem for Switch owners as well. Early adopters had the choice between grey or Neon Joy-Con, but little did we know that Nintendo would release not one but two console bundles with exclusive controller colors… in just over 6 months!

It’s just common practice for the Big N. They revitalize sales by injecting new collectible colors into the market.

People say that the install-base for 3DS is 60-70 million. It’s not.
That’s how many systems have sold, period, not unique users.

The question becomes, when do you buy the system? When do you wait for a different color or edition? Galaxy, Samus, creamsicle, you name it… it could be on the way; right around the corner, three years from now. Or never.

Lucky for you, I have the perfect answer!
Oh wait—no, I don’t. It’s entirely subjective, but here’s what I personally like to do: as an early adopter, purchase one of the first editions. Skip all the other bundles and plastic dyes until the actual internal hardware is improved.
For example, I bought the original blue 3DS (the one that looked like a tiered cake). I didn’t upgrade until the New 3DS XL was released (and no, they haven’t convinced me to downgrade to any model of 2DS).

In a perfect world, Nintendo would handle this a lot differently. See, releasing the best stuff midway into a platform’s lifecycle is bad for your early adopters. It teaches fans the lesson “always wait to buy—the best is yet to come.”

To combat that: release all the best editions at the start. Make them “limited,” invite the masses onto the platform and let them choose from many different configurations. Once early adopters have been satisfied, narrow down the offering. Make it simple and easy for latecomers to choose a SKU.

The objection here is that console launches are hard, and releasing multiple colors complicates the production and fulfillment side of things.
I acknowledge that, but Nintendo already has production issues, so why not work on those and kill two birds with one stone?
They need to start sitting on inventory until they have enough to appease day-one buyers anyway. A conversation for another day.

I propose a method that will reward Nintendo’s loyal customers, not punish them and teach them to wait and buy.

Smash Bros. on Switch: Sequel or Remake? Scott's Thoughts

Along with many Super Smash Bros. enthusiasts, I assumed that a port was on its way to Nintendo Switch.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U felt fresh, recent, and was one of the main reasons to hang onto that console when considering an upgrade.

Now, as the launch of the portable-console hybrid grows more distant, I’m starting to reconsider my stance. Maybe Sakurai, Namco Bandai and co. are not tinkering away at a port, but instead are hard at work on the proper sequel.

It seems unthinkable; in many ways, Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U felt like the definitive edition of the series, with a wildly huge cast and surprisingly well-balanced gameplay.

But not so fast… those are 2014 titles. In 2018, a remaster might feel less appropriate than a straight-up sequel. Enough time has passed that a true follow-up is definitely on the table for discussion.

I’m honestly happy either way, but I feel like a port would have been released by now, with the launch of the system or especially with the final amiibo of the set.

We might actually be looking at a brand new title soon!

Pokemon Snap 2: Now or Never Scott's Thoughts

Pokemon Snap was an unexpected hit on Nintendo 64. Not only did it gather a cult following, but it went beyond that and achieved mainstream popularity.

It was a really simple game; basically an on-rails shooter with a camera instead of guns. Your “head-shots” were awarded based on how centered the pictures were, and you had items to help lure certain monsters out of hiding and into the frame. A truly excellent spin-off.

Nintendo fans haven’t stopped clamoring for a follow-up since it was released. Between then and now we’ve successfully argued our way into getting Earthbound localizations, Operation Rainfall RPGs, a 2D Metroid sequel, and more. But no sign of Pokemon Snap 2.

The Pokemon Company knows that it’s popular. They have heard their fans. Sun & Moon featured a bare-bones mode that nodded to Snap gameplay, but nowhere near enough to satiate the fanbase.

Look, I want a proper Pokemon Snap 2 as much as the next guy, but if we don’t get it on Switch, you can safely let go of that hope.

This is the generation that Nintendo is listening. They’re hungry and scrappy after the financial failure of Wii U, and they’re putting their best foot forward with Switch to provide gamers the experiences they’ve been asking for.

If Nintendo and The Pokemon Company don’t team up to make this happen in the next few years… I’m sorry, it’s just going to live on as a fond memory.

Now or never, Nintendo. Your move!

What if Nintendo Shut Down Tomorrow? Scott's Thoughts

Nintendo is older than your Grandpa, and they’ve stored a lot of money in the bank over the years…

They could afford a couple Wii U disasters in a row—even another Virtual Boy or two—and still be in business.

But hypothetically, let’s say they chose to shut down tomorrow. Upper management wants to take their money, lay everyone off, and close their doors.

I think I would actually be completely fine with this.

Sure, it’d be sad on multiple levels. Many hardworking developers, designers, marketers, production facility workers, and more would lost their jobs.
Loose ends would be left dangling off our favorite franchises, and we’d never know if Mario and Peach finally got married.
We’d always wonder what the next console would look like.

On the bright side, however, I would still get to be a Nintendo fan for life. See, the company has already produced thousands of products in the form of games that span generations of hardware. Realistically, I’ve only played a fraction of these experiences.

My collector sensibilities would kick into high-gear, knowing that there was now a cap on the quest.
I could try to play, beat, and 100% every Nintendo game ever made, and I could make videos and podcasts about the journey for years to come.

They’ve supplied me with a lifetime of entertainment.

Let’s Play Vs. Firsthand Experience Scott's Thoughts

Growing up, Let’s Plays didn’t really exist.

It seems like it started with advent of Minecraft, but I might be wrong because the whole scene has never really appealed to me.

To be sure, I can see its draw:

  • See how a game works and plays before you buy (or instead of buying)
  • Enjoy the commentary of an engaging personality on-screen
  • Chat live with other viewers
  • Watch expert players perform speed runs, advanced techniques and find secrets
  • Free entertainment

Even with everything going for it, I just can’t get behind the idea of watching someone else play a video game.

Part of my hesitation is generational; I’m a little bit older than the average LP viewer.

Otherwise, it’s just not how I want to spend my small slice of free time. After work is done, the house is taken care of, and my responsibilities are attended to, I want the controller to be in my hand. That firsthand experience just can’t be replaced.

Ironically, I help run two weekly Let’s Play series, one for Switch and one for Classics. Make sure to tune in live on the weekends!

Yes, I am Intimidated by Pokemon RPGs for Kids Scott’s Thoughts

Have you ever been on the outside, looking in on a pop-culture phenomenon?

While the Pokemon games are some of the most popular titles in Nintendo’s stable, I’ve never played a full mainline entry.

I’ve had a weird history with this franchise, and beaten just about everything except the main RPGs: Stadium 1&2, Snap, Colosseum, XD Gale of Darkness, Pokken, a little GO, even Hey You! Pikachu for goodness sake.

I grew up a little bit after the huge wave of Red/Blue/Yellow hype, and have always felt that I missed the bandwagon.
People who have been with the series since its inception are still trading their pocket monsters from game to game, amassing a huge army!

It definitely feels like I would have a hard time just jumping in, although I know they create these games for a younger demographic and take into account franchise newcomers to some extent.

You know what still scares me? It’s all the nuance that’s built up over generations. Developer GameFreak still builds on mechanics that have existed for decades, resulting in an imposing collection of the unknown.

A crossroads approaches. When the Pokemon series debuts on Nintendo Switch, I feel like I’ll have my best shot yet of hopping aboard the speeding train. If I let it pass me by again, I may never catch up.

The True Cost of Gaming Scott’s Thoughts

Have you ever stopped and added up your recent gaming purchases, just to see how much your hobby is really costing you?

The Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is an abbreviation that get’s thrown around a lot oil the gaming industry, indicating what most stores charge for new hardware and software as recommended by the publishers.

However, the amount on a price tag isn’t the true cost associated with gaming.

Price ≠ Cost.

Time: You spend much more time equity on a game compared to what’s come out of your wallet. Even if your job pays minimum wage, your time has a high value on it that is quickly surpassed when sinking hours into the latest open world adventure or competitive shooter. (Related: “Making Your Gaming Time Matter”)

Mood: It takes some maturity and self-awareness to think about how you’re thinking. Oftentimes, video games are liable to alter our moods. We usually like our titles to be somewhat challenging (as opposed to a cake-walk), and there’s a fine line between difficulty that enhances your accomplishment and difficulty that causes frustration. It’s okay to walk away from a game that’s interfering with real life, in any way, shape or form.

Opportunity: Related to time management, opportunity cost is a real thing to consider. Sometimes, it’s good to think about what else you could be doing with your time. In other words, what are games causing you to potentially miss out on? Who could you meet, what could you make, or where could you go?

Health: I’d love to believe that there are no health risks with partaking in Nintendo fandom, but my hands tell me otherwise. Carpal tunnel can set in without proper ergonomics, especially if you spend a considerable amount of time on computers on top of your gaming hobby. Additionally, omitting a short stint in the Wii era, time spent gaming is time spent sitting on your God-given cushions. It’s important to balance digital entertainment with some amount of physical activity (don’t ask my advice on this—I’ll get back to you later).

Don’t feel guilty for spending money, time, and other assets on video games. Like you, it’s my favorite way to have fun! Just try to consider the true cost, and avoid debt… monetary, health, or otherwise.

What is it about Launch Day? Scott’s Thoughts

I’m younger than you might guess. I was only 12 years old as I was saving up for the launch of Nintendo Wii.

I had never been more excited for a video game console, and I was literally counting down the days. On my wall calendar, I flipped forward to November 19th, 2006 and wrote “WII DAY” in big marker. I then proceeded to work backward and mark a countdown on each preceding day, up into the 60s!

Many families lucky enough to locate a Wii on store shelves would get to open their shiny new system for Christmas that year, but that wouldn’t do for me. As a 12 year old, I performed every extra chore I could find until a stack of $500 ensured I could buy the console and whatever games and accessories I wanted, on launch day.
Ever since then, I’ve been hooked on getting my games the day they come out.

Release date announcements go straight into my Google Calendar (sadly, I no longer hang a physical one on my wall) and I receive reminders as the launch comes nearer.

Whenever Nintendo launches a new title, you can find me at the store either at a midnight launch, or right when I get off work.

It’s an event. Every time.

But why—why is it so important to me that I experience new games on the first day? Wouldn’t it be smarter to wait and read some reviews? Delaying my purchase even longer could land me a discount.

The game industry moves fast. Conversations online quickly turn to the latest and greatest, so participating in gaming communities is easier when you’re up to speed.

There’s also a heavy dose of excitement that comes with being an early adopter. You get to go into a brand new, creative piece of art before it’s talked about like common knowledge on podcasts or had its surprises spoiled in YouTube thumbnails (our channel doesn’t do that, by the way).

It’s fun to be on the cutting edge. Sure, you get cut every once in awhile, but the thrill is worth it.

Picross S is NOT Competitive Scott’s Thoughts

Full disclosure: I have a Picross addiction. If Pavlov is Nintendo and Picross is a bell, I’m the salivating dog.
They release a new game in the series, I buy it, and the next 20 hours of my life are a blur as I perfect every puzzle.
Having said that, my excitement for the sudden release of Picross S on Switch was huge!

An important new feature was touted: multiplayer. New to the series, two players would be able to “play cooperatively, or compete to see who can place the most tiles!”

This was a game-changer! I have a friend from Picrossers Anonymous who would love to relapse with me and go head-to-head!

Well, Nintendo wasn’t fully honest with their description of this functionality. Technologically, it’s all there: two players can control cursors on the same screen, and it works. It’s fun to help each other out and solve puzzles together.

Competitively, the structure is non-existent. There’s no separate “Vs. Mode” or anything of that nature, it simply tallies up the number of tiles filled in by each player. The game doesn’t keep score over multiple rounds or celebrate a victor. The players are left to point out that their score was higher and rub it in their “opponent’s” face.

That’s not the extent of the issue, either. This game is impossible—I repeat—impossible to be treated competitively. It leaves the door wide open for cheating and unfair play.
I mentioned my fellow addict above. We got to playing a few rounds of Picross S together and it wasn’t long before he had outsmarted the game. Whenever I placed a tile, he would follow behind my cursor and overwrite it with a tile of his own color, taking my points for himself.

Picross S lets competitors get away with whatever they’d like, and also creates another problem by not awarding any points for blocking off tiles. Placing an X on a space that won’t contain a colored title is a critical part of Picross gameplay, but gamers are punished in multiplayer mode by not receiving any points, leaving their opponent to score off their work.

My advice to Switch owners: Purchase this title and enjoy it as a single player or cooperative affair.
Words to Nintendo: Be careful how you advertise your games; it’s important to be honest about what’s included in the package.

Update: Nintendo has adjusted the wording on their Picross S online listing to read ‘Unique to the Switch version, 2 players can now play simultaneously! Enjoy with friends and family!’
That’s better.

Lessons for Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Scott’s Thoughts

1. If I earn something, just give it to me. Don’t tell me I earned it, then explain how I have to tap through menus to retrieve my reward. Just give it to me.

2. Crafting is not the best thing since sliced bread. Just because Minecraft was super popular doesn’t mean everything needs to be crafted from now on.

3. Simplify the exchange rates. I don’t want to pay real money for leaf tickets to buy a mining pass to collect gold in order to exchange that for bells so that I can use the bells to purchase digital furniture. The expression is “cut out the middleman,” not “let’s create an army of middlemen.”

Collecting Vs. Trading Scott’s Thoughts

I have conflicting impulses.

I’m a collector. I have multiple shelves in my house dedicated to Nintendo, lined with cases of games, amiibo, preorder bonus merchandise, or Club Nintendo rewards (remember those? They used to be physical).
My biggest console library belongs to Wii, and I hope to outnumber those games with Switch software this generation.

I’m also a tightwad. I prefer saving money over spending it. I don’t mind waiting months or years for things to go on sale before buying.

How does one balance the urge to collect games, when trading or selling them can help financially?
It’s a tough choice.

I’ve purchased 9 Switch games in the system’s first 7 months and sold 3 of them. Sure, it was opposed to my goal of expanding my collection, but they weren’t great games. I’d rather have a small amount of excellent titles than a larger batch where you don’t know what you’re going to get.

When deciding to keep a game or not, first acknowledge that it’s probably disappointed you. If it hadn’t, you likely wouldn’t be debating what to do with it.

Next, this question is super helpful: Do I want to introduce my kids to this?
Whether you’re a parent or not, it helps put things into perspective. Video game collections are best not when they take up a lot of space, but when you can proudly open up a box with your ten-year-old and tell him or her to pick anything; you know you’ll have a great time.

Do I want to play this with my daughter in fifteen years? No, it’s not the best one in the series. Sell this one. We’ll play the older version.

Keep the best, get rid of the rest! You’ll have more space and more money to put toward better experiences.

Related: Simeon’s Guide to Decluttering your Collection

Don’t Forget the Fun Factor Scott’s Thoughts

I often see newly released games being appraised for their graphics, controls, music, and price.

What the industry needs more of a focus on is simple: fun.

A game can have terrible graphics, no soundtrack, and clunky controls, but still be a lot of fun.
Conversely, a beautiful and imaginative game can be boring and punishing.

Video games are a form of art, but that doesn’t mean they need to be treated with as much weight and gravitas as other mediums.
Some critics don’t understand this and neglect to consider the fun factor, so take review scores with a grain of salt. A 7/10 game might be the most fun you and a friend have ever had.

Goodbye, Stereoscopic 3-Dimensional Gaming Scott’s Thoughts

I’m one of the first people to happily wave goodbye to the 3DS.

It’s low-resolution screen looked behind-the-times the moment I laid eyes on it on launch day.
However, there is one aspect of its visuals which I will miss: glasses-free 3D.

Nintendo pulled something incredible off by releasing the only mass-market device employing the technology.
Personally fine-tunable by a slider, no less!

The company also made a wise move in never requiring 3D visuals to advance in any games, ensuring those too young, who had eye problems, or just preferred flat images, weren’t forced to see in 3D.

But boy was it helpful.

Super Mario 3D Land, for example, is a fantastic title that takes full advantage of the unique screen hardware.
I have a harder time lining up precise jumps on my Switch.

Stereoscopic 3D, I‘ll miss you.