Population Growing: The Wonderful Legacy of Animal Crossing

One of Nintendo’s biggest and most popular franchises is also one of the hardest to explain why it is so beloved.  When people find out that I love video games and ask me what my favorite one is, my reply is “Animal Crossing” – and the response is usually one of bemusement and bewilderment.  People on the outside looking in don’t see what the big deal is.  Why do I love Animal Crossing so much?  What is it about this game that sets millions of people into a frenzy when a new installment is announced?  Well, get your bells ready and let’s take a closer look…

Humble Beginnings

Animal Crossing debuted in North America on the Nintendo GameCube console in the fall of 2002.  Nintendo has always had a reputation of being a “family friendly” (many read as “kiddie”) company – beginning with the controversial censorship of Mortal Kombat on the Super Nintendo, even though the subsequent installments had all the violence and blood that the game came with.  The GameCube itself was small like a lunch box and had a handle for crying out loud with little tiny mini-discs.  Kiddie? You couldn’t exactly argue against it.

A game like Animal Crossing is hard to market for, and when I saw the game in my local Electronics Boutique, I asked the cashier what it even was.  Her reply was “It’s hard to describe.  I’d say it’s like a Sims game but with animals.”

I love Sim games, and I love animals, so this sales pitch sounded just a home run.  The game came with a bonus memory card with a “gift” on it that you could use in-game.  After years of over-reliance on Mario and Zelda games, I was all excited to dive into a new Nintendo IP.  I was ready to be entertained – but at first, it was just the opposite.

Booting up the game started what felt like an inane game of Twenty Questions, as you are asked stuff like your name, if you were a boy or a girl, etc.  I wanted to play a game, not go through the most basic of game setups.  After this unwanted pop quiz, the first major character you run into when starting the game and getting the setup screens out of the way was a raccoon named Tom Nook.  Many longtime fans dislike poor old Tom, and with good reason – he is an unfriendly jerk and didn’t even really do a good job of explaining the game to players which was his entire function.  I did a lot of planting flowers, planting fruit and other mundane tasks, and about 20 minutes into the game, I was wondering where the fun was hiding.

But once you are freed from Tom Nook’s “tutorial”, the world of Animal Crossing begins to open up. The comparisons to the Sims became more evident as you are encouraged to expand and decorate your own house, meet neighbors and become social with them… your interactions with them will have a definite outcome on their lives, too.

Throwback Any Day

Every budding franchise debut needs a hook, and Animal Crossing’s hook was a doozy.  The player had the ability to find and play original NES games within your character’s house – games like Pinball, Donkey Kong, Excitebike, and hidden gems The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros (both of which were never officially made available and need a cheat device to unlock).  This predated the Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U (and hopefully the Nintendo Switch), it represented the first time in a major mainstream fashion that old classic games could be played, full-screen, on a then-current console was mind-blowing while collecting the games became a game within the game. NES games would not turn up in subsequent entries in the series, however.

Friendship Is Love

Beyond the retro hook, the one thing that kept me coming back to the game was the emphasis on community and building friendships.  Talking with your animal neighbors daily and doing small favors for them allow the player to establish relationships in the game that really feel like friendships.  Like in real life, you tend to open up to someone new at a bit-by-bit basis, and that is how it works in Animal Crossing.  Using the GameCube’s internal clock, the game is advertised that it “keeps playing even when you aren’t”, and that’s true.  Skip a couple days of playing and the game knows it – villagers will say the missed you, dreaded weeds will grow that you’ll need to pluck.  It is taken for granted now, but this really was pretty groundbreaking at the time, and the game would also change with the seasons and celebrate major holidays.  It pushed me to check in every day and I would actually feel guilty if I didn’t.

The game wasn’t quite like the Sims, but I knew at this point that I was experiencing something special.

World Traveler

The game’s sequels – Wild World for the Nintendo DS and City Folk for the Nintendo Wii – introduced online play to the franchise to great results.  Wild World also stripped out the NES games you could find and play, as well as the holiday celebrations, which was a very odd and saddening choice.  I initially thought having Animal Crossing on a tiny portable system was a really dumb idea – but this is one area I was happy to be wrong in… having a game that is tied to the internal clock makes perfect sense to be on a portable system.  I could check in on my town anywhere and not just at home during a dedicated gaming session on the couch.

Hopping online, you could visit a friend’s town, see their house, and talk to their villagers.   It may not seem like much, but this addition opened up (pun alert) a whole world of fun, and made me want my house to at its best for guests.  The villagers would even talk to you about people who have visited after they leave.

It’s the little things that make a difference.

The Wii game, City Folk, was very similar to Wild World, all the way down to the hourly music used… but added a small city area you could travel to and shop in.

Saturday Night Fever

Speaking of music, one of the best aspects of the franchise is its use of original music.  Each hour has a different theme, as do many holidays and special events.   I have an entire playlist of nothing but Animal Crossing music from the various games and it always brings a smile to my face.  Of course, I can’t talk about music without mentioning AC’s resident musician, K.K. Slider.  He appears every Saturday night in various places depending on the game, and he always delivers the hippest music to the people…or, rather, the animals.

Hail to the Chief

Arguably, the most recent mainline game in the franchise – Animal Crossing: New Leaf – on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 (2012 in Japan) ushered in an era when it truly became a big time franchise for Nintendo.  It is proven to have boosted sales of the handheld and has gone on to sell over 9 million copies worldwide, and counting – which is not too shabby for a game that still confuses a lot of people.  New Leaf introduced a few new wrinkles that many fans have embraced: the ability to be Mayor and construct unique designs and extras in your town, thus taking overall customization to a whole new level.   But best of all was the introduction of Isabelle – your trusty and loyal secretary who is your town’s biggest cheerleader.

As much as I love the other games, I would have to pick New Leaf as being the best Animal Crossing to date.  In fact, it is not only my favorite Animal Crossing game but also my favorite game of all time overall.  Yes, I love it that much.

Nintendo seems to realize the popularity of the series as well.  2015 brought an immense amount of marketing to the franchise. amiibo cards (used with the 3DS spin-off Happy Home Designer) that invoke memories of Game Boy Advance eReader cards that were incorporated with Wild World, made its debut… and its own amiibo figure line began to roll out as well.   Mario Kart 8 (and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe) has a beautifully designed race track based in the Animal Crossing universe.

Not everything has been a hit, however.  The aforementioned spin-offs, Happy Home Designer and (especially) amiibo Festival, were poorly received and had low sales.  And speaking of low sales, the amiibo cards had brisk sales at the beginning, but the actual amiibo figure line struggled – partially due to being associated with such a bad game – and many can be had for as low as $2 new on clearance.  Animal Crossing ran the risk of overexposure because Nintendo, rather than give us a new game, decided to make the curious move and develop a couple of spin-offs that no one wanted.  In an effort to possibly make it up to angry fans, an update to New Leaf was issued in 2016 that added amiibo support and a number of new features.

And even with all of that, I’m still anxiously anticipating the next full entry on the Nintendo Switch with baited breath.

Population: Growing 

Animal Crossing (along with Pikmin) was, up until Splatoon in 2015, the last big original Nintendo IP that took off and became a huge success.  I think it is more than worthy to sit alongside legendary franchises like Mario, Zelda and Pokémon.   Its fan base continues to grow with each new game.  It is often one of the most requested titles for any new Nintendo console launch – as evidenced by the number of disappointed people when an Animal Crossing announcement for the Nintendo Switch was not realized at E3 2017.   I have spent more time than I care to admit playing various games the series and I still can’t fully explain what it is to friends when they ask.  But I am okay with that… all of its charm, quirks, and addictiveness – it’s part of what makes Animal Crossing so warmly unique.

Are you an Animal Crossing fan?  What is it about the series that has made you a fan?

 

Eric “Flapjack” Ashley has been a Nintendo fan for almost his entire life!  While he also has a special place in his heart for Sega, it is Nintendo that gets him worked up and the franchises that capture his imagination and wonder.   Eric is hopelessly in love with Animal Crossing.  When he is not playing video games, he is a social media guru, assisting numerous organizations with their outreach and promotions, and he is also a big horror movie buff.   Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @flapjackashley.

How amiibo Technology Works

#iiqualrights, toys-to-lifes-matter


When our parents were our age, they would never have imagine being able to scan their toys into their video games. Well, now we’re living in the future, thanks to amiibo! But how exactly do these figurines, cards, and plushies interact with Nintendo’s systems? Do they really learn and level up? All those answers and more in this episode of NF + TBC. amiibo Footage credit: Gamecite, Game Wire

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Video Game Pricing Through the Ages

No wonder Nintendo has so much money!


#537 – Video games… kind of an expensive hobby, no? Ever wondered if gaming used to cost more back in the day, or if the prices have only gone up? When you take inflation of the US dollar into account, the information is quite interesting!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Metroid Prime 4 & Samus Returns (E3 2017)

Scott’s first girlfriend (Samus) says hello!


#531 – Metroid fans are happy this year. Why? Because after years of neglect (and the abuse known as “Federation Force”), Samus is back in a big way! Sure, we may be a ways out from Prime 4’s actual release, but we have a real hope that can sustain us for a while. Not to mention, a brand new (old) 2D game hitting 3DS this September! Dreams came true this E3.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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E3 2017 Reaction Blow-Out!

This is an E3 to remember!


#530 – Nintendo just had one of their best E3s ever, and it’s not even over yet. In the span of 25 minutes, they managed to blow the socks off most of their hardcore fans. They really pulled out some big guns this year! Simeon and Scott are here with their fresh impressions of Nintendo’s newest announcements, discussing their failed predictions, and talking over what excited and surprised them the most. Join in the E3 hype in the comments!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Everything Wrong with Virtual Console

Have we mentioned that we hate Ice Climber?


#519 – We agree that Nintendo has some serious shaping up to do when it comes to their Virtual Console. Will we ever get cross-console purchasing or a subscription service?

Footage Credit: Wii Shop Channel – Fan Man | Earthbound Beginnings – ColeNL112
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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What Will Happen to “Handheld” Games on Switch?

Are we kissing handheld gaming goodbye?


#506 – The lines have been blurred. Where once there was a clear distinction between a home console title and a portable one, the Switch has made everything far more vague. Where will the sequels to Nintendo’s traditional handheld titles live? Will there be a price difference for these experiences on Switch? And what truly defines a handheld game in the current gaming generation? All this discussion, and more, in this episode of the Two Button Crew show.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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The Best Nintendo Buttons Of All Time

Maybe one day, buttons will slide in and out of controllers just like Joy-Con on a Switch, and everyone can be happy.


Buttons. Do you like click? Sponge? Analog, or digital? Diamond layout, or some shaped like beans? For every button Nintendo makes, there are a plethora of preferences. Which controllers or handhelds have the buttons that you like most? Do you agree with Scott or Simeon’s picks – or neither?! Let us know in the comment section!

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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What’s Going On with the Metroid Series?

Now excuse us as we cry ourselves to sleep.


We are Metroid fans through and through. What that means is this: if you are also a Samus enthusiast, we feel your pain. Metroid fans typically get the short end of the stick, and we feel overlooked when Nintendo services many of their other IPs but leaves the Metroid fanbases with leftovers. We want more Metroid, and we want work from Nintendo’s A Team! We at Two Button Crew don’t feel like that’s too much to ask, so today we’re looking at where in the world (or galaxy?) the Metroid series has disappeared to.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Should 3DS Have a Future?

Simeon and Scott – judges of consoles’ and portables’ fates alike!


3DS originally launched in 2011. That’s a long time ago for a handheld! In the time since it’s been revitalized with its “New” branding and features, but the platform is still looking long in the tooth, especially when examined next to the new Nintendo Switch. Switch almost leaves 3DS in the dust, and that’s exactly what Simeon and Scott are discussing in today’s installment of the Two Button Crew show; should 3DS have a future?

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Kirby and Well Rounded Powers

This last June, Kirby: Planet Robobot was released state-side, quickly receiving praise from critics and fans alike. Needless to say—being the avid Kirby fan that I am—I jumped on it six months after the fact because I wanted to complete Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam first. What? Grad school doesn’t leave me with much time to spend on getting through my backlog, okay? Regardless, I’d say, without hesitation, that this is the best of the “modern-style” Kirby games that started with Return to Dreamland. Great music, enough of a plot to keep things interesting, lots of fan-service, and a gimmick that actually meshes with the core gameplay instead of being an intrusive pace-killer. And as with any Kirby game, it features new powers! And they…kind of suck, to be honest.

And as with any Kirby game, Planet Robobot features new powers! And they kind of suck, to be honest.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the requisite suck pun out of the way, let’s talk powers. Kirby’s copy abilities were first introduced in Kirby’s Adventure, released in 1993 for the Famicom and NES. These abilities gave Kirby a single attack that imitated the ability of an enemy character. The concept remained much the same until Kirby Super Star in 1996 when most—but not all—copy abilities were given a variety of techniques the pink protagonist could perform based on what button combination the player inputted. Some abilities have traditionally had very few individual attacks, while others let the player revel in a vast array of possibilities. For the most part, entries in the franchise have followed one of the two aforementioned schemes, with the Super Star style being more prevalent as well as what the recent titles use.

So, let’s examine how the evolution of this system effects powers individually and each game’s gameplay as a whole.

Number of Attacks

As stated before, the number of available moves in each ability’s repertoire has increased from the copy mechanic’s introduction. In Kirby’s Adventure, each power only had one attack (though one could argue backdrop and U.F.O. are exceptions). This allowed players to easily pick their favorites and avoid those they didn’t like. This also, unfortunately, meant that powers easily got stale and that few, if any, abilities stood out as particularly fun. Strangely, I’d argue that the game made it work; since no one power (or at the least, commonly available one) stood out as “the fun one” the player wasn’t inclined to become attached to what he currently had, meaning he would be more willing to part with it, making for more dynamic gameplay.

And an adorable picture of Kirby being a narcissist.
Kirby’s Adventure only provided one page for it’s copy ability descriptions, most of it flavor text.

Kirby Super Star changed this by assigning multiple attacks to most copy abilities. This drastically changed the dynamic as now each power became far less situational. Copy abilities on average had somewhere between four and seven attacks and a list of them was conveniently provided on the pause screen. I must commend the designers, as most of the abilities are fun to use with only a handful of duds. That said, the expanded move set does mean players are going to find some abilities more fun than others, meaning they’ll be less willing to part with them which ultimately discourages the varied gameplay Kirby’s Adventure had.

Then there’s the current generation of Kirby games. For brevity’s sake, I’m only going discuss the current gen powers featured in Kirby: Planet Robobot (and probably totally not because I’m too lazy to switch cartridges on my 3DS or boot up my Wii). The number of moves for this new set of powers typically weighs in around eight to eleven, with a few of the attacks being variations of or similar in function to others. This produces a state of decision paralysis when trying to learn the new abilities, especially when two attacks are similar. For the majority of new abilities, I would look at the move list and think to myself, “surely there’s a proper time or context for this attack.” Unfortunately, there often isn’t, at least not that I can see. Notably, most of the older abilities are similar to their previous iterations, if not completely untouched. In my opinion, this makes the classics more approachable gameplay-wise as most of them are easier to learn with attacks that have a clear and easily understood purpose. The one new copy ability in the game I genuinely liked, ESP, happened to be the one with the simplest move set.

...which probably means yo-yo will never make another appearance...
Coincidentally, this ability’s costume also resembles one of my favorite powers from Kirby Super Star.

Copy Ability Versatility and Variety

So what does having a wide array of moves do for Kirby’s copy abilities? In short, more moves theoretically increases the versatility of the ability. If one move allows Kirby to easily dispatch a foe in front of him and another move defeats opponents above him, the player is equipped to handle two different scenarios. There are two main factors in determining a copy ability’s versatility: range and what I like to call “angle of attack”, with the presence of a defensive ability making for a third factor of nominal importance.

There are two main factors in determining a copy ability’s versatility: range and what I like to call “angle of attack”.

Range is self-explanatory; it’s simply how far the attack reaches. Short range attacks require Kirby to be near his target to be effective; long range allows Kirby to rain cute death upon his foes from a safe distance. Simple. Angle of attack isn’t much more complicated. Heck, I’ve already given an example of it in the previous paragraph. It simply determines where the opponent has to be for the attack to hit him. In the context of Kirby, there four basic angles of attack: upwards, sideways, downwards, and radius attacks—the last of which refers to attacks that strike in all directions (they’re common enough to warrant their own classification). Of the two, angle of attack has the most influence over an abilities versatility.

As I’m sure you’ve already figured out, the copy abilities in Kirby’s Adventure provide only one angle of attack of set range. High-jump attacks opponents above Kirby at close-range (though Kirby covers a long distance in the process), while spark attacks enemies within a short radius of Kirby. Kirby Super Star expands the role of most copy powers, allowing Kirby to make use of multiple angles of attack with a single ability. That said, most powers are still limited in range or angle of attack, requiring the player to plan around his ability’s limitations or find one more suited for the situation at hand. For the ones that do provide good coverage of all angles, they are usually rare or have some sort of drawback, like yo-yo’s long attack animations.

Here’s where my second issue with more recent copy abilities comes into play: they’re too well rounded. Most of the new abilities include attacks for every angle and often times multiple ranges too. Lacking weaknesses actually makes them less fun, not necessarily because it makes the game too easy (it’s Kirby; it’s always easy) but because they all feel very samey. Even some of the older powers have received similar revisions, like the unnecessary addition of an upward attack to the stone ability’s move list. Admittedly, this is a rather technical complaint and probably doesn’t apply to everyone.

Lacking weaknesses actually makes copy abilities less fun.

Refinement is a Subtractive Process

Despite most of its new powers not being particularly interesting, Planet Robobot actually does adhere to the limited copy ability design that I’m advocating, specifically the robobot powers. Each robobot copy ability has a very limited moveset, and as a result, each one feels unique. And just so it’s clear that I’m not being a nostalgia-blind curmudgeon, I like most the ideas for each ability (leaf and archer were long overdue), and I think if Hal streamlined the abilities so that they fulfilled a unique niche, instead of every niche, they would have some real winners.

I just love the armor's tiny feet! I don't even know why; I just think the suit's proportions are cool.
The robobot armor’s sword ability only has three attacks. Three incredibly satisfying, easy-to-use attacks.

For those familiar with my previous work, these points probably sound quite similar to my second article, The Streamlined Turnabout. While feature-rich games and mechanics are great (especially from a marketing perspective), continually adding ideas runs the risk of producing bloat. Much like cutting and polishing a diamond to make it shine, video games can greatly benefit from the occasional trim.


About the Author: Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming. He is currently studying for his masters in Computer Science at Oklahoma State University. His first Kirby game was Kirby 64, which led to a lot of confusion when trying to figure out how to make combo abilities in Kirby Super Star.

Handheld Launch Titles: Looking Back

Tetris should just launch with every new console and then the video game market would be set for life!


Ah, platform launches. We Nintendo fans live for these! And with Nintendo, we typically get 2 or 3 every decade with home and portable systems alike. New hardware is part of the appeal, but it would be worthless without the brand new games to play on it! In this video, we’re taking a look at the software titles that launched each of Nintendo’s major portable consoles. Were they a good fit for their systems? Were they received favorably? Did they propel their system to success? These questions will all be answered within this episode of the Two Button Crew show!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Dank Nintendo Memes

Sorry Karen – we still love you, but you already got your own entire video.


Memes, memes, a magical fruit. They make the Internet go round! Well, we’ve gathered the best of the best when it comes to the world of Nintendo. We’ve identified the funniest, the truest, and the in some cases the ugliest Nintendo memes to make you laugh. Don’t scour Google Images, don’t search Reddit – everything you need is right here. We’ve done the “work” for you. Sit back and relax some good old internet culture humor!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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Smash Through History: 64 – Wii U

It would have made FAR too much sense to play the games in chronological order! Nah!


Today is Scott’s 23rd Birthday, and to celebrate, Simeon is giving him the chance to display his skills in all 5 official Super Smash Bros. games. 64, Melee, Brawl, 3DS, and Wii U are all included in this challenge, and the player that wins the majority of rounds is declared the Ultimate Super Smash Bro. Simeon wouldn’t dare humiliate Scott on his Birthday, now would he?

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
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The Power of Personality

Nintendo is known for many things: innovation, quality, terrible third party relations, etc. Throughout the years, the company has cultivated a reputation as highly creative, exacting master artisans. It’s one of the many reasons they’re so beloved by fans around the world. They don’t just make games, they make worlds and characters that are instantly recognizable and overflowing with personality. Creativity is a fundamental part of their identity as a company.

However, in recent years they’ve garnered a reputation among some as a bunch of corporate stiffs who keep churning out the same-old-same-old that they’ve always been, like Activision with Call of Duty, Ubisoft with Assassin’s Creed, or Capcom with…well take your pick. So what’s different? What makes the Nintendo titles of today “corporate cash-ins” instead of visionary, artistic masterpieces? If I had to give my two rupees on the subject, I’d say the issue isn’t that the games are bad or mechanically unsound, it’s that they lack personality.

So what even is personality? What makes it so important? What happens when a game doesn’t have it? Let’s take a look, shall we?

What I Mean by Personality

What is personality? Well, typically the word refers to the psychological concept of a collection of behavioral traits that determine how one sets priorities and reacts to different situations. Seeing as I’m writing about video games, however, that definition isn’t really of much use. For the sake of this article, I’ll just define it as the interplay between a game’s aesthetic choices (visual design, music, story, etc.) and its gameplay that give each game its identity.

Huh…that’s pretty vague, isn’t it? Maybe a visual aid is in order; consider the following image:

Only after cobbling this image together did I realize the small Mario sprite for the All Stars versions of Mario 1 and 3 were palette swaps of each other.
Even when packed onto the same cartridge, each game is easily distinguishable.

Clearly, these are all Mario games, but because each one has a unique visual style, even people unfamiliar with the franchise can easily tell that each one is a different game (Okay, technically you can get them all on one cartridge, but that’s beside the point). Furthermore, those who’ve played the games will tell you that despite each game staying true to the Mario formula, each game has its own unique mechanics and gameplay quirks that makes the gameplay feel different. That’s basically what I’m getting at when I say personality: a game’s unique look, sound, and feel. It’s why the first Paper Mario is cute and colorful while it’s sequel, The Thousand Year Door, is wry and occasionally dark, or how the claustrophobic corridors and eerie music give the Metroid series its trademark sense of isolation and unease, and so forth.

That’s basically what I’m getting at when I say personality: a game’s unique look, sound, and feel.

For the Want of an Identity

What happens when you have a mechanically airtight game that lacks the personality to set itself apart? You get the New Super Mario Bros. series.

When New Super Mario Bros. first came out on the DS, its deliberately vanilla presentation was—I dare say—welcome, considering it had been roughly fifteen years since Mario’s last new 2D outing. The aesthetic was familiar but modernized, making it a great choice for a game meant to be just that: a throwback with modern graphics and design sensibilities that epitomized what it meant to be “Mario”.

PROTIP: If you're having trouble telling screenshots apart, look at the game's U.I.
When you eliminate differences in graphical quality and resolution, these games are almost impossible to tell apart at a glance.

So what’s the problem? Nintendo made three nearly identical sequels, that’s what. Make no mistake, each game is excellent in its own right, but they’re all so ridiculously similar in terms of their visuals, gameplay, level themes, and music that they’re practically the same game! The New Super Mario Bros. series is proof that too much of a good thing is entirely possible. I honestly believe that if Nintendo had taken the time to give each game its own unique style—visually, setting-wise, musically, or otherwise—each game would be fondly remembered as classics, but because each game used the same “New” style, each one was more forgettable than the last. Ironically, between this and the lukewarm reception of Yoshi’s New Island, the word new has become Nintendo fan jargon for “safe” and “uninspired”.

The New Super Mario Bros. series is proof that too much of a good thing is entirely possible.

Making Okay Games Great

Alright, so an otherwise great game can lose its appeal without personality, but let’s be real for a moment, a game riddled with questionable design can’t really catch on just because of its personality, right? As proof of the contrary—and possibly of me secretly having a death wish—I present the 1995 cult-classic, EarthBound.

"Fuzzy pickles"? What even are those?
A man falls from the sky, tells you to say “fuzzy pickles”, takes your picture, and flies away. This is relatively normal by EarthBound standards.

Are you still reading? Okay, good.

If I had to summarize the gameplay of EarthBound in one word, I would say it’s serviceable. As R.P.G.s go, there are certainly more streamlined experiences on the Super Nintendo. In terms of core gameplay, EarthBound is very traditional. There are some minor mechanics which distinguish the game, but they honestly don’t affect the overall experience that often.

On top of that, EarthBound features some questionable design. EarthBound‘s interface is archaic, even for the time it was made. Simple actions like talking to people or investigating an object (which are separate actions) take multiple button presses with the default controls. Admittedly, there is a way to automatically do all of that in a single press, but if you didn’t read the manual or hear about it from someone else, you’d never know it’s there, likely because it’s unintuitively mapped to the L-trigger. Aside from that, inventory management is downright tedious, with actions like trading items between party members—or just buying and selling for that matter—taking many more windows, confirmations, and button presses than needed.

EarthBound‘s interface is archaic, even for the time it was made.

The game also has some difficulties with difficulty. Simply put, the game’s difficulty curve is as wild as its enemy designs. The beginning is particularly rough, with grinding being a must. Things do get easier once the other party members start showing up (several hours in), but the game loves to throw curveballs at the player.

And yet, the game is heralded as a masterpiece, and for good reason! Ask any EarthBound fan what makes the game so great, and I guarantee you they’ll mention the game’s quirky atmosphere long before they talk about the mechanics. EarthBound is full of humor, thought provoking themes, and obscene amounts of heart. In a fitting twist, EarthBound defies the usual mantra of “gameplay first” and sells itself almost entirely on its personality. If the game was just another fantasy epic about orphans saving the world from the physical manifestation of darkness—or whatever—I highly doubt anyone would remember it. Personality is what elevates EarthBound above its mechanics and earns it the title of classic.

Stay Fresh!

As I’ve stated prior, Nintendo’s struggled with getting personality right in their games of late. Some franchises—like Mario—are suffering from overexposure while others from Nintendo over-simplifying them in an attempt to be more accessible—thus removing the fun quirks that made them stand out in the first place. Fortunately, many of the Big N’s recent titles show that they haven’t completely lost their creative mojo: the urban, 90’s kid aesthetic of Splatoon, the jazzy sound and Geisel-esque environments of Super Mario 3D World, and the beautiful Ghibli styled world of the up-coming Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, to name a few.

Next to gameplay, personality is the most important aspect of a game. Even if a game has great mechanics, it will quickly be forgotten if it doesn’t have the charm and appeal to leave a lasting impression. Likewise, a game with a lot of character can convince players to look past many of its flaws and hold it as a classic. And while Nintendo sometimes screws up and turns out games that don’t feel like they had much heart put into them, let’s be honest: there’s something about Nintendo that makes us willing to look past such missteps.


About the Author: Glen Straughn is a life-long Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired to pursue a career in computer programming. Currently, he is studying to get his masters in Computer Science at Oklahoma State University. He’s an INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs personality spectrum, which in fiction is the personality most often associated with evil geniuses like Professor Moriarty.

Best Nintendo Christmas Present Reactions

Fun exercise for the day: Decide which children depicted in the videos you would adopt into your family.


Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. We’re just a few days away from Nintendo fans all over the globe, tearing into neatly wrapped packages of NES Classic Editions, amiibo, and 3DS consoles. Before that time we’d like to take a few moments and reflect on the past, when some of the most excitable kids in existence received their own Nintendo gifts that left an unforgettable mark on history. We have these children to thank for entertaining us with their over-the-top displays of joy and gratitude. Let’s get in the Christmas spirit and eagerly anticipate the joy that Nintendo gifts bring!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX Review

After being released in 1993, and re-released in color in 1998, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is now available on the 3DS Virtual Console. It is developed and published by Nintendo.

Unlike most of the other Legend of Zelda games, Link’s Awakening does not involve you finding or rescuing Princess Zelda. Instead, Link’s ship has crashed on an island after a storm. It’s up to Link to find the eight instruments of the sirens to wake the Wind Fish so he can escape the island. Little does he know, the island holds a secret…

Puzzle solving in the dungeon.
Puzzle solving in the dungeon.

If you’ve played any 2D Legend of Zelda game you know exactly how this plays. If not, it’s pretty basic. You start off in a main overworld and must find your sword. With sword in hand, you make your way to the various dungeons collecting the different instruments. In these dungeons you also collect a large variety of tools to help you along your journey, such as Roc’s Feather which allows you to jump, or the Power Bracelet which helps you move large rocks and pots. The dungeons are filled with puzzles and enemies with each one containing at least one mini-boss and one main boss. There are two main collectibles in Link’s Awakening, Pieces of Heart and Secret Seashells. The pieces of heart increase your overall health for every four you find and every time you collect a Secret Seashell it simply says, “If you find enough of them, something good is bound to happen.”

The DX version of the game includes and extra ‘Color Dungeon’, which if completed instead of rewarding Link with and instrument or Heart Container, gives him a choice between a Blue tunic (Cuts all damage Link takes in half) or a Red Tunic (Doubles all damage Link deals out). These tunics are extremely helpful.

It's out old pal, Boo!
It’s our old pal, Boo!

There are lots of references to other Nintendo games such as Kirby, a Yoshi doll, and a large variety of Mario’s enemies which are seen in wonderfully-done platforming sections.

The graphics are that of almost any Gameboy Color game. I found that this game’s visuals in particular still look simply fantastic and drew me in as much as the newer games.

If you enjoy Zelda games, or even adventure games at all, you owe it to yourself to play this game. The mystery of the story kept me wanting to play more to see everything unfold and captured me more than any other 2D Zelda. I can’t recommend this game enough.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening gets 5 opening chests out of 5.

(Link’s Awakening is available for $5.99 on the 3DS eShop and took me a little over 15 hours to complete.)

Nintendo Voice Chat Podcast

This podcast occasionally contains too much water…


There are a lot of Nintendo podcasts for fans to listen to, but there is one that rises above the rest and sets itself apart from the competition. That one podcast is Nintendo Voice Chat, a podcast made by IGN and hosted by Jose Otero, Peer Schneider, and Brian Altano. Those three hosts make sure we have a great time every Friday, as well as provide insightful looks into the industry. This podcast is pure Nintendo fan gold, so don’t pass it up. Give it a try! And if you’re just not a podcast listener, they’re really great for taking with you on your commute to work, or for mundane tasks like doing the laundry or the dishes. You’ll be hooked on podcasts and hooked on NVC. Thanks for the great podcast, IGN!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Nintendo’s Most Generous Offers

On Thanksgiving day, what could be more appropriate than recounting the generosity of Nintendo for which we are so thankful?


In the USA, today is the wonderful Holiday of Thanksgiving! So in a reflective episode, we take the time to think back on the times that Nintendo has been the most generous. Sure, we understand that they are a business and they have to make money in order to stay afloat and continue to provide us with great experiences… Yet! This video contains some great examples of Nintendo going out of their way to make customers feel valued and important, and for those we are very thankful.

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

All Nintendo Console’s Final Games

Depper. Large. These are the words you must put in the title of your game if you want it to be a success in Japan.


Some games get the honor of singing the sweet swan song for their console as it passes into history. We’ve found each game that Nintendo and 3rd parties published last for every console – enjoy!

Shot by Alex Campbell

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/