Which Button Am I Pressing? (Blindfolded!)

You’re really pressing my buttons.


Are you so familiar with Nintendo controllers that you could recognize individual buttons without looking?! That’s exactly what Simeon and Scott are attempting today, while blindfoldedly shoving fingers into gaming input devices. Who will win?

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

Why I Love Nintendo

Contrary to popular opinion from the outside, being a Nintendo fan is not always mushrooms and sunshine. It can be unforgiving, inviting ridicule from fellow gamers, the gaming community, message board commenters, and even friends and family. But being a Nintendo fan is always worth it for me, which leads to the question I get a lot: Why Do You Like Nintendo?

From Sega to Nintendo

My gaming history stretches back to the glorious 16-bit Console Wars between the Nintendo and Sega. I owned both, but I got more use out of my Sega Genesis because kids at school would make fun of me if they knew I liked Nintendo. Sega was cool. Sega was hip. Sonic was fast with attitude and Mario was slow and boring. Secretly, I liked Nintendo as well, but my heart was with Sega. I also owned a Nintendo 64, but I had a Sega Saturn as well and that was my priority. This lasted all the way until the Dreamcast was discontinued, and my gaming tastes defaulted back to Big N.

The current console at that time was the GameCube, which ended up being Nintendo’s second lowest selling home console in history. Sony’s PlayStation brand and Microsoft’s Xbox were the new hip kids on the block, and Nintendo was accused of being a kiddie machine. Outside of a few games that were geared towards a mature gamer – like the then-GCN exclusive Resident Evil 4, Geist and a few others… the GameCube got most of its milage out of family friendly games. If you didn’t like twenty Mario Party games, the GameCube was not for you.

But it was during this era something was rekindled inside me. While Sony and Microsoft began to push online gaming, Nintendo doubled down and continued to focus on the fun of couch multiplayer – games you can play with friends in person and have a blast.

During the very successful Wii era, Nintendo’s dedication to multiplayer games was at its peak. Wii Sports, perhaps the best pack-in game ever, was a prime example of the kind of fun video games could represent. Despite how much it can be ridiculed now, I defy anyone to say that their first few times playing Wii Sports was not fun. It was a lot of fun. That’s what propelled the Wii to sales of over 100 million worldwide.

The Wii U somewhat faltered in this aspect, but the new Switch console has put a heavy emphasis on it again, with games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, ARMS and Splatoon 2 all out within the first few months of the system’s debut. Gaming is fun again.

Soooo, Why Do I Love Nintendo?

All that being said, I love Nintendo because, to me, it just represents a good time. When I think of the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One, I think of shooters like Call of Duty or games like Grand Theft Auto. I’m not saying those games have no worth, or that they aren’t entertaining or even visually astounding… but when I want to just have a fun time with friends, or a game I can just pick up and play at any given moment without an investment of 40 hours a week I choose Nintendo. Gaming shouldn’t always feel like a chore where I am punching a time clock to advance.

Certainly, Nintendo does have games that fall into that category. The recent and highly-reviewed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does for sure as it is an adventure game much in the style of Skyrim, but where I feel Nintendo separates itself from its competitors is how that genre of games isn’t all they have. There are more than just adventure and sports games on the Switch this year. There is also fun.

Take a very simple game like Snipperclips, a co-op puzzle game in which you play as pieces of paper and you have to snip each other in order to match certain shapes or get objects from one side of the screen to the other. It sounds simple enough, but its magic is in the gameplay. I haven’t had so much fun in a co-op game in a long time… it was fun, funny, and charming – and challenging as well, as the game progressed. It’s a game that you and your significant other can play, or your younger sibling or cousin. It is the epitome of what beloved Nintendo President Satoru Iwata always believed video games should be – It’s fun for everyone.

Nintendo’s roster of happy characters and cute enemies just bring a smile to my face. I’ve used this word before, but looking at the E3 trailer for the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey is just pure magic. It is what I call “Nintendo Magic.” Playing their games can make anyone forget their troubles for an amount of time and make everyone feel like a kid again. Personally speaking, I struggle with depression and anxiety, so my choice to play games of this nature is not only a preference but a very meaningful choice as well. Nintendo makes me smile.

Their first-party games are consistently of very high quality. Sometimes their franchises don’t progress enough, but then they hit you with a Breath of the Wild or a Super Mario Odyssey, which completely changes your expectations and takes you by surprise. And I will never get tired of them.

Standing Strong

It isn’t easy being a Nintendo fan. When the two other major consoles are blowing the doors off the building with the latest Call of Duty, Metro or Assassin’s Creed games, Nintendo creates buzz with Mario or cartoonish characters like in ARMS. This comes with a price, because Nintendo and their fans are easy targets. Buying some Nintendo content can result in a mocking comment from a cashier – a friend recently told of a McDonald’s cashier laughing when he went to order a Mario Happy Meal toy to complete his collection. Playing Nintendo games can mean ridicule from people who like to point out that Nintendo’s consoles dating back to the Wii have not been in the same league as competing systems as far as power and graphics.

All of this, though, can make fans even more dedicated. There is a reason that small groups popped up around the world in major cities for 3DS gamers to swap streetpasses and puzzle pieces and play Mario Kart 7 with each other. There is a reason why holding a meet-up for the newest Animal Crossing game attracted more than dozens of people at every stop during a Nintendo Mall Tour. There is a reason why VANS made a very successful line of Nintendo themed shoes last summer. There is a reason why people love their franchises so much that just a simple title card for Metroid Prime 4 at E3 made the internet meltdown in a frenzy of wild, screaming excitement. There is a reason why people love the company so much that even PR reps (like Bill Trinen or Kit and Krysta from Nintendo Minute) are elevated to near-celebrity status. There is a reason that Nintendo can get away with having one single retail store in New York City and fans will travel from all over to visit it as if they were going to Disney World. The ridicule and snubbing we tend to get from other gamers and game publishers who skip developing games for Nintendo systems just makes me feel like connecting with other Nintendo fans is a major event. We are a community of fans who feel slighted in one way or another, and it makes us feel like we are all in this together. It is so much fun to get in a group of fellow fans and just talk about anything and everything. Attending a Nintendo Switch Preview Event in Chicago this past February was fun in part because of trying out the then-yet-to-be-released system, but largely because of being surrounded by fans, talking about games, seeing people dressed up in Nintendo cosplay, and just being one with the excited community. It was not unlike the feeling you get going to a Comic-Con – it just felt right.

Nintendon’t Sometimes, and That’s Okay

This is not to say that competing systems don’t have dedicated communities or “fun” games, nor does it mean that Nintendo is perfect and doesn’t have any faults. But Nintendo doesn’t play by anyone’s rules but their own. Sometimes that can be a bad thing, but I feel it is mostly a positive. They focus on fun, they focus on being together, and they focus on gaming together. There is a level of fun that online playing just can’t compete in comparison to couch multiplayer. Hitting someone with a red shell in Mario Kart, or stealing all of their stars in Mario Party may be the source of “ruined friendship” memes, but the competition of playing right next to a friend is just a level of satisfaction that can’t be matched. Even though I enjoy a fair share of “mature” games, I will almost always choose the fun of Super Mario Odyssey over the carnage of a Grand Theft Auto. And I will definitely choose a company that will always continue to offer those games to me even when they offer the M-rated stuff.

The Nintendo Magic is why I fell in love with Nintendo. It’s why I put up with some of their occasionally questionable decisions. Their games, characters, and universe just never cease to make me smile and it makes me happy… and isn’t that what gaming is supposed to be about?


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. Flapjack 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.

The Story of Star Fox 2 (SNES)

Now you know.


#557 – Star Fox 2 is making a triumphant first coming this fall on the SNES Classic Edition! Wow, who would have thought? (Oh yeah; we predicted it.) It’s time to brush up on our SF2 knowledge and make sure we’ve got the history lesson straight before we play it. This video will set you right up!

Footage credit: ShiryuGL

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

SNES Classic: Big Unanswered Questions

The SNES Classic Edition has been unveiled, but not in enough detail!

On June 26th, Nintendo announced that it will be following up the popular NES Classic Edition with an SNES successor. At an MSRP of $80 and containing 21 games, this bundle of 16-bit nostalgia is liable to fly off shelves as quickly as Nintendo can stock them. However, there is still some information about this mini console that is shrouded in mystery and could affect gamers’ buying decisions.

Controller Cords and Ports (Answered!)
Immediately following Nintendo’s announcement of the SNES Classic Edition, questions of the controllers’ cord length and connectivity method surfaced. Thankfully, so did some answers! Nintendo confirmed that the controller cables will be about 5 feet long, an extra 2 ft. compared to the previous Classic console.

It also became clear that the SNES controller ports on the front of the unit are simply for aesthetic accuracy. Due to Wii Classic Controller and Classic Controller Pro compatibility noted on the SNES website, it is confirmed the controllers will plug in with the same type of ports utilized by NES Classic Edition and Wii. So questions of the controllers can be put to rest!

Just How Limited is this Edition?
The NES Classic Edition was notoriously hard to find last Holiday season and through the remainder of its short production run. Nintendo cites a misjudgment of demand as the reason for that inconvenience, but it also came to light that the system was meant to be sold as a limited run (and actually got extended as its popularity became evident).

How many Super Nintendo units are going to be manufactured is unknown, but Nintendo insists that more units will be made available than its NES counterpart. Though they won’t commit to any production past the 2017 calendar year, they are making an effort to avoid shortages. Understandably so: with sales data on the NES Classic, Nintendo will try to leave less money on the table now that the market has now been proven for these throwback consoles. Additionally, the new system is going on sale several weeks earlier than the NES did, so Nintendo appears to be gearing up for more availability going into Q4.

Will Nintendo Allow Proper Preorders?
A missing piece of this puzzle is preorders. Fans of retro gaming were disappointed when preorders never opened up for the NES Classic Edition, and quantity was too limited on launch day and during the restocks that followed. Taking preorders would certainly alleviate much of this frustration, as Nintendo can gauge interest and adjust production accordingly. Allowing gamers to pre-purchase the console would also help avoid common issues with scalpers, and get the 16-bit console into the hands of true Nintendo fans.

Amazon may offer their own form of preorders (like Amazon UK did, and quickly sold out, for this very product), but whether they have actual shipment quantities to allocate remains to be seen. Unfortunately, Amazon has been known to cancel orders when they do not receive as many units from Nintendo as they hoped. Nintendo needs to have strong communication and systems in place with retailers for this product to be a true success, and avoid the frustration that their product distribution has become known for.

How Will the User Interface be Improved?
The NES Classic shipped with a perfectly serviceable user interface, allowing players to quickly scroll through the catalog of games, change visual filters, and create restore points while playing. It didn’t leave much to be desired, except one thing: the main menu was only accessible via the console’s Reset button. That is markedly less convenient than the Home buttons Nintendo fans have grown accustomed to since the Wii era. The Super Nintendo’s Reset button will probably retain this functionality as well, but a controller button-combination (like Select + Start) for quick access to the menu would be a welcome addition.

Will Nintendo Have a Different Stocking Stuffer?
Many fans expected Nintendo to follow up the NES Classic Edition with another entry in the Classics brand, but it came as a surprise when Nintendo announced its release date to be considerably earlier in the calendar year. The Mini NES was clearly intended to be a Holiday impulse-buy (which would have worked if the inventory was there), but now that the SNES will launch on September 29th, it raises the question of Nintendo’s Black Friday strategy. Will there be an alternate “stocking stuffer” to occupy Christmas lists around the globe, or will Nintendo opt to increase their marketing efforts for the system as Thanksgiving gets closer?

Do the Regional Versions Feature Different Games? (Partially Answered!)
The NES Classic Edition featured 30 games, and the list of titles differed from region to region. It was unclear if that would be the same case again until Nintendo of Japan officially announced the Super Famicom Mini. We learned that, yes, 4 different games made the cut (and 4 will remain exclusive to North America and Europe).

In PAL territories, SNES titles were originally made with a slightly lower frame-rate to match the local television sets of the time. On modern HDTVs, this difference is noticeable and can be bothersome. We don’t know which software versions Nintendo of Europe will implement in this new collection, and these are the types of technical specification questions Nintendo tends to leave unanswered.

Will There Be an N64 Classic Edition? What About Handhelds?
Rather than just a one-off run of NES systems, the Classics label is now a brand of products for Nintendo. And with two consoles being remade in as many years, it begs the question: “What’s next?” Nintendo 64 follows, but introduces more controller ports, polygonal 3D graphics, and more complicated control schemes that vary from game to game. Nintendo won’t be able to release a Classics console annually for much longer before they catch up to the Nintendo Switch, or the scope outgrows what is reasonable for an impulse-buy product.

An alternate course of action would be to release Handheld Classic Editions, starting with the GameBoy! Grab some Pokemon games, Tetris, Metroid, Kid Icarus (maybe throw in a backlit screen and wireless multiplayer if we’re getting really crazy) and you’ve got yourself an affordable chart-buster.


Clearly, there is a lot that we don’t know! As we wait for answers, let’s take a step back and anticipate all the great things that have been confirmed: Dual controllers in the box? Check! Unreleased Star Fox 2? Check! September release date? Check!

What information are you desperate to know about the SNES Classic Edition? Sound off in the comments below!

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)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Death of NES Classic Edition + SNES Rumors

Finally, Scott can say that he’s owned an SNES!


You’ve heard all the rumors, right? NES Classic Edition production is being ended, while it seems Nintendo is ramping up for the creation of the SNES Classic Edition. That’s good news; they seem to be starting earlier this year, so if all goes as planned, there should be a lot more Nintendo stocking stuffers to go around this year when they rerelease their “new” retro console. Footage credit: GameXplain

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

Why We Are Nintendo Fans

Because Nintendo does what everywon’t.


When is the last time you stopped and asked yourself the question: Why AM I a Nintendo fan? That’s exactly what we’re doing on the NF YouTube channel today – join in the comments!

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

Yamauchi and His Enemies

The Iron Fist in the Silk Glove.


Hiroshi Yamauchi was one of Nintendo’s former presidents, who oversaw the company through its formative years of becoming a video game powerhouse. His leadership style was harsh, and his legacy is controversial. He was a very different man than Iwata or Kimishima that we have come to know and love, so let’s take a look at how he differed and how he helped Nintendo become what it is today.

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

How Switch Combines Past Systems

No idea why they didn’t mention the Virtual Boy at all…


The Nintendo Switch is the product of over 30 years of hardware manufacturing. Its designers learned a lot along the way, and have kept the best features of each console that proceeded it. The result is a Nintendo system that has a little bit of everything!

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

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.

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/

There was A Mario Paint 3D?!

As we always love to remind you, look up the Donald Trump / Mario face-puller mash-up.


Another canceled game from the mysterious mind of Miyamoto has come to light! It was an N64 follow-up game to the SNES Mario Paint. How intriguing!

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/

Beat it Blind: Super Mario Bros. (SNES)

We went for twice as long, but got no further. It’s tough to give no for an answer.


Can the Crew meld their teamwork power together in order to pass World 1-1 of the original Super Mario Bros? Watch and see!

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/

October’s Nintendo Experience

Welcome back to the Nintendo Experience! I’m once again expanding the list of necessary games for every Nintendo fan. We’ve since added Photo Dojo to the list as the essential DSi game, and we’re moving on.

For the past few weeks I’ve really been enjoying the indie title Axiom Verge, and while it won’t be making its appearance on the Nintendo Experience, it is a great game. While trudging through the depths of cyberspace… or the subconscious… or another dimension… whatever that setting is, it got me thinking of the game that inspired it.

Super Metroid for the SNES is a Nintendo classic through and through. Originally marketed as Nintendo’s biggest game yet (see our Watching Old Nintendo Commercials episode), it sure does show. The game’s environments and inhabitants are varied and give an awesome sense of exploration and conquest as you traverse the world of Zebes. from your initial encounter with Ridley to the final showdown with Mother Brain, it is an unforgettable thrill-ride.

One of the clear inspirations that Axiom Verge took from Super Metroid is its use of traversal items. Though the two games’ items differ in specific application, they both serve the purpose of making you feel like you have the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere. You may start out feeling like you don’t have much in the way of mobility, but soon enough you’re getting from point A to point B using methods of which you’d never dreamed. The sense of control you have over your character and freedom to explore the environment is truly a great feeling.

It was also nice to recently revisit Donkey Kong Jungle Beat in a recent episode (man, I’m killing it with these shameless self-promotions!). There is something to be said about the Donkey Konga Bongos. While Donkey Konga and its sequel were alright for rhythm games, Nintendo didn’t leave the peripheral to be used for one game only. They decided to do what no one else had thought of: use a rhythm game controller for another kind of game. That’s genius! Have you seen “Guitar Hero Platformer” or “DDR Fighter”? No! Of course, you haven’t because Nintendo has harvested all of the geniuses in the world to come up with those ideas for them.

As far as how the game actually plays, it’s pretty good (nothing ultra groundbreaking besides the control method). But it’s the fact that one day, someone sat down and said “let’s use a set of drums to control a character,” then made it work that lands it a “must play” sticker for me.

Well, that’s it for the Nintendo Experience for now. It feels good to finally see the shelf start to fill out.

nintendo-experience

No Cross-Buy? No Buy!

The year is 2016. Competing consoles have full-fledged online efforts backing their console and software. Purchases are tracked digitally, automatically, and conveniently. It’s not much different in the smartphone and tablet arena either: buy a game on your iPhone, play it on your iPad. Pretty simple! Pretty commonsensical!

That is until you step foot into the realm of Nintendo, where it’s like pulling teeth to get consoles and handhelds to talk to each other. The realm of Nintendo, where we all have Nintendo Accounts, My Nintendo accounts, and NNIDs, and we only have a vague idea of how those all fit together.

The realm where you buy an old SNES game on your Wii U and it’s not there on your 3DS.

We’re talking about cross-buy, and more specifically, the lack of cross-buy.

Nintendo’s Virtual Console service is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. After a decade of offering their classic titles for sale digitally, how has Nintendo’s service expanded? Well, the answer is unfortunate: barely.

Virtual Console made a small jump from Wii to 3DS with restore points. The next real iteration was on the Wii U, which implemented the 3DS improvements plus customizable controls and a few other small perks.

The nice thing was, it was really easy to transfer your VC games from Wii over to your Wii U console!

Oh – wait… no, it wasn’t. You had to buy them all over again. Sure, Nintendo gave you a slight discount for owning the same software on Wii, and the service recognized that, but rather than letting you access your VC games on Wii U’s home menu with the new perks, you had to pay again or just deal with the outdated features and slog through old emulated Wii menus.

Nintendo doesn’t charge for operating system software updates, why should they charge when Virtual Console technology is upgraded?

I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard the news that Super Nintendo games were coming specifically to the New 3DS as an exclusive feature over the previous generation’s model. You can’t expect me to believe that the original 3DS couldn’t run Super Nintendo games – that would be absurd. But they desperately needed some unique features for the handheld (because they couldn’t make more than one exclusive game for it), so SNES VC titles were the answer.

I own quite a few SNES games on my Wii U, and by this time, Nintendo Network IDs were a thing. They have already been implemented. NNIDs were supposed to be the answer to all our 21st century problems with Nintendo’s online systems – it was supposed to track our purchases, unify the different Nintendo platforms… it was supposed to bring balance to the force!

Yet another implementation of the Virtual Console had arrived with no mention, no promise, not a peep about cross-buy.

I had been frustrated about Nintendo attempting to sell us the same exact retro software over and over again for quite some time, but I held onto hope that Nintendo was going to make good on their word to use NNIDs and make the whole Virtual Console experience more cohesive. When they came out with NNIDs in March (launching alongside Miitomo) and then put SNES games on the handheld, it was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The straw being the terrible value proposition from Nintendo that shows they have a broken business model for their classic titles.
The camel’s back being my willingness to put up with it.

I boycotted SNES Virtual Console titles on 3DS, and in fact, I haven’t bought a single VC title in the time since. I’m through with it. I don’t have $8 (per game) x 10 (titles) for every new console iteration they come out with… for the same games!

Let me rephrase that… I do have the money, but I don’t have the will to spend it on this stuff time and time again. I have plenty of nostalgia for Nintendo’s older games, but I won’t allow them to keep using that against me.

It’s not $8 – it’s the principal.

Okay, maybe I am planning on buying the NES Classic Edition! But that’s different…

The point is, I’ve been burned too many times. I’ve invested too much in this broken, excuse for a digital platform called the Virtual Console and seen it count for nothing when new hardware comes out. Nintendo’s online systems and their business sense isn’t smart enough to allow my purchases to carry over, but I am smart enough to avoid the same traps over and over again!

Nintendo, listen closely: You don’t burn your early adopters. You don’t make your die-hard fans pay twice.

You don’t punish people for buying your games early!

You reward these customers. You say: here, you have a big collection of VC games on your Wii? We spent 700 man hours figuring out how to make those transfer over to your Wii U home menu, for free, and now you can keep enjoying those titles just as easily.

You reward your loyal customers. You take the information about their SNES purchases connected with their NNID and you download those games automatically onto their 3DS, so they open it up and see a surprise gift on their menu screen. I know you can do this stuff – you send me random demos all the time.

Because of so many bad past experiences with the Virtual Console, I’ve turned a deaf ear to the service. I won’t be playing another classic Nintendo game digitally until they address this issue.

I’m waiting eagerly for the Nintendo Direct where Kimishima, Reggie, or Bill Trinen takes the stage and announces the new direction for Virtual Console, a cohesive experience where Nintendo respects my investments in their software.

Until then, I’ll be ignoring all press-releases and the insignificant drip-feed of the same old games every week.

A Debatably Brief Overview of Homebrew

I want to make Nintendo games.

Let’s face it, we’ve all thought that at one point or another. Usually it doesn’t go any further than wishful thinking, though. Sure, some of us might doodle concept art or gameplay ideas in a notebook, a few might even learn to program, but even for those with all of the skills there’s another, more tangible hurdle: the tools. Game development isn’t free and procuring a software development kit (SDK or devkit for short) is often a costly proposition. For those of you not familiar with the game development process, a devkit is a collection of specialized software and hardware used to make and test games. They’re quite expensive: the Wii’s devkit cost around $5000, which at the time was rather cheap compared to the XBox 360’s and PS3’s $20,000 price tag. Now, those of you who are used to making do with free software—like me—are probably thinking, “do I really need all of those fancy tools?”

No.

Homebrew is the process of making software for a system without the original development kit or system distributor’s blessing (more commonly known as a “license”). The term originated among beer aficionados for beer brewed by an individual instead of a commercial brewing house, but now is used in many hobbies—including video games—to refer to unofficial/amateur produced content. Homebrewering shouldn’t be confused with modding or ROM hacking: homebrewing is concerned with making new content for a system, while modding and ROM hacking only intend to change or manipulate an existing game (sometimes to the point where it’s arguably a different game made from the parts of the original).

Homebrew is the process of making software for a system without the original development kit…

What’s Homebrew Like?

Homebrew provides a surprisingly diverse selection of content. There’s homebrew for almost all Nintendo systems, though the type of content varies greatly from system to system. Older systems mostly focus on games, while newer ones–from about the Wii onward–have homebrew for everything from games to system utilities. Let’s take a quick look at some examples.

Games

Blade Buster

Just as “all toasters toast toast [sic]” Nintendo homebrewers homebrew games…duh. Sadly, most of the homebrew games I found in my research are simple, forgettable diversions much like the flash games of the early days of the internet. It’s not that surprising, considering game development on any level is an intricate and time consumptive process. That isn’t to say that all homebrewers lack diligence and ambition. There are still many quality original titles. Notice that I said original titles; a large number of homebrew game projects are simply ports, usually of games whose creators have released the source code to the general public. In fact, the Wii alone has ports of P.C. classics such as Tyrian, Quake, and Jazz Jackrabbit.

 

N-Warp ScreenshotI’m not going to try to enumerate every homebrew project released for a Nintendo system, but for the sake of being thorough, there are some that warrant mention. First up is Blade Buster, a Famicom shoot-em-up notable for its screen filling boss sprites (on an 8-bit console mind you), an insane number of sprites on the screen at a time, and unique time-attack styled gameplay. Next for the Super Nintendo is N-Warp Daisakusen, a game that allows eight—yes, eight—players to compete in a free-for-all brawl. Lastly, I want to mention a puzzle game for the DS named Negative Space which has the player drawing paths to guide two opposite colored blobs to their respective goal flags. The catch? They can only travel through the other’s color, meaning every path you draw for one is an obstacle to the other.

Negative Space
This game is also available as a free download on Android.

Emulators

After games, the most common type of homebrew is emulators. I’m not exactly sure why when emulators are already so prolific on P.C. Maybe people make them because they like the challenge of getting an emulator to function on the constraints of a game console. Maybe it’s to prove that more fully featured emulation is possible on Nintendo systems. Maybe people just think it’s funny to play Playstation games on their Wii. Whatever the reason, most of Nintendo’s modern systems have a multitude of homebrewed emulators available on them.

WiiSX
I can’t be the only one who thinks this is hilarious.

Obviously, many of the homebrewed emulators available online for Nintendo consoles are for older Nintendo systems. As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, however, the homebrewed emulator scene isn’t exclusively concerned with Nintendo systems. On the just Wii alone there are emulators for Sega Genesis/Mega-Drive, Sega Saturn, Playstation 1, CalecoVision, Commodore 64, Atari Lynx, and many, many, many, many, many more. Also, there’s a Super Nintendo emulator that runs on the original 3DS (I knew it!).

Whatever the reason, most of Nintendo’s modern systems have a multitude of homebrewed emulators available on them.

Miscellaneous Software

Not all homebrew projects are game related. Some are just the sort of software you’d find on any computer: music players, web browsers, etc. One such program of note is an art program called Colors! Which was originally developed as homebrew for the DS but has since gotten an official release on multiple systems, including the 3DS eshop. Then there’s software that changes system behaviors. For example, the 3DS has an application that removes the cap on the number of play coins a player can receive in a day. More impressive is a Wii hack that let’s the user change the region of the console—y’know, to play region locked games.

Linux

Where there’s hardware, there’s Linux. Much like the speed of light or the certainty of death and taxes, it’s one of the constants of our universe. Seriously, any system that’s powerful enough to run Linux sooner or later will. There’s Linux for the GameCube, Linux on the 3DS, Linux for the Wii, a distro is in development for the N64, there’s a version for the DS; heck, even the GameBoy Advance has…Unix?

…Wait, what?

GameBoy Advance Unix
What?

Any system that’s powerful enough to run Linux sooner or later will.

Cool! Let me try!

For those of you who don’t know, I happen to be a programmer, so when I write an article that gives me the opportunity to talk about programming, I’m going to talk about programming. If you think programming is some kind of voodoo (which it isn’t: it’s sorcery), you may want to skip this part.

Still here? Great! Believe it or not, if you’re already comfortable with programming it’s almost as simple as picking the system you want to develop for and a few Google searches. While homebrewing isn’t exactly the go-to past-time among bored nerds, there are several online guides and communities dedicated to the craft: forums, YouTube videos, blogs, and wikis galore! Heck, there’s an entire free book on WikiBooks about Super Nintendo programming.

Even though you’re not going to be using The Man’s toolkit, you can’t exactly make a game with just your imagination and wishful thinking (trust me, I’ve tried). You will need software to compile the code you write and, if you’re developing for one of Nintendo’s more recent systems, an API library to interface with the system (getting controller input and such). You’ll also want an emulator. Fortunately, all of these tools can be easily acquired on the internet for free.

 There are several online guides and communities dedicated to the craft: forums, YouTube videos, blogs, and wikis galore!

As for the coding itself, it’s mostly the same as regular programming. For example, I—out of curiosity—browsed through a tutorial on GameBoy Advance homebrewing and was quite relieved (and just a little surprised) to find that the code was hardly distinguishable from any other program written in C. There are certainly nuances to keep in mind—like in the case of the GBA, some memory addresses are reserved for the screen’s RGB values, tracking whether buttons are pressed, and so on. You may also need to go without some modern conveniences (hope you like compiling your code from command-line!). But by-and-large, anyone who’s sufficiently experienced with C and/or C++ should be fine.

Unless you’re developing for an 8 or 16-bit system. In that case I hope you really like 65c816 Assembly!

 

We Haven’t Even Touched the Red Pill

Instead of starting on a proper summation, I’d like to cover my backside real quick and stress that despite this being the longest article I’ve written for Two Button Crew to date, I have only given the barest of overviews of the subject. I encourage you to look further into this, either as someone interested in finding new games to play or someone hoping to make such games. More over, there’s a lot I omitted for length, like how some retail games have been pulled from store shelves because of homebrewers.

Having said all that, it’s a shame homebrew isn’t more popular. I understand why, though: if someone’s going to go to all the trouble to make a game, why make it for a dead system? And if it’s for a modern system, why make a game that they can’t license and sell? But, hey, who knows? Many Nintendo fans have grown up and started making games of their own. As time goes on and more fans get old enough to take an interest in game development, maybe some of them will try to make a few for the systems they played on as kids. Wouldn’t that be something, a flood of new old games?


About the Author:

Glen is a lifelong Nintendo fan whose love of video games has inspired him to pursue a career in computer programming; so much so that he is now studying to get a masters in computer science. He doesn’t understand that the average person isn’t interested in programming and won’t shut up about how awesome it is.