You know what? My last article put me in a sour mood. I was talking about Kirby and generally being happy, and someone decided that they wanted to get mad at me, ME of all people, and insinuate that I’m just writing Nintendo worship pieces. Well, in a surprise that no one should feel, I sort of respect a lot of what Nintendo’s done. But I can’t just write about why it’s a great company. Nope, it’s time to please the readers (all one of you that complained) and point out, in my eyes, Nintendo’s Five Biggest Screw-Ups.
5. Forcing Star Fox Into a Non-Compatible IP
Remember back on the N64 when we first got a chance to revel in the amazing cheesiness that was Star Fox 64? It played like a dream and spouted more quotable lines than pretty much any game before or since. Fans of the series were ravenous to get another chance to pilot Fox around the Lylat system, but it wouldn’t be until the GameCube that we’d even hear a whisper as to what could be next.
But of course, this requires a pit stop over with Rare during development of a completely new IP called Dinosaur Planet. We all know this story, don’t we? The main characters were a pair of foxes, one named Crystal, and they fought dinosaurs on a planet of said dinosaurs using a magic staff that did stuff and people were excited for this new N64 title since Rare was dominating with killer properties during that era and then Shigeru Miyamoto saw the game and remarked that the main character should just be Fox and the simple business deal took over, snowballing into Star Fox Adventures on the GameCube.
I love the GameCube, which is a fact we all know, but what I don’t love is Star Fox Adventures. And most likely, you didn’t love it either. Nor did most people who played it. It’s not a bad game, necessarily, but it is a radically wrong game in terms of where the Star Fox franchise should have gone. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new, which Star Fox Assault did moderately well with the concept of hopping into and out of vehicles, but Adventures didn’t just chip away at the formula and try something different; it just flat-out stamped Fox and his crew on a game that had nothing to do with them.
As a result, the Star Fox franchise’s really strong momentum suddenly…slowed. It didn’t entirely stop, but it’s hard to deny that it hasn’t regained speed since the N64 days. Assault was a decent return to form, but then Command went in a very different direction and since that DS game, there hasn’t been a new Star Fox game since, and unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there will be for a while longer. Plus, Rare also failed to recover their momentum, instantly falling from this lofty spot in the heavens to eternal whipping boy. They were sold off to Microsoft shortly after this and spend their days making Xbox Live Avatar games, which are in no way like games starring the Nintendo Mii characters.
4. Mishandling Metroid in the US Market
The Metroid series is one of the greats. The N64 missed out on a new Metroid, but the GameCube had two amazing entries in the series with the Wii getting a third. At some point after the Prime trilogy wrapped and the US market was actually taking notice of the franchise, the decision came down to do a real sequel to Super Metroid, a game that many consider the best in the series (let’s debate that another day, so hold onto that for later).
Initially, Metroid fans got wind of Metroid: Other M during E3 2009 with an amazing trailer showing Samus moving away from the first-person viewpoint the Prime trilogy was built on and returning to the sidescrolling roots from yesteryears. It looked cool, engaging, and something like a wonderful revival for longtime fans. Then we learned that Team Ninja, famous for the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, would be helming the game. This brings up a lot of basic worry since Other M could either take inspiration from the Ninja Gaiden series and go heavy on the action, or it could take the DoA route and super-sexualize Samus to an insulting degree.
Other M did neither. Not really, anyway. Upon releasing, it became obvious that the game’s localization was entirely strapped down and told not to change a single aspect of the very Japanese-thinking title, and as a result, while Samus suffering from PTSD and mindlessly following her superior officer despite inflicting physical harm to herself made some sense with the original Japanese version and Japanese voicework and Japanese…style of game design (for lack of a better term), the US market had a field day spewing rants about sexism and the general destruction of Samus as a character.
This screw-up isn’t so much about Other M being a game people disliked though. This is in the same boat as Star Fox Adventures, namely the mishandling of a franchise right after it’s picking up steam. Metroid was sitting high after Prime reinvigorated fans, new and old alike, but Other M sought to divide and deteriorate certain aspects. Fans began to wonder whether Samus had really been ruined or whether she was a flat, boring character all along (spoiler: she wasn’t). Other M didn’t ruin the franchise, but it did slow it down, because no matter what it does next, it’s forced to backpedal to either stand by everything Other M put forward or utterly disregard it and actively work to regain lost fans.
Worse though is the nagging feeling that the very Kyoto-style company may not have the secret sauce anymore. Nintendo had always been able to stand by their wacky design choices and say there was a good reason that we’re just taking out of context, but this was a huge instance where things felt less “cute misunderstanding” and more “total cluelessness of the US market.”
And to think that it all could have essentially been corrected by getting Jennifer Hale to reprise her role as Samus from the Prime trilogy.
3. Producing the Virtual Boy
There’s an unwritten law that no list badmouthing Nintendo is allowed to exist without bringing up the Virtual Boy in one way or another. I’m honestly tired as all get-out about discussing it because it’s the obvious punching bag that the company will never escape. To this date, it’s Nintendo’s only true system failure (no, the Wii U hasn’t been out long enough or fallen hard enough to gurgle that yet, so save the snark), and even though Nintendo doesn’t actively try to deny its existence, it doesn’t do much to celebrate it, either.
The laundry list of issues is one that you can recite with only a basic knowledge of the Virtual Boy. It was supposed to be full 3D technology, but it could only produce red lines on black backgrounds. People complained about headaches from prolonged use. It was uncomfortable to play for any period of time due to the stand being too short to make much use of, and even if you did play for long enough to get some time in with a game, your eyes would be screwed up for a while afterward. Plus, the system cost too much and didn’t have enough games to convince people to buy it.
What the Virtual Boy has done more than anything is sow the seed of doubt where it previously never existed. Suddenly Nintendo can do wrong, and on a spectacular level. It is no longer infallible, on a professional level, and that paints things for gamers even to today, hence my aside about the Wii U. There’s not a high chance that the Wii U will truly “fail” as we’d like to think, but people believe that it could, just because the Virtual Boy was an experiment in innovation and it turned out so disastrously.
Still, we’d all download Virtual Boy games from the 3DS eShop in a heartbeat if they ever got released.
2. Losing the Final Fantasy Franchise
Now we’re getting into the really meaty screw-ups. Adventures and Other M are more quaint stumbles that have quiet repercussions, and the Virtual Boy is that failure that people recall fondly, giggling with glee at how silly of a mistake it was. But no one laughed when Final Fantasy VII jumped from the N64 to the PlayStation. And Final Fantasy VIII followed. And so did Final Fantasy IX. And then Final Fantasy X went to the PS2. And Final Fantasy XI went to the PS2, PC, and Xbox 360.
As the story goes, Squaresoft was hard at work to show off their new Final Fantasy VII prototype on the N64 using character models from Final Fantasy VI, but the more they looked into developing on the N64, the more they realized that they would have to sacrifice a lot of the scope while still increasing their overall development costs because of Nintendo’s insistence on sticking with cartridges over discs.
Whether carts are better than discs isn’t the issue. The issue is that the developer behind Final Fantasy decided that your system didn’t deserve to exclusively host further installments. This is a massive blow to fans of both Nintendo and Final Fantasy alike since it will cause a split, one way or another. Gamers, especially back then, can’t always afford to buy every new system, so a choice must be made. Stick with Nintendo and lose out on Final Fantasy VII, or grab the PlayStation and lose out on everything Nintendo is going to make until further notice.
Some of you may be confused since the Final Fantasy franchise currently has about as much grandeur around it these days as a Big Mac, but it was once the king of RPGs and the pinnacle of gaming, specifically in terms of holding up shining examples of what the medium could produce. Final Fantasy VI is a game frequently argued as the best on the SNES, so when the next installment jumps to a competing system, it’s a huge blow to whoever missed out.
This isn’t a simple botch like Adventures where Rare leaves and Microsoft snatches them up to do basically nothing of note outside a game with piñatas. This is losing one of the strongest companies from your side when the console war is about to get bloodier than ever before. The biggest criticism people level at Nintendo today is that they have such abysmal 3rd-party support, and this is arguably the point where it all began. The Nintendo-Sony war was going to be a bloodbath. Think the Nintendo vs Sega battle was heated? That’s hardly a schoolyard skirmish in comparison, though it’s not without reason…
1. Creating the PlayStation
As screw-ups go, it gets pretty hard to laugh off directly creating your chief rival for over a decade.
The story goes that before the N64 was fleshed out, Nintendo was looking for a way to bring a CD-based system to the market that was specifically an add-in to the SNES. At the time, they had partnered with a small company by the name of Sony, whom you’ve probably never heard of. Everything was going swimmingly up until Sony publicly revealed the new system…only to have Nintendo publicly reveal the very next day that they had changed business partners to Phillips and the system being made with Sony was scrapped. Oh, and this reveal was news to Sony as well.
As with any good revenge story, righteous indignation was at an all-time high, resulting in Sony’s video game division gaining essentially limitless resources for honor-based vengeance in the form of an entirely new system that you also probably never heard of called the Sony PlayStation. You know, that system that Final Fantasy VII jumped to. And the Metal Gear Solid series started on. And Resident Evil. And Silent Hill. And Tomb Raider. And Gran Turismo. So, you know, basically the system that spawned all the huge franchises that Nintendo couldn’t take credit for.
It’s truly an amazing event to look back upon, because the Nintendo of today, run by Mr. Nicest-Guy-in-the-World Iwata, is so humble and friendly in its actions (despite what you think of its games and systems). The Nintendo of the past is just plain ruthless, greedy, and unrelenting in its mission to screw exactly everyone they can to better themselves. And that sort of story always ends up with an underdog coming out of nowhere to upend the playing field. Sort of a pity that Sony’s moved into Nintendo’s role in the current timeline, but that doesn’t change the fact that Nintendo had their mustaches handed to them on a silver disc for nearly a decade straight, all because they wanted to save money on a CD deal with Phillips that also fell through because good lord, it’s Phillips.
So there. You see, random commenter who said mean stuff to me? I can spend an entire article discussing Nintendo’s faults without diving instead to why the company is great and they own gaming past, present, and future and why I will never stop loving them and HNNNNNNNNN next article will be titled Why You Should Worship Nintendo. It’s decided.
In the meantime, let’s get the immediate discussion going. What has Nintendo done that you’ve seen as a screw-up, either minor or major? Or do you see them as being without faults? I certainly won’t stop someone from making that claim, though I can think of other commenters who will. Let’s have at it! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!