Innovation Vs. Evolution

Twilight Princess was my 12th foray into a series which has been around for longer than I have and while it would undoubtedly be hubris to claim it was the 12th that betrayed me, I feel this to be a somewhat apt a description of my feelings regarding the game in this venerated series and also, quite funny.

I feel like I cannot really blame Zelda directly, it’s not really its fault. The games are, essentially, as good as ever. Well designed, artistically pleasing and a wonderful mesh of engaging (if never overly taxing) combat, devious puzzles and exploration. It’s certainly not for lack of trying or skill on the developer’s part. Then why this feeling of tedium and déjà vu which began to set in as I worked my way through yet another intricate dungeon? If familiarity breeds contempt than I’m afraid I’m beginning to feel as if I know this series better than any single one of my closest friends and our relationship’s suffering because of it.

Maybe I’m missing the point entirely. Perhaps it’s the use of the Wii-mote which changes the experience. Yet while Nintendo have been lavished with near unanimous praise over the innovation they’re currently bringing to the industry, I can’t help but feel that when it comes to the more established franchises, the Zeldas, Marios and Metroids of this world, that they’re playing it safe. It doesn’t do much to change the method of control if the underlying game is practically the same thing we’ve been playing for the past 22 years.

I desperately want Nintendo to finally start delivering on their promises. If you intend to innovate than be sure to do it all the way through. In every new game the player is begins stripped of the equipment and skills of the prior, with each new dungeon built specifically around the one new/retrieved item found within. I think they could: throw a wrench in the works and really start tweaking the Zelda formula - maybe skipping the boomerang, bombs and bow and arrow altogether or--gasp--starting players off with those items. But just as films and TV series (with exception to 24) stopped using amnesia as a convenient device to introduce viewers to a character’s back story, so should such archaic methods be abandoned here.

Back in 1982, another Japanese company, Namco, produced Pacman for $200,000. Now, the average Next-Generation title is estimated to cost $15m. While production costs have tripled in recent years, sales and revenue have hardly changed. It’s becoming ever more expensive to take a chance on the unproven and this fear gnaws away at all the industry giants, even those not usually adverse to upsetting the balance and doing something as radical as Nintendo did with the Wii, a console considered a sure fire flop by industry magnates before launch.

And there are steps being taken in the right direction with Nintendo’s recent announcement of ‘WiiWare’. New and downloadable games different to the vintage games already being offered. What's more interesting is that Nintendo isn't only seeking WiiWare from established publishers and developers like Ubisoft and Sega but rather indie developers as well. Shorter, original, more creative games from small teams with big ideas whose products would not be vetted by Nintendo. If Nintendo itself can’t tap into the potential they created in their own system, maybe one of these can.
1 Comments
1 Comments
Posted by Vitor
Twilight Princess was my 12th foray into a series which has been around for longer than I have and while it would undoubtedly be hubris to claim it was the 12th that betrayed me, I feel this to be a somewhat apt a description of my feelings regarding the game in this venerated series and also, quite funny.

I feel like I cannot really blame Zelda directly, it’s not really its fault. The games are, essentially, as good as ever. Well designed, artistically pleasing and a wonderful mesh of engaging (if never overly taxing) combat, devious puzzles and exploration. It’s certainly not for lack of trying or skill on the developer’s part. Then why this feeling of tedium and déjà vu which began to set in as I worked my way through yet another intricate dungeon? If familiarity breeds contempt than I’m afraid I’m beginning to feel as if I know this series better than any single one of my closest friends and our relationship’s suffering because of it.

Maybe I’m missing the point entirely. Perhaps it’s the use of the Wii-mote which changes the experience. Yet while Nintendo have been lavished with near unanimous praise over the innovation they’re currently bringing to the industry, I can’t help but feel that when it comes to the more established franchises, the Zeldas, Marios and Metroids of this world, that they’re playing it safe. It doesn’t do much to change the method of control if the underlying game is practically the same thing we’ve been playing for the past 22 years.

I desperately want Nintendo to finally start delivering on their promises. If you intend to innovate than be sure to do it all the way through. In every new game the player is begins stripped of the equipment and skills of the prior, with each new dungeon built specifically around the one new/retrieved item found within. I think they could: throw a wrench in the works and really start tweaking the Zelda formula - maybe skipping the boomerang, bombs and bow and arrow altogether or--gasp--starting players off with those items. But just as films and TV series (with exception to 24) stopped using amnesia as a convenient device to introduce viewers to a character’s back story, so should such archaic methods be abandoned here.

Back in 1982, another Japanese company, Namco, produced Pacman for $200,000. Now, the average Next-Generation title is estimated to cost $15m. While production costs have tripled in recent years, sales and revenue have hardly changed. It’s becoming ever more expensive to take a chance on the unproven and this fear gnaws away at all the industry giants, even those not usually adverse to upsetting the balance and doing something as radical as Nintendo did with the Wii, a console considered a sure fire flop by industry magnates before launch.

And there are steps being taken in the right direction with Nintendo’s recent announcement of ‘WiiWare’. New and downloadable games different to the vintage games already being offered. What's more interesting is that Nintendo isn't only seeking WiiWare from established publishers and developers like Ubisoft and Sega but rather indie developers as well. Shorter, original, more creative games from small teams with big ideas whose products would not be vetted by Nintendo. If Nintendo itself can’t tap into the potential they created in their own system, maybe one of these can.