Multiplayer Magic or Madness?: Nintendo’s E3 Surprises

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I remember playing The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition on my 3DS back in 2011 and simultaneously texting some friends eagerly looking for a time to get together so we could tackle the game together as it was truly meant to be played.  I remember even more vividly my disappointment when I saw that the game wasn’t given an online feature, despite the 3DS being a capable machine, and thinking what a wasted opportunity it was giving fans this gift, meant to be enjoyed together, but not ensuring they have an easy opportunity to play with others.  Consequently, I never got around to playing the game with my 3DS owning friends, and was instead stuck with a dull single player experience.  One certainly is the loneliest number.  Since then, I have hoped against hope that Nintendo would rerelease the game with online capabilities.  Whether that meant a full update with enhanced graphics, or simply a port to the Wii U or a different console, I was game for anything Nintendo threw my way so that I could experience my favorite series of all time in a cooperative capacity, like I briefly got the chance to long ago on the GameCube.

So, when Nintendo announced The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes at E3 this year, I was ecstatic.  Like Link is to Zelda, this was the answer to my desperate cry for help, or, er, a co-op Zelda game, complete with online functionality, relevant graphics, as well as some new gameplay experiences for Zelda, like costumes that enhance abilities.  Best of all, it came as a complete surprise, hot on the heels of a brilliant remake (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D), an impeccable “sequel” we never knew we’d get or needed (The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds), and scheduled for release before that Wii U Zelda we’ve been anxiously awaiting.  In short, in the span of three years, Nintendo will have delivered every single Zelda experience we could have possibly expected from them, all just in time for the series’ thirtieth anniversary next year.

While this announcement wasn’t the mic drop many fans anticipated, it demonstrated to me that Nintendo can anticipate the desires of its fans and offer realistic solutions in response to fan disappointment.  When Zelda Wii U got delayed from the end of 2015 to sometime in 2016, I, like many a fan, was slightly disappointed.  When Nintendo opted not to show footage of the game, but instead announced a totally new, unheard of Zelda entry, I was excited and thankful that I would have something to tide me over until that Wii U game released.  To my shock and frustration, some fans reacted negatively to the announcement.  Let’s get something straight.  This game, though only recently announced, has been in development for some time and is being developed completely separately from the Wii U entry.  In short, Tri Force Heroes‘ existence didn’t delay Zelda Wii U.  So don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you.  What did delay Zelda Wii U, more than likely, was foresight and planning.  With the thirtieth anniversary next year, why would Nintendo release a huge new Zelda game this year, especially if what Nintendo says is true and the game genuinely isn’t ready?  Instead, we should be thankful that Nintendo surprised us with an additional Zelda game that releases in less than six months.  That’s a surprise on par with Nintendo announcing Majora’s Mask and telling us it comes out in less than a month like they did earlier this year.

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A far darker cloud was cast by another franchise returning in an unfamiliar, unexpected form.  Yes, I’m talking about Metroid Prime: Federation Force, the now infamous 3DS title that, despite being a Metroid game, doesn’t feature the series’ protagonist, Samus.  The game has also been decried for its divergent art style, less in the vein of Metroid‘s typical gloomier, doomier ambiance, and more comparable to something featuring Mii’s.  The outrage generated by the announcement culminated in a petition for the cancellation of Federation Force.  The petition reads, “the foundations of isolation, atmosphere and exploration in unknown planets are what made Metroid great,” before calling Federation Force a “disgrace” marring a beloved franchise, and stating “this is not the Metroid we asked Nintendo to make.”

A couple of notes.  The author of this petition, to my knowledge, has not played Federation Force, and is basing these comments entirely on a trailer for an unfinished product featuring less than a minute of game footage.  Perhaps it is a mere slip in grammar, but typically when writing about any form of media, the topic is referred to in the present tense.  For example, the article you are reading IS awesome, not was.  The original Legend of Zelda game IS revolutionary and an incredible video game experience.  The foundations of isolation, atmosphere and exploration in (probably should read “on”) unknown planets are what MAKE Metroid great.  Not made. Because Metroid is still as great as it has always been, and no true fan of the franchise would let one poor entry dampen their opinion of the rest.  Much less when they haven’t even experienced the game they’re complaining about.  But this is mere semantics.

Josh Bull wrote an astounding article for our site called “The Nintendo Paradox” in which he catalogs many of the times Nintendo announced a game in which there was considerable backlash, and then the game became a huge hit, highlighting the paradoxical nature of Nintendo “fans,” citing cases such as The Wind WakerSuper Mario Galaxy, and even a couple of consoles.  If you haven’t read it, it is well worth a look.  The article, without explicitly stating it, also highlights Nintendo’s ability to respond to what gamers want before fans can even identify for themselves what they want.  When fans wanted Super Mario 64 2, they got Sunshine.  Then they wanted Super Mario Sunshine 2 and got Galaxy.  When fans wanted Super Mario Galaxy 3, they got 3D World.  As a result, we haven’t gotten the same Mario game rehashed over and over since the N64 and we have seen Nintendo creatively expand on one of its most beloved franchises in brilliant and unexpected ways.

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So let Nintendo do what Nintendo does.  Let them expand upon a franchise, make something new with it, and defy expectation.  While we might not get the “isolation,” Federation Force could be stuffed full of “atmosphere” and “exploration,” this time accompanied by friends.  Sure, an HD proper Metroid Prime game would be thrilling, but we’ve already gotten three Metroid Prime games, two on GameCube and one on the Wii, on top of a Wii and Wii U digital re-release of the entire trilogy.  Isn’t that enough for now?  Like Samus, maybe we should brave new terrain, forge new paths, and let Nintendo extend the horizons of this universe we all know and love. Maybe, rather than complaining about what we don’t have, we should rediscover why we love the franchise in the first place by replaying Super Metroid or the Metroid Prime trilogy.  Then, when Federation Force comes out, we can judge with open minds whether this game tarnishes the good name of Metroid.

At no point does Nintendo, or any company for that matter, have to give us what we allegedly “ask for.”  We should, however, respect companies who are able to anticipate our desires and offer us unique experiences when they could just rehash the same game over and over.  We shouldn’t harangue Nintendo for offering us new and unexpected titles, but should celebrate when a company adequately resolves issues, like they did in the case of the Zelda delay this year or in their ability to avoid franchise fatigue.  Is Nintendo flawless? Certainly not.  And was this year’s E3 spectacular?  No, it wasn’t.  But at E3 Nintendo presented me with two new cooperative spins on familiar franchises, and I couldn’t be more excited to forge ahead with my friends.

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