The Nintendo Paradox

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On June 16, 2015, Nintendo made a long awaited announcement regarding a franchise that had been seemingly forgotten after a less than well received entry. It had been five years since this game was released and fans were eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the story, hopefully to wash the bad taste of the last one out of their mouths.

Well, they got their next chapter and they weren’t happy. Metroid Prime: Federation Force is a co-operative shooter for 3DS. It does not star Samus Aran and features a new art-style that departs from the relatively realistic art style used in previous Metroid Prime entries. This has caused Metroid fans to completely revolt.

They have declared Federation Force to be a betrayal by Nintendo and the death of the Metroid franchise. This game is, according to them, the worst thing that could have possibly happened to Metroid and Nintendo should have known better. And it’s based entirely on the announcement trailer’s literally less than a minute of gameplay footage.

This is just the latest in a very long trend that I see among many Nintendo fans. I almost want to call it one of the reasons why Nintendo doesn’t release many new IPs and why their established IPs often feel samey and recycled. This is not the first time we’ve seen this kind of fan revolt from die-hard Nintendo fans.

When The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was announced in 2001, the same kind of backlash happened. It may be hard to imagine now, but when Wind Waker was announced, fans were furious. They declared it the end of the Zelda franchise and a complete betrayal by Nintendo. Sound familiar?

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There is a long history of many fandoms getting angry at change, Nintendo included. But this isn’t where Nintendo fans stop. In fact, they love to contradict themselves in this area.

In 2004, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was revealed to return to a realistic art-style, reminiscent of the one used for Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. While some fans praised it as a return to form and still others don’t care what art style is used, so long as the game is good, a small number of fans weren’t happy. They were upset because Nintendo didn’t keep using the cel-shaded look Wind Waker used, despite the fanbase absolutely despising the art-style not even a year and a half earlier.

Today, Wind Waker is considered a classic and one of the best entries to the Zelda series.

I call this the Nintendo Paradox. Nintendo’s fanbase gets upset at changes to their favorite series, then turn around and get upset when they return to form to appease the fans. Zelda isn’t the only place the Paradox has happened. It happens just about every time Nintendo does something against expectations.

When Super Mario Sunshine was released, people were upset that it wasn’t just “Super Mario 64 II”. Now they demand “Super Mario Sunshine 2”. When Super Mario Galaxy 2 was revealed, fans called Nintendo lazy and accused them of rehashing ideas. They now demand “Super Mario Galaxy 3”.

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When Nintendo announced the New 3DS XL for a North American release, but not the smaller New 3DS, the fans got upset because they believed that Nintendo didn’t want to give them choices. Previously, they were upset that having the 3DS, 2DS and 3DS XL on the market was confusing and splintering the market.

And this is just one form the Nintendo Paradox takes. Nintendo fans also contradict themselves when Nintendo puts out new IPs. There is near-constant noise directed at Nintendo to stop recycling ideas and make new IPs. Then these IPs never sell.

Splatoon has sold over a million copies and Xenoblade Chronicles destroyed Nintendo’s expectations, but these are by far the exceptions to the rule. New and revived franchises are rarely successful for Nintendo.

Codename STEAM was released to mostly positive reviews. It sold 31,000 copies. Wonderful 101? 100,000. ZombiU? 200,000. Bayonetta 2? 150,000. While it’s not a new franchise, Fossil Fighters: Frontier sold only 35,000 copies. These are not great numbers for games that should be fitting in with fan demands of new ideas.

This is a constant and frustrating trend that needs to stop. Nintendo puts out great games and has a lot of great ideas, but if we don’t support new ideas, then they really will eventually retreat to putting out recycled Mario and Zelda games like they’re already stereotyped as doing. It’s easy to forget now, but at one point, every established franchise was once a new idea and who knows how many games we would have missed out on had the fans revolted and swore to boycott every new idea Nintendo put out since the release of Super Mario Bros?

I would have greatly preferred to see a traditional Metroid experience with the announcement of Federation Force, myself, but it is just plain immature and childish to get upset about a game and demand its cancellation over literally less than a minute of footage.

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