Nintendo’s Franchises – What’s NeXt?

Nintendo is heading into a new generation with quite possibly the largest leap in graphics from one generation to another if the reports are accurate. With new and better technology there is the opportunity for reinvention, something which is essential for the longevity of franchises. With Zelda recently reinventing itself with Breath of the Wild, let’s take a look at franchises that could benefit from a shake up.

Pokemon

A prime candidate for a franchise that rarely changes, it has admittedly tried to make some strides in terms of game design. Ditching the grid based movement for 3D movement and character models being more in scale with the environments should help in terms of immersion and improving in the world design. The camera isn’t completely free, though, and with 3DS’s limited power the visuals still leave a bit to be desired…but it’s heading in the right direction and hopefully continues to evolve for the NX installment which is rumored to already be in the works.

2D Mario

Or, more specifically, the New Super Mario Bros. franchise. It’s been a franchise that has gotten more flack than it deserves, likely due to NSMB2 and NSMBU’s close release, but it does feel like it’s reached its conclusion with Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Run. Nintendo should try and reinvent the wheel with 2D Mario, I don’t think they can just make another game with the same art style and expect it to be as well received. It’s mostly just the reusing of old and unimpressive assets that turns off more core players so a new art style and some new gameplay ideas building upon Mario’s moveset would do them some good.

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong was Nintendo’s first big hit and has stayed around all these years…but it has remained relatively unchanged for over 20 years. Unlike New Super Mario, DK doesn’t have a main series which has evolved with the times outside of a failed attempted at a 3D platformer that was underwhelming to say the least. I think DK needs a lot of work, his design is relatively unappealing even if the gameplay is still fun.

Kid Icarus Re-Uprising

I actually think Kid Icarus Uprising’s as a reboot is rather excellent. The new universe feels massive and exciting with excellent characters and on rails segments. The only real issue is the control scheme butchering the on foot segments. A remake of that game or a sequel using the game’s aesthetics and gameplay ideas but with a different control scheme could be quite wonderful. I’m not sure who could make it or when, but I feel like the franchise deserves another chance.

Mario & Luigi

Nintendo has dropped the ball pretty hard with their Mario RPG spin offs. While Paper Mario should return to its roots, Mario & Luigi (which Nintendo decided is the only real RPG Mario series they need) has been mediocre all generation. While I might be repeating myself, going into a more 3D perspective would bring new changes which could fix a lot of issues this series has. The introduction of isometric platforming should’ve been a pretty good fit since it is a Mario game, but it doesn’t feel right. Since Mario and Luigi’s movements are tied together it feels rather sluggish making traversal not fun. Combat is still rather fun, but it could give more use to the hammer and make button presses feel different like Paper Mario used to do. A new land with new visuals and a new camera and movement system could be the boost the franchise needs to fix itself and increase appeal.

Metroid

Metroid has been in a pretty unfortunate situation with a hard to please fanbase that’s not big enough to support the franchise but are quick to tear a new game apart. Might be wise to stop making games in the franchise, but I do think there’s hope to be had.

Metroid Prime took the franchise from a third person 2D game to a first person 3D game due to the studio’s expertise in first person games. While just making another Metroid Prime game would make many fans happy enough, I think there’s also potential in making a return to 3rd person in 3D. 3rd person games were rather rough in the GameCube era with Resident Evil 4 being the first game to get it right and even that was a slower paced affair. After an entire generation of games like Gears of War I imagine the tech and design for 3rd person shooters is pretty much mastered at this point. Returning to a 3rd person game with 3D control (unlike Other M’s restrictive camera) could allow for the return of platforming which was a big part of the original game’s design while putting a bigger focus on Samus which wasn’t viewable outside of cutscenes.

Nintendo Sports

While it’s been an idea I’ve had floating around for a few months, I think Nintendo can very well bring back the sports titles people have been asking for like 1080 and Wave Race in a compilation of sorts. It’s hard to make one jetski focused game with enough content to warrant a physical release, but maybe joining a couple of games together in the same engine could sell pretty well. They can continue to use the Wii Sports branding, or at least Miis. I guess something in between Mario Sports Super Stars and Wii Sports Resort but making sure to let people know that they include those franchises.

3D Evolution

3D games benefit the most from advancements in technology and game design so they’re usually more exciting and interesting than their 2D counterparts. The Mario series is a prime candidate for this with each new 3D Mario on a new platform would look and play considerably differently than before while 2D Marios play relatively similarly to each other since World. The leap from LTTP to OoT cemented The Legend of Zelda’s Legendary status as well. But, many of Nintendo franchises haven’t made the leap yet, at least not successfully.

The previously mentioned Donkey Kong has stayed in its 2D roots outside of DK64 as well as Kirby which has basically never had 3D gameplay in any mainline title. Both of these feel at their limit of just what they can do new and who they can appeal to and a 3D reboot or sequel could open up new gameplay opportunities and with the added power of the NX it should be possible.

Hardware Evolution

Miyamoto often looks at hardware evolution to add new controls in order to improve on a game whose sales can’t justify a sequel. Star Fox Zero was most likely greenlight in order to make a game that takes advantage of the Wii U GamePad.

Star Fox

I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Star Fox…but it’ll likely be awhile until we see him again. I’d imagine that Star Fox would be a shoe in for a VR outing as Star Fox Zero felt like a prototypical VR game on the gamepad but it was more complicated since it wasn’t actually VR but a dual screen set up. If Nintendo ever ventures into VR I could see the same gameplay scenarios working very well and having a lot more appeal there.

Outside of VR as a hardware innovation that can help Star Fox, I think there are other ideas the franchise can do in order to achieve relevance once again. The transforming Walker/Arwing was a great idea, but the tank like controls left a bit to be desired. A mech with great 3rd person shooter controls would fit in nicely with the Star Fox Universe and add plenty of gameplay opportunities for them to pursue. A stronger emphasis on story finally continuing after where Star Fox Zero/64 left off would be great as well. Star Fox: The Battle Begins shows how likeable the cast and concept could be if executed correctly so imagine an entire game with personality matching this better.

NX hopes

With freed up resources, better hardware, and (hopefully) a large install base Nintendo will need to think up of a lot of new ideas bringing back old franchises and making new ones. I hope with the opportunity presented that they take the time to make sure these franchises are given the care needed to keep them healthy for years to come. They don’t have to make two NSMB a generation, might as well try and make the best one possible to make sure you get it right. A lot of franchises need to fight to stay relevant, big changes could hurt them but without changes the franchises won’t grow.

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