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Has Nintendo Learned The Lessons of the N64?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on November 17, 2006   |   Episode 60 (Show Archive)  

   


In just a couple of days gamers all over the United States will get their hands on the Nintendo Wii. Will it live up to the hype? Will everybody fall in love with the new control? Will it help Nintendo regain the dominance they once had over the game industry? None of these questions matter right now, the only thing on our mind is this one simple question: Has Nintendo learned the lessons of the Nintendo 64?

For months we've been hearing how Nintendo is finally getting a console launch right, how after ten years they are finally ready to look past the dark days of the Nintendo 64. But in the grand scheme of things the Wii and the N64 aren't that different. Both systems came out at a time when there were two other strong competitors already on the market, both systems featured "innovative" controls the enthusiast media couldn't

stop talking about and both systems promise countless updates to some of Big N's most popular franchises. As controversial as it may sound we simply must ask, has Nintendo done enough to make sure that this time around their system is a winner?

In order to figure out what the Nintendo 64 did wrong we decided to go back in time and find the one magazine that wasn't afraid to take Big N head on. That magazine was Next Generation. Although the editorial staff had named Super Mario 64 the best game ever made only a few months after the system's launch, by May 1997 Next Generation was already concerned for the Nintendo 64's future. In their cover story, 'Something Is Wrong With Nintendo 64', they pointed out five problems that they hoped would be addressed before the system died and everybody moved on to whatever was next. For the sake of argument we are going to take those five problems and determine whether or not Nintendo has learned the lessons ten years later. Is Nintendo destined to repeat the past, or have they finally been able to move past the blunders that surrounded their final cartridge game console? Find out now when we ask: Has Nintendo learned the lessons of the Nintendo 64?

ISSUE 1: OUT OF DATE
What Next Generation Said: "In a fast-moving industry driven by a perennial impatience for the next big thing, a game company cannot afford to be behind the times. Sega learned this lesson the hard way when Saturn launched with dated titles such as the original Virtua Fighter and ClockWork Knight against PlayStation's flashier Battle Arena Toshinden and Warhawk.


"Now after numerous delays in getting to market, Nintendo 64 finds itself in a similar position with a library of games that scream yesterday's news. Despite the system's amazingly positive launch, Next Generation has heard from many Nintendo 64 gamers who are beginning to question the wisdom of their choice. Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Cruis'n USA, NBA Hang Time, and Killer Instinct Gold are all yesterday's coin-ops, while most of western gamers graduated from Doom years ago.

"Of course, we're not suggesting that Nintendo should stick solely to the mainstream. Indeed, one of the most exciting things about the video game powerhouse has always been its ability to operate just beyond the norm. In the face of more obvious examples, Nintendo found enormous success with cute and cuddly games such as Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi's Island. But how many gamers in 1997 would have preferred the Mario game engine if it featured a bazooka-toting madman and blood dripping from the walls? Unfortunately, probably most of them.

"At the same time, Nintendo has so far denied consumers the opportunity to play games in today's most popular genres. Since the decline of

Super NES and the arrival of the Nintendo 64, more and more gamers have turned to RPGs, 3D fighting games and sports sims. But you'd think no one at Nintendo had noticed. And considering the titles in development there seems little hope that these voids will be filled anytime soon -- if ever."

Has Nintendo Learned Their Lesson? Despite all of the talk about the innovative controller and motion-action game play, most of the games being released on Nintendo's Wii are rooted in the past. Nintendo's biggest launch title, The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess, started its life as a GameCube game (where it will also be released one month later). And it's not just Nintendo; the third party companies aren't real interested in pushing the boundaries either. Many of the third party efforts are ports of existing games (Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Far Cry) or games based on movie/TV licenses (Happy Feet, Ice Age 2). And if that wasn't enough, some of the launch titles are even remakes of Nintendo DS games (Trauma Center). This doesn't make those games bad, but most of these games aren't what you would call "next generation". Couple this with the fact that the games don't look much better than what is currently available on the GameCube and some gamers may wonder why they are spending $250 to upgrade their system.

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