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Is it just me, or has Nintendo lately been kinda... [roundtable]
 
...off their game?

(apologies for the split infinitive but it was the only way I could really get the trailing-off feel I wanted for the title)

Okay, I get it, the big, diseased elephant in the room: coronavirus shook everything up. But that only goes so far when you consider two things. The first is that other companies are still pumping out new, major games on the Switch like Monster Hunter Rise, Ys 9 and Subnautica.

But the main reason is that they just haven't hit those notes for me in the past few years. 2017 was amazing, with Mario and Zelda. 2018 had an excellent Smash Bros. 2019 was a little more hit (Mario Maker 2, Three Houses) or miss (Luigi's Mansion, Pokemon Sword/Shield) for me in terms of Nintendo, although granted opinions can vary there and the strong third-party support helped. But 2020 and 2021 had almost nothing from the Big N. We got an overpriced Mario collection, an overpriced Zelda remaster, a fun Mario battle Royale that was nuked, a cool Fire Emblem port that was nuked, and a couple decent-but-not-as-great-as-before new titles in Clubhouse Games, Animal Crossing, and Origami King.


Admittedly, Pokemon Snap did pretty well, but even that was developed by a third-party, Bandai-Namco. And I did really enjoy Mario Kart Live for what it did and appreciate weird games like that and Game Builder Garage. But I dunno, it just feels like a lack of real passion lately. I don't want to be one of those "I used to be the biggest Nintendo fan..." guys, but I've spent way more time retro gaming over the past several months than playing stuff on my Switch (except for Ace Attorney--thanks Capcom!). Has Nintendo gotten complacent? Or perhaps the lack of Iwata is driving the company in different directions? Alpha Dream imploded and I don't know what is happening over at Camelot, but a lot of games lately just seem...worse.

Or hey--maybe I'm just way off base here? I admit that my malaise with games like Age of Calamity and Pokemon Brilliant Whatever might be in the minority. And the ire that ignites within when I see them selling another pair of nigh-identical Pokemon games at full price might JUST be me. But regardless, how've you felt about the last couple years of Switch games?

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Posted: 08/23/21, 21:54:30  - Edited by 
 on: 08/23/21, 21:55:32
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Well, first off, I can't really vibe with any list that puts Luigi's Mansion 3 in the miss side of things. Absolute hit to me.

I actually think Nintendo has been doing very well on the Switch. But I also just ignore all of the ports / collections. They're not even on my radar. With brand new games, they have been doing great overall.

A few disappointments aside.

Also WarioWare looks like it will be FIRE.
Posted: 08/24/21, 00:16:39  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 00:17:38
While I'm not at all disappointed with the Switch as a device (I love it!) I must say I'm underwhelmed by the first-party lineup through 4.5 years. And I don't mean the quality - big releases like Breath of the Wild, Smash Bros. Ultimate, Luigi's Mansion 3 and Animal Crossing: New Horizons have delivered for me - but the quantity has been a real disappointment. I think we all expected there to be a more steady stream of first-party releases with Nintendo supporting only one platform now, vs. having to support more than one -- remember that back in 2009-2012, Nintendo had to support four platforms to varying degrees.

But now we're in Year 5 of the Switch, and 2 - possibly 3 - of those years have been very light on the first-party front. Covid is undeniably a factor, but 2018 was a lineup I would have expected from a dying console's final year, not the second year on a thriving one. And how much better would 2020 have really been, were it not for Covid? Maybe Bowser's Fury comes out last year, but it's hard to think much else would have changed. Wii U ports and other re-releases/remasters have padded out the Switch first-party lineup since the start, and while I absolutely agree that they should be giving these games a second chance, it feels like it has become a crutch for them.

The most charitable answer? The Switch is selling gangbusters without needing a strong, steady flow of new Nintendo releases; the occasional Skyward Sword HD will suffice. Therefore, this allows Nintendo to take their time on their big new games, without any pressure to rush any of them to market. This will enable games like Breath of the Wild 2, Metroid Prime 4 and presumably the next mainline Super Mario game to live up to lofty expectations.

The more pessimistic answer? Nintendo is having development troubles that go beyond the influence of the pandemic. BotW came out 4.5 years ago. BotW2 is not a sequel where everything is going to need to be rebuilt from the ground up. So why have we only seen a tiny bit of the game, and why does it feel like a 2022 release is far from a sure thing? Why haven't there been any rumblings of a Mario Odyssey sequel? Retro hasn't released a game since 2014, presumably having at least one project canceled. The original Metroid Prime 4 was scrapped as well. Bayonetta 3 might be in development hell. Speaking of development hell, what about Pikmin 4? Are any/all of these things related?

The reality is likely as you've speculated, that they've gotten complacent with the success of the Switch, not unlike what happened following the massive success of the DS/Wii era, in which Nintendo made some very bad decisions. Low-effort, overpriced re-releases will sell well no matter what, so there's no incentive for Nintendo to do more or to do better. I don't know if the quality of their software has dropped, but complacency could factor into the drop in quantity, and certainly the quality of their hardware this generation is not up to their usual standards.

I don't feel like there's any cause for alarm, as the Switch is still selling like crazy, Nintendo is undoubtedly still feeling the effects of the pandemic, and we'll just need to wait and see how upcoming releases like Dread, BotW2 and others turn out. But I also don't think you are off-base. I think it's fair to wonder if something's up.
Posted: 08/24/21, 00:37:09  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 00:44:12
I feel similarly, but I think the reality is that Nintendo has always put out one or two stellar games each year, with a smattering of really solid B games to fill the gaps. Looking at this list, I can't really see any magical Before Time where Nintendo's output was any better than it is now. It's just that after crushing it for 40 years, they have such an amazing library that the trickle feels tiny in comparison.
Posted: 08/24/21, 01:22:05
@Secret_Tunnel Hmm. 2001 was pretty fire though.

Conker's Bad Fur Day - Nintendo 64
Golden Sun - Game Boy Advance
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons - Game Boy Color
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages - Game Boy Color
Luigi's Mansion - GameCube
Mario Party 3 - Nintendo 64
Paper Mario - Nintendo 64
Pikmin - GameCube
Super Smash Bros. Melee - GameCube
Wario Land 4 - Game Boy Advance
Posted: 08/24/21, 02:11:06
It's classic Nintendo to have a huge, amazing year, only to follow up with a good year, and then a couple of quiet years. They really want to hit a console hard at launch, and then ride out those evergreen titles as long as they can.

But yeah, their output the past couple years has been pretty disappointing from a company that used to have to support two platforms at the same time.

I'm also looking at that list of Nintendo games over the years, and man, the Wii U years are super depressing. It's also hard to count some of these games that Nintendo just happened to publish, but otherwise didn't really have much to do with.
Posted: 08/24/21, 02:42:10  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 02:47:41
@Zero
Granted, I know I'm in the minority regarding Luigi's Mansion 3! Perhaps I should've just left it out rather than assuming I'd get much agreement there, heh.

But to clarify something that @Secret_Tunnel touched on...I'd find the lower amount of games less of an issue if I hadn't been kind of let down by several of the more recent ones. Maybe I've just been pickier lately but the last first-party game I had no issues with and thought was great all-around was 2019's Mario Maker 2. And I'd find that fact somehow easier to swallow if third-party games like Dragon Quest XI, Bug Fables, Streets of Rage 4, DQ Builders 2, and Ace Attorney Chronicles weren't all games I'd enjoyed at least as much in the meantime.

It might just be one of those unlucky things where they've just happened to release a fair number of games that weren't to my tastes and I'm mixing that up with a slump. Which is why I'm really hoping Metroid Dread is excellent...! (granted, that's sorta-not-first-party either)

@TheBigG753

Nice thoughts. BotW2's dev time is really surprising for me. IF it makes it out in 2022, that'll be a whopping five years between games, the same amount of time between Link's Awakening and Ocarina of Time! Really quite a bit longer than I'd expect for a Majora's Mask-style asset-turnaround game (MM incidentally took under 2 years). I'm okay waiting for the superhits as long as we get some cool stuff in the meantime.

On that note, and to leave on an optimistic point, WarioWare is shaping up nicely, I'm psyched for Advance Wars, and Famicom Detective Club was quite enjoyable. I love these B-tier games as long as they're done well (and to be fair, Part-Time UFO fits that category as well if we're including budget digital titles), I just wish we had a few more of these between the megatons. This year's E3 was a good start for sure, bringing back Advance Wars and Wario.
Posted: 08/24/21, 05:03:45
TriforceBun said:
Granted, I know I'm in the minority regarding Luigi's Mansion 3! Perhaps I should've just left it out rather than assuming I'd get much agreement there, heh. [...]

It might just be one of those unlucky things where they've just happened to release a fair number of games that weren't to my tastes and I'm mixing that up with a slump.

I think that's what happened, because I'm in the same boat! Luigi's Mansion 3 only held my attention for a couple hours. Age of Calamity completely fell apart in the second half. Smash Ultimate is fantastic but I have no one to play it with, Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing aren't my thing, and Pokemon Sword and Shield were concerningly low-effort. Pretty much everything I've really enjoyed on my Switch for the past few years has been a re-release of some sort.

But Bowser's Fury was a masterpiece, Metroid Dread looks like it's exactly what we've been wanting for the past 20 years, and WarioWare and Advance Wars are exactly the kind of B games I've been waiting for. Breath of the Wild 2 and Metroid Prime 4 are still in development too. And Splatoon 3 and Mario + Rabbids will be great!
Posted: 08/24/21, 07:53:02  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 07:53:36
Di... did you just call Advance Wars a B game?!
Posted: 08/24/21, 15:18:23
Zero said:
Di... did you just call Advance Wars a B game?!
Guess I should clarify the terms...! I mean more from a development/marketing perspective. You know, the new Zelda and mainline Mario games would be "AAA," something like Animal Crossing might be regular A (well, before New Horizons made it a megahit), while things like Advance Wars are still kind of on the lower end of dev costs, especially considering the new game is mostly a remake.

Doesn't really always correspond to quality though, of course. Dual Strike is in my top 30 games ever, after all, and the first GBA one isn't far behind.
Posted: 08/24/21, 16:09:59
Nah, no need to apologise. I've had similar thoughts for years, but I try to focus on positives and not be negative. For me, I was hoping that Super Mario Odyssey and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were signalling the beginning of a new era of ambition amongst some younger Nintendo teams, but unfortunately it hasn't panned out. After 2017, it's just about been nothing but ports and safe 'n samey sequels. With that said, I don't single out Nintendo on these two fronts: they're an industry-wide problem.

Count me in the camp who thought that unifying their console and handheld into one would result in a steadier stream of new releases. I can't help but wonder if Nintendo still haven't gotten over the hurdles and struggles of more expensive HD development, especially their 3DS teams who have even less experience with it. If I remember rightly, I heard that Nintendo's current president used to be an accountant, which may partially explain why they've been so profit-focused with the Switch. I also recall hearing that Nintendo is the richest company in Japan, meaning they have the most cash-on-hand. It doesn't feel like Nintendo have done much to invest Switch profits back into game development.

There's nothing I can do to change the way things are, so I just try my best to enjoy what exists, Nintendo or otherwise. Overall, there's still been plenty of multiplayer games around for us to create our own fun experiences. I've actually liked the few wackier things Nintendo's done more recently, such as Nintendo Labo which was sadly unfairly ridiculed into oblivion (do people actually want innovation? Topic for another day I s'pose). And of course, I don't have to play new releases; after so many decades there are thousands of games out there worth playing across way too many systems, so I can still discover things new to me.

Zero said:
Well, first off, I can't really vibe with any list that puts Luigi's Mansion 3 in the miss side of things. Absolute hit to me.
Agreed. Luigi's Mansion 3 deserves better than to be in the same breath as Pokémon Sword 'n Shield.
Posted: 08/24/21, 18:05:57
@TriforceBun I was responding to secret_tunnel!

Mind you, I'd probably call a remake, as good as it will be, a B game. But Advance Wars as a whole is no B series! It's one of Nintendo's best!
Posted: 08/24/21, 21:05:10
@Zero

Haha, I usually use "B game" to refer to anything outside of Mario/Zelda/Metroid/Smash. Just smaller production values. The distinction doesn't matter too much though, I like Rhythm Heaven Fever more than any Metroid game.

@Mop it up

Great post. When we talk about how empty 2018 was, we always forget about Labo, which was extremely underrated. I think Nintendo was really banking on that being more successful than it was. On a similar note, Ring Fit Adventure is one of the Switch's best-selling games.

I made a thread about this after beating Bowser's Fury; I really do wonder if all the low-hanging game ideas have been picked. Nintendo could put out a new Punch-Out game next year that's just as charming as the Wii version, and I don't know that it would really phase me. I already have the Wii version! Is there really that much more to explore within the Punch-Out concept? They already nailed it.

And I think that's true for, well...

TriforceBun said:
While they're cooking up gaming's equivalent to St. Paul's Basilica, why not throw a few renaissance paintings our way to fill out the lineup? It's been years since we've seen Advance Wars, F-Zero, Star Fox, Rhythm Heaven, Band Bros, WaveRace, WarioWare, Kid Icarus, StarTropics, Sin & Punishment, Pilotwings, 1080, Wario Land, ExciteBike, or Punch-Out!!

...a lot of these. I'd love an HD F-Zero with a bunch of online modes. And I think Rhythm Heaven lends itself well to a new game with new songs once or twice a decade.

But Sin & Punishment? What could they add to a shmup from 2000 that would make it feel really fresh and mindblowing? Could they really top Star Successor? And there are already like seven Advance Wars games. Do we really need an eighth one in a world where Into the Breach has revolutionized the genre? Is there really any hope of Nintendo topping Star Fox 64 at this point? Could a new ExciteBike game get us excited after the insanity that is Excitebots?

And then there's Kid Icarus. Like I said in that other thread: Sakurai gets it. He created Kirby, made a few games, and then felt that the concept ran its course and tried to retire the character. Because he puts so much effort into his games that he leaves no stone unturned! There would be no point to a sequel to Kid Icarus Uprising, because that game is already so jam-packed with goodness that there's nothing left to squeeze out of that concept.

This is why I'm so pro-re-release. People were bummed that Nintendo remade Link's Awakening instead of putting out a new 2D Zelda game, but I feel like a new 2D Zelda game would be so derivative anyway that I'd prefer they not dilute the series. Just keep updating the classics!

As far as I'm concerned, Smash Ultimate could be the final Smash game. What hope does Nintendo have of topping it? Just keep re-releasing it with updated resolution and maybe some surprise bonus characters every ten years. It wouldn't feel right to get a new one that doesn't have Snake in it. My little heart couldn't take it, not again...
Posted: 08/24/21, 21:38:43  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 22:00:15
The pandemic is definitely a factor but I also think that they just don't feel as much of a need to release major games on a regular basis because of how well the Switch is doing. Especially since they have a steady stream of third party games coming out.

Nintendo seems to be taking the opportunity to appeal to some of their more niche audiences. We're getting Metroid, Advance Wars, and Warioware all in one year. This lets them keep some kind of first party output while also leaving room for third party games which normally get cast aside in favor of a Mario or Zelda game.

I feel it's important to note that Pokémon is kind of a different beast. It's a logistical nightmare nowadays to make a pokemon game and it has to come out at a specific time to tie into the other multimedia parts of the franchise. We've seen this kind of thing affect parts of the franchise in the past (a really good example is how in the Sinnoh era of the Anime there were 30 straight filler episodes in the middle of what was otherwise a well paced series because the writers were blatantly stalling because they didn't have the go ahead to move on to Black and White yet.)
Posted: 08/24/21, 21:57:34  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 22:22:39
While I have been feeling like the Switch hasn't given people who owned the Wii U a whole lot of original games, I don't think my purchasing habits have changed much compared to previous gens.

Nintendo's games are always a treat, but I've also always relied on third parties, VC and indies for most of my gaming on Nintendo platforms. Wii U might be the exception, because it got so much less support.

Sure, Pikmin 3 stood out to me on Wii U, and then again on Switch, because it's a fucking great game. But most of my gaming time has probably been spent on other stuff last year, like Streets of Rage 4 or Hades.

On the Wii, I relied a LOT on the VC, mostly to play obscure stuff I never touched before (in addition to more than a few Nintendo classics).

GameCube had great Nintendo games, but I probably spent as much time in SSX 3 as I did in F-Zero GX.

Anyway, I'm happy. I'd love more original games from Nintendo, but I already feel like I don't have enough times for all the games I want to check out, so it would be like complaining with my mouth full. This year, it's been fun to check out Miitopia, and I'm looking forward to Warioware, Metroid and Advance Wars.

It will have to do.
Posted: 08/24/21, 22:30:26  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 22:31:16
I feel like we've been having this conversation every couple of years since the launch of the Wii. Nintendo will have a good year or so, then drop off with only the occasional hit here and there. Throw in tons of spin offs and some hit-or-miss side series in the meantime. I used to be bitter about it, but I'm not playing too many games these days.

Zero said:
@Secret_Tunnel Hmm. 2001 was pretty fire though.

Conker's Bad Fur Day - Nintendo 64
Golden Sun - Game Boy Advance
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons - Game Boy Color
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages - Game Boy Color
Luigi's Mansion - GameCube
Mario Party 3 - Nintendo 64
Paper Mario - Nintendo 64
Pikmin - GameCube
Super Smash Bros. Melee - GameCube
Wario Land 4 - Game Boy Advance

2001 was a god-tier year for video games. Add in Metal Gear Solid 2, Final Fantasy X, Pokemon Stadium 2, Pokemon Crystal, Jak and Daxter, Halo, Sonic Adventure 2, Crazy Taxi 2, Mega Man X5, Devil May Cry, Advance Wars, Super Monkey Ball, Civilization 3, Ico. Crazy year.

Edit: God damn I just looked at 2003. Hell of a year. And I remember 2005 being great on the PS2. DMC3 and MGS3 came out that year, right?
Posted: 08/24/21, 23:02:14  - Edited by 
 on: 08/24/21, 23:05:29
Yeah, I've always been a little confused about the letter terms like "AAA" and "B" and such, feels like there's at least three distinct definitions for it based on how people use it: budget, popularity, and quality. I'm not always sure which one people mean and tend to avoid the terms meself. They can also be relative, as in terms of budget, I doubt that even Nintendo's biggest games like BotW, SMO, and Smash came anywhere close to costing as much as the likes of GTA V, Last of Us, etc.

@Secret_Tunnel Speaking just for myself, if I request sequels to these sorts of games, I don't usually just want the same thing again. Though in these examples, a lot of this stuff came out on much more primitive hardware, so there still could be interesting ways to refine them on modern machines. Won't know until someone tries. But I've also been okay with much more loose sequels, such as Nintendo sequels which retained some of the same gameplay themes but added in a few off-the-wall ideas, like several of their Zelda games have done including Zelda II. In fact, it might not seem like it at this point, but when it came out, Super Mario 64 was radically different and unique. It wasn't just Super Mario Bros. in 3D. I never really thought about, for example, how daring it was for the game to not even include the Super Mushroom! Now that's my kind of sequel.
Posted: 08/25/21, 00:15:25
@Hero_Of_Hyrule Wait, Advance Wars was 2001?! WHY WASN'T IT ON THE LIST I READ? IT GOT ROBBED AGAIN.
Posted: 08/25/21, 01:28:01
@Hero_Of_Hyrule

2001 was an amazing year. The PS2 alone had a nutso fall/holiday lineup with GTA3, MGS2, FFX, DMC, SH2, etc. and then the launches of the GameCube and Xbox just a few days apart felt like huge events. It's the year I really really got into games as opposed to being kinda sorta into games before that. Holiday 2001 felt like gaming's zenith in my lifetime in terms of how much everything felt like a big deal.

(GameCube Year 1 lineup from launch day to Metroid Prime is still my personal GOAT lineup, though )

Mop it up said:
Yeah, I've always been a little confused about the letter terms like "AAA" and "B" and such, feels like there's at least three distinct definitions for it based on how people use it: budget, popularity, and quality. I'm not always sure which one people mean and tend to avoid the terms meself. They can also be relative, as in terms of budget, I doubt that even Nintendo's biggest games like BotW, SMO, and Smash came anywhere close to costing as much as the likes of GTA V, Last of Us, etc.
It is annoying how these terms have changed over the years, often to fit a particular narrative. "AAA" used to be interchangeable with "killer app" and it was more of a label for games expected to be big hits, and usually it implied a high quality as well, but at some point it became a measurement of budget and now Hollywood terms like "tentpole" and "blockbuster" are used instead. It's a lot like how "casual games" used to refer to things like CoD and Madden until the Wii came out and now they were "core games" (because unlike Wii Sports and Wii Play these were serious games for serious gamers...)

@Zero

Wave Race Blue Storm as well! Solid, underrated launch game.
Posted: 08/25/21, 16:44:29
My vote for best gaming year is 1994. My favorite two games both came out that year (Super Metroid and Final Fantasy III), we got one of the best handheld games ever (Donkey Kong '94), perhaps the best Mega Man game (Mega Man X), with some other big hitters to round out the proceedings (Donkey Kong Country, Illusion of Gaia, Wild Guns, Demon's Crest, Wario Land, Mega Man V GB).
Posted: 08/25/21, 17:46:24
@Secret_Tunnel There are only 4 Advance Wars games in the West, and the last one released 13 years ago. (Don't you dare try to count Battalion Wars.)

YES, WE NEED ANOTHER ONE.
Posted: 08/25/21, 22:00:05  - Edited by 
 on: 08/25/21, 22:01:07
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