Today I’m going to talk about Nintendo’s big news from E3. As it turns out, they’re making exactly the kind of move I said they needed to make. To wit, they’ve announced Hyrule Warriors, a new Zelda game not in the same vein as all other Legend of Zelda games to date. But will the team they picked to spearhead the project do it right? Take a look at the trailer after the jump, and then I’ll weigh in.
Hyrule Warriors is being made in conjunction with Team Ninja. You know, the group who is responsible for over-sexualizing and demeaning Samus in Metroid: Other M. That being said, Nintendo seems to be keeping a tighter rein on Team Ninja’s horses this time around.
So, why is this game important and will it help Nintendo dig themselves out of the hole they so amazingly put themselves in last year?
Hyrule Warriors is a hack-and-slash game, and it is directly based on the Dynasty Warriors model. For those who have never played DW, you control a general who is able to fight in battle while you simultaneously direct the flow of your troops. The series has been around forever, and the controls (at least as far as I’ve ever had my hands on them) are exceptionally organic and free-flowing.
This is extremely important in the development of the game as it gives Nintendo a place to start out from. A place of strength and confidence. A place where they can focus on the story, character arcs and (amazingly) multiplayer aspect of the game.
But why is all this important I hear you ask? It’s showing that Nintendo is willing to innovate and change in areas other than their hardware.
Hardware is Nintendo’s bread and butter, this much is true. They are part of gaming’s Holy Trinity. But what they sorely lack is a standing arrangement with the third-parties in regards to their television-based consoles and, as is the case with the Wii-U, the ones they do have are already on other consoles that allow the game to look and play better. (See Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Batman Arkham Origins.)
I’m excited to see Nintendo attempting to branch off in a new direction. But at the same time, one of their flagship franchises is now in the hands of Team Ninja. I fear they’re hardly the best choice.
If you’re one of the unlucky few who have made the misfortune of playing Other M, you’ll know why I’m nervous about this. Prior to the release of Other M, Samus had always been shown to a strong, motivated, self-sufficient individual who could also display more traditionally feminine qualities. She did this without compromising her status as a hero. This is a tightrope walk in most video games and other media, but Nintendo had always gotten it right.
However, with Other M, Team Ninja threw all that away. Suddenly, the once independent Samus was completely incapable of acting on her own. Instead, she was constantly forced to check in with her male love-interest CO. Never mind that she’d never cared what a CO thought before. Team Ninja just expected us to believe Samus was so smitten she’d lost the ability to think for herself, I guess? Give me a break. This is the kind of nonsense that sets our community back decades every time it happens.
So we have this potential land mine on deck for the release of this game, depending on the story presented.
You might be thinking I’m being overly critical of Team Ninja. After all, hasn’t Zelda always been a stereotypical damsel in distress, the same kind I’m accusing them of turning Samus into? Shouldn’t Nintendo get their share of derision too?
Well, yes and no. Zelda may have started out rather one-note, but as the series progressed into Ocarina of Time, Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword, we began to see a Zelda who was every bit Link’s equal and fully in command of her kingdom, her subjects and, most importantly, her mind. She was more than just a princess in name, she ruled and Hyrule damn well knew it. And now, in Hyrule Warriors, she’s not a princess, she’s a full-fledged queen.
The question in my mind is this: how will Team Ninja manage it this time? Hyrule is filled with powerful women who embrace their strength and their feminine qualities: Ruto, Saria, Zelda, Naburoo etc. And I’m not convinced we won’t see a botching of it like last time.
But for the sake of argument, let’s assume things turn out well. Will this new direction save Nintendo?
Maybe. If it’s marketed right and pushed on the community in an effective manner.
Beyond just getting people who own a Wii-U to buy Hyrule Warriors, Nintendo is going to need to convince people who don’t own the console yet that this game is reason enough to get one. With their sales flagging, there is sure to be some scrambling in the marketing department at Nintendo. Hopefully they’re beginning to realize that in the current climate, their name alone isn’t a licence to print money anymore.
There needs to be a campaign that allows potential customers to see the game hands on. It needs to be in every demo-station in every EBGames.
They need to start getting into social media a little quicker. They need to be tweeting up a storm and releasing their own gameplay videos and dev interviews, rather than allowing the press to do their job with a half-hearted effort. Especially with release season on the rise.
They need to be doing what Ubisoft does. They involve the community. They organize community events. They make web games for heavens sakes. Nintendo can do this. They can create an iPhone app a la Kenway’s Fleet from AC4 that starts to build momentum and excitement.
Granted, the game has the Zelda name going for it. This is going to all but guarantee it sells a lot of copies to begin with. But sales of Hyrule Warriors will not determine the future success of the Wii-U singlehandedly.
Nintendo needs to take steps to revamp their other franchises. They need to lease them out, in a controlled manner, to other third party companies. Imagine what Rockstar could do with Metroid or StarFox, or Ubisoft with Mario. Nintendo needs a new injection of ideas into their tired old warhorses. This, in my opinion, is going to be the only thing that allows Nintendo to continue making consoles.
Without this? After this generation I am perfectly comfortable saying that Nintendo will not be making systems beyond portables and they will be a third-party developer for the other two major players: Sony and Microsoft.
That, after almost 30 years of success? That is an insult to those who worked hard to build the company, and it’s sad for gamers.
But hey, if it means I can finally get a game that features my favourite characters without having to deal with the same tired formula over and over? I’m willing to let the market do to Nintendo what it should: devour it.
Special thanks to Game Trailers for having the best trailer online for this purpose.