By Guy Rainey / March 5th, 2013
This should have been written after E3 2011, after the unveiling of the Wii U. Or after the lackluster E3 2012 conference. Or just before the system launched. But soon after the official unveiling of the PS4, this seems just as appropriate as ever. So, let’s dive into my ideas of how the Wii U can survive and possibly thrive this generation.
Taking the Japanese Market
First and foremost, BE THE ONLY PLACE TO GET JAPANESE GAMES! Last generation was pretty rough for people who like the Japanese gaming aesthetic. Very few really good JRPGs were released for consoles last generation (at least compared to the PS2 era), with most releases ending up being mediocre sequels. Do I even need to name names?
I get why that was the case. The dominant console in Japan was not a console at all; it was the PSP, a handheld that was desperately trying to be the PS2. Since the PSP had a very limited market outside of Japan, most of the truly great Japanese games of the generation were stuck on a device that no one outside of Japan owned. I have my own personal hypotheses about why the PSP managed to gain moderate momentum in Japan while utterly failing elsewhere, but this isn’t about the PSP. It’s about the Wii U.
Japan seems to be technologically a generation behind the rest of the world when it comes to video games, at least from my perspective. Japan struggled to remain relevant in the high-risk, high-reward structure of the PS3 and 360 era, as there were simply not enough gamers in Japan to make that model work and not enough fans outside of Japan to make up Japanese losses. Now that development budgets seem to have peaked with PS3 and 360 hardware and software experience is higher, this is the best possible time for Nintendo to take advantage of Japanese development, and Nintendo needs to lead the way.
To start with, more Mario RPGs. Who doesn’t love Mario RPGs? Starting all the way back with Super Mario RPG, Nintendo has consistently released terrific Mario RPGs. Even the “bad” ones, Super Paper Mario and Paper Mario: Sticker Star, are still great games, well worth your time. So, Nintendo should push that advantage going forward. I’ve got a list of Mario-themed RPGs that I’d like to see on the Wii U:
Super Mario RPG 2
With Mistwalker in the Nintendo stable, this should definitely get made. The first Super Mario RPG was headed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and was a great start to the Mario RPG legacy. Should it be a turn-based game like the original, or a real-time game like The Last Story? Whatever Sakaguchi thinks is more appropriate, but I’d actually like to see one of each. Mario is versatile enough to handle both well, I think.
Actually, this one is more or less an inevitability, as every console since the N64 has had one. I think, though, I want to see Intelligent Systems go back to a traditional RPG setup for the Wii U one. Not that Super Paper Mario and Sticker Star aren’t great in their own right, but Sticker Star especially lost the trademark sense of humor. Party members are a must, as a silent protagonist can’t bring all the humor.
Mario and Luigi
Yes, I know that Dream Team is coming to the 3DS, but I actually have mixed feelings about it, as I’m not sure that 3D models are the best choice for this series. (Granted, though, the models look quite good.) For a Wii U iteration, I’d like to see Alpha Dream do an HD 2D sprite-based adventure. So long as they continue the tradition of excellent slapstick humor, this should be a stellar game.
But that’s not all. I also have ideas for three new IPs in the same vein:
A Wario RPG
Wario is an oddly terrific character. He’s Mario turned inside out. Think how twistedly awesome a Wario RPG could be! Think about this: Intelligent Systems bringing Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door mechanics to Wario.
Nintendo Princesses RPG
Thanks to ~TheJayPhenrix for this piece of art
Has everyone seen this? The first time I saw this, I thought, “Nintendo should make a game like this!” Okay, not exactly like this (seems a little too risqué for a Nintendo game), but all three of these women are extremely capable in their own right. And Peach got her own platformer. She deserves her own RPG, too.
On a similar note, how much money would this game make?
Thanks to ~TheJayPhenrix for this piece of art
And next, Nintendo needs to leverage their JRPG back catalog for sequels and spinoffs. Let me name some games that Nintendo has the rights to:
Baten Kaitos (They did publish the second one, so…)
The Last Story
Glory of Heracles
And these are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. I’m sure some of you out there could name even more. Who wouldn’t want to see EarthBound 4? Or Baiten Kaitos 3? Or… You get the idea. The only problem game I see on this list would actually be the most well known: Pokémon. Just making another Pokémon on the Wii U would probably be disastrous, as the story is nonexistent, and the mechanics are best served in short bursts. So, Pokémon should probably have a radical reinvention (as a spinoff) for the Wii U.
And one idea that isn’t said here but that I’d like to see is a Fire Emblem spinoff as a more traditional RPG. While Intelligent Systems has done a great job mixing things up with every release, I still think there’s room for more expansion in the franchise.
Oh, and while I’m on it, Nintendo should buy the rights to the games that Microsoft clearly has no interest in continuing. I’m talking about Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, though arguably, Microsoft doesn’t give a second glance at all the Rare IPs that they have piled up. Microsoft published the two Mistwalker games as an attempt to break into the Japanese market. That didn’t happen, and it’s likely Microsoft has no intention of trying to capture the Japanese market again. So, why not get some cash for games that aren’t going to mean anything going forward? Nintendo could actually make money on ports of and sequels to those games.
So that’s Nintendo, but they also should commission ports of good third-party JRPGs from the last generation, like the Tales games. Shouldn’t be too much work for the developers, and Nintendo gets more Japanese games. And you know, on that note, there’s a certain game that has been in development for six years now. Nintendo should grab that game before it comes out on the PS3. After all, the PS3 will probably be dead before this game is finished.
But while all that would be a great boon to JRPG fans, there’s one other genre at which Japan has previously excelled but this generation has been rather lacking in: the Japanese action game. And it seems that Nintendo actually has this one covered, though I think they should do more.
We all know that two Platinum games are coming exclusively from Nintendo: The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2. That’s great, but Nintendo should really push this partnership by getting ports of games from the last generation and exclusive sequels going forward. After all, the stylish third-person shooter Vanquish would stand out more on Nintendo’s system (where shooters are probably going to be few and far between) than on the PS3 and 360.
And there’s one other developer who seems to really like Nintendo: the legendary Suda51 and his studio Grasshopper Manufacture. After all, the Wii got not one, but two exclusive games from them. Nintendo should form a publishing partnership with them, as Suda51 games always attract attention. Will they all be successful? Probably not. Will they gain buzz that leads back to Nintendo, as the games are all Nintendo-exclusive? Yeah! And while we’re at it, Nintendo should get a couple of exclusive FromSoftware games. FromSoftware has a really good track record, and Nintendo could use a challenging action RPG and a solid mech game in their library.
More than ever, though, Nintendo needs new IPs. Not that their old IPs are bad, but now more than ever, the games industry is stagnant. The PS4’s press conference showed an alarming trend: very few new games and a lot of sequels, especially from third parties. If Nintendo can be counted on to consistently deliver new, exciting products, gamers tired of the same old, same old on Microsoft and Sony platforms may give the Wii U a second look. Not that I don’t want Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, but if I only play those games this generation, I’m going to be very disappointed.