If you have been following us for any length of time, you have likely caught on that we here at Heavy Blog are an opinionated bunch. Yes, we obviously have many many feelings when it comes to all sorts of music-related topics, but unsurprisingly this also carries itself well over into the realms of other forms of art, media, culture, sports, and, yes, politics. Hence how we have wound up with this, The Void Screameth, where on the internet, nobody can hear you scream, but we can at least pound the keyboard until something legible comes out and hope that one or two other people read it!
Nintendo Is Dropping the Ball with Legend of Zelda’s 35th Anniversary and It Makes Me Sad
Around my birthday and Christmas every year, I become very nostalgic for Nintendo. I grew up with the NES and N64, and I’ve had every generation of Nintendo console since the N64 (Yes, I was one of the 25 people who bought a Wii U). While I love basically every Nintendo franchise, the real reason I stick with Nintendo is for the Legend of Zelda. I have loved every generation of Zelda thoroughly. Ocarina of Time will always be my absolute favorite game ever (even if N64 controls have aged like milk during a Phoenix summer). I even liked Skyward Sword and appreciate what The Adventures of Link did for the franchise. So I’m a Zelda nerd through and through.
As a result, I was thoroughly pained by Nintendo’s plans, or really a lack thereof, for the 35th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda. They announced a Skyward Sword HD update; a handheld Game & Watch tablet to play the original NES games; and a teaser trailer for the sequel to Breath of the Wild. And….nothing else. Compare that to what they did for Mario’s 35th anniversary. Nintendo released a new Paper Mario game; a compilation of the first 3 Mario 3D platformers for the Switch; multiple old school titles on NES and SNES Online on the Switch; a Game & Watch handheld tablet with multiple games; an AR Mario Kart game; a special edition clothing line with UNIQLO; and numerous toys including an brand new Lego theme (of which I own almost all of them). I mean, what in the hell gives?
Yes, I am very aware that Mario is Nintendo and vice versa. But it would be hard to argue that the Legend of Zelda isn’t almost as important to Nintendo as Mario. If you look at sales by franchise, the only things between Zelda and Mario are Pokemon and Wii Sports. It’s still a significant number, but I would argue that’s because Zelda titles come out far less frequently than Mario titles. Zelda titles come out about every 3-4 years whereas Mario titles come out 3-4 times a year. Regardless, being one of the top franchises for the exemplar of video games means a whole lot. Every single Zelda title gets a lot of hype, and they are consistently the top selling titles on every Nintendo console generation. That means something, and it’s worth celebrating.
I’m definitely not saying you have to roll out all the good stuff. But maybe put out something with a little more fanfare. Maybe Skyward Sword does need an HD remaster, but you’ve put out remasters of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess pretty recently. It seems to me that adapting those for the Switch shouldn’t be that difficult. Neither Ocarina of Time nor Majora’s Mask, two of the most important Zelda games ever, have ever gotten a home console full remaster, so maybe it’s time. These just seem like easy decisions to make, and I can’t imagine they would really cost that much to do. Especially when you consider that dudes my age who grew up with a Nintendo at home likely own a Switch and would absolutely buy whatever you put out.
However, this all leads to another beef I have…
Nintendo, Why Won’t You Give Us Another Wii-Style Virtual Console?
While the previous complaint is pretty specific to me, this one is the truly mind-boggling error in my mind. There has been no explanation whatsoever about why there is no Virtual Console on the Switch. Yes, there is a cool NES and SNES Online streaming service you can access for the measly price of $20 a year for online access on the Switch, and that’s a great idea. The big problem is the fact that both services are extremely limited in what you can play. The most acclaimed games are there, like your Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country, etc., and that’s also great. But there’s not a single original Mega Man game. No Final Fantasy either. In fact, many non-Nintendo classic franchises that started on either the NES or SNES platforms are absent. In their place are games that not only aren’t classics but games nobody’s heard of and had no demand for. It’s crazy.
How many of these games have you even heard of?
Yes, it’s incredibly inexpensive, especially in comparison to the other platforms’ online prices and what you get with them. And yes, the Virtual Console required you to actually purchase each game individually whereas this only requires an annual fee for streaming access. I cannot stress enough how good that is, but it’s so limiting. I don’t have data to objectively back me up, but everybody with half an idea about Nintendo knows that Nintendo gamers are Nintendo gamers for life. When the new system comes out, we all go get it and we buy whatever they’re selling. You don’t have to do much to get people like us to buy in. But at some point when we feel like we’re not getting the bang for our buck we’ll stop buying.
Nintendo really doesn’t have to try very hard, and there are some pretty easy decisions to be made that could solve this problem. For instance, why no Game Boy or N64 streaming service? Those were equally essential parts of the original Virtual Console, and it’s pretty much the only way you can play old games like Super Mario Land or Star Fox 64. N64 games might prove challenging for streaming (no idea if that’s true, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt), but what’s the real technological difference between streaming NES and Game Boy games? Seems like it should be easier to do than NES games.
As I’ve played with this thought in my head, there is a certain academic idea that comes to mind. Video games are the newest form of art media. They are the latest version of storytelling and culture we have come up with. They have had a major impact on our culture and economy, and they need to be preserved for future generations. This is a matter of history to me. We need to make sure these games and titles are available to people going into perpetuity because they are the basis of modern gaming. How could you explain the latest “Metroidvania” title if you don’t have access to Metroid or Castlevania titles? It simply won’t mean anything.
With all the resources the company has available, Nintendo should have a studio or internal department devoted to preserving these games and making them available. They obviously already have all of the technology they need to make this happen, and they have access to the games themselves due to the licensing contracts they basically forced third party producers to sign in order to publish on their platform. How much would it really cost to hire junior developers and programmers to adapt these games for newer platform publishing? I have to think it wouldn’t be a lot, and it’s so easily done, too. There’s still a lot of demand for playing the old titles or Nintendo wouldn’t do it at all. That demand is only going to grow as more and more people are introduced to gaming. Nintendo rarely drops the ball (except for the Virtual Boy) that it seems like a surprising misstep to ignore their own past.