Project Cafe: Why I'm Worried

There's a lot of rumours floating around regarding Project Cafe, i.e. Nintendo's new home console. Now I'm not one to normally NOT be excited by rumours of a new console by the big N, but in this particular case, I can't feel anything but concern.

For starters, it seems as if Nintendo are reverting away from their 'we do it our way' mentality, by having a console that's not only fully HD, but possibly 3D compatible too. I realise that's a silly thing to say considering the 3DS, but that's a glasses free technology. Unless this supposed Wii2 does the same, then this is simply an additional system requirement that puts it in line with the competition, instead of surpassing it. It's one thing to say 'we can do it better', it's another to say 'we can do it differently', and the latter is what Nintendo are known for. This doesn't have that feel to it.

What set the Wii apart from everyone else was its ability to provide a different kind of experience, whether it be a first person shooter, a 3rd person platformer or a part title. It's two part control system was like nothing else, and it came as no surprise that Sony and Microsoft launched their own 'point and click' control systems ... okay I lie, Kinect isn't a point and click, unless you consider your finger as a clicker. Can't wait for the day I mockingly point my finger in the shape of a gun to play Gears of War. Oh sarcastic joy!

Enter my second concern. Supposedly, Nintendo are working on a controller that incorporates a touch screen into the pad itself. I'll be brutally honest here before I go any further. I love the DS. I love the 3DS. But I DO NOT WANT the same touch screen tech on my console controller. It doesn't belong there, it doesn't seem right there, and it doesn't make any sort of logical sense in terms of advancing video games. If it's a gimmick, something that most developers can ignore, than I can forgive the decision. But until such time that someone shows me the benefits of having to look away from the action to garner more info on what I'm doing, or having to move my hands away from a comfortable position to 'tap' at it ... see where I'm coming from?

Which makes me wonder. Has Nintendo hit the brick wall, so to speak? Have they finally run out of ideas now that the 3D barrier has been broken? Until such time as that can be taken forward into larger screens, is there anything left to do? Patching together a DS into a dual stick control pad seems like a haphazard approach to the next generation, in my non-professional opinion. And if you've stumbled into this article by chance through a google search for more clues ... sorry to annoy you with that thought, it just doesn't make sense to me why a touch screen would ever be a valuable solution. Motion control always made sense, but not this.

But don't get me wrong here. I love the idea of playing Zelda, Mario and Kirby within a full HD space, complete with 7.1 surround sound and further advancements in visual superiority. But not like this. Not with a console that seems to be trying too hard to distance itself from the Wii, when it should be embracing it. If anything, Nintendo should follow it's very own design methodology of its handheld history.

Every portable Nintendo has either made use of a trusted visual method or previous look and feel to get its point across, hence the constant sense of the familiar with each iteration. The DS as evolved four times over, but each one gives off that 'hey, remember me?' feel, and that's what makes it special. But every Nintendo console, since the SNES upgraded the NES, has tried to up the design so much that there's no consistency. From black, one joystick designs to purple boxes, Nintendo has taken the approach to be so far fetched and different, it's almost alienated itself from it own brand awareness. If it wasn't for the Nintendo logo and the familiar characters, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was designed by someone else.

I know what you're thinking, I'm good at that. Sega never followed that design with their consoles. Neither Atari, for the most part. The NES didn't exactly have any visual connections to the SNES, per se. And the PS3 has no relation to the PSOne Classic. I'll give you all that. But there are plenty of past moments where a design manifesto has carried over different designs, not just as a basic money saving opportunity, but within the purpose of maintaining the brand. Commodore's, original Atari's, most of those consoles looked similar to each other in most respects. These days, it's the controller that carries that on.

If anything, Nintendo should look to improve the console's output to future proof it. Look to blow out the visual architecture far beyond what the PS3 or Xbox 360 can do, force the two rivals' hands in that regard. But maintain the control scheme, keep the two piece remote style, just improve it further. Sony made that correct decision when choosing its controller for the PS3 (thank God, I'd hate to have to play God of War using a batarang.)

Whether all this talk and speculation (and no offence to IGN, but post proof or retract, douches!) is real or not, the fact we're all taking about it is proof positive that Nintendo will always be an important part of the industry. If anything, we look to them to revitalise our interests in an industry that can go stale quickly, which the 3DS has done with aplomb. I'm nervous. I'm concerned. I'm playing my 3DS anyway, so make me care, Ninty!


RLFloyd said...

Nintendo took a big risk with the Wii and it paid off for them. They helped build the casual games market into the monster of a thing it is today. But in doing that they pratically left behind their core fans. I think Nintendo must realise this, and I sincerely hope the rumour that they're going back to their roots is true.

I'm hoping for just three things:

1. HD. I think it's pretty inevitable, and a simple request. 99% sure there will be no 3D on this home console.

2. No more motion control by default, and especially not in Nintendo's core games. Nintendo's not going to abandon it completely, I think that's pretty obvious. But I've never enjoyed shaking my controller around like a hyperactive toddler. Waggle just doesn't belong in certain titles, and I don't want to play Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda by waving my controller around. Ever. I'm glad that it's looking like the controller design is going back to basics. As for the touch screen, while it may seem out of place to us right now, I trust that Nintendo have a few tricks up their sleeves.

3. Games: consistent releases of Nintendo's core games. More of them. New properties, and old properties that have been completely re-done. And… very importantly: lots and lots of solid third party titles that the other consoles get to enjoy while NIntendo usually misses out. Those are going to make or break the console this time around.

Also, everyone's screaming for online play support. While I don't really mind, it's definitely something that will decide whether the new console gets a lot of interest from third party developers. So, for that reason, I really, really, really hope it's there.

Mark 'Kartanym' Isaacson said...

I do agree, HD especially, but the thing I find funny about all this is the 'getting back to their roots' comments everyone keeps going on about. Is it me or was Nintendo ever even considered 'hardcore' in the first place? Certainly no where near as hardcore as, say, old school PC gaming or the classic arcade cabinets. Even old Playstation games to a degree. But I'd hesitate to ever consider Nintendo as hardcore. Classic maybe, old school Mario platformers and such, but never at the same level as Doom, Counterstrike or Everquest in terms of true hardcore.

Honestly, the only Nintendo franchise that would come close to the hardcore moniker would be Pokemon, what with so many different age groups attempting to catch them all.

So in terms of returning to their roots, have they ever left? The Mario franchise has carried on the same way it always has, just evolved further and further each year. Zelda's the same. Perhaps they have gone a little soft with some other franchises, all the Wii based games, but to be fair, everyone has evolved past one simple market share these days. Sony and Microsoft have their own fair share of party titles now, probably more so than the Wii itself.

I guess my point is, Nintendo shouldn't devolve in order to evolve. They've opened out the market to a new audience, there's no point in going backwards now just to bring in an old audience. That audience will only come back if the games are there, not the HD uber console itself.

RLFloyd said...

By "core fans" I didn't mean "hardcore" (which is a completely subjective term anyway). I meant the group of people that have been with Nintendo from the beginning and are huge fans of Nintendo's core games and properties such as Mario, Donkey Kong, Zelda and Metroid, etc. So, in that regard, yeah I think Nintendo has left those people behind. Especially with the motion controls on the Wii. I just want to play new iterations of those classic Nintendo games, as well as brand new properties by Nintendo, in pretty HD and without a controller I have to shake about like a lunatic. I don't consider that going backwards at all.

Mark 'Kartanym' Isaacson said...

I see what you mean. The hardcore term has been battered around a lot too lately, from what I've read. It's very out there in terms of a correct definition, however.

I don't feel Nintendo's left behind their fans, not as much as some say. If anything, they've delivered some of the best games of the Mario, DKC and Kirby franchises of late, but the lack of HD did hurt that's for sure. It's just unfortunate that some other franchises have been softened by Ninty's need to increase its user base, Mario Kart and Pilotwings (though solid fare) come to mind.

I still worry though that they're going to alienate themselves the same way the Gamecube did to both new and old fans. A good idea that just didn't work the way they hoped. They've been on a good run, but some runs don't last forever.

Oh, and to be honest, I kinda like the waggle. It added to DKC's charm. It isn't for everyone, though.

RLFloyd said...

Fair enough :) Yeah, there's a bunch of folks who love the motion controls, and that's fine (my mother is one of them, she really digs it). I'd just prefer it to be optional. It bugs me in DKC Returns; I just feel like it doesn't belong there, like it's tacked-on simply because it's a Wii game and they needed to put it in there. I dunno... I guess I just feel that if it's replacing something a simple button press can do, it rarely adds to the experience.

But anyway, here's hoping we both get what we want out of the next gen Nintendo console. :D

Mark 'Kartanym' Isaacson said...

I'm with you on that one :) If they can somehow create the perfect console, that'd be something else entirely. E3 can't come along quick enough.

On another note, thanks for the posting chat. It's good to know there's some readers out there.