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Opinion: Nintendo Is On The Verge Of A Renaissance

In the last four or so generations of video gaming that I’ve had the good fortune of playing through in my twenty-five years on this green Earth, the one console that forever has a special place in my heart is the Nintendo 64. To me, it was everything a gamer could’ve wanted: cutting edge graphics, some of gaming’s greatest first-party titles, and an almost unrivaled level of quality third-party support. But somewhere along the way, I think the Big N took a wrong turn.

Nintendo consoles have never been about cutting-edge technology, but it always made up for those shortcomings with some great games. However, the recent years have not only seen Nintendo consoles fall even further behind in the hardware race, there has been slow haemorraging of third-party support, leaving the big N with gimmicky, under-powered consoles with fewer great games to play on them. Sure there’s still the 3DS to fall back on, but even that is no more than a short-term solution to what’s been a long-term issue.

There is still the occasional great third-party game every now and again, but the days where we were blessed with a broader range of Nintendo-exclusives like Perfect Dark and Conker’s Bad Fur Day have been replaced by a seemingly endless onslaught of Mario games (and its countless spin-offs). I’m probably exaggerating a bit there, but you have to admit it’s hard to name a memorable Nintendo franchise beyond Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon these days. Regardless of how you look at Nintendo’s recent history, however, I believe that there are inklings of life yet in the big N, and it all stems from its recent Zelda-centric E3 showcase.

Nintendo took a huge gamble by bringing just the Zelda demo to this year’s E3 event, but it paid off very handsomely as Breath of the Wild turned out to be one of E3’s finest showings. But looking between the lines, that spectacular Breath of the Wild showcase didn’t just offer up a glimpse into the future of the Zelda series, it gave some perspective into how Nintendo are putting the pieces in place for a long-awaited renaissance.

Nintendo appears to have realized that in order to push itself back to the forefront of video gaming, it had to go against its own conventions. The groundwork was laid when the NX was announced, and rumors started coming out that it was more powerful than the PlayStation 4. Of course, there’s no point in a powerful console if there are no games to play on it, and that’s where Breath of the Wild comes in.

For all the critical acclaim that’s rightfully heaped upon each Zelda title that comes out, I couldn’t help but feel that the franchise has been slowly turning into gaming’s own version of the iPhone. The iPhone has lost ground to its Android rivals in recent years due to Apple’s insistence on polishing existing iPhone features rather than taking big technological leaps, and this same thing could also be said of the Zelda series.

Don’t get me wrong, almost every Zelda game is among my all-time favorites and as good as each and every title has been, I can’t help but get that “same-ish” feeling every time I play a new Zelda (and Mario) title these days – and that’s definitely a result of Nintendo’s stubborn adherence to the decades old formula. While I wouldn’t fault Nintendo for going back to the same formula after the positive reception of Skyward Sword, the fact that the company opted to change things up for Breath of the Wild indicates that Nintendo appears to have finally gotten some perspective on the present-day gaming landscape, and that it can’t keep doing the same trick forever.

When it was announced that Breath of the Wild will be the first open-world Zelda game, there was a risk that fans may not take to such a drastic departure from the series’ usual formula. Thankfully, Nintendo didn’t let that deter it. When I (and many others) finally laid eyes on that Breath of the Wild E3 demo, not only did I get that awed feeling everyone gets at when they see a new Zelda game for the first time, but that aforementioned “same-ish” feeling was replaced by something different: optimism.

One can’t help but feel Nintendo being galvanized from seeing its gamble on Breath of the Wild being rewarded, and this could potentially have a carry-on effect on how the company approaches all its future first-party titles. It’s too early to say of course, but with legendary game creator Shigeru Miyamoto commenting that next year’s E3 could see a new kind of Mario game, and what looks to be some interesting gameplay changes to the upcoming Pokemon Sun and Moon, it definitely seems like change is happening.

The positive reception to Nintendo’s E3 showcase has also put more significance on an interesting comment from Nintendo of America chief Reggie Fils-Aime, who claimed that the NX is about “content” and not “teraflops”. If this proves to be more than a soundbite, then Fil-Aimes’ statement indicates that the big N is intent on reopening its doors to all that important third-party support that has been sorely lacking since the Wii days. With Capcom, Electronic Arts, and the big daddy of video game publishers, Take-Two, keeping a keen eye on the NX, it looks like my colleague’s prediction that NX could have a stellar launch line-up may indeed come true.

Whether all these big steps and risks will ultimately pay off remains to be seen, but there’s seems to be an air of optimism surrounding Nintendo’s future that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. There’s still a long way to go for Nintendo yet, but one thing is for sure, I’m definitely getting my hands on the NX, and it won’t be just to play Breath Of The Wild.

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