Soapbox features enable our individual writers to voice their own opinions on hot topics, opinions that may not necessarily be the voice of the site. Having argued a defence of March 31st yesterday, Kate decides to take on another hot topic: Why is Nintendo so focused on remaking old games?
Remember a few years ago, when every single movie was a remake or sequel of an ’80s classic? Remember how exhausting that was for people who had little nostalgia for that decade? Maybe you don’t – the past year has sort of made time turn into a beige sludge, so we’re not even sure we remember our postcode any more, but it was a rough time. Some of us wanted new movies. Innovation. Creativity. Instead, we got Ghostbusters (but women!), Blade Runner (but Deckard is old!), and Prometheus (but it completely misses the point of the Alien series!).
It’s okay, though – now all we get is terrible live-action remakes of Disney movies and ten thousand Marvel films and TV shows that you have to keep up with if you want any chance of understanding the nuances of the next one. Sigh. If this is the grumpy old man hill I’m going to die on, so be it. I want Hollywood to invest a billion dollars into something new.
All aboard the grumpy train, because we’re heading to Complainsville, population: me.
Progress is not made by looking back and trying to recreate our childhood through murky rose-coloured specs. God knows we’d all rather return to our relatively peaceful, uncomplicated childhoods, but they were peaceful and uncomplicated because we were kids, and didn’t notice that the world was still full of war, politics, and misery. Constantly reliving The Goonies ain’t gonna take us back to our blinkered kid years.
Likewise, the constant churn of sequels, remakes, and ports of old games is, for my money, getting a little tiring. (I know I recently argued for a Pullblox sequel, but I contain multitudes, okay?) A remake or sequel is usually an easy win for a publisher: the code base, outline, and story already exist, so it’s undoubtedly easier to depend on something already-made than build something from scratch. Of course, there are expectations to meet, and rarely does a sequel or remake actually meet them – there’s always some artistic or mechanical choice that infuriates and disappoints the fans, like the new Pokémon Diamond and Pearl chibis, but people will buy the games anyway, so what does it matter?
I’m going to get really grumpy old man here, but sometimes I feel like modern Nintendo is afraid of the really big risks. Lately – over the past few years, at least – Nintendo’s new IPs (intellectual properties – in short, new ideas, new series, and generally just totally new games) have revolved around showing off their latest tech, or experimenting with new tech.
I could be wrong here, but I think Ring Fit Adventure is the last first-party game from Nintendo that was actually all-new. Before that, it was ARMS; before that, Splatoon. There’s also Nintendo Labo, if you want to expand on the definition of “game”, and 1-2-Switch, which was little more than a fun tech demo for Switch’s underused HD rumble. All great games, but hardly all-timers (except Splatoon, which is already churning out sequels) and most of them involve the Joy-Cons in a big way, demonstrating what the Switch is capable of.
I know, I know. It’s boring to complain about Nintendo not giving me what I want. I did warn you I was getting into my grumpiest of old men states, and I promise I’ll be back to praising some obscure DS game in no time. But I don’t want to endlessly relive my childhood with polished-up remakes. I would prefer to be able to access the games of my past without paying £100 for a boxless copy of a GameCube game off eBay. I want technology to be designed to last longer than a single console generation. I don’t want to be asked to upgrade, and upgrade, and upgrade, before I’m ready to move on.
More than anything, I want new experiences, risks, leaps of faith that seem terrifying at first, but pay off in the end. Nintendo fans (myself included, hi) are notoriously hard to please, and there’s always the risk that a completely new series will draw ire like never before – Splatoon seemed weird at first, didn’t it? A shooter from Nintendo? No thanks – but we all know they’ll pull it off.
The moment when a business transitions from “throw things at the wall and see what sticks” to “this stuck – let’s make it over and over again, now we know it’ll always stick” is inevitable, because that’s how businesses work. They have investors and shareholders to please, and risks don’t bring in the money. Mario, Zelda, and the like get the big bucks, because they’ve proved themselves lucrative; smaller games like Pikmin get shelved and occasionally trotted out to please the cult followings. It just makes sense.
Asking for new, risky things without any idea of what we actually want, nor any guarantee that we’d actually buy it, is akin to asking Google to invest millions in a new line of nuclear-powered tricycles, or affordable moon travel. Sure, they’ve got the money, the talent, and the connections to do it – but why would they step outside of their comfort zone when the going is good?
We live in a world of extremes now, where most things are judged by the masses to be either excellent or awful, and everything in-between gets resigned to the halls of “meh” and forgotten forever. Why risk a “meh” when you can ensure an “excellent”? Even the worst mainline Zelda title will fail to sink below a 9/10 these days, and even if the test of time eventually deems it a bit of a dud – like Skyward Sword – it’ll still sell, because it’s a Zelda.
If the past few years are anything to go by, we can probably expect a new Nintendo idea sometime soonish, maybe when all the Zelda/Mario anniversary stuff has died down a little. But until then, it’s sequels and remakes, sequels and remakes, all the way to the bank. I’ll still buy them. Of course I will. I’m a sucker for Nintendo’s work, and I will point out that none of these sequels or remakes are ever bad. They’re just not new – and I don’t want to be stuck in a world where we get the same five games and movies, over and over, piped into our lives like a Ready Player One-flavoured gruel.
In the meantime, I’ll look to indies to get my fix of the weird and wonderful, and hope that someone sees fit to give them a billion-dollar budget some day. A girl can dream.