Maybe our old friend deserves a second look.
Some say Nintendo is on their way out. Others refuse to give up the fight and hang on to the hope that (even in light of their recent financial struggles) the company will turn it around. While I’m still on the fence, I find myself leaning toward the former scenario. While I NEVER see Nintendo getting out of the video game business (as it’s not like they can just go back to making playing cards), recently I have questioned what their future will look like in the years to come. With speculation that the handheld market may become the primary focus of their business model moving forward, many (myself included) have already driven the proverbial nail in the coffin of the Wii U.
But was that premature? Is it possible that I jumped to conclusions in singing the failed consoles swan song?
I’ll say this: I’m certainly willing to give the house that Mario built the benefit of the doubt. In fact, it was Mario himself that gave me pause recently. Up ‘till now, I’ve been convinced that the Wii U is nothing more than a half-step sideways from its hugely popular predecessor, and ultimately the albatross that drug Nintendo down into the doldrums they currently find themselves in. However, the new Mario Kart actually made me do a double take after seeing several screen shots from the upcoming game. While Nintendo could have just churned out yet another racer with the famous plumbers face on the box, it would appear they wanted to make a point with this edition. In light of many already writing off the console as yesterday’s news, what we’re seeing out of Mario Kart 8 clearly makes the statement that; “Hey! Don’t underestimate us. We’re Nintendo and we got some next-gen chops too!” The current iteration goes beyond simply smoothing out polygons and retexturing the previous year’s karts. From the motion blur to the depth of the tracks, I thought I was looking at a cell-shaded racer for the Xbox One for a second!
So with such an impressive showing by the little console that could, claims of the imminent demise of Nintendo’s current home system have been greatly exaggerated right?
Unfortunately not. In fact, I’m probably more convinced now than ever before. The images were originally featured in an article on Kotaku, followed by a brief rundown after a hands-on preview they received. While I had assumed as much, the accompanying trailer did nothing but galvanize my original conclusion; Mario Kart doesn’t need the Wii U to do what it does best. While the level of polish is a nice addition, the core gameplay machines would feel right at home on the Nintendo 3DS (a sentiment the author also echoes). However, this is something I’ve been preaching since the days of the last Mario Kart. We’ve already seen how well it performs on the DS with previous versions, and besides lacking the larger screen size of a TV, it perfectly encapsulates everything that Mario Kart is supposed to be. Making the jump to its big brother the Wii U SHOULD result in some unique elements being added in. So far, there isn’t a thing about the latest outing that justifies it not being yet another handheld release. This speaks to the initial core problems of the Wii U itself, as it was never the leap forward that it needed to be in order to survive this shark tank (surrounded by other Great Whites like the PS4 and Xbox One).
Everybody loves a comeback story; me as much as anyone. Nintendo has been the corner stone of my gaming enjoyment for years, but alas, even a name like Mario simply can’t bare the weight of carrying this console on his back alone. As we see title after lack-luster title fail to generate real interest in the Wii U and its touchscreen gamepad; revamping a go-to hit like Mario Kart just simply isn’t enough to make head way.
Like it or not, the current Wii’s prospects of success get more bleak with each new release. I think it’s time we accept a future where our favorite Nintendo franchises live in the palms of our hands. Literally.