Graphics Over Play in Recent Years
Yes, I do remember Nintendo always emphasizing the graphics for every new system.Ã‚Â Now the Wii won’t have the graphics, but innovation.
As we say goodbye to the purple cube of wonder, we should also say goodbye to a tradition Nintendo has always pushed: great looking launch titles.
Showing off a new system’s graphics is a tradition stronger than eating apple pie or watching a baseball game. The sheer excitement of watching a console’s start-up screen gets the appetite ready, and when the palette of colors, range of shapes, and visual cues of a videogame system’s first titles bounce across the screen, you know it’s time to get excited again– finally, next-gen is here.
In the 16-bit generation, Mario’s shiny animated cape went head to head against Sonic’s “speed processing.” In the 32/64-bit generation, the spinning camera of a fully realized Mario world proved the N64 could visually control the television in ways that the pixilated Saturn and PlayStation could not. And at GameCube’s launch, Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader‘s movie-quality visuals excited the Nintendo fan base in ways that even their college roommates, parents, and sisters could understand. The game’s visuals mirrored a movie– and only GameCube could pull it off.
I still remember fondly my first memories with Rogue Leader. I first encountered the game in a one-on-one interview with the game’s producers a few months before the console’s release, and the sheer crowd of journalists watching me play predicted the excitement that real gamers would feel upon its release later that year.
The following Nintendojo write-up of the game I wrote was lengthy in words, but my take is the readers were more interested by screenshots. My language and the producer’s comments couldn’t compete with the artistic grace of the high-resolution screenshots that mimicked Tie Fighters and X-Wings in the classic chases of the Star Wars movies. I planned for the general summary of the piece to read as, “We Came, We Saw, We Played,” but to the readers of the site, it was most importantly, “We Saw.” The screenshots closed any arguments about GameCube’s inadequacies. Nintendo was bringing in the next-generation with a power-house console that would make Nintendo 64 feel like last year’s calculator.
Later this year, the next-generation race will again officially kick off, with PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii hitting streets around the world. Out of the first gamers buying these new consoles, only some will have high-definition televisions, but surely most will be looking for compelling graphics that make it easier to justify abandoning their former best mate– a PS2, Xbox, or GameCube. Controllers, online play, and audio features are all nice, but traditionally, over the past twenty years, gamers have moved up the console stairwell for graphics and processing speed. The new technology is proven to create new genres, emotions, and franchises that were impossible in previous cycles. I can remember staying up late when Rogue Leader was officially released, forced to keep playing so that my roommates could witness the battle between my X-Wing and forty different pilots of the Empire. With graphics, they cheered, yet my roommates said nothing about the GameCube’s quicker loading or its new analog stick.
Nintendo is blatantly clear that improved graphics ranks last on Wii’s features list. Instead, the company is concentrating on digital distribution, unique controls, power-efficiency, and creative content to “next-gen” the Nintendo brand. Indeed, GameCube is the last system where the company fought its hardest to win in the arms race of graphical prowess. After clearly offering more power than the original PlayStation with the Nintendo 64, GameCube showed once again that Nintendo could provide visual experiences above the competition.
It’s interesting that gamers have always judged console launches by graphical abilities. The graphics of initial launch titles are frequently used to predict the winner of a console war. Yet PlayStation One outsold the more powerful Nintendo 64 by whole numbers. And in the current generation, PlayStation 2, with games sometimes comparable to low-resolution slide shows, came out the clear winner. Further, while GameCube had a better visual launch than Xbox, Microsoft took the lead weeks later with the visual stunner of Halo. Looks can be deceiving when it comes to picking out a top-seller, and after all, good looks are often fleeting.
With the Wii launch a few months away, are gamers prepared to deny themselves the euphoria of next-gen graphics? What has for so many years been a reason to celebrate a new console release is not in the cards this year– at least if you’re purchasing Nintendo’s latest system. We took for granted how console launches were the equivalent of a new movie release: we’d wait in line for a ticket (console), buy our popcorn, and watch the new visual splendor.
Instead, skip the popcorn and the soda when you buy Wii. There won’t be much in terms of visuals to sit down and watch. While Wii’s new Metroid may offer improved visuals when compared to its GameCube counterparts; there’s clearly no visual jump like that of Super Mario World to Super Mario 64. For better or worse, the graphics have gone sour for Nintendo and the company’s focus has switched towards different innovations. Analysts say Nintendo will be more successful going forward, but let’s not forget how good that eye candy tasted on the first day of a console launch.