Spotted some neat stuff in the background of an episode of Frasier

frasier earthbound snes virtual boy sharp

I was watching this 1995-episode of Frasier as I did my daily walk on the treadmill when I noticed some familiar items in the background of this toy store.

The first image highlighted by the red rectangle on the left is a stack of Super NES systems. In the shot they’re only seen from from the side. I couldn’t find any good images of the box from its side, and I didn’t feel like digging out my old box, but if you look at the bottom of the lower image, you’ll see the side (at an angle), which matches up exactly to the box in the scene. It’s not a Super Set, which came bundled with Super Mario World, rather, it’s just the Control Set (no games included).

The second image is of the famously-large box for EarthBound (an expensive and hard-to-find SNES classic), which included a large player’s guide and some heinously stinky scratch-and-sniff cards (mine still smell). It’s turned slightly at an angle, showing its right side. You can see that it’s sitting atop another EarthBound box, which is lying face-down.

And lastly, the image on the right is the back of a Virtual Boy box. I’d recognize that hideous art anywhere, haha. That poor machine was only available at retail for seven months in the US before Nintendo pulled the plug. It’s kind of a weird system to collect games for, as only 22 were made between Japan and the US. Wario Land is actually a pretty fun game, though. It’s got a lot of dimensional depth and cool spritework. Had limitations (and other hindrances) not held it back, a full-color Wario Land would’ve been beautiful.

This episode of Frasier aired on December 19, just under a week before Christmas. EarthBound and the Virtual Boy had just been released that summer, so I imagine Nintendo was hoping for them to be big-ish sellers during the holiday season. Sadly, neither sold exceptionally well, although EarthBound was a sleeper hit at the time and wound up gaining a major cult following in the years that followed.

The Nintendo 64 was set to launch in September of ’96 in the US, so the SNES was very much at the end of its life cycle at this point. That explains much of EarthBound’s lack of initial success, but the Virtual Boy was a flop because it was just so poorly conceived in so many aspects, and its sales reflected that.

Anyway, I love spotting this kind of stuff in older television shows. 😀

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Pondering Nintendo ‘NX’ and backwards compatibility

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Backwards compatibility.

PlayStation 4 doesn’t have it.

Xbox One barely has it. As in, only recently, a select few “Xbox Preview members” were granted access, and only about 20 titles are currently supported.

Wii U is the only current-gen system that’s fully backwards compatible with all games in its predecessor’s library. But as with all backward compatible platforms, Wii U doesn’t run last-gen titles natively. You have to boot into an “emulation mode” that functions exactly like the old console. So when a Wii U boots into Wii mode, it operates like a Wii in every way, meaning you have no Wii U functionality. This means you can’t check your friends list, view the eShop, see current downloads, etc. That could change with NX.

Before Iwata’s untimely passing, he stated, “We do not intend [NX] to become a simple ‘replacement’ for Nintendo 3DS or Wii U.” A month later, Reggie said, “We’ve said publicly that we are already hard at work on our next home console.”

For these reasons, and contrary to popular thought, I do not believe NX will be a handheld/home console hybrid. Reggie’s emphatic statement about a home console and Iwata’s comment regarding 3DS lead me to believe that NX is a home console, and only a home console. But Iwata also stated NX would not be Wii U replacement, either. And that’s where my thoughts on backwards compatibility come in.

In a 2014 investors meeting, Iwata stated, “It will become important for us to accurately take advantage of what we have done with the Wii U architecture. It of course does not mean that we are going to use exactly the same architecture as Wii U, but we are going to create a system that can absorb the Wii U architecture adequately. When this happens, home consoles and handheld devices will no longer be completely different, and they will become like brothers in a family of systems.”

Now, I don’t know squat about hardware or programming or any of that stuff, but to me, that sounds as though NX could natively play Wii U games. There wouldn’t be a “Wii U mode” where you play outside the NX’s regular environment. Wii U games would be treated as regular games, played right there in the same interface/environment as NX games. All your menus, screens and functionality would be accessible without having to jump in and out of a clunky emulator mode. This way, instead of abandoning the platform once the new console is out, Nintendo can continue to fully support Wii U titles.

Think of it this way. You can upgrade or build a new computer with better parts. You can even upgrade your Windows OS, but essentially, at its core, it’s running on the same foundation. In turn, that means all the stuff you were able to run and play before still functions the same, but you’re also able to do new, better things that weren’t previously possible with your old hardware/software.

Considering Iwata’s comments regarding Nintendo’s hardware being “brothers” in an ecosystem, and the discussion of a new, cross-platform account system, it seems quite feasible that if you purchased digital versions of Wii U games, you could potentially download and play them again, free of charge, on your NX, based upon the fact that your account purchased them already. If NX plays Wii U games natively right out of the box, then there’s already a solid library of great games to play, in addition to NX launch titles and the promise of more to come.

But if that’s the case, you’ll need a Wii U GamePad, right? It’s possible Nintendo might sell GamePads separately, something they don’t do now, for people who didn’t buy into Wii U. Or, going a step further, it might be possible to use a 3DS for GamePad functionality. This is something Nintendo already has experience with, as it’s possible to use a 3DS as a controller for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.

With all of that said, I don’t believe the GamePad or any type of tablet-based controller will be what we see as the main, front-and-center controller for NX. I just believe the console will fully support that functionality for people who want to take advantage.

Beyond that, I wonder if Nintendo’s next handheld could potentially play Wii U titles. The 3DS is getting a little long in the tooth, and the New 3DS is nothing more than a stopgap (a stopgap I’m proud to own, thank you very much). While Nintendo won’t want to conflate talk of a new handheld with talk of NX, I have to imagine we’ll be hearing about new handheld hardware sooner rather than later.

Considering Wii U’s relative lack of power compared to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that a new handheld device could be just as powerful as Wii U. And with that new, cross-platform architecture and account system, and the fact I can’t see Nintendo abandoning the two-screen functionality in its handhelds, it really doesn’t seem that far-fetched to think you could play Wii U games on the go.

Last year I postulated what Nintendo’s next handheld might be like. Some of what I talked about doesn’t seem likely or relevant anymore, but some of it still seems just as pertinent. I could be talking out of my butt, although we won’t know for a while, but it all seems worth considering.

Remembering Iwata

Iwata-and-the-Bananas

At this time last week, I was – along with the rest of the gaming world – still reeling from the news that broke Sunday evening. Satoru Iwata had passed away.

Just as I was about to hop off the computer for the night, I checked my Twitter feed and saw the first bit of news trickling out. I had to reread the the headline three times just to make sure I’d seen it correctly. Upon clicking a couple of links, my heart sank as the news was repeatedly confirmed.

And then I cried.

I was heartbroken, and I think I always will be. Continue reading

If Netflix does follow through with a Zelda series, here’s what I’d like to see.

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Around two weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Netflix and Nintendo are purportedly working together to develop an original series based on The Legend of Zelda. The source, however, is named only as “a person familiar with the matter,” and neither company has responded to inquiries about the claim.

The “person familiar with the matter” claims this is to be a live-action series, and that Netflix – who’s still looking for writers – is describing the premise as “Game of Thrones for a family audience.”

If these claims are true, and Netflix is in talks with Nintendo to start a series based upon the Zelda franchise, there’s still no guarantee it will ever actually come to fruition. Nintendo is very protective of its properties, having been burned in the past by poor adaptations like the Super Mario Bros. movie and the Legend of Zelda cartoon, so I imagine Netflix would have to really impress Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto (among others) to move forward with this.

If this does end up happening, I have some ideas about how I’d like the series to be developed. Continue reading

Imagination and reading between the pixels.

With talk of Majora’s Mask getting an overhaul as it heads to Nintendo 3DS in February, I started thinking about Ocarina of Time and its debut on the handheld.

Ocarina of Time 3D was a beautiful remaster of a classic, but there was always something special about its original incarnation. I’d venture to say kids today don’t quite understand the imagination conjured by our games back in the ’90s and before, but with the ridiculous popularity of Minecraft and its exceptionally rudimentary aesthetics, maybe they do. Maybe kids today do understand where I’m coming from.

When I was five, I got my first Game Boy, which came bundled with Link’s Awakening. It was my first experience with a Zelda game, and it thoroughly confounded me.

It was the first game that really required me to think, because it wasn’t a linear game set in two dimensions, based on jumping around and going from left to right. Continue reading

Nintendoes What The Rest Don’t

iwata mario luigi

Yesterday, Nintendo put out a hilarious video in collaboration with the guys at Mega64, officially detailing some of the company’s E3 plans. It featured fan favorite and president of Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime. I’ll include the video at the bottom.

This morning, I woke up to another video from Nintendo, this time, in the form of a special Nintendo Direct, featuring details about the upcoming Wii U title, Mario Kart 8. It, too, was a very whimsical presentation. Continue reading

Dreaming Beyond Nintendo 3DS

satoru iwata

Earlier in the week, a rumor popped up on NeoGAF regarding Nintendo’s next piece of hardware. Now, you never know who the people commenting on NeoGAF actually are, so anybody can say anything, but this massive videogame forum has a history of being the source of leaks and rumors that were later seen true.

The commenter said:

“Almost certainly off-topic, but I don’t quite want to make a new thread, because it would go to shit quickly. Also, I’d need to post a source, and I don’t really want to get people in trouble. Anyway, Nintendo apparently started working on a new platform in early 2013 and has already selected a vendor for the SoC [system on a chip] after talking to several potential candidates. The SoC might be based on an existing design, but will be changed to fit Nintendo’s requirements. I assume it’s for their next handheld, though.”

I seriously doubt Nintendo is preparing to throw in the towel on Wii U just yet, although a humbling financial report just came out today that has President and CEO Satoru Iwata considering a new business model. In a news conference this morning, Iwata stated, “The way people use their time, their lifestyles, who they are — have changed. If we stay in one place, we will become outdated.” Continue reading