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.

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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

How We Value Art

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the way we value art. We watch movies and play games, and then assess their value by assigning a number. It’s like saying, “Your work, effort, time and creative vision are worth this number. Next.”

Too often, we outright dismiss something without even taking the time to consider everything that went into making it. We’re all guilty of it – I know I certainly am.

Can you imagine pouring your heart, soul and mind into something, only to have some snot-nosed twerp or pretentious neckbeard on the internet blow it off – without even reading the actual criticism – because some reviewer gave it a less-than-stellar score?

Something just feels inherently unfair about judging creativity in this way.

I realize that a numerical score is what the lowest common denominator will best understand, but as a general standard, creators, artists and content producers deserve better than that. They deserve a real, honest critique.

Now, I understand that not everything – be it a book, song, movie, game, poem or whatever else – is truly created with expression/experience in mind. There are many, many works that are vapid and made only with the intent to cash in on a fad in the most lucrative way possible.

But that doesn’t mean our criticism has to be just as flat and one-dimensional.

Nintendoes What The Rest Don’t

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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

A Ramble On Writing

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Something interesting happened when Facebook went from being a closed community for college students, and opened its doors to literally everyone, exposing our undergrad-only environment to the world.

Suddenly, we weren’t just a bunch of college kids with a secret realm all to ourselves. Now, our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins (both young and old) were pouring into what had been an “underground haven” for university students around the country.

When it first happened, we were a little shocked. There was a general air of “What just happened?” as we all looked around with our mouths agape. We’d been found out, and now had to share this space with just about everyone we knew. And at first we didn’t know how to handle it. It was awkward. Everyone you knew suddenly had new insights into your life, and people began asking themselves, “Do I really want this person to see that? Is this post is going to confuse these people?” Continue reading

So, Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles…

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If you’re not an obsessive fanboy like I am, then you’ve probably not kept up with all the news surrounding the newest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. It’s been the target of a colossal amount of scrutiny for more than four years, largely because of the Hollywood names associated with it.

Michael Bay, best known for directing the recent slew of Transformers movies, has a poor reputation among the geek elite. When his name is mentioned, a collective groan can be heard across the internet, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror. And while this new TMNT movie is not directed by Bay, he is credited as a producer, as his company, Platinum Dunes, is producing the film. Continue reading