Yearning For The Past

Nintendo has made a habit of banking on nostalgia. For the past few years, nearly every single one of their games is firmly rooted in the past. Mario has been refining Super Mario Bros 3 since the New series launched on Wii and Super Smash Bros. is basically a celebration of everything old.

Yoshi’s Woolly World is, essentially, a touched up version of the classic Yoshi’s Island on SNES. Instead of falling head over heals, though, I find myself indifferent. Every chance I get to play the game, I end up bored after 8 levels.

That isn’t to say the game is bad; far from it, actually. It’s a well crafted and hyper polished adventure, but it lacks creativity. It lacks soul; there is no passion and the game coasts along at a lethargic pace.

Is that a bad thing? Honestly, I cannot answer that. For some, the deliberate speed of the game is what makes it enjoyable. My sister finds the game very captivating, despite being easy for her. She loves that nothing is thrown at the player that requires dexterity or mastery of the game mechanics.

As for me, I only seem to find entertainment in the graphics. The game is a sight to behold. Nintendo have truly gotten a grasp on HD graphics and I’m curious to see what the NX might bring to the table. That doesn’t dismiss how humdrum Woolly World is.

It sure is nice looking, though.

All of the cool concepts you remember from Island are in this game, minus Baby Mario. While a lot of people would call that a plus, it’s a huge detractor in my book. Baby Mario was annoying, sure, but he served a purpose; it gave you a goal.

You didn’t want Baby Mario crying because it would drive you up the wall. With him not being a factor, you tend to recklessly fly through the game with no concern for death. Yoshi changes from cautious guardian to senseless traveler.

It really doesn’t help that each boss encounter is phoned in. I haven’t seen a collection of enemies so meaningless in some time, but not a single boss battle in Woolly World is even remotely interesting. They all follow the well established 3-hit formula to a tee. Even the bosses with a cool theme (a shy guy frozen in ice) end up being boring slogs.

Mostly, I end up feeling sad. If I don’t like a game, I tend to get angry and a little rash, but Woolly World just makes me depressed. I want to enjoy it’s cute exterior and finely tuned mechanics, but I can’t sustain interest.

Level 5-6, titled “Up Shuttlethread Pass“, is what really brought this full circle. It’s theme song is immediately nostalgic and evocative while being entirely new. It sounds almost like it is being played on an old phonograph player; I basically picture the entire scene in black and white.

It makes me yearn for my youth. I remember powering up Yoshi’s Island for the first time in 1st grade, sitting in front of my 27-inch RCA CRT and being blown away at how different the game was from Super Mario World.

What was with SNES and sports themed enemies?

There once was a time when Nintendo was willing to take risks with their franchises. Nintendo EAD could have easily churned out another average Mario game and called it a day, but they decided to focus on his new sidekick.

In turn, the entire dynamic of the game changed. No longer was everything based on physicality and secrets; Yoshi had the ability to stock ammo and explore his world without a time limit.

Not wanting to entirely ditch power-ups, Nintendo created a whole new way to experience Mario’s various abilities; transformations. Yoshi was able to become a helicopter and a mole and see a completely unique aspect of the levels.

In addition to that, there were also puzzles involving rolling blocks, hidden coins, soft dirt platforms and fuzzy seeds that intoxicated Yoshi (somehow). It was unlike any game ever released at that point. It’s art style was also wonderfully realized and brought to life with imaginative music.

For a child 7 years old, it was fundamentally like looking into a new world. It grabbed me with it’s cartoony style and kept me hooked with it’s innovation. It expanded my mind to different gameplay; I now didn’t expect the same thing from Mario with each iteration.

Sadly, it seems Nintendo never fully realized what made Yoshi’s Island so special. Each new game has tried mixing up the visual style instead of expanding the mechanics. The closest we’ve ever gotten to a truly progressive sequel was Yoshi’s Island DS. That game worked because it kept the original foundation and tinkered with some changes.

The game feels weird on Wii U. I can’t understand the screens side by side.

Every other title, from the disappointing Yoshi’s Story right up to Yoshi’s New Island, have gone backwards in terms of progression. Instead of trying to find a new way for Yoshi to interact with his surroundings, Nintendo has relied on gimmicks. In New Island, Yoshi has giant eggs; in Woolly World, everything is made of yarn, etc.

Maybe the whole problem with the Yoshi series is that our youth keeps reminding us of how great the idea can be. When given something so different and so well done, it’s hard to ever repeat that success.

Mario has maintained popularity over the years for being so boldly different with each game, up until the New series started coming along. Now, Nintendo could only inject new life into the franchise by handing it over to the players (Super Mario Maker is awesome).

Could Yoshi be saved by the same gamble? I don’t believe so. Yoshi’s Island felt handcrafted and thought-out; not a single level repeats a mechanic to the same extent. Each new element may come out of nowhere, but doesn’t appear out of place stacked next to Yoshi’s repertoire of moves. Level design wasn’t the only aspect that made Yoshi’s Island, unlike how a Mario game can function solely from it’s arenas.

Whatever the cause, I just cannot enjoy Yoshi’s Woolly World. I may love my amiibos to death, but the game doesn’t do anything for me. Well, it does make me sad, but that’s not the best thing to say about a game.


On Nintendo and “Artificial Scarcity”

When the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006, you were lucky if you got one. The system was one of the fastest selling consoles, at the time, and ended up being the biggest success Nintendo has had with a home console. For years after release, the Wii was barely seen at stores.

Many a parent confronted this situation in 2006.

Flash forward to the present and we’re seeing a similar pattern. Amiibos are scarce and the “New” 3DS is basically a myth to most people. Along with that, Nintendo has produced a scant few copies of their “limited edition” releases that have enraged fans who were unable to be at a computer when they were announced.

While I love Nintendo, I honestly cannot defend these types of situations. The fact that small plastic figures are selling on eBay for close to $100 is just ludicrous. Nintendo is sitting on a literal gold mine (as shown by the sales numbers) and is, essentially, throwing away the chance for extra profit.

This seems to be a trend with the company. Certain items are available for a short time and then vanish. Four Swords for the DSi was given away in a free promotion and then left the DSi Shop (it did resurface for four days, but it happened three years later).

There are even special events that Nintendo runs for PokeMon that end up with impossible to catch creatures being absent from the digital worlds. Unless you were lucky enough to know to visit the Tokyo PokeMon center (or if you were even alive), you basically  missed out on Celebi and Arceus.

Nintendo of America seems to be the worst of the bunch. With both Mario Kart 8 and Hyrule Warriors, the only collector’s editions in the entire United States were at Nintendo World in New York City. While I was able to get the Mario Kart 8 bundle, I missed out completely on Hyrule Warriors.

Stupid Sigy; This doesn’t actually exist.

I got to New York City at 7 am. The store opens at 8 am. My friend and I waited for an entire hour in line, only to find out at precisely 8 that they had sold out around 4 am. Why this information wasn’t posted on Twitter or Facebook or even mentioned to people lining up is beyond me.

What else really stings is that Nintendo reportedly only made around 300-500 copies of the collector’s edition. I suppose if I really want it, I could shell out the $1,400 that the item typically runs on eBay, but now we’re talking stupidity.

Factor in another Wii U title, Smash Bros, and you’ll be surprised to know that the Gamecube controller adapter (which only works with Smash, mind you) is virtually impossible to find. You can get plenty of the newer Gamecube controllers, but good luck using them with anything Smash Bros 4 related.

This brings me to the current Majora’s Mask situation. With the re-release of the game on 3DS, Nintendo issued a collector’s edition (thankfully away from their one US based store) and a limited “New” 3DS. Do you think anyone who has a day job was able to get these?

I somehow got my hands on the console. In a fervor with me in the bathroom, I ended up rushing through my “business” and jumping on my computer in seconds. While I think it was insane what I did, the fact that Nintendo is playing these kinds of games with retailers is just beyond unreasonable.

This is the only Triforce I need!

Nintendo, listen to me: You have products that people want. Fans of your games and creations are willing to pay good money to get “special” editions and collectibles. Instead of allowing scalpers to make a killing, why not release a higher quantity that matches demand?

Better yet, why not announce what your future plans are? Instead of saying things are going well on the sales front, how about you give your consumers a concrete idea for finding these supposed rare items. Don’t give us an excuse based on trade limitations.

While I can’t get behind Nintendo’s artificial scarcity, I will at least say that each item is pretty special. Maybe it is because of how exceptionally rare these items are, but I cherish my “New” 3DS and am proud to say that I was able to get that stupid blue shell from Mario Kart 8. I just wish a few more people had the chance to do so.

You’ve got nothing on a double Link assault!