The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword file select theme leaked
November 9, 2011

Continuing the barrage of Zelda news, it has come to my attention that the Main Menu/File Select/Fairy Fountain (yadda, yadda, yadda) theme that will be featured in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been leaked, and it’s positively beautiful.

As many of you undoubtedly know, Skyward Sword’s soundtrack is largely orchestrated – a first for the series – and we’ll be hoping that the rest of the score lives up to this cracker. Interestingly, it’s the only piece of music in the game actually composed by Koji Kondo – the man famed for his involvement in the series’ magical tunes. Give it a listen here.

 – Rory


The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword features RPG-like upgrade system
July 23, 2011

After the release of Twilight Princess in 2006, famed videogame designer and Pope of Nintendo – Shigeru Miyamoto – famously said that it would be the last Zelda of its kind. At a time when people were unsure of the seemingly ‘new’ direction Nintendo were heading in, and of the consequent audiences they were attracting, many took the quote as a doomsday declaration for the series, speculating that Hyrule would be forever consigned to the history books, or to crappy spin-offs and peripheral pack-ins like Link’s Crossbow Training.

Other, more level-headed and less melodramatic fans took it to mean something altogether more positive in that Miyamoto was recognising something that Zelda fans had recognised years ago – Zelda needed to change. Wind Waker was, visually, a pleasant change from the usual greens and browns of Hyrule, but structurally it remained virtually identical to its predecessors. Skyward Sword  has promised to offer a somewhat different approach to overworld exploration and progression, with a central hub-world, somewhat akin to its DS brethren – Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks.

Those games were certainly a departure from traditional Zelda fare, but the design choices inherent in these pocket-sized outings were likely made in the name of file size conservation and, primarily, tailoring the titles to the handheld experience. With Skyward Sword already offering a teen drama storyline, an orchestrated soundtrack and a brand new villain, what else does a console Zelda have to do to shake things up? Voice acting? Blood and gore? Multiplayer?

Nope, nuh-uh and not a chance; what Zelda has apparently been missing these past couple of years is an RPG-esque equipment upgrading system. In a recent hands-on demo with Gamespot, Bill Trinen of Nintendo of America let slip a few details about a leveling-up system that the game features.

They’ve built an entire upgrade system into the game. So for example, right now you can see that Link has his traditional shield, but he actually will get a lot of different shields in the game.

He will start off with a very basic one, and then as you fight enemies, you will recover kind of these treasures or artifacts that you can then use as resources to upgrade your items. And you can do that with your shield, you can do that with the beetle, and some of the other items that you have where you’re able to kind of combine your collection of rupees and your collection of resources and improve the items that you have.

Whether or not one of those ‘other items’ is Link’s sword is both unknown and doubtful. Additionally, whether this will be a somewhat pointless pursuit or an integral point of the game remains to be seen, but this, coupled with all the other innovations that Skyward Sword is bringing to the table keeps it at the tippety-top of gamers’ most anticipated releases of 2011.

– Rory

Nintendo ‘willing to invest’ to secure third-party support
July 7, 2011

It’s not a new concept to the industry; Microsoft reportedly paid $50 million for exclusive Grand Theft Auto IV DLC and were even accused of money-hatting Namco in order to secure the exclusivity of Tales of Vesperia, but paying for third-party content is not something that Nintendo has openly admitted to. Similarly, Jack Tretton – President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America – has, in the past, proudly proclaimed that Sony ‘don’t buy exclusivity’, whilst also taking a side swipe at Nintendo, who, in the eyes of Tretton, have a tendency to rely too heavily on first-party production.

While Tretton is world-renowned for talking from his arse, I do believe that particular comment holds some merit. It’s unlikely that Nintendo took his words to heart, but it’s no secret that criticism can be a compelling catalyst for creativity, and Nintendo’s relationships with third-parties have elicited criticisms abound. To what extent you believe their words or not aside, Nintendo have, since the Wii U’s reveal, been promising much-improved third-party support, suggesting they’re willing to learn from, and, more importantly, act upon, their shortcomings.

At a recent shareholders meeting, Satoru Iwata was questioned on the Wii’s frequent software droughts, and if Nintendo had plans in place to prevent a similar situation with the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS:

We think it very important to make several hits from the third-party software publishers within the first year from the release of the platform, while offering Nintendo software seamlessly. In order to achieve this goal, we have shared information about the new hardware with the software publishers earlier than we did previously and built a cooperative structure, and we are developing several titles in collaboration with these publishers. I cannot talk in detail about the names of the titles, or with which publishers we are currently collaborating, because we have not announced this information yet, but what we are aiming for with the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U is, platforms which have much more software and a wider variety of software than the former Nintendo DS or Wii. Therefore, we are thinking of creating an environment where software from other companies will become hits.

Nintendo claims to have shared the hardware specs of the Wii U earlier than usual, but developers such as Bethesda have indicated that they ‘know nothing’ about its capabilities. To me, this is worrying. Huge, Western developers like Bethesda are of the precise ilk that Nintendo should be trying to get on board. Bethesda, BioWare, Infinity Ward, Rockstar, Valve, Crytek – names that core gamers recognise and respect, names that will sell, and names that will promote system sales. I don’t work for Nintendo, I have absolutely zero inside knowledge or sources at Nintendo, and I have never claimed to. In that sense, I also have absolutely no idea who Nintendo is courting and who they’re not, but if a studio as big as Bethesda has been left in the dark, then it doesn’t fill me with confidence.

After the initial excitement and positivity coming from select studios, promises of core IPs like Assassin’s Creed and Battlefield heading to the Wii U were made by developers Ubisoft and EA, respectively, but their relationship with Nintendo was already fairly strong. So, what about those who are seemingly less inclined to develop for Nintendo’s latest console? What kind of Nincentive (sorry) will be offered to them? Money, of course!

Please understand that Nintendo is prepared to invest in order to make this a reality.

Problem solved? We shall see…

 – Rory


The state of play – Wii U and the ‘core’ gamer
June 30, 2011

We’ve heard it time and time again from Miyamoto: how a game looks should be secondary to what new ideas, innovations and surprises it brings with it, and whilst I’m inclined to agree with his omniscient words, I am only human, and as such, I find myself hopelessly drawn towards shiny things, and, like the dudebro that I am, that includes graphics. A massive part of my infatuation with Nintendo lies in their seemingly unique philosophy of videogame design – substance over style.

If you’ve been following what Nintendo has to say about the Wii U recently, you’ll have noticed that there’s been a distinct lack of discussion about its graphical capabilities, as was the case with the Wii. The implications of this may present cause for concern to some, but to me, this is just Nintendo’s way of taking the emphasis off presentation, and onto innovation and ideas, as has always been the Nintendo way. This quote from Animal Crossing producer Katsuya Eguchi summarises their viewpoint:

“Rather than compare specs with Microsoft and Sony, I’d like for people to view this as a different type of machine altogether. For me personally, what’s most important is what makes Wii U original, and that’s the controller.”

If the Wii taught me anything, it’s that a game doesn’t require modern vertex shaders, heaps of normal mapping and per-pixel rendering to provide an entertaining experience. Why, then, do I find myself snooping around the Internet at night, restlessly hounding down the faintest whiffs of articles pertaining to the graphical capabilities of the Wii U? Curiosity can account for much of it, but there’s simply no denying that advanced hardware can lead to more immersive, more enjoyable experiences when – and only when – it’s twinned with solid design.

First, lets tone down our expectations. Nintendo have stated that they’re trying to strike the balance between sophisticated hardware and affordability. As with the Wii and the GameCube before it, they want the Wii U to be the most financially viable console on the market in order to broaden appeal. Therefore, the Wii U was never going to be an absolute powerhouse.

Of course, Nintendo had to step up to the mark and provide a console that at least matched current gen offerings, – anything less would’ve been, candidly, embarrassing. Improvements in hardware are essential and, alone, they are usually enough to constitute the boundary between generations, but is there really a necessity to go above and beyond what’s already on the market? Looking ahead to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720, Nintendo will no doubt want to remain competitive to a degree in order to receive acceptable-looking ports from those platforms – something that the Wii kind of missed out on – but to put it simply, who cares?

Let me start by saying that I don’t hugely care for the whole casual vs. core debate; it’s full of generalised, ignorant, inaccurate and arbitrary views, categorisations and opinions which generally amount to nothing. However, I do think there is a clear divide between the two, and it’s at least worth talking about.

Despite what the ubernerds at NeoGAF might have you believe, the average ‘core’ gamer isn’t going to notice if Call of Duty Wii U runs at 720p whilst the Xbox version only runs at 600p. Nintendo fanboys aren’t going to care if Arkham City has better lighting effects on Wii U than its current-gen counterparts – they’ll be playing Zelda and Mario. Parents and kids sure as hell aren’t going to care about how many GFLOPS this thing can push. The only demographic that will care has already been lost by Nintendo, potentially forever – the dudebros.

The dudebros will not see the Wii U as a viable upgrade for two reasons.

  • It has Wii in the name.

  • It has a slightly unconventional controller.

Sadly, it’s as simple as that. Your average FIFA nut will not play with this controller. End of story. Besides, all their chums are already on Xbox LIVE. Do you really think they’re going to trade friend codes? Because they’re not.

“But, but, but…the developers!” I hear you cry, and cry you might – third party support is something that may prove to be hugely important to the success of the Wii U, so they ought to keep them happy; righting the wrongs of previous generations is a priority. Reggie talked about ‘ticking boxes’ for developers – powerful hardware and 1080p output are two of those boxes, but I personally feel there are more important shortcomings that Nintendo ought to tackle, namely a solid, robust yet flexible Online infrastructure.

Besides, third party developers seem perfectly happy with the system’s horespower. Japanese developers commented on how the Zelda HD demo simply isn’t possible on current consoles, whilst EA don’t even seem to know how powerful it is, and don’t seem to care; as far as they’re concerned, if it can run Battlefield 3, it’s powerful enough.

So, why do I care? Frankly, I enjoy a visual feast. Whilst I’m of the mindset that how a game makes you feel is more important than how nice it looks, I can’t help but want both – style and substance. Above all though, a hidden, illogical part of me just wants to see Nintendo really make a balls-to-the-wall machine with cutting edge specs, a robust Online system and heaps of third party support and I really, really don’t know why.

I am a multi-console owner. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this generation was due to the fact that I had two complementing systems – the Wii and the Xbox 360 – that offered two totally different experiences. In a utopian world, Nintendo could offer me the best of both into one package, but I just know they can’t – so why would I want two consoles which offer almost identical experiences? As long as the leap to Wii U is in line with current technological advancement, I don’t really care.

After re-reading this multiple times, it’s nowhere near as concise or succinct as I’d hoped, so I think it’s time to wrap up.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Nintendo improving their game in the fields of hardware and Online networking is by any means a bad thing; it’s something that I very much welcome. However, I don’t feel that graphical prowess should ever be the main draw for a Nintendo console, and to me, it feels like all this talk of upping third party support is a somewhat futile effort to pander to a crowd which will never be satisfied by anything that Nintendo does.

 – Rory

Nintendo of Europe announces pre-order bundle for Xenoblade Chronicles
June 28, 2011

Yup, still Europe only. Sorry, North American gamers – you might want to skip over this post altogether. European gamers will be able to get their hands on Monolith’s Xenoblade Chronicles on September 2nd, 2011. What’s more, if you pre-order the special bundle, you’ll also receive a limited edition Classic Controller Pro in red, three signed posters and a reversible sleeve with alternate cover art as voted for by fans.

 – Rory

Will GoldenEye be a Wii U launch title?
June 28, 2011

Mary Tuck – Senior Litigation Counsel for Activision – has been caught in the act of registering some new web domain names for the publishing giant. The domains suggest that some sort of follow up to the Wii/Nintendo DS FPS GoldenEye is in the works, and whilst no platforms were mentioned, Nintendo’s next home console seems a shoo-in.

Developed by British studio Eurocom, 2010’s GoldenEye was itself a remake of the N64 classic. A robust Online mode, pointer controls and a reworked narrative – including Daniel Craig as Bond – were enough to squeeze some life out of the old dog, but could the developers really put out a third game based on the same source content?

Should GoldenEye be reloaded, or simply have its magazines discarded onto the cold, hard ground?

 – Rory

Nikkei – Wii successor features ‘portable game controller’ with six inch touchscreen and ‘camera functions’
June 3, 2011

And so it begins.

This is big news. In fact, it’s such big news that I’m not even afraid to start this post with a conjunction. The Mario Bros. plumbing company must have been busy over the last couple of weeks; despite there only being about 4 days until Nintendo’s E3 Keynote, there hasn’t been a single, notable leak. Until now.

Nikkei – a Japanese publication centred on technology, business and finance – has let slip a few details about the upcoming Project Café. Interestingly, it’s all stuff we’ve heard before, which consequently seems to lend credit to a few other rumours. The publication informed us of Nintendo DSi and Nintendo 3DS features and specifications before their official unveilings, and were spot on both times.

The report claims that the Wii’s successor will feature a controller that doubles as a portable console. The translation is somewhat hazy – it’s unlikely that the controller will be truly portable as this would alienate and potentially eat into the 3DS’ market share. Additionally, the controller would then require its own CPU and other innards, resulting in an insultingly expensive peripheral. The controller will feature a six inch touch panel for ‘tablet-like controls’, a camera and a built-in rechargeable battery.

No other comments were made in relation to the controller’s form-factor, or interestingly, the console itself, which seems to suggest that the emphasis is once again on the innovative controller.

Nintendo will show off the console on Tuesday, June 7th at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles.

– Rory

Aonuma – new Zelda title to be shown at E3
June 1, 2011

Eiji Aonuma – known for his extensive involvement in the Zelda series – has said that a new title in the flagship franchise will be announced next week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Calm down, calm down. It’s not going to be a console game; Nintendo surely wouldn’t show off a new console Zelda game before Skyward Sword even hits shelves, so I think we can confidently rule out a Zelda HD reveal for Project Café. Apparently, the game is related to the 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, and as such, it’s likely to be some sort of collection or ROM dump.

We heard inklings of a new Zelda game when Nintendo renewed their copyright for ‘Zelda Universe’ – many were hoping for a Zelda MMO, but it turned out to be the unofficial title of the franchise’s web portal.

A Link to the Past 3Danyone?

Source via GoNintendo

Who we want to see in Super Smash Bros. Strife
May 25, 2011

No, fear not; you have not accidentally wandered into the list-littered minefield of Kotaku, fortunately for you. However, it is with a certain sense of disappointment and guilt that I present to you, my readers, a list of sorts. Inevitably, a new Smash Bros. game attracts a ridiculous amount of hype, speculation and sheer fanboy-founded fervour, and we couldn’t help but get the train rolling – in no particular order, here is our character wishlist for the rumoured Super Smash Bros. Strife.

Super Smash Bros. is the industry’s best example of pure, unadulterated fan service, and it all starts with the characters. The game works because it’s a miraculous montage of some of the world’s most recognised faces, mixed with a myriad of lesser-known, but still just-as-loved characters, all united by one common interest – kicking the living daylights out of each other. So, who, other than the 35-man-roster from Brawl, would we like to see occupy all that extra disc space? Remember, variety is the spice of life.

Don’t be fooled by his nerdy demeanour; armed with a positively badass katana beam, a badass hairdo and a pair of badass shades, this Otaku badass means business. Badass business. From the brilliant mind of Suda 51, Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes fame is our number one contender. With an awesome art style, Travis would not only look right at home in the frantic free-for-all that is Super Smash Bros., but he’d also give those other pesky swordsmen a run for their money as well.

Did we mention he’s a total badass? We did? Oh. Okay then.

Another one that fits right into the badass category is Jack from MadWorld. Look at him. He’s smoking a cigarette. In black and white. That’s not only cool in France, people; it’s cool everywhere. Do you know where else it’d be cool? In Super Smash Bros. He’s got a chainsaw strapped to his arm. Even Fred Durst wouldn’t mess with this geezer in fear of having his arse skinned raw. Again, this Capcom creation boasts a unique art style that would add a bit of visual splendour to proceedings – if any more was needed – while also bringing something to the table that the series arguably lacks. Brutality.

Did we mention he’s got a chainsaw strapped to his arm? We did? Oh. Okay then.

She’s a Goddess, she’s a wolf and she’s from Okami. Enough said. What? You want more? Tough crowd. Well then, apart from being another aesthetically gorgeous piece from that artistic bunch at Capcom, Amaterasu is at once a gentle and caring soul, a benevolent Goddess and, most importantly, a fearsome warrior. With her inclusion, she would present the opportunity for a genuinely beautiful and creative stage, and some of the best music ever burned to disc.

Did we mention she’s a Goddess? We did? Oh. Okay then.

Another one for fans of brilliant videogame music; Blob, from THQ’s 2008 quirky Wii platformer de Blob, may, at first glance, appear to simply be a blob of paint. Look deeper though, and you’ll find tha-. Okay, no, he really is just a conscious, sentient blob of mastic composition, but he’s still a pretty awesome chap. He has the ability to change the physical appearance – namely, the colour – of anything he touches, which could make for some pretty cool-looking effects.

Did we mention he’s a blob of paint? We did? Well then, I appear to be suffering from some form of anterograde amnesia.

Another character from Capcom, another character from an AAA game – that is, Aesthetically and Artistically Awesome. With this little guy, the clue is in the name. Would you really want to battle against Mega Man? Really? For those of you who are out of the loop, ‘Mega’ falls somewhere between ‘Super’ and ‘Uber’ in the Official Adjectives Rankings 2011. Do you understand what that means? It means Mega Man is more of a badass than Superman. If that isn’t reason enough, then frankly, you’re batshit insane.

That about wraps it up for characters. In hindsight, I guess I’m just a sucker for some quality art design, but after all, Super Smash Bros. is definitely a clash of wildly varying styles, so shaking it up a bit further surely can’t hurt.

And no, we don’t want Cloud fucking Strife.

– Rory

Sonic Generations confirmed for Nintendo 3DS™
May 25, 2011

It’s official – the rumoured portable version of SEGA’s latest Sonic outing is live and kicking. Sonic Generations will be heading to the Nintendo 3DS system before the end of the year, according to the latest issue of Nintendo Power. The ‘anniversary event 20 years in the making’ promises to provide the perfect blend of old-school and nu-skool Sonic platforming. It’s unclear whether the 3DS version will be akin to its console counterparts or some kind of spin-off, but we’re willing to bet it’s the former.

The dude with the ‘tude will be dashing onto your screens in 3D at the end of the year.

– Rory