(The following article is an opinion of what the NX could possibly be. It is in no way, shape or form intended to be an official release article. Please sit back and enjoy. Once you are finished reading, feel free to add your comments below and tell us what you would possibly like to see out of Nintendo’s next console :-))
The rumors have been rampant concerning Nintendo’s upcoming NX game console. According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the house that Mario built is sending out NX development kits to third party publishers. In terms of the actual hardware itself, the NX is as elusive as Atlantis in the sense that a lot has been mentioned in terms of patents, yet no one has truly concrete details on how the final model will function. While this leaves us with more questions than answers, based on what we know combined with the hints that pockets of the web have left us, I thought it would be fun to simply discuss the possibilities that the future may hold. So let us take a walk through history and see the alternate universe that materializes before us.
Rumor 1: NX is a console and a portable in one system
Think about the possibilities! It’s a supercharged game console and a slick handheld in one. This rumor does not shock the senses. Shigeryu Miyamoto has always been a fan of dual screen gaming and the idea of bringing the handheld and console experience together. Evidence of this can be found throughout Nintendo’s history. Many of the original Game & Watch handheld LCDs were dual screen and that was back in the early to mid-1980s. The arcade version of Punch Out also featured a dual screen design. Fast-forward to the 1990s and you will see that the Game Boy was on fire. While it was not a dual screen device itself, an add-on cartridge for the Super Nintendo called Super Game Boy was released so people who owned the Game Boy could play their games both on the television and on the road. During the N64 era, Pokemon that you collected in Pokemon Red, Blue and Yellow could be attached to a transfer pack so you can battle your Pocket Monsters in Pokemon Stadium.
While these various technologies and game play elements added to the link between console and handheld, we never truly got to see just how well the two could function together as a single until the Game Boy Advance and Game Cube were released. While it was certainly not a popular option at the time, through the use of a GBA to Game Cube link cable, players could unlock certain features and extra content for owning both versions of the game (example: gaining experience and unlocking certain items in games like Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).
Despite the unlockable content in some games, three games that truly took advantage of the whole dual screen usage and console to handheld connectivity were The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Adventures, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles and Pac Man Vs. For both Four Sword Adventures and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, this was the first time in Nintendo’s history where your character on the television could be controlled by a Game Boy Advance in the place of a traditional controller. As a result, character information was shown on the small screen while the main game was played on the large screen. Also, as far as Four Sword Adventures is concerned, the character you played as could access mini-dungeons that could only be found using the GBA.
Pac Man Vs. used the GBA to Game Cube connectivity in a very unique way. Players one through three used traditional Game Cube controllers to control the ghosts in the maze while player four used the GBA to control Pac Man. While the ghosts have a third person three dimensional view of the maze, the person playing on the GBA played on a traditional two dimensional view and could see the positions of the ghosts at all times. If Pac Man ate all of the dots and power pellets, then the player holding the Game Boy Advance could continue playing as Pac Man. However, if Pac Man loses all three of his lives, the player must swap the Game Boy Advance with the player whose ghost scored the most points. In terms of Shigeryu Miyamoto and the Console to Handheld experience, we need to note that Pac Man Vs., while featuring Namco licensed characters, was actually developed by Miyamoto himself. This was just a small taste of what he had in store for the future of his vision.
In 2004, Nintendo released the DS. The design heavily incorporated the dual screen concept of the early Game and Watch handhelds and merged it with enough power to play N64 quality games. This was the first time a dual screen portable had the power of a home console. However, when Wii was released in 2006, the DS played a much lighter role in terms of the handheld to console experience. While certain games would allow you to use the DS as a controller, they just didn’t have the same level of interactivity that games like Four Swords Adventures and Pac Man Vs. had. Also, Wii could be used as a download station for DS game demos through the Nintendo Channel. The only games that really took advantage of the connectivity from DS to Wii were Pokemon Battle Revolution with Diamond or Pearl and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time which had connectivity between the DS and Wii versions of the game.
Despite the lack of popularity for handheld to console connectivity, in 2011, the more powerful 3DS was released. In addition to a graphical upgrade, the new dual screen portable features the capability to play compatible games in a glasses-free three dimensional mode. Shortly after, Wii U, the successor to Wii, was released in 2012. Wii U was radically different from Wii due to it being controlled with a special tablet style controller that features a 6.2” screen that directly communicates with the console. While Myamoto’s vision was clearly coming full circle with this latest design, there were two problems that disappointed many customers. The first problem was that the tablet could not be used independently from the base unit of the console. Many were under the impression that it could be used outside just like a 3DS or Game Boy Advance. The second problem stemmed from a technical limitation that does not allow the tablet to communicate with the base beyond a 50’ range.
However, connectivity between handheld and console have never been stronger. Besides the fact that each Wii U compatible game can be played on the tablet controller, 3DS and Wii U both have very strong connection features between Smash Bros for Wii U and Smash Bros 3DS. Also, games like Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate take advantage of the handheld to console connectivity through data transfers between both versions of the game and a local co-op mode that allows Wii U players to team up with a 3DS player in addition to the already included online mode.
If history is anything to go by, these rumors about the NX being both a console and a portable could be true. This whole concept just brings up more questions that must be asked and more possibilities that need to be explored. Finally, this brings us to the next topic at hand.
Rumor 2: NX is a digital only system
For now, take this one with a grain of salt. Various Google searches will mention a patent that was filed for a digital only version of the NX. However, another version of this story claims that there are three different patents for a version that is fully digital, another that is fully physical and the final version being both digital and physical. Either way you look at it, patents do not represent the final version of a product. Rather, patents are simply a way of safeguarding ideas just in case they decide to use them.
With this in mind, there are several questions that need to be asked. To start, if you look to history again, all of Nintendo’s portable systems till this day are backwards compatible with at least the previous generation of software. Also, since Wii was released, their consoles have also been backwards compatible with the previous generation as well (example: Game Cube can play on Wii, Wii can play on Wii U). If they decide to merge their portable and console lineups, how does this tradition continue? Does it even continue at all?
The first scenario I would imagine in a situation like this would be a console base that attaches to your TV. It has a disc based drive for Wii U games and a Card Slot that can play 3DS and NX games. The reason why they would possibly use a card slot for NX games rather than a disc drive is the simple fact that in terms of portability, cards are much smaller and use a lot less power. Also, for digital downloads, it will probably have either a hard drive, flash memory or a solid state drive. The tablet it uses will be a dual screen device either with or without 3D capabilities and ditches the 3DS and Wii U’s traditional touch screens for a slick, more standardized multi-touch interface. Considering the company’s recent foray into the mobile market, it makes sense that some type of multi-touch device would be used to make transfers between devices feel more unified. While this overall setup seems like the perfect option to satisfy both digital and physical gamers, the fact is all of that technology would cost a small fortune to develop in a single unit. Cost wise, this could put them into a similar situation that Sony had with the earlier models of the PS3 since manufacturing this type of a device would probably be the equivalent to pressing three systems simultaneously. While they could potentially make their money back on software sales, the third party support would have to be their best effort yet if they wanted to see any real profit down the line.
The second scenario would be a card based only system that ditches physical backwards compatibility with the Wii U in favor of digital backwards compatibility. However, the card slot itself is compatible with 3DS and NX games. NX cards will also hold more memory than a 3DS card roughly the size of a blu-ray or something better. The device will basically be the same as the first scenario but will ditch a Wii U Optical Disc Drive because the sales were greater on the 3DS. Once again, since this system will come with a multi-touch dual screen handheld device, portability is going to take priority in the design. While this is definitely a middle ground option, the fact that this would leave Wii U owners high and dry on physical software would upset this customer base. However, ditching the disc drive would drop manufacturing costs.
The third scenario would simply be a digital only system. Games will only backwards compatible if the player owns the digital version. While this is a very cost effective way to manufacture the NX, the lack of true backwards compatibility may frustrate a good chunk of their customers. However, this option saves a lot on battery life and is ideal for switching data around from mobile accounts to console.
Now that we have discussed the rumors and what could possibly lie ahead, it is time to start looking at what Nintendo Account could bring to the table as well as other options that should be looked into.
Nintendo Account will give Nintendo the stability it needs to run a fantastic online service
Considering the switch from Club Nintendo to Nintendo Account, it seems like there is a good possibility that previous digital purchases made though the Nintendo eShop will carry over to the NX. This would be very good for business and gamers would take online offerings more seriously. Regardless of what model they end up manufacturing, Nintendo Account could end up being a huge advantage for the NX on the sales floor. Just imagine playing video games and getting actual rewards for doing so, not just some digital representation of a trophy or achievement. Street Pass would become a more lively service if it was merged with Nintendo Account. Since Nintendo Account will be used on tablets, phones and PCs in addition to the NX, just imagine Street Passing with your phone, the data gets directly sent to the cloud and when you turn on your NX, it is just there ready to go.
One thing I think Nintendo should keep on the NX are Mii. On that note, a new NX version of Tomodachi Life could be built into the NX firmware. We already have the capability of playing as our chibi style representations in many of the games on Wii U. Just imagine how much better the social aspects would be if Tomodachi Life was a permanent part of the system. The one thing that bothers me when I boot up my Wii U is the fact that you can see all of these people hanging out in an empty courtyard, yet it’s a real chore to socialize with any of them. Making Tomodachi Life a part of the firmware would give more meaning to these little, virtual representations of us.
One other option that was on Wii that is missing from Wii U is gifting. On Wii, I would truly enjoy buying games for my friends. It’s a great way to send something across a long distance without having to worry about arrival time and stolen packages. It was such a simple option but one worthy of bringing back. On that note, now it’s time to talk about games.
It’s all about the games!
It takes good hardware to run good software but it takes great software to sell good hardware. This has always been the trade-off since Nolan Bushnell marketed Atari against Coleco and Intellivision. At the end of the day, a console is only as good as its library of games. Seeing that the NX is a possible marriage of portable and console, this is an excellent opportunity to take handheld franchises and give them the console polish they deserve. Here are some titles I would love to see on the NX:
Issac and company had some incredible adventures on the Game Boy Advance. Then his son and friends got to embark on an epic journey on the DS. With great exploration, a solid battle system, deep, engrossing storyline and an animation style that begs to be cel-shaded, Golden Sun is the ultimate 2D sprite based RPG that is a perfect candidate for either a sequel or a remake on the NX.
The Mysterious Murasame Castle
While it’s inevitable that we will get the next great Zelda game on the NX, it about time that Takamaru gets another shot at console epic-ness. While The Mysterious Murasame Castle was exclusive to the Famicom and later on, the Japanese Game Boy Advance, it’s finally been released on the 3DS eShop. This was an action hack and slash game that Miyamoto developed before Zelda and the way Takamaru moves on the screen is a clear indication that this was a partial inspiration for the engine that The Legend of Zelda was developed from. I would love to see this Smash Bros side show samurai bad ass get a new game. This game is just ripe with potential lore just waiting to be written. Kid Icarus finally got another game. It’s about time Takamaru gets an upgrade!
Advance Wars NX
That has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? Advance Wars actually got its start on the Famicom as Famicom Wars. However, the US didn’t get their taste of this legendary franchise until Advance Wars was released on the GBA. The single player version of this game was excellent but it truly shined when it was played with up to four friends via link cable. Give this game an online mode and the same turn per turn controller swapping multi-player that was in the original and now you have another hit ready to go. Make it happen Nintendo!
While Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem is still in development and Fire Emblem Fates is being localized for the US, this is a series that got its start on consoles but ended up being more popular on portables. There are still a ton of Fire Emblem games that we have not played in the US. Although we got a remake of the first game with Shadow Dragon, there are still five other main games missing from this equation. Remake those and bring them over to the NX. Then once those games are finished being remade and localized, bring us the next chapter in the Fire Emblem series in the grandest fashion possible.
SquareEnix has a ton of excellent licenses from the SNES era that they never take advantage of. One of those games is Act Raiser. In it, you played as a God who purges demons from the land by sending down your spirit into a warrior statue and bringing it to life. These sections of the game are in side scrolling action sequences similar to Castlevania. Afterwards, the game opens up and becomes a Sim City style game where you must perform miracles to help your worshipers build your kingdom. It was this unique combination that made this title a huge hit back in the 1990s. However, its popularity faded when they made Act Raiser 2 with only side scrolling levels and no sim aspects. It’s time to bring this series back to life so it can be experienced by a new generation.
It’s amazing that Captain Falcon is one of the most famous Smash Bros characters, yet this series has not had a truly compelling game since F-Zero GX on the Game Cube. Also, Sony hasn’t shown much interest in the WipEout series since they got rid their original developers. Basically, that leaves console hovercraft racing without competition. Perhaps it’s time we see more Falcon drive and less Falcon Punch (Just kidding, I still need to see Smash on NX, but seriously, if Wii U is getting a new Star Fox, NX needs a new F-Zero J) or better yet…
Super Smash Kart
Mario Kart 8 is solid. There is no denying that. But if it’s going to get to the next level, it would be incredible if all of the Smash Bros characters were in Mario Kart by default. Also, besides using all of the traditional Mario Kart weapons, each character should have attacks that are unique to them. Just imagine if Mario Kart had a little Road Rash combined with Kart Kombat (example: Link could charge up a meter and use his hook shot to get ahead of the pack while using the Master Sword to deliver a side slice to his competition). Of course, all of this madness would have to be seriously play balanced but it would certainly add an interesting turn of events into the traditional flow of the game.
This is a great new series for Nintendo and they should definitely use the hype of a new console to keep this series going strong. It’s one of the most unique Nintendo concepts to come out in a while and is a step in the right direction. Who ever knew a third person shooter could be stealthy, stylized and kid friendly in one package.
The Legend of Zelda Maker
Nintendo has already gone on record saying that this would be difficult to pull off. However, if they managed to do it, it would be one of the best community design games out there. On PC, someone is already developing a fan made version as we speak. If Nintendo could put Intelligent Systems to task for creating the toolset for this, I’m pretty sure they could get it done. Extra kudos if they manage to give the players an option to design it top down or third person.
Keep making Amiibo!
For those of you who do not know, Nintendo has some serious roots in the toy industry. Amiibo are hot collectibles and I can still see this craze getting bigger into the next console generation. Release variants of our favorite characters with different poses as well as the new ones. It would also be really cool if the NX firmware had a simple program that kept track of your Amiibo collection when you scan them in. Finally, when talking with people in the NX version of Tomodachi Life, allow players friends to visit their home and see a shelf with your entire virtual Amiibo collection.
Will Nintendo make any of this happen? Only time will tell. However, it’s truly fun to think of the possibilities. Feel free to let us know what you would like to see in the NX in the comments below.
(Once again, this article was simply an opinion of what the NX could possibly be. None of this is official; it’s simply a way of getting the conversation started. If you got this far; Thank you for reading. Here’s to the future. Game on!)