Nintendo And Call Of Duty: A Double Standard

Before we go any further, I have one thing I feel I should say to act as a nice barrier to protect myself: I will happily admit that I’m not the biggest Nintendo fan. My favourite Nintendo game is Super Smash Bros: Melee, and I’m not really a big fan of anything else other than Pokemon. Whilst I do like Zelda, I do not like Ocarina of Time (I much prefer Majora’s Mask and, interestingly, Wind Waker), and I personally think Mario should have died out a long time ago. Whilst I’m not the biggest fan of Nintendo, I do like them (Pokemon is one of my favourite game series ever and I’m currently playing through Black), so please bear this in mind; I am not picking a fight.

Now that’s out of the way, I’ve been noticing a double standard here for a long time. By ‘here’ I mean the internet, but I don’t just mean comments on articles – it’s present in the articles themselves and often in the personal opinions of some of the best known gaming journalists out there.

[drop]Modern Warfare. It’s getting tired, right? Since the original Modern Warfare, the series has pretty much just stopped. The games keep releasing, but the franchise has stopped. There hasn’t really been any progress – in fact, some would say it’s gone in the opposite direction. The story hasn’t exactly improved (Modern Warfare 2’s storyline was atrocious and difficult to even follow), the way the game handles hasn’t changed in the slightest and the campaigns are just more of the same each time, really; scripted and spectacle-based.

There’s always a ‘break-into-a-room-in-slow-motion’ moment or twelve, there tends to be a close up scripted brutal melee kill, etc. You get the idea. The only changes have been to multiplayer, and even those aren’t that amazing – just more killstreaks, maybe some customisation, the game is still the same.

So how about Final Fantasy? They’re pretty much the same each time, right? Every time one releases, Final Fantasy fans simply say ‘it’s not as good as [insert number here]’. It’s gotten so far that people cherry-pick parts of different Final Fantasy games, saying ‘this was the best story, this one had the best combat system, this had the least ridiculous hair, this one had the sexiest lead character’, etc. People still look forward to the sequels though.

As an aside; why is this? Black Ops released and everywhere I looked (online, obviously) I saw people saying it’s rubbish, or complaining about the first level being so scripted you can go through without shooting anyone, or the damn servers aren’t working. To be fair, it was true, Black Ops didn’t really work too well when it released, especially if you got it on PC (like I did). Still, the game had everyone going crazy for one reason or another and I rarely saw anyone praising it. Even now when people say they like it, they say it with a shy, uncomfortable look, like they’re admitting they’ve got a crush on their cousin and are often met with reactions that sound more like they’ve admitted they’re having a child with their cousin.

Anyway, a problem that a lot of people seem to have with gaming (and films, for that matter) are these sequels – the same thing released again, debatably just to earn more money. Whilst that is indeed what games are for, there is a difference between what Activision do with Call of Duty to what, say, Sony do with Uncharted. There are numerous changes between Uncharted games that affect gameplay and, hell, at least they look better each time.

So what about Nintendo? Nintendo have been releasing Mario games for 30 years, Zelda’s been around for 25 years, Kid Icarus’ first outing was 25 years ago too – you get my point. Mario is a one-dimensional stereotype who is so whipped by a woman he apparently isn’t even sleeping with that he’s happy to run out and save her from monsters every year or two. Link is pretty much the same but at least with some character thrown into the mix, though I’ve seen more interesting bricks than a Mario storyline. Both characters see their respective damsel in distress being carried off and immediately shout “I’ll save you”, and that’s the whole storyline of the games.

[drop2]Storyline is a big part of modern gaming. When you’ve got a good game but no storyline it will be mentioned and probably even marked down for it – when you’ve got a bad game you might be able to suffer through it if the storyline is good enough. Not only is the story itself important, but characters and motivations are, too. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read about the one dimensional characters found in most FPS’, but not a single one about Mario.

At least the FPS’ people have motivation – they’re in the damn army, it’s their job. What’s Mario’s motivation for abandoning his job to jump about saving Princess Peach? An on-going, 3 decade-long struggle to jump his way into her pants? Or is it just because that’s what Italian plumbers do? I’ve never seen any plumber at all pursuing a large dinosaur/turtle thing in order to save a princess, so I don’t think it’s that.

This wouldn’t bother me if the space marine/typical army man thing wasn’t mentioned so much everywhere. Whilst I understand they’re boring now, it’s exactly the same with a lot of Nintendo franchises. They’re doing this just because – they’re good and the other guy’s evil, it’s what they do. Using a big, fire-breathing dinosaur/turtle thing as an enemy is like having Nazis as an enemy – they’re automatically evil, therefore you must destroy them.

Now, I know Mario’s gameplay has changed a bit over the 30 years. But when were the last big changes? The jump to 3D on the Nintendo 64 and, possibly, Super Mario Galaxy? Both of those had sequels of more of the same, and the same, original, side-scrolling formula that existed years before has returned to new games since and everyone’s hailed it as the second coming of plumber-Jesus.

Again, I don’t actually have anything against Mario or Nintendo. I’m using Mario in my examples as it happens to be the franchise I’m most familiar with as far as Nintendo goes. As I said, I’m not a Nintendo man. There are a few more points I could point at, such as people complaining about stereotypes in games all the time, but they’re mostly just me pointing back at Mario, so I won’t bother. I do hope you can see past all the comparisons and actually understand why I’m trying to say, rather than just assuming I’m saying ‘Mario is shit, dude, get over it’. Because that’s not what I’m saying at all.

And as far as Zelda goes, I’ll be buying Ocarina of Time 3D when it releases, just because I liked Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker so much, I want to give it another chance.

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24 Comments

  1. In my opinion it’s all down to expectation. Games like CoD, MoH etc all hype themselves up by promoting their epic, realistic storylines – so that’s what we expect.

    You don’t play a game such as Mario for it’s story, or multi-layered characters. You play them just to have a blast. The same could be said for games like Ikaruga; “go there, kill that” – ok! That’s all I need to here; that’s all I expected to hear.

  2. I’ve said this along time, but if I had something which could pull the money in like mario and cod I’d milk the fuck out of it and not stop until everyone stopped paying for it

    • Well said, in the words of Jessie J “it’s all about the money, money, money”

    • Well…. Mario isn’t yearly I guess so CoD is pretty much a no brainer to milk, love to see different games from Nintendo though but I guess people dont mind.

  3. Well written & I can’t help but agree with you! There has to be a point where a series should be let quietly die rather than the continued rehash after rehash!

  4. Well written and very valid points. Where can gaming go to add more variety? Have all possible genres now been exhausted? While Fps and Mario games are still selling well, new ones will get released.

  5. It’s bizarre that people seem to think it’s only Nintendo that do this…

    • the entire article was also about other games that do it.

    • It’s not Nintendo that only do this, but no other has done it to such a degree.

  6. Good read there. To be honest I hadn’t realised the lack of story until reading this. All to often it is complained about in generic shooter games, while some games manage to achieve a “classic” status rather than a same old cack title.
    Interesting, I shall be looking at my games in a different way now. At least until the brilliant Mario: peaches underwear comes out.

  7. i love the 1st mario any mario game after that is just meh IMO , the zelda games though i love cant get enough of them .

  8. Great read, really enjoyed it and very true indeed.

  9. THANK YOU! It seems that people seem to treat it with more respect because it has a legacy. People Nd reviewers expect many different things from a game thesedays, including story, and it seems that Nntendo is above it all. I love platformers, and the only reason I would probably buy a Mario game is because few developers make them in the ways that make Spyro and Banjo Kazooie fun thesedays. I bet Fez will be a lot more enjoyable than the 3DS Mario game because of it being a new experience.

  10. i totally agree re cod gone stagnant, however my greatest concern with tweaking/overhauling a formula, when in the wrong hands, or not done with care, can be disastrous.

    (personal opion >) eg. Socom, a legend of franchises, has in its latest installment been made unrecognisable,
    at least this time around.

    totally agree franchises need to be kept fresh, but to be done so delicately & in the case socom for, that’s been given a total overhaul, must be done largely with feedback from the community that got the title where it is in the fist place.
    (socom used as current example)

    i think in cods’ case, too many cooks spoil the broth. trying to outdo the prev devs work, adding/minusing components & not always for the best.

    bring on the change, keep it fresh, but don’t leave the product unrecognisable.a fine balance between freshness & consistency is required.

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