Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Nintendo: On the Spot

RSG Editor Gus Mastrapa Reports from Nintendo's E3 Media Briefing

With Jurassic 5's "What's Golden" bumping from the ballroom's speakers, it's not hard to see the delicate position Nintendo is attempting to take in the "console war." J5's rhymes and beats are hip and current, yet family friendly. The hip-hop group innovates, while looking to the past for inspiration. For decades Nintendo has succeeded with this formula, but the demands of the core gamer seem to be weakening their position.

To feed this hunger of the hardcore, Nintendo intends to cede more ground this year to popular, violent, graphics-heavy games. Unfortunately, Resident Evil 4 and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, both previewed at the conference, seem to offer more of the same. Geist, on the other hand, published by Nintendo in collaboration with N-Space, adds a touch of innovation to typical genre gaming. At first glance, the game appears to be an everyday first-person shooter. But the player actually controls a ghost, who can bounce from body to body, thus introducing the potential for a unique puzzle experience to the game.

Despite leanings toward mature content Nintendo still refuses to allow their stable of characters to be transformed by gaming industry trends. "Mario will never start shooting hookers," George Harrison, senior vice-president of Nintendo of America quipped at the press conference. Nintendo gave several sneak peeks of Nintendo's characters doing what they do with new twists. Mario Kart: Double Dash adds an additional passenger to racing vehicles, Pikmin 2 adds co-op play and Legend of Zelda: Four Swords brings GBA play to the Gamecube.

Nintendo's steady movement toward more grown-up games, could spell doom to traditionalists. But, their steadfast determination to keep a foundation firmly rooted in kid-friendly games tells another story. Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president, stated that the company's intention was to make games for "all ages, all personalities and all tastes," claiming that their goal was to reach the "true mass market." While Rock Star makes a quick buck with Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Xbox and Playstation continue to chase the deceptively large niche of core gamers. Nintendo appears to have their eye on the bigger prize -- the rest of the population. Who knows? They might just pull it off.

-Gus Mastrapa

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