Forums - Nintendo Discussion - Can the DS be considered Nintendo's most experimental era?

In an odd turn of the tables, First party support for the Nintendo DS is often met with mixed/mediocre reception from fans. Most would say Nintendo's output on the DS wasn't up to the company's usual high standards, containing relatively weak entries in Zelda, Metroid, Yoshi, Fire Emblem and Star Fox series. The general consensus is that 3rd parties regularly outdid Nintendo's own efforts on the DS, at least in terms of critical reception. Nintendo handhelds are no stranger to strong third party support, but it's very rare for a Nintendo console to have better third party support than first party support. 

In the case of established franchises, I can see where they were coming from. Super Mario 64 DS was a neat tech demo, but held back by the lack of an analog stick. Not everyone was in love with the touch based Zelda games, and Metroid Prime Hunters was a great shooter, but far from a Metroid game. 

However, the Nintendo DS also birthed what I consider to be Nintendo's best new IP output since the NES. DS was where Nintendo started doing things they'd never really done before, haven't done in years, and arguably, haven't done since. Of course we can start with the Touch Generations line, spawning non-game hits like Nintendogs and Brain Age. But there's also weirder stuff like Elite Beat Agents, Big Brain Academy, Electroplankton, Rhythm Heaven, Trace Memory, or Hotel Dusk: Room 215. 

That's not even getting into their Japan only games. Like Daigasso! Band Brothers, the Tingle games, Chōsōjū Mecha MG, Jet Impulse, etc. They co-produced two Shonen Jump fighting games. Even some of the established franchises were taken in weird directions. Kirby Canvas Curse was one of the earliest showcases of the DS' touch screen, Wario Ware D.I.Y. put the Microgame creation into the player's hands. Mario Kart DS marked Nintendo's very first foray into the brave new world of online multiplayer, Advance Wars took a darker turn with Days of Ruin, and the aforementioned Metroid Prime Hunters turned Metroid into a DS equivalent of a portable Quake III. 

So while not Nintendo's best first party showing, I consider the DS to be Nintendo at it's most interesting and experimental. I'm hoping Nintendo employs a similar and better level of experimentation on the Switch.



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I wouldn't say experimental but rather, risk-taking. It took massive balls to put the Wii and DS up against the PS3/Xbox and PSP but after the failure of Gamecube, Iwata took that approach and lucky for him, it paid off in the short term.

Long term however, it really fucked them and they're just now recovering.



AlfredoTurkey said: 

Long term however, it really fucked them and they're just now recovering.

Except it didn't. Sure, you can argue that the success led to the massive misfires of the Wii U and to a lesser extent the 3DS. But that has more to do with overconfidence and not Nintendo's strategy not being a good one. 



The DS was only inventive in contrast to the Gamecube before it, where Nintendo inexplicably stopped being innovative for a generation, and then flopped hard.

It’s hard to really say that the NES wasn’t inventive in creating many of their original IPs, or the Gameboy, making them work in monochrome design. The SNES’s mode 7 and layered game design (and graphics), move into the 3D realm, and then the N64 moving into a full scale 3D realm with new ideas in audio design, and flashy visual design. Speaking of visual design, despite SNES and N64 not being the most powerful hardware on the market, does anyone remember how blown away everyone was by the almost so-real-you-could-touch 24-but visuals in DKC? (I reasiouslt wanted to eat the backgrounds)? the shining and amazingly dynamic waters of Wave Race 64? Or even the fast paced ID4-like action in the Battle of Katina in Lylat Wars?

Nintendo was really inventive - but they saw a commercial failing in the N64 and didn’t want to blame the fact they used big bulky expensive cartridges that held very little data; and instead made a console to mimick their competition instead of going their own route. People still defend the Gamecube to this day, even though it failed, and they don’t seem to recognize it as being what it was: an imitation Playstation that was purple and had weird misshapen buttons on its purple rounded-out controller made for smaller more delicate hands.

So yes, the DS does seem really inventive after that godawful generation; but for longtime Nintendo fans, it’s a return to business as usual and the Nintendo we grew up loving.


That said, not all univentiveneas is terrible, the GBA gave us a great little mini-SNES for a while. It was a nice little nostalgia machine. But once the PSP became a thing, we knew it wasn’t going to last.

But the DS saved Nintendo from what would have been a loss of their main market at the time. The DS brought with it a nice fresh addition to the gaming industry - with it came Brain Age and casual gaming + touch screen controls - which moved to mobile phones and today is one of the most widespread-popular models (playing a short period 1-X times per day, every day, over months or even years), along with a lot of other neat little inventive things in design.



I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.

DS certainly did have some of Nintendo's most creative output. Maybe not moreso than N64 or NES, though. I'd also be careful about giving too much credit to 3rd parties on DS; yes they had great hardcore output, but I wouldn'ta
gue that they sold more systems than the first party games.

As for the failure of Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo did not continue the DS and Wii strategy with those two systems, so we cannot attribute the failure to the "DS" strategy:

- market expanding software dried up, there were a few sequels to the big winners like Wii Sports, but nothing new
- Iwata even said in an investor meeting that they were not using blue ocean or disruption anymore
- software strategy was distinctly N64 and GameCube flavoured: 3D Zelda remakes, Pikmin, Luigi's Mansion, 2D and 3D Mario battling it out even tho the sales were at least 3:1 in 2D favour on Wii and DS...
- Nintendo tried to lean heavily on third parties for launch games (they literally mentioned it in early Wii U discussions, but also apparent in the crappy 3DS lineup)
- Wii U rearranged gameplay style from "easy motion multiplayer" to "hardcore stationary oneplayer" plus a couple of ho hum multiplayer party games.



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AlfredoTurkey said:

I wouldn't say experimental but rather, risk-taking. It took massive balls to put the Wii and DS up against the PS3/Xbox and PSP but after the failure of Gamecube, Iwata took that approach and lucky for him, it paid off in the short term.

Long term however, it really fucked them and they're just now recovering.

Many people say this, but I'd really want to see some prove of this claim. The DS and Wii were highly successful because they sold to a broader demographic of customers. The Wii U and 3DS were totally different, with most of the line-up focusing from the start on hardcore Nintendo fans and typical quirky Nintendo ideas (there is a huge difference between Brain Age and Nintendoland: Brain Age was a blue ocean product, Nintendoland just a strange idea by Nintendo's developers). If the Wii and DS went in one direction, the Wii U and 3DS went into the totally opposite one. 

On topic: The NES / Gameboy era was more experimental as everything was brand new back then. But after that, yes.



Louie said:
AlfredoTurkey said:

I wouldn't say experimental but rather, risk-taking. It took massive balls to put the Wii and DS up against the PS3/Xbox and PSP but after the failure of Gamecube, Iwata took that approach and lucky for him, it paid off in the short term.

Long term however, it really fucked them and they're just now recovering.

Many people say this, but I'd really want to see some prove of this claim. The DS and Wii were highly successful because they sold to a broader demographic of customers. The Wii U and 3DS were totally different, with most of the line-up focusing from the start on hardcore Nintendo fans and typical quirky Nintendo ideas (there is a huge difference between Brain Age and Nintendoland: Brain Age was a blue ocean product, Nintendoland just a strange idea by Nintendo's developers). If the Wii and DS went in one direction, the Wii U and 3DS went into the totally opposite one. 

On topic: The NES / Gameboy era was more experimental as everything was brand new back then. But after that, yes.

Agreed it's nothing to do with Wii and DS but more their shift in approach to target a less broad demographic.

 

On topic I'd say it's a tie between the GB and DS eras.



Yes, alongside the Wii.



It kinda was, despite the lesser known fact that Nintendo had done a dual-screened game system years earlier.



couchmonkey said:

DS certainly did have some of Nintendo's most creative output. Maybe not moreso than N64 or NES, though. I'd also be careful about giving too much credit to 3rd parties on DS; yes they had great hardcore output, but I wouldn'ta
gue that they sold more systems than the first party games.

As for the failure of Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo did not continue the DS and Wii strategy with those two systems, so we cannot attribute the failure to the "DS" strategy:

- market expanding software dried up, there were a few sequels to the big winners like Wii Sports, but nothing new
- Iwata even said in an investor meeting that they were not using blue ocean or disruption anymore
- software strategy was distinctly N64 and GameCube flavoured: 3D Zelda remakes, Pikmin, Luigi's Mansion, 2D and 3D Mario battling it out even tho the sales were at least 3:1 in 2D favour on Wii and DS...
- Nintendo tried to lean heavily on third parties for launch games (they literally mentioned it in early Wii U discussions, but also apparent in the crappy 3DS lineup)
- Wii U rearranged gameplay style from "easy motion multiplayer" to "hardcore stationary oneplayer" plus a couple of ho hum multiplayer party games.

I think what was ultimately the Wii U and to a lesser extent the 3DS' failure was that Nintendo didn't focus on new or unique experiences for those consoles. Wii U in particular was especially bad with this. It felt like Nintendo was coasting too much on their past successes, failing to realise the entire gaming landscape was changing. Brain Training and Puppy Taming aren't going to wow people twice, 3D or otherwise, especially when similar experiences can now be found elsewhere on smartphones. It often felt like they were pandering too much to the Nintendo base and nostalgia that they didn't realize that there was a broader market to explore outside their bubble. I think Iwata knew Nintendo had lost its way during this era when they were conceiving the Switch, and wanted to re-focus the company back to fresh, and unique ideas only they can offer. 

The Switch is a return to form in that regard, with unique and innovative ideas not just for Mario and Zelda, but also new creations that only the Switch can really give justice to. 1-2 Switch, ARMS, Snipperclips, Nintendo Labo, you won't find stuff like this on any iOS or Android device. I'm hoping the Switch can mark another return to the creative and weird Nintendo i missed from the DS days.