Dec. 12, 2014 | 4:52 p.m.
THE PLAYER My relationship with Nintendo is maybe not as healthy as it should be. This realization comes to me as the year draws to a close, when one is pressed to discuss the most innovative or thoughtful interactive experiences of the year. Games such as the haunting “The Vanishing of Ethan Carter” or the whimsically lonely “Broken Age: Act 1” are some that immediately spring to mind. These are titles that made the same sort of lasting impression as a TV season of “Orphan Black” or a movie screening of “Big Hero 6,” which was full of unexpected considerations on loss. Like the getting-by struggles at the heart of hip-hop act Run the Jewels, these are all examples of pop culture with layers, where revisiting is encouraged. Yet there is one Wii U game in heavy rotation that I […]
June 28, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
THE PLAYER In late May, Mario and Luigi were sitting on a couch on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Not the real Mario and Luigi — they aren’t real, of course — but caricatures of the Nintendo brand icons. The joke that afternoon was that the famous video game duo were not brothers but were, in reality, gay. Their true relationship had remained a secret, revealed only after an online campaign forced Nintendo to apologize for not including same-sex marriage in its just released game “Tomodachi Life.” You can, however, create a character in your likeness — a Mii, in Nintendo parlance — or the likeness of your boss or your ex or Daenerys Targaryen, and you can write them an opera song that is an ode to gay marriage. They will also fall in and out of love, sometimes with […]
June 10, 2014 | 11:19 a.m.
Nintendo, amid the news Tuesday of new games coming to its Wii U console for its beloved “Zelda” and “Star Fox” franchises, took a bold step away from tradition. Princess Peach, the oft-kidnapped damsel in distress at the core of its “Super Mario Bros.” series, received an apology. “Hey, look, I’m sorry about kidnapping you 80+ times, but my bad,” said a cartoonish, clay-like rendition of Nintendo’s main villain Bowser. Peach said nothing, offering the sullen bad guy little more than a cold shoulder as she swiped his last doughnut. Bowser’s response to such non-regal behavior? “I deserved that.” Who can blame her? One of Nintendo’s most formidable characters, with a jumping and gliding ability most of her non-dinosaur male pals could never muster, Peach has often been relegated to the role of the hostage. Yet time and time again over the course of a […]
June 10, 2014 | 6:00 a.m.
The Los Angeles Kings may have vacated Staples Center for New York’s Madison Square Garden this week, but the blocks surrounding the arena have been replaced with a level of testosterone that not even the NHL can muster. Cloaked assassins, military tough guys and a fantasy knight have taken control of the neighboring Los Angeles Convention Center and beyond. All that aggressive advertising can herald only one thing: The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) has once again landed in Los Angeles. North America’s largest video game trade show, one that pumps $45 million into the local economy, never makes a modest entrance. “The future begins,” is E3’s slogan for 2014, and the 45,000 registrants will ensure at least that the future is hyped. Less than eight months after Sony and Microsoft each released new consoles, this year’s E3 will step away […]
June 09, 2014 | 10:44 a.m.
The world’s largest annual video game trade show, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, kicks off in downtown Los Angeles this week, with more than 45,000 people expected to converge on the L.A. Convention Center for the event. Now in its 19th year, E3 has become a mecca for video game developers, retailers, industry professionals and journalists. The trade show, which is to run Tuesday through Thursday and is not open to the public, often serves as the pulpit for the industry’s biggest announcements, such as last year’s reveal of two next-generation video game consoles — Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Buzz on the show floor often revolves around the rivalry between the major consoles, and though the wars between the systems couldn’t be more contemporary or contentious, the modern-day brawl has been more than three decades in the making. […]
Feb. 26, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.
For the last three decades, one of the video game world’s greatest antiheroes has been a barrel-throwing ape. He’s arrogant, ornery and not nearly as dexterous as he thinks he is. A kidnapper whose jungles were construction sites, he’d steal your girlfriend and trap her atop a skeletal steel structure. But as males-behaving-badly became a pop-culture norm — and an unfortunate requirement of most video games — Donkey Kong softened up. The once attention-desperate gorilla shed his hostage-taking ways and settled into a more healthful lifestyle with the launch of “Donkey Kong Country” in 1994. Now five iterations of the game later, he’s morphed into a rather lovable grump who just wants to enjoy a slice of cake with a frosted banana on top in peace. “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” released last weekend for Nintendo’s home console the Wii […]
Nov. 27, 2013 | 2:03 p.m.
This month saw the release of two high-end home video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft. But competitor and long-standing game powerhouse Nintendo has a surprisingly effective countermove: cats. Yes, cats. The Italian caricatures of Mario and Luigi, who may be the closest thing the video game medium has to a Mickey and Minnie when it comes to brand awareness, have returned in the Wii U exclusive “Super Mario 3D World,” now with the ability to morph into feline form. It’s one tweak among many, and it turns out that putting paws on the plumbers more than livens up a trusty formula. Mario and Luigi now chase rabbits, climb trees and attack enemies with claws out, a number of seemingly small design changes that when taken as a whole results in one of the more inventive Mario adventures. Like the […]
Oct. 12, 2013 | 7:00 a.m.
The new Nintendo handheld device the 2DS seeks to solve a puzzle that may not, to the casual games observer, seem in need of a solution: How does a company get more games in kids’ hands? Nintendo has stressed in promotional materials and interviews that the 2DS, available today, is a budget-friendly gaming device that is geared toward first-time players, most notably children. Yet in crafting a gadget that looks like an entry-level tablet rather than an ultra-sexy gaming machine, Nintendo has managed to walk the line between a toy-ish contraption and an accessible way for people of all ages to game. When it was first unveiled in August, the 2DS raised some eyebrows among Nintendo fans and the gaming community. After all, the company’s current portable gaming machine, the foldable, dual-screen 3DS, is doing quite well for itself. The […]
Aug. 28, 2013 | 10:44 a.m.
Nintendo is hoping a cheaper price and well-known video game characters such as Mario and Zelda will convince shoppers to buy a Wii U this holiday season. The slow-selling system will receive a $50 price cut effective Sept. 20, a discount that comes about two months before the release of new consoles from Microsoft and Sony. What is now known as the “deluxe” edition of the Wii U will soon retail for $299.99, down from its current $349.99. Since its release last holiday season, the deluxe edition of the Wii U has come packaged with a copy of the game “Nintendo Land” as well as a relatively robust 32 gigabytes of storage. Both will be included at the reduced price of $299.99. A more bare-bones version of the Wii U, one without the copy of “Nintendo Land” and just 8 […]
Aug. 01, 2013 | 12:30 p.m.
PERSPECTIVE It’s been a difficult week for Wii U fans. First came word that players will not be able to take advantage of the online multiplayer functionality for the upcoming “Batman: Arkham Origins.” Then there’s the matter of sluggish sales for the console. Nintendo unveiled in its latest earnings report that the Wii U continues to have a “negative impact on Nintendo’s profits,” with only 3.6 million units sold worldwide since its release late last year. Earlier reports had Nintendo hoping to be well above 5 million units sold of the Wii U by this point — the company laid the blame for the slow start on the release of “few” first-party titles for the console. But amid all the woeful reports there is still reason for optimism. The Wii U undoubtedly has suffered from a lack of software — […]