The grouping of the Japanese words nin, ten and do can be roughly translated into the way of giving into the hands of fate. Or in other words, the knowing that the Universe has a plan already laid out for you, and you’re just along for the ride. Deep, huh. Quite fitting really, when you consider Nintendo’s own ride has seen them move from pioneering industry leading ground-breakers, to the makers of a console your Aunty Beryl owns (aunty bezza loves her Wii Fit!). Fate has definitely played it’s hand in the ebb and flow of this gaming giant and it’s position on the techno totem pole. Can Nintendo finally steer their own destiny and claw back some of that credibility in the eyes of the core gaming community with the introduction of it’s upcoming NX?
If you’re a gamer with even a little bit of age on you (ahem… me), then you no doubt recognise just how much of an influence Nintendo has had on modern console and mobile gaming as a whole. Since winning the 1st generation of console wars back in the late 70’s by selling more than 3 million units of their ColorTV Game (more than all other 1st gen consoles combined), much of what we see in modern gaming has emanated directly from Nintendo. The d-pad and analogue stick you see on all modern controllers are both thanks to Nintendo. They single-handedly invented mobile gaming with the introduction of the Game&Watch series in the early 80’s, bringing with them gaming icons such as Mario and Donkey Kong. And any game made with 3D environments and non-linear movement control is a direct descendant of Mario 64. It’s quite the legacy to live up to!
One of Nintendo’s 1st generation consoles – the ColorTV Game
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in some far off cave with a tin foil helmet on, you’ve most likely heard that Nintendo has developed a brand new console, slated for release come March 2017. And that’s not a rumoured release date, that’s a solid definite from Nintendo themselves. Codenamed NX for the moment, the details on the new flagship model are scarce, with Nintendo keeping understandably tight-lipped on the subject until closer to release time. That doesn’t stop the rumour mills, however; and with some tantalising clues left here and there by Nintendo, we are starting to get a bit of a picture of what the NX might be.
Foremost, this will be a system of two halves – much like the Wii U – but with a twist. Rather than using the awkward-sized rectangular gamepad of the U for controlling the action, this time around there will be a much more streamlined approach. Like the U’s controller, there will be a touchpad in your hands, but as you can see from the images below (courtesy of Nintendo’s very own patent application), it will be integrated into a more traditional “controller” type shape, with analogue sticks built right into the screen itself. Buttons will be soft-overlaid on the screen and placed as part of the software driving the game you are playing. In my opinion, this will make for a much more usable and far more flexible controller. On the surface, the NX controller seems as though it will be far superior to the U pad, and this is a very good thing.
The touchpad controller of the NX will be a bold new leap
But that may not even be the coolest part about the controller. As Nintendo have been pioneers in the development of legendary consoles, let’s not forget their domination of the mobile gaming market, with the likes of the GameBoy and DS systems. Occupying a space that hasn’t been explored before, it is rumoured that the NX controller can be untethered from the main system and used as a standalone game machine while you’re on the move. Take your NX anywhere you want to go? This sounds like an awesome idea, but nobody’s quite sure yet how it will perform and if it’s even possible to have the full power of the system while playing remotely. This is something we’ll have to keep an eye on, because if this works well, we could see a new generation of mobile gaming with a bit of oomph from Nintendo.
And speaking of the power of the system, let’s talk specs. Well, we obviously can’t talk firm numbers just yet, but there is speculation that the NX will be on par with the current PS4 and XBone as far as number crunching is concerned. This is music to Nintendo fan’s ears, because there hasn’t been a currently powerful console from the makers of Mario since the GameCube. Don’t get me wrong, the Wii and the U have their place, but you can’t argue with the fact that at the divergence point that was the Wii, Nintendo decided to differentiate themselves from their more powerful competitors by going for wide market appeal rather than cutting edge power gaming. Seeing the once glorious name of Nintendo finally delivering some proper current gen power will be awesome!
Mario in the Unreal 4 engine! (source: youtube.com/user/aryoksini)
Other technical rumours include that the box will run graphics in 900p at 60fps and stream live to the interwebs in 4k, also at 60fps. If this all turns out to be true, the NX will be a more than capable machine, delivering stunning graphics. Then there’s the big rumour; the one that has the community both excited and curious about, to see if and how it will work. The talk is that instead of using optical drives (DVD or BluRay) to load game files, there is a good chance that Nintendo might wind back the clock and start using cartridges again! This is huge. Now, it may sound a bit backwards at first, but hear me out. We’re already using a form of cartridge storage on a daily basis in our lives, and that’s via usb flash drives. People carry them around with all sorts of data on them. They’re fast, they’re relatively cheap and they hold a lot of information. Any new cartridge technology will be at least as good as modern flash storage, and the kicker will be that the cartridge read speeds will be faster than even BluRay. This could ultimately lead to faster load times and, better still, less soul-sucking load screens. JOY!
So with all this extra power and graphic ability, what games can we expect for this hybrid console/mobile machine? It’s been said that Nintendo have held back the new Zelda so that it can be released on the NX, which makes good sense, as it’s best to have a huge name to launch with. There’s also a rumour of a new Smash Bros upon release and Final Fantasy publisher, Square Enix, are said to be developing a new Dragon Quest for the more powerful console. The rest, however, we can only guess at. A new 3D Mario seems highly likely – open world? And how about a modern remake of the classic N64 touch stone, Golden Eye! We might start seeing Nintendo ports of popular games too. CoD on Nintendo?? It’s definitely possible. With this extra power and capability, it’s likely that the big 3rd party devs will finally support the NX, where they didn’t with the Wii U. At any rate, with the March 2017 release looming nearer, it’s certain that the machine exists, at least in development kit mode. This means that there are developers, as we speak, pushing pixels for the new system, and it will be interesting to see what they they have in store for us upon release.
So the $64 million question is: Will I buy one? On the surface, and with the little information we do have, it appears to be the goods. And to be honest, the thought of having a proper Nintendo system sitting on my shelf again is attractive enough for me to be curious. Releasing a Nintendo console that’s less about placating to the family and more about gaming power is certainly a step in the right direction, and it could well see the sleeping dragon awake and dominate once more – as long as it’s executed correctly. Bringing a bit of a different slant on things by having the ability to go mobile with the unit, using an innovative integrated touch pad, could well be a game changer and a terrific point of difference.
So thinking back on what the name Nintendo means, what will the hands of fate deliver on their quest to win back the hearts and minds of the core gaming community? Only time will tell.