Delaying to Death

by Patrick Lake - March 15, 2001, 3:38 am PST

Patrick Lake was active in online journalism and game retail during the heydey of N64. With GameCube looming, he stresses and scolds: "Delay NOT OK" for future Nintendo games.

Last year, back in September I was in our front yard relaxing in the sun with my brother, Max. Wasting the afternoon away, we began to reflect back on many good times we’ve shared growing up together. Inevitably, video games came up, as “playing Nintendo” figured very largely into our childhood. Growing up, he and I had healthy competition but now its no contest. These days, I mow through games—and anyone who challenges me—almost effortlessly. Meanwhile, Max seems to know a lot about games but he isn’t very good at them.

I’ve lorded this over his head for years and he can’t stand it. But since he can’t beat me, he’s watched me beat numerous games and do several crazy things. Among the myriad of game accomplishments I am most proud of is completely mastery of the “Super Jump” technique in Super Mario RPG for SNES. It was a hard move, requiring precise timing; Nintendo’s power tip-hotline admitted that even the game counselors had trouble pulling it off. Not me baby!

Therefore, it wasn’t long before this came up and we started laughing, remembering how I trounced bosses with the move making Mario spastically hop his way to victory. I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging—I equally admire and loathe my brother’s ability to laugh while I did the super jump while I had to jam that ‘lil button like a motherF(*$%r.

After the laughter died down, I kicked back.

“Man! I cannot wait for Mario RPG2 to come out,” I said.

Of course, Max being the geek-fool who keeps up on ALL game news, opened his brainy trap to clue me in.

“It’s called Mario Paper now. It’s different,” he explained. “The characters are flat, 2D. It’s supposedly really cool.”

I winced.

“Flat? Like PaRappa the Rapper?”

He nodded, then told me he’d heard it was pretty good. I shrugged and asked when it was coming out. After he told me, I flipped out.

“Next year?!? What the hell?!”

“Yup,” Max said. “It’s gotten delayed a couple times already.”

So OK, Paper Mario is out now but back in September, it seemed ridiculous that it should take Nintendo so long to release a sequel for one of it’s greatest titles, Mario RPG. Not only did that seem wrong, it seemed to further spread out Nintendo’s key titles, something all too common for N64. This is something that made me really sick when I covered N64 working for the 64 Source and later working for Electronics Boutique. It seemed even worse hearing about it again last fall, because you’d think Nintendo would know better by now.

Here’s a summary of the N64 formula:

You hear about a Nintendo game forever, then pre-order it because everyone’s been drooling over it. Then it gets delayed a month or so before the release and when you get it, half the time it isn’t all that.

Want examples? Yoshi’s Story & Donkey Kong 64 immediately spring to mind. Remember how awesome were these games supposed to be? The N64 installments of Yoshi’s Island and Donkey Country should both be phenomenal games, right? They were even hyped as such. They were delayed with promises they’d be better. What happened when they finally came out? Total let downs. "Quality vs Quantity" my fanny.

Nintendophiles may hate me for saying it, but I didn’t think the first N64 Zelda was the best game ever. It was amazing but the best game ever? Hardly. Gamers made it out to be something it could never live up to, ironically right around the time everyone was doing the same thing for the Star Wars movies. Perfect Dark (a game I still play) was amazing but was delayed for so long and still didn’t have the face-capture feature that was promised a year before. Its removal was understandable due to the circumstances at the time but that does not make it suck any less. Sure, many Nintendo games have been worth waiting for but what happens if you didn’t like the one or two titles that had been promised for months?

Me? I got a Playstation and didn’t look back, for the most part anyway. Why should I? There were so many games to keep me occupied, good and bad. Sure, Playstation had its share of overly-hyped games and disappointments but there was enough to keep it interesting. Sony habitually seemed to put out 25 PSX titles for every 1 N64 game released. Hell, probably even more than that (I just pulled that statistic out of my ass), but when I worked in retail sales seemed to reflect this too.

None of this is to say I don’t love N64 – I am just calling it like I see it.

Or saw it.

Things are different now though and a whole new generation is shaping up. I’m not impressed with Playstation 2 and I don’t care about X-Box. still interested in how things go with the PS2 and am not trying to stir up fires of “system wars.” I hate system loyalty but it’s in the wind right now. There are too many people who think Sony is infallible; too many folks who didn’t give Dreamcast a chance because of Sega’s past mistakes & too many folks who think Microsoft don’t deserve &/or can’t successfully carve a niche of the gaming industry for themselves…And there’s far too many folks who think Nintendo games are “just for kids.” Still, there are many times that Nintendo treats its core audience like kids by telling them release dates that are as mythical as Santa Claus & expects us to believe. I’m tired of that.

Delays are central to the Nintendo legacy; software releases are held back until “they’re ready” and often this date changes time and again. Now, even information is being delayed so you don’t even know whether or not to get excited. Of course that might just be a good thing as nothing is getting hyped unnecessarily, like what happened with the PS2 or Dreamcast, I guess but that was more of a “negative hype” (poor Sega).

I can deal with waiting for good software but this time around, Nintendo had better understand that a few titles don’t constitute a great software lineup. I don’t think I have very much reason to be worried; numerous reports have the industry sounding pretty interested in Nintendo’s new consoles, that they’re easy to develop for and the “Big N” themselves have even recruited several new second-party developers to churn out exclusive goodies for Gamecube and GBA. That’s good. I don’t think I can stand waiting for some good next-gen games much longer…

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