All Posts by Alex Plant

I'm not shy about it: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite Zelda game — which makes it my favorite game of all time. It's a bona fide masterpiece that checked off the big-ticket wishlist items I've been yearning for from the series since before Skyward Sword. Its massive overworld and inventive action-adventure-RPG "physics and chemistry" system offers exactly the kind of unparalleled player freedom that put the series on the map way back in the '80s.

It's a pity that's not true of its dungeons.

For whatever reason, Nintendo has gotten it in their heads that the value they bring to players comes from how unique they are.

I guess this is kind of true — no other console maker is betting the farm on a mascot Kart racing game ( Mario Kart 8 Deluxe), a 3D fighting game (Arms), a non-military shooter (Splatoon 2), a 3D platformer (Super Mario Odyssey), and a niche JRPG (Xenoblade Chronicles 2) in 2017.

But what makes Nintendo's games so compelling isn't that they're unique. It's that they're really, really good.

"Nintendo is doomed." That's what the conventional wisdom should tell us, right?

I mean, they're about to release a console that has only a small handful games available at launch. Two of those games are party games, one of them is a toys-to-life game for kids, one of them is an indie Zelda clone, one of them is a retro revival— the only truly colossal game coming on Day One is the one and only The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

That's pretty bad, right? Head inside to keep reading.

Nintendo's finally drawn back the curtain on Switch, the game platform previously codenamed "NX." As most of the major rumors totally nailed, it's a new home console that you can take with you on the go. It can plug into your TV via a docking station with HDMI output, or you can remove it from the dock and play it on a high-definition mobile screen.

That's completely category defining — traditionally, TV play and portable play each required a separate system. But what do you call this new category? Nintendo referred to Switch as their next home console in a teaser, but they haven't exactly been quick to coin a new name for their new device class. That they start from the premise that Switch is a home console gives us a powerful clue, though: Switch is a mobile home console.

Lots of RPGs use an equipment durability system, but most of the time, durability never quite feels right. You're in the middle of a quest, and you've brought your favorite sword. Eventually, your sword starts to dull. You either burn through a repair tool, check in with a smith in town to get it fixed, or switch to one of the other weapons you're carrying and press on. It doesn't make the game any more difficult or deep, but it's built into the gameplay loop anyway, seemingly just for the sake of it.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild also features an item durability system, but it does so in a much more thoughtful, purposeful way—such that durability is actually an integral part of the overall game balance, and it makes Breath of the Wild a better open-world game.

With the runaway success of Pokémon GO, it's only natural that people should wonder what the app's popularity means for the future of Nintendo. Judging by shareholders' overwhelmingly positive response, it seems investors believe that the future of Nintendo lies in bringing their beloved universe IP to mobile devices. I've seen others express that maybe Nintendo could benefit from going third party, or on the even more extreme end that Pokémon GO means the death of Nintendo games for core gamers.

But even though investors are right to recognize that Nintendo IP + mobile devices = massive profit, there's another element of Pokémon GO's success that's been a pattern across all of Nintendo's biggest games: Nintendo is at their best when they're in the business of wish fulfillment.

One of the big development themes Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma has touted for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is that it challenges the conventions of Zelda.

And that's true—it does away with many ideas that have been associated with the series since its early installments. You no longer pick up recovery hearts from fallen enemies to restore your life, or cut grass to find dropped Rupees and ammunition. Items now come with numeric stats that are visible to the player. There's a dedicated jump button for the first time apart from Zelda II.

But Nintendo's also tried to pitch that Breath of the Wild's biggest selling point—the vast, open world that players will be free to explore at their leisure—is a break from convention. In doing so, they're missing out on a huge opportunity to recognize that the concept of an open world is at the heart of Zelda's DNA, and that this new game is more of a homecoming for the series than a voyage into the unknown. Head inside to keep reading.

Hyrule Warriors Legends is a strange proposition. It purports to be the complete edition of 2014's Hyrule Warriors, a game that already had tons of characters and weapons to chew through—not to mention tons of enemies to mow down and beautiful cutscenes to ogle at. And yet, in many ways, it's smaller in scope thanks to the limitations of the portable platform it calls home. Does this port justify its "Legends" moniker? Or were its swashbuckling battles best left behind on Wii U? Hit the jump to check out our review!

Almost ten months ago, Nintendo filed a patent application for a game controller design that would remove traditional buttons entirely in favor of a free-form touch screen. At the time, few people thought much of it—Nintendo files tons of patent ideas all the time, and the company's always been insistent that buttons will always be preferable to touch screens for traditional console games. A couple weeks ago, however, the idea suddenly resurfaced in the form of a series of faked images.

Of course, because the images are fake, it may seem at first glance that there's nothing to see here—it'd just be the latest in a long line of scam leaks from people who claim to have uncles and coworkers who work at or with Nintendo. But that's not the end of the story. Game Informer editor-in-chief Andy McNamara chimed in, saying he'd actually heard from his own sources that Nintendo was working on a controller without buttons.

Could that outlandish controller concept from the patent actually come to fruition? Why would Nintendo want to make a controller that eschews traditional physical buttons? Jump inside for my thoughts.

Despite all the hype surrounding the original release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in 2006 I walked away feeling somewhat disappointed. Ten years later, the HD re-release has given the game a fancy coat of paint—as well as a chance for redemption. The return trip sheds light on the game's finer moments, which distinguish it as one of the best entries in the storied Zelda franchise. But beneath these virtues lie flaws and troubling design decisions that hold it back from taking the crown. Head inside to see what makes Twilight Princess HD such a difficult game to rate.

One of the things we've consistently heard from Nintendo about their incoming mobile games is that they're designed to put their beloved IP in front of a wide audience that may not have interacted with those brands before. Typically, people have imagined that we'll see adaptations of Nintendo's big character games for mobile devices. However, recently Nintendo's also been experimenting with free-to-start games on their dedicated gaming platforms. One of those games is Pokémon Picross.

Pokémon Picross is a perfect example of how Nintendo could present their IP to a new audience using an experience that's not only excellently suited for mobile devices, but also able to represent their IP in a way that's uniquely Nintendo (and it's actually a pretty fun game, to boot). Jump inside for the full review.

A lot of the excitement surrounding Nintendo's initial announcement that they'd make smartphone games was probably predicated on the idea that their powerhouse franchises, combined with the ever-growing mobile audience, would make a strong recipe for "Nintendo-like profits"—as well as a great treat for Nintendo fans who happen to enjoy mobile games. So when Nintendo's first mobile app turned out to be a social networking app that uses Miis, I guess you can't blame people for being more than a little disappointed and confused. Even the Nintendo Week podcast crew found it to be a strange move.

But when you think about Nintendo's broader mission for their mobile apps, a social networking app actually makes a lot of sense. Click inside to see why Miitomo could be just the ticket to Nintendo's rise to relevance.

One of the key complaints when Nintendo rolled out Nintendo Network IDs in 2012 was that, despite Nintendo's insistence that they'd built a modern account system that answered everyone's problems, the benefits associated with the new accounts still weren't quite on par with what players had come to expect on PSN, Xbox Live, and even their iOS and Android devices. For one thing, NNIDs offered virtually no support for digital cross-buy, even for games that appeared on multiple platforms like NES Virtual Console games. You couldn't log in on a friend's system and play local multiplayer using your account and your data. And, of course, the most damning issue of all: if you need to replace your Wii U, your NNID doesn't let you simply log back on your new system and access all your old digital games—you had to make a special call to Nintendo tech support.

Nintendo's recently started paving over some of the early issues with NNIDs. You can now unite your eShop balances across both Nintendo 3DS and Wii U by linking your systems to the same NNID. Some games, like OlliOlli and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, have started to support cross-buy. But many of the bolder issues remain unresolved, even today. Thankfully, Nintendo's new account system—the aptly named "Nintendo Account"—seems to be moving in the right direction.

Nintendo's always hard at work coming up with new ways to improve their overall user experience, from the hardware to the games. But they usually try to do things their own way instead of simply following the prevailing industry trends. According to a handful of new patents, however, Nintendo's thinking of finally adopting a couple features from today's consumer electronics—in-game voice chat and eco-friendly low-power modes for their game console hardware.

As usual, of course, they've imagined these features in a very Nintendo-like way. Hit the jump to see what they have in mind.

Yesterday we reported on a recently-listed patent filed by Nintendo for a home gaming console that doesn't include an optical disk drive. The idea inspired a lot of spirited debate, which is a powerful testament to how ingrained the idea of owning physical copies of games really is as well as how many people are looking to a future where everything's available at the touch of a button. Digging deeper into Nintendo patent lore, however, reveals that Nintendo might have plans to try to satisfy both audiences—with full-blown console variants that may include physical-only and digital-only models.

Hit the jump to find out more!