Genre 1: The FPS
Of all the varied game genres Nintendo have dabbled in over the years, they’ve never really touched the first person shooter. You might counter that the Metroid Prime series is an FPS, but while those games were certainly played from behind Samus’s visor, the focus skewed more toward exploration than shooting. To this day Nintendo doesn’t have a pure FPS in their stable of franchises, at least not one that they own and developed first party.
There are a couple tempting candidates for this genre, the most obvious and recent being The Conduit. Eric Nofsinger and his dedicated team at High Voltage Software are doing spectacular things with their envelope-pushing FPS and they’ve even hinted at sequels, but Conduit is a game developed by a third party and published by Sega. I absolutely love the Conduit and all the crazy things it does—the best graphics, controls and multiplayer on the Wii—but the last thing I want is for Nintendo to buy out this new franchise and take it away from its creators. No offense to Nintendo, but there’s too high a chance they’ll twist it into some casual-friendly game or find some other esoteric way to mess it up. No, I want The Conduit to stay right where it is.
A more obscure choice is Geist, an innovative, highly underrated FPS from the twilight years of the GameCube. Developer n-Space gave us the first shooter where you play as a ghost and possess enemies to do battle. The execution was a tad clunky but the concept was great and made for an original single player story, not to mention a strangely fresh multiplayer. Nintendo does own all the rights to Geist and could conceivably make a sequel on their own, but again I’d like the series to stay in the hands of the original developers. When they’re done with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and their various DS projects, I’d love to see n-Space do a Geist sequel.
Instead of co-opting one of these properties, Nintendo should take cues from both games when designing their own original IP. The first part will be taking High Voltage’s lead in graphics. In an FPS visuals are paramount; if they’re going to work in this genre, Nintendo must first push the Wii’s GPU more than they ever have previously. They might go so far as to license High Voltage’s Quantum 3 engine, just as long as they make the game pretty. This is where the hard labor will come in; Nintendo has been scraping by on simple stuff like Animal Crossing and Wii Music for the last two years, and frankly it’s embarrassing and looks downright lazy.
The second part is tougher: making the game stand out. This won’t be as hard as, say, making your FPS stand out on the 360, but think about it this way: besides Halo, what other FPSs have really made a name for themselves exclusively on the 360? The Conduit is the Wii’s Halo, what GoldenEye was to the N64.
Luckily, Nintendo already has an internal team that is supremely qualified to develop a unique, eye-catching FPS. Nintendo Software Technology, better known as NST, already did a fantastic job with Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS. Rumor has it that after the cancellation of their Wii launch game, the intriguing Project HAMMER, NST was reassigned to making minigames. For talented developers like NST, such a job is an insulting underutilization of their abilities; Nintendo should pull them off the tech-demo assembly line and put them to work on something meaningful, a job they will relish.
I can’t presume what direction NST would choose for their shooter, but personally I’ve always wanted to control a more mobile character in an FPS. Vertical levels that centered on climbing, scaling and maneuverability as opposed to horizontal, corridor-centric ones would be a nice change of pace. Games like Portal force you to look up a lot but used the portal gun for mobility; what if your character could climb or grapple to new areas by themselves? Some FPSs have had grappling hooks but they’ve never worked to well, and Mirror’s Edge had the right idea but lacked cohesion. I want a more tactical, movement based shooter, where you need to get to sniper vantage points, find better paths of attack, and pull off acrobatic kills and stunts. Metroid Prime did soft platforming in first-person, and with their experience doing Hunters, NST could strike a balance between free running, shooting and exploration.
Page 2 of 5