Genre 2: The Action-Adventure
Nintendo has been well represented in the adventure genre since the beginning of their foray into the videogame industry. Still, Link, Samus and to a lesser extent Mario have held down the action-adventure side of things for the better part of two decades. All three franchises have seen consistent innovation throughout their lifetimes and even into the latest console generation, no simple feat for a single game series, much less three. Regardless of consistent quality, after twenty years Nintendo fans deserve something new. Nintendo hasn’t exactly been a thriving source of original IPs since the SNES era, so I suggest they reinvent one of their older properties, one that they’ve barely scratched the surface of. Of course I’m talking about Metroid’s little brother, Kid Icarus.
Kid Icarus is an obscure NES game developed alongside the original Metroid by Gunpei Yokoi and R&D1, running off the same engine. It has many similarities to Metroid like scrolling exploration and item collection, but other than a little-known sequel on the Game Boy, Kid Icarus never took off as a staple Nintendo property. For years there was little mention of the game from Nintendo, even as old fans asked time and time again for a proper sequel. Then finally, Pit, the game’s main character appeared as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Pit had been completely re-imagined with a host of new moves, weapons and a more mature, anime-style appearance. It wasn’t long before the rumors were flying that Pit’s Brawl revival heralded a triumphant return for Kid Icarus on the Wii.
Matt Cassamassina of IGN’s Nintendo portal did a lot to fan the rumor flames, dropping hints about the game in his weekly podcast. Speculation came to a head a few weeks before E3 2008, when Matt all but confirmed that a new Kid Icarus would appear at the show; if you recall, that event was an embarrassing, miserable failure that announced nothing of note, least of all Kid Icarus. Supposedly Factor 5, the people behind the dazzling Star Wars Rogue Squadron series (and the less impressive Lair) had been working on a new Kid Icarus for some time. The company fell on bad times, however, due to catastrophic mismanagement by its publisher Brash Entertainment and after some unpleasant lawsuit business, Factor 5’s American branch shuttered in early May. There’s no word on if the German arm of Factor 5 will continue any of its doomed American branch’s projects, and from the looks of it F5 Germany wants to distance itself from F5 America as much as possible. The future does not look good for Kid Icarus.
This twisted series of events is a real shame because Kid Icarus was so close to being reborn, and with the technologically masterful Factor 5 at the helm it would have been an amazing game. Very few action-adventure games have used flight as their main gameplay element, an ability that just happens to be Pit’s primary asset. The game would be almost completely different than its side-scrolling, Metroid-clone granddaddy, but the essence of Kid Icarus—flight, mythology, adventure, exploration—could make an adventure game unlike anything in today’s gaming landscape.
The pieces were coming together so well; Brawl’s new design for Pit, and Factor 5’s experience with flight games and stunning graphics. Julian Eggebrecht, president of Factor 5, expressed frustration that the Wii’s graphical abilities were sorely underutilized by lazy developers. He and his team were so close to showing the industry what you could really do on the Wii; it’d be a crime if they didn’t get to finish what they were working on.
It’s also a crime that such talented people are now unemployed. Hey Nintendo, if you want some good developers who already know how to push your console to the limits, then put some of that surplus cash to work by hiring the former Factor 5 employees. With an aging stable of properties slowly getting stale, a battered image among the hardcore crowd and echoes of a dismal E3 still reverberating across the fanbase, it’s time for you to get Kid Icarus back on track.
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