In an attempt to improve their current situation, Nintendo have announced that they intend to ‘actively expand’ licensing their IPs to third parties. This is a fantastic idea that has turned out really super well in the past.
Quick history lesson: Nintendo intended to produce a CD-ROM drive for the Super Nintendo. After a botched deal with Sony that ultimately led to the Playstation, the Big N approached Philips. That deal also fell through, but the agreement allowed to Philips being able to use Nintendo characters in a number of games for their CD-i console. Nintendo had nothing to do with these games, and they turned out fantastically.
Over the space of two years, three Legend of Zelda games were released on the CD-i. It’s true, you can never have too much of a good thing.
Link: Faces of Evil
Haven’t you ever found it odd that everyone just seems to understand Link, even though he doesn’t actually say anything? The Legend of Zelda games are just one long succession of cutscenes where Link stands in the company of characters talking to themselves. Philips saw to remedy this, giving our green-smocked hero a personality that you can’t help but fall in love with.
What’s more, the cutscenes look like an episode of Monkey Dust. I love Monkey Dust. Good work, CD-i.
Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon
I’ve always wanted to do two things in The Legend of Zelda:
- Play as Zelda
- Fight exploding boars.
The Wand of Gamelon allows you to do both of these. Ace.
The third and final of the CD-i Zelda trilogy. Legend of Zelda + Live Action Cutscenes = Why the hell wasn’t this done before?
Link’s been kidnapped, and the kingdom has decided to send Princess Zelda to go and save him. Help Zelda battle her way through nondescript blobs, spiders, manbearpigs, and long load times in order to save the day.
I wish more games would make the sprites disappear between screens. Gives me time to think.
But it wasn’t just Zelda that got a piece of the third-party licensing action…
Forget ITSA ME, MARIO! In Hotel Mario, our mushroom-loving plumber went and got some gravel in his voice. Think of it as a gritty reboot; Mario’s ‘Batman Begins’.
It’s a shame that Nintendo didn’t capitalise on this game by setting up a Hotel Mario in every city. The Holiday Inn would have been bricking it.
Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds
Here is a CD-i game that, tragically, got canned. It was going to use sprites from Super Mario World, and expand the Mushroom Kingdom into new and exciting territories like Ancient Greece. It also decided to throw some beavers into the mix. Makes perfect sense to me:
There was going to be a level called ‘Land o’ Plaid’. It never got past a basic blueprint in the alpha, but you can guarantee that this level would have been gaming’s magnum opus.
Nintendo’s character licensing has made a profound cultural impact outside of video games, too. I know of three TV shows that have changed the medium forever…
The Super Mario Bros Super Show
Why can’t all intro sequences be accompanied by middle-aged men dancing awkwardly to rap tracks?
Are you hooked on the brothers yet? Yeah, of course you are.
The Legend of Zelda: The Animated Series
This Link fires lasers from his sword. Why do none of Nintendo’s Links fire lasers from their swords? Big bag of fail.
Donkey Kong Country: The Animated Series
Here he comes, banana slammer. Best theme music ever.
I bet you any money that Koji Kondo is kicking himself for not composing this.
And let’s not forget the greatest piece of licensing ever…
Super Mario Bros: The Movie
This took the franchise in exciting new directions that, tragically, were not explored again. Surprisingly, this film was overlooked during awards season. If it were up to me, I’d have given it a Pulitzer. I know that the Pulitzer prize is for journalism, but I’d have changed the rules just so that this film could get a Pulitzer.
I guarantee that the Wii U would have sold a bucketload if Super Mario 3D World had more Hoskins.
There are a lot of naysayers out there, saying nay and all that. They are worried that this kind of third party licensing, far from being the ‘win-win’ situation that Nintendo have envisioned, will lead to beloved franchises being cheapened.
This pessimism is totally unwarranted. Look at the amazing stuff that I’ve just shown you. Get ready for a cultural renaissance, friends.