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Editor's note: Nintendo receives a great deal of criticism for their reliance on the same stable of video-game characters: Mario, Link, and Samus Aran. Yet Siri notes that other developers get a free pass for their own repeated use of characters and themes. Is Siri onto something? -Jason
You won't ever find such thing as an unbiased analysis, so I offer a disclaimer right here: I'm a diehard Nintendo fan. You'll have to pry my cold, dead hands from a GameCube controller before you'll make me admit that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker isn't one of the best open-world games ever.
But recently, the accusations that Nintendo merely re-hashes the same characters in similar adventures has reached a fever pitch with Nintendo's announcement of the next Zelda game, Skyward Sword, at the recent E3.
And maybe it's because I'm a diehard Nintendo fan — or maybe I'm just trying to look at this objectively — but I think we need to consider several factors before criticizing Nintendo.
• After his debut in 3D gaming, Link's undertaken four similar adventures. But do you know what other video-game characters star in similar adventure after similar adventure? The men of the Grand Theft Auto series: Claude, CJ, and Niko Bellic. Each meets with betrayal near the beginning of his adventure and spends the rest of the game driving over to people's initials, using poor vehicle physics, before finally encountering your betrayer at the end of the game.
Nintendo's repeated use of Link and Ganondorf as an hero/archnemesis is mostly to please the fans, because let's be honest: If we played a game about finding mystical stones to retrieve a superword, and our character wasn't Link, we'd flip. A lot of game series rely on characters over and over again, and Nintendo's repeated use of Mario and co. offers more transparency than anything else.
• Nintendo's success came far earlier than either Sony or Microsoft. This means that people who are fans of Nintendo now were likely fans when they were young. And when we were that young (along with the gaming industry), we latched on to characters more than gameplay elements. Yes, maybe we love 2D platforming now, but back then we loved Mario. We may love open-world adventures today, but back then we loved Link.
And even as we've matured, we have a hard time letting go of these characters. Because of this, Nintendo knows that they can't make a puzzle-dungeon game or platformer without filling the lead roles with a mute youth clad in green and a pudgy Italian plumber.
• Even the most hardcore Nintendo fans must admit that we attach the stereotype of being a "kid's platform" to all of Nintendo's consoles, whether the company likes it or not. But let's imagine that Nintendo wanted to go more "mature" when it comes to the content of their games.
For example, Nintendo develops a game starring F-Zero's Captain Falcon. It's a sandbox game in a Crackdown-style world, and Captain Falcon jumps around it, pounding the faces of bad guys into the pavement. Parents, uneducated gamers, and the mainstream media would have a field day with it.
If Metroid Prime suddenly started showing blood (which would only be appropriate, as space pirates tend to bleed after receiving a missile to the chest), the cries of a thousand bleating sheep would quickly beat Nintendo's reputation into oblivion.
What's my point? Leave Nintendo alone. Practically half of the developers out there do what Nintendo does…and most of Nintendo's "problems" are our fault as consumers. If people really have an issue with what Nintendo's doing, they must stop buying Zelda, Mario, and Metroid games and give titles such as The Conduit and MadWorld a try.
If we have a problem with what Nintendo's doing…we have a problem with what the entire industry is doing. That's a scary thought.