By Steve Dixon
The phrase I keep hearing in regards to Zelda Cube is "Graphics don't matter". I've heard it probably fifty times. "Nintendo can make it look however they want, I only care about gameplay!" people say.
This is bad.
People who say that graphics count are kind of frowned apon in the gaming community. You're supposed to enjoy the pretty pictures, but if that's your main criteria for judging a game, you're not 'hardcore'. This is a brief argument as to why the graphics count, and the 'Cel-da' look was a mistake.
Nintendo's reputation has suffered over the last four years. When the N64 launched, it was awesome. Games like Wave Race, Killer Instinct, and later Goldeneye had a TON of broad appeal. They were fun, pretty, and intellegent. But over the next few months - then years - less of these titles came out, and games targeted at the 6-12 demographic were the majority of the releases. Zelda: OoT perhaps sums this up best. Zelda was a classic franchise, and Nintendo obviously watered down the difficulty and the plot quite a bit to make it more kid friendly. The N64 was labeled 'kiddie system', and forsaken by the hardcore gaming community. Nintendo swore, however, that the new GameCube would be a system for everybody.
Then they turned the new Legend of Zelda game in to a cartoon.
They wanted something sharp and stylized. They successfully created a game that looks distinct...ly like a saturday morning cartoon. A tip, Nintendo: We don't improve our sales pitch to Gen-X'ers by making our visuals more like Blue's Clues.
Perhaps the 'cel-shading' style would have been more acceptable had it not been for the fact that Nintendo basically stole it from the little-known Sega title Jet Grind Radio for the Dreamcast. While the game was hardly a commercial success, it was an excellent title, and had a truly unique feel. Many predicted that it would be copied, and sure enough, a slew of new games use the visual style, one X-Box title even using Cel Shading as it's namesake. The technique is no longer innovative or exciting, it's been done.
Graphics make the first and most lasting impression on a gamer. They, more than anything else, set the tone style for the game. You can't touch, taste or smell games, only see and hear them. Thus visuals are vitally important to the game's playability. If the visuals aren't credible, it detracts from the gameplay. The cartoonish style was a mistake.