At first glance, the Endless Ocean series may not seem like it would particularly benefit from being on 3DS. After all, its leisurely pace and general lack of challenge isn’t quite befitting of a portable experience, and its reliance on scenery and atmosphere would seem better suited for a larger visual display than the small screen of a handheld console. Despite this, the series was among the first to spring to my mind when contemplating which games I’d like to see released for the platform, not the least because of its ability to produce three-dimensional graphics. There is no doubt the titles would look beautiful thanks to the system’s stereoscopic effects, but most intriguing are the ways in which the series can utilize the console’s other features to enhance its core design. We take a look at some of the possible changes that would result from this hypothetical shift to 3DS and examine how the burdgeoning franchise would benefit from this move.
The most likely of these changes would be the implementation of Miis. This, I admit, may initially seem like a curious prediction as the series has thus far favored a realistic approach to depicting its settings, but their integration in Nintendogs + Cats, which also strove to achieve a certain degree of realism in its character models and environments, and Pilotwings Resort prove they can be included in an Endless Ocean game without clashing with its aesthetic sensibilities. Both of the aforementioned titles featured Miis that were more naturally proportioned than their Wii brethren, and a similar approach could be taken so as to not jar with the series’ realistic environments. That they would primarily be dressed in wetsuits would further mask any stylistic discrepancies that may result from their inclusion, hiding their exaggerated characteristics just enough to render them compatible with the game’s world.
Though still very much stylized, the Miis in Pilotwings Resort are considerably well-proportioned and
would easily fit into an Endless Ocean game.
Equally as likely to appear in a new Endless Ocean would be an improved hub area. The second title in the series, Blue World, introduced a private island to act as the player’s home base, and a future installment would likely expand on this concept. With customization such an integral part of the experience, it would make sense for the layout of these islands to be randomly generated (much like the villages of Animal Crossing). Players can then personalize their makeshift homes by furnishing them as they please, and part of the fun of the game would be seeing how wildly different your island is from those of your friends.
As neat as these changes may seem, the real benefit of moving the series to 3DS would be gaining access to its unique hardware features. The console’s dual displays in particular would simplify the user interface by relegating the inventory menu and all of your maps and tools to the bottom screen, freeing the primary one of clutter. Each item or action would be sorted neatly along the screen’s perimeter for easy access with your stylus, and choosing one would amount to simply tapping the appropriate icon. The default selection would be the map of whatever area you were currently exploring, allowing you to more readily gauge your present location, but other menu screens can be sifted through with little effort should the situation call for it.
Some items would even benefit from this additional interface– the multisensor, for instance, could display its findings on the bottom screen without interfering in your dive (much like the Item Finder in the most recent Pokémon titles), while penciling in notes with the underwater pen would be far more intuitive thanks to the availability of the stylus. The entire concept of drawing can even be expanded further by taking another page out of Animal Crossing’s book and allowing players to design their own patterns for use on their scuba gear. All of these touches, as minimal as they may seem compared to some of my earlier propositions, would refine and build upon the series’ mechanics in organic ways, making 3DS the perfect home for a future installment.
Having constant access to the map on the bottom screen would simplify navigation and unclutter the interface.
Another likely feature of a handheld Endless Ocean would be gyroscopic controls. Other first-party titles like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D and the forthcoming Star Fox 64 3D have proven that, despite how unnecessary the use of the gyroscope may seem, it can provide a functional and easy-to-use alternative to a traditional control scheme. Such an option would even feel right at home in the scuba series– after all, both of the previous titles utilize the Wii Remote exclusively for character control, with your course dictated by the direction in which you point. Rotating the system to alter your swimming path is a logical evolution of this design, and it seems almost certain that such an option would be included in a handheld iteration of the series.
Perhaps most exciting about a potential new Endless Ocean is StreetPass functionality. Thanks to the console’s wireless capabilities, players would have access to a large supply of post-game content, some of which could be unlocked by exchanging character and logbook data with other divers. The title could even look to Dragon Quest IX’s implementation of Tag Mode and follow suit with its own similar feature, allowing players to instantaneously trade randomly-generated maps with one another via StreetPass. This would greatly extend the longevity of the game by offering an almost infinite number of unique locales to explore, and it would further provide 3DS owners with another incentive to carry their consoles around with them as they go about their daily routines. Couple this with an ability to swap acquired treasures with other players, the requisite Wi-Fi mode for multiplayer dives, and downloadable missions in the form of tour and photograph requests, and the title would become one of the most fully featured and content-rich available for the platform.
Despite its niche appeal, the Endless Ocean series has achieved some moderate success on Nintendo’s home console, and its gameplay seems perfectly suited for the company’s newest handheld. The visuals would benefit greatly from the system’s stereoscopic capabilities, and its two screens would streamline the user interface without tampering with the series’ core mechanics. The title could even take full advantage of the console’s wireless features by offering a Dragon Quest IX-level of StreetPass support, enriching the overall experience with an overwhelming amount of post-game content. Whether or not a third Endless Ocean is even in development will likely not be known until next year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, but already its potential is obvious. Do you have your own predictions on where the series could go? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section!