Best of ND 2014! What if Nintendo Re-visited the World of Virtual Reality?

Developers are increasingly investing in the potential of virtual reality. Could this technology add anything to Nintendo’s own franchises?

By Jon Stevens. Posted 01/01/2015 15:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

This story was selected as one of our best from 2014. It was originally published on April 9, during Issue 199.

Oculus Rift has been turning people’s heads since it smashed through its Kickstarter goal in 2012. Despite this and some pretty impressive tech demos, it was still easy to think of it as a fairly niche product. Virtual reality has, after all, been around in some form or another since at least the 1980s and ’90s. But with the announcement of Sony’s Project Morpheus, VR seems to be on the cusp of gaining mainstream attention. Even Microsoft seems to be working on its own headset. Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus Rift, whether you consider it to be good or bad, is only further evidence of the potential that people see in the technology.

Nintendo is no stranger to the world of virtual reality. Its Virtual Boy, while technically not VR, allowed users to peer into a red-tinged world of 3D and enjoy such titles as Mario’s Tennis and Virtual Boy Wario Land. It was, however, Nintendo’s biggest commercial failure yet and never reached Nintendo of America’s projected sales of 1.5 million for 1995– it never actually came close to this.

But with the new surge of interest in virtual reality and with technology that can make this a “reality,” now could be the time for Nintendo to re-explore the concept, with a Virtual Boy 2 (though it may want to change that name). As a company that is known for utilising new technologies, whether it is 3D, dual screens, or motion control, Nintendo could surely make the most of virtual reality. The very idea made me imagine how it could inject new life into its most iconic franchises…

A New Star Fox or F-Zero

A number of titles, like Eve: Valkyrie, already show off what virtual reality can do for space-sims– essentially making it a perfect fit for Star Fox. But perhaps more exciting than the vast emptiness of space, is the blistering speed of racing in the 26th century. Experiencing the races of F-Zero from the cockpit would certainly be a thrilling experience. Seeing the inner workings of your vehicle in games like Star Citizen looks great, but by coupling this with death-defying loops and races at breakneck speed, it would be taken to a whole new level. Hopefully the feeling of actually being there wouldn’t translate to any in-game crashes…

Metroid Prime 4

Nintendo has already given us a taste of being Samus Aran thanks to the motion-controlled Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (as well as the remakes of the first two games). She wears a suit and helmet herself, so it is easy to imagine how pulling on a wearable visor would instantly transport you into her shoes.

Motion control would still be used for aiming, but this could be alongside further interactions. Lock-on missile control with your eyes (demonstrated with Eve: Valkyrie) and instant scanning are just two examples. While I’m not quite sure how the Morph Ball would work (you may still have to revert to a third person view), there has to be some reason why Nintendo has kept the next iteration hidden for so long. This could be why!

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda is another series which heavily featured motion controls on Wii, making it easy to imagine the greater potential. The world of Hyrule is a fantastic place to explore; whether on horseback, Loftwing, or just on foot– now imagine if you could actually be there in person. Activities like fishing would be perfectly suited to this, and I’m sure that, just like with Skyward Sword, Nintendo would be able to create items that perfectly showed off the potential uses for the technology.

One developer has even recreated Kokiri Forest from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to give you a taste of this.

Super Mario VR

When Super Mario 3D Land was revealed, Satoru Iwata described how since Super Mario 64, it had always been difficult to judge the distance properly to hit blocks in a 3D space. While I’m not sure that the 3DS game made it as easy as the 2D games, this problem would be instantly resolved if we were able to look up and see the block above us. Jumping over gaps would be a piece of cake, while stomping on Goombas would be as easy as stepping on an oversized, walking mushroom. With fangs. Who wouldn’t want to jump into the Mushroom Kingdom for a quick holiday?

Pokémon Stadium

I personally still don’t feel that a fully 3D Pokémon game has yet to match the portable offerings, but the Pokémon Stadium games showed off just how fantastic the series can look on a big screen. Now imagine that you were able to stand in that stadium while directing your Pokémon in front of you. After my own disappointment with Pokémon Battle Revolution, I would be more than happy to have the chance to stand toe-to-toe with my not-so pocket sized monsters and cheer them on.

Some of these ideas may never happen, even if Nintendo did pursue virtual reality again– I’m sure that we will never don the red cap of Mario, for example. But with the explosion of interest in VR in the last few months, there is always the possibility that the company is working on something of its own. Nintendo has, after all, shown itself more than capable of making use of new technology in a way that few others can match.

Hopefully, whatever direction Nintendo decides to go in the next few years, it is nothing like this:

What do you guys think? Would (or should) Nintendo ever delve back into virtual reality after the Virtual Boy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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