A year ago, I sat down and over the course of a few weeks laid out ten SEGA franchises that I thought would be excellent for ports or adaptations into the world of virtual reality (VR). It was a sort of combo of VR vs. and Make It A (Virtual) Reality – and it made sense. After all, precious few stakeholders out there have as rich and diverse a library of videogame titles as SEGA, and the said library of titles is certainly ripe for VR adaption. Not that SEGA have particularly leapt at the new technology; which is, historically at any rate, a very un-SEGA like thing for them to do.
There is, however, another company that both has a library that rivals SEGA’s and has been even more hesitant to get involved in VR despite having historical ties to the technology. (If you are unaware of SEGA’s VR efforts look them up, it’s a fascinating tale and a typical ‘what could’ve been’ story from the company.) It is, of course, fellow videogame giant and SEGA’s long time console wars nemesis, and respected rival – Nintendo. So, it makes sense that I next turn my attention to them for the next multiparter.
A few ‘rules’ as such before we begin. Mainly because this is an opinion piece and as such a red rag to the bull that is the Internet.
Firstly, the titles listed here are only a selection of possibilities I’m bringing up and me not listing down your favourite title doesn’t mean I don’t think it’d be great in VR. (I mean I might not, but, y’know…) As with any article of this type these are my opinions – not yours. You may disagree with what I think, but that doesn’t make me ‘wrong’; if I like to eat sushi (I do, very much) and you don’t like sushi that’s a matter of taste, I’m not wrong for liking it. I’ve also been careful in the wording of the title – these are not necessarily videogames that have been made by Nintendo. They have however all appeared on Nintendo systems or have a connection to Nintendo in some way. Lastly, we’re adopting something of a sense of disbelief here to a degree. In some instances getting the title made would be problematic from, for example, a logistical point of view. We’re also ignoring Nintendo’s continued ambivalence towards VR as a whole, something we’ve discussed here before. Even now Reggie Fils-Amie is probably leaning out of his car somewhere and shaking his fist at a billboard for Ready Player One and yelling “THIS ISN’T FUN!”. So I’m casually ignoring that as well.
1 – Mario Kart
We start with something of a cheat, owing to the fact that Mario Kart VR already exists. However, what we currently have in the form of HTC Vive experience Mario Kart Arcade GP is merely the appetiser, and a pretty exclusive appetiser at that. As beloved as the Mario Kart franchise is there’s a limit to how far you’ll go to play it and I think ‘you’ve got to go all the way to Japan is a bit of an ask.
Mario Kart Arcade GP is part of the line-up at VR Zone in Shinjuku and sadly has not budged from there despite the growth of the VR Zone brand. There’s also the fact it isn’t by Nintendo but their long-time partner in all things Mario Kart arcade, Bandai Namco. As a result, in some senses it isn’t truly what Nintendo would create with the brand if their hands were firmly on the reigns. Friendships have both been formed and been tested by Mario Kart, and to have the Nintendo team let their imaginations fully run free to realise a Mario Kart VR where you could battle friends and strangers online as you can with the current iteration and have the immersion in the colourful worlds of the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond could well be a defining racing experience.
Not only that Mario Kart VR would be both the sort of title that has the potential to draw in new interest to VR and also act as a stepping stone for long-time gamers. Even if Rainbow Road would probably melt your eyes, in terms of racers on a theoretical Nintendo VR system this surely has to be Number One with a Bullet (Bill).
2 – Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
There have been a number of videogames that like to mess with your minds down the years. To be clear I’m not talking about a twist here but the videogame actually deliberately messing with you to freak you out. We’re talking something like Psycho Mantis in Metal Gear Solid reading your save files or to give a more modern example Batman: Arkham Asylum had you thinking your save was gone, giving you impossible quick time events and a fake game over screen.
Well if those videogames messed with your mind, then Eternal Darkness took great pleasure in taking your understanding of what’s going on and then whipping it in the ass with a wet towel full of utter blind panic. Eternal Darkness implemented the sanity mechanic, something Nintendo thought so good they actually patented the entire concept. Which in retrospect seems a bit cheeky.
To quote the patent: “A video game and game system incorporating a game character’s sanity level that is affected by occurrences in the game such as encountering a game creature or gruesome situation. A character’s sanity level is modified by an amount determined based on a character reaction to the occurrence such as taking a rest or slowing game progress and/or an amount of character preparation. That is, if a character is prepared for the particular occurrence, the occurrence may have little or no effect on the character’s sanity level. As the character’s sanity level decreases, game play is affected such as by controlling game effects, audio effects, creating hallucinations and the like. In this context. the same game can be played differently each time it is played.”
Eternal Darkness proceeded to do the following.
- Convince you it had crashed with a ‘blue screen of death’ – until you realised that the Gamecube obviously didn’t have that.
- Pretends your television had turned off.
- Pretends your television has lost signal with the Gamecube.
- Interrupts you with other content entirely.
- Mute’s the sound, deliberately desync’s the sound, or else lowers the volume to nothing like you’re accidentally sitting on the remote.
- Brings up a ‘To Be Continued’ screen mid-game.
- Has blood start randomly falling from the ceiling.
- Changes the camera angle of corridors and has the camera react to non-existent threats.
- Alters the art on the wall and gives life to physical objects.
- Has bugs start crawling over the inside of your screen.
- Has your character fire a gun at you, shattering the screen.
- Has your character commit suicide.
- Convinces you your file has corrupted or that the controller is broken.
- Tricks you into thinking you’ve lost all your items from your inventory,
- Tricks you into thinking all your game saves have been deleted.
You get the idea. The fourth wall was essentially playdough. However despite critical acclaim, any initial plans for a sequel fell apart with all the troubles between Silicon Knights and Epic Games. That’s not stopped Nintendo from keeping the trademark alive, however.
We’ve already had one VR videogame in particular where the title deliberately sets out to mess with your brain. It’s probably a title you don’t even remember. In Flying Mollosk’s psychological thriller Nevermind, what you see is in-part generated by your own fear. The more panicked you become, as tracked by compatible heart rate monitors, the more twisted the world becomes. If you combined this premise with the sanity system, throw in some VR horror lessons learned from Resident Evil VII biohazard‘s atmosphere and you’re in business. Probably a pile of your own business, after you’ve shit yourself in terror.
That’s all for part one, I’ll come back to this very soon on VR vs. What Nintendo titles would you like to see in VR?