June 1, 2020

Independence, by Nintendo | Blog 1 UP


Nintendo has achieved what every company would like: that its brand be inseparable from what it sells in the mind of the consumer. This is his formula: Nintendo = videogames. And, with its successes and its mistakes, the Japanese company of more than one hundred years old has remained faithful to its philosophy. Whatever it is. What we understand from the west is that the great N goes free. You cannot chain what has proven to be an obsessive and inexhaustible source of versatility and imagination. When Microsoft and Sony struggled to see who won the slogan of “the most powerful console on the market,” on the board of the console war, the company founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi in 1889 and currently run by Shuntaro Furukawa launched a hybrid with special emphasis in its revolutionary joy-con and the local cooperative game. But, even more surprising, its catalog has quickly filled up with games indie And of the most attractive of these at the subjective level, which does not everybody, I get ready to talk. This is not another video game top, it is a love letter to the genre indie.

Image of 'The Red Strings Club'.


Image of 'The Red Strings Club'.

A game indie It is that production that does not enjoy the money, marketing and business power of a great company. This usually translates into an amalgam of small teams that see their works published by small distributors and pray that the hours invested in production translate into a handful of profits to make another game. Nintendo Switch, officially launched in March 2017, has opened its catalog to independent games as a weapon to quickly fill its catalog. A console that only had a launching work, Zelda Breath of the Wild, and that it has only two years later with a catalog of more than three hundred titles according to the latest estimates. Many of them, yes, releases that were already seen on other consoles or even HD versions of past generations. And many others, independent titles. In the eighties, the quality seal of Nintendo differentiated them from their competitors and added value to each title, why today Nintendo doors open more easily? I dare to point out that it is because Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for independents. And Nintendo will go for free, but like to make money like any other company.

"The big N goes free. You cannot chain what has proven to be an obsessive and inexhaustible source of versatility and imagination "

On the one hand, the hybrid character of the console plays in favor. Many of the great titles that we will list below have also had a release on Playstation, PC or Xbox, but enjoy the pixel art in portable mode it takes us back to the years of the Game Boy, which recently celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. Then, the console could barely move four basic colors and the memory of the cartridges forced the developers to manage to capture their worlds on the laptop screen with minimal resources. Something similar happens today, although not so much due to technical and economic limitations: a team consisting of a programmer and an art designer has to stand out with talent. The sea of ​​video game launches does not forgive, it is relentless and abundant. Thus, the ingenuity of some prominent developers has eclipsed some of the most powerful releases for the hybrid console, reaping successes greater than the nth revision of Skyrim or the port shift. So, the first time I played on Nintendo Switch to the trilogy of The Banner Saga (Stoic Studio) and I could enjoy his narrative and his excellent art on the bus or in a waiting room, I realized that this console would give great joys since independence.

Y Spain has suddenly come to the head with titles that go beyond the ambition of an industry that, at the blow of scandalIt seems to fight to destroy itself. It may be easy to resort to pixel art, so refined and elegant, but much more than aesthetic offers Moonlighter (Digital Sun), title where I see an influence of Patrick Rothfuss or Robert Jordan: the story of a role-playing merchant in search of items to sell to heroes. An investment in the conventions of RPG that is delicious in its portable facet, with an art reminiscent of the best times of Final Fantasy or Zelda. And if we talk about aesthetics, and I mentioned before the famous trilogy of fantasy and strategy, I can never forget sitting on a park bench in front of my house and playing Gray. The elegance and the sense of wonder videogames were made thanks to Nomada Studio and the small screen of the Nintendo Switch has provided a sensory experience, full of nuances, suggestions, a silent narration in color. A small work that has shaken their own and others, demonstrating once again the importance of this medium and its claim as its own art.

'The Banner Saga'.


'The Banner Saga'.

In the line of narrative and mixing (of drinks and mechanics) The Red Strings Club (Deconstructeam) dazzled critics and the hungry community that still likes graphic adventures. A careful pixel, a plot that delves into the future, social networks and the dangers of globalization and that approaches concepts such as free will or double standards with ease. A title backed by a team of three young people and composed of scraps of other small games developed for gamejams and test projects. Similarly, with the spirit of improvisation and fun for pure pleasure, Ludipe & Friends appeals to the simplicity of the most classic arcade video games with Bleep Blood, a puzzle title that features on Nintendo Switch with the functionality of being able to control each square of color necessary to pass the level with each joy-con control. A game that seeks collaboration and thus speaks indirectly of camaraderie. Project is launched by Zerouno Games, like the impossible to qualify Baobabs Mausoleum, by Celery Emblem, a mix between Twin peaks Y Stranger Things with an eggplant as the protagonist and an aesthetic directly taken from the 70's television.

They are not the only thing the indie on Nintendo Switch inside the Spanish borders. They point to a catalog increasingly better nurtured titles such as Dead Synchronicity (Fictiorama Studios), Lost King's Lullaby (Storeen Games) or Candle: The Power of Flame (Teku Studios). Also a sample of the most sly humor, close to the style of South Park, the locals Protocol handle with MechaNika, the story in the form of a graphic adventure of a girl who wants to build a giant robot and destroy the world, and the most sophisticated and best written Agatha Knife, which takes place in the same world as the previous one (in fact, they share characters and mechanics) and tells us the story of a young woman who invents the carnivorism; a new religion for animals that helps them voluntarily surrender to sacrifice and "live happily in people's stomachs".

A cinematic of 'Moonlighter'.


A cinematic of 'Moonlighter'.

It is clear that there is no lack of talent or good ideas although the Spanish industry still has many shadows.

In the international field the level does not dazzle and the string of independent launches for the hybrid console has left the bar very high. And as everyone knows the magnificence of titles as indispensable as Undertale (Toby Fox), Hollow knight (Team Cherry) or Darkest dungeon (Red Hook Studios), I would like to focus attention on other works. Starting with the Lovecraftian myths, in the style of the recent roguelite Lovecraft's Untold Stories (LLC Blini Games). Seasoned with a pixel art Quite simplistic, the exploration and survival of this video game makes honorable mention of the role of paper and pencil of a lifetime: it takes elements of the classics Cthulhu's call (Sandy Pettersen and Lynn Willis) or The Cthulhu Trail (Kenneth Hite) and settles its narrative bases in the myths of the author of Providence, without much technical flaunting, but with an interesting dynamic. With a pixel type more refined and close to horror, but in this case more like Hidetaka Miyazaki, Dead cells (Motion Twin) is devilish because of its difficulty, its speed and the use of mechanics that many large productions would envy. In this work the narration moves in the same grounds as the saga Dark souls, suggesting instead of showing, making use of a type of emergent narrative that is based on speed, fear of dying and losing progress and the need to move forward. There are doors that will only open if we arrive on time, others that will require of us a certain number of deaths … In summary, this work seeks not only to test us, but to reach excellence in the use of its mechanics.

"A game indie is that production that does not enjoy the money, marketing and business power of a great company "

And with an obsession similar to the mastery of mechanics and difficulty, the long awaited version for the console of Cuphead (Studio MDHR) hand drawn frame by frame with a style cartoon from the 20-30 years inspired by Disney but with a macabre history of pacts with the devil and redemption that presents an equally devilish gameplay. In its portable mode Cuphead It is, in essence, the dream game. No one could have predicted, when the first animated shorts were released in the early twentieth century (we could tempt an approach to the first, Fantasmogorie from Emile Cohl in 1908) that we could not only carry these animations in the palm of the hand, but interact with them. A prodigious work of the tenth art born from the obsession of Chad and Jared Moldenhauer whose path to Nintendo seemed uncertain but has quickly become one of the best-selling titles of the hybrid console. What if CupheadWith its peculiar sense of aesthetics, it already showed the importance of crafts when developing a digital work, something similar happens with Trüberbrook (BTF Games) a graphic adventure of classic mechanics and history between humor, science fiction and mystery, which uses hand-built models and treated with photometry to constitute the scenarios. The result is a video game that visually impacts, as it seems that we are facing an animated film in the style of A nightmare before Christmas (Henry Selick) in which everything seems to be able to touch, move in stop motion, prompting the player to reach out, cross the screen and touch the objects by himself, move the character, mold the scenery to facilitate the resolution of the puzzles. A narrative tonic that mimics, although it lags behind, Thimbleweed Park (Terrible Toybox), the spiritual successor of Maniac Mansion, with Ron Gilbert at the controls and who has also appeared on Nintendo Switch. On the propitious thing that this one is denominated an independent work, that the reader decides.

The profusion of peculiar works, bold and innovative in its proposal, does not detract from those that bet on the classic. Image & Form has launched a series of small cutting works steampunk which vary its playability depending on the title. The most interesting of them uses the classic maximum of RPG combat through a system of cards and personalization of equipment and the exploration of dungeons. Is about SteamWorld Quest, where we are told about an epic fantasy adventure that follows the narrative and humorous traces of Terry Pratchett with an elegant graphic section and a feminist vision of simple and well-brought fantasy. The independent RPG is a genre that has become very strong on the Nintendo console, providing works of remarkable interest such as The Swords of Ditto: The Mormo's Curse (Onebitbeyond), YIIK: A post modern RPG (Ackk Studios), the aforementioned Darkest dungeon or the mix between turn-based role and card game of Frost (Jérôme Bodin). But in the strategy mix, pixel art and action is where the magic resides, and Katana Zero (Askiisoft), as a worthy successor (at least until a third installment arrives) of Hotline Miami, Deserves a point and apart.

A moment of 'Trüberbrook'.


A moment of 'Trüberbrook'.

The work of the samurai whose abuse of the drug called chronos allows to use time in its favor and undo something as immovable as death has dazzled critics and audiences with a truly thrilling combination of action, a sophisticated artistic design and a soundtrack consistent with the madness of its mechanics. A video game clearly influenced by the work of Dennaton Games (and distributed, just like the one cited, by Return Digital, who will flag some of the best independent releases), but with a better treated narrative, a more attractive and emotional story without neglecting the most surreal part of the set.

When Nintendo Switch was launched, nobody knew what to expect. A Zelda, a Pokemon, but I think few would have opted for the agglutination of titles indies in a single console. The dream that Ouya He could not comply. And although it is true that this has called the "Amazon literary effect", that is, there are a good handful of very poor and almost "clonic" titles of other acquaintances, the standard is very high. Every time an independent studio announces a new title, it's time to tune the joy-con. One can only hope that Nintendo's help will turn many of these small studios into colossi that can compete against the bigger ones. Of course, speaking of colossi, if Fumito Ueda taught us something, it is that size does not matter and that the smallest hero can bring down the highest beast. Whether or not it is worthy of such defeat.

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