This morning Nate responded to rumors of a Twilight Princess style delay for Skyward Sword that would bump out an updated port for Project Café (should it indeed be coming next year) by posing the question of whether it would be a smart move on Nintendo’s part. He went to great lengths to put the idea in a positive light, and for that I commend him. But I have a slightly different spin on the idea that I think would work better for everybody.
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t believe the rumors one bit. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s something that’s beneath Nintendo, since obviously Twilight Princess runs into conflict with that opinion, but that I just don’t find it to be a very likely course at this point. Even if Project Café does come next year, the Wii’s still going to need a strong offering this year to keep Nintendo afloat until the 3DS can establish some kind of stable growth. And while I love me some Pikmin and Kirby and am stoked about the prospect of JP-only RPGs coming to the West, if that’s all the Wii’s got this year I think Nintendo is in trouble.
Of course, that’s not even taking into account that it was about a month and a half ago that Reggie assured us that Skyward Sword would show that Wii is still a strong contender this year. And have we forgotten that Iwata has commented on a 2011 release date twice this year already, once at GDC 2011 and again a bit earlier, where Iwata stated that the game was in its final stages of production but was going to hit sometime after Ocarina of Time? Come on, Nintendo’s not secretly plotting to delay the game – unless they’re secretly plotting to ignore the opportunity to release a major series title during Zelda‘s 25th anniversary year. (Did I mention that Miyamoto’s excited about the chance to release a lot of new products to celebrate?)
Now, there is a way Nintendo can take advantage of Skyward Sword to help launch Project Café – and given Nintendo’s history, I think it’s probably a win-win scenario. Instead of delaying Skyward Sword to port it to Café, why not wrap it up and release it this year as intended, and then start production on a same-engine sequel and do a double-launch of that game for both Café and Wii?
The idea of a Motion Plus control Zelda is already a pretty risky venture, and I think it’d be even riskier to try to retool an already-controversial game for another new platform. Better to just run Skyward Sword down the natural course it’s already set and judge whether a Project Café sequel is a good idea from there. Besides, I don’t think any of us could really complain about more console Zelda – while the “delayed games are better in theory” mantra definitely rings true pretty often, it’s also true that trying too hard to push new hardware features and functionality onto games that weren’t really made for them tends to sting a bit, too. I think Skyward Sword‘s already way too deep in development to be thinking about a port at this point.
Besides, we know from Nintendo’s history that a solid sequel can be built from the same core gameplay skeleton relatively quickly – one just has to look at Majora’s Mask, Spirit Tracks, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 to see that. Majora’s Mask had a famously short development cycle of only about a year, and launched less than two years after its predecessor, Ocarina of Time. Could Nintendo put together a Skyward Sword successor built on similar principles and given a HD Project Café makeover in about that time?