Peach Has Got It

I guess it’s the kind of thing you’re destined to do if you start a blog called Nintendo Watch: I spent the last couple of days wondering about a Nintendo DS game named ‘Super Princess Peach’. At first sight it’s a game that doesn’t look like there’s much to it and the core fanbase seems to be outraged at Nintendo devoting resources to something like this — but still, here I am, doing a piece called ‘Peach Has Got It’.

Super Princess Peach seems to be a middle of the road platform game in which Peach gets to jump around, using her umbrella as a weapon and as a floating device. The HUD seems to indicate there’s a whole lot of coins to collect and Peach doesn’t die instantly — she’s got three heart containers.

That’s not all, though. On the top screen, madame Peach herself is depicted. I haven’t seen enough of the game to say for sure, but it seems her face shows emotions in sync with your actions. With this I mean I expect her to be happy when you finish a level, cringe when hit by baddies and more.

This is exciting to me. For years I’ve been writing about games like ‘The Sims’ and what game companies can do to achieve the Sims-effect, selling more games to female players. I believe young girls will feel attracted to a game that contains both a cute-looking, full-screen princess and classic videogame action (because chicks like digital violence too!) — especially if the princess’ emotions connect directly with theirs.

In short, I feel game companies should be doing stuff like this. I like the fact that DS, with its games easy to develop and cheap to produce, seems to become a bit of a breeding ground not only for experimental gameplay, but for experimental branding, too.

When Nintendo announced the line-up some time ago though, I grew sceptical. Previously I’d viewed not calling Nintendo DS a ‘Game Boy’ as a way to cut ties with the ‘Pokémon’ audience, the kids Nintendo is so often associated with. But when the company announced three Pokémon DS games at once, my hopes were dashed.

This changed once I realized how well the ultra accessible touch-screen technology, the Touch! advertising, ‘Pictochat’ and Super Princess Peach fit together. Perhaps Nintendo is not targeting DS at a much older audience, but it’s definitely reaching out to a much wider audience. It’s probably no coincidence that the words ‘game’ and ‘play’ are missing from the name ‘Nintendo DS’. (And the fans might want to be happy that Nintendo didn’t call it Touch Toy.)

Once again, my girlfriend played a role in understandig this: she loves playing ‘Zelda’ and ‘Metroid’ on her GBA, but she pretty much refuses to sit down with a TV console game, because it’s too complex and because she can’t take it anywhere. Videogames are better than wasting time waiting for a train, but they still don’t feel as valid as ‘Sex and the City’ or ‘CSI’ — maybe Nintendo DS can serve the good cause and help to narrow the gap.

It’s not that I don’t understand these angry fans. The game geek in me decided long ago that what I like to see most on DS is simply epic, original IP action adventures using the touch-screen to streamline stuff like selecting tools — or abstract action games like ‘Tetris’ or ‘Panel de Pon’, because geeks like these as well. They’re pure math, if you don’t count the soundtrack.

But it’s still good to sometimes look beyond your traditional state of play and that’s exactly what Nintendo is doing — contrary to what others are saying, though in subtler ways than sometimes suggested.