Super Smash Bros. Brawl did a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong. Something it got wrong was the Masterpiece section of the Vault. It’s a great concept that allows newer gamers to play the games that made the characters famous, but was poorly executed.
The problem lies in the time limits on the games. They might have been okay if the time limits actually allowed for you to complete something, but how far can a new player get in The Legend of Zelda in two minutes? I think they’ll managed to find the sword and kill a few Octoroks.
For some reason, I doubt that two minutes with The Legend of Zelda is going to make a young gamer appreciate what makes Link special. I think it’s much more likely that it will make that same young gamer say “Link’s game sucks.”
Fortunately, I’ve come up with a really simple way to make Masterpieces better: remove the time limit.
Free for All
There are a handful of games currently in the Masterpiece section that really ought to just be free to play. I’m talking about Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Ice Climber (just because no one should be paying money for Ice Climber in 2011).
These games are legends and should be played by everyone. Adding an absurd time limit only makes the games seem uninteresting because your first impressions of the game are negative. You end up thinking “I played The Legend of Zelda once and didn’t know what to do,” or “I played The Legend of Zelda once and it wasn’t much fun,” because you didn’t have enough time to really understand what was going on.
This wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo included free games inside another game. Animal Crossing for the Gamecube included several NES games that could be played for free once you obtained the item in-game. It proved to be a major selling point for the game with some people buying the game just to use cheat codes to unlock the NES games. In other words, Nintendo sold a new $60 game to players so that they could play a small collection of NES games.
Like Animal Crossing, I’m only going to suggest that NES games become free-to-play. Once you enter the Super Nintendo era games become much more complex, and I think there is still a lot of value in the games from that era. However, I think Nintendo could use the Masterpieces as a sort of advertisement get players interested in purchasing the full game.
I’m aware that Nintendo already used the Masterpieces as advertisements in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, but they did a lousy job. The trick with using the games as advertisements is that they have to be worthwhile demos in order to make the player interested. Five minutes with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of TIme is not going to convince you that it deserves the “greatest game of all time” title that it is so often given. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was kind enough to give you multiple save files at different points in the game, but the time limit still made the save files useless.
Instead, why not limit the games based on the content you complete? Continuing with the Ocarina of Time example, the game could provide one save file where you start at the beginning of the game and are allowed to continue playing until you complete the first dungeon. A second save file could be provided to let you play as Adult Link and complete another dungeon like the Fire Temple.
The same idea could be applied to all of the Masterpieces. Super Mario games could let you complete an entire world (or two). Star Fox 64 could let you complete a few stages (perhaps Corneria, Meteo, and Fortuna so that the final stage you complete is the showdown with Star Wolf). Super Metroid could let you play from the beginning until defeating Kraid.
I’m suggesting worthwhile demos of the games that actually give players the full experience and see what the games have to offer. Five minutes cannot do that (and some of these games don’t even let you play that long!).
Nintendo has been slow to adopt game demos in any format (just take a look at the demos they currently offer on WiiWare), but this is something that is quickly becoming (or has already become) the industry standard and Nintendo needs to get their act together. Better Super Smash Bros. masterpieces would be a good start.