Monday, April 1, 2013

NES Replay: Anticipation

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 1988
That Title Screen: What is going ON

When Nintendo gets an idea, they stick with it.

A lot of recent Nintendo products have come from previous devices that had good ideas but poor execution. Nintendo sat on some of those ideas in hopes that some day the technology would get better and they could do them the right way. For example, the Game & Watch games turned into the DS. The Power Glove turned into the Wii Remote. The Power Pad turned into Wii Fit. The Game Boy Advance/Gamecube link turned into the Wii U.

One of Nintendo's early ideas was that gaming shouldn't be the sole province of children. Everyone should be able to find something to like in gaming, and they felt that the best way to do that is by making a game for adults with no cartoon characters or goofy mascots. Maybe if they just made a game that wouldn't make your mom or dad embarrassed to play it, they could open up a whole new market.

We all know that it turned out pretty well for them with games like Brain Age and Wii Sports, but where did the idea really come from?
Anticipation was Nintendo's first attempt with that idea. It was a video game board game that revolves around figuring out what items the computer is drawing. When you've figured out what the computer is drawing, you can stop the computer and try and guess the name of the shape.

It's like watching someone play
"connect the dots."
In Anticipation, there are no shoe-horned reference to other Nintendo characters, no indication whatsoever that this game is anything other than Serious Business For Grownups. Even Anticipation's box art eschewed the normal hand-drawn style that other box art used, instead taking great pains to show nothing but adults, having good, clean fun in the 80's.

Is Anticipation good? I really don't know. I mean, I played it, but I played it by myself. Anticipation is supposed to be more of a party game, and playing a party game by yourself makes you feel really sad. From what I was able to play all on my lonesome, though, I can at least say a few things.

The presentation of Anticipation is absolutely horrid. In their attempt to make this game appeal to adults, they used black backgrounds and a minimum of color. By comparison, if you look at more adult-oriented board games of the 80's, like Trivial Pursuit, there's always color. It's understated and tries to look classy, but it's there. I understand that Nintendo and Rare were trying to make something for grownups and so were trying to avoid the happy, cartoon-y worlds of Mario, but at that didn't mean they had to avoid jazzing things up a bit.

The rules of the game are also unnecessarily complex. You have to land on four different colors and solve those puzzles, then move to a new board once you have all four colors filled in, and you have to get through three boards to win, then place a doily on your head and dance the cha-cha, then slaughter a goat under the full moon with your second cousin (twice removed) present. It's like they were trying to think of things they could do in a board game that didn't require an actual physical board and just got carried away.

Still, Anticipation is an admirable first attempt at making a party game, and also a good first attempt for making a game that would appeal to adults. Nintendo would return to the party-game well for the Mario Party series, which was far more successful and they would also make games for adults with the Wii Sports and Wii Fit series of games, which both proved that you could make a game for adults while still using bright colors and cartoon characters.

Here's the big question, though: Since Nintendo never lets go of ideas, the question is: What idea will they come back to down the line? My best guess is the Vitality Sensor. You heard it here first.

Final Rating:

Next Week: Arch Rivals

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