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Wei Man takes a look at what Nintendo's first- & second-parties have to offer

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Close to Home:
What do Nintendo's First- and Second-Parties Have In Store?

It's well known that Nintendo's first party crew is one of the driving forces behind their longevity and popularity in the industry. They've created games that have become legends as well as push the boundaries of gaming. Games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda introduced gameplay that was unprecedented for their time. Pokémon created a huge phenomenon and spawned many copycats from companies wanting to get children to look at their stuff and "collect 'em all." Other games became showcases of technology like Star Fox, Wave Race and Pilotwings. Fans of Nintendo are even willing to buy their console just to play the first party games.

But who are they? Here we have them. From the stable backbone of EAD that almost completely supports Nintendo, to the small role-playing gem that is Brownie Brown. From the western action of NST to the eastern minds behind Intelligent Systems. From the brains that created the Metroid franchise to the ones that in turn created games based off of it. We take a look at what they have done, what their trend happens to be, and what they have confirmed to be bringing to the table for gamers in the near future.

Western tastes spawned from a Japanese company
Nintendo Software Technology

NST is one of the few studios in the west under Nintendo's wing that was created to help them target said market. They originally started off mostly handling ports and racing titles such as Ridge Racer 64, Crystalis for the Game Boy Color, and Wave Race: Blue Storm.

Now both restructured and matured, in more recent years NST handled more ambitious and original games with popular Nintendo characters, as can be seen in Metroid Prime Hunters and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. The studio is also set to unleash their first ever original IP with Project H.A.M.M.E.R. for Wii. As far as support for which system goes, NST seems to be providing a balanced approach by developing both DS and Wii games.

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)

Though some would argue that they don't reach the levels of developers such as Retro Studios, R&D1 (now integrated into EAD) and EAD, they seem to be one of the keys in Nintendo's armada to unleash friendly, fun and casual gameplay to appeal to western markets at a productive rate. To top things off, they've been showing that they can handle a variety of genres, from puzzle platformers like Mario vs. Donkey Kong to beat'em ups like Project H.A.M.M.E.R.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (DS)

Metroid Prime Hunters (DS)
Ridge Racer DS (DS)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong (GBA)

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (DS)
Project H.A.M.M.E.R. (Wii)

Retro Studios

Retro Studios has become one of the most notable teams in the eyes of Nintendo fans, even after only two projects. After much drama and controversy, the Texas-based team managed to move the beloved Metroid series into the 3D realm, with high praise from critics and gamers alike.

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GCN)

Thus far their only other released project has been Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, the sequel to their first game, and their only announced game is supposed to be the closing chapter of the Metroid Prime "trilogy." Because of this, it's hard to gauge what kind of direction the team will take. However, they've already proven themselves a capable developer and Nintendo will likely be looking at Retro Studios to provide darker and more western-appealing settings for their home consoles, in contrast to the lighter themes usually set by their Japanese developers.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Metroid Prime (GCN)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GCN)

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii)

Still serving handheld quality into the new generation
Alpha Dream

This now second-party developer for Nintendo was quite a surprise appearance on the scene back in the day. Alpha Dream went from complete obscurity after releasing a couple of Japan-only GBA games to absolute adoration from the handheld crowd after delivering their first handheld RPG under Nintendo in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga.

Since then Alpha Dream has delivered a couple of more titles for Nintendo's handhelds. After developing a sequel to Mario & Luigi on the DS, they put out an entry into the Hamtaro series, which currently isn't confirmed for release outside of Japan. This team will likely continue their work on Nintendo's handhelds, providing it with charming little adventure titles.

Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS)

Hamtaro: Nazo Nazo Q Kumonoue no ? Jou (DS, JP only)
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time (DS)
Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games (GBA)



This developer is credited for the main series of an uber-popular franchise called Pokémon. You might've heard of it. Though most don't relate them to anything besides the original 151 little creatures and the 200+ more that appeared in the two sequels, they've recently experimented with a unique platformer in Drill Dozer for the GBA.

Drill Dozer (GBA)

As always, Gamefreak is hard at work at creating another slew of creatures for its upcoming Pokémon RPG, set to unleash itself on the Nintendo DS this September in Japan. Will they venture off into other regions of gaming as well, now that they've had a taste of it with Drill Dozer? Or will that game's lack of commercial success turn them away, back to Pokémon? Regardless, it's likely that they'll stick with strengthening the handheld industry for Nintendo.

Pokémon Diamond/Pearl (DS)

Drill Dozer (GBA)
Pokémon Emerald (GBA)
Pokémon Fire Red/Leaf Green (GBA)

Pokémon Diamond/Pearl (DS)

Brownie Brown

Formed by former ex-Square employees who've worked on the Mana series (which includes Secret of Mana) for the Game Boy and Super Nintendo, this Nintendo first-party developer brings some more RPG experience to the table. Thus far they've created the Magical Vacation series, with the second entry on the DS under the name of Magical Starsign in North America, and Sword of Mana. They've also co-developed Mother 3 alongside HAL Laboratory.

Magical Starsign (DS)

While Magical Vacation didn't find itself in any languages outside of Japanese, the series is finally making it over stateside. Magical Starsign is a big plus, as the North American market can experience more of the former Mana team's magic (pun not intended). The team's also still attached to the Mana series, being the developer of the upcoming DS title Heroes of Mana. Brownie Brown is an experienced team that's providing some more RPG titles for the smaller machines from Nintendo. There have also been rumblings of a Gamecube game appearing from them. Where that project is now is anyone's guess.

Mother 3 (co-developer, GBA, JP only)
Sword of Mana (GBA)
Magical Vacation (GBA, JP only)

Magical Starsign (DS)
Heroes of Mana (DS)

The small-role players
Genius Sonority

Genius Sonority is the developer behind the two Pokémon entries for the Gamecube: Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness. Both of the games are attempts to bringing a Pokémon RPG adventure to the home console front, with Gamefreak busy handling the series's main entries on GBA, but thus far their efforts have been met with lukewarm to cold reception. But aside from that, they've shown that they can create alternative gameplay experiences as well, being the minds behind Pokémon Trozei for the Nintendo DS.

Pokémon Trozei (DS)

While Nintendo is the major shareholder, The Pokémon Company has a stake in Genius Sonority as well. Considering that fact, it's unlikely that this developer will be heading anywhere outside of Pokémon terrain anytime soon. Whether they can provide a Pokémon RPG for the home console that can even come close to being as critically well-accepted as Gamefreak's entries, and whether they can provide even more alternative gameplay styles with the franchise, remains to be seen.

Pokémon Battle Revolution (Wii)

Pokémon Trozei (DS)
Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness (GCN)
Pokémon Colloseum (GCN)

Pokémon Battle Revolution (Wii)


A small developer whose only projects have been in the Custom Robo series. Though the first three games in the series were only released in Japan, the entry for the GameCube found its way overseas. The DS sequel, Custom Robo Arena, is set to release this December in North America.

Custom Robo Arena (DS)

So far Noise hasn't shown signs of expanding and moving beyond Custom Robo, though the entries in the series can provide some simple multiplayer fun and fill in the gaps to Nintendo's line-up of biggies.

Custom Robo (GCN)

Custom Robo Arena (DS)

Fuse Games

Fuse is currently making games for Nintendo only under contract, so it's unknown how long they'll stick around. But at least for now, they are completely exclusive to Nintendo. Fuse is a pinball developer, and as can be seen by their first two releases, are hired to design pinball games around Nintendo franchises.

Their first game in Mario Pinball Land didn't fare so well with the critics, but Metroid Prime Pinball released to solid acclaim, so Fuse seems to be quite at home with the genre. Will they continue producing pinball games for the DS? Will they move on to test their pinball-developing skills on Wii? Will they be the ones responsible for the next Pokémon Pinball featuring Diamond and Pearl? Well, all we know is that their next title will (probably) have something to do with pinball... we think.

Metroid Prime Pinball (DS)

Metroid Prime Pinball (DS)
Mario Pinball Land (GBA)


The all-around beasts from the east
Intelligent Systems

Intelligent Systems is often confused with R&D1, though it's no surprise since they originally splintered off from the Metroid and WarioWare developer. In fact, Intelligent Systems has also helped out R&D1 with their series in the past, from providing programmers to help with the development of Super Metroid, to developing WarioWare Touched! and the upcoming WarioWare: Smooth Moves.

Intelligent Systems isn't only there to support R&D1 though, and that's where they've gotten themselves known. They've developed the much praised Tetris Attack as well as three fan favorite series: Paper Mario, Advance Wars and Fire Emblem.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN)

Intelligent Systems also seems to be making themselves more active on the home console front after being GBA-focused this past generation, with Super Paper Mario and a new Fire Emblem for Wii coming up in the bullpen. This team helps round out Nintendo's Japanese developers by giving more in-depth yet still pick-up-and-play experiences that're now developing across both handhelds and home consoles.

Super Paper Mario (Wii)
[note: screenshot from the now-cancelled GCN version]

Advance Wars: Dual Strike (DS)
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN)
WarioWare Touched! (DS)

Super Paper Mario (Wii)
WarioWare: Smooth Moves (Wii)
Fire Emblem sequel (Wii)

HAL Laboratory

One of the older developers in Nintendo's stable, HAL has created two notable series: Super Smash Bros. and Kirby. The Kirby series has basically become the developer's icon, both appearing in main entries such as the Kirby Dream Land games and Kirby Superstar, as well as experimental titles such as Kirby: Canvas Curse, Kirby's Tilt n' Tumble and Kirby Air Ride. They've also delved into the Pokémon series a bit by developing the two Pokémon Stadium games for the N64, and Pokémon Snap.

Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

With the loss of Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai as a permanent staff member, HAL moves on with the Kirby series and new Pokémon spin-offs, while their former star designer manages his own studio in Tokyo working on Super Smash Bros. Brawl. HAL have also helped Brownie Brown co-develop the (as of this time) Japan-only Mother 3. HAL is pretty much expected to helm the development of Kirby, while Super Smash Bros. future with them is foggy, seeing as Sakurai is not with the company anymore. However, they do provide games across both home console and handhelds, allowing them to easily provide titles to help both fronts.

Mother 3 (GBA)

Mother 3 (GBA, JP only)
Kirby: Canvas Curse (DS)
Kirby Air Ride (GCN)

Pokémon Ranger: Road to Diamond & Pearl (DS)
Kirby Squeak Squad (DS)


EAD, the studio headed by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, needs no introduction to both Nintendo fans and non-fans alike. But as a short summary for those who don't know, they're the ones behind two most beloved series in videogames: Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. Alongside those, they've also worked on games from AAA series such as Donkey Kong, F-Zero, Wave Race, Star Fox, Mario Kart, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, (*breathes*) Yoshi's Island, Pilotwings, Nintendogs and, well, more.

A Tokyo branch has recently been added to this Kyoto-native studio, and they are the developer of Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN) and the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy for Wii. Recent restructuring at Nintendo also integrated the Kyoto studios into EAD; amongst those include R&D1, the team responsible for games and series such as Wario Land, WarioWare, Metroid and Kid Icarus. What impact this will have on Nintendo's game development is still unknown, aside from the fact that a lot of work at Nintendo's Kyoto studios is now organized under Shigeru Miyamoto and his right-hand man, Takashi Tezuka.

EAD is always a surprise. While sequels of some beloved franchises are expected, they also toss in something new and different from what they've worked on in the past every generation. On Wii, they're currently known to be developing Wii Sports. Its producer Katsuya Eguchi, also the producer of Animal Crossing: Wild World for DS, has also confirmed an Animal Crossing for Wii to be in the works. Meanwhile, EAD Tokyo is working hard on Super Mario Galaxy. We also can't forget about the ambitious project that Nintendo fans have been waiting for, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, being helmed by Miyamoto's handpicked disciple, Eiji Aonuma, to take over the Zelda series. Aonuma's also giving the DS its own proper game in his grand responsibility with The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii & GCN)
[note: screenshot from GCN version]

What other projects will this humongous studio bring out? Only time will tell. One thing that DS owners are ecstatic about though, is a newly vested interest in handhelds by EAD with the delivery of games such as New Super Mario Bros, Nintendogs, Animal Crossing: Wild World and the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. But Wii owners: don't fret, as EAD has always thrown their full support towards the home console front and this generation will likely be no different.

Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Star Fox Command (DS, co-developed with Q-Games)
Big Brain Academy (DS)
New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Just Minutes a Day (DS)
Animal Crossing: Wild World (DS)
Mario Kart DS (DS)
Nintendogs (DS)
WarioWare Twisted! (GBA)
Yoshi's Touch & Go (DS)
Super Mario 64 DS (DS)
Pikmin 2 (GCN)
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN)
Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (Wii & GCN)
Wii Sports (Wii)
Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)
Animal Crossing sequel (Wii)

Written by: Wei Man Tang

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