An Open Letter to Nintendo
I recently purchased your game Tetris DS for my Nintendo DS Lite and am enjoying it quite a bit. (Goes without saying...it's Tetris for chrissakes!) However, I have one major problem with it and that is the reason for this letter:
"Nintendo-themed" is not a theme!
As you well know, the Nintendo DS has two screens, one on top of another. You only need one of those screens to play Tetris. So, in "Tetris DS", while the bottom screen has your game going, appropo of nothing, classic 1984 Super Mario Brothers is being played by an unseen force on the top screen:
Not only that, but, as you can see, the background of the Tetris playfield features a darkened bit of World 1-1. Oh, and that Goomba on the lower right? He rotates randomly in 3D space.
It cotinues on from there. Various game modes have differant "themes" which all feature classic Nintendo or classic Gameboy graphics, like Metriod. Circa 1988 type graphics, I'm talking about, which gain a lovely amount of pixilation when translated to the DS's higher resolution screen.
With all this recycling of characters and graphical elements, you might as well call it Mariotetris. Of course, it wasn't always this way:
The top image is original Gameboy Tetris, the bottom is Apple II Tetris. Those had a theme that was totally unique to Tetris -- Russia. The Gameboy had it's wonderfully plinky Russian music. (Confession: As a 12 year old, I recorded the music onto my Walkman and would listen to it on car rides when my brother was using the Gameboy). The Apple II version had pictures of cosmonauts and Red Square around the playfield. This theme worked because it tipped it's hat to a world that (especially in the early eighties) was exotic and hidden. There was actaully something that felt a little seditious about playing Tetris.
Of course, that theme wouldn't work in 2006 (and I'm not asking you, Nintendo, to re-release it as OsamaTris). But in the quest to find a new theme to wrap the most sucessful (and I would say primal) puzzle games of all time, you decided to not continue that tradition of making Tetris exotic, instead you chose to nostalgically pat yourself on the back for the successes you had in the 80's.
Now, I can understand where you might be coming from. For you, "Mario" is an important brand. And I think you're trying to position Marioanything in parent's minds as "products that don't have sex or excessive violence that are safe for kids."
But that is extreme arrogance.
Because, in actuality, Tetris is a far stronger brand than Mario. And here's the real shame of it -- once you actually play Tetris DS, with it's spin mode and it's touch-screen push mode, you realize that the game of Tetris has been expanded upon quite nicely. However, the brand of Tetris has been cheapened by all the random Mario crap littering the playfield.
It's like you had an office to renovate. You made it much more functional by getting better desks and faster internet, but then put up wallpaper so annoying that no one could concentrate.
Besides the aesthetic clusterfuck, here's the basic problem: I feel ripped off. If I'm going to pay for a brand new game, I expect brand new elements. If I'm going to pay $30 just to use a new platform for a game I've been playing since 1986, it damn well better have entirely fresh graphic elements. (Hell, even something like C64 Girltris is at least a step in some direction.)
Tetris has a rich tradition and demands more respect, not the standard 8-bit Nintendo white wash you throw on anything you are too lazy to seriously think about making great.