Nintendo We Volume 8: Ice Climbers: The Brave and the Cold
When it comes to obscure and neglected Nintendo series, which have been rarely revisited since the NES days, few are as notable as Ice Climber. It was released in 1985, some months before Super Mario Bros, acting as a launch title for the system in North America, and focused on vertical platforming as opposed to the horizontal platforming, which would later become synonymous with Nintendo’s first proper foray into the home console market. Designed primarily as a co-operative game, the objective is to reach the top of each stage by making precision jumps and carving openings into otherwise impassable layers of ice. At the end of each stage is a bonus section for players to traverse in order to receive additional points at the end of each level.
Ever since, the two main characters of Ice Climber, Popo and Nana, have only appeared as fighters in both Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Smash Bros Brawl. The series’ director Masahiro Sakurai had originally planned to include them in both Super Smash Bros 3DS and Super Smash Bros Wii U, but were unfortunately cut due to technical limitations. In terms of individual character development, there is also next to nothing. Most Nintendo fans speculated that these two were either siblings or a married couple. Sakurai himself originally envisioned the two as lovers whilst contemplating their inclusion in Super Smash Bros Melee, but ultimately, Nintendo decided that the relationship between the two characters was up to players to imagine.
Some gamers may consider this series to be a lost cause, and simply a gimmicky launch title for the original NES, just like many other games and characters to have been introduced with the advent of new consoles ever since. But, there are also a lot of old-school gamers out there who mightily enjoyed the original Ice Climber and cant understand why a sequel was never made, and why Nintendo have chosen not to work on it any further than what they have. However, I believe that there is something very interesting Nintendo could do with this series, and it involves them collaborating with an equally interesting developer/director.
Josef Fares is a Swedish film director, who has in recent years dabbled in the gaming industry with the release of a title with the assistance of Starbreeze Studio; Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The game was released in late 2013 to an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, winning the VGX award for best Xbox game, and even winning a BAFTA award for best video game innovation. The objective of this game is somewhat similar to Ice Climber, but with fractionally more depth, and a couple of side quests thrown in for good measure. It involves two brothers, Naiee and Naia, who venture out to recover a vial of water from the Tree of Life in order to heal their father, who has fallen gravely ill. I reviewed the game early on in my career, and I believe it makes for one of the greatest and deepest stories ever told in a video game, whilst having a fair amount of enjoyable gameplay. It’s my belief that combining elements from both Ice Climber and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons could potentially make for a game better than either, and the successful revival of one of Nintendo’s most disused series.
I would like to see the basic premise of gameplay involve more adventure rather than basic platforming, with Popo and Nana on an expedition of their own; with even more side quests and substance in gameplay in the form of different abilities or acquirable weapons similar to The Legend of Zelda. If it was to be set in an open world, which I would prefer greatly, I think the control scheme would have to be reworked to quite an extent. However, in the process, I would like to retain a lot of the mechanics from Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons; mechanics such as controlling both characters with both analogue sticks in order to solve puzzles and traverse certain obstacles. Indeed, since both characters are proficient in climbing mountains in particular, I believe these mechanics would work exceptionally well under the circumstances.
There are also limitless possibilities in terms of story for two key reasons; one being that Josef Fares would be on board with the project, and has experience in not only the gaming industry, but in the film industry too, and secondly, that secondly, Nintendo themselves have left a lot open and a lot possible in their prior reluctance to establish any kind of basic story premise. For example, the relationship between the two characters could be anything at this point; from lovers to spouses to sibling to friends. The plot of the game is also completely subject to any kind of possibility, since there is no truly established end goal, supporting characters, setting, scenery and/or style, or even bosses; the only real enemy being the giant condor that steals the collectible vegetables in the original Ice Climber, and I think that could do with being changed, since it could be seen nowadays as a precursor to the story premise of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
I believe Nintendo would benefit greatly from the collaboration with Starbreeze Studio and Josef Fares, and the development of such a different and off-the-wall game, since not only would be drastically different from anything Nintendo have published in recent years, but different to anything they have published ever since the release of the NES. Something like this is what they need on either the Wii U, or the next home console they decide to develop for that matter, since it will provide the level of innovation that Josef Fares has won a gaming award for, which is always sought after within the industry.
And so concludes the Nintendo We series. I hope everyone who has read it has enjoyed it just as much as I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. It has been a pleasure for me to contemplate and work on all these different ideas, and to share them with the gaming industry through Dark Zero. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ben Knowles for approving the inclusion of the series, and Simon Lundmark for editing the article headers, and making each one that much more presentable, as well the rest of the Dark Zero staff for their continued support and encouragement.