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The Role of Influence Principle in Maboshi's Arcade and How It Connects to the Wii U

12th September 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

There's been quite a bit of talk on asynchronous gameplay in the past few months, particularly when it comes to the Wii U. Thankfully, we have yet to reach a point where the mere mention of the word causes irritation, but by the same token, this push for synonymous association also has yet to see proper realization. Reasons behind this lack of cohesion should be apparent to anyone who's been tracking the system's development; reasons I will choose not to delve into at this time.
Respecting what Nintendo has already done, though, and the showing they had at this past E3, it's reasonable to say they've presented some well-meaning concepts that play to their overall vision -- which, to some, is still a bit wishy-washy. And to their credit, I do feel I've become a believer in at least two of the gameplay ideas they're working with in Nintendo Land. However, seeing as direction just doesn't come out of thin air, I've been wondering if some of Nintendo's past efforts on the Wii could have unknowingly paved the way for the very type of systems they're hoping developers will harness. One title I've been reflecting on with this very ideology in mind is Maboshi's Arcade.

Now, if you've never heard of the game before now, I wouldn't blame you, because even with Nintendo's fairly recent promoting of the game via Club Nintendo, it's still a somewhat obscure title. Thus, it would be appropriate to first cover the bases for the benefit of the uninformed. Essentially Maboshi's Arcade (or MaBoShi: The Three Shape Arcade as it's known in Europe) is a small "collection" (if you want to call it that) in which a trio of shapes are used to form the basis of three separate games. I use the word "separate" sparingly because of how this all comes across in practice. Maboshi's Arcade is designed in such a way to accentuate the forms presented in its three soft modes: Circle, Stick, and Square. In keeping with the removal of any possible aesthetic or control complication, each game is played under very simple and easy-to-understand language.

Because of this simplified direction, had this all been packaged as a straightforward presentation with a traditional game selection process, the game wouldn't strike very many as being all that unique. Going one step further, I'd venture to say that the only way some would even have a measure of interest in its toy-like style is if there were an artistic component to it. But where this is brought to a more streamlined level of tidiness is through the wise design decision of having three slots spread out on the screen simultaneously as a connected interface. This does not mean you must have your hand in each individual space, or even that each space is reserved for a specific game. Through what's known as an Effect System, each game in its housed environment can still influence its partners to a degree. And by influence, what I don't mean is the common example of having a split-screen battle in a puzzle game like Dr. Mario where performing successive matches on one end will add to the other person's pile as a form of disruption. No, this is a different kind of formatting altogether.

The individual spaces may be separate and the games carry on individually towards different destinations, but the Effect System makes it so that the gameplay is all subtly interconnected. For instance, the metal rod players control in Stick can knock enemies into an adjacent space, thereby turning them into helpful elements to speed up a process (in the case of Square's fire trails) or silence out-of-reach dangers (as seen with Circle's troublesome enemies). It's an intricate balance that Nintendo was playing with in their management of this system, because in certain situations you can actually feel a bit stifled to have this helpful element play the role that it does in your personal progression. With Circle, for example, you may be on the verge of hitting a coloured spec that's awfully close to the edge of the map when, as if on cue, a transformed element from an adjacent slot saves your skin. But when three players are so focused on their individual spaces, there's a humble intelligence behind the movement towards involuntary assistance that makes up for any apparent loss of momentum -- which, if anything, is more of a continuation, even though it's not self-initiated.

Could such approaches offer some insight into the sorts of expanded dynamics that will be explored with the Wii U? Some of what we've seen so far on a multiplayer level entails being in the same physical space but adopting roles that push a bit beyond the predictable modeling of tag-team management; and then with a distinct advantage being placed upon an individual with a selective visibility that is not easily achievable in the traditional plug-and-play setup we've come to know. It'll be very interesting to see how the GamePad will play a role in projecting interconnected gameplay across environments that appear disparate. So perhaps we won't see executions to the same formatting as Maboshi's Arcade, or even that we'll witness similar interfaces in a holistic sense. But it's that entire influence principle and the growth of it that I am especially intrigued by and hope will see fruition as the Wii U strives to make a mark.

Feature by KnucklesSonic8