Specials: It's like the Fox Searchlight of Nintendo Franchises
Nintendo is a company not above resting on its laurels. As games continue to rise in cost, new and unproven intellectual properties are the first games to get dropped. So it should come as no surprise that the company making the most profit is content to use its established brands for all they are worth in the console space. The relatively new downloadable game realm, on the other hand, is slightly different. Familiar faces still do well but with lower consequences for failure, even a company as conservative as Nintendo can afford to take some chances. Enter their newest series: Art Style, cheap experimental puzzles games for your internet-enabled Nintendo systems.
The genesis of this series came in 2006 when Nintendo and skip ltd. (the creators of Chibi-Robo) released a series of minimalist Game Boy Advance games under the name of Bit Generations. While the name was changed, everything else from the developers to the philosophy of simple yet high-concept gameplay was retained for Art Style. In total seven Bit Generations games would be released in Japan.
Flash forward to 2008, the beginning of Nintendo's WiiWare digital game distribution service. On September 29th, they released Orbient, a remake of the Bit Generations game Orbital and the first Art Style game. Eventually two more geometry-centric games were released for the platform, one base on another Bit Generations game (Rotohex) and one with an entirely new design (Cubello). All three received mostly positive reviews and many reviewers commended Nintendo for taking advantage of WiiWare with this new and unique series.
With the announcement of the DSi in late 2008 came the news that downloadable games would be coming to the device through a system called DSiWare. To help launch the series, Nintendo also announced six more games in the Art Style series: Aquia, Pictobits, Base 10, Boxlife, Zengage and Kubos (the only one not out in America at the time of this writing). Art Style games may be hard to describe, Boxlife, for example, is about cutting a piece of grid the right way in order for all of the segments to be folded into boxes, but they are also cheap, quick and easy to play. These qualities not only made them good puzzle games but also good portable games to have in a flash memory. It's no wonder that DSiWare quickly overtook WiiWare as the go to venue for Art Style games.
Unfortunately, Nintendo has not revealed any plans for future games in the Art Style series. With developers skip ltd. hard at work on a new Chibi-Robo for DS, perhaps there is not enough time to come up with the fresh and creative ideas the games are known for. Developer Q Games did make one game for the Bit Generations series but they are off making Pixeljunk games for the PS3, a series not too different from Art Style when you think about it. But with nine games across two platforms, Art Style has plenty to offer players right now, especially when you realize that their combined cost is less than a full-priced Wii game. Whether it's Orbient's black and empty space theme or Pictobits soundtrack by Japanese chiptunes band YMCK, Art Style's... style... continues skip's tradition of breaking away from the style of their Nintendo masters. However, like any other good Nintendo series, Art Style puts fun and creative gameplay above everthing else.