Endless Ocean and it’s sequel, Endless Ocean: Blue World, were a pair of unique titles developed by Akira and published by Nintendo for the Wii a little under a decade ago. It stood in direct contrast to the action packed and adventuresome fares we typically see by offering a chance to enjoy relaxing and atmospheric exploration. But despite being lauded for it’s relaxed and beautiful atmosphere, the original Endless Ocean was hindered by both design flaws and system limitations. To be frank, the game series never really captured what makes a video game a video game: fun. After the initial hour or so of play-through the title suffered from an onset of monotony.
Without a broader set of objectives and activities to discover it became more of a glorified virtual fish tank. It’s a title that might be marketed to the modern mobile audience and it still wouldn’t pick up interest. The original and it’s sequel were both released to lukewarm critical reception, and, despite being a cult hit among some gamers, probably won’t be seeing a release of a third sequel for the Wii U (Or the NX for those of you who believe the release date rumors). It’s a shame though, because with a little reimagining and some implementation of modern game design features title the series could become something that blows the originals out of the water.
The Wii U Gamepad: Multi-tool: Echo-Scanner, Camera, Map, Journal
When the Wii U was announced years ago (YEARS AGO!|) fans and gamers imagined the possibilities of having a second screen. Since the reveal Nintendo has done surprisingly little to showcase the system’s main feature. Aside from a few features titles and psuedo-tech demos the gamepad hasn’t been utilized in a way that seem meaningful in many ways. A third iteration of the Endless Ocean series won’t change the Wii U’s gaming landscape, but that’s no reason for it to not take advantage of every feature available to it.
Using the Gamepad to relieve the TV of clutter and streamline menus is a no-brainer
Transforming the Gamepad into a diving multi-tool is the perfect way to integrate the technology into an intuitive and immersive gameplay accessory. One option would be a sort of echo scanner than pings silhouettes of animals and treasure across the seascape, showing sizes and distances accordingly. Using the gyroscope is a way to take the tech one more step towards a more immersive, and even fun, game.
I’m addicted to amiibo and anytime I can plug amiibo support for a game I will do it. Even if it’s as simple as costume and equipment unlocks. Maybe even adding fictional fish and plants to your holodeck aquarium. I don’t think that the support is crucial to the games success, but I do believe that Nintendo needs to inject support wherever they can.
Keep the Beautiful Soundtrack
Hayley Westenra and Celtic Woman, along with the pieces put together for the game were perfect. More of that please. I also appreciated the custom playlist support from the original titles. More of that too. Just feat your auditory senses on this:
Also relevant because Titanic is a thing
Another great way to take advantage of the Wii U’s most “innovative” feature would be to allow for two player a-synchronous gameplay. With two screens, two friends could explore the depths of the seas simultaneously in the same room. It would mean losing the previously mentioned gamepad features, but I think that the local multiplayer support would be a welcome addition, especially among families with younger gamers eager to play with gamer parents or older siblings. It’s by no means groundbreaking, but a welcome addition nonetheless.
The gamepad also makes it easy to set up smaller local competitive play. By installing a multiplayer aspect into the single player campaign along the lines of a “First to find” or “Best photo of” competitions, a second player can pop in and out with ease. No interruptions for the primary player, but also including passerby’s that may be interested for a few minutes.
Miiverse Integration & Proper Online Support
One of the Wii U’s crowning features (And one I sincerely hope doesn’t get lost in Nintendo’s next console) is the custom social platform that is Miiverse. Nintendo has integrated miiverse support sporadically in it’s offerings on Wii U, and those instances where it was implemented well critics and fans took notice. You only need to boot up Inkopolis to see how miiverse integration has taken Splatoon from just a great game to a community experience and a new Nintendo classic.
The developer for a new Endless Ocean iteration could approach it a few different ways. Leave direct messages on a literal in-game message board. Leave general Miiverse posts written in the sand, sprawling drawings at points of interest or clues directing to treasure from other players.
Both Endless Ocean and it’s sequel attempted to take advantage of the Wii’s internet connectivity by adding some online multiplayer functionality. Sadly it was limited by the Wii’s own hobbled online abilities along with it’s own niche market. In the first game players were forced to communicate via an underwater glow pen. It didn’t work great. The second took advantage of Nintendo’s strange set-top microphone: Wii Speak. It was a decent effort. Both together with the advantages of the gamepad would be a huge improvement from the original.
The original and sequel had a magical underwater pen. This is how useful it was...
Beyond the communication hurdle is the fact that we now have a Nintendo console that actually does online well (Or well enough for some). We can have 2, 3, or even 4 person multiplayer making the experience of a virtual diving with friends something that could be enjoyable. Turning this into a more social experience might be exactly what’s needed to take a lonely, monotonous (albeit ambient and relaxing) experience and turn it into something that’s about exploring a vast underwater, and sometimes alien environment with friends.
Use Modern Design and Hardware to Push the Oceans to Further Reaches
The first Endless Ocean title for Wii left a lot to be desired for true explorers like myself. Instead of being able to swim from one end of the Manoa Lai Sea to the other, I was given small pieces of it at a time. The sequel brought a little of what I wanted, a more expansive seascape to explore, plus new and interesting worldwide locations. A third title would NEED to push it even further. I’d even be ok with exploring imaginary locations, maybe via a Star Trek-esque holodeck aquarium. Let me explore a Mario water level, or a procedurally generated prehistoric sea. (Blue World gave players the chance to find some prehistoric beasts)
The Wii U can provide for fuller and more detailed environments, even a few years helped push the Wii’s limits (Edit: Go Vacation was a Wii title, not Wii U, thanks Bonesy)
The real challenge a team tackling a new Endless Ocean would have is creating a fun game without losing what differentiates the diving title from more action oriented ones. Pushing fun into the single-player gameplay could be done simply by adding meaningful exploration, challenging puzzles, and rewarding wildlife cataloguing; all areas that Endless Ocean never got right. The main game had all of the effort of cataloguing sea life without a meaningful reward, even through trophies or costume changes. Making areas more complex and expansive could pad the exploration.
We’ve seen games like Depth take underwater treasure hunting and turn it into a heart-pounding experience. A new Endless Ocean title doesn’t need to go so far to lose the relaxed pace, but taking some cues from it could make for some interesting, if only occasional, gameplay sequences. Adding a single player campaign that incorporates some sort of underwater poachers (and maybe some underwater temple stealth) could also be interesting. That’s the challenge though, creating a game that drives itself a little more without losing what players of the originals loved.
Of course this is all speculative and hopeful, but in reality the series was never as profitable as it’s few fans want to believe. Even so, stranger things have happened... What do you think? Any thoughts on the series in general? Or games that parallel the series and execute ideas better? Or any ideas you think you’d like to see if the series ever resurfaces?
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JpSr388 is a casual(ish) gamer, hardcore Nintendo fan, and aspiring designer & writer. He writes about what he cares about, and what is always good for some opinion. Find his sexy ass on Twitter here. Or keep on the lookout for more editorial and reviews here.