Virtually Overlooked: Mario Artist

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Virtually Overlooked: Mario Artist

The Mario Artist series is a set of three games (Paint Studio, Polygon Studio, and Talent Studio) that allow players to create artwork in varying forms. In addition to being pretty neat on their own, they predicted some of Nintendo's biggest developments before they became big. Looking through this suite of three games, we can see a few quite novel ideas that were later refined into massively important releases in other forms -- not the least of which, of course, is the "non-game."

Unfortunately, the one part of Nintendo's strategy that these three titles failed to accurately predict was the releasing games on the 64DD part, which Nintendo did not end up adopting as a business model.
The Famicom Disk System was a fairly popular mode of playing and storing games, but the 64DD didn't fare as well. The FDS had the advantage of being attached to a system people owned and liked, while the Nintendo 64 saw nowhere near the Famicom's success (to say the least). Nintendo of America declined to support or release the peripheral right away, effectively dooming the already-shaky device. And to make things worse, Nintendo of Japan only made it available with a subscription to their RANDNet online service, making its commercial failure a self-fulfilling prophecy. The Mario Artist series, then, was destined for obscurity regardless of quality.

Paint Studio is like the lost sequel to Mario Paint: a drawing program, bundled with a mouse, that featured several Nintendo-themed stamps, including Rare's N64 characters and all 151 Red/Blue-era Pokémon. It interfaced with a wacky peripheral called the Nintendo 64 Capture Cartridge (included with Talent Studio), a cartridge with connections for composite video input that allowed images to be imported from video.

Polygon Studio enables players to create simple 3D models, which could then be imported into Paint Studio or sent to a printing service via Randnet. You can use images from Paint Studio as textures for the models, as well. These polygon models can also be used in customizable games.

Talent Studio is a 'game' in which players can map their own faces (captured from video with the Capture Cartridge) onto characters with customizable body shapes and clothing. These characters can then be put into 'fashion shows' or short animated movies made within Talent Studio.

While we're still (oddly) waiting for Nintendo's latest drawing tool on either the DS or Wii, the ideas found in the other games have resurfaced in interesting places. The idea of making in-game caricatures of yourself, of course, would become very important to Nintendo a bit later (two console generations later) when the company hit upon the idea of making it part of the system rather than a standalone game, and using your DIY avatars in other games. The printing-service idea has recently been brought back for photobooks and business cards via the Wii in Japan. And outside of its main features, Polygon Studio made its own contribution to Nintendo's future, with the minigames seen in the following video. See if anything looks familiar.

[Boxes via]

Virtually Overlooked is a weekly feature that spotlights games that aren't yet on the Virtual Console, but should be. Want more Virtually Overlooked? Check out the first year!
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