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Nintendo’s Hat System Could Be A Step Toward Bigger Achievements

by Jeff Cork on Jul 24, 2013 at 08:30 AM

Nintendo released a 3DS update a few weeks ago that added several new games to the Mii Plaza. If you’ve been playing any of them, you’ve probably been showered with a new currency called plaza tickets. These tickets can be redeemed for Mii hats, but that’s not all that’s going on here.

The current console generation introduced players to the idea that their gaming achievements could be compiled in an easily referenced score or tabulation. Nintendo has shied away from such system-wide functionality on its Wii U console. The company did incorporate something loosely resembling an overarching achievement system in its 3DS handheld, however, in the form of StreetPass Mii Plaza accomplishments. Players are rewarded for fulfilling specific criteria such as meeting Mii characters from different regions, getting 100 StreetPass tags in a single day, or finishing the Find Mii game. It’s simple and there’s not an easy way to compare your progress with a friend’s, aside from handing your 3DS over.

Four new Mii Plaza games were released on July 12: Mii Force, Flower Town, Warrior’s Way, and Monster Manor. It might not seem as though a game about pollinating a garden plant by plant has much in common with a 2D shooter, but Nintendo has woven a connective thread between the four games. That thread is (as silly as it might sound): Hats.

Find Mii players know that one of the payoffs to the simple RPG is treasure chests. When opened, they give your Mii a wearable hat. They include homages to Nintendo franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. That hat system has expanded with the new games, and the concept of accomplishments has grown as well.

Now, when you beat a level without taking damage in Mii Force or conquer territory in Warrior’s Way, you earn a plaza ticket. The ticket serves as both an achievement-like notification that you’ve accomplished something, but it also gives you the chance to exchange it for a hat. Four new hats are available every day, and they can be “purchased” for one ticket apiece.

Xbox 360 players might be skeptically wrinkling their faces right about now, and for good reason. Achievements have been unlocking wearable avatar items since Microsoft introduced avatars. However, there’s few differences worth noting. First, players don’t typically see other players’ avatars unless they want to. In StreetPass, 3DS players see every Mii they encounter march by in a single-file line. Seeing some of the sillier hats is part of the experience, and there’s a “How’d they get that?!” dynamic in play. Additionally, giving players the sense that they’re in control of what they’re unlocking – as illusory or minimal as it may actual be – is a powerful tool.

Has Nintendo completely revolutionized the concept of achievements? Not likely. But people should see the StreetPass hats system – as silly as it may seem to type or read – as a step toward more exciting ideas. I’d love to see an expanded version on Wii U, particularly with third-party support. I’ve known people who, when all versions are equal, have chosen to play games on the Xbox 360 over the PS3 because of their preference of achievements over trophies. Maybe Nintendo dropped the ball by not having them on Wii U from the start, but it’s definitely not too late to pick it up again.