Listen folks, I love Nintendo. They are, for me, the best AAA developer and publisher in the business, because even though their output is slow, I struggle to think of the last time I played a truly bad Nintendo game. Sure, not every Zelda or Mario title is created equally, but I think even at their worst, Nintendo consistently tries to inject new ideas into their old franchises and occasionally helps a smaller developer get a neat, unique idea out there (anyone remember HAL Laboratory’s Boxboy trilogy on the 3DS?). I’ve been a fan of theirs for as long as I can remember, and was really looking forward to Wednesday’s Nintendo Direct.
It was the first full length Direct they’ve done probably since the pandemic hit. Sure, we’ve had a few smaller videos here and there (largely related to Pokemon) but they have largely been mum on what they’ve been working on. Maybe it’s my own fault, but my excitement for this Direct was pretty high. And it wasn’t a terrible presentation. There’s quite a lot of cool looking stuff they announced, but it’s not anything near what I wanted.
Things at least started off strong with the announcement of Pyra and Mythra from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 coming to Smash. I’m honestly surprised it took this long for that game to get a rep since Masahiro Sakurai has gone on record as saying he’s a huge fan of the franchise. For me, it’s the first fighter from the second season pass that’s held any amount of interest. It might get me to actually invest in the DLC. Something else I found myself weirdly intrigued by was the Speed Golf mode in Mario Golf Super Rush.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t really follow sports at all. Not even Esports. They just aren’t my thing. I find myself bored by them. I’m not casting shade on anyone who does, though. They just aren’t for me. But the Speed Mode in Mario Golf Super Rush looks like a legitimately insane party mode, a really interesting way to give some flair to the sport of golf. It’s something I might invest in once the world can go back to having large gatherings again, because it looks like it could ruin friendships just as fast as Mario Party or Mario Kart. Color me intrigued.
There were a few other titles that looked cool to me personally. First off, Famicom Detective Club looks right up my alley. I love a good Visual Novel, and the supernatural/horror mysteries at the center of each title have me interested in checking out these forgotten titles. There was also Project Triangle Strategy, which is reportedly a working title for the isometric strategy game coming from the developers of Octopath Traveler. Even though the premise seems like a straight up ripoff of Fire Emblem: Three Houses¸ the game looks stunning and I like the way they showed off the player’s ability to interact with the environment via magic. The isometric SRPG isn’t a title I’m super familiar with, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played in the genre, including the long-forgotten Nintendo DS title Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.
Then there was The World End’s Club, which really has me interested since it’s from the creators of the Zero Escape and Danganronpa franchise. Despite having a similar setup to those titles (characters enter a game of death), it turns out it’s more of a side scrolling action game with an emphasis on the story (however, it is yet another Switch Port). Then there are a few previously-unavailable-in-North-America RPGs from Square Enix’s vault coming to switch in the form of Legend of Mana and SaGa Frontier.I have a complex relationship with the former franchise, and I have yet to play an entry in the latter, but I love a good old fashioned JRPG. Lastly, No More Heroes 3 has a release date, which is cool.
Apart from that, the presentation was largely announcements of a bunch of ports. For some reason Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse is coming to Switch, as are a lot of older titles. Tales from the Borderlands, Miitopia, and several others. It’s nice to have these kinds of games on Switch I guess, but it largely felt like filler. I appreciate that the system has become something of a gaming preservation machine, but I would also like some new games to be excited for. Knockout City at least has a cool premise, with it essentially being a game of weaponized dodgeball, but the fact that it’s from EA and seems to have an extremely obnoxious sense of humor is keeping me away. Then there are games that barely got a mention like a new expansion pass for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity and Star Wars Hunters. While HW at least had a list of features you could pause and check out, the latter had next to no information given about it. It seems they were banking off of the brand recognition.
Of course, the biggest letdown for me was when Eiji Aonuma appeared on screen. He’s one of the masterminds behind the Zelda series, and when he showed up I, like many others, were expecting some sort of update on the follow up to Breath of the Wild. All we got was that development is “happening smoothly” and instead it was announced that Skyward Sword is getting an HD release on Switch, with newly revamped controls that give players options in how they play. Regardless of what I think of the game, (I think it has a lot of good parts, but also a lot of bad ones too, and it remains one of my least favorite titles in the series) it seems that this is all Nintendo is doing to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of their most beloved franchises.
And I have to ask: why? With Breath of the Wild 2, I can at least understand the slow development with all that’s been going on in the world. I would have loved to see some more info on it, literally anything, but I’m not going to fault the company for not creating a game of that size, scope, and ambition in the middle of a pandemic faster. But why would they rerelease a game that remains one of the most divisive in the series as a way to celebrate its anniversary? At least Mario got Super Mario 3D All Stars. Sure, I would have loved to see more for the plumber’s birthday, but it’s a better celebration of its franchise than a rerelease of Skyward Sword is. It would have been fine if it was something like “Hey, we’re working on a few different Zelda ports right now, stay tuned.” But no, we get just one port of a contentious title and that’s apparently it.
The presentation ended with a prerendered trailer for Splatoon 3. It showed very little in the way of gameplay, but I guess that’s good if you’re a fan of the franchise (I’ve played it a bit with a friend’s copy of the second game and it’s good but not for me because I’m bad at multiplayer games). It’s an oddity for Nintendo to release a trailer with no gameplay in it, and to me that is indicative of this direct as a whole. It seems Nintendo might have been feeling some pressure to deliver a full length presentation, but I almost would have preferred something smaller. Don’t get me wrong, I am interested in a lot of the titles that have been announced, but it really lacked that oomph, that one thing to really get the hype train rolling.
I think it’s a damnation of how the gaming industry has handled the pandemic. So much has been put on hold, and I think mot rational people would agree that game developers being straight with their audience is preferable to anti-climactic presentations and releases. The PS5 released with an HD port of Demon’s Souls, an expansion pack for Spiderman, and a few other titles that, for me, aren’t system sellers. The Xbox Series X, meanwhile, has little in the way of games original to its console. Then along came Nintendo, with only a few exciting things to show the world in this presentation. At least part of this rests on me personally, but I have to say that companies need to be smarter about this.
We’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and understandably a lot has been put on hold, delayed, canceled, or otherwise. Let’s be real here, the only reason the next generation of consoles launched last year was purely monetary. Sony and Microsoft were looking for that financial boost that comes with new consoles releasing around the holidays, and while I can’t blame them, I think the ultimately smarter move would have been to delay their release. Same with Nintendo in this Direct. They clearly have been affected by the pandemic just like everyone else, and this presentation reflects that. They really needed some sort of bombshell announcement, something that would blow everyone out of the water. Instead, the canoe was not only afloat, but had an inflatable life raft around its edge to make sure it was extra buoyant.