Nintendo Direct 11.12.2015 in review

At long last, Nintendo has returned to doing Nintendo Direct videos, right before the holiday season. Let’s break it down.

First, we get a subdued introduction from Reggie Fils-Aime, doing an understated but fitting tribute to Satoru Iwata by calling back to the late Iwata’s style in his own way. It was very well done, and you couldn’t have asked for a better way to respect Iwata in this format.

For the meat of the presentation, we begin with the biggest announcement of the Direct as a lead-off – an HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Given that the previous GameCube Zelda game got a WiiU rerelease, this announcement wasn’t a huge surprise, although it deserves full respect for making the colors pop much better than either the GameCube or Wii versions ever did – though fair warning, it looks like the cutscenes are still a bit washed out. They also announced that there will be their favorite feature, “unspecified amiibo support.” This could be great… if we knew what it was beyond getting something from the Zelda series amiibos. Oh, and they did announce a sweet-looking Wolf Link amiibo, along with a bonus soundtrack for preorders. This is for next March, so this is coming sooner than you think.

Though if you’re wondering about the new Zelda title, the only thing we got was a shot that may have already been used before (it certainly looked pretty similar) and the announcement that Wolf Link can do something when it brings a Twilight Princess HD save over to the new title. You can only imagine my boundless and unmitigated joy at an unspecified feature being discussed over a reused shot of a game that doesn’t even have a launch date yet.

Want more Reggie? Well too bad, it’s Bill Trinen time, proving that you don’t need to be a gangly teen to make awkward videos on YouTube. He might be a nice guy, but he has all the camera presence of a river trout, which wasn’t helped that he was given the first task to discuss the new content coming up for Triforce Heroes. What’s worse, the new content in question weren’t fixes for the problems many have had with the online portion (by far the most significant one) of the game. The Cave of Trials sounds like it’d be a real winner if dealing with the online system wasn’t emotionally similar to eating stale potato chips – dissatisfying and making you question your life choices.

Bill then technically gave more information of Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, in which he showed some new footage and also showed a couple of gameplay mechanics off, including the team-up mechanic that looks like it adds a bit to the actual gameplay. That said, it’s a Mystery Dungeon game, with procedurally generated dungeons. If you’re not familiar with the style by now, it’s a bit beyond the scope of this to explain it to you.

The Splatoon update (which included one level and some equipment that has already gone live) doesn’t particularly interest me in terms of gameplay, as I don’t own the game. That said, it does have me excited that Super Mario Maker will similarly continue to receive love via updates and new features in the coming months via free downloadable content. Slope fans, your prayers may yet be answered.

Speaking of, the meat of what we’re interested about here – Super Mario Maker. Naturally, they discussed the update with checkpoints and status-dependent power-ups (although those were somewhat limited; you can’t make blocks that spit out invincibility stars only if you’re already invincible… yet). The actual news, though, is the web portal that will be coming next month that will allow us all to search more precisely for various Mario Maker levels. It’ll even allow you to sync it to your Miiverse profile so that you can flag levels on your computer or smart phone and have them pop up in an in-game menu when you sit down to play. This is something we’ve all been wanting for a while, although how good it’ll be will greatly depend on how robust the search engine will be.

Next, we roll into talk about Animal Crossing amiibo Festival. Or as we probably could more appropriately call it, Nicer Mario Party. Seriously, you move around a set board and do little things to make people happy, and there are minigames involved. All we need is Tom Nook showing up to take happiness points away from you and we can just say Nintendo is just competing with their own casual games. Though this will work with the Animal Crossing amiibo cards to unlock extra minigames, so it does work with technology Nintendo has previously produced.

Mario Tennis Ultra Smash followed and… well, look, Nintendo has been making tennis games for years. And really, it’s been an incremental but steady evolution since the NES Tennis game back when the system first came around. If you’ve played any of their tennis games, you know exactly what to expect for the most part. This one throws in the wrinkle of fancier graphics for shots to punish weak lobs and out-of-position foes, along with an easy mode and a doubles mode where they occasionally randomly enlarge one partner, but it’s a pretty safe build overall. The only interesting thing added, I think, is the setup to have an amiibo character partner with you, level up, and have customization options. Yeah, it’s like how they work in Smash Bros., but it feels like it’ll work better here, perhaps because playing on a tennis team is much more common than team fights in Smash.

Xenoblade Chronicles X was represented next, but not nearly as vigorouosly as the Xenoblade Chronicles-focused videos. All you can really get from this is that there are giant robots, they tried to make a cross between Monster Hunter and Mass Effect (will they succeed, who knows?), and the game is such a bear that they recommend people buying the disc version download texture and information packs to speed up loading times (the download version won’t need those). This somewhat worries me about the game; it’s starting to sound overly ambitious for the system.

Some stuff from the eShop was presented next. First was Nintendo Badge Arcade, which feels like the world’s worst virtual paper doll, in that only you get to see how you put your 3DS homepage together. Oh, and it has microtransactions, because we didn’t lose enough hope from just hearing about it. Pokémon Picross sounds great if you’re really into the Picross puzzle games and Pokémon, but otherwise not so much. Strangely, though, this does include me, so I appreciate that Nintendo is marketing right towards me, and I hope this doesn’t make the microtransactions required. Steam World Heist is a kind of platformer/turn-based RPG hybrid; looks like it’ll encourage neat looking shots while you plan your next move. Fast Racing Neo looks like an independent designer got frustrated that Nintendo wasn’t making a new F-Zero game and took matters into their own hands. The fact that one mode is apparently Hero Mode just makes me think Captain Falcon’s biggest fan is really frustrated and learned to code. Finally, Typoman was shown off, and it manages to combine wordplay with an atmosphere reminiscent of Limbo – color this writer intrigued.

By the way, was that too much video gaming goodness for you? Well, then, we have an awful sketch where Bill gets possessed by a character from Yo-Kai Watch and eats a bunch of donuts. It’s… uh… it gave me time to organize my notes so far. I’m just really glad they didn’t produce videos like this when Pokémon first came out.

Perhaps as an apology, Reggie comes back on to hype the Nintendo systems for the holidays. Oh, hey, we even get a Devil’s Third mention! Though given that all we see is the box art, well… that entire mess is probably the focus of its own article entirely. Beyond that, Reggie hypes the upcoming holiday bundles, including the WiiU bundled with Smash 4 and Splatoon. Probably a good call to bundle both – Splatoon is popular, but doesn’t have enough recognition outside of its owners at the moment to drive bundle sales.

Oh, and new amiibo are coming. Well… except that all they did was show amiibo that they had already announced previously, with no set date. But hey, Lucas! Here in America! (And no, no Mother 3 announcement, unlike the Japanese Direct. Don’t be ridiculous, Nintendo doesn’t like you that much.)

Of course, since any appearance of anything from Mother 3 makes Reggie flee like someone said Beetlejuice three times in his presence, Bill comes on to show that Pokken Tournament (well, the way he pronounces it is more like Pok… Ken Tournament – that’s one hell of a glottal stop) is coming here, and will apparently have some sort of strange story mode that involves anime characters possessing Pokémon for a tournament or something. Oh, and early adopters can unlock Shadow Mewtwo from the game immediately instead of having to jump through hoops. That’s… certainly something that’s true.

Next comes more solid detail on Star Fox Zero, where it shows marvels like a walking Arwing (which those of us who unlocked that Mystery Mushroom already knew about), a hovering Landmaster tank (okay, flying tanks are pretty awesome), and the Gyrowing, a two-rotor helicopter that’s supposed to be for stealth. Looks interesting, particularly with the fact that the gamepad shows a first person view and can allow you to fire in a different direction from where your ship is flying on the television screen. Oh, and we get a new release date – April 22. Let’s see if they can stick to it.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam is an interesting concept – make a “crossover” between Nintendo’s two Mario-based RPG games. It looks like the battle system borrows more heavily from Mario & Luigi (particularly Dream Team), while the overworld borrows more from Paper Mario. All in all, probably the correct call on all accounts, especially if it means we can pretend Sticker Star never happened. Oh, and more amiibo support for in-battle buffs, because we have to justify just how many of these things we bought.

Final Fantasy Explorers gets a US release date – January 26, 2016 – along with news that all of the DLC from the Japanese version will be included on the game card. Hey, that’s not bad – no paying extra for Square Enix’s take on Monster Hunter crossed with Final Fantasy 11/14. And clearly, this will be the biggest news we could possibly expect out of the Final Fantasy brand on Nintendo systems. Clearly.

More information on how Fire Emblem Fates will be handled. First, you can buy either the Birthright or Conquest versions of the game at retail, plus get the other side as DLC for reduced cost. Sounds great, although I would also love to know how much memory this is going to take up; Smash updates are already bloating across my 3DS memory. Plus, a third version, Revelations, will come out shortly thereafter. I worry you might need a Fire Emblem-dedicated 3DS… unless, of course, you spring for the deluxe $80 edition that has all three versions in a single package. I would criticize Nintendo for this… but we are talking about the publishers of Pokémon. We should have seen this coming.

Meanwhile, because Capcom has given up on actually producing new material, there’s also a new Mega Man collection, featuring the first six games, coming to the 3DS. You know, for those who didn’t get Mega Man Anniversary Collection back in the GameCube days, or who just can’t be bothered to get them on the eShop right now. There are galleries of concept art and the like, which is great if you’ve never heard of fan-run wikis. About the only thing potentially worth getting is the gold Mega Man amiibo that they announced for the special edition, if you somehow really want one and didn’t just get the original Mega Man amiibo at the time. That seems like a pretty narrow market to me, though.

Perhaps the biggest news on the portable front came next, particularly for Pokémon players. No, not Pokémon Z or Pokémon Delta Emerald. What, you think they want to add to their new games? No, we’re getting 3DS eShop versions of Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow, with the only modification being that trading/battling can happen over wireless. Ah, the good old days, when your party was eventually Mewtwo and your five Mewtwo counters (Exeggutor, Starmie, Jolteon, Alakazam, and Dragonite – you’re welcome). Surely, the days we all wish we could relive.

Hyrule Warriors Legends gets a bit more of a show, with character portraits accompanying Musou attacks and five new characters shown off – Toon Link, Tetra, and the King of Hyrule from The Wind Waker, Skull Kid from Majora’s Mask, and Linkle, a girl with crossbows modeled after Link and finally answering the question, “Just how can we confuse the people who think Link’s name is Zelda even more?” Still, the first game was a hoot; this version looks like it’s going to keep all the fun as well.

We have a few more quick rundowns. We only get to hear the release date and see the logo for Bravely Second: End Layer, though folks who remember the title screen-based plot twist of the first will be dissecting the kerning of the title for this game intently, let me promise you. Dragon Quest 7 and 8 are coming out in the US as well, with 7 getting the full DS remake treatment (which would probably be Square Enix’s clear biggest news if America cared about Dragon Quest. Clearly). Hive Jump for the WiiU… I don’t know, looks like a cross between Contra and Metroid; I guess that’s something. Kerbal Space Program is coming to the WiiU – hooray for adorable astronaut murder! We’ll gloss over the fact that Mighty No. 9 is getting a minor delay on yet another platform; at this point, it feels like it’d be piling on. Lego Marvel Avengers is neat in that they’ll be culling from both movie and comic designs; maybe they’ll even be allowed to say “mutants.” Project X-Zone 2 is coming and they’ll even have a couple Nintendo characters in there; we’re dangerously approaching crossover critical mass. Finally, Terarria is coming to both Nintendo platforms, because we can’t have Minecraft, so we’ll have the next best thing.

Finally, Reggie comes back to give us the news we’ve all been waiting for, a new character in Smash. And it was truly unexpected – the guy who made a couple cameos in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Re:Coded. The guy who’s the best physical beatstick in the early goings of both Theatrhythm Final Fantasy games. And yes, the guy with the biggest sword from Final Fantasy Explorers – Cloud Strife. Oh, and some series that went on seven games or something, I lost track.

This isn’t a Smash site, so I’ll let others comment on just what it means that Cloud has shown up and that Midgar is a stage to go along with him (with random summon intervals – hey, Bahamut ZERO, we were using that!). I will note that the feel of many of those animations is a bit cribbed from Dissidia Final Fantasy, so take that for what you will. Also, if Nintendo is thinking that far out of the usual box for characters to include in Smash, who knows what this means for other games. Oh, and apparently, they didn’t think this was the big news; December 20th is apparently going to have a big Smash announcement. So, the main character of the most popular Final Fantasy game getting into Smash is the teaser for bigger news? The Internet can only salivate in response.

Overall, not much new in terms of announcements; it feels like it’s more setting the table for a year-end Direct that will provide much more. Maybe it just takes time to find their footing after losing Iwata; if so, I think we can all give Nintendo a pass for a bit underwhelming us with this Direct (unless, of course, Cloud matters that much to you – go nuts, you guys). Still, Nintendo has already put a lot on their heads. Time to put up or shut up.

About the author

32_Footsteps

30-plus year veteran of the Koopa Wars. The things I've seen, the levels I've played... let me tell you of them.

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