It’s 6:30AM and I’d love to be sleeping but today’s a special day. Nintendo has some news and they want to send it directly to me. So I wake up early, eat some cereal, and ready myself for some mediocre announcements. Be honest, were you expecting anything ground breaking from Nintendo this morning? I wasn’t. Today’s Nintendo Direct wasn’t of E3 proportions but it was fast-paced and densely populated with surprisingly impactful reveals.
My wallet is cowering. My budget in ruins. My excitement uncontrollable.
If you’re a Nintendo fan, this morning’s Direct has you unbearably giddy. Here is what had me screaming “no way” and waking up the neighbours.
amiibo. I would choose you over food.
For Christmas, my wife bought me the entire Super Smash Bros Collection of Amiibo (Waves 1-3). And it was the greatest Christmas of all time! It’s been a long time since I collected anything and I am hooked (read: obsessed).
These characters don’t necessarily need the ‘put the toys in the game’ hook that Skylanders so masterfully implements. Because it’s Mario. Donkey Kong. The Wii Fit Trainer… And what Nintendo is doing with these characters is unique enough to make me want to take them out of their original packaging and buy another for safe keeping. I’m not even a huge Super Smash Bros fan but amiibo is drawing me in. Let’s see what a Level 50 Villager (yeah right, like I’m taking that one out of the box) is made of!
So I have to give Nintendo credit with amiibo. Because in the Wii U space (and oddly 3DS in 2014), we are seeing extended lulls between game releases. Sure, the games are arguably some of the best available but there’s too much time for us to get distracted with other new releases. amiibo gives Nintendo something to talk about year-round, and more importantly for the company’s success, it gives consumers a reason to pull out our credit cards more frequently.
We all knew a fourth wave of amiibo was coming and today, Nintendo confirmed the final wave of Super Smash Bros characters. Wario, Pac-Man, Ness, Robin, Lucina and Charizard will be coming ‘Spring 2015.’ Now, with a couple Pokemon in the mix, let us all take a moment of silence for our bank accounts…
Speaking of Nintendo’s sharp use of its characters and me being broke: another collection of amiibo is coming! The Super Mario Bros Series will consist of (so far…) Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Bowser. Anyone who is familiar with Skylanders knows this little scheme. The same characters are released but in a different pose and we must purchase them. If you thought Mario would look better waving instead of posing with a fireball, you’re in luck. If you thought Princess Peach was getting a little too risque with the whole ‘I can see up your dress,’ a more conservative option will be available. For the keeners out there, you know I missed one. But I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t save it for a sweet segue.
Captain Toad Treasure Tracker DLC… sort of
The puzzle-ish platformer-ish surprise hit from late 2014 is getting some unconventional DLC in the form of an update combined with (drum roll please) a Toad amiibo. This is a terrific way to reinvigorate anyone who’s had their fun with Captain Toad and needs a little incentive to play it a few more times. Like the Mario Kart 8 DLC, Nintendo is clearly addressing the challenges of having long gaps between game releases by ensuring its fans have plenty to do while they wait.
Nintendo does Cross Buy. Mario vs Donkey Kong Tipping Stars.
Really quickly, Mario vs Donkey Kong Tipping Stars is a community-driven platformer/side-scroller with heavy emphasis on level creation. But that’s all you should care about at this point.
Gamers in the PlayStation ecosystem have enjoyed the all-inclusive approach from the PlayStation Store. So when I buy Retro City Rampage on my PS3, I also own it on my Vita. This has conditioned many of us to expect the same from Nintendo – especially considering the undeniable similarities between the 3DS and Wii U thanks to the dual-screen+stylus design.
Mario vs Donkey Kong Tipping Stars is the first Cross Buy game for 3DS and Wii U. This is the future, people.
Nintendo appears to be focusing more than a little energy on the Little Big Planet model and this might give us a glimpse at what is possible with Mario Maker. I have little doubt the creation tools will be accessible and powerful. Play mechanics will be top notch. But the biggest unanswered question is: can Nintendo successfully pull off the sharing and community building components? Unfortunately, I haven’t seen anything that bodes well for a robust community to exist on a Nintendo platform. Opportunities have been missed in the past. Animal Crossing comes to mind and the Miiverse feels more like MySpace than Facebook. And then there’s voice chat…
Nonetheless, Mario vs Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars gets my adrenaline racing for more than just the game. It represents a palpable shift in how Nintendo is embracing its community.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
S.T.E.A.M. might be a code name but I see this as a more flexible and potentially more accessible version of Final Fantasy Tactics. Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is a turn-based action/strategy game that breathes new life into an old (and I mean old – remember when TBS had to make way for RTS? Look out, Warcraft [WAY before WOW] is coming!) genre. Arguably the worst thing about the game, at least from a I-haven’t-played-it-yet perspective, is the name. You kind of wish it was a working title for something more…anything. I nearly went to go grab a coffee when they started talking about Code Name S.T.E.A.M.. But I’m glad a comfy desk chair kept me seated because this looks to be an inspired take on the turn-based strategy game.
Nintendo gave us something we didn’t expect with this game, however. The Fire Emblem characters Marth, Lucina, Robin, and Ike will be playable via amiibo. And don’t worry, the super rare Marth amiibo will soon be less-than-rare/completely-common because Nintendo is addressing the shortage by releasing more figures upon Code Name S.T.E.A.M.’s release on March 13, 2015. So in this instance, the Skylanders approach is copied nearly exactly. Slightly different here, is how the Fire Emblem characters will behave differently than the true Code Name S.T.E.A.M. roster. True to their series, Marth et al will not be revivable during a battle. The player will have to finish the mission before a defeated Fire Emblem character can be brought back into the fight. Different enough to make it notable.
Oh, in other news: Marth amiibo stock prices are plunging. SELL SELL SELL!
And the award for Most Emotionally Conflicting Announcement goes to: The New 3DS is coming. Soon!
It was inevitable but I don’t think anyone thought imminent. The New 3DS XL, complete with enhanced processing power, 3D face-tracking technology, a 4GB Micro SD (no fatty SD cards anymore), popular-by-demand C-Stick, and NFC amiibo integration, will be released on February 13, 2015. This news causes me pause. Nobody expected the New 3DS so soon, so that’s exciting. But nobody really knows why you need it.
A side-by-side comparison to the “old” 3DS XL shows a notable reduction in load time when booting Super Smash Bros on the New 3DS. It will cost $199 USD, play DS and 3DS games, and give us the ability to play even more powerful yet-to-be-released, exclusive-to-New-3DS games like Xenoblade Chronicles – a Monster Games (Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D) developed Wii port that will play exclusively on the New 3DS.
A beloved exclusive game is a great start. But is New enough? Why not 3DSi? Often, Nintendo shows us they walk their own path and try not to emulate the competition. But every so often, if you look closely, they mimic the best. Do you remember what Apple released after the insanely popular iPad 2? That’s right, the New iPad. Not iPad 3. It was New and everyone had to have it – even if they didn’t really know why. This iteration was more powerful than iPad 2 and, though rarely pointed out, backwards compatible. Leading edge apps took advantage of the leaps in processing power and Retina Display but older iPads could still run them. Apple quietly introduced a dichotomy typically reserved for PC gaming to the tablet market: Minimum System Requirements and Recommended System Requirements. Some might call this hardware fragmentation (just ask Sega). But it was implemented cleverly and, more importantly, subtly. Baby steps. If Nintendo is to successfully mimic (whether they admit it or not) Apple’s art of the iterative… baby steps. But seriously, why didn’t they call it the 3DSi?
Sadly, the reveal for the New 3DS XL also showed a dark side of Nintendo. A thoughtless, take-our-customers-for-granted side. The New 3DS does not come with a power adapter. Apparently, Nintendo’s new strategy for increased profits involves a disposable 3DS. Use for one battery life and throw away. Buy a new one. Well, not really. But Nintendo does expect you to already have a power adapter from a DS, 3DS, or 2DS to use with your New 3DS – or buy one separately. So, as a loyal 3DS fan with (too) many Limited Edition consoles still in their original packaging, I feel let down by this. It’s like having an ignorant friend who you have to accept because ‘that’s just the way they are.’ Personally, it’s probably about time I grab a third-party USB charger anyway.
As you might notice, I was lukewarm on the New 3DS announcement. I felt Nintendo’s enthusiasm but it wasn’t clicking for me. Until they revealed the New 3DS XL Majora’s Mask Edition. I’m a sucker for Collector’s Edition 3DS Consoles (an excruciatingly expensive hobby). The only thing running through my mind was “how amazing would this look sitting next to my Zelda Edition 3DS!?”
True to my own irrational form, I pre-ordered a New 3DS Majora’s Mask Edition shortly after the announcement – only moments before being sold out everywhere. So you got me, Nintendo…albeit with a tagalong vote of no-confidence. At least my amiibo will work on it.
This isn’t E3 or Gamescom, so what do you expect?
The Nintendo Direct didn’t have me leaping out of my chair the entire time. There were a few things that brought me back down to reality.
Puzzles and Dragons Z + Puzzles and Dragons: Super Mario Bros Edition
Puzzles and Dragons Z is an insanely popular game in Japan and we’re about to get it here. But according to Nintendo, it’s not enough to simply translate Japanese games into English anymore. Now, universally loved characters must be infused in order for these translations to be successful. Case in point, Puzzles and Dragons: Super Mario Bros Edition.
Here’s an example of why Nintendo is so (apparently) dead-set on these cross-over titles. I couldn’t care less about Puzzles and Dragons Z. Once again, I was ready to pour myself some java while they presented this why-isn’t-it-a-mobile-game title. But then Mushrooms, Flowers, Mario, Yoshi. The next thing I knew, attention was being paid.
Nintendo is taking the cross-over mentality to the next level by bundling these games together and creating value. Surely, Nintendo understands that I (and many like me) might not try Puzzles and Dragons Z on its own. Even though it’s extremely popular in Japan, my focus was elsewhere until Mario came into the picture. So I’ll give this a shot through the Super Mario Bros Edition and while I have it in the box, why not try the game that started all this ruckus.
Mario Party 10
Not a whole heck of a lot was explained about Mario Party 10 other than game pieces are amiibos (or can be, at least), will require an amiibo (good on ‘em, yet again!), and will thus be available, on March 20, with a Mario amiibo bundle.
Putting the Wii in Wii U
It’s a move that was positioned as good for gamers, but really it’s only good for Nintendo. Wii Emulation is a little better now. Prior to today’s announcement, gamers had to enter “Wii Mode” to change the Wii U’s operating system and allow for Wii games. This has never been a big problem for me and I use the Wii Mode quite a bit (I am the backlogged gamer, ya know). But there’s more to this than making things easier for us.
This fundamental change in Wii emulation allows for Wii titles to be added to the Wii U eShop through the Virtual Console. Ahh, there’s the rub.
And just to get you used to buying Wii games on the Wii U eShop, how do you feel about these three games? Super Mario Galaxy 2 (today!), Punch Out (January 22) and the Metroid Prime Trilogy (January 29). Each title will be 50% off for the first seven days on the eShop.
It’s far from a game changer. But truly organic Wii Emulation fortifies Nintendo’s ability to rake in (high margin) cash from a nearly infinite library of past successes. In a world where other consoles have abandoned backwards compatibility in favour of recreating older games with new games prices, Nintendo (in true Nintendo fashion) goes the opposite way and still finds a way to monetize the whole thing.
I went to an EB Games to pre-order my New 3DS Majora’s Mask Edition because it sold out online within minutes of the Direct’s final frame. First in line of at least a dozen people, I chatted with easily the most enthusiastic Nintendo fans I’ve seen since the Pokemon X&Y launch at Nintendo World in New York City.
It’s an exciting time to be a Nintendo fan. A few other announcements were packed in, like Majora’s Mask DLC for Hyrule Warriors and a collection of eShop games coming throughout the year. The pacing was relentless and I wound up exhausted trying to take it all in.
There was a theme to today’s Direct, and that was ‘togetherness.’ Hyrule Warriors was only the tip of the iceberg/sword when Link (familiar to most) was thrust into the (familiar for some) world of Dynasty Warriors. And it worked. So it’s hardly a surprise to see more cross-overs. Though Super Smash Bros was the true pioneer being first to prove how versatile these characters are.
We’ve seen some dark times in the past few years. But today, I believe we saw a different company. One with a cohesive vision of the future. Unfortunately, I might have to start shoveling driveways or mowing lawns to afford this cohesive vision.
P.S. Watch out Plants vs Zombie Garden Warfare. Splatoon looks great!