Feature: Nintendo in 2011 - Part Two

Disaster and redemption

October – News

After the madness of the preceding months, October was quiet by comparison. Nintendo clearly didn’t like the prospect of lacking headlines, so announced two new console colours to fill the void. A blue Wii and ice white 3DS console were unveiled, continuing the tradition of Nintendo consoles representing most of the colours found in a rainbow.

The 3DS did have some interesting announcements, with Nintendo outlining download software on the horizon as well as additional video services. North America looked forward to Hulu Plus and Netflix, while Europeans were promised 3D video content from Red Bull and Eurosport, with Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep announced for early 2012. There was mixed news in terms of upcoming game releases, with confirmation that indie title VVVVVV was coming to eShop a positive contrast to the news that Monster Hunter 3 G would only include local multiplayer, with no online play.

The hype for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on Wii approached fever pitch, with a steady stream of interviews, trailers and teaser footage being released by Nintendo. There were also two special concerts celebrating the anniversary of the franchise, and we were lucky enough to attend the Zelda 25th anniversary symphony concert in London.

October – Games

October was a particularly bad month for the Wii, with almost no worthwhile releases for gamers to enjoy. The handheld consoles fared a little better, with both the 3DS and its predecessor DS producing a small number of decent releases. Professor Layton and the Last Specter hit North America and proved to be another excellent entry in the series. 3DS gamers had a reasonable retail choice between the expanded Cave Story 3D and the content-heavy but flawed FIFA 12, while the Solomon’s Key-inspired Pyramids joined the slowly increasing collection of 3DS exclusive download titles.

November – News

After a high level of backlash PETA claimed that their Mario-bashing was meant as a humorous approach to a serious issue, an explanation that seemed as weak as the campaign itself.

Mario enjoyed a particularly diverse range of headlines in November. On the positive side, Super Mario 3D Land sold 343,492 copies in its first week of release in Japan, helping to boost 3DS hardware sales in the process. Strangely, that same title made Mario a target of animal rights campaigners PETA, who claimed that the Tanooki suit encouraged the wearing of furs. PETA even released a primitive flash PC game that portrayed Mario wearing a bloodied Tanooki fur, from the actual animal native to Japan, with the campaign causing a stir amongst the gaming community. After a high level of backlash PETA claimed that their Mario-bashing was meant as a humorous approach to a serious issue, an explanation that seemed as weak as the campaign itself.

There was some speculation around Wii U, particularly welcome as news on Nintendo’s next-generation home console had been fairly quiet since its E3 reveal. Rumours focused on Nintendo’s efforts to allow for two tablet controllers to be used at once, a relevant development as E3 units had only shown one of the new controllers in action at any given time. Considering the technology required for instant wireless streaming between the console and controller, this was seen as a key task for Nintendo in the continuing development of Wii U.

The 2011 anniversary-fest continued with a vengeance: we celebrated five and ten years of the Wii and GameCube respectively, as well as the 10th anniversaries of Pikmin and Golden Sun. Nintendo certainly had a busy year of commemorative celebrations.

November – Games

With the holiday shopping season in full swing, November proved to be a crazy month, absolutely jam-packed with new titles. We won’t cover them all, but will take a deep breath and cover the major releases.

Shining above all others were two premium Nintendo releases: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on Wii and Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS. They represented entirely different gaming experiences, but were nevertheless both exceptional titles, with Link snagging a perfect 10/10 in our The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword review.

Another exceptional Wii title was Rayman Origins, with a gorgeous art style, fluid animations and imaginative platforming level design. Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure was also another high-quality release, particularly for younger gamers, with both the Wii and 3DS versions interacting directly with action figurines to influence gameplay. Disney Universe also arrived on the Wii, but was a disappointment that didn’t quite meet expectations.

The 3DS also featured a number of titles beyond Super Mario 3D Land, with Sonic Generations and Shinobi both being solid, if unspectacular additions to their respective franchises. Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! was the highest profile download on 3DS and featured typical Nintendo charm while creating quirky creatures.

December – News

In the face of the oncoming holiday break, this proved to be a rather busy month of news for Nintendo. In early December rumours spread that the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto was retiring, causing enough of an online hubbub to prompt a swift denial from Nintendo. The rumours may have been incorrect, but it did make many discuss and contemplate a time when Miyamoto will no longer guide Nintendo’s biggest game releases.

After sustained positive press, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword endured some negative publicity with the news that there was a game-ending glitch that could ruin many hours of adventuring. The chain of events to trigger the issue was relatively unlikely, though clearly some gamers had stumbled across the problem. There was a delay of a couple of weeks before Nintendo finally released a fix, via a standalone Wii Channel that mended corrupted save files.

The Wii enjoyed some positive news with the announcement that Xenoblade Chronicles would finally arrive in North America in Spring 2012. Europeans continued to enjoyed preferential treatment in the JRPG localisation stakes, with The Last Story confirmed for a release in the region on 24th February.

The positive news continued to roll in for the 3DS, meanwhile, as the handheld’s good run continued with news that it had sold more units in eight months than the DS did in its first year, though the DS had a more staggered global launch. The 3DS would go on to break sales records and major landmarks in Japan and North America, confirming its emergence from a troublesome summer. With the release of Nintendo Letter Box — also known as Swapnote — it was an undeniably positive way for Nintendo to round-off 2011.

We also had our final anniversary celebration of the year, looking back on ten years of Animal Crossing.

December – Games

The final month of the year brought another bumper crop of game releases, none more prominent than Mario Kart 7. With a robust online offering and the quality gameplay associated with the series it appeared in many Christmas stockings. The 3DS eShop also featured three high-quality titles that stood out from the crowd: charming puzzler Pullblox – also known as Pushmo – WayForward’s stylish Mighty Switch Force! and finally Zen Pinball 3D — in Europe, at least. It got even better for 3DS Ambassadors, as Nintendo delivered on its promise and supplied ten free, high-quality Game Boy Advance titles to early adopters.

The Wii had one more major release up its sleeve, with Fortune Street (Boom Street in some regions) proving to be a sound investment for strategic fun.

It Was Quite a Year

So that concludes our review of 2011, a year full of drama, unexpected announcements, major successes and terrible lows. We also enjoyed a big year for Nintendo Life, which included an appearance on the 3DS eShop and a new partnership with Eurogamer. If 2012 is as eventful as 2011, then we’re in for quite a ride.