Feature: Nintendo in 2012 - Part Two
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Lots of Mario and Wii U's arrival
In the first six months of 2012, which we looked at in the first part of our 2012 retrospective, Nintendo oversaw some major releases on 3DS and announced the XL model, the Wii had a few memorable arrivals and E3 came and went with its own brand of madness. There were also a number of quirky stories that passed by, including marriage proposals via Swapnote and a dog selling pink 3DS systems; all part of the normal routine in the world of Nintendo gaming.
Now we look at the second half of the year, which brought a new console to stores, a continuing evolution of the 3DS eShop and much more.
A big story in July for Nintendo Life was the news that editor James Newton was leaving his post for an online editor's role at Nintendo of Europe, with editorial Director Damien McFerran stepping into the vacated role. The world of Nintendo kept on rolling, however, and we were able to cheer ourselves with a particularly impressive post-it note Mario stop-motion animation. A pre-order bonus for New Super Mario Bros. 2 brought some serious plastic bling to the table, while the confirmation of Raccoon Mario for that title was certainly welcome news.
There was plenty of analysis around Nintendo as post-E3 thoughts turned to the impending arrival of Wii U. When addressing shareholders Satoru Iwata argued that the capabilities of Nintendo's new system would ensure it sustained itself over a whole console generation, with the belief that the gulf between the new system and Sony and Microsoft's successors would be less pronounced than between Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. Analysis on North American releases also showed that Wii featured fewer new franchises than rival systems, though that's hardly surprising when you account for Nintendo's extensive back-catalogue of IPs. Project Sora, the team that produced Kid Icarus: Uprising, was disbanded, while a variety of new titles were confirmed; most notable were BASIC programmer Petit Computer — which arrived in the same month — WayForward's Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition for Wii U, and the bizarre boxed retail release of Angry Birds Trilogy.
In terms of game releases to punctuate the traditional summer lull, Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise arrived in Europe after its February release in North America, delighting anyone with rhythm and a sense of fun. In fact, the 3DS defied the tradition of no new games arriving in the summer months with a number of excellent releases. Two big name titles were Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, which meant two very different but enjoyable experiences for Square Enix fans. The prompt release of 3DS XL in Europe also brought two new titles with it; New Art Academy was an excellent drawing app, albeit failing to utilise the potential for full online sharing, while Freakyforms Deluxe: Your Creations, Alive! was a tougher sell against a cheaper original download option.
This proved to be a busy month of news for Nintendo, of both the serious and more laid-back variety. There was certainly love for The Legend of Zelda, with Mexican gymnast Elsa Garcia Rodriguez Blancas performing her floor routine to a popular arrangement of themes from the series, while the talented YouTubers Maker Studios produced a series of videos called A Fistful of Rupees, giving a Western spin to the iconic storylines. More retro celebrations revolved around 20 years of the Mario Kart series, Dr Hank Chien broke his own Donkey Kong record, a primitive version of Super Mario Bros. was programmed to run on an Atari 2600. Oh, and Jay Z — yes, the rapper/business mogul — was named as Executive Producer for NBA 2K13.
In good news for print fans, a Western release of the gorgeous The Legend of Zelda: Hyrule Historia was confirmed, the publication full of information and, lest we forget, an officially sanctioned timeline for the series. On the flipside, there was sad news with the confirmed closures of Nintendo Power in North America and Nintendo Gamer magazine in the UK, both run by Future Publishing. Satoru Iwata also felt compelled to launch a defence of the continuing relevance of dedicated gaming handhelds, making a clear distinction from smartphone/tablet gaming: "I don't think we're going to see the desire to have, again, rich and deep sort of gaming experiences... we're not going to see that vanish." Nintendo did make changes that frustrated some on the 3DS eShop, with confirmation that both Freakyforms: Your Creations, Alive! and Pokédex 3D would be removed from the platform to make way for bigger, more expensive options. Europeans also had to contemplate worrying rumours that manufacturing issues could lead to a delay of Wii U's release in region.
While some reasonable downloads arrived in August, this month was all about New Super Mario Bros. 2 on 3DS. Our review argued that its refined delivery of well established 2D Mario platforming delivered the goods, but there are a number of gamers that seem to regard this release as an underwhelming disappointment. In any case, the title also represented a début for retail downloads on the eShop.
September had one notable series of events that dominated attention, and these were Nintendo Direct broadcasts that revealed formal information for the Wii U launch. We learned about some launch games and services such as Nintendo TVii, but most importantly were given information on the system's arrival dates and prices, immediately prompting the expected debates about the value being offered. Nintendo Land was confirmed as a bundled game in the West for those that opted for the more expensive model, the Nintendo Network Premium package offered money off for eager download customers, while confirmation of exclusivity for Bayonetta 2 attracted some headlines.
Away from Wii U, Nintendo confirmed the 3DS XL Circle Pad Pro, adding some extra size to the hulking handheld — though its arrival in Western regions is yet to transpire. Those good-old Anonymous Sources spread rumours that Nintendo was making a Zelda game for Wii U — gosh, really! — as well as some guess-work about what such a game would entail, while Nintendo found Kirby fans at PAX to set a new Guinness World Record for the most simultaneous chewing gum bubbles blown at once. More tasty madness emerged with the Japanese StreetPass puzzle to unveil a Big Mac in 3D, the Kevin Butler actor was sued for the audacity of appearing near a Wii while working for Bridgestone, it emerged that Pokémon almost brought a seizure gun to the world, and a study showed that blowing into a NES cart didn't make it work better, but actually damaged it. In more serious news, a new 3DS system update reportedly blocked a number of flashcards, while Professor Layton and Rhythm Thief were both confirmed to be on the way to smartphones in various guises.
This month saw some decent games arrive, with the quirkiest possibly being Learn With Pokémon Typing Adventure on DS, which is a fun way to improve keyboard skills, if nothing else. La Mulana didn't disappoint when it finally arrived on Wii, while Fractured Soul was a stand-out on the North American 3DS eShop after a number of years in development. Some of the Nintendo Life UK team were rather busy in this month, too, getting their game on at the Eurogamer Expo in London.
On page two we cover a busy period of news for Nintendo as a whole, and the arrival of its latest home console.