In the slightly delayed second part of this series, three more members of the Nintendo Life team share their favourite moments and memories from 2013. This time around we have features editor Tom Whitehead, US reviewer Dave Letcavage and news hound Lewis Childs.
2013 has been a rather busy, eventful year for me, but game experiences have a power to still provide the best memories. For me it all started with the January Nintendo Direct, which pulled some rabbits out of hats and generated a lot of buzz in the process. There weren't many surprises, in terms of major franchises getting another whirl around, but it was no less exciting nevertheless.
For the rest of my memories I'll focus on some that revolve around Nintendo Life, as it's been a year unlike any other in terms of experiences only possible through writing for you lovely readers. The first that springs to mind is E3, when a team of us gathered at Nintendo Life HQ to gorge on gaming news. It was a strange appearance from Nintendo due to the lack of a full live presentation, but the footage of Super Smash Bros. was a real highlight. Nintendo's follow-up videos were even better, however, with Developer presentations as obvious stand-outs; the best post-presentation reveal was that of the Wii Fit Trainer. Initially our video man Rory Cocker said "you won't believe this", and we wondered whether it was an elaborate hoax or some Ninty trolling. It was neither and, actually, the character looks cool.
Next up is the Eurogamer Expo in London. From the website's perspective we were privileged to have a large area which was our own StreetPass Zone, along with eight 3DS systems rigged up to TVs. It was wonderfully popular and the games looked surprisingly good, but my personal highlight was being selfish and wandering off to meet and chat to plenty of Indie developers. Often interviews with big companies and studios, while interesting, are safe affairs, but with small developers there's far more freedom and insight to go around. Speaking to individuals from the likes of Rain Games, Image & Form, Dakko Dakko, Witch Beam, BetaDwarf and Nifflas himself was fantastic, and it's clear that the passion and talent of these Indies are a big part of the future; they're all impossibly friendly, too.
My final highlight is from a trip to Nintendo UK to go hands on with Super Mario 3D World for our final set of previews before it was reviewed and released. I was there with our own Martin Watts, and we were on our own in the "game room", with all day to play as much of the game as we wanted. The multiplayer in the game is fantastic, so I had huge fun blasting through a ton of levels with Martin, and it was the first time I'd played it out-with a short demo at events; it became a laugh-fest, and Martin called me on my poor in-game etiquette in his brilliant feature.
I'm going to cheat and mention one more thing, and it's back to the Eurogamer Expo. I was standing around waiting for the next dev interview and being no help at all on the stand when I was summoned by a colleague and taken over to chat to a reader that asked to say hello. To have someone ask to meet me based on writing on the site was flattering, but also touching; in the occasionally harsh online world where we all communicate in near anonymity, it was nice to meet someone that wanted to say hello face to face. It was a lovely moment for me, personally.
The knock-my-socks-off moment of this past year was the announcement of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I know many of you were let down because you were hoping to learn that Retro was working diligently on a new instalment in the Metroid Prime series, but I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. While I’m a diehard Metroid fan, Donkey Kong Country is my most beloved game series of all time, so you can imagine my reaction to the début footage shown during the E3 Nintendo Direct. I honestly didn’t think that we would be getting a follow-up to DKC Returns – at least not this soon – so it really was a shock. My wife, who was nearby during the broadcast, said I lit up like a kid on Christmas morning as soon as I heard the theme music start playing. Then when it became known that David Wise was returning to compose the soundtrack, I nearly exploded with joy.
This might be a bit cheap, but another standout of my year was the time I spent with a game that’s nearly a couple decades old. Out of the 30 games that I reviewed for Nintendo Life in 2013, I would have to say that Super Metroid was the most special. Everything about that game caused me to reach such critical levels of happiness that I completely lost myself within its masterfully crafted, organic world. When I sat down to compile my thoughts, I was so amped from my playthrough that I had to crank metal covers of Metroid songs for the duration of my writing session. This helped to compliment my overall enthusiasm and medicate my withdrawals from my comfy Varia Suit. Well, maybe that last part’s a tad hyperbolic, though I hope it helps establish how passionate I am not only about Super Metroid, but the Metroid franchise as a whole. It was truly a great privilege to be able to review such a legendary game.
Of course I could also fill a page discussing the genius of Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, or how mesmerizing eShop gems like SteamWorld Dig and Attack of the Friday Monsters were. I could tell you all about how the 3DS has my favourite library of games since the N64, and how it’s now my favourite Nintendo handheld of all time. But, if I started rambling on about those things, I'd easily venture beyond the world limit of this article. Let me just say that this is one year of software and announcements that I surely won’t forget for a long time to come.
My personal highlight of 2013 would have to be The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses back in May. To me, one of the most important aspects about Nintendo games has always been the music. I wrote my first dissertation on the development of Nintendo game music, so events like this are a dream come true for both child and adult Lewis. Although Symphony of the Goddesses didn’t have the special guest appearances of the 25th Anniversary concert, it was a 4-movement symphony including perhaps my favourite moment of 2013, a Majora’s Mask medley as the final encore! I have my fingers crossed that The Second Quest will be making its way over to the UK in the near future.
On the game front, two titles in particular have really blown me away this year, Pikmin 3 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf. Pikmin 3 was the game that made me feel that the Wii U had finally arrived, and I don’t say that lightly, being a day one owner. Everything about the third entry in the series left me feeling satisfied; the single player campaign, the charm of the characters, the amusing descriptions given to the collected fruit, even the title screen! The whole game felt like a fresh and unique Nintendo experience.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf is my most played title in 2013, which is quite the accolade considering it didn’t come out until June in the UK. I usually purchase games physically, but I picked this up from the ‘So Many Games’ promotion as I wanted a digital copy for my 3DS that I could access quickly and easily. I’ve played each version of Animal Crossing since the GameCube version but the lacklustre Let’s Go to the City left me feeling a bit sour towards the series. Thankfully New Leaf is the ultimate Animal Crossing experience (bar the lack of included NES games), with every new change being for the better. With the ‘Welcome a Friend’ promotion I was able to convince an old friend (who I used to swap Animal Crossing memory cards with back in the GC days) to pick up a 3DS XL and then provide them with a copy of New Leaf. Seeing as I got my copy free from Nintendo I thought I’d pay it forward, so um… thanks Nintendo!
January’s Direct really set the tone for Nintendo in 2013, and looked extremely promising. However, the latest Nintendo Direct has left me feeling even more excited about what 2014 will have to offer. I’m sure that there will be even more surprises in store for us and it looks set to be a great year for the Nintendo fan.