Feature: Looking Back at Nintendo in 2013 - Part Four
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Games, system updates, more games...
We've looked back at the first nine months of Nintendo's 2013 to date, an eventful period full of reveals, positives, negatives and outright weirdness. The final leg is typically one of the busiest for game companies, as the scramble for momentum into the busiest shopping season of the year becomes a messy blur of game releases and hype.
This was the period when Microsoft and Sony released their new consoles, the One and PS4, so the Wii U entered a highly competitive time in the market. The 3DS, for its part, had some major releases to help continue its strong momentum, and Nintendo would also serve us its usual mix of interesting moments and Nintendo Direct madness.
So, let's finish off 2013, shall we?
As per almost-monthly tradition, there was a major Nintendo Direct broadcast to enjoy. There were a couple of disappointments with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze dropping into 2014, and likewise with Mario Party: Island Tour on 3DS in Europe. Beyond that there were some enjoyable announcements, such as confirmation of Sonic the Hedgehog in the new Super Smash Bros., the reveal of handsome Mario and Luigi Wii Remotes, early footage of Kirby: Triple Deluxe on 3DS and news that the StreetPass Relay points would now pass on six hits at a time, rather than one. We learned a little more about titles due in the remainder of the year, too, with demonstrations of the item and dungeon shake-up in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, online multiplayer in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the varied games of Wii Party U and also various power-ups in Super Mario 3D World.
If the Nintendo Direct broadcast qualified as "good but not amazing", the same could probably be said for the long awaited major Wii U system update. While it improved the overall efficiency of the operating system while adding the somewhat quirky feature of Wii games being playable solely on the GamePad, it lacked the Nintendo Network ID overhaul that had been anticipated in some quarters. There was also the beginning of the end for Wii, with Nintendo Japan stating that production of the original model was ceasing — the Wii Mini wasn't done yet — and the regional groups eventually confirmed the fact that existing stock was the last we'd see of the iconic original system design. In more positive news the improved GamePad battery went on sale in Europe, while Nintendo UK took the relatively bold step of launching its own online retail store. As part of financial briefings Satoru Iwata also outlined company plans to maintain the 3DS' strong performance and boost Wii U, while reiterating statements from earlier in the year that download sales on Nintendo platforms were continuing their impressive upward momentum.
Outside of these affairs October was dominated by two games — Pokémon X and Pokémon Y. The worldwide release on 12th October was typified by an extraordinary level of hype, frustrating early leaks courtesy of street date-busting retailers, and a substantial frenzy. Millions of copies were sold within its first few days, helped along by record 3DS pre-order numbers in Japan. As always PETA tried to grab attention, and Nintendo even had to address a game-breaking bug as quickly as possible. In the meantime the 2DS arrived at the same time — naturally YouTube featured one being microwaved. The 'mon madness also continued with rumours of a Pikachu-focused game that were later proven to be correct, with limited footage showing a detective-style magnifying glass and creepy facial motion capture of the famous character.
In terms of games, X & Y were joined on 3DS by titles such as LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Universe in Peril, while the Wii U retail scene was relatively busy with games such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Sonic Lost World (also on 3DS), Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut and Wii Party U. On the eShop front Mighty Switch Force! 2 transitioned to the Wii U from 3DS, while the handheld's standout was clearly Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies.
One of our favourite things this month was a Japan-only Nintendo Direct for Daigasso! Band Brothers P, the 3DS music game with limited odds of localisation. Just watch...
As always, let's kick off this month with a look at what Nintendo Direct brought us. While not packed with a significant volume of announcements, this presentation caused a stir by confirming rumoured updates with some twists. The big news was of a major 3DS system update in December that would add three notable features to the portable — Nintendo Network IDs, shared eShop funds between the Wii U and 3DS, and Miiverse. Those announcements were the focus, but it was also confirmed that YouTube was finally coming to the 3DS, there was another excellent eShop sizzle reel, confirmation of more Pikmin 3 DLC and a top-notch "ten things" video for Super Mario 3D world that certainly raised the hype levels further. North American viewers also learned of upcoming weekly eShop promotions in the region, while Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy was also dated for 28th February 2014.
There were some controversies for Nintendo in this month, as it shut down the Swapnote SpotPass service and the Flipnote Studio 3D Friend Gallery in Japan; both closures were due to concerns over abuses to the system, with the former reportedly being victim to criminal activity. The loss of both services — Flipnote Studio 3D is still yet to come to the West — without any replacements was disappointing, and hope that Miiverse would include direct message support on the 3DS — like on Wii U — was also quashed as Nintendo confirmed the feature wasn't making the transition to the portable. Debates over online safety and the extent of Nintendo's caution raged, undermined somewhat by Nintendo showing very little control over explicit lyrics in Wii Karaoke U; in that case, the company was happy to place emphasis on parental controls. The Wii Mini was also confirmed for the U.S., when perhaps not discontinuing the original model would have been preferable.
In happier news, the 2DS enjoyed a spell as the top-selling console in the UK, and also contributed to strong NPD results for the 3DS 'family' in the U.S. Marth was revealed for Super Smash Bros., meanwhile, and talk spread of an eventual physical retail version of Wii Sports Club, presumably once the titles have all made it to the eShop. There was bafflement as Nintendo Land was removed from the eShop, though it paved the way for a Wii Remote bundle in North America, while Project CARS fell back to Autumn / Fall 2014, yet thankfully retained its Wii U version alongside new PS4 and Xbox One iterations. Fans also launched a petition for the original Bayonetta on Wii U, which news in December would undoubtedly puncture...
November was a huge month for games, meanwhile — on Wii U Super Mario 3D World and Mario & Sochi at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games were exclusives alongside a selection of multi-platform blockbusters, while the 3DS was led by The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and, in Europe, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. Download gamers weren't left out with Wii Sports Club arriving in Bowling and Tennis forms along with Toki Tori and EDGE, while on 3DS we had Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai and the first two 3D Sega Classics.
And then there was this Pokémon rap.[/url]
December was a relatively busy time for Nintendo before the festive break, with the anticipated 3DS system update arriving relatively early on. Millions of new gamers set up Nintendo Network IDs — though not without a bit of downtime here and there — and set about unifying 3DS eShop funds and exploring Miiverse. The large-scale expansion would backfire on Christmas Day, with the Nintendo Network — primarily the eShop platforms and some online games — going down for two full days. High traffic from new users attempting to set up IDs and from the 25th December launch of Pokémon Bank in Japan led to the meltdown; it was a damaging episode for Nintendo. The Bank is yet to return in Japan and has been delayed to an unspecified date in the West, which we suspect is a priority for the big N to resolve.
Something without much negative controversy was the final Nintendo Direct of the year, which threw in some shocks and surprises to please fans. Hyrule Warriors was a particular surprise, as it's a Tecmo Koei mashup that promises to bring the Zelda series into a Dynasty Warriors style of game. Two immediate Wii U eShop releases after the broadcast were Wii Sports Club: Golf and NES Remix, along with a charming free DLC level for Sonic Lost World. Dr. Luigi was confirmed, while still on the Wii U we saw new footage of Mario Kart 8 and learned that Rosalina & Luma were teaming up as the latest challenges in Super Smash Bros. The 3DS news was a little more region-specific, with details of a Bravely Default demo in North America, while Europe received release dates for Professor Layton Vs. Ace Attorney and Super Mario Bros. 3; those with Nintendo Network IDs in the region will also receive Game Boy Color game Super Mario Bros. Deluxe for free. Oh, and we saw some lovely footage of Kirby: Triple Deluxe.
It was a month full of ups and downs, from Reggie Fils-Aime making a decent Wii U sales pitch to signs of growth for the system in Japan, to an awkward Tropical Freeze appearance during the VGX awards. Fils-Aime crushed the hopes of some outspoken gamers by stating that petitions don't affect decisions, while the PS4 and Xbox One passed the life-to-date sales of the Wii U in the UK in a matter of days after release, highlighting the struggles in that market; the wider picture throughout Europe and North America will become clear in late January 2014. Happy news was around, however, with the 3DS showing strong sales figures in the U.S., confirmation of a second round of Sega 3D Classics on the way to Japan, while Mutant Mudds 3DS owners can look forward to a free update with the Deluxe levels.
Many of the biggest releases landed in November, though December did finally bring Scribblenauts Unlimited to Europe, while Bravely Default also arrived in the same region. The download scene was a little busier, with the aforementioned Nintendo Direct arrivals being joined by others such as Knytt Underground and CastleStorm on Wii U[/url], while on 3DS we had six Sega 3D Classics and, in North America, Mario Tennis.
So that was 2013, a year full of thrills and spills, plenty of which we didn't even cover across these articles. What did you think of the year?