Feature: Looking Back at Nintendo in 2013 - Part Three
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
Pokémon goes Mega, 2DS, Wii U price cut and other shenanigans
We've so far covered the first six months of Nintendo in 2013, taking in various 3DS successes, ups and downs for the Wii U and some E3 madness. As is also the norm, there were weird moments, as well as the near-monthly delight of Nintendo Direct broadcasts.
We now cover the latter summer months, which can typically be among the quietest in the gaming calendar. Yet in the fun and occasionally turbulent world of Nintendo there's always something happening. Let's look at some of the biggest and most memorable stories from the period.
As we settled down into something resembling post-E3 sanity, July proved to be one of the quietest months of Nintendo news, even if it still served up some interesting tid-bits. One hot talking point was region locking, something that's come up once again in recent times, as Nintendo responded to the news that upcoming systems from its rivals would be region-free; Satoru Iwata explained some of the company's reasoning for the policy. Perhaps relevant on that topic was a Japan-only Nintendo Direct that included reveals for The Denpa Men 3 and Chibi-Robo! Photo Finder for 3DS in the region; the former arrives soon in North America, while the developers behind Denpa Men 3 are keen to localise but are considering the funding costs. Of arguably greater consequence was a Mini Nintendo Direct that confirmed the release of EarthBound, as well as the eventual release in the West of SEGA 3D Classics.
This month brought a double-whammy of StreetPass Mii Plaza DLC news, with confirmation of over 200,000 sales in Europe and Japan in the first month of release, and subsequent confirmation that the extra games were finally arriving in North America. Nintendo's often-praised efforts to encourage eShop projects from small developers in the West were also shown to be rather different in Japan, where publishing rules led to a curious scenario of the company stating that it was not accepting independent Wii U developers in Japan; in more positive Japanese development news there was an interesting read on the working culture at Monolith Soft. Satoru Iwata, meanwhile, spoke of technical limitations holding back the cult classic that is the Wii Vitality Sensor, before admitting that a release was still possible, and the weirdness also continued with a fan-launched petition to have Reggie Fils-Aime included as a Super Smash Bros. challenger. Also in fan campaign territory, there were demands by some for Princess Zelda to be given a stronger role in the iconic series.
There were some interesting stories in this month, too, including the off-the-cuff revelation that Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem is set within modern times in the real world, which should be intriguing. Nintendo won another court battle with R4 cartridge manufacturers, and attracted a fair bit of criticism for initially halting a planned EVO Smash Bros. event, before backing down and allowing it to go ahead; the event subsequently attracted a huge number of views for the tournament. The saga of Precursor Games and Shadow of the Eternals continued with a relaunched Kickstarter campaign, which failed like its predecessors. Amazingly, the mostly-forgotten Rodea the Sky Soldier was said to still be in development for 3DS and Wii[/url]; to date there's still no sign of the once promising project actually coming to market.
In terms of new games, the major arrival on the Wii U was Pikmin 3 in Europe, though it wouldn't hit North America until early August, while Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Bros. hit Europe as, again, North America waited a few extra weeks. EarthBound and its sudden release grabbed attention on the Wii U eShop, with Star Wars Pinball another notable arrival, while stand-outs on the 3DS store included Shantae and Attack of the Friday Monsters! A Tokyo Tale.
August was an eventful month for Nintendo followers, with one of the most surprising moments coming late in the day — that was the unveiling of the 2DS, which not many can claim to have predicted. As the name suggests it doesn't include a 3D screen, which allied with its tablet form was clearly put together with some of the world's youngest gamers in mind.
Before that landed we'd had another Nintendo Direct broadcast, which was mainly used to bring gamers up to speed on release dates and confirm some new apps. This included an Animal Crossing Miiverse community and Plaza app for Wii U, confirmation of Luigi in Super Smash Bros., an exciting Wii U eShop sizzle reel, confirmation of Art Academy: SketchPad, cross-platform multiplayer in Wii U eShop title Cubemen 2, along with release dates and windows for The Wind Waker HD, Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Capcom and Level-5 mashup Professor Layton Vs. Ace Attorney was also confirmed for localisation. Beyond all that there was another Nintendo Direct focused entirely on Wii U title The Wonderful 101, which was a rather quirky and humorous video hosted by Hideki Kamiya.
There was more significant news, too. Pokémon X & Y was confirmed to include all-new Mega Evolutions, while pre-orders in Japan passed a quarter of a million in just two days. The Wii U had a relatively dramatic month too, with an official price cut around the world (which was precisely $50 in the U.S.) and confirmation that North America would receive a Wind Waker HD bundle ahead of time on 20th September — it arrived in Europe in October. Nintendo of America's Dan Adelman talked up the number of download games coming to the Wii U eShop, meanwhile, while on the 3DS front an update brought StreetPass relay functionality.
Also causing a stir was news of Pure Chess including cross-platform multiplayer on Wii U and 3DS, joining Cubemen 2 in that brave new world. Snippets emerged such as character outlines in Super Smash Bros. on 3DS being customisable, while Layton 7 was announced for smartphones and 3DS, and looked rather strange. Speed-runner Cosmo Wright explained how to beat Ocarina of Time in 22 minutes, and a rejected CGI Zelda film emerged — in truth its rejection wasn't that big a surprise.
As for games, August brought Wii U retail games such as The Wonderful 101 and Rayman Legends — both September releases in North America — alongside Splinter Cell Blacklist, while Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan arrived on 3DS in Europe. Both of the eShop platforms were very busy, with notable arrivals on the Wii U including Pokémon Rumble U and DuckTales: Remastered, and 3DS gamers enjoying the likes of SteamWorld Dig and Bike Rider DX.
On 19th September 2013 Hiroshi Yamauchi passed away; he was the President of Nintendo from 1949 until 2002, leading the company into the video game industry and guiding it to an extraordinary level of success. He was 85 years of age.
September brought two focused Nintendo Direct broadcasts. Pokémon Direct brought news of the cloud-based Pokémon Bank, a subscription service to store up to 3,000 'mon online; its accompanying Transporter app also allowed creatures from Black & White 1 & 2 to be brought across into X & Y — the app has recently endured downtime in Japan, with its Western release delayed. This broadcast also revealed special X & Y 3DS XL models, while we'd also learn that the first-generation starters would be available in the new 3DS title.
The other broadcast was called Wii Fit U Direct; it confirmed a one-month trial download offer for the new title, while also revealing the Wii Fit Meter. This video also revealed Wii Sports Club, with each of the five original Wii Sports events being reproduced with HD visuals, MotionPlus controls and online features such as competitive "clubs" and matches.
Away from Nintendo Direct videos, Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime was forced to face questions on whether the relatively small Wii U price cut would come with an "Ambassador Programme" similar to that with the 3DS price cut of 2011; no, was the easy answer. The evolution of Miiverse continued apace, too, with Nintendo promising that it would come to the 3DS "soon" and that smartphone apps would eventually arrive. The bespoke network also added the ability to post out-with dedicated game communities on the Activity Feed, drawing further comparisons with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Games on 3DS also grabbed attention — Monster Hunter 4 shipped over two million copies in four days in Japan, while Bravely Default was confirmed for a 2013 arrival in Europe. Those looking forward to the eShop-only release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Dual Destinies also found out that it was rather close, with an October arrival confirmed.
There was massive buzz and hype when Keiji Inafune confirmed a crowdfunding campaign for his studio's spiritual Mega Man successor, Mighty No. 9; it would eventually clear its funding goals with ease, with it coming to both the Wii U and 3DS eShop stores. Attractive Ubisoft download title Child of Light was confirmed for Wii U, while a Japanese release of a Puyo Puyo and Tetris combination caught the eye. In less pleasing news Nintendo missed out on a Nikkei 225 listing, a financial setback.
The most notable Wii U retail release this month, in North America at least, was the eShop version of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD — it would arrive at physical retail on 4th October, while the earlier release was only in North America; on the 3DS we had Inazuma Eleven 3 in Europe and Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure in North America (which was also a Wii U title). Wii U eShop highlights included Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara and TNT Racers - Nitro Machines Edition, while on the 3DS notable examples were Rage of the Gladiator and AiRace Speed.
Oh, and we had a blast running our own StreetPass Zone at the Eurogamer Expo / EGX.
So that was July to September. Join us tomorrow for the final part as we look at the closing months of 2013.