It’s been quite a year for Nintendo fans, with a bounty of software coming to Switch from every direction. While things have been relatively quiet on the first-party front (especially considering the one-two punch of flagship Zelda and Mario games in 2017), Switch is enjoying the sort of third-party support that arguably hasn’t existed on a Nintendo platform since the NES days.
As we gear up for tomorrow’s presentation, we thought it was worth looking back at last year’s Direct. We didn’t know it at the time, but the 2018 show was to be Reggie Fils-Aime’s final E3 as NOA President. It will be fascinating to see how his successor, Doug Bowser, takes over the reins tomorrow. After shadowing the big man for so many years, we’re pretty sure he’ll nail the basics – no doubt he’ll be looking for a nice, uneventful debut before diving into the skits we associate with his predecessor, although last year's presentation was relatively meme-free. Perhaps there was too much Smash to squeeze in.
So, let's remind ourselves of how it went down. Having got out ahead of the presentation (perhaps a little late) and confirmed that Metroid Prime 4 wouldn’t be shown (and we all know what's happened to that game), it all kicked off with Daemon X Machina and a look at the Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC, Torna – The Golden Country before cutting to Reggie who gave more details about Pokémon Let’s Go Pikachu & Eevee and revealed the Pokéball Plus.
Then followed the announcement of Super Mario Party, complete with the intriguing table-top mode of Toad’s Rec Room. Given that the series can sometimes get a little repetitive, it was a pleasant surprise that the Switch iteration turned out to be a very good time.
We then got a trailer for Fire Emblem: Three Houses followed by the reveal that surprised precisely nobody: Fortnite was launching on Switch that very day. Then came three indie announcements in quick succession: Overcooked 2, Killer Queen Black and Hollow Knight, the latter which was available the day of the broadcast. Octopath Traveler then got a date and a demo announcement from Reggie.
We then saw (in dizzyingly quick succession) the following games: Starlink: Battle for Atlas, Arena of Valor, Minecraft, Sushi Striker, the Donkey Kong Adventure DLC for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Pixark, Just Dance 2019, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion DLC, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, Ninjala, Carcassonne, FIFA 19, Ark: Survival Evolved, Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut, Paladins, Fallout Shelter, Dark Souls: Remastered, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, The World Ends With You: Final Remix, Mega Man 11 and Mario Tennis Aces. Blimey.
After that deluge, next up was the reveal of the characters coming to the Switch iteration of Smash. Again, the quick succession of characters quickly overwhelmed anybody trying to take notes and kept the energy of the presentation very high before revealing, hey, everyone is here! From then on you could relax and just enjoy the trailer and the title reveal – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
The presentation then slowed right down as we went on a half-hour deep dive with Masahiro Sakurai. For fans of the series it was undoubtedly incredible; for everyone else it was fun to see all the characters interacting, but after the breakneck pace of the previous segment, we wonder if extending that a little and shortening the Smash overload might have been a better option. For anybody not enamoured with the series, there wasn't much reason to continue watching, although everybody did, of course.
Indeed, some fans may have felt a little duped into sitting through 30 minutes of Smash minutia waiting for the patented ‘one more thing’ only to find that it, too, was Smash-related - Ridley joined the fight. For non-devotees it was like sitting through the credits of an MCU film only to find that there’s no post-credits scene in this one - no matter how good the film was, you’re going to leave the cinema on a minor downer.
Overall, it was a solid showing from Nintendo, then, although there were few true surprises. Mario Party coming to Switch was hardly a megaton and most of the other titles featured were known quantities. Smash fans got an incredible treat; everyone else probably felt a bit bamboozled.
Nintendo's habit of focusing on titles releasing in the same year in its presentations means it tends to avoid the pitfalls of other companies that show glossy trailers for games that are half a decade away. Of all the games shown, Killer Queen Black was delayed (it's now scheduled for summer 2019) and Pixark released within only the last two weeks (although we kinda wish it hadn't). Ninjala's still a no-show, but the only real first-party 'scandal' is Fire Emblem slipping a month from spring to summer - hardly worth grabbing the pitchforks over.
Yep, by far the biggest disappointment over the last year was the announcement that Metroid Prime 4 was getting restarted, and that came in January this year. Nintendo dealt with it head-on and apologised to fans before confirming that the series was back under the stewardship of Retro Studios, albeit a Retro Studios with a vastly different personnel. Disappointing as that was, most fans would prefer the game go back to the drawing board than get a half-baked entry. A delayed game is eventually good, etc - you know the rest.
Nintendo chose to go big on Smash last year because it's Smash; that was the big 2018 release. The idea that it didn't have much else to show isn't entirely accurate in light of the games revealed in the intervening twelve months. Nintendo has taken to spreading huge announcements throughout the year and since last June we've had a raft of confirmations (including Super Mario Maker 2 which is out in a couple of weeks).
We know this year we'll be seeing Animal Crossing, Link's Awakening, Luigi's Mansion 3 and more. There's little doubt that these could have been in last year's presentation, but it was decided to hold them back because they're 2019 releases. Whether you agree with that approach or not is a matter for debate, but it means E3 2019 is looking to be a bumper year - the variety in the announced lineup is impressive, so throw in a couple of surprises and things are looking very tasty indeed. Less than 24 hours to go, now. Bodies = Ready!
Do you think Nintendo was right to go hard on Smash Bros. last year? Would you rather all the big announcements come at E3 or do you prefer getting big news throughout the year? Share your thoughts below.