Nintendo's most recent Nintendo Direct broadcasts were an oddity of contradictions - a lot was revealed, but it can easily be argued that there wasn't a great deal of new content. We were excited and delighted by some of the reveals, but conversely shook our heads and felt concern with every release window that was further away than expected. We're in the bizarre position where there are quite a lot of enticing treats coming soon, but not much will actually be in stores.
Large parts of the broadcasts, as is often the case, were therefore preaching to the converted. It emphasizes our point that the big intro and finale both went to existing games - the opening revealed Mewtwo and Lucas details for Super Smash Bros., along with DLC Mii outfits themed around major franchises, before telling us about more additional amiibo waves and a software update that'll allow (among other things) custom stage sharing on Wii U. The Mewtwo news was widely expected, while Lucas and the Mii outfits were surprises, though Satoru Iwata stopped short of giving an update for online Tournies, an update we're certainly keen to see. Overall, though, we were shown how DLC and updates will be an enduring strategy for the brawling titles on Wii U and 3DS, with the Fighter Ballot simply setting the tone.
Then Mario Kart 8 closed proceedings, again with multiple details. With the Wii U's release slate in April being bare it seems particularly smart to have brought the second DLC pack forward, due in just a few weeks on 23rd April and bringing with it eight new tracks. The addition of 200cc - for free - further fleshes the game out, too, with the borderline unsustainable speed on offer promising a fun new flavour to those tracks we've bombed around on hundreds of occasions. Aesthetic extras such as addition amiibo Mii outfits are minor on the surface, but all add to a fairly generous dose of an update.
Both of those reveals typified a Direct focused - in terms of arrivals we can look forward to soon - on smaller releases, quirky new ideas or updates to current favourites. Take examples such as amiibo Tap, limited to amiibo owners and with peculiar three minutes 'scenes' / demos of retro games, to 'available now' eShop games - let's not dwell on more potentially iffy microtransactions in Pokemon Rumble World for now...
Then there's retro games. Nintendo knows how to tap into our nostalgia, even when logic tells us we should know better. It's exciting to have Nintendo 64 games on the Wii U, along with DS games - which we say should still be on 3DS instead, but let's move on - with the usual bells and whistles: scanned manuals and control options bring that sense of quality. It's great, but what are we celebrating? The option for slightly newer downloads of games we've been able to access on Wii U or through 3DS backwards compatibility all along? We're not trying to be buzzkills, but let's just be real about it; upgrade discounts considered, it should be a fairly minor announcement. That's not how it works for us as fans, though.
Splatoon's 29th May release date was largely expected, though it impressed with details on more modes and its own amiibo range, but it also served to highlight a relative draught in major triple A arrivals. Mario Maker is now expected in September, which is a good while away, while Yoshi's Woolly World is down for 'Fall' in North America (26th June in Europe, somewhat amazingly), and that's not mentioning a range of Wii U games not featured at all. We weren't exactly enlightened on the 3DS front, either, with the exception of Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains finally getting localised to the eShop in May; we're not sure what to make of Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and its amiibo cards, though it seems to be a vehicle to promote NFC on the New Nintendo 3DS and via the portal for original models this Fall.
There were a number of titles coming later this year or in 2016, some much anticipated - say hi, Fatal Frame and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem - which brings us to those contradictory feelings we mentioned right at the top. There was good content, but part of our initial reaction was "oh no, delays, not enough major retail releases coming soon". That's region dependant, too - there's been a drought this year (particularly on Wii U) in PAL regions, though games already out in North America will flood in over the next couple of months, including Yoshi's Woolly World. After steady releases so far North America now has a bit of a worrying gap, however, which we're not sure will now be filled, especially as we're so close to E3.
Laugh or cry, cheer or slow clap? Hard to decide, maybe it depends on the country you live in.
Overall, though, our inclination is to be positive about what Nintendo brought us. On the one hand the Direct will have done very little to sell hardware, catering as it does to existing fans with Virtual Console, DLC, game updates and a small smattering of enticing retail releases. Yet the argument can be made that Nintendo Directs really are for dedicated fans, with on-the-fence or less dedicated consumers unlikely to even tune in. It makes sense to play to your audience, and it's impressive that Nintendo can go so far with DLC and software updates opening and closing the show.
We do feel Nintendo's played its cards smartly, covering over some issues - major projects still being a while off - by giving us easy wins. There's criticism to be made of that on a business and analysis level, but for fans there were a lot of great details. Like any Direct it wasn't perfect, but it had lots of treats for those already invested in gaming with Nintendo.
It excited this writer anyway, with a special mention for the obligatory eShop sizzle reel in the North American broadcast. Oh, and amiibo made of yarn. Nintendo had us the moment they came up on screen.
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