Isn't it great when a new year rolls around? We can just dust off our hands, shrug and march forward with a skip in our step and smiles on our faces. We can - oh yes, we can.
As 2015 drew to a close I had a Skype call with the Triforce of Nintendo Life Directors, my bosses that I try and boss around when / if possible. We were assessing the year, good and bad, and I said something along the lines of "jeez, 2015 was pants"; 'pants', for those wondering, is weird British slang for 'not very good'. There were highs, of course, and some absolutely terrific games - thank the stars for the likes of Splatoon, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Super Mario Maker, among others. But there were also some lows. Writing an obituary for Satoru Iwata, as an example, was easily the hardest moment of the year for me - possibly of my entire time on this site - in covering Nintendo.
In terms of less serious topics like video games, there had been long spells where negativity, apathy and dissatisfaction swirled around Nintendo, on the internet at least. Nintendo often only had itself to blame, and we found ourselves being more critical of a few first-party releases than felt common, simply because some felt like a step back. E3 2015 was also pretty grim, from a personal perspective; it's a time of the year when 20 hour days and dry, unblinking eyes from staring at screens too long are the norm, so when the conversations and live chat are generally downbeat it's not exactly fun. I didn't blame fans as such, as Nintendo's showing was underwhelming, though I did rant against the fury hurled at Metroid Prime: Federation Force; it's not the Metroid game I wanted either, but I still argued that more people should give it a chance.
Beyond E3 there were some sloppy moves by Nintendo - such as the initial XL-only New 3DS release in North America - and a sense of drift, that we were playing out time until better things happened. Some late year talking points and saviours - namely Star Fox Zero, the Club Nintendo replacement (My Nintendo) and the first smart device app (Miitomo) - even slipped back. 2015, overall, was a year of 'meh'.
When we polled you, the community, on 2015 the overall response was perhaps a little above 'meh', which was pleasing to see. It helped that Nintendo rediscovered a bit of mojo at the close of the year with a Nintendo Direct and Smash Bros. Video Presentation, two broadcasts that both delivered (in my opinion) on expectations. It was particularly fun covering those two events because, for the first time in what seemed like months, there was a healthy buzz; the live chat for the streams was a happy place, which was far from the case during E3. It was a reminder of why I love Nintendo, with its happy-go-lucky and colourful approach providing variety in our gaming lives.
At the start of the year, when I outlined five key reveals and releases that could define Nintendo's 2016, I felt a buzz of anticipation, too. This year could be absolutely huge for Nintendo and, of course, us and all of its fans. Even in the near future there are a load of Wii U and 3DS games to look forward to, in addition to dabbling with Miitomo and seeing what the My Account service will have to offer in March. That's a lot to enjoy in the next few months alone - come on, there's going to be a new Star Fox game, at last!
Forgetting tough commercial realities for Wii U and - to an extent - the 3DS, for those of us on board there's a lot to look forward to, with various IPs and genres to keep us busy. By the time we reach the Summer we'll probably already know, or be about to find out, real details of the NX too. The new hardware tingle of excitement never gets old, and I can't wait to see what Nintendo's come up with. Depending on announcements made in the latter half of the year we could have a whole new Legend of Zelda game on Wii U and, hopefully, new hardware to pre-order for the Holiday season. Exciting times.
My hope is that two things will happen throughout the year - on the one hand Nintendo will be on form, delivering quality content, surprises and some quirky moments that'll live long in the memory. The other thing I hope for - which I also feel is a safer bet - is that the company's fans will have a great time going along for the ride. A year when comment sections, live chat windows and tweets will be full of hype, excitement and joy. When there's an announcement, Direct, event or E3 where Nintendo truly knocks expectations out of the park there are few more enjoyable moments, for me, than simply seeing the community react.
It's a reminder, when that happens, that Nintendo is all about having fun with video games. I think that's partially why Splatoon was such a hit with the Nintendo community in 2015 - it was an enjoyable, bright and creative game that could deliver blissful anarchy in online matches. Many of us enjoy a bit of Metal Gear Solid V or FPS action sometimes, but Nintendo often provides a lighter touch to our gaming. Its hardware is the natural home of whimsy.
I think my excitement for 2016 is on a higher level than I've felt for quite some time, possibly since the Wii U launched in November 2012. There have been countless moments of hype since, of course, but in terms of anticipating and eagerly awaiting the next moves from Nintendo this is a notable point. I have no idea whether NX, My Nintendo / Nintendo Account, smartphone games and the various titles on the way will meet expectations, but I believe they could. It's the Nintendo way to bounce back from disappointments with triumphs. To innovate and catch everyone off guard.
At the end of 2015 Nintendo, through its Direct and Smash Bros. presentation, reminded us of the unique talents at its disposal and its determination to move forward in its own way. It's the mystery of what's to come, and the potential impact it'll have, that gives me a thrill.
Unless reality gets in the way I'll be optimistic about Nintendo's 2016.