After a long wait, fans were finally treated to a highly-anticipated “Nintendo Direct” news conference Wednesday. This semi-regular update format was pioneered by the late Satoru Iwata as a way to provide timely information about Nintendo’s upcoming releases in an efficient and cost-effective way.
While Wednesday’s “Direct” was the first of 2019, it was by no means the company’s first attempt to provide information to the public in the new year. January saw a strange trickle of periodic Twitter and YouTube press updates that were very uncharacteristic for The Big N. They announced release dates for Yoshi’s Crafted World, Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster. Also, an announcement for a new mobile game, Dr. Mario World, was made with a Summer 2019 release window. Finally, in a move that was both equally strange and laudable, Nintendo embraced transparency by telling fans that development of Metroid Prime 4 would start anew, under the guidance of Retro Studios, as a result of quality concerns.
Incidentally, all of these updates contributed to two months of rumors that the next “Direct” was incoming, until it actually arrived.
Quantity or Quality?
Nearly thirty different announcements were made during this particular “Direct,” hosted by the effervescent Yoshiaki Koizumi. As is usually the case with the majority of “Nintendo Direct” conferences, headlines included newly revealed titles, status updates for previously announced titles awaiting release, and information about downloadable content and add-ons for titles that have already been released. It is worth noting that this “Nintendo Direct” focused exclusively on titles for the Switch. With only seven titles expected for the 3DS, I think it is safe to assume that development on that console is effectively finished.
Every announcement made is as follows:
Super Mario Maker 2* (June 2019)
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order* (Summer 2019)
Box Boy + Box Girl* (4/26/19)
Super Smash Brothers Ultimate Ver. 3.0 Update* (Spring 2019) and two additional waves of amiibo for 2019 (Solid Snake, Simon Belmont, Squirtle, Ivysaur, and Pokémon Trainer)
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker Free Co-Op Update* (2/13/19), Paid DLC* (3/14/19)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Summer 2019)
Dragon Quest Builders 2 (7/12/19)
Dragon Quest XI Echoes of an Elusive Age S: Definitive Edition (Fall 2019)
Disney Tsum Tsum Festival* (2019)
Starlink: Battle for Atlas Spring Update** (April 2019)
Rune Factory 4 Special* (2019)
Rune Factory 5* (TBA)
Oninaki* (Summer 2019)
Yoshi’s Crafted World* (3/29/19), Free Demo Available Now
Fire Emblem: Three Houses* (7/26/19)
Tetris 99* (2/13/19)
Dead by Daylight (Fall 2019)
Deltarune: Chapter 1 (2/28/19)
Daemon X Machina* (Summer 2019), Free Demo Available Now
Grid Autosport (Summer 2019)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (Spring 2019)
Mortal Kombat 11 (4/23/19)
Unravel Two (3/22/19)
Assassin’s Creed III Remastered + Assassin’s Creed Liberation Remastered (5/21/19)
Final Fantasy VII (3/26/19)
Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy! (3/20/19)
Final Fantasy IX (2/13/19)
Astral Chain* (8/30/19)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening* (2019)
* Denotes Nintendo Exclusive Title/Content
** Includes Nintendo Exclusive Team Starfox Update Content
It should come as no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with Nintendo that a lineup of strong, first-party titles, making use of their rich stable of original characters and franchises, leads the pack here. Super Mario Maker 2 was formally announced, and a new user-interface combined with fresh aesthetic options could make this sequel an improvement over an already successful formula established in the first game. Moreover, Nintendo’s newly-revised policy towards content-creators and YouTube means that individuals will now have the ability to share their creations without a hassle.
Updates for previously announced titles like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Yoshi’s Crafted World, and Daemon X Machina were also provided. It would appear that this new Fire Emblem game will see the player’s avatar attempt to navigate conflicts as he/she trains the young nobles of three distinct polities, united by a common religion, in the Land of Fodlan. New details provided for Yoshi’s Crafted World provided insight into level-types, various ludic systems, as well as in-game currency and costumes. Finally, Daemon X Machina, an interesting new mech title, seems to be moving along, with a demo available for download immediately.
Perhaps the biggest exclusive announced, was one that fans and insiders had predicted for many months now, as a new 2D Zelda title has been speculated to be in-development since before Fall of 2018. The news that a remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening will arrive in 2019 was surely satisfying to many fans. While the new anime style cut-scenes were breathtaking, the isometric chibi style of the in-game footage was admittedly a tad awkward at first sight. Having said that, I am sure the aesthetic will grow on me, as the Game Boy original is still one of my all-time favorites.
Also, a new BoxBoy game? Music to my ears.
For years now, Nintendo’s philosophy regarding downloadable content has been a breath of fresh air. Starting with the Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo made a promise to its loyal consumers that they would not be in the habit of taking advantage of their desire for new content. Unlike other companies eager to bleed money from customers with unpopular practices like “on-disc DLC,” incessant micro-transactions, and paywalls for “true-endings”/ integral story components, Nintendo has presented itself as a stark point of contrast to the industry standard.
Not only do they strive to make their add-ons feel like genuinely additional content (allowing the base game to seem like a truly finished product), but they also do an amazing job of providing an incredible amount of free post-launch support, in terms of both single-player and multiplayer content. Splatoon 2, Arms, Kirby: Star Allies, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Mario Tennis Aces have all received significant amounts of free add-on content that have contributed to both replay-value and the online ecosystem. This most recent direct demonstrated that Nintendo is quite happy to continue these practices by offering substantial consumer-friendly updates (both free and paid) for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker.
Shadow-Dropped Demos, Content, and Games
Let’s be honest, in 2019 there are very few things more annoying than waiting, as instant gratification is the birthright of all millennials. Needless to say, “shadow-dropping,” or the practice of announcing a piece of software that is then immediately available for purchase or download, is, as the kids say, “Hype AF.”
Nintendo has always had an interesting habit of “shadow-dropping” during their “Direct” conferences, and this one was no exception. Demos for Yoshi’s Crafted World and Daemon X Machina were announced as immediately available, as well as a port of Final Fantasy IX. However, all of that pales in comparison to the glory that is Tetris 99, a 99 player Tetris bonanza, exclusively available for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers. If didn’t know that you wanted a “Battle Royale” style Tetris game, join the club, but also be sure to download this game for the low-price of: ON THE HOUSE. It’s free, and it’s spectacular.
It isn’t a very controversial statement to say that the Switch is underpowered when compared to other consoles on the market, but we should also remember that power was never its stated goal. Nevertheless, as a developer-friendly home/portable hybrid console with an installed-base of over 30 million units, it should be fairly obvious that developers will port anything to this system that they can get running. Standouts include Panic Button’s amazing treatment of Doom, Wolfenstein II, and Warframe.
Simply put, Nintendo’s latest console SHOULD NOT be able to run those games as well is it does, and it is all thanks to the skill of the developers at Panic Button. Yet, for all of the good, there is plenty of bad, lest we forget the Switch port of Ark: Survival Evolved that looks and plays like a bad N64 game. This is why I would recommend experiencing titles like Assassin’s Creed III Remastered, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Mortal Kombat 11, Grid Autosport, and Dead by Daylight elsewhere, if you have the option. The Switch’s limitations will likely lead to lower framerates, lower resolutions, more performance issues, and an inferior multiplayer experience.
Something that should not go unnoticed is the very cavalier way that Nintendo announced a slight delay for Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Under normal circumstances, pushing a game from a spring release to summer wouldn’t really be cause for concern. After all, it’s only a couple of months, right? Here is the issue: this delay did happen on the heels of a far more substantial delay for Metroid Prime 4. What’s more, when we take into consideration that titles like Daemon X Machina are now in a quasi-beta phase, where the developers are actively intending on using user feedback from their demo in order to make changes to the final product, is it unreasonable to think that other Nintendo first-party titles might face delays?
I sure hope that’s not the case, especially when you think about what was missing from the latest “Nintendo Direct” ….
Where’s the Beef?
Nintendo really did a great job of showing us plenty of games that will be available to play this year. What they didn’t do such a great job of was providing updates for titles that they have already stated would be arriving in 2019. Games like the next entry in the Animal Crossing franchise, the next mainline Pokémon title, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Doom Eternal, Saints Row: The Third, Game Freak’s tentatively titled Town, and Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles Remastered were all conspicuously absent from the conference. Hopefully, development for all of these titles is still on track.