A Seller’s Market:Nintendo Direct Round-up
Written by: Adam Kheroua
In a news cycle dominated by big companies spending big bucks and getting big headlines, a Nintendo Direct was a refreshing treat, allowing gamers to talk about games and not investment portfolios. While this recent Direct may very well be regarded as one of the best in recent memory, the deafening silence of some of the biggest hitters in Nintendo's stable was heard, despite the Big N's attempts to put on a show. Nintendo is still a major player whether the "next generation" of consoles and headline-grabbing studio purchases want to admit it or not. Microsoft and Sony seem interested only in buying: Whereas Nintendo are defining themselves by what they are selling. It's a distinction that has served as a bulwark in other creative arenas - acquisitions are not creations; we are gamers, not investors.
We want games, and Nintendo delivered just that.
The Pegi 18 rating immediately had us pulling our hair out... and expecting it to summon a macabre demonic beast, but alas, the Witch certainly wasn't back. Bayonetta 3 was absent from the Direct, adding to Platinum Games' continued distance from this project in the public eye. The title was announced when the Switch launched, and all we've had is a single trailer... in nearly five years. I'll speak for myself here and say my patience is wearing thin, and my attention is going elsewhere. We did get another 'Warriors' spin-off, however, in the form of Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes. Set in the Fire Emblem: Three Houses universe (because everything has a universe now), it's basically a re-skin of the Warriors games that really should be DLC for the existing Fire Emblem: Warriors title. Not a great a start to the presentation, to be honest. With a 24th June release date, I can't imagine pre-orders flying off the shelves with this rather uninspired title.
Of course, the rehashing and reskinning and re-releasing didn't stop there. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Assassin's Creed: The Ezio Collection and Portal: The Companion Collection are all headed to Switch, with April 20th, summer 2022 and 2022 release dates respectively. A few older games saw re-releases too, with Front Mission 1 and 2 coming to the Switch, as well as Chrono Cross arriving on April 7th, and the entire Kingdom Hearts catalogue available via Switch Cloud services. The package - which of course has an absurd nonsensical name that I will use now - will include (deep breaths, people) Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 HD Remix, Kingdom hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue HD, and Kingdom Hearts 2 + Re:Mind, and has helpfully been named the Kingdom Hearts Intergrum Masterpiece for Cloud Collection. This set of games was made available upon the conclusion of the Nintendo Direct.
Right, now on to the brand new Mario Charged Strikers game! A certified Gamecube classic, the original Mario Strikers Charged was a characterful, and seemingly improbable, sports-spin-off featuring Mario and pals, which merged the victory-stealing item abuse of Mario Kart with an edgy, rough-and-ready aesthetic that characterised Nintendo's most beloved characters as Fight Club rejects playing Shaolin Soccer! The game gained cult infamy and had a sequel that didn't do enough to develop the budding franchise. After years of hoping, the fierce football fracas is back! Mario Strikers: Battle league Football looks fantastic! 5 vs 5 footie, with fully customisable character kits that affect characters' stats in five areas: strength, speed, shooting, passing and technique.. Local 8 player multiplayer is supported, creating a contender for 'game most likely to end friendships' that has been up until now has been awarded solely to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Online club mode is also included, meaning that players can create clubs online and have 20 people join them as they climb the ranks in online matches! The details of this ranking system were missing from the reveal, but we cannot wait to get stuck in when Battle League Football launches this year, 10th June 2022 To say that the Direct sucked thus far would be wholly unfair, but then nothing sucks quite like a brand new info dump for a Kirby game - and we mean that in a good way! The copycat kid has truly outdone himself this time, with Kirby sampling a dish from Mario's menu with his brand new 'Mouthful mode' ability, which allows Kirbs to swallow cars, vending machines and all sorts of scenery and objects in order to use their powers. Its Cappy... but Kirby... so it's sort of crappy that it's just a copy of Super Mario Odyssey's big gimmick... but I'm letting it slide on account of how fun Kirby and the Forgotten Land looks! Every inch of the cutsie cueball's latest adventure is as awe-inspiring as it is 'aww' inspiring! Large, multifaceted levels, a vibrant colour pallet, and adorable adversaries are shaping Kirby's next game into a real must have. The Direct went into minor detail about a Waddle-Dee village that you can develop by saving the lil' fellas, resulting in you being able to develop Kirby's copying abilities. March 25th 2022 could not come soon enough, with Kirby's colourful calorie-crunching campaign looking good enough to eat!
Splatoon 3 hit the field again, this time with Nintendo showing off a brand new horde mode Salmon Run: Next Wave is the name of the mode, and its exactly what you'd expect from such an addition: fight waves of enemies, defeat mid-wave bosses, cover everything in paint like Banksy on meth and repeat. With nothing else to report, Nintendo left squids and kids alike with a nebulous summer 2022 release date.
Not finished fat-shaming their install base, Nintendo decided to low-key tell us to deal with that post-Christmas weight by releasing a sequel to Wii Sports. Nintendo Switch Sports (won't be winning a Game Award for most original name) will launch April 29th 2022, and feature six sports - bowling, tennis, football, badminton, volleyball and chambara (foam sword fighting-meets-sumo wrestling basically), all with local and online play. In fact, Nintendo announced they would be running an online play test for two days - February 19th and 20th - where players can stress test the online features of the game prior to release. Additionally, post-launch support will include free updates and the addition of Golf (feels weird getting excited for Golf!), being added in autumn.
If you were one of the people watching the Direct who thought the games on show had too many dimensions for your liking, Nintendo had you covered too! The 'mother' of all announcements for fans of the series, Earthbound and Earthbound: Beginnings were added to the Switch Online Virtual Console service, and Triangle Strategy fans were treated to another demo that will carry over progress to the final game, slated for a March 4th 2022 release date. Whilst we are on the subject of 2D-HD games, Nintendo showed off the gorgeous Live A Live, a title previously released only in japan, that will be making its way to the West on July 22nd. The game, developed by Square in 1994 and featuring a soundtrack composed by the delightfully talented Yoko Shimomura, is getting a somewhat signature Octopath Traveller make-over, with beautiful visuals, lighting and refined pixel artwork. With a truly fascinating premise and time-spanning protagonists, Live A Live lives again and I for one am looking forward to this rare blast from the past!
What announcements remained could hardly be called the stuff of Nintendo Direct legend. No 'Joker broke the internet' moment amongst the Metroid Dread title update info - 'Rookie' and 'Dread' modes, and a boss rush mode later in the year - and the Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Course Pass paid DLC, that will add classic tracks to the game in waves, over the course of the next year, starting March 18th. If you were hoping for Metroid Dread DLC or a brand new Mario kart, you were out of luck...
But if you were hoping for a new Xenoblade game...
Then the finale of the presentation was a must-see. Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will be releasing this year, with Nintendo promising to tie "the futures of Xenoblade 1 and 2" together in the highly-anticipated third act in Monolithsoft's genre-defining series that has pushed every single console the series has ever graced. No gameplay, no details: just the reveal Xenoblade fans needed to get us through the next few months.
So, no Zelda... No Bayonetta... No big hardware reveals... and who cares? The sheer volume and variety of the games on display in this Direct make it one of the best in Nintendo's recent history. Fans may not have got what they thought they wanted, but we certainly got a plethora of titles we didn't know we needed! From classic 2D titles, to lost gems, to sought-after sequels that have defied expectations - A Breath of the Wild 2 year would have been legendary for Nintendo, but now 2022 is looking like it might be devastating for Sony and Microsoft. While other companies may hold headlines for a week, Nintendo will keep their heads down and their quality high, ensuring a great year ahead.
Written by: Adam Kheroua