Nintendo Direct Mini Impressions
I think it’s safe to say that the internet sort of lost its mind leading up to this latest Nintendo Direct. The amount of speculation and fervor surrounding the impending video dump resembled something we’d see at E3, not a beginning of year affair. Nearly all of the hype was built up by fans concocting dreams and hopes of what could be shown.
While I had no doubt there would be a January Direct of some sort – there nearly always is – I kept thinking why so many people got so hyped over what typically has been Nintendo assigning dates to its first and second quarter projects with a few surprises sprinkled in. I think part of the reason is that Nintendo decided to throw out the playbook and didn’t officially announce the Nintendo Direct until it was ready to watch. They’ve done this in the past on a few occasions, but usually when they focused on a single game. So, imagine many people’s skepticism that Nintendo would just suddenly drop a new video without notice. And yet, they did.
As a person with my expectations well in check (sorry but there was no way we were going to see Metroid Prime 4 or Pokémon), I still came away from today’s Nintendo Direct Mini (it clocked in at just over 14 minutes) excited in some ways, but disappointed in others. I was impressed with the number of surprise third party announcements, even if some of them aren’t my cup of tea.
For many, the biggest news is that Dark Souls: Remastered (do we really need the colon?) is coming to the Nintendo Switch on May 25. I’ll never say no to a quality game on the Switch, but this series just hasn’t clicked with me in the past so I wasn’t excited to see the teaser trailer, but glad Switch is getting it day and date with the PS4 and Xbox One versions. This needs to happen more often. For me the most eyebrow raising announcements were The World Ends With You Remixed and Ys VIII. The former is something I know a ton of fans have wanted for a very long time and the latter is just plain unexpected after Falcom (the developers) stated they had no plans to support the Switch. Indeed, the game is coming via NIS America, but I’d have never guessed it would show up on the Switch – although I’m excited to see it is.
Payday 2 has always been of interest, but I’m just not sure the Switch is the right platform for a 4-player co-op team game via the internet. I know you can play locally as well, but I imagine the online will almost be impossible without using the chat app, of which we haven’t even heard if it will work with it or not. Communication must be key in game like this, and it’s unfortunate that most people will most likely have to use a different solution to communicate – although I’d love to be proven wrong. This game has been available on other platforms for ages, so I’m just not sure if the Switch version stands a chance of success or not. Time will tell.
Then there’s SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy. This sort of falls in line with my thoughts on Dark Souls – happy to see it on the system, but most likely a hard pass from me. It’s just not my thing.
Beyond that we had quite a few first party announcements. As expected we got a release date for Kirby Star Allies (March 16) and it’s coming along nicely. In the past I haven’t been a huge fan of the Kirby games, but around the time of Kirby’s Epic Yarn I began to appreciate the pink puffball. Kirby’s Triple Deluxe and Planet Robobot on the 3DS were exceptional titles, so hopefully this one follows suit. The co-op mode looks like it could be fun with friends as well.
The biggest surprise for me was the announcement of Mario Tennis Aces. This is a brand new game in the Mario Tennis series and it looks fantastic. It seems like Camelot and Nintendo have listened to fan criticism regarding the single player mode. To that end they have added in a story mode – although time will tell if this is as deep and rewarding of an experience like the Game Boy versions were. After spectacularly failing with the Wii U Mario Tennis game, this new Switch sequel looks to be on the right track. It’s coming this spring so we don’t have to wait much longer to find out.
Then there are the Wii U ports of Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. I’m of two minds with ports like these. On the one hand I completely understand the business side of things and that there just wasn’t a large audience on the Wii U that got to play these titles. In that regard it makes total sense to bring them to the Switch where they can potentially reach a brand new audience. On the other hand, I own both of these games and am not thrilled with the prospect of spending $50 or $60 again to have them on the go. Now, Nintendo did sweeten the deal a little bit to make them more tempting for double dippers, especially with Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition. It includes all of the characters, levels and DLC from the 3DS and Wii U versions – including the 2 player modes. That’s a ton of content and if you didn’t already purchase the DLC it’s probably worth the upgrade.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is a slightly harder sell for those that already own the game on Wii U. It’s pretty much identical with the exception of the addition of Funky Kong, which is a brand new playable character that will make the game easier. Now, I’m all for making this game more accessible – it’s too difficult for my liking – but it seems like they could have added more to the package to encourage double-dipping. Plus, as of this writing the game is listed at a full $59.99 – a hard pill to swallow when the original launched at $49.99 and is now $19.99 as a Player’s Choice on Wii U. Still, if you haven’t ever played the game before, it’s definitely worth considering and some even consider it to be the best 2D platformer in years. I still think the price is too high though.
I do like this trend of adding DLC into Switch games, and Nintendo surprised us all with a new mode coming to Super Mario Odyssey next month. This free download adds in a hide and seek mode where you can either hide a balloon or search for one. You earn points for finding the balloon in a short time or if you’re really good at hiding the balloon from others. This mode seems like it could be rather fun, although it seems extremely shallow. I know I’d have preferred to pony up some money and get actual new Kingdoms with new levels to explore and Power Moons to collect. Still, I won’t say no to free content! It’s also great to see Donkey Kong joining the team in Mario + Rabbids and new fighters for Pokkén Tournament DX.
Missing from this Nintendo Direct was the new Yoshi game coming to the Nintendo Switch. I already thought the company was pushing it with two 2D sidescrollers (Kirby and Yoshi) and then they announced the port of DKC: Tropical Freeze. So, perhaps they decided to space out Yoshi from the rest and that will be a late summer or early fall title now? I was also halfway expecting some mention of Animal Crossing for the Switch, since the mobile game has now been out for almost two months. I figured Nintendo would strike while the iron’s hot, but who knows what they have in the works. I was also hoping to learn more about their paid online service and what they plan to do with Virtual Console. Again, we have to wait longer to find out more. I was also mildly surprised to see no mention of 3DS games. Is it finally dead?
Overall I came away impressed with this Nintendo Direct Mini. There were some nice surprises and it seems like there will be a solid effort once again from Nintendo first party to have at least a title or two every month. Sure, January is empty, but they are publishing both Dragon Quest Builders (demo is out now for you try) and Bayonetta 2 (with Bayonetta 1 included) in February. March we have Kirby, April is empty (but could be filled with either Hyrule Warriors or Mario Tennis), May has Donkey Kong Country, and June could see the aforementioned games that don’t come out in April. That gets us to E3 where we should learn about their second half lineup, although I think we will see at least one more Direct before then to fill in July and August games.
We don’t know the full picture for the year, but so far I will say I feel they need more exclusive games announced for 2018. Simply filling the year with ports won’t cut it, but if they are complementary then that’s fine. I’m a little concerned that we’re only seeing two brand new first party games for the first half of the year. For the second half we know Fire Emblem and Yoshi should be coming, but beyond that who knows for sure. Obviously Metroid Prime 4 and Pokémon factor in as well, but those could easily be 2019 games for all we know. Still, it’s a bit too early to get overly concerned, and with all of the indie games I do have plenty to play on my Switch. So, I’ll choose to have a positive outlook for 2018 and look forward to playing many of the games announced today as well as remaining excited for what’s yet to come. What about you? Let us know down below!
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published across a wide spectrum of media sites. He’s currently the Editor-In-Chief of Nintendo Times and contributes to Gaming Age.