Nintendo Direct (13th Feb 2019) – Thoughts.


So, I’m running late because of this Orbital Infection but… that Nintendo Direct was certainly a thing, huh?

I wasn’t expecting much but it was packed with stuff; perhaps not all the stuff people wanted, but there’s plenty of time for much of that this year and especially for Pokémon, which has its own events – with one planned for the 27th of February – some of these are likely going to get their own special showcases.

I knew Nintendo needed SOMETHING, however. 16 million sales or so this year is pretty solid going, and 17 million by the end of March seems a total no-brainer, but they did want 20 million; it’s not that the software was bad or anything, just that Nintendo was again caught out by an industry dragging its heels and not meeting them half-way. What should have been a year of third-party support became… kind of barren, a reminder that Western developers like EA and Activision are never, ever going to be best buds with Nintendo. And I think we should all be okay with that now.

So that was the pre-amble. The Direct itself…

I say I was running late because of this infection but truth be told, I had a few rounds of Tetris 99. Which is, yet again for the Switch and Nintendo right now, one of those ludicrous ideas that “SHOULD. NOT. WORK!”, I mean it is effectively Tetris Battle Royale. And yet it does. It’s free to subscribers of Nintendo Switch Online too, which not only means it’ll have a sound audience for a while to come – but it suggests that in order to drive the Switch Online, Nintendo is prepared to give away some quirky, oddball stuff like this. And I couldn’t be happier, as Tetris 99 is absolutely brilliant stuff.

It opened up with Super Mario Maker 2 – which is, for many, the very final nail in the coffin of the Wii U. Super Mario Maker was one of the only major things keeping that poor soul going, and now aa far superior sequel is landing on the Switch… yeah, rest now Wii U, your suffering is at an end. Mario Maker 2 looks fantastic and it’s coming in June. So it’s pretty much… mostly done now, I guess.

There were plenty of announcements.

Hollow Knight’s sequel – Silksong – is a Switch exclusive. That’s yet another major indie game that’s pinning itself to the Switch zeitgeist, and I doubt it’ll be the last. Looks amazing too. Final Fantasy 9 shadowdropping; I know why they launched it before Final Fantasy 7, because… people will just go towards #7. Which is a shame as I prefer #9. But it’s good to see the classics slowly rolling out.

Fire Emblem looks… good? Okay, I’ll admit – this isn’t doing it for me. Game of Thrones meets Harry Potter meets My Hero Acadaemia sounds like a blast for some, but it doesn’t quite tickle my pleasure points and I’m sorry about that. Equally, the more I see of Yoshi’s Crafted World, the less enamoured I am with it. This has taken them over two years from reveal to release? REALLY?! It… it’s just not that impressive anymore. The shine has worn off.

And Dragon Quest XI… I’m sorry, but I’ll be sticking early on with Dragon Quest Builders 2. I don’t know what it is about DQ11 that’s starting to build resistance in the back of my head but something just isn’t gelling with me.

But Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice looks great on the Switch. Rune Factory is back from the dead – a souped-up port of Rune Factory 4 is on the way, and Rune Factory 5 is in development. This will please many people I know. Not me though, since I still want Story of Seasons. #sorrynotsorry

Astral Chain was the standout for me – a new Platinum IP, with Nier-style combat, an Akira-level aesthetic and a real cyberpunk theme. It looks AMAZING, and it’s one of the few times I’ve looked at a game and know that it’ll be a day-one thing for me. It almost reminded me a little of Xenoblade Chronicles X, which would have been awesome but a new action-adventure game from Platinum isn’t going to be met with any real negativity here. Except maybe by other platforms. Again, you guys had your chance when Platinum were floating around hunting for Bayonetta 2 funding. Nintendo did that. Your loss is Nintendo’s gain. Stop blaming Nintendo and start asking Sony and Microsoft why only now do they honestly give a toss.

And Link’s Awakening HD.

Oh lord. Where do I even START here? Objectively, this is my #1 Favourite Game of All Time. So… yeah, there’s not going to be much more objectivity going forward here. And I’ll admit when I realised what it was, it just took Link’s Boot (frankly, if they had a couple of those original intro notes I’d have got it sooner!), I gave out a yelp of pleasure so loud my cat ran for cover.

It looks adorable – but like Wind Waker, don’t for a second think “cute” means “kiddy”, because Link’s Awakening was always quite happy to push a few buttons here and there, and the story and themes behind it are a dark, brooding melancholy that always offset the happy, hell cheery, villages and music. It’s a game of contrasts, and I’ll even say I LIKE the art style; it’s in keeping with the original, the original scale and the original feel.

Will this be a £50 game? Probably. Is that cool? No. Will I buy it? Nnnngh oh god yes so much yes. Nintendo has me over a barrel on this one. And I’ll gleefully take it. That’s a problem, isn’t it?

On the whole – it was a solid Direct. Mortal Kombat 11 got dated – it’s great to see it coming to the Switch, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 was there too. There was plenty of content, perhaps not everything people wanted – Pikmin 4, Animal Crossing and Bayonetta 3 are still notably absent and quiet. But we know that there have been some issues behind the scenes – Metroid Prime 4 is one of the few public casualties of these challenges, but again, I do give Nintendo credit that they take things back to the drawing board if they’re not happy. So we’ll have to see where this goes.

It does mean that 2019 is getting more packed with content, which is good for the Switch and growth. And there are plenty more rumours – UbiSoft appear to be making sounds for a Mario + Rabbids sequel, which is probably some ways off but I’m down for that. And Grand Theft Auto 5 is still being touted, moreso now Take Two have more confidence in the Switch. But again, that could be later in the year. It’s not something Nintendo will necessarily devote time to this early in the year.

Still… is it enough? I don’t know. Link’s Awakening does it for me, no question, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s quite the killer hook that, say, Pokémon will be. Everything in there was excellent and wonderful and doubtlessly impressive, but Nintendo will need to pull out some big-ass names at E3 if that’s their next Direct. Though I’d hope for one in April.

For the moment, it’s still got a lot going on. And much of it looks damn fine. We’re in this weird space right now where we’re all on tenterhooks waiting for the new 4K generation of consoles; at that point, Nintendo will have to pull some rabbits out of their hat, but when that’ll be happening is anyone’s guess.

Right now, it’s all a tactical waiting game. As frustrating as that is for everyone… that’s the market right now.

But at least Link’s Awakening. I wonder if the Oracles games will be next…

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