By: Andrew Lister
It's hard to deny that 2017 was easily Nintendo's greatest year ever. The launch of the fastest-selling console in US history, the Nintendo Switch, brought the company that Mario built back from the brink of collapse after the Wii U years. It's not just the dual nature of the console, but the release of games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey sent sales to the moon and back (pun intended). On top of that, they released a number of other amazing games and even managed to make the SNES Classic easier to find.
So where does Nintendo go from here? How could they follow up such a landmark year? What games will drop throughout 2018?
Fans wouldn't have to wait long because on January 11th, Nintendo dropped a surprise Nintendo Direct Mini, a 14 1/2 minute barrage of previews leading into the start of the new year.
Before we dig into my impressions, I do have to note how strange the days leading up to this Direct really were. A ridiculous number of leaks and rumors flooded the internet weeks before this Direct, and instead of confirming that a new Direct was indeed on its way, Nintendo decided to troll their fan base a bit. Rather than tweet out a date, they sent out cryptic images, such as Chibi Robo engulfed in flames and other bizarre retweets. Other companies got on board, too, sending their own fire-based images, and the internet was left puzzled and amused.
So with the Direct Mini out, let's talk about some of my overall impressions. As always, feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments below or discuss all things Nintendo on our Discord channel! Click the link below to get started!
Ports, Ports, Ports
One of the biggest complaints that echoed throughout the vast halls of the internet is that this Direct Mini focused too heavily on ports of older games.
Among them were the standout Wii U games Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze. If you were a die hard Nintendo Wii U fan like I was, this may not be all that exciting, and to some extreme fans, it might seem lazy or downright insulting to give us games we've already played.
While I can understand these reactions to an extent, I see these ports in a very different way. In its first 10 months, Nintendo has sold more Switch units than Wii U did during its entire run. This means that a number of really good games went largely unplayed by a large number of people. Releasing these games to a brand new audience makes a lot of sense, and it helps fill in some gaps while Nintendo develops new content.
We aren't only getting ports from the Wii U, however. We are also getting a number of games from other consoles, even some with brand new updates and remastering. The biggest example, which I would be remiss in not mentioning, is Dark Souls Remastered. I've never played Dark Souls, and from watching people play the games on Twitch, I doubt I'll pick this up. However, getting this game is a pretty big deal. I hope that it sells well so that companies like FromSoftware continue to bring their games to the hybrid system.
A game that I'm a bit more interested in is The Wold Ends With You: Final Remix. This game was a Sqaure-Enix RPG from the days of the Nintendo DS. It's a game I somehow missed, but it has a reputation as one of the best RPGs ever made. The game is getting a complete remaster and even some extra content, so this is one that I'll definitely have to try out when it launches this year.
So overall, yes, this Direct Mini was inundated with ports of all kinds (some I didn't even mention). However, with bigger first party games like Metroid and Pokemon still in development, it's nice to see lots of options still on the table until these newer experiences are finalized.
New Content for Past Games
Last year saw some really, really great games, and it's awesome that Nintendo isn't just ignoring them and moving on to other ventures. Yeah, I know that some of you might roll your eyes at my praising of DLC. However, if you're a Nintendo fan, you know that they've traditionally handled it in a very different manner.
Instead of putting out an unfinished game and then charging a huge amount of money for new content, Nintendo has a track record of releasing complete and polished games and then supplementing that experience with free updates. Splatoon and ARMS are good examples of this as each have received a number of new characters, levels, weapons, and game modes.
Sure, Nintendo does paid DLC as well, but for the most part this content has been fairly affordable and mostly worth it. Of course, this isn't always the case, and you could argue that there have been some missteps.
One such example comes with their announcement of new content for Pokken Tournament. To preface this, I love this game. I played it on the Wii U, and I picked it up again for the Switch so that I could take it on the go and play with others.
The Switch version gave us new characters and modes, but they also announced two new "Battle Packs," each one giving us one new fighter, Aegislash and Blastoise, as well as new support Pokemon and some new costumes. While it's great to have new characters to play, they are charging $14.99 for both packs together. It's a bit steep of a price for so little, but hopefully they add a bit more to the package before the first wave drops on January 31st.
However, we did get an announcement of our first free DLC for Super Mario Odyssey, and it involves my favorite Nintendo character, Luigi! Sadly you can't play the game as Mario's oft-forgotten brother, but you can play a mini game called Balloon World.
Essentially you play hide and seek with players around the world by hiding balloons within any level. Then you are tasked with going out to find where other players hid their own. It doesn't sound like a super in-depth mode, but it will be fun to play once I eventually beat the story and collect all the moons. It drops this February, so I should probably finish this article and get to work adding to my meager collection of 137 moons.
Oh yeah, and we also learned that Donkey Kong will be a playable character for Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle. I do have to take any opportunity to tell people how great this game is, so a brand new character (and hopefully game content) will be another great addition.
Dragon Quest Builders: A Better Minecraft
I know it was only mentioned in passing during the Direct, but Nintendo dropped a demo for Dragon Quest Builders that same day. I was hesitant to try it out, but once I did, the game got its claws into me, and I emerged coated in blue slime with a desire to do nothing but exist in this world and build.
I know the game has been out on other systems, but my first time playing it left me certain that I will purchase the game the moment it launches on the Switch.
New Year, New Games
I'll end this article with some thoughts on two new games on their way during the first half of the year. Of course, I'm talking about Kirby: Star Allies, which drops on March 16th, and Mario Tennis: Aces, coming this spring.
We've known since last year's E3 that new Kirby and Yoshi games were on the way in 2018. I've never been a massive Kirby fan, and I mostly skipped his games growing up. However, Star Allies looks like it has a lot of potential. Nintendo once again shows their commitment to fun couch co-op by making one of the focuses of this game teaming up to combine powers. The direct showed off new abilities and ways to combine them, and it got me pretty excited to give this game a shot.
The Switch has a lot of great 3D platform and action games, but there aren't as many good 2D platformers made by Nintendo. There's been a ton of amazing indie platformers, but this one will be a nice addition alongside games like Shovel Knight and Shantae.
The biggest surprise of the entire Direct was a brand new Mario Tennis game. I have always enjoyed the Mario sports games largely because of its lack of realism. I've never been drawn in by Madden or many other 2K games and their overly realistic graphics. Hand Mario a golf club or Waluigi a tennis racket, however, and I'm all in.
Not only does the game look vibrant and the gameplay look exciting, but they have added a brand new story mode, which we haven't seen since the Game Boy Advanced sports titles. As a fan of those titles and newer games like Golf Story, which blend the sport with RPG elements, I'll definitely be picking this game up at launch.
There was a lot of hype leading into this Nintendo Direct Mini. I'm not sure it lived up to the levels that some people imposed upon it. We didn't get to see anything from Metroid or Pokemon, and we didn't get a Smash Bros port, but what we did get was a massive listing of games coming out in the near future. Some are ports, others are new titles, but the variety here ensures that all Switch owners will find something new to play to start out 2018.
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