First, apologies: I realise I’m probably the umpteenth person to include that pun in a headline about this particular bit of news. What can I say, the announcement that the latest iteration of DOOM – the Godfather of ‘mature’ first-person-shooter games – will be coming to a Nintendo console was an exceptional surprise. That’s not to suggest there weren’t other grains of info and footage in Wednesday night’s Direct that excited me, but the sheer unexpectedness of the DOOM and Wolfenstein II announcement – and the implications it has for Switch’s long term fortunes – definitely left the biggest impression.
But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself. Briefly for those who don’t know, the Directs are a news-presentation format that Nintendo introduced in 2011 to allow them to communicate announcements and updates ‘directly’ to their audience. Aside from bypassing game journalists, what makes Directs a typically Nintendo format is the quirky silliness that often pervades the presentations (as well as the sometimes bizarre pacing or order of announcements).
For many years, the late Satoru Iwata – CEO of the company from 2002 until his death in 2015 (also the middle muppet) – presented the bulk of the Directs, and endeared himself into the hearts of many with his genuine, affable nature and weirdly charming antics. After his death the Directs went on a short hiatus, returning in late 2015. Since then, the format has received a reboot in line with the company rebrand that accompanied the advent of the Switch. Today, Directs are generally hosted by Yoshiaki Koizumi, the Deputy General Manager of Nintendo’s Entertainment Planning and Development division (that is to say, the company’s primary game development department). One of Miyamoto’s proteges, Koizumi is the chief producer of the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey and is widely regarded as the new global face of the company.
A prolonged last hurrah for handhelds
These reworked Directs have been divided into two sections, the first dealing with 3DS and mobile related news and the second Switch announcments. Wednesday night’s began with the biggest hitters for the dedicated handheld, providing details for pseudo-sequels Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Changes include new game areas such as a valley of Pikachus (genius), new outfits for player-avatars, and a change to the way the starter Pokémon are first encountered. A special pre-order version of a puppy Pokémon was also touted, along with two new varieties of ‘Ultra Beast’, the antogonistic creatures introduced in Sun and Moon (2016).
The Virtual Console rereleases of Pokémon Gold and Silver, coming 22nd September, also got some screentime: a year-long promotional tie-in allows the player to get the mystical Celebi in Ultra Sun/Moon if they purchase either Gold or Silver as well. The VC titles were made availble for pre-purchase as soon as the Direct finished. A Pokéball edition New 2DS XL was also announced (arriving beside Ultra Sun and Moon on 17th November), along with nostalgia-baiting boxed versions of Gold and Silver download-codes for the Japanese and European markets. Luckily for my bookshelves, my sentimentality for Pokémon largely starts and finishes with Yellow (1998).
Next up, the remake of RPG spin-off Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (coming 6th October) got a superficial update, mostly showing how amiibo can net the player some in-game items. The new Koopa Troopa and Goomba amiibo releasing alongside the game are cute at least. A bit more informative was the Kirby announcement that followed, providing us with the new brawler’s name, Kirby: Battle Royale, and its European release date, 3rd November (two months ahead of the US release for some reason). Various multiplayer modes were revealed (including online battles), as well as a solo quest mode. A poll is also being hosted at this site to ascertain the fan favourite amongst the pink puffball’s ‘copy abilities’.
Moving on, a trailer for Layton’s Mystery Journey (coming 6th October to 3DS, already available on iOS and Android) was shown, though it seems like the key gameplay differentiator between the 3DS and mobile versions is a single costume exclusive to the former. Given the signigicant price increase and several month wait since the mobile app release, I doubt this will swing it for most people. Even less impressive was the revelation that the Style Boutique franchise is still a thing (seriously, I thought this had died a death when the original DS was retired) and the amount of screentime its new entry receieved. On the other hand, the surpise reveal and immediate release of Minecraft for (New) 3DS is a true delight: I’m sure this’ll help the game reach the last remaining members of the child-gamer demographic who’ve somehow avoided it thus far. What’s more, the combo of touch and dualscreen features will surely make for a conveniant play experience.
A Mario Party compedium was the next title to be shown off, and it will be let loose sometime next January. Compiling 3DS games from bits of Mario spin-offs didn’t work so well for Mario Sports Superstars (2017), and whilst I’m sure that Mario Party: The Top 100‘s mini-games are mostly of a high standard, releasing a party game for 3DS is redundant in any market outside of Japan (even if download play is being utilised). The following Metroid: Samus Returns trailer offered nothing we didn’t already know outside of a Ridley tease, and advertising yet another New 2DS XL variant – especially a SNES themed one – seemed a tad avaricious when one considers the 3DS family is likely entering its last year of relevance.
The last few 3DS tidbits included a trailer for The Alliance Alive, a spiritual succesor to mediocre retro-stled JRPG The Legend of Legacy (2015), and a imminent-demo announcement for Etrian Odyssey V, the latest entry in a genuinely great JRPG dungeon-crawler series (dubious chibi character designs aside). The demos for both Etrian Odyssey IV (2012) and The Millennium Girl (2013, a remake of the series’ first game) were some of the most comprehensive I’ve ever played, the former actually being the only demo to convince me to buy a game I had no other prior knowledge of. As such, I’m excited to dust off my 3DS and give this one a go. Finally, we were given short reminders of two of the biggest games left for 3DS, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney (coming in November) and Fire Emblem: Warriors (20th October).
As the thoughts on the second part of the presentation would have more than doubled the word count, I’ve split this into two parts. The Switch-centric coverage is detailed here.