By Rich Stanton, Kim Snaith and CJ Wheeler.
Nintendo has, for years now, chosen to ignore the ‘traditional’ side of the big industry conferences and E3 is no exception: the strategy of Nintendo Directs, videos aimed directly at its audience, has proven so effective that it simply doesn’t need that kind of stage presence anymore.
So this year we were treated to a direct of roughly 40 minutes which, despite that being half the running time of most other E3 shows, was just games, games and more games. After all, it’s what the Kyoto wizards know best.
Rich: It opened with the announcement of a bunch of Dragon Quest fighters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. I like Smash Bros., it’s great fun, but (and this is no criticism of Dragon Quest) announcing a few new DLC fighters is not really the kind of rocket launch that a show like this needs. Bizarrely, there was *another* Smash DLC fighter announcement later. Why didn’t they just do these together somewhere near the end?
Kim: I’m just going to say this right here: I have no interest in Smash Bros. Sorry. I’m not here to lie. But people seem to like it, and so hooray for new fighters.
Rich: Yep. And as you said in your piece, and I remember thinking the same thing when Sonic came to Smash Bros. on Wii, how ironic it took Nintendo to make Banjo-Kazooie seem fun again.
CJ: It seems like a small thing but it’s probably taken quite a bit of work between Microsoft, Rare and Nintendo to get Banjo and Kazooie in there finally. I can see why they waited until the end for that one. Still no GoldenEye or Blast Corps on Switch though. Sorry, fellow N64 fans.
Kim: CJ was bang on the money predicting The Witcher 3 coming to Switch. Switcher 3. What is a game if it is not on Switch these days? Everyone loves more of their favourite games they can play on the go.
CJ: Called it. Portable Gwent! That is all.
Rich: My awful confession is that I can’t stand the combat in The Witcher 3 so I’ve never finished it. Man it grinds my gears, so loosey goosey. BUT I accept I’m wrong and the wider gaming world is right, so I look forward to playing it on a train where maybe I’ll feel less snobby about it not being Souls-level.
Kim: The John Romero thing looked interesting: Empire of Sin. I’m not a massive strategy game player, but really digging the 1930s mafia setting.
Rich: Yeah, and I was really pleased it wasn’t a shooter to be honest. Romero is one of those figures that’s a real legend but hasn’t had the best luck for a while now, and I’m pleased to see him striking out away from the genre that has defined most of his career.
We’ve skipped over what was probably my highlight of the Direct: Luigi’s Mansion 3. These games are so good, and they have a very different feel from anything else. It obviously has ‘more of the same’ at its core but Gooigi just instantly made me laugh, the new moves look great, and more than anything else the ‘Scarescaper’ eight-player rush mode looked absolutely fantastic. And in that classic Nintendo style, which I really like, it’s out this year, so probably their big Christmas game.
Kim: I haven’t played a Luigi’s Mansion game before (I never had a GameCube!) so I’m probably not as excited as some people about this one, but it looks like a lot of fun. Happy for the thinner, greener Mario Brother to get his moment in the spotlight.
CJ: We need to chip in to get you a copy on 3DS! Luigi is my favourite of the Mario brothers, so I’m stoked for this one. Gooigi is just ridiculous, but good ridiculous.
Kim: I’m not getting too excited about that Zelda tease at the end just yet. Yes, Breath of the Wild was total GOAT material, and of course I’m stoked to know that a sequel in the same vein is coming. But it’s going to be WAY off. 2022 and beyond, I’m guessing.
CJ: We all anticipated this after BotW’s success, surely? I’m very excited. If they can balance the changes made for the better to The Legend of Zelda formula in the last game with a little bit more of the traditional sizzle to the dungeons then I’ll be a very happy camper. Speaking of which, Animal Crossing being pushed back doesn’t bother me too much. These are games I'm glad to wait for and look forward to as much as eventually play them.
Rich: I think if it was 2022 Nintendo wouldn’t have shown it. It’s comfortable with being honest with its audience now I think, as evidenced by what happened when it re-started development on Metroid Prime 3, and I really don’t think the modern Nintendo would tease a game three-and-a-half years away. I wouldn’t say winter 2020 is out of the question but, hey, I’m guessing.
But let’s just mention what the teaser itself suggested: there were rumours floating around that Nintendo wanted to do some kind of ‘Majora’s Mask’ with BotW, meaning the BotW team used their experience with that game to build another, completely different take. The trailer basically shows Link and Zelda awakening some ancient evil, and the world of BotW changing. Also, and I may be reaching here… that tease suggested to me we might see a playable Zelda. This looks like a direct sequel after BotW’s events, with the same characters, and she’s not bound-up with Ganon anymore.
Kim: I certainly hope you’re right about the release date. I also suspect there may be a playable Zelda too, which is a very exciting prospect and a new direction for the series. It’s the poor girl’s own legend, but she never gets much of a moment to shine, does she?
However... The Link’s Awakening remake is one Zelda game I can immediately get excited for. Only three months away! I already said in the news piece, but that’s one of my most cherished Zelda games. I remember phoning up a damn hints hotline to help me with one of the dungeons; this is way before the days of Internet walkthroughs. Love the look of the new art style. Can’t wait to dive in.
CJ: That dungeon creator tho. The Legend of Zelda Maker for E3 2020 maybe?
Rich: Yeah Link’s Awakening is pure catnip for me. I actually played the original for a few minutes the other day, haha. I was sorting through a cupboard and found my old Game Boy Pocket with that familiar gold-labelled cartridge. Still as magical as ever. I know it’s just nostalgia in a way but I can’t wait.
No More Heroes 3! I was pretty down on Travis Strikes Again but I regard the first game as Grasshopper and Suda-51’s finest work. Obviously you can’t glean too much from a non-gameplay trailer but it looks like a return to the style that made this series great, and I love Travis, so delighted to see this.
Kim: Yeah, I think lots of people were disappointed by Travis Strikes Again so I’m glad to see they’re wasting no time in returning to the core series. The trailer didn’t give us much to go on, but I remain hopeful.
Rich: Animal Crossing, as I always say, is the loveliest game ever. New Horizons looks like more Animal Crossing and, with most other series, I would consider that some kind of great criticism. But AC is one of those where really minor changes to the experience can make all the difference, and in a way what its players want from it is the kind of familiar comfort blanket experience. That’s absolutely no criticism; that’s what I want from it too.
I remember when we first started playing the 3DS one and me and my mates were just wandering around, goggling at the new town features, checking out KK in the club, and declaring “THIS IS NEXT-GEN”. Animal Crossing is one of those games that got it so right the first time, it’s never needed reinvention, just refinement.
CJ: I still regularly dig out my 3DS to jump back into New Leaf, and I guiltily admit to quite enjoying Pocket Camp. My wife and I will definitely be buying each other a copy of New Horizons at launch and hanging out in each other’s towns swapping fruit. You’re right though, it doesn’t need much more than releasing to be pretty much a perfect game, so why the delay? It doesn’t really matter, because it’ll be great, I guess.
Kim: Marriage goals right there.
I’m still kind of reeling from an overload of information in such a short space of time that it’s hard to pull out my highlights. I think I missed a couple of announcements while I was typing stuff up: Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, a new Mana game? Adventures of Mana was great, so that could be something to look forward to. And more Resi coming to Switch, of course.
Rich: Yeah stuff like the Resi announcements, as good as they are, is all a bit forgettable in the context of announcing new Zelda games etc. It’s not like anyone who wants to play those two games lacks options though, of course, we do want every game on Switch don’t we.
A highlight for me was Astral Chain, Platinum’s upcoming action game. I think Platinum are the best action game developer in the world and, while the styling and story of this is very anime and over-dramatic and not really my thing, the combat itself looks completely brilliant. I love this idea, which I think I’ve understood correctly, of being able to control your enemies until they’re close to death and their survival instinct kicks in. Anyway it looked like a tonne of high-octane fun.
Easy to skip over these sizzle reels that Nintendo puts together as well. We’re obviously watching and in one sense looking out for the ‘big’ announcements, but one of the things I love as a player is seeing these five-minute videos just crammed with game after game, where you do get some of the more wacky stuff.
CJ: Alien Isolation is coming to Switch, speaking of wanting every game on there. Get Labo VR on that please, Ninty.
Rich: Oh, and I’m delighted Dragon Quest XI has been dated: I’ve been holding off on what I hear is an amazing game because I wanted that Switch experience. To be honest, I think at my age, the Switch is the only way I’ll ever complete a JRPG again.
CJ: Same here, children and responsibilities far outweigh 100 per cent completion of 80+ hour RPGs, so the easier to play on the loo the better. With additions like DQ XI and Switcher 3 alongside Final Fantasy gradually happening, and Collection of Mana out today, the Switch is rapidly turning into an essential portable RPG machine. I haven’t even finished Xenoblade Chronicles 2 yet though.
Rich: Nostrastantus predicts: you never will! Hahaha, no I know exactly what you mean. I used to plough through dozens of JRPGs a year and now it’s like a very rare luxury every 2-3 years to dedicate the time to one I *really* want to experience.
So, overall thoughts folks? I think one of the things about Nintendo Directs is, because they lack the pomp of other shows, it’s easy for it all to be a blur and at the end you’re just kinda trying to process how many games you just saw. That can mean the initial reaction is almost confusion as you try to pick through what it all was, before realising just how much stuff the big N crammed into that 40-minute running time. And that’s what we want *adopts Jerry Maguire voice* show me the video games!
Kim: It was a great Direct, I think. Always appreciate Nintendo just Getting To The Point and not faffing around with exposition, interviews, and padding stuff out. Just boom boom boom, trailer trailer trailer. Like I said, there was a lot to digest, and some trailers I need to rewatch, but there’s lots to be excited about.
CJ: I’m happy, that was a decent effort from Nintendo. Lots to look forward to this year and next, which is always good to see. I can’t think of anything I’m disappointed by.
Rich: Switch still rules the world then?
Kim: Ha, maybe it will when that Breath of the Wild sequel finally releases.