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E3 2015: Nintendo Announcement Roundup

Leading up to Nintendo’s presence at E3 2015, there were certain things that we knew for sure that weren’t going to be at the show. Zelda was not only delayed till next year at the earliest, but Nintendo explicitly stated that there would be no place for it at E3 this year. We also knew that any details of their new upcoming console, the NX, would be non-existent. Any discussion on the new system was also shelved until 2016.

With that in mind, some of us thought we’d at least see a new 3D Mario game, a Metroid title from Retro, or some new IP that would capture our attention much like Splatoon did last year. So did Nintendo bring us any of that? “Well of course not! It’s Nintendo!” the cynical voice inside your head barks. But the fact of the matter is while this doesn’t even come close to Nintendo’s worse E3 showing thanks to some great looking 3DS titles, the return of an old franchise, and a Nintendo event 25 years in the making, even if it didn’t stand alongside the announcements of Final Fantasy VII, The Last Guardian, and Xbox One’s backward compatibility, we still wouldn’t have been talking about Nintendo three weeks from this year’s E3.

Twenty-Fifteen brought back the first Nintendo World Championships in 25 years. Similar to the Best Buy events of years past, the Nintendo World Championships gathered qualifying finalists from eight Best Buy locations to compete in the ultimate Nintendo competition. It was an exciting night, hosted by Kevin Pereira of G4 fame, as we watched live matches of Splatoon, Mario Kart 8, Balloon Fight, and much more. This was easily the highlight amongst all of Nintendo’s E3 events, which continued the company’s strategy of getting their fans involved in the biggest video game event of the year.

Adding to the celebration of Nintendo multiplayer games, we also got a Super Smash Bros. Direct on the same day which brought upon some high profile announcements. Nintendo’s fighter will be getting new Mii Fighter costumes, tourneys, and the long awaited YouTube uploads. But the most exciting news was the fan demanded addition of Ryu from Street Fighter as a playable character in Smash. Not only does he pull from the standard A and B movesets, but experienced Street Fighter players will also be rewarded with stronger attacks if they happen to execute Street Fighter button combinations during battle. This is a thoughtful and ingenious implementation for a character from another fighter franchise that both honors and respects what the fans wanted in Super Smash Bros.

But as effective as the news on the Smash updates was alongside the Nintendo World Championships, in some ways, it could have been better suited for Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event. The E3 show that many Nintendo viewers were hoping would announce a new game from any one of Nintendo’s main franchises, or a completely new IP altogether, disappointed on many levels. In fact, the digital event was so underwhelming, that company president Satoru Iwata recognized fans’ response by tweeting out this apology.

But let’s not sell the event too short; take Star Fox Zero for example. It’s wonderful to see that Myamoto’s teased arcade sh’mup is bringing the franchise back to its Star Fox 64 roots, even though they may be overly referential by almost making Zero look like Star Fox 64 graphically. From shooting your way through vast, open replayable areas, to tansforming into multiple vehicles including the Landmaster and the returning Walker, this has many of the trappings of the Star Fox sequel we’ve been waiting almost 20 years for. Furthermore, although the new cockpit controls are unusual and seemingly cumbersome (which have the player aim the Arwing’s cannons with the gamepad’s display whilst controlling the ship itself with the left analog stick on the television), it’s never too late for Nintendo to make the gamepad more relevant other than using it for off-screen maps and inventory menus.

Another exciting debut of a returning title was Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, which hasn’t seen a console installment since the Gamecube. Despite having a special place in my heart among Mario sports titles, the return of Mario Tennis doesn’t quite do it for those who were looking for other dormant Nintendo franchises. F-Zero or Metroid anyone?

Speaking of Metroid, those who might have thought that a new Metroid title was going to be announced can finally understand how crushed Final Fantasy fans felt when the Final Fantasy VII PC port was announced at last year’s PSX. Metroid Prime: Federation Force, anot upcoming cooperative and competitive multiplayer shooter for the 3DS, doesn’t come remotely close to what those who have longed for a new Samus adventure wanted. Between Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime 2, the franchise has never really stood out as a multiplayer experience. It is indeed single player Metroid games that have made the franchise so influential amongst countless AAA and indie titles today. Even while understanding that the production of a new, big budget, console Metroid game is too much for Nintendo to handle at this time, it’s hard to imagine why we couldn’t have at least gotten a traditional 2D side scrolling adventure in the same vein as Fusion or Zero Mission.

Not all was bad on the 3DS front, however. A new Legend of Zelda targets fans of Four Swords with The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes. With two of your friends instead of three (according to Nintendo, four Links is too ‘tall’ for this game’s new “totem” mechanic) this new title also introduces a new costume system that pushes players to combine their abilities to progress through dungeons. And let’s not forget about Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, another new 3DS title that combines elements of the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi RPG series

In the end, Star Fox, Mario Tennis, Triforce Heroes, and Paper Jam all just about make up most of the new and exciting announcements from Nintendo at this year’s E3 Digital Event. Both Fire Emblem titles shown: Fire Emblem: Fates and Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, were already revealed prior to this event, and we also already knew that the Japanese hit Yo-Kai Watch was heading to the west. This is also both Yoshi’s Wooly World and Xenoblade Chronicles X’s second E3 (not to mention the fact that they have been kicked around multiple Nintendo Directs), and announcing two new Animal Crossing games doesn’t necessarily tickle anyone’s fancy at a platform like E3. Overall, Nintendo hardly had any “world premieres” or true surprises this year.

If you’re thinking that I neglected to mention Super Mario Maker, don’t fret. While this long awaited user-generated-driven platformer is easily the most anticipated Nintendo title from E3, not only had it suffered from being yet another game that has had its 18th showing, it also felt as if it was filling in gaps in the digital event where Nintendo didn’t feel as if they had anything else to show. The thing is, this didn’t have to be the case. Did you know that Nintendo ran a week long special during E3 on the Wii U’s eShop called Nindies @ Home where if you downloaded preview demos of nine indie titles, you’d get a 15% discount off them? With Sony and Microsoft both shouting ‘indie’ from the mountain tops, you’d think Nintendo would have caught on and did the same this year (plus, it would have made for a great “and you can get it right now” announcement). Even something as simple as some indie pimpage had fallen by the wayside amongst everything Nintendo had planned for E3. Instead, they relied on mostly old announcements and reveals of new titles that no one even asked for.

Now let’s be honest with ourselves, it was a fool’s errand to have such high hopes for Nintendo’s E3 this year considering what we knew leading up to the event. The absence of Zelda took a big chunk out of what could have grabbed our attention, and this year’s reveal of codename: NX was speculated by many that it was Nintendo’s way to assure fans and investors that announcing their mobile initiative in no way meant that they’re not bowing out of the console business just yet. With that said, there wasn’t a whole lot Nintendo could have announced.

But perhaps this is Nintendo’s own undoing. With the lack of third party support and the numerous Directs ran throughout the year, Nintendo have spread the announcements of their limited content too thin, resulting in having few surprises and less to show at E3 this year. Some will argue that other console manufacturers don’t reveal a whole lot themselves, but that’s for a different conversation regarding getting ahead of the E3 hype train. In the end however, even in the face of consumer outcry and backlash to Nintendo’s abominable E3 Digital Event, we may end up find ourselves praising the very games we were so quick to criticize at this year’s E3.

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