Things I Learned From Yesterday’s Nintendo Direct

Last night saw Nintendo stream the first Nintendo Direct broadcast of 2014. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata took the reigns once again – with his trademark Engrish and restrained enthusiasm – for a stream focusing on Wii U and 3DS titles set to hit store shelves and the eShop this spring.

Here’s what I took from last night’s live stream:

1. Mario Kart 8 will be released June 30th

Probably one of the most anticipated Nintendo games, Mario Kart 8 will hope to single-handedly resuscitate Nintendo’s flagging home console. It was absolutely paramount to Nintendo’s Wii U strategy to get Mario Kart on the Wii U as soon as possible, and it looks as though they will not disappoint.

2. Yoshi’s New Island could be a disappointment

I’m a huge fan of Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, and consider it to be one of the finest examples of 2D platforming ever created. Unfortunately, Yoshi’s New Island seems targeted at a younger audience and my expectations are somewhat low for this.

3. X could be the Wii U’s killer app

Monolith Soft’s Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the Wii’s top titles, and the upcoming X looks set to take up the mantle from its highly-regarded predecessor. With third-party support rapidly dwindling, this Wii U exclusive could prove key to changing Nintendo’s fortunes in 2014.

4. Nintendo’s ‘free-to-play’ strategy is finally bearing fruit

I’m not a fan of the ‘free-to-play’ model that has become increasingly popular thanks to the success of iOS and mobile games like Candy Crush Saga and (often overlooked) Plants vs Zombies 2. Nintendo clearly made a conscious effort to steer clear of the term ‘free-to-play’ when announcing their Rusty’s Real Deal and Steel Divers: Sub Wars, but that’s exactly what they are. Steel Divers offers a free version and a ‘premium’ version (so essentially a demo / trial version and a full game with all the bells and whistles, but even I have to admit that the haggling mechanic being implemented in Rusty’s Real Deal is somewhat interesting; allowing players to negotiate with an in game character to ultimately reduce the real world cost of in-game items makes for an interesting spin on the much-maligned micro-transaction.

5. Punch-Out’s Little Mac will make his Smash Bros debut

Not the most exciting announcement to come out of yesterday, but die-hard Super Smash Bros. fans will be pleased to see another playable character added to the roster of the one game that stands any chance of exceeding Mario Kart 8 in terms of sheer excitement.

6. The Virtual Console’s lackluster offering is improving… But only on Wii-U

Metroid Fusion

The Virtual Console was on of my favourite selling points of the Wii; revisiting Donkey Kong Country for the first time since the SNES days or being introduced to Sin and Punishment was worth the price of admission alone. Unfortunately, the Virtual Console offerings on both Wii U and 3DS have been lacking since both systems launched, and titles are currently limited to just NES and SNES titles, with not a single N64 game in sight.

December’s Nintendo Direct revealed that Nintendo DS games will now be coming to Wii U, and last night saw Nintendo unveil GBA games to the Wii U Virtual Console library. These are both welcome additions, but hardly the Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time caliber titles that Nintendo fans have been asking for. Also, it seems the 3DS has been left out in the cold, with no new system support on the horizon. Whether this is an emulation issue with the 3DS hardware, or whether Nintendo is just trying to leverage these re-released games for their struggling home console isn’t clear, but I for one would much rather be playing the low-resolution Metroid Fusion on my 3DS than my 1080p HDTV.

Come on, Nintendo. Let’s gets Majora’s Mask on the eShop and save the DS and GBA titles for the handhelds.

7. I’m a sucker for a themed 3DS

Image

I already own a 3DS and a 3DS XL, but every time Nintendo announces another super-special limited edition 3DS system – whether it’s gold and emblazoned with a triforce, or dino-green and complete with pixel art Yoshi – then that twinge of gadget lust always returns.

I’ll be sticking the my tried-and-tested black version for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t make the Yoshi 3DS XL any less awesome.

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