As we head into February, traditionally one of the quietest months for game releases, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at Nintendo and their plans for 2015. While I'm probably the site's leading all around Nintendo "expert" (it's pronounced 'fan-boy'), I definitely don't see them as infallible. Indeed, there are plenty of areas where I think the big N has to step their game up this year, or at the very least keep going on the path they've started out on. That being said, after a rough year or two, 2015 seems like the one which might swing things around for the company, with a lot of promising titles and support in the works.
With that in mind, I'm going to be focusing on a month long analysis of Nintendo into three distinct areas; software, hardware and general services before wrapping things up. Nintendo is a huge company, monolithic even, and it definitely should be explored in detail to see both the good and the bad. Tonight's topic; Software. I'll be covering things like the Nintendo eShop (and the sad state of the Nintendo Club program) in the third part while this will be much more about the general state of their dedicated games and DLC content. Keep in mind, this won't mean only content made by Nintendo, but content that's expected to come to their consoles.
That being said, I can't help but be a bit excited for what is coming down this pipeline
Nintendo has shown a striking increase in their ability to generate small scale new content, and quickly. Titles like Dr. Luigi and NES Remix show that Nintendo knows it can take existing properties and put a fun new twist on them. At the same time, there has been a ton of content for existing titles coming in the form of (some paid, some free) DLC. Mario Kart and Hyrule Warriors have both received major paid DLC content updates, with more coming for both titles. It should also be noted that while a direct comparison is roughly impossible, Nintendo seems to be offering more value in their paid DLC offerings than their competitors. While this may be simply the message of the Nintendo fan echo chamber, at least no one has tried to sell us any horse armor; yet. On the free side, Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Wii U have received a few balance updates, including new stages available on the Wii U's 8 player mode. Mew-Two is also going to be made available on both platforms, and players who register both games by the end of March will even get the character for free! While we'll get more into the DLC side in part 3, let's remember that Nintendo isn't slowing down on the bigger games front, not by a long shot!
2015 looks to be an incredibly strong year for the Kyoto giant, software wise. We have on the horizon a pair of highly anticipated remakes (Majora's Mask and Xenoblade Chronicles, both for the 3DS), the third person shooter Splatoon, the massive Xenoblade Chronicles X and new titles in the Star Fox, Yoshi, Kirby and Zelda series. And although it won't be a game in the traditional sense, there is also Mario Maker, which will allow fans to create, share and most importantly play their own Super Mario Bros levels.
A few choice highlights and low-lights below:
Splatoon(Wii U): A title I'm very interested in, a third person shooter from Nintendo! I've written about the game before, but instead of bullets you use paint. The game features a bright colorful art style, a good variety of maps and weapons, and will bring something relatively new to a Nintendo platform. The developers seem to be looking at some great ways at using the Wii U game pad, such as giving you the option to quickly jump around the map in addition to obvious ideas like seeing how well your team is doing. Splatoon is on track to be released in May 2015, but nothing more specific has been announced yet.
Mighty No. 9(3DS/Wii U): Though not a Nintendo exclusive by any means, having this title is an awful lot better than not having it. Developed by the creator of Mega Man, this title stars a robot with an arm cannon, who has to go off and fight 8 other robots, all with varying abilities. As the game progresses, the player character will be able to enhance his abilities based on the previous bosses he has defeated. If this sounds like Mega Man, well...if we all squint maybe we can pretend it IS Mega Man. Seriously though, while it was never in question that Mighty No. 9 would come to Nintendo's systems, as I said earlier NOT having this game would have looked bad for Nintendo. Personally, I'm excited to see how the game will perform on the 3DS, as there is plenty of opportunity for some great visuals there. Look for this one to be released in April of 2015.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D(3DS): Another re-make of a classic N64 title, this game joins Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 64 in getting the 3DS love. Upgraded visuals and some all around gameplay improvements have plenty of people excited to save the world in 3 days all over again. The moon certainly looks much more menacing this time around, but while Ocarina of Time 3D got a distinctly brighter look, Majora's Mask is clearly the darker title in the series, possibly the darkest and most somber yet. It'll be interesting to see how this new look fits this dark game. Look for this one to drop this month, February of 2015.
Unnamed Star Fox title(Wii U): This game is mostly notable right now for it's total lack of information. We know that Shigeru Miyamoto is making a new Star Fox game, and he has told us that it will require players to use both their TV screen and Wii U game pad to play. We know that he has promised that this will be a 2015 title. And...that's pretty much all we know about this game. There's no gameplay footage, and the few reporters who did see it say the game looked much more like a barren tech demo than anything feature complete. Then again, Metroid Prime 3 similarly looked rough and empty about a year before it was released, and that worked out pretty well. Star Fox Wii U was announced at E3 2014, so we may have to wait until this year's event to see any new info on it. If this is indeed a 2015 title, look for it in the latter half, likely the 4th calendar quarter.
Unnamed Legend of Zelda Title(Wii U): Enough has and will be written about this game, so I won't rehash that here. In fact, it's mainly on the list to serve as a contrast to Star Fox. With Zelda, we've at least seen (what we were told was) live game play footage, learned some new details and generally gotten enough hints and info to speculate on the game's place in the series timeline. We've seen some enemies, and some combat in-game. Yet, this title is supposed to be release -after- the aforementioned Star Fox game. What gives? This one is also supposed to be a 2015 title, but if you asked me to pick the over/under on this game being released Xmas week, I'd say it's likely to slip into 2016.
Xenoblade Chronicles(3DS)/Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U): The original Xenoblade Chronicles is a well regarded late Wii title, with it's "spiritual successor" Xenoblade Chronicles X whipping fans into a frenzy. The 3DS remake of the Wii title is an exciting prospect, the first exclusive game for the (very poorly named) New Nintendo 3DS, while X has shown tremendous potential as a massive open world game in which players get to control a large mech and engage in combat. The 3DS Xenoblade Chronicles is expected to launch in April worldwide, while the Wii U's X is supposed to arrive in Japan in April, and the rest of the world some time in 2015.
Yoshi's Wolly World/Kirby and the Rainbow Curse(Wii U): 2 platforming titles featuring well known and loved Nintendo characters. World seems to be a cross between a typical Yoshi platformer and one of Kirby's recent titles Kirby's Epic Yarn. Rainbow Curse is a bright platformer starring the pink puffball, with some new gameplay based around the Wii U's game pad. Rainbow Curse is scheduled to be released February of 2015 in the US, while Wolly World is currently slated for an "Early 2015" release.
As you can see from this lineup, Nintendo seems to have a lot going for it on the software front this year, and this list is far from complete. Monster Hunter 4, Code Name S.T.E.A.M., Hyper Light Drifter and many more are waiting for us. Nintendo seems to be riding high on the wave that they started with the release of Mario Kart 8, and this lineup seems to be putting Nintendo into a position of strength. As we all know, software is what moves hardware. Which is good, because as we'll discuss next week, Nintendo may really need it.