The 2015 Nintendo Digital Event: Excitement and Disappointment

The Nintendo digital event for E3 2015 came and went without much in the way of surprises. While I’m certainly excited for some upcoming games, I’m a bit disappointed that it feels like we’re not really getting the types of games that we want, and that there simply isn’t much on the horizon for the Wii U.

First, let’s start off with the positives. Nintendo opened the event with footage from StarFox Zero, which is in fact still coming to Wii U this holiday season. There appear to be several innovative vehicles and mechanics, all of which will use the gamepad to aim and the left stick to move. This is one of the most unique uses of the gamepad yet, and it looks to be a great twist on a solid franchise. The visuals didn’t blow anyone away, but Nintendo has never been about graphics, and the gameplay looks solid and enticing. [Update: I’ve now played this game, and you can read my first impressions.]

Super Mario Maker looks absolutely amazing, and if the Nintendo World Championships were any indication, it will let you create just about anything. We learned that there will be an amiibo for it, and that it will utilize other amiibo to create 8-bit versions of said characters in-game, but we already knew about most of the discussed features prior to the presentation.

After my initial trepidation with my first Fire Emblem experience, I’m now hooked on the franchise, and thus very much look forward to both SMT x FE and the other new upcoming Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem: Fates. Unfortunately, we really didn’t learn anything new about either of these titles, so despite my excitement for their arrival, the lack of new details left a bit of a void.

Yoshi’s Wooly World remains one of my most anticipated titles of the year, and we heard a bit more about it at the event. Yet again, there wasn’t anything new that we didn’t already know; luckily everything that’s there looks absolutely charming and wonderful, so it’s hard to file this as a disappointment.

Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam was a new announcement that provides excitement for many fans of the Paper Mario series, but I was never a (gasp!) huge fan of the other Mario RPGs. This could be a good game and I’m sure it makes a lot of people happy, but I’ll wait to read more reactions before forming an opinion.

They announced Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival, which looks just like Mario Party with Animal Crossing characters – not exactly the Wii U AC that people were looking for. It might be fun, and I’ll wait to see more of it before making a judgment, but it just doesn’t fill me with excitement.

Two new Zelda games were announced, but neither were the ones that fans were clamoring for. Zelda Triforce Heroes looks like a three-Link Four Swords adventure, and has potential to be neat through online collaboration with friends. Though sporting some dated visuals, I’ll remain optimistic about it for the time being. Hyrule Legends, more or less a port of Hyrule Warriors, doesn’t excite me anymore than the Wii U title did (which I picked up at launch but stopped playing about half way through). Neither of these games are the one we really want, which is Zelda U, and simply don’t fill the shoes left empty by the absence of that flagship title.

Metroid Prime: Freedom Force is unfortunately not what it sounds like; instead of a new entry in the series, it’s a co-op shooter that brings to mind more something like Nintendo Land than a new Metroid game (even with the attached “Blast Ball” mini game or whatever the heck that is). Again, it’s just not the game that fans were looking for.

Mario Tennis Ultra Smash for Wii U was announced, but it just seems like yet another rehashed Mario Tennis. Coming from someone who adored the original on N64, that’s a problem. Nintendo always says that they only want to release games that have some new gameplay component to them (F-Zero anyone?), but this seems like more of the same and failed to excite me at this point. As one of few new games announced for the Wii U, that’s disappointing.

And that’s a problem as well. Nintendo shared very little in the way of new details about Wii U games. Miyamoto-san came on camera live after the event to assure us that they are still working on great games that use the gamepad in innovative ways, but that line is starting to feel a bit tired at this point. Starfox and Mario Maker are great uses of the gamepad, but otherwise I’m not convinced that Nintendo hasn’t all but moved on from the Wii U.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m super excited about some of the games coming in the next year. Nintendo’s digital event featured a charming presentation through the use of puppets to represent Nintendo leadership, but failed to reveal much in the way of significant and interesting surprises. If I had to rate the press conferences of the big three this year, I’m sad to report that after a strong performance last year, I’d rate Nintendo’s event in third place.

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