The proliferation of TV channels, the advent of streaming and the dominance of platforms like YouTube and Twitch means that the age of appointment viewing is largely behind us. There are very few programmes these days that generate a large-scale, communal viewing experience. For Nintendo fans and gamers at least, one thing that does produce this is a new Nintendo Direct presentation. These video broadcasts are without a doubt required viewing for anyone interested in videogames. They are a moment when fans come together and react to new game announcements and generally share the hype. Fans celebrate their favourite reveals and complain about the games that were left without a mention.
In recent times, Nintendo has stopped producing these presentations. Sure, we have had Direct Minis and Partner Showcases. However, it had been over 530 days since the last full Nintendo Direct, and it felt like we wouldn’t be getting another any time soon. As I noted in my February Nintendo Newsround blog, Nintendo had become more indirect.
All that changed this week. On Wednesday 17th February, fans were given the first full Nintendo Direct in almost a year and a half. And it was over 50 minutes long! I’m here to summarise some of the key announcements and share the hype with you all. Let’s begin…
Nintendo Direct 2021 began with the announcement of the next DLC character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. We knew that there was going to be news regarding this game – it had been trailed in the announcements, so that was no surprise. What was a surprise was the revealed character (or rather characters) – Pyra and Mythra from Xenoblade Chronicles 2. This is perhaps the only character announcement that could have made me part with my cash. I’m a casual Smash player at best (although I love the game). I am, however, a massive fan of Xenoblade Chronicles 2, having clocked up over 220 hours in the base game and a further 20 in the DLC prequel, Torna: The Golden Country.
It was an incredible moment to hear the music again and to hear the brilliant voice work of Skye Bennett as both Pyra and Mythra. This character will become available to download in March 2021. I will be there on day one.
Still More Additions
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate wasn’t the only game to have new content announced. Nintendo’s big holiday game for 2020 was Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity, a sort-of prequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It was a great game (you can read my review here). It was announced that there will be an Expansion Pass that will make two waves of new content available, scheduled for June and November, as well as some minor purchase bonuses. Priced at £17.99, this may be a little steep for me, but I’m prepared to wait for the details before I make a final decision.
More additions are coming to Animal Crossing: New Horizons too. As part of the ongoing 35th Anniversary celebrations for the original Super Mario Bros., Nintendo have announced a free update to Animal Crossing that will wash up on 25th February. The update will make Super Mario-themed items such as costumes and warp pipes available from 1st March.
This year is the 35th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda series too. With that in mind, it wasn’t surprising that the Age of Calamity Expansion Pass wasn’t the only Zelda announcement in this Nintendo Direct. Series producer Eiji Aonuma unveiled The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, which will be released on the Nintendo Switch on July 16th. This was originally released on the Nintendo Wii in 2011 and was the last full console Zelda game before Breath of the Wild. It is also a divisive game. For all its faults (and it has a lot) I still really enjoyed this game, including motion-controlled sword fighting (something that is being supplemented with standard button controls in the HD version).
I played this game in 2016, so probably won’t be picking up the remake. I am, though, very tempted by the Skyward Sword themed Joy-Cons that are being released on the same day.
This announcement wasn’t anything like the big splash of Zelda news some were expecting. My money is still on a dedicated Zelda anniversary Direct later in the year, in the style of last year’s Mario Direct. It is then, I suspect, that we’ll hear about Breath of the Wild 2, and also the much-mooted ports of Wind Waker HD and Twilight Princess HD.
Square Enix Surprises
The 2018 Square Enix title Octopath Traveller managed to marry old school RPG aesthetics and play styles with modern graphical tricks. It was something they called HD 2D. This is a style that they’re using again in their new Switch exclusive game, which is currently going under the working title of Project Triangle Strategy (surely this will be changed). This is going to be a tactical RPG, so think of the combat style of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. There’s already a debut demo available, and they’re looking for player feedback.
This was not Square Enix’s only entry in Nintendo Direct 2021. There was a trailer for SaGa Frontier Remastered, which is being released on 15th April, and news that Legend of Mana is being ported to the Switch with ‘remastered HD graphics’ on 24th June.
It’s almost three years since Nintendo announced Mario Tennis Aces in a Nintendo Direct. It’s time for another Mario sports game. This time around, they unveiled Mario Golf: Super Rush. Stretching back to the N64 and Gameboy Colour, the Mario Golf games have a long history. This new addition will surely appeal to people who played those earlier titles. With its motion control options, this game will probably also appeal to those nostalgic for the accessibility of the golf game in Wii Sports. Interestingly, Mario Golf: Super Rush promises to introduce RPG style elements and player development in a story mode that sits alongside the seemingly more chaotic modes. For me, this game looked about par. It will be released on 25th June.
So Many Games
This Nintendo Direct unveiled a lot of games coming to the Switch, some of which are already popular on other platforms. We now know that the free-to-play game Apex Legends will be made available on the Switch on 9th March and that on 19th March we’ll be getting a Switch version of Plants vs Zombies: Battle for Neighborville. The same day will see the release of a physical edition of Hades. We also know that Fall Guys Ultimate Edition will be stumbling onto Nintendo’s hybrid console in the summer. We can also look forward to Annapurna Interactive’s 2019 game Outer Wilds in the summer.
Save the Date
As well as surprising us with new game announcements, Nintendo used this Direct to remind us of games that have been mentioned previously. We were told again about Capcom’s Ghosts ‘n Goblins Resurrection, which will be released very soon (on 25th February), about Square Enix’s Bravely Default II (released on 26th February), and also about Monster Hunter Rise and its associated Special Edition Switch and Pro Controller (released on 26th March). Additionally, No More Heroes III was finally given a release date – August 27th.
Like an episode of Columbo, there’s always one more thing at the end of Nintendo Directs. These are almost always big reveals. We’ve previously had the reveal of both Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in this slot. This time, the ‘one more thing’ game was… Splatoon 3. I’ll be honest, this took me by surprise! Splatoon 2 is still a really active game – there have even been recent splatfests. Nevertheless, I’m hyped for it. In any case, it was listed as coming next year, which means it might be almost two years from release. The style looked cool as always. However, we didn’t learn much about the changes to gameplay and what features it might have.
Nintendo Directs always generate lots of hype. They also lead to lots of disappointment. People complain that their favourite game wasn’t announced or that their franchise of choice was ‘overlooked’. For me, this Nintendo Direct was pretty solid. It contained a lot of information and unveiled some important releases – Skyward Sword HD is a big deal, and the Pyra announcement was, for me, just about perfect. However, in the pantheon of Directs, this one doesn’t equal the 2017 E3 presentation.
Did you watch the Nintendo Direct? What did you think of it? What were your favourite announcements and what games do you feel were missing? Let us know over on social media, and stay tuned for my monthly Nintendo Newsrounds for Zatu.