My Thoughts On Nintendo’s March 2018 Direct

Sometimes a tweet is worth a thousand words:

Nintendo’s last direct felt a bit underwhelming, as it included very few games that piqued my interest and left out several important pieces of information. I declared the whole thing to be as sleep-inducing as Chris Young’s latest single, and implored Nintendo to put on a better show the next time around. Judging by the reactions I saw on Twitter yesterday (including my own), it’s safe to say Nintendo pulled it off.

My overall feeling is that yesterday’s direct was a success on a number of different levels. It featured a bunch of high-profile first-party announcements, included a number of prominent third-party releases, addressed the future of both the Switch and 3DS (and spoke volumes about Nintendo’s support strategy for its older handheld going forward), suggested how Wii U ports might be handled going forward, was structured perfectly to build momentum and excitement as it went on, and featured the big splash (two of them, really) at the end to bring down the house. It was a brilliant display of marketing and presentation skills, and it left quite an impression on the crowd.

Here are my specific thoughts broken down by game:

  • WarioWare Gold: I thought this was initially a port, but it’s actually a brand-new game in the series featuring both new and classic minigames to play. I’m not really interested in WarioWare, but it’s nice to see Nintendo placate another starving fanbase with a new game, and it feels like the sort of low-risk, quick-turnaround title that’s going to characterize 3DS games going forward.
  • Dillon’s Dead-Heat Breakers: This one piqued my interest more than I expected. It’s a strange fusion of Star Fox GuardMiitopia, and Mario Kart‘s battle mode where you and a collection of Mii-flavored helpers have to beat down enemies both on the battlefield and on the track. I’m not quite sold enough to buy the game right now, but I just might pick up the demo when it comes out in May.
  • Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey: This game, on the other hand, annoyed me more than I expected because it has no reason to exist. I thought the remake of M&L: Superstar Saga was pointless and unnecessary, but you could make the argument that as a Game Boy Advance game, at least you could finally play the game on the 3DS. As a DS title, Bowser’s Inside Story has no such excuse. (I know old copies of the game are selling for a mint on Amazon, but if that’s the main concern, why not just re-release the original game on the 3DS eShop? And if we’re really going down this road, can’t we at least go in order and get an M&L: Partners In Time remake first?) This game is arguably my least favorite entries in the series, and Bowser Jr.’s Journey looks like a copy of the pointless Bowser’s Minions mode from the M&L: SS remake. Nothing about this announcement makes me happy.
  • Detective Pikachu: Detective Pikachu’s character design is excellent, and I’m always in favor of exploring the complexities of people/Pokémon relationships. I’m not terribly excited by this game, but I can definitely see its charm, and wouldn’t begrudge people for trying it out. (An XL amiibo is not more useful than a regular one, though.)
  • Luigi’s Mansion: Hey, a remake I can actually get behind! I never played the original Gamecube version of this game, and have been mulling over buying its Dark Moon sequel for a while, so I might take a flyer on this one. Also, it looks like ports are going to be a central theme for the 3DS going forward.
  • Kirby Star Allies: I’m still on the fence about this game, but adding more capturable villians and bringing back some old friends from the past (Rick! Gooey!) is a brilliant move, and leaves the door open for even more fan favorites (Nago? Adeleine? Susie?).
  • Okami HD: I’ve never heard of this game and really don’t care about it, but one gameplay mechanic really caught my attention: The ability to mimic touchscreen controls simply by using the Joy-Con like a Wii Remote to draw things on the screen. At a high level, this means that more touchscreen-centered games are likely to appear on the Nintendo Switch. There’s one that stands out for me in particular: Super Mario Maker Switch. It’s totally coming, and my money’s on 2019.
  • Sushi Striker: The Way Of Sushido: Yeah, this one’s not my cup of tea. I prefer my puzzle battlers to be a bit more puzzle than battle. Still, the presentation is good, it’s the sort of off-the-wall concept that only Nintendo can bring to the table. (Also, it’s a dual Switch/3DS release, so more love for the two-screened wonder!)
  • Octopath Traveler: I’d mostly forgotten about this game after trying out the demo, but I’m still interested in how it takes shape. The two new travelers seem like solid additions to the cast, and I like the idea of heroes dual-classing into different occupations. With a July release date and no major first-party titles in that Q2/Q3 slot (yet), this could wind up being my game of the summer.
  • Travis Strikes Again: No More Heroes: Wasn’t this franchise touted at the initial Switch reveal way back when? It looks a bit too Fire Emblem/Hyrule Warriors-esque for my taste, but with so many different game types, there’s probably at least one thing for everyone here.
  • Dark Souls: Remastered: Meh. I’m no more interested in this game than I was during the last Direct. Even amongst amiibo, the Solaire of Astora one stands out as seeming particularly useless.
  • Mario Tennis Aces: I’m torn on this one. I’ve never been particularly interested in Mario tennis games, but I’ve enjoyed different sports games in the past (golf, baseball, etc.) and Aces really stands out for its strategic depth. (Plus, the courts are way more varied than in Ultra Smash for the Wii U.) It’s a game that should really benefit from its pre-launch online tournament, giving it a chance to win over skeptical players like myself.
  • Captain Toad Treasure Tracker: I’m pleasantly surprised to see this here, as the original Wii U version deserved better than to be left on a forgotten system. More touchscreen simulation plus a dual Switch/3DS release means the ground-bound captain will finally get the attention he deserves. If you haven’t played the original, this one is definitely worth your time.
  • Undertale: This is when things started to get real. Undertale is a massive get for the Switch, even if it’s a few years late (and let’s hope “eventually” isn’t too long a wait). It’s a unique take on the RPG genre, and features some truly outstanding characters and mechanics.
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy: For those of us old enough to remember the Mario/Sonic/Crash mascot wars of the 90s, finding them all on a single system is mind-blowing. The original Crash Bandicoot games had their flaws, but they were decent platformers that helped launch the Playstation into the stratosphere way back when. Aging Nintendo partisans now have the opportunity to try out all those games they boycotted decades ago, and that’s a good thing in my book.
  • Little Nightmares: Complete Edition: Meh. Looks like some decent puzzle/platform challenges, but the vibe’s a bit creepy for my tastes.
  • South Park: The Fractured But Whole: This is a game that I’ve heard a lot of buzz about, but didn’t really know anything about it until now. The battle system seems to be a cross between Fire Emblem and the Mario & Luigi series, incorporating both positioning and timing into attacks. It doesn’t quite piqe my interest enough to buy it, but it’s another cross-platform game to fill out the Switch’s third-party lineup.
  • Hyrule Warriors Definitive Edition: I still don’t care about this franchise, but this should at least excite people who do.
  • ARMS Online Open and Testpunch: On one hand, I’m happy that Nintendo hasn’t given up this game, and is trying to overcome their mistake of shoehorning into its 2017 Switch lineup by trying to draw new players in and giving hardcore players a chance to show off their skills. On the other hand, nothing I saw here makes me any more interested in giving the game another try. Sorry ARMS, but you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
  • Splatoon 2 v3.0: I’m always happy to have new gear to buy, and while I was wrong about Piranha Pit and Camp Triggerfish not returning, I enjoyed them both (especially the Pit) and I’m happy to see them back. I don’t play ranked battles enough to care about the X rank, but I’ve heard some skilled players rave about breaking through the S+ logjam, and having Callie back in any capacity is a win. This would be a decent update by itself, but it didn’t come alone…
  • Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion: This was a stroke of financial genius on Nintendo’s part: People have been demanding playable Octolings for years, and most won’t bat an eyelash at dropping $20 for the privilege (especially given the amount of free content the game has gotten, and the fact that you get a full-fledged single-player Octoling campaign for the money). It’s a great opportunity to dig deeper into Splatoon lore, flesh out Pearl and Marina’s characters a bit more, and add even more replay value to the game. I was saying” Okay,this might be the big ending reveal, and I’m okay with that,” and then…
  • Super Smash Brothers + Inklings: Having SSB show up wasn’t a huge surprise (I’ve heard some chatter of about it being the game that launched alongside paid online services), but it’s always nice to have some confirmation. My Super Smash days are long behind me, but this is a huge tentpole franchise that will generate hype, get people talking, and be the final nail in the coffin of the Wii U.

Again, this was a strong presentation that did exactly what it needed to: It laid out the future of the 3DS (mostly low-effort ports from here on out), offered more evidence that third-party developers want in on this cash cow, provided some clarity for the Switch’s 2108 lineup (but where’s Yoshi?), and produced enough hype and excitement to get Nintendo out of the lull it started the year in. Its presentations can vary in quality from Direct to Direct, but the Big N did a really nice job this time around.

My only question now: What’s left for E3? (Metroid Prime 4 plz)