Remember when just last week a Pokémon Direct was suddenly announced, and everyone got excited about the possibilities? Do you also remember the bitter disappointment when all they had was Pokkén Tournament Deluxe and Ultra Sun & Moon? Well, Nintendo’s E3 Direct was a lot like that but with a longer lead time and a lot more disappointment. Actually, no; disappointment is waking up on Christmas morning as a kid to discover that you only got one present, and it wasn’t what you wanted. This E3 was more like waking up to find out that not only had Santa stolen all your presents, but he’d even left behind a video of him doing it and laughing like a madman. That’s you right now, Nintendo, you video game Christmas ruining jerks.
Let’s a goooooooh…. Oooh Noooo……
Since the announcement of the Switch, Nintendo has this weird thing about showing people playing the console in the most unlikely situations imaginable. The Spotlight intro montage showed motorheads drifting in a warehouse while playing Rocket League, for instance, or some dude performing soccer tricks before stopping with the ball balanced on his neck to get in a sneaky round of FIFA. This is how the presentation started and, much like the first Switch announcement trailer that started this odd trend, very little information was to follow. Creepy Uncle Reggie, who still manages to be one of the most awkward men alive even in a pre-recorded video, then stalks through somebody’s home while waxing philosophical about what the Switch actually is.
He talks about “the game” being fun, and a battle, and how those two things are intertwined, then rides the metaphor of the Switch taking you to other worlds so hard you’d think they’d created interdimensional travel. Since the games and “announcements,” if you want to call them that, were so sparse, I’m going to take a quick moment to reflect on how this presentation was structured. It was promised to be 30 minutes long, with it actually being just shy of 25 (24m 28s, to be exact.) I’ve done the math, and, including that stupid intro, 37.9% of this presentation was comprised of people talking, and if people’s mouths were moving then nothing of value was being added. 11% of the overall conference was taken up by Reggie himself, who wasn’t even talking about any of their titles directly.
“In a manner of speaking, I’m here for the children.”
In an already shortened presentation, more than a full third was taken up by talking heads or trendy montages that didn’t actually bring anything to the table. Most importantly, I want you to keep in mind one thing: During his part, Shinya Takahashi said, “at this year’s E3, we’re mostly showing games that will be released in 2017.” So, what was actually on display for this “Nintendo E3 Spotlight?”
First up was a mostly cinematic trailer, with some tiny snippets of gameplay footage thrown in, of Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I know a lot of people will be excited about this game, so I hope to hell that the voice acting displayed in that trailer isn’t final. That protagonist especially sounds like they’ve thrown the voice of a forty-year-old British man into the body of an anime teenage boy. This was followed by an incredibly short gameplay trailer for a new Kirby game, simply titled “Kirby” at the end of its 30-second run, followed by the date of “2018.” This is a series that has been in need of innovation for some time, yet this teaser made it appear as generic as they come. No subtitle to “Kirby,” no elaboration on what the game will include or how it will play, just the worst kind of teaser. By all appearances it might as well be called, “Kirby: The Next One.”
Just like every other Kirby game you’ve played – now with the same amount of effort put into its reveal as there was in its development!
Shinya Takahashi then appears to talk about how “relieved” he is that people like the Switch, which was a weird choice of words that can hopefully be put down to interpretation issues. Honestly, his role was to be a long-winded introduction to Tsunekazu Ishihara, who had a lot to say about Pokkén Tournament DX. You know, the game that was detailed in that Pokémon Direct a week before this presentation, which really didn’t need to be brought up at all? Of course, this was just a warm up to the single line, casually dropped, about an unnamed, core Pokémon RPG game for the Switch. As Takahashi-san himself says, “It may not release for more than a year, but we hope you’ll look forward to it all the same.” Yep, I’m definitely looking forward to this main-console Pokémon game I’ve been wanting for years after a throw-away line with no details.
Following this is probably the biggest kick in the balls for Metroid fans everywhere, with Metroid Prime 4 being teased with just a short animation for a logo appearance, and no trailer. When Federation Force was announced, we actually got to see the game – a full introduction that told players exactly what to expect. The most that fans got from this Metroid Prime 4 teaser was a single line that said, “Now in development for Nintendo Switch.” What’s absolutely insane is that in the Treehouse stream afterwards, an announcement was made that a remake of Metroid: Return of Samus was coming to the 3DS. That’s arguably bigger news since its release is much more imminent, and they left it out in favour of this mother of all cock-teases.
No trailer, no still images, not even a courtesy bullshot or two – just a single logo to get all the fanboys on-board the unnecessary hype train.
Next up was a gameplay trailer for a Yoshi game that, much like the earlier Kirby trailer, showed almost nothing about why anyone should care about it. Yoshi’s in a papercraft style environment now, closer to Little Big Planet than Paper Mario, but still mainly appears to be the same sort of gameplay as almost every recent Yoshi release. Once again, it was simply given the title of “Yoshi,” a date of “2018,” and could very well be called “Yoshi and the New Gimmick.” Sooner or later, they’re going to run out of different materials to craft his environments from and will be forced to actually innovate.
Then there’s Fire Emblem Warriors, yet another “Warriors” game being churned out from Koei-Tecmo’s production line of making the same game but with different characters. It was a cinematic trailer for the most part with only the smallest amount of gameplay included but that’s fine because it’s a Warriors game, we all know exactly how this will go. The fact that I’ve only recently gotten into the Fire Emblem series, which I’m enjoying immensely, just to have this dropped in Nintendo’s E3 presentation actually makes me hurt inside.
Eiji Aonuma then took to the screen to talk about the Zelda stuff in Switch’s Skyrim release, which was already covered in Bethesda’s conference, and, seriously, it’s a six-year-old game. That fact it’s being released on its umpteenth console should not actually earn it a highlight spot in a major presentation, no matter how much nostalgia you cram into it. This led to talk of the two upcoming Breath of the Wild DLC packs, neither of which were particularly detailed. The first is the “Master Trials” pack, and the presentation briefly showed what will be in it but not what those things actually entail. The second is the “Champions Ballad” DLC pack, the one with actual adventure content, which consisted entirely of footage from the BotW base game and no details whatsoever about what it will contain. Oh, and there’ll be some new Amiibos.
At this point, Reggie wanders back onto the screen to talk not about some grand new title or service, but to extol the various tournaments being held exclusively at E3. During an online presentation that is ostensibly for people not at E3. This leads into two more “announcements:” Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battles and Rocket League for the Switch. I will say that I’m very keen to play Mario + Rabbids. However, it already received a much better presentation during the Ubisoft conference. At best, it should have been a minor trailer as part of some kind of highlight reel, but, instead, Yves Uillemot himself gave what amounted to a very forced advertising spot for the game. The same goes for Rocket League and their devs talking about the game’s Switch release with all the enthusiasm of a hostage reading ransom demands at gunpoint.
Rocket League’s minor spot led right into an unintroduced Mario Odyssey trailer, which was the first time I actually felt excited during this conference. A good mix of both cinematic and gameplay elements that showed off a lot of things we hadn’t seen before, for both environments and mechanics. Mario’s hat is now sentient, can be thrown as a floating platform to jump from, and used to possess enemies and take over their bodies. This latest trailer promises one of the most imaginative, creatively bizarre Mario games in recent memory, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Then that was it. The screen cut to black, and a few seconds later the Treehouse stream started without even so much as an outro for the presentation. An incredibly unceremonious end to what was already a sinking ship of a presentation.
This does look like it’s going to be amazing though, so, you know, good job on that at least, Nintendo.
Remember how I said to keep in mind that Takahashi-san mentioned Nintendo they wanted to mostly show games releasing this year? That wasn’t untrue; six of the games talked about are coming out at least before the end of the year (seven if you count the BotW DLC, which I do not.) That said, these were all games that we previously knew about due to previous conferences, Nintendo Directs, or general news updates. There was nothing new among them except for Fire Emblem Warriors, the thought of which makes me feel physically ill.
It’s four biggest pulls, however, were all very nebulously mentioned, with teeny-tiny teasers for Yoshi and Kirby, and not even that for Metroid Prime 4 and Pokémon. Those last two are arguably some of the most anticipated games among Nintendo fans, and they were treated like afterthoughts at best. Metroid didn’t even warrant a CGI trailer, which would be the least Nintendo could do after making fans wait so long. Mentioning these titles when they’re in a state that can’t even be described, let alone shown, was nothing more than some name dropping to get the fanboys on the hype train over basically nothing of substance.
All aboard, toot toot.
What’s worst about all of this, however, are the things that Nintendo didn’t mention. Like how, three months after release, the Virtual Console is still nowhere to be seen, and there’s been no news about its implementation. You built an empire upon selling us the same stuff over and over on different formats, Nintendo, and now that we’re hooked you’ve cut off our supply. And where are the 3rd-party titles from the 80-odd developers that you boasted about when the Switch released? On a personal note, where’s the announcement for Monster Hunter Generations/Double-Cross on Switch? Or how about that Mother 3 localisation that you’ve been teasing for the last three years? Maybe localisations for other games that people have wanted for a long time?
When Nintendo announced that the presentation would only be thirty minutes long, I was expecting it to be a big long reel of trailers, no fluff or distractions from some big announcements. You even had a Pokémon Direct a week before to get what I’d call some of the minor announcements out of the way. Instead, you filled a third or your time with pointless waffling, a good portion of that being Reggie’s gormless face, and relegated one of the bigger announcements to the Treehouse stream. The Treehouse! Friggin’ hours of streaming for one announcement? Ain’t nobody got time for that! You didn’t just mess up the presentation of what little you did have, Nintendo, but you missed the boat on so much more that players want to know.
Also, someone please give Reggie some acting lessons, or something. Grade: D-