Nadia's Midboss Musings: Examining the Eerily Effective Nintendo Direct Hype Machine (Plus: Meet Boom-Boom!)

Nadia's Midboss Musings: Examining the Eerily Effective Nintendo Direct Hype Machine (Plus: Meet Boom-Boom!)

You know Nintendo has something special when hype for Nintendo Directs generates almost as much excitement as an actual presentation. Also, let's talk about actual midbosses!

For a company that often neglects to offer robust connectivity options for its consoles and games, Nintendo sure didn't hesitate to seize upon the marketing power of streamed presentations. Its Nintendo Direct series, which kicked off in October of 2011, has become nearly as synonymous with its brand as Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda.

That's because Nintendo has done an excellent job building up its Direct presentations. News about an upcoming Direct sparks a lot of attention, as Nintendo doesn't schedule them frivolously, nor does it waste time on empty hype, numbers, or weird space-filling musical performances we've come to expect from other game publishers' press conferences. When Nintendo advises you to gear up for a Nintendo Direct, it means there's something substantial up its sleeve.

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We're at a point where even the whispers of an upcoming Nintendo Direct presentation are cause for people to sit up and take notice. Twitter speculates about what might be on the menu. Forums chatter about how it's about time for Nintendo to give us news about this-game or that-game. Game news sites post about the possibility of upcoming Directs, and report on whatever evidence (or "evidence") data-miners manage to pull out of official sites and video galleries.

The latest tittle-tattle suggests Nintendo and Game Freak may be revving up to announce the long-rumored Pokémon Stars, a Nintendo Switch follow-up to the hugely successful Pokémon Sun and Moon.

To be fair, fate appears to align in favor of the supposed announcement. The Pokémon Company, for example, has launched a "Look Upon the Stars" merchandising campaign – and can I just say I am totally digging the idea of Pokémon representing the constellations.

Additional hints about the upcoming announcement are a little foggier, and involve tooling with / observing patterns in the source code for Nintendo sites. You can speculate and monkey around all you want, but it all comes down to one hard fact in the end: If Nintendo has a Direct Presentation in the works for Pokémon Stars or anything else, you'll know for sure when Nintendo sets the date, and not a minute sooner.

Oh no, all my money flew out of my wallet somehow.

Still, it's pretty remarkable how hype for Nintendo Direct presentations are almost as noteworthy as hype over the presentations themselves. There's that special Nintendo touch at work again, I suppose.

Also, if there is a Pokémon Stars in the works, and if it is coming to the Nintendo Switch, you'd best re-double your efforts to find a Switch if you don't have one yet. If Stars turns out to be a holiday title, I predict friendly camp-outs for Switch units will soon devolve into glowering contests between desperate parents – perhaps with guest appearances by Mr Crowbar and Sir Baseball Bat.

Featured Midboss of the Week

Kind USgamer reader Vaporeon suggested I take advantage of the "midboss" titling for my mid-weekly column by turning the spotlight on actual midbosses who've appeared in video games across the years. This is a fine idea, so let's begin.

First, what is a "midboss?" It's a fluid term. I think it best describes a tougher-than-average minion character who is specifically trained to trip you up on your long journey to the final boss.

But how do you differentiate a regular boss from a midboss? I advise you use your intuition. If a huge boss slides into the fray to the accompaniment of epic music that doesn't often appear elsewhere in the game, you can probably classify it as a midboss. Bonus points if there's a speech about how screwed you are. Though I suppose any boss that's intimidating enough to make you say "Oh [f-word]" when you first see it can be classified as a midboss, too. Use your discretion.

Sometimes a game's protagonist will save you the trouble and make the call themselves.

I don't think there will be any objections about my first midboss profile, though: Boom-Boom, the burly turtle warrior who makes his first appearance in Super Mario Bros 3.

Though Birdo is arguably the Mario series' first midboss, Boom-Boom is practically video gaming's epitome of a stumbling block. Boom-Boom doesn't just appear in the flesh (and shell) to punch you in the face: His very home, the aptly-named mini-fortresses, must be toppled before you can truly conquer a world.

See, while it's possible to skip a vanilla level panel in Super Mario Bros 3 (Jugem's Cloud to the rescue), it's much harder to sneak past a mini-fortress. Said mini-fortresses are paired with doors that usually impede Mario's progress, and can't be "unlocked" unless Boom-Boom is put down. In other instances, beating Boom-Boom is necessary to bridge a gap over a river.

World 8 mini-fortress is best mini-fortress, by the way.

But unlocking Boom-Boom's door also creates shortcuts through the world map, a function that's become all but obsolete in this era of save files, check points, and save states. If Mario loses all his lives in Super Mario Bros 3, he can try again from the start of the world he died in, but all the level panels will reset. If, however, he managed to topple the world's mini-fortress, the door that unlocked or the bridge that was built remains. This saves Mario the agony of trudging through territory he's already visited.

Mini-fortresses are also a silent indication of what Mario's in for when he visits a new world. World 1 starts you off with a single mini-fortress, but by World 6, you have to deal with three of the damn things. That's when Mario 3 makes it clear you're encroaching on Bowser's turf, and you'd best start bringing your A-game.

I still find the dynamic between Mario 3's world map and mini-fortresses fascinating. This complex symbiosis made the jump from the original Super Mario Bros to Super Mario Bros 3 positively mind-blowing.

I don't like to say "Only '90s kids remember" because it's as twee as hell, but … well, only '90s kids remember.

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Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve, About.com, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

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