The Nintendo Direct streaming press conference series made its long-awaited return for the first time tonight since the passing of NCL president Satoru Iwata back in July. But Wii U owners hoping the event would introduce a bevy of surprise announcements to breathe some life into the platform were sorely disappointed by the showing, which—aside from some assurances that, yes, that Zelda game is coming to Wii U—did very little to triage the suffering console.
That said, Nintendo seems determined to usher both the Wii U and its miniature counterpart (the 3DS) to their graves by focusing on substance over numbers. Tonight's Direct presentation was heavily weighted toward large-scale games, including an HD conversion of the massive The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and the very welcome news that the portable remakes for both Dragon Quest VII and VIII will indeed be coming West after far too many years of that beloved franchise foundering outside Japan.
The Direct paid lip service to plenty of current Nintendo initiatives — the Amiibo count hovered somewhere around a dozen, and the games-as-platforms spirit is alive and well with major updates for Triforce Heroes and Splatoon — but by all accounts the major theme of this Direct revolved around role-playing games. With four different Zelda titles (the last being the 3DS port of Hyrule Warriors, featuring at long-last a female Link, "Linkle"), two Dragon Quests, three Fire Emblems, a new Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy Explorers), Mario & Luigi Paper Jam, Xenoblade Chronicles X, wireless-capable 8-bit Pokémon reissues for Virtual Console and Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon, plus more, Nintendo seems suddenly dead-set on being the destination for role-playing fans. The DS and 3DS have been hotbed of RPG excellence for a decade, but this is a new milestone.
Even Nintendo's fighting games are getting RPG-ified. Pokémon/Tekken crossover Pokken Tournament is due for Wii U next year, and then there's the real mind-boggler: The announcement of Final Fantasy VII protagonist Cloud Strife as a new fighter in Smash Bros. 4. Besides this being a new and hugely popular addition to the fighting roster, it also breaks the unspoken Smash Bros. rule that fighters have a direct connection to Nintendo. Sure, Final Fantasy got its start on Nintendo Entertainment System, and there's a Cloud costume in Final Fantasy Explorers, but Final Fantasy VII has always been closely associated with Sony. More than that, FFVII has always been emblematic of the series' departure from Nintendo, a very public schism. The addition of Cloud to a Nintendo-exclusive fighting game probably won't go over well with die-hard Sony and Sony-era Final Fantasy fans, and it should inspire considerable theorizing. Will there be a Cloud Amiibo? Will the FFVII remake come to Nintendo's next platform, NX?
In any case, Nintendo's upcoming plans may be something of a letdown for folks expecting things like traditional Mario and Metroid titles. But I haven't seen this sort of large-scale RPG dominance by Nintendo since the Super NES era, and as a fan of the genre, I am pretty OK with that. Nintendo platform releases are looking awfully sparse compared to those on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which are reaching their respective primes, but fans of Wii U and 3DS will still have plenty to keep them busy... well, assuming they enjoy RPGs, anyway.