Nintendo’s first Direct of the year was primarily an update on previous announcements with release dates mentioned. That doesn’t mean there was an absence of information by any stretch of the imagination. A multitude of topics were covered over the forty six minute video presentation. This event focused primarily on the 3DS with a portion of the Direct solely dedicated to explaining the differences between the currently available 3DS/2DS models and the New 3DS XL. There were updates about various Wii U titles with the major highlight being the announcement of digital Wii games coming to the platform that don’t rely on switching to the ‘Wii mode’. Further information about Amiibos appeared sporadically throughout the Direct to highlight the functionality beyond initial Super Smash Bros. for Wii U integration. Mentions of Amiibo compatibility per character rather than by individual figure release may help to turn the tide in the Amiibo scalper wars. The mere mention of the planned re-release of the Marth Amiibo later in the year may point towards a long-term strategy to effectively punish scalpers.
The Direct began with a trailer for a project using the development title “The Latest in The Fire Emblem Series” for the 3DS. This entry in the Fire Emblem franchise will focus on ‘bigger choices’ than any previous title. Iwata stated that the same development team from Fire Emblem Awakening will be working on the game with the sole exception of the scenario writer being changed out to provide a different atmosphere for the game. Next was the trailer for Puzzles & Dragons Z, a popular title in Japan that takes inspiration from the Dragon Quest series, which will make its Western debut in May along with a Super Mario Bros.-styled version in a double pack for the 3DS in May. A relative low-key reveal was the cell phone game style release Pokemon Shuffle featuring a free to play model with an ‘energy system’. The gameplay itself looks to be a variant of Pokemon Trozei that limits players to a certain amount of moves per battle with wild Pokemon. The energy replenishment model wasn’t stated apart from being time based, but the micro transaction model to replenish energy specifically was. This title will release in February via the 3DS eShop.
The reveal of the digital Wii title releases began the section of the Direct dedicated to the Wii U. This feature will allow select titles to run natively in Wii U mode with Gamepad functionality added for games that supported the Wii Classic controller. The backwards compatibility for Wii discs, even for the games specifically released digitally, will still need to run in Wii mode. This is due to the digital titles being altered for the Wii U instead of altering the hardware itself. Super Mario Galaxy 2 was made available shortly after the Direct with Punch-Out to follow on January 22nd and the elusive Metroid Prime Trilogy on January 29th. Europe will be getting Donkey Kong Country Returns on the 22nd instead of Punch-Out. This difference reveals that the time of release for future titles may most likely depend on region.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse will differ from the DS title Kirby Canvas Curse by virtue of the rainbow ink as a finite resource as opposed to the replenishing over time in any given stage. Amiibo features enable daily ‘boosts’ from strictly Kirby character Amiibos. Mario Party 10 will have its own line of figures that are cross-compatible with the Smash figures with the sole exception being the first release of a Toad figure. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker will add compatibility with this sole figure in an update. The function in the game itself is to add a pixel version of Toad to find “hide and seek style” within stages. Mario Party 10 introduces an Amiibo dependent mode titled ‘amiibo Party’. This mode uses the Amiibos as game pieces in a more traditional board game aesthetic. The game releases on March 20th.
More Splatoon details emerged in the form of elaboration about the cosmetic items for the characters in addition to an explanation of the weapon loadouts in multiplayer. Splatoon features a hubworld upon bootup very much akin to Nintendo Land directly connected to Miiverse. Cosmetic items can be purchased with in-game currency earned from playing multiplayer. Players will purchases these various items in the form of clothing that exist all throughout the hubworld. How the player coordinates their character’s clothing will directly affect how their character plays in multiplayer. The weapons loadout includes a primary weapon, a sub weapon and a special weapon for major damage. The special weapons look to be similar to the perks system that is common place in many modern shooters.The general time frame for release is set to be in May.
Next came more details about Xenoblade Chronicles X during a gameplay montage highlighting various terrains on Planet Mira. The planet will feature location including the grasslands seen in previous trailers, a beach, ice region and a place filled with lava. No specific release date was mentioned apart from a 2015 release window. Hyrule Warriors will receive Majora’s Mask DLC in the form of playable Tingle and Young Link to coincide with the 3DS remake of Majora’s Mask. Mario Vs. Donkey Kong Tipping Stars, a digital cross-compatible title for Wii U and 3DS, features a star ‘tipping system’ that will reward great level designs with stars to spend on additional components in the stage building system. It will release exclusively through the eShop on March 6th. Namco Bandai announced a free-to-play action title boasting four player co-op for the Wii U known as “Project Treasure” until they are prepared to announce more details.
eShop titles had a dedicated section shortly after featuring various titles on the Wii U and 3DS. Elliot Quest and Blek will be making their proper console debut on the Wii U in the near future. Feel free to insert a joke about the Ouya here. Citizens of Earth, a classic JRPG-esque title multiplat is a perhaps the closest thing to an Earthbound sequel that Nintendo will allow released on the WiiU and 3DS unless something with Mother 3 eventually happens. Gunman Clive 2 for the 3DS features four playable characters in an even more colorful adventure on January 20th. Moon Chronicles Episodes 2 -4 will release simultaneously on January 20th with the season pass covering the purchase of the three episodes. Finally, the remaining Sega 3D titles will see release outside of Japan. 3D Afterburner II, 3D Fantasy Zone 1 and 2 [Separate eShop purchases], 3D Outrun, and 3D Thunder Blade will release from January through March. Etrian Dungeon and Story of Season [Harvest Moon title] offer new spins on established franchises. Fossil Fighters Frontier, a physical release, looks to apply the same spin on its established formula through introduction of on-line PvP and co-op when it releases on March 20th.
The remainder of the Direct focused on the North American release of the New 3DS XL on February 13th. The price was never directly stated, but Gamestop has the price listed at $200 before tax. The primary advantages of the New 3DS XL over existing models are ‘Face Tracking 3D’, a faster processor that developers are allowed to take advantage of, integration of the Circle Pad pro C-Stick and a slightly better battery that dynamically adjusts screen brightness to surrounding light conditions. ‘Face Tracking 3D’ relies on a camera that actively tracks the user’s face to best suit the 3D functionality. This feature greatly improves upon the single viewing angle 3D on the currently available models of the 3DS. The faster processor will allow for the device itself to function faster relative to the standard 3DS/2DS. However, only time will tell if the New 3DS XL’s extra power will be utilized beyond the port of Xenoblade Chronicles or if it is destined to be DSi 2.0. Amiibo support will be added to Smash Bros. for 3DS once a new patch to utilize the native Amiibo capacity of the New 3DS is released. Nothing about the original 3DS Amiibo adapter was mentioned at this time. Internal data storage for the New 3DS XL is based on Micro SD to best utilize the physical space limitations of the device. The New 3DS XL supports the standard AC adapter standard from the DSi onwards since it won’t ship with one. The framing of the New 3DS XL discussion was primarily to distinguish it from the original 3DS as the logical progression. Transfer details between handhelds will come at a later time.
Certainly the major advantage of the New 3DS xL is the second analog stick functionality that will exist moving forward for select 3DS titles. The patch for Smash Bros. enables the use of insta-smashes on the go. Previously announced titles will also benefit from this proper control over the camera. Codename S.T.E.A.M uses the C-Stick to more easily pull off proper camera manipulation for a slight edge over the standard 3DS control scheme. Given that the game comes from Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem Amiibos have functionality within the title as units. Subsequently, a Marth Amiibo rerelease will release later this year. Ace Combat Assault Horizon+ looks to be the first new release that will use general Amiibo functionality because of its release two days after the New 3DS XL launch. The Amiibos unlock various Nintendo character inspired plane skins. Ironfall invasion, a general 3DS release truly benefits from the C-Stick to help replicate the console third person shooter experience. Both Majora’s Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate will receive special edition New 3DS XL versions at launch to supplement the standard black and red colors. The special edition consoles will release with their respective titles for an additional cost of $30 according to the Gamestop listings. This means that the general consumer will be able to pick up the standard editions of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Majora’s Mask 3D on February 13th worldwide.