Nintendo, as we all know, marches to the beat of their own drum. They don’t follow the path set by competitors Sony and Microsoft; they blaze their own trail. Sometimes, their penchant for independence and innovation results in unprecedented success, as with the Wii. Other times, it blows up in their face, like with initial reactions to the 3DS and Wii U.
The knee-jerk reaction for many gamers across the industry was to pan Nintendo following their decidedly underwhelming Digital Event at E3. While it may not have garnered the same excitement that Sony and Microsoft received (and let’s be honest – those were both incredibly tough acts to follow), it still showed off a plethora of new and exciting content coming within the next year or so.
Plus while E3 may be the prime chance to show off your new games to the public, the Nintendo Direct presentations are essentially mini-E3 digital showcases that happen about every other month. These Directs have helped to keep Nintendo in constant communication with fans, updating them on a slew of upcoming content year-round. They have announced Hyrule Warriors, Chibi-Robo Zip Lash, the localization of Fatal Frame V, and much more through their various Directs, and on occasion even dedicate full, 30 to 45-minute segments to specific hot-ticket games like Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros., and Splatoon. So if something you were hoping to see at E3 was a no-show, it could always make a surprise appearance in an upcoming Nintendo Direct.
Of course potential future announcements can’t make up for a mediocre E3 showing, but was there really so much to be upset about at Nintendo’s Digital Event this year? Let’s take one more look at what they had to offer.
Let’s start by talking about a couple of series’ that have made a triumphant return to the spotlight. Many franchises that Nintendo appears to hold near and dear – F-Zero, Metroid, Earthbound, and Star Fox, just to name a few – have been overlooked for far too long in fans’ eyes. While we still haven’t seen Captain Falcon’s return to the race track, Earthbound made an official debut on Western shores two years ago via the Wii U’s eShop. As a result of its success, a few days before the digital event Nintendo kicked off E3 with the announcement that Earthbound Beginnings (the first game in the Mother series) was not only coming to the US at long last, but that it would be available to download that very day. This started Nintendo off right at E3, but they somehow failed to keep that momentum going during the Digital Event a couple days later.
That event began with a proper look at Star Fox Zero; Nintendo’s first Star Fox game to hit a home console in nearly a decade, since Star Fox: Assault came to the GameCube in 2006. Many fans had been looking forward to seeing gameplay footage for Zero since it was revealed at E3 2014 that Nintendo was developing a new Star Fox title for the Wii U. Zero took center stage during their presentation this year, and for all intents and purposes it looks like an excellent addition to the franchise. It’s got classic interplanetary Arwing battles complete with barrel rolls, as well as improved Landmaster gameplay while you’re on the ground.
Though it may initially feel a bit clunky, Nintendo has also made clever use of the Wii U Game Pad in Star Fox Zero to provide a first-person angle on the action while the standard third-person view continues on your television. All things considered, this is a next-gen Star Fox that fans should be excited for. It’s a beautiful new action-packed entry into the long-dormant series that fans so wanted a revival of. So why aren’t people satisfied? Maybe they were hoping for a more story-centric title in the vein of Star Fox Adventures? Or perhaps they didn’t know exactly what they were hoping for, but this wasn’t it? Odds are that any excitement built up by Star Fox Zero was overshadowed and squashed at the abysmal reveal of Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
When viewers watching the Nintendo World Championship before E3 this year saw the new game Blast Ball in the competition, interest was piqued and people wanted to play it. Then when it was officially revealed to be part of a new “Metroid Prime” game the ire from fans was immediate and severe. Federation Force is not the Metroid game anyone seemed to want, as evidenced by the Change.org petition to straight-up cancel the game that is currently just under 3,300 signatures away from its goal of 25,000. Fans who saw the initial announcement feel betrayed by Nintendo’s alleged “slap in the face” with Federation Force, and want nothing to do with a new Metroid game that doesn’t feature the long-standing protagonist, Samus Aran.
The last game in the series, Metroid: Other M, starred the bounty hunter everyone missed so much this year, and has since become the black sheep of the franchise, with many outright ignoring its existence. It is definitely fair for fans of the series to be upset that Federation Force doesn’t look like the complete 180 from Other M and return to form they were hoping for, but looks can be deceiving. Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime has acknowledged the backlash, stating, “This is an example where fans who aren’t able to get their hands on the game may be at a bit of a competitive disadvantage. Everyone who has played what we are showing regarding Metroid Prime, they’ve come across really pleased. My ask is that fans trust us.”
“Well why should we trust Nintendo?” may some people’s reaction to that. After all, the Wii U is still struggling, and everyone and their mothers are hating on Federation Force; Nintendo looks like it’s ready to unravel. Let’s take a deep breath, and revisit some recent history.