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Nintendo’s holiday strategy for the past few years hasn’t exactly garnered a lot of trust from longtime gamers. We typically see one “core” game (like Twilight Princess, Mario Galaxy, Animal Crossing and New Super Mario Bros Wii) alongside something more akin to the typical Wii image, like say Wii Music. Four years of that has rightfully left us jaded and disinterested in whatever Nintendo may have to offer come November. But just when we were about to throw our hands up and curse Wii Party for yet another wasted holiday season, Nintendo’s prepared its most packed (and hardcore-minded) fall yet.
Above: Nintendo’s E3 2010 conference started game-centric buzz that’ll carry through the season. They’re back!
So yeah, I’m going to mention “there are good games coming out” as an entry and then list the games separately. Wii doesn’t have fall dashboard updates or MMOs to tout, so all we have to go on are the games. And now, for the first time in years, there’s a lineup to get excited about. This positive frame of mind that spread out from Nintendo’s successful E3 showing could easily be enough to get some lost Wii owners feeling good about their machine (and buying games) all over again.
Two of Nintendo’s oldest and most criminally misused mascots are now headlining a Nintendo holiday season. Normally, DK wouldn’t be enough to stave off Microsoft and Sony, but with years of Donkey Kong Country love left unsatisfied by weirdo games (Konga, Jungle Beat, King of Swing, etc.) I expect a strong reaction to DKC Returns. You could feel the excitement in the E3 press conference – people were happy to see DK and Diddy return in a no-nonsense platformer ripped right from the 16-bit era. And if Retro Studios allows for multiple control options (as in NO WAGGLE), then even the staunchest hater may dip their toe in after months of a no-Nintendo diet.
Above: An unlikely tag-team that somehow works
Then there’s Kirby, who has a very hot-or-cold track record. In the past 15 years he’s either been in 2D games that are essentially retreads of the Game Boy original, one-offs that go nowhere (Air Ride) or in one case, a boundlessly creative game that defines a platform (Canvas Curse). Epic Yarn actually combines a bit of the first and third criteria - it plays like one of the 2D greats from his heyday, yet is intensely inventive with its fabric-styled world. The screens don’t do it justice – check the trailer to see this gorgeous new take in motion.
Will these two be million sellers? Maybe. Will they instill a new love for these characters that will last another 10 years? Probably.
Wii third party offerings are usually dismal, with a choking amount of “Baby’s First Virtual Rattle” or “Gone Scoopin’!: The Adventures of Jimmy the Ice Cream Expert” filling the shelves. But it’s not all bad news this year. In fact, there’s some genuinely strong stuff coming to Wii, namely the re-imagined GoldenEye 007, which hopes to capitalize on the 13-year-old nostalgia millions share for the N64 original. Will the new version recapture that excitement? Can’t say yet, but I bet at the very least a whole ton of people are going to check for themselves. Plenty more could be spurred to buy a Wii and GoldenEye and assume it’ll be every bit as engrossing as the game they played in college/high school/junior high/reference that affects you personally.
Above: An altogether unshitty lineup
Even if GoldenEye fails to jump-start a previously dormant section of Wii owners, there’s still NBA Jam to tug at the heartstrings of dedicated gamers who bought Nintendo’s new machine. Beyond that, Epic Mickey will receive a huge push and looks to be a legitimate, grand-scale Wii adventure that concerns itself with gameplay, design and quirkiness instead of cutting edge graphics or tacked-on multiplayer modes. Sega’s Sonic Colors and Conduit 2 arrive not long after, two titles that have hopefully learned from their predecessors’ mistakes and could end up as surprise hits.
That’s five notable games across just a few months’ time, all exclusive to Wii, the system with the largest modern install base. Seems like a good case for victory. (I’m tryin’, here!)
With all the excitement surrounding the 3DS, it’s easy to forget the plain ol’ DS is still around, and has at least one more holiday season left to go. Thankfully there’s a diverse selection of top-notch software coming to send Nintendo’s six-years-strong handheld off with style.
Above: Golden Sun leads the fall charge on DS
First and foremost is Nintendo’s own Golden Sun: Dark Dawn, the follow-up to a much-loved GBA series of RPGs. Square’s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light also lands in October. Not into role-playing? Super Scribblenauts is out around the same time, plus there’s smaller stuff like the new Professor Layton and Ghost Trick to tantalize DS players, be they casual or devoted.
I realize the inherent difficulty in suggesting Nintendo will “win” the fall from a gamer’s perspective. It’s a tough sell, namely because it hasn’t had a strong gamer-focused fall since 2006, when Twilight Princess and the relatively decent Wii launch lineup were the big releases. This could be the year that puts Nintendo back on course to recapture all the minds lost since the waning GameCube days.