By Patrick Young
Last week’s Nintendo Direct on 2/17 was the first time the company had done a formal preview event since 2019 that was not solely about third-party games. The announcement of the broadcast on 2/16 ignited waves of speculation in the Nintendo community after what felt like ages of dormancy.
With every Direct comes speculation about what the new Smash Bros. character will be, and whether or not we will get information about the heavy-hitting franchises like Zelda and Metroid, both with previously announced games that have not been updated in years. This year also being the 25th and 35th anniversaries of Pokemon and Zelda respectively, there were high hopes that there would be exciting celebration information. Needless to say, the expectations going into this one were very high, and perhaps the highest they had been in a long time.
The Direct lasted 54 minutes and provided viewers with a ton of new information, but not all of it was wanted by fans.
Opening with a trailer depicting the world of the JRPG Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and a tone of mystery, that perhaps a new DLC or sequel was to be announced, it was a bold way to start the show off. However, fans around the globe could be heard audibly groaning when the red-haired, co-protagonist of the game, Pyra, turned around holding an invitation to join Smash Bros.
One of the many grievances about Smash Bros. is its abundance of sword-based characters, and furthermore, those who particularly conjure “anime-swordsman” vibes. Pyra (and her counterpart Mythra who players can tag between) will be yet another one of these characters to an already pretty long list. From the litany of Fire Emblem characters, to the inclusions of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, it seems like these characters are inescapable.
There is also an issue of Smash Bros.’ 2nd Fighter Pass that now only has two more remaining entries for new characters to be added. With earth shattering reveals in the past like Minecraft’s Steve and the titular heroes Banjo & Kazooie, Nintendo has shown the potential to include characters from across consoles and copyrights. To many fans, the reveal of Pyra and Mythra was a wasted character reveal that should have been saved for a PlayStation representative or another Xbox one.
Not all responses have been negative though. The only representation of the Xenoblade series prior to Pyra and Mythra was the inclusion of the first game’s protagonist, Shulk, so it is great for promoting this series and making new fans. Considering Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is currently sold out on Amazon Japan, Pyra and Mythra seem to be working in that regard.
The other contentious announcement from this Direct was the reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, coming later this year to the Switch. For context, in the show, this announcement immediately followed the series director Eiji Aonuma stating that there was no news to share about the heavily anticipated sequel to Breath of the Wild 2, but that there would be more to share later this year.
It seems that as of right now, the only way Zelda fans will be celebrating is through a $60 port of the franchise’s black sheep, a pair of beautiful yet expensive Joy-Con controllers, and a new expansion pass for Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. Retrospectively, for the 25th Anniversary of the series, they released Skyward Sword alongside a $70 edition that also included a curated soundtrack as well as an exclusive controller––to get something that even slightly resembles that amount of content, you have to spend $130.
Zelda being my favorite game series of all time, I was disappointed to say the least. Although this updated port of the game will feature some quality of life improvements like being able to play without motion controls, it just feels like a halfhearted celebration instead of an awesome one the series deserves. Considering Mario got the 3D All-Stars collection for his 35th Anniversary, I do not think it was unreasonable for fans to expect a bit more than one game’s port for this anniversary.
Besides these two reveals, the Direct was still pretty solid overall. There were some other cool announcements like Mario Golf: Super Rush, the Mushroom Kingdom gang finally dusting off their putters and drivers, and Project Triangle Strategy from Square Enix, a tactical RPG which seems like the continuation, spiritual successor to their other franchise Octopath Traveler. The Direct ended with a bombshell of an announcement in Splatoon 3, showcasing a new hub world, as well as new characters and weapons.
Nonetheless, I think Nintendo has some serious considerations to make regarding the handling of their major IPs and listening to their fans. They have recently been making some questionable decisions and this Direct was a continuation of the disappointment for some. Certainly not everyone is going to be as into every announcement, but from how quickly the discussion surrounding the Direct turned from excited wondering to drowsy lamenting, it is clear that fans are becoming more vocal about their problems with Nintendo.