Merry Christmas. It’s sure been a year….
Who would have envisioned that in 2020 we would hardly see anybody?
With the pandemic changing just about every facet of our lives, it comes as no surprise that we took solace in video games. We used them to connect with friends, check in on loved ones and have some kind of contact, in general. I’m incredibly blessed to have a luminescent little girl who has kept me company during these insular times, but I know that there are people out there who have ended up spending an incredible amount of time on their own. When historians look back at this train-wreck of a year, I hope that they mention the impact that video games have played in providing support, escape and connection. No game enraptured quite like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, its delay from a 2019 release to March 2020 perhaps proving to be the single-handed most important business decision that Nintendo has made in aeons.
As the countries around the world issued stay-at-home orders Nintendo’s heavy-hitting release for Spring sold ludicrously well with over 11 million units shifted by the end of March. Did I mention that it launched on March 20th? People used Animal Crossing to host parties, attend weddings and just hang out with friends, things that we’d always done – the old normal! Animal Crossing: New Horizons might not be the game that everyone wanted (I personally never got into it) but it was absolutely the game that the world needed.
Business as unusual
Nintendo’s own business approach was understandably impacted by COVID-19 and as a result, they were never able to capitalise on the momentum created with ACNH, with a stellar line up for the rest of the year but in truth, they didn’t need it. The Nintendo Switch continued to do numbers and at the time of writing has been the best selling console for 24 consecutive months. The last two of those saw the release of the next-gen consoles too!
However, despite the phenomenal sales numbers, Nintendo’s communication has felt somewhat lacking. During the peak of the first wave of Nintendo’s silence was deafening. While Microsoft were gluttonously buying studios left, right and centre, and Sony were ending the PS4 era with some truly opulent AAA offerings, Nintendo were AWOL. Rumours of remasters of all of Mario’s 3D adventures being released to celebrate the portly plumbers 35th anniversary, but despite the credibility of the source, nothing official had surfaced. Everyone and their Nan was screaming for a traditional Nintendo Direct. The updates of the 3DS era couldn’t offer enough housing for how hoarse everyone’s throats had become!
We didn’t get the traditional direct, instead, Nintendo announced a new Paper Mario title on, of all things, Twitter. Along with the snazzy trailer, there was also a release date, moreover, and imminent release date. Fans clamoured for a return to form for the franchise, after two overwhelmingly disappointing entries. When the game dropped, the opinion was divided. Some people adored it, praising it for its whimsical writing and heartwarming nature whilst others couldn’t look past its humdrum battle system or handholding, linear progression arc, despite the bizarre promise of an open-world adventure.
It’s-a-me, Mario! I’m old now…
Nintendo went hard with the anniversary celebrations for their moustached mascot. I say hard, it wasn’t so much a case of Bruce Willis in the best Christmas movie ever, more Bruce Willis in that scene in Friends where Ross is hiding under the bed after knobbing Bruce’s characters teenage daughter – all very well and good with heartfelt intentions but when we look back, it will feel terribly underwhelming and a little lacklustre. Also, just a little bit cringe!
In all seriousness, 3D All-Stars was clearly affected by the pandemic. There is no way that this is how Nintendo would have wanted this package to look and feel. From the Powerpoint menu to the Sunshine not having GameCube controller support at launch, not to mention the muddied messaging surrounding the timed availability of the package.
Regardless, the three titles included in the pack represent Nintendo at their creative best, flexing their muscles in a way that no other game developer rarely flex. Super Mario 64 is timeless and despise its blocky visuals and the at times, somewhat disconcerting camera, remains an absolute gem that holds ups even today. Super Mario Sunshine might be the awkward cousin of the 3D Mario family but it’s a perfect demonstration of Nintendo’s imperishable idealogy for experimentation and while it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, it remains an incredibly important release for Nintendo. Super Mario Galaxy in HD is just breathtaking. It remains one of the greatest games of all time, likely the greatest 3D platformer (although it’s sequel might have something to say about that in April…) and playing it with a Pro Controller just feels right. I implore each and every Nintendo Switch owner who reads this, if they haven’t already, to pick up a copy while they can and experience this masterpiece. That’s an additional three sales. You’re welcome, Nintendo!!
Ports, Pikmin and Pattlestar Palactica?
Beyond that, we finally got treated to the long-rumoured Pikmin 3 port we’d been expecting for a while. Our very own Anna Karasik was happy to be able to finally utilise the draft news post that she put in place in the golden, pre-pandemic days. Past Pikmin, we were treated to, not the sequel to 2017’s GOTY we were all hoping for, but instead a prequel. To further the twist, we also saw it take the guise of a Warriors game in Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity. I completed it last week, my fingers still hurt. Right off the bat, you’ll know what you’re getting with this title. It’s not perfect, your fingers will be crying at the end of an extended play session, but it’s infectious stuff.
Nintendo ended 2020 with the release of Marth’s inaugural outing in Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. Not a remaster, but instead opting to localise it in the West for the first time, with it never having been released outside of Japan, beforehand. This title was released on the Nintendo Switch Online service, much to the delight of subscribers, the Western world over.
Wait! What? They didn’t release it on NSO but instead charged a small fee for the pleasure of owning this, to the chagrin of many, despite the fact that their NSO offering have been miserly at best, especially during a year that has seen a pandemic see many people housebound and isolated, and having a steady slew of top-tier legacy content release would have appeased the fans bemoaning the lack of communication, let alone AAA releases? That’s wild!!
This year has been a train-wreck!! Merry Christmas everyone. From everyone at Nintendad, our sincerest thanks for stopping by and checking out our humble content. Take care of yourselves and one another. See you in 2021 for some more Lockdown-fed ramblings!