Last Time, on Nintendo Ball Z
Nintendo is absolutely no stranger to being weird for the sake of being weird, so it makes sense that when they announced some stuff this year that there would be some residual weirdness. What we’re talking about in this instance are the announcements that took place during the Super Mario 35th Anniversary Direct. I remember waking up to seeing that notification on Twitter and I wondered what great news it would bring. Here’s a brief recap of the news we were shown:
- A limited-edition Game and Watch with Mario 1 + Lost Levels
- Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury
- Super Mario 35
- Mariokart Live: Home Edition
- Mario Clothes
- Mario All-Stars on Switch SNES Online
- Mario 3D All-Stars
On this list, there are two notable games on here for what I want to talk about: Super Mario 35 and Mario 3D All-Stars. If you’ve forgotten by now, let me refresh you on why these are so interesting.
This single line of text has been nothing short of the biggest source of speculation since Smash Bros. Why stop printing copies of what would possibly the biggest re-release ever? Why would you ever STOP printing Mario games? Why only have it available for 6 months? These were questions that had a lot of people, myself included, beginning to wonder the reasoning behind this extremely odd choice. But what we didn’t know was that Nintendo wasn’t done yet with cryptic decisions about limited availability.
Clue Number 2: The Fire Emblem Conundrum
Fast forward to this week, October 22nd, 8 AM MST. Nintendo posts a tweet with an announcement that goes a little something like this:
Real talk: this is a great announcement. When Melee came out nobody knew who the heck Roy and Marth were, but by introducing these characters in a wildly popular game we were all introduced (for better or for worse) to the world of Fire Emblem. So, what better way to start this video off than with two kids talking about both Fire Emblem characters in Smash. Excellent job.
But here’s where things get strange. As people began to look through the information on the super sick looking collector’s edition they came across a familiar, and baffling, set of words that we were once again confused by:
There it is again! MARCH 31, 2021. What makes this date so special? Why would Nintendo once again take a lucrative franchise, that until now has not had this specific game translated into English, and then tell people that you only have 3 months to buy it or it’s gone forever? Like, I understand that the reasoning here is because “That’s when the anniversary ends”, but if that’s the case, why not make a bigger deal out of this whole thing? Yeah, I know Covid-19 but the world into a full nelson, but I can’t imagine the translation process was super involved, but it just seems strange to go big now instead of the rest of the year, right?
So, what does this all mean? Honestly, if you’re looking for a reasonable answer that makes a lot of sense you’d probably be safe assuming that the fiscal year for Nintendo ends in April and that would, I guess, mark the end of the anniversary year for a franchise. BUT THAT’S DUMB AND I HATE IT AND IT’S NOT AS FUN AS WILDLY SPECULATING so we’re not doing that. We’re gonna have some fun and figure out (or at least throw a dart at the board of wild guesses) what the heck Nintendo is up to with this idea.
Nintendo Vault Pass
Something I think would be amazing would be that on April 1 Nintendo announces that they’re doing their own subscription service in the same vein as Xbox Game Pass and Playstation Plus. And before you get all uppity about “there’s no way Nintendo would announce jack diddly on April Fools Day, you moron” just remember that in 2015 Nintendo announced a TON of big stuff on April 1: Mario Maker, Lucas in Smash Bros, Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Fire Emblem Fates, and Mario Kart 8 DLC. It was a FORTY-EIGHT MINUTE DIRECT!
Could you imagine if the folks over at Nintendo dropped just a simple announcement that each month there would be access to a collection of Gamecube, Wii, and N64 games? This time, with the caveat that there would be monthly updates (I’m looking at YOU Switch Online) and a more open discussion of the games included and a game plan (no pun intended) or release structure in the future. Just, you know, ANYTHING better than the schedule they have now.
The Switch Advance
I’m gonna go out of my way again. I don’t think the Switch Pro is a thing, but I also said the same thing about Mario 3D All-Stars and the New 3DS back in the day. So maybe this is the time that Nintendo finally gets off their duff and updates the eShop with a huge overhaul and gives us some crazy stuff with a bigger, badder Switch model. I have some thoughts on why this isn’t the case though. Mainly I think that a Switch Pro is gonna hit the shelves months earlier when Monster Hunter Rise hits the market in February.
But, to be real about this, it doesn’t make much sense for me to have a limited release game no longer available because you release a new console. This, of all the theories, hold the least amount of water to me. It might be because of what might be the best concept for limited releases so far.
What Other Games Are Turning 35 in 2021…?
2021 marks the 35th anniversary for two major franchises and one smaller game that will likely see a translated re-release like Fire Emblem (I’ll get to them in a second). See, I think I get what Nintendo is trying to do. If there’s anything that this company can do its weaponised nostalgia. Smash Bros is a great example of this in that by having either new or old characters jumping in as new playable fighters they capitalize in fond memories of games I used to play. Banjo Kazooie, King of Fighters, etc. are all games I grew up with. For heaven’s sake, how many times can Nintendo re-release classic Super Mario Bros? (A TON).
Folks, I think we need to realize that these recent “limited-edition” games are here to stay. Reports on Amazon are showing that when 3D All-Stars released it became the highest-selling game of 2020. Think about other games that released this year: Doom Eternal, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Crash Bandicoot 4, Tony Hawk 1&2. Being the number one game IN A MATTER OF FOUR DAYS is kind of a huge thing. Fire Emblem probably won’t put up those numbers, but it’s gonna be popular. So what’s next?
Next year is the 35th anniversary for The Legend of Zelda, Kid Icarus, Metroid and The Mysterious Murasame Castle. Soak that in for a second. If we’re talking about three pretty great series and a game that was only released to non-Japanese countries back in 2014. Like, I’m not gonna lie that the whole limited release window thing isn’t frustrating and a total cash grab, but if it means that there’s going to be a Zelda limited release (or probably Breath of the Wild 2), Metroid limited release (Metroid Prime Collection or new 2D Metroid like the rumours of old said?), Kid Icarus limited release (C’mon Uprising HD) and getting Murasame Castle on Switch online. That would be pretty stellar after the unholy landfill fire this year was.
Great Products, But at What Cost?
So, it’s looking like there are some great things that could come from this whole thing in the future, but the real question is still hanging over our heads: Why would you ever stop selling games that are such a big deal? We’re talking about games that are so nostalgically important and critical to the previous success of Nintendo that they are forever kept in the highest regard as “Legendary Nintendo Games”. Games that people would pay enormous amounts of money for the original versions of. This doesn’t feel like an entirely greedy move on Nintendo’s part (I mean, yeah, it totally is), but I guess time will tell what that final motive is for taking these great games and putting an expiration date on them. My hope is some sort of subscription to a Nintendo-style vault. I know I’d pay for it.
I mean… or maybe we finally get HD versions on the CD-i Zelda games. A man can dream.