Nintendo has announced a new Splatoon game, a new character for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a new entry in its Mario Golf series, and more, in its first major news broadcast in over a year.
Under ordinary circumstances, Nintendo releases much of its game news via semi-regular, pre-recorded press conferences, which it calls its Nintendo Directs. Naturally, 2020 was not an ordinary circumstance, as the pandemic lockdowns throughout Japan slowed down much of Nintendo’s software development (which certainly didn’t harm its sales).
While Nintendo has offered a few “Mini-Directs” throughout the last year, focused on single specific games, it hasn’t had one of its full-length Directs since September 2019.
It broke that streak on Wednesday afternoon, however, with a massive blast of gaming news that covers much of the next few months. However, Nintendo was careful to note at the start of the new Direct that due to COVID-19, none of its release dates should be considered final.
The Direct started off strong, with a surprise pick for the next downloadable fighter to join the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate cast. This time, it’s Pyra, an artificial life form called a Blade, from Nintendo’s 2017 RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 2. In addition to her sword— if you’re going to get invited to Smash, it really helps if you’ve got a sword — and an arsenal of magical attacks, Pyra can transform at will into her “sister,” Mythra, who has what appears to be an entirely different set of moves.
Like other Smash DLC characters, Pyra joins the game with her own stage, set aboard the back of the flying dragon Azurda, where many of the other characters from XC2 are in the background. She’s planned for a release in March, and if she’s priced like other Smash fighters, will cost $5.99.
Nintendo also announced a new entry in the Mario Golf series, which has been on hiatus since 2014’s World Tour on 3DS, and hasn’t been on a non-portable console since the GameCube in 2003. In Mario Golf: Super Rush, you can play as characters like Mario, Luigi, Bowser, Peach, Wario, and Waluigi in a series of laid-back golf matches. You can play with a traditional Switch gamepad, or hold the Switch’s JoyCon controllers as you would a golf club and use its motion controls to hit your ball.
New additions for Super Rush include a story mode, where you can create a Mii based on yourself to enter the Mushroom Kingdom golf circuit as a talented rookie, and Speed Golf, where players play through each hole simultaneously, racing one another across the fairground to take their next shot. It’s tentatively scheduled for a June 25 debut.
Square Enix provided a first look at Project Triangle Strategy, the working title for a new tactical RPG on the Switch, planned for release in 2022. A demo became available for download on the Switch’s eShop immediately after the end of the Direct.
Seemingly aimed at fans of the long-dormant spinoff series Final Fantasy Tactics, the “Triangle” of the title is a system based around a particular moral axis. As you play through the story of fantasy kingdoms at war, you’re tasked to make decisions that align you with one of three philosophies: Utility, Morality, or Liberty. Which of those philosophies you stick with will determine where the story goes and who you’re able to recruit for your army.
In a bit of a tease, Eiji Aonuma, long-running producer on the Legend of Zelda series for Nintendo, was brought on screen … to announce that there was nothing to announce yet regarding Breath of the Wild 2, the upcoming sequel to Nintendo’s 2017 smash hit.
“We don’t have anything to share right now. We apologize,” Aonuma said. “Development is proceeding smoothly and we should be able to provide you with more information later this year.”
As a consolation prize, however, Aonuma did announce that an HD remaster of 2011’s The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword is coming to the Switch on July 16. The original version was on the Wii, with a particular set of motion controls, which have been made “smoother and even more intuitive” on the Switch.
You can hold two loose JoyCons in either hand, with one corresponding to Link’s sword and the other to his shield, which mimics the old Wiimote-and-nunchuck setup from the 2011 Skyward Sword. Alternatively, for players who’d rather use a gamepad or are playing on a Switch Lite, you can use a button-based control scheme where the right control stick on the Switch’s pad lets you swing Link’s sword in specific directions.
Skyward Sword, which Aonuma describes as a testbed for various systems that were later put into Breath of the Wild, will ship for the Switch alongside a specially-designed set of JoyCon controllers, made with the trademark color scheme of Link’s Master Sword.
Nintendo closed the show with a lengthy trailer, which did little more than announce the existence of the next game in its head-to-head Splatoon series. No gameplay was shown, but it did feature the player’s options for customizing one of the game’s trademark Inkling characters, as well as her new sidekick, a pet called a Smallfry.
She subsequently hopped on a train that took her into the middle of a sprawling city. According to Nintendo of America’s official Twitter account, that city is the new environment for Splatoon 3, a “city of chaos” called Splatsville.
Classic main weapons appear viable in the Splatlands, although their appearance seems evolved to suit this unique culture. The .96 Gal and Range Blaster look markedly different than we’re used to, which will seemingly make them stand out more from other weapons of the same type. pic.twitter.com/bdDGpdNp2C
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) February 17, 2021
Other announcements from the newest Nintendo Direct include:
- Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise continues its slow walk towards the domination of Japan; the series has traditionally been hugely popular there, and just very popular everywhere else. Rise, a Switch exclusive, will ship alongside a special Deluxe Edition Switch that comes with a digital copy of the game and a special Monster Hunter-themed paint job.
- Nintendo’s ongoing 35th-anniversary celebration of the Super Mario franchise continues with the addition of multiple Mario-themed items to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, including Mario, Luigi, and Peach’s outfits. You can decorate your island to match the Mario world’s aesthetic, including the addition of up to two Warp Pipes that let you teleport to a distant area.
- The 3DS RPG Miitopia, which let you turn you and your friends’ player-created Mii avatars into various characters in a fantasy kingdom, is heading to the Switch on May 21. New features include makeup and wigs for your Miis, as well as the ability to befriend and recruit a horse.
- Last year’s indie hit Hades is planned for a physical release on the Switch on March 19. It will come with a 32-page full-color art book and a download code for two-and-a-half hours of original music from the game.
- A new stylish first-person shooter from the third-party developer Annapurna Interactive, Neon White, puts you in the role of a team of assassins sent to fight demons throughout the halls of Heaven.
- World’s End Club, a new “escape room”-styled game from the makers of Zero Escape, traps a group of students in an underwater theme park. When they manage to get out, they must then journey across a seemingly-deserted Japan to find a way home. Unlike past games in this mold, World’s End Club features an emphasis on side-scrolling action gameplay, rather than simple decision-making.
- The popular team shooter Apex Legends is coming to the Switch on March 9. Like every other version of the game, it will be free to play.
- The obscure 1997 PlayStation RPG SaGa Frontier has been remastered for the Switch (April 15), with new content including a new playable protagonist. (The Switch is really turning into a sort of second chance at life for a lot of old, weird Japanese games.)
- Koei Tecmo has complied all three of the Xbox Ninja Gaiden games into a single release, the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection (June 10), with all of the games’ DLC options included. Ninja Gaiden was notorious back in the 2000s for being one of the most deliberately challenging games on the market, and has had a strong influence on action games to this day.
- A near-forgotten Xbox game from 2005 is suddenly being rereleased on the Switch. Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse (March 16), a comedy-horror game about transforming all the humans in the city of Punchbowl into the members of your zombie army, was the product of Bungie co-founder Alex Seropian’s Wideload Games. A sequel was planned, but Wideload was bought by Disney in 2009 and shut down in 2014, leaving Stubbs in, uh, the lurch.
- For the first time, Nintendo is remaking and releasing two of the games in its NES adventure series Famicom Detective Club in North America. Described as two “deep cuts from Nintendo history,” originally published in 1988 for the Japan-only Family Computer Disk System, The Missing Heir and The Girl Who Stands Behind (May 14) are tension-filled murder mysteries set in Japan.
- Grasshopper Manufacture’s No More Heroes 3, a terminally weird series about the misanthropic assassin Travis Touchdown, is planned for release on the Switch on Aug. 27.