How you feel about Nintendo’s E3 Direct will largely depend on how you feel about the Super Smash Bros. franchise. It loomed large over the entire stream, leading me to feel a bit like Milhouse (“When are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?!”). What’s perhaps most surprising about this Direct is the complete absence of any Nintendo 3DS software. This was all the Switch’s show, despite claims that Nintendo would support the 3DS well in to 2020.
The show opened with a trailer for Daemon X Machina, a mech game by former Armored Core developers now running under the banner of a new company called “First Studio.” Daemon X Machina appears to pick up where Armored Core For Answer left off, with a very similar looking level of speed and grace to your mech’s movement. The big twist is that now, there’s a heavily stylized cel-shading effect on everything, leading to striking colors and bold shadows. It releases in 2019.
Next was a trailer for what has been listed as the final Xenoblade Chronicles 2 DLC, Torna ~ The Golden Country. Taking you to the continent of Torna, it adds new areas to explore, monsters to battle, and new storyline involving the antagonist’s home town.
After re-affirming the features of Pokemon Let’s Go and giving it a November 16th release date, Reggie threw it over to another new game announcement: Super Mario Party. Ditching the “family play” element of more recent Mario Party games, Super Mario Party appears to return to the series roots as a free-for-all party game. Most interesting is the newly demonstrated feature that allows you to link multiple Switches together in order to expand the play area to include multiple screens — our players lay several Switch units on a table, re-arranging their position to change the layout of an overhead tank minigame. Players then seamlessly drive between screens as if it was one contiguous zone, no matter how the screens are placed. Other minigames seem to benefit from having two Switch units as well, like a 2-v-2 baseball minigame where each team gets their own screen. It releases on October 5th.
It was followed by the announcement of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Continuing the legacy of the 3DS Fire Emblem games, this is a fully-3D strategy game where action is managed from an overhead, turn-based view that then zooms down to show the action up close. Only now, given the increased power of the Switch, the action is considerably more detailed, with more units visible on screen. Unit formations also seem to play a role in how battles play out, and the game also seems to have free-roaming city sections as well, a first for the series. It’s due Spring of 2019.
The worst kept secret of this E3 may very well have been that Fortnite was coming to the Nintendo Switch. Even though Epic Games did their best to deny it, there was simply too much evidence to deny — from leaked Gamestop fliers to Korean ratings board classifications and even people datamining the eShop, it was clear that Fortnite was showing up on Nintendo’s platform, and sure enough, it made its appearance during the Nintendo Direct. The game apparently supports every official Nintendo controller peripheral, and most importantly, also supports traditional in-game voice chat — no need for any fiddly mobile apps or weird squid-shaped headset adapters. It’s available now.
Reggie then returned to celebrate the Switch becoming home to some of the best indie games in the scene, and announced several more that would be receiving Switch ports, like the competitive multiplayer cooking game >Overcooked 2, and Killer Queen Black. Apparently, Killer Queen is some sort of competitive arcade game that’s gained massive popularity in various bars and pubs in the last couple years, and Killer Queen Black is the first home console port, with revamped visuals and audio. The final indie game discussed is a Switch port of Hollow Knight, a cute, but haunting hand-drawn metroidvania where you explore a lost kingdom. The Switch port comes with all of the current DLC.
What followed was another rapid-fire montage of games, like Square-Enix’s Octopath Traveler, which will be releasing July 13th and getting a new demo on June 14th. Also shown was Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas, a toys-to-life space shooter featuring a cameo from Fox McCloud, releasing October 16th. Then there was Arena of Valor, a MOBA from Tencent Games, releasing in Fall of this year. New content for the Switch version of Mojang’s Minecraft will release June 21st, and even games that just came out, like Sushi Striker, were given cursory mentions during this montage. Also on display was the Donkey Kong Adventure DLC for Rabbids X Mario (June 26th), Pixark (Fall 2018), Just Dance 2019 (October 23rd), and the Switch port of Dragon Ball FighterZ, which apparently keeps all of the visuals and features of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One version, including the game’s 60fps framerate. Then, of course, there’s this summer’s Octoling Expansion for Splatoon 2, Captain Toad for the Switch (July 13th), Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane Trilogy (June 29th), GungHo’s multiplayer Ninjala (2019), a Switch version of the classic board game Carcasonne (Holiday 2018), FIFA 18, FIFA 19 (September 28th), Ark: Survival Evolved (Fall 2018), Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut (Fall 2018), Paladins, Fallout Shelter, >Dark Souls Remastered (Summer 2018), SNK Heroines (September 7th), Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate (August 28th), Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus (June 29th), The World Ends With You: Final Remix (Fall 2018), Mega Man 11 (October 2nd), and, finally Mario Tennis Aces (June 22nd).
It was a lot of games, all packed in to a montage only a couple minutes long, many of which probably deserved more time than they were given — but it was done to make room for the main event: nearly 30 minutes talking about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the Nintendo Switch, an updated, enhanced port of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U.
“If you added up all of the changes we’re making, there [would] be tens of thousands.” said Producer Masahiro Sakurai about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Among them, the major new features include a roster of every character to ever appear in a Super Smash Bros. game, from Young Link to Solid Snake, Pichu, Star Wolf and the Ice Climbers. New fighters also join the fray, like Splatoon’s Inkling and Metroid’s space dragon, Ridley. Many characters have revised looks, as well — Mario is now sporting Cappy from Super Mario Odyssey, Link is dressed in his Breath of the Wild tunic, Star Fox, Star Wolf, and Falco are suited up in their Star Fox Zero outfits, Pikachu has outfits for both male and female gender, including the “Pikachu Libre” luchador outfit from Pokken Tournament, and honestly, too many other changes to really note.
Characters like Dark Pit and Lucina are now classified as what are known as “Echo Characters” — a formal term for the clones that have existed in Smash Bros. since Melee. New echos were unveiled as well, like Princess Daisy showing up as an echo for Princess Peach. Final Smashes are also seeing an overhaul to be faster and simpler, as well, with “transformation” Final Smashes being eliminated in favor of super-meter like attacks. Visuals have also been revised, with a new, more realistic lighting engine, more complex particle effects, and increased animation detail for more expressive characters. And with so much stuff on offer, unlocking characters will apparently be faster than ever before.
It equals what will probably be the most robust Smash Bros. game ever made, if not one of the most robust games for the system, period. And this Direct only covered changes to characters — there’s still the question of what modes will be available in the game. Will Subspace Emissary make a return? What about Melee’s Adventure Mode? What about earning Trophies? There’s still so much to talk about, and the game releases at the end of this year.
It’s hard to escape the gravity well that was Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If you took that out of this Nintendo Direct, the company’s offering would be in the running for the weakest of the three. But Super Smash Bros. is a big game, with Ultimate clocking in as the biggest, and dedicating an entire 30 minute chunk to just that one game is bold in a way nobody else was. Besides, this kind of presentation is nothing new from Nintendo — ever since the launch of the Wii U, Nintendo has always neglected to show a lot of games, instead showcasing them on their daily E3 live shows and through other press outlets. In that regard, this Nintendo Direct was very business as usual for them, though I’m still left wondering what happened to Metroid Prime 4.