I hope you like punching stuff, adventurers, because Nintendo’s E3 presentation was all about punching.
Nintendo’s show is the one that I was the most hyped for leading into the conference, and honestly I’m coming away from it with pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand, Super Smash Bros Ultimate looks amazing (and we’ll get into that) and is honestly the best possible approach to a Smash Bros for Switch in my view. On the other hand…we didn’t get much else beyond that. At least nothing in any significant detail. I’m sure if you stopped and counted, Nintendo may have shown off the largest literal number of games at the conference. However, most of them were crammed into a three minute music video that was weirdly deprived of release dates for many of the titles shown. How can a title say Summer 2018 in June? Summer starts next week!
I haven’t pulled any punches when it comes to criticizing any of the other conferences I’ve reviewed so far, so Nintendo doesn’t get a break. They banked REAL hard on Smash Bros selling the show, and while I haven’t browsed the general reaction of the internet-at-large as of the writing of this article, I imagine that this was a check they couldn’t quite cash. Smash Ultimate is going to be shown off in full detail when people literally play the game in a tournament (I’m writing this before the tournament takes place, although the post won’t be published til after); we’ll get to see plenty of it without the Direct. I would have loved to know more about titles other than Smash Bros – particularly the ones that might fill out the many months between now and December.
There’s one allowance I’ll give Nintendo here – the Treehouse. E3 for Nintendo always has a unique angle because it’s not just about the press conference – there are hours of interviews and gameplay footage to be viewed later that go into more detail about a number of the games shown off, particularly those not necessarily considered “big” enough for the main Direct. As someone who knows that content is coming, it’s a little easier for me to be forgiving – I know there’s a place I can go to get the details that I feel are missing here. However, for those more casual fans who will simply watch the Direct and then go on with their day, Nintendo sold them one game and one game only.
So let’s talk about what little we did see of other titles. The opening game of the show was Daemon X Machina, some kind of mech fighter game about which we got little more than an epic combat trailer. Lots of giant robots fighting each other and not much else. The graphics have a pretty unique style, very colorful compared to your typical giant robot fest – very Nintendo, I’d say. It kind of reminds me of the graphical style of Breath of the Wild in that way. It isn’t going for hyper-accuracy so much as for a specific aesthetic. We’ve got awhile before this game hits store shelves so there’s plenty of time later to learn exactly what kind of game this is, whether it’s story driven or (if the rest of this E3 is any indication) an online multiplayer game.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is getting some DLC, which is cool for fans of that series. I personally don’t enjoy the gameplay of the Xenoblade titles but I did find the story of the first game pretty compelling, so I imagine that if this DLC includes more story then it should be interesting for players to explore. It comes out in September, less than a year after Chronicles 2 hit shelves. Pokemon Let’s Go got a bit of screen time here, simply re-announcing the game for those who might have missed the original reveal. It did include one bit of new info in that purchasing the Poke Ball Plus accessory will get you a Mew in your game.
We got our first look at Super Mario Party, a game that I am tentatively excited to see. While the early Mario Party titles were excellent and I have countless fond memories of playing them with my family and friends, lately the series has been struggling a little bit. The trailer here primarily showed off mini-games, many of which made use of the Nintendo Switch in some really interesting ways. There was a tank battle game which allowed you to shape the battlefield based on how you arranged two Switch consoles together, which I thought was a pretty clever use of the console’s functionality. Honestly, the versatility of the Switch and the many uses of the Joy-Cons are perfect for a Mario Party game, so I hope they knock this one out of the park. Mario Party would be a great addition to my monthly get-togethers with my buddies from college.
The announcement of Fire Emblem: Three Houses was the most upsetting for me on a personal level, simply because of the delay to 2019. It makes sense – we’ve seen almost nothing of this game and a 2018 release date would mean that it had to compete against a number of strong fall or holiday titles. I just wanted to be enjoying a new Fire Emblem sooner than that. I’m very intrigued by this game’s combat system, as it seems that each unit now commands a small squad of nameless soldiers along with them that might enhance their combat abilities. No sign of pair-ups in this trailer from what I could tell, and the focus was very much on the story – I’m curious if they are intentionally leaning away from the whole Waifu Emblem stereotype here? I’m hoping we’ll see more of this game during Treehouse, but if not I’ll be left speculating for a while yet.
We got a couple more announcements, short clips about indie games such as Hollow Knight but also bigger titles like Fortnite. After that came the crazy game montage which showed a very brief clip of a large number of titles including Mario Tennis Aces, Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, Starlink, and Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Some of these games need no explanation – Mario Tennis Aces and the Octo Expansion in particular have already been discussed at length elsewhere – and honestly the most disappointing thing about this part of the show is that there are really no surprises here. Anyone who expected to see something fresh and new from Nintendo will probably be disappointed – we already know a lot of this stuff.
There’s something to be said here for the impact of leaks on events like this – some of the games shown off such as Fortnite and Dragon Ball Fighter Z could have been a bit more exciting if not for the massive leak a couple of days ago. I personally would still not have been into those announcements, but I’m sure there are folks out there who would have been more pumped about it had they found out during the Direct instead of while surfing Twitter.
The big focus, of course, was on Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the most ambitious crossover in video game history (okay, Marvel). This game truly does set out to be the ultimate Super Smash Bros experience, and the main way in which it does so is by bringing in every single character from the history of the franchise. That honestly blew me away – while I anticipated the return of the Ice Climbers, I never believed that characters like Pichu, Snake, and Young Link would make it back into the game. Every character has returned and been updated, whether it’s simply a graphical improvement (like Mario) or a fresh perspective on their moveset (like Link). Many characters have new costumes or updated designs, with some characters returning to an older design (Ganondorf) while others give you the option to switch around (Ike).
There are few newcomers compared to past titles, but that both makes sense given the scale of this game and does not bother me at all. The new characters we are getting make a lot of sense. Inkling fought hard for a position in Smash and seeing her (or him, depending on the costume you choose) represented is a fitting addition. We also have Ridley to pad out the villain roster, and boy was his reveal excellent. He looks great despite his massive size and having him around will be a lot of fun. We even got a new echo character (the politically-correct term for “clone”) in the form of Daisy, who will play similarly to Princess Peach while having a few unique touches. Lucina and Dark Pit have also been labeled echo characters (along with I think Dr. Mario? I didn’t catch if he was or not).
There are a crud-ton of stages in this game, many making a return from previous entries in the series. Shadow Moses Island came back along with Solid Snake, which was a great choice as that stage was an enjoyable one in Brawl. Stages returning from past titles have been graphically updated, and now in addition to the omega stage form (which makes any stage look like Final Destination), there is also a battlefield form which allows you to fight on any stage using platforms. And as folks have already pointed out to me online, a ton of stages means lots of excellent stage music for us to enjoy! I was already rocking out to the Isle Delfino remix that was played during the trailer, so I’m definitely looking forward to hearing some more tunes.
In addition to characters and stages, there have been various mechanical changes to add quality of life improvements to the game. Air dodges are now mobile to give you more options in midair, but over-dodging weakens the benefit of using dodges in the first place. Characters who have unique abilities or meters such as Cloud or Robin now have visible bars near their health that lets you know how much energy they have built up or how many attacks they have left or whatever it is you might have to track about them. You can hold down the attack button to unleash a rapid fire basic attack with any character, and pressing both A and B together allows you to instantly use a Smash attack. Characters with attacks that charge (such as Samus or Donkey Kong) can charge up while in midair and can instantly interrupt their charge if an attack is incoming.
Perhaps the biggest mechanical change is that the final smashes have been dramatically reworked. This doesn’t just mean new final smashes – although we do get plenty of those too. It means that final smashes are quicker, more brutal attacks that take place in a matter of moments so that you can quickly return to the action. This is a smart choice that keeps the game a lot more active and fixes some pacing issues caused by characters such as Sonic or Wario. I particularly liked that Fox and Falco now use the Arwing rather than the Landmaster for their final smashes.
Honestly, the whole presentation felt like Sakurai and his team have really listened to fans over the years and wanted to make this into the game they’ve consistently asked for. From the returning characters to the redesigns to the mechanical changes to the battlefield forms – this game really and truly does feel like the Ultimate Super Smash Bros. I’m very excited to finally get my hands on it come December!
Overall I have mixed feelings about Nintendo’s E3 presentation – Smash Bros was great and I’m excited to see it in action, but there was little else besides that to really compel me or get me excited for the rest of this year. On a personal level, seeing Fire Emblem delayed was a real disappointment, and from a more objective standpoint we didn’t learn enough about the new titles coming to really have much excitement for them. My hope is that the Nintendo Treehouse will expand a lot on what we’ve seen in the Direct.
What about you, adventurers? Did you enjoy the Nintendo Direct? Any upcoming games you’re excited for? Was Smash Bros Ultimate everything you wanted it to be? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to stick around Adventure Rules this week as I continue to share my reactions to all of the conferences – I’ll be playing catch-up over the next couple of days and looping back to earlier conferences like Ubisoft and Microsoft, so come share your thoughts on those with me as well!