The latest Nintendo Direct showcase has revealed an impressively busy release schedule for the Nintendo Switch over the next six months.
The first Nintendo Direct of the year took place late on Wednesday evening and, as usual with anything Nintendo related, it wasn’t quite what anyone was expecting.
Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom was featured but only quite briefly at the end, with no mention of the already leaked Switch console – which implies there’s probably another Direct to come before its launch in May.
Despite years of rumours about a Metroid Prime remaster the eventual shadow drop also came out of the blue, as did the arrival of Game Boy and GBA games, and the previously delayed Advance Wars 1+2.
Even Pikmin 4 being out in July was earlier than expected, but since it was all good news nobody’s complaining. Especially as there were still plenty of interesting announcements beyond that, which we’ll now run though in chronological order…
Although Nintendo led with Pikmin 4, after saying the Direct would focus on games released in the first half of the year, there was nothing else from them that will launch beyond July. Which can’t help but fuel theories that they don’t have anything major planned after that and are getting ready for a reveal of the Nintendo Switch 2 next year.
Until there’s some firmer evidence, it’s best not to take that as a certainty, but the rumour is that Nintendo will fill the schedules between now and then with remasters and DLC – both of which were heavily featured in the Direct.
The Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass launched last year but the Direct revealed that Volume 3 will be out on February 16 and will feature a new character called Masha who’s a lapidarist (someone who cuts gemstones and not, as we initially misheard it, an expert on butterflies – that’s lepidopterist).
Volume 3 will also add new challenge battles with a roguelike element where you battle increasing waves of enemies. Volume 4 didn’t get a release date, but it will feature an ‘original story scenario’ and some returning characters from the previous games.
Although there were no megaton announcements during the Direct there were a number of unexpected new game reveals, including Samba De Amigo: Party Central – the first proper new entry in Sega’s rhythm action franchise since the Dreamcast era. Unlike the Wii version it doesn’t seem to be a port but an actual new game, with the Joy-Cons used as maracas. It’s out sometime this summer.
Nintendo then spent a surprising amount of time promoting Marvelous’ Fashion Dreamer, no doubt because it’s a Switch console exclusive for this year and seems to be setting itself up as a spiritual sequel to the Style Boutique series on DS.
Dead Cells: Return To Castlevania was the first thing to be revealed at The Game Awards in December and very welcome it was too. Apparently it will be the biggest DLC expansion so far for Dead Cells, with two brand new levels, classic Castlevania weapons, three bosses, and a lot of fan service – including 51 songs and 12 covers. It’ll be out on March 6.
Although we don’t think anyone noticed, Tron: Identity was announced last year as a multiformat game, from the creators of the sorely underrated John Wick Hex. It doesn’t seem to be anything like that though and is described as a ‘narrative puzzle adventure’, that will be a Switch console exclusive when it’s released in April.
Speaking of puzzle adventures, arguably the best news in the Direct was the return of DS classic Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, even if it seems to be a fairly simple remaster of the original. The official website confirms that it will be multiformat and out this summer, and hopefully a prelude to a new game.
Keeping the detective theme, DecaPolice is a brand new Japanese role-playing game from Level-5, who seem to have finally awoken from their slumber – although we’ll get to their most exciting announcement a bit later. It was hard to tell if there was actually any detective work going on in the game, or if it really was just a straight role-playing game, but it looked fun and a new IP is always welcome. It’ll be out sometime this year.
Although it’s made by PlatinumGames, Bayonetta Origins: Cereza And The Lost Demon was one of the few Nintendo published titles we knew about before the Direct, since it already has a release date of March 17. It’s still not entirely clear how the game works but it’s certainly nothing like the previous games, as Bayonetta herself can’t attack – just help out her demon Cheshire as she supports him with magic and solves environmental puzzles.
Next up was another Nintendo Expansion Pass, in this case for Splatoon 3. It will come in two waves but we remain confused as to what of substance the first one will have, as the Direct went to great pains to explain that while it reintroduces the Inkopolis hub from the first game all the options are still exactly the same as in Splatsville, except it’s now the Squid Sisters dancing during Splatfests.
Perhaps there’s more to it than that but considering how little the main game added we’re not so sure. Either way, that’s out in the spring and it’s the second wave, called Side Order, which seems more interesting, with the implication that it features new single-player content and, possibly, the return of Pearl and Marina. The expansion pass costs £22.49, so hopefully it will be more substantial than it currently seems.
Disney Illusion Island is not a game that’s going to impress from just watching the footage, but while it’s technically a continuation of the Castle Of Illusion series, but without Sega’s involvement, the four-player action is much more reminiscent of Rayman Origins and Legends – which is very welcome as we doubt we’re getting any more of those from Ubisoft. The game is out on July 28.
From there it was onto yet another expansion pass, this time for Fire Emblem. Again, the pass has already started but it was revealed that Pack 2 will feature Hector, Soren, and Camilla and is out now. Pack 3 will introduce Chrom and Robin, who seem to be working as a double act, as well as Veronica. Each new emblem will feature a new story mission to obtain them but the real meat of the pass is Pack 4, which features a new story campaign epilogue entitled Fell Xenologue.
For obvious reasons, Nintendo never mentions if games are multiformat or not but while Harmony: The Fall Of Reverie will be ‘first for consoles’ on Switch it’ll also be released on Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC. It’s the new game from the newly rebranded DON’T NOD, makers of the original Life Is Strange. It still seems to be roughly the same type of graphic adventure but with a much greater emphasis on branching narrative and some neat new animated visuals. It’s out in June.
Unlike the previous game, Octopath Traveler 2 is also multiformat and we already knew going in that it would be out on February 24. The big news during the Direct though is that there’s now a demo you can download for free from the eShop.
We Love Katarmari REROLL + Royal Reverie was another unexpected reveal, and a follow-up to the remaster of the original Katamari Damacy. We Love Katamari is the only sequel that creator Keita Takahashi was involved in, so while it’s really just more of the same it doesn’t feel quite so cynical and pointless as the other sequels.
The Royal Reverie part of the name is presumably a reference to new missions where you play as the King of All Cosmos – although there’s no indication that Takahashi was involved in those. It’ll be out on June 2 for all formats but you can play Katamari Damacy REROLL for free, if you have a Nintendo Switch Online account, from February 20 through 26.
Despite the Nintendo Direct being 44 minutes long there were surprisingly few indie games featured, although retro Japanese role-player Sea Of Stars continues to look amazing. It’s out August 29 and while it’s multiformat there is now a demo on the Nintendo eShop. Also featured was the air hockey inspired Omega Strikers, which will be out on April 27.
We’ve already indicated our excitement about Advance Wars 1+2: Re-Boot Camp getting a release date, but its announcement was preceded by Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection – which is also one of our favourite portable franchises. Although we’re still sore that our favourite entry, Etrian Odyssey 4, isn’t included (probably because it’s a 3DS game rather a DS title).
Kirby’s Return To Dream Land Deluxe is the other first party game whose release date we knew going into the Direct, although we’re not sure who asked for a remaster of this unremarkable Wii title, that was known as Kirby’s Adventure Wii in Europe. If you are a fan though it does have a new epilogue starring Magolor as he regains his powers.
From there Nintendo dove into their Game Boy announcements for Nintendo Switch Online and the unexpected reveal for Metroid Prime Remastered, although it’s still a bit odd that the physical version isn’t out until March 3.
Since there were no farming sims this time the theme for this Direct seemed to be detective games, which is fine by us, especially as Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE continues to look like a lot of fun. It’s the latest by Danganronpa writer Kazutaka Kodaka and sees an amnesiac detective team up with a band of other detectives to solve mysteries. Each of these other detectives has their own superpower, such as being able to see past versions of crime scenes. It all looks typically wacky and is bound to scratch that Danagonrpa itch when it launches as a Switch exclusive on June 30.
A few things did leak out about the Direct before it happened; Samba De Amigo was revealed a few hours beforehand but remasters of Baten Kaitos were rumoured years ago. The second game wasn’t released in Europe and was called Baten Kaitos Origins in the US, if you’re wondering where Baten Kaitos 2 came from, but we can only imagine the card-based battling was more popular in Japan than it was in the West as this seems a surprising amount of effort for such an obscure franchise. It’s out sometime this summer.
Fantasy Life: The Girl Who Steals Time was the second of Level-5’s three new announcements and a sequel to their earlier, rather uninteresting, Animal Crossing style life simulator from 2012. Of far greater interest was the reveal of Professor Layton And The New World Of Steam, although there’s very little concrete information on the game so far, with it being the only game in the Direct not confirmed for a 2023 release.
The Direct closed out with the latest Mario Kart 8 Deluxe DLC, which includes a brand new track, and a quick montage of games including Minecraft Legends, indie title Blanc, Megaman Battle Network Legacy Collection, Have A Nice Death, Konami’s WBSC eBaseball: Power Pros, the first look at the Lion King realm from Disney Dreamlight Valley, and Tales Of Symphonia Remastered.
The livestream finally ended, as you’d expect, with Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom and while there was surprisingly little shown the Direct as a whole was a very impressive showcase, at least for the first half of the year. Ultimately, it neither confirmed or refuted rumours that Nintendo’s schedules will start thinning out after that, in preparation for a new console, but either way there seems to be plenty of interesting new games to tide you over for now.
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