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Nintendo Direct Roundup: February 8, 2023

A new Zelda is coming up fast, but what else does Nintendo have in store?

February is Nintendo Direct season, at least according to the theorists who relentlessly track Nintendo announcements like they’re decoding signals from space. This time, they’re right: announced on the 7th and premiering on the 8th, this one came as something of a surprise.

Nintendo is in a strange place at the moment. Their only major release with an actual date is Tears of the Kingdom, coming out May 12 – three months from now. Will they try to extend the lifespan of the Switch, or are they going to shift towards a new console? Let’s find out: here’s the Hard Drive Nintendo Direct Roundup.

It opens with Pikmin 4. I wasn’t expecting that! Pikmin tends to be a sideliner for Nintendo, not an opening act. The trailer shows off a new look for the series, including a fleshier Onion, a creepier Dweevil, and some baby Snagrets (this all makes sense to series fans, trust me). It also includes new powers such as Ice Pikmin and A Dog, both of which are depicted conquering the Pikmin’s greatest foe: water. Releases July 21.

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 Expansion Pass Volume 3. It’s a new hero: Mashi the lapidarist, and if you watch the Direct you get to hear two different pronunciations for “lapidarist”. She can make jewelry and probably fight. Also includes some extra challenges. This bit ended with a teaser for Volume 4, which was some anime folks yelling at each other. Volume 3 releases February 15.

Samba de Amigo: Party Central. Now that’s a rare franchise. Originally an arcade rhythm game from 1999, this one didn’t get many ports or sequels compared to other SEGA titles. I suppose the maraca-based gameplay matches the Switch’s joycons pretty well, but I bet some shattered TVs are in the near future. Releasing Summer 2023.

Fashion Dreamer. “Got a passion for fashion?” asks the announcer. Boy, do I. This game is about putting together fashionable outfits, publicizing your brand, and “becoming an influencer”. So, a horror game. It may be easy to make fun of, but I honestly do appreciate gaming experiences that explore unusual directions – even if those directions ask you to like and subscribe. Releasing Summer 2023.

Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania. This isn’t new – it was revealed at the Game Awards – but it was still nice to hear some tasteful arrangements of vampire slaying music. Releases March 6th.

TRON: Identity. It’s been a while since we heard about Tron. The announcer calls it a “narrative puzzle adventure”, which I think translates to “visual novel”. Hopefully it’ll let you play the light cycle game at least once. Releases in April.

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective. An HD remaster of one of the best stories ever told in gaming. It starts out interesting, gets more intense every single chapter, builds to dizzying heights, and ends in an unbelievable conclusion that fuses all the fragments of plot into a glorious finale. Unfortunately it also looks like a shitty phone game. Hopefully people will actually play the damn thing. Releases Summer 2023.

Deca Police. Appears to be a neon, anime-flavored RPG with detective elements. Takes place in a virtual world for training law enforcement, like Cop City but with fewer murdered protesters. Releases 2023.

Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon. This unusual take on Bayonetta was also revealed during the Game Awards, but we’re seeing some new details here. Notably, Bayonetta herself can’t attack, and is limited to locking down enemies while the demon Cheshire goes wild. The title action star being unable to fight is a tough sell, but since the player controls Cereza and Cheshire both, it could end up feeling like the dual battle system from The World Ends With You, which is also a tough sell. Releases March 17.

Next is the Splatoon section of the February Nintendo Direct. Their first announcement is the long-awaited reveal of the planned Splatoon 3 DLC. The first wave, releasing Spring 2023, allows the player to return to Inkopolis, the hub world from the original game. It’s a very cool feature, but it didn’t sound like it includes any actual gameplay content.

The second wave, called “Side Order”, continues the Splatoon DLC trend of being extremely creepy: there are veins and brain corals going all over the place. At a glance, it’s a campaign of some kind in a world without color, and Pearl and Marina from Splatoon 2 seem to appear in some capacity. The player character here is an Octoling with black tentacles – could this be a Marina prequel story? Splatoon 2 Origins? Interesting, but no release date yet.

Disney Illusion Island. This game feels like Disney looked at Cuphead and said “They’re stealing our bit! We’ll show them!” An animated platformer with 4-player co-op that looks a little like Rayman Origins. Allies can drop ropes from above. Look Mickey, a rope! Releases July 28.

Fire Emblem Engage Expansion Pass. The theme of this game is summoning other Fire Emblem dudes, so the expansion pass naturally includes more dudes. They list Hector, Soren, Camilla, Robin-Chromzooie, and Veronica. Most of these are popular side characters who tend to get pushed aside in crossovers due to not being the main character. At least they’ve made it in as bonus content. Releases today, and includes some extra campaign content.

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie. The rare western visual novel. A “narrative adventure” in which you decide the fate of humanity, which as you might expect requires you to defeat a mega-corporation. Pledge yourself to one of six gods, an act that will certainly incur no consequences at all. Releases June 2023.

Octopath Traveler II. Known, but there’s a demo out now that will carry over to the full game. Releases February 24. The full game, not the demo.

We Love Katamari REROLL + Royal Reverie. If you don’t know Katamari, I’ll explain briefly: roll ball, stick things on, get thrown into space, become star, and never get your father’s approval. This is a remake of the second game in the series, also known as “the good one”. Even better, this release includes “5 new challenges” in which you play as the young King himself as he fails to get his own father’s approval as well. That’s what we call the circle of life. Releases June 2.

Sea of Stars. One of those indie-retro games. This one’s an RPG that knows about timed hits. This isn’t the first time it’s been seen, but now it has a concrete release date: August 29, with a free demo out now.

Omega Strikers. A free-to-play air hockey game for teams of 3. You can push the goalie backwards into their goal, which kills them. Releases April 27. “Pre-orders for this free-to-play game begin today,” says the announcer. Is that really where we’re at, now?

Etrian Odyssey Origins Collection. Super Etrian Odyssey! These were dungeon crawlers for the DS that made players use the system’s lower screen to draw their own maps. I don’t know if the games will feel as good without a lower screen or a stylus, but it’s good for them to survive into the modern era in any form. Releases June 1.

Advance Wars 1+2 Re-Boot Camp. It’s been a whole year since this was delayed indefinitely, but now it’s finally coming out… in two months, on April 21. That’s the whole announcement. They didn’t even show any gameplay. Maybe they’re trying to trick people into buying without realizing it’s about moving little tanks around a grid.

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe. A new feature: Magolor Epilogue. A series of platforming stages in which he starts out weak, but gradually restores his powers in a sort of platformer-RPG. It’s a cool concept. A demo for the main game is available now, and the game itself releases on February 24.

Next, an update to Nintendo Switch Online’s slowly-growing collection of ROMs: they got Game Boy games.

  • Tetris (for some people, that’s enough on its own)
  • Super Mario Land 2
  • Metroid 2
  • Kirby’s Dream Land
  • Link’s Awakening DX
  • Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare (?)
  • Game & Watch Gallery 3 (??)
  • Wario Land 3

You can play them in their original, eye-searing green, or toggle the Game Boy Color filter. Including Link’s Awakening is a little strange given its Switch remake, but they also mention Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons coming soon, which are the real gems. Also upcoming: Pokemon Trading Card Game. Not listed: actual Pokemon Red and Blue.

This next one’s big: Anyone with the Online+ version gets access to a library of Game Boy Advance games!

  • The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
  • Super Mario Bros. 3 (GBA version)
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit
  • Kuru Kuru Kuruin
  • WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$

Paying a premium subscription fee for N64 titles is galling, but these are worth a little more. Minish Cap and Superstar Saga together are quite the draw, and many other GBA games are equally high-quality – including the soon-to-be-added Metroid Fusion, Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, and the GBA Fire Emblem. They even teased Golden Sun briefly.

And speaking of old games, which are both better and cheaper than modern games, don’t @ me:

Metroid Prime Remastered. One of the greatest of all time, skillfully translating the sidescrolling Metroid series into full 3D. It got some flak on its original release for its lack of a second control stick for aiming, but the Switch has no such weaknesses – it includes optional controls that let you move and aim at the same time! Out now digitally. Physical version available February 22. Don’t ask about Prime 4.

Master Detective Archives: RAIN CODE. It’s the Danganronpa-like game from the last Direct, but with a couple new details and a release date: June 30.

Baten Kaitos I & II HD Remaster. Pronounced bah-ten, not batin’. This is a cool revival. It’s a hardcore deckbuilding RPG from an age before Slay the Spire. Gaming really did peak in the Gamecube/PS2 era, didn’t it? (Don’t @ me.) Releases Summer 2023.

Fantasy Life i: The Girl Who Steals Time. I guess this is the farming sim of this Direct. Looks like Animal Crossing with a greater emphasis on survival and combat, and the time travel angle reminds me of the future-rebuilding mechanics from the old Dark Cloud series. Could be worth checking out. Releases 2023.

Professor Layton and The New World of Steam. No gameplay. No release window. The reveal trailer is simply the Professor. He is here.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Booster Pass Wave 4. Two reveals: a new track based on Yoshi’s Island, and a new playable character, Birdo. Seeing Yoshi’s Island rendered in 3D is surreal, but not unpleasant. I’m more surprised this is the first DLC character they’ve added to Deluxe. You’d think that would be the moneymaker, if Smash is any indication. Add Captain Falcon next! Releases Spring 2023.

One last sizzle reel:

  • Minecraft Legends (April 18)
  • Blanc (February 14)
  • Mega Man Battle Network Legacy Collection (April 14)
  • Have a Nice Death (March 22)
  • Disney Dreamlight Valley (New Lion King realm in April)
  • Tales of Symphonia Remastered (February 17)

And finally, the moment everyone was waiting for: an update on the Game Awards’ Most Anticipated Game of the Year, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.

The update is a trailer that includes almost no information at all. The moon is aggressive, the antagonist is voiced, and there are new-ish enemy types, but the bulk of the game remains a complete mystery.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this game’s advertising has been so secretive, since the fun of Breath of the Wild comes from exploration and discovery. But there’s also the risk that its sequel don’t have enough content to justify a new release, since it’s set in the same place – and now, they’re charging more. It’s a 70$ game, as was leaked the night before. Guybrush would never have allowed this.

There was one stand-out piece of gameplay in the new trailer: Link is able to build makeshift vehicles and drive or fly them around. Ladies and gentlemen, they’ve done it: it’s The Legend of Zelda: Nuts & Bolts.

Maybe wait on reviews for this one, just in case.