As far as I’m concerned, E3’s done. Everyone can go home now. With impish charm and enviable nonchalance, Nintendo took the stage and proved once again that they are the King of Games. Bomb after bomb was dropped during their conference today, and I have to say… I’m shook, I’m in awe, and I’m so excited for the coming months.
There’s a lot to cover, so let’s just jump right in!
LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD SEQUEL
This reveal was at the very end of the conference, but if you think I’m not covering this baby first, then you don’t know me at all. I live for LEGEND OF ZELDA. It’s my all-time favorite franchise, and boasts some of the richest, most developed games and lores in the industry. BREATH OF THE WILD is a nearly perfect game, rivaling the likes of OCARINA OF TIME. So when a teaser trailer began to play at the end of the conference, I assumed it was going to be yet another DLC expansion for Nintendo’s golden child. I was so, so wrong.
BREATH OF THE WILD is getting a sequel! This is not a drill. It is in development at this very moment. Far enough in development that we can get a teaser trailer. Nintendo, you crazy, beautiful son of a gun. I could kiss you.
I got chills when I realized the teaser was for a BREATH OF THE WILD expansion or continuation. Seeing those characters on screen again was like coming home after being away for a while. They’re the same ones you love, but changed a little. Touched by time. Zelda’s hair is short, Ganon’s corpse is withered, and even Link looks a bit older.
The tone of this sequel is more mature. A pervasive creepiness settles over each scene like a mist, haunting and pulse-pounding. Like TWILIGHT PRINCESS and MAJORA’S MASK, I think this game is going to be dark, much more so than anything we’ve seen before.
But even better… Zelda might be playable, or, dare I hope, the main character in this game! It’s just rumors and fan theories at this point, but I think they have merit. Zelda’s shorter hair would prevent clipping issues when she wears a hood or cloak. Link appears to be taken and/or cursed in the trailer. His torch literally and metaphorically falls to Zelda, who takes it up and is the most prevalent character in the teaser.
Either way, this sequel is going to be the game to watch, and I am ravenous for more content. The wait is going to be the worst part.
ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS
Speaking of waiting, Nintendo debuted a trailer for their latest iteration of ANIMAL CROSSING, before announcing that the game’s release would be pushed back. The reason is very amiable—the development team values work-life balance—but after seeing a demo, I have a mighty need for this game. A MIGHTY NEED!
With ANIMAL CROSSING: NEW HORIZONS, your chibi-cute avatar washes ashore on a deserted island. Well, deserted except for a trio of enterprising, dollar-thirsty racoons. It’s up to you to make this island inhabitable, and over time, you’ll slowly attract NPC animal characters with their own quirks and needs, and will make a real town and society. Let’s just hope you don’t go all LORD OF THE FLIES on your inhabitants.
It’s by far the most customizable experience for an ANIMAL CROSSING title. Adopting elements from MINECRAFT, you’ll be able to craft tools and pick up materials like wood and stone. Many of these new tools will unlock areas of your island for exploration, which is a really interesting dynamic. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to decorate outdoor spaces with furniture, and you can design your own paths from house to house.
NEW HORIZONS is a natural next step for the franchise, and it looks like a really fun foray into the Switch generation. It appears that co-op will also be baked into the experience, in a much more natural and inclusive way.
It will release on 03/20/20, and is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch.
POKEMON: SWORD & SHIELD
This impression will incorporate elements of the Nintendo Direct, Nintendo Treehouse, and the game demo, since the E3 conference itself was light on material.
In the latest installment of Game Freak’s franchise, POKEMON: SWORD & SHIELD places us in the Galar region, a not-so-subtle nod to the British Isles. While this game has an open-world quality in parts of the map—specifically on the routes—I hope this title isn’t the one that’s supposed to be fully open-world.
Routes, or “wild areas” as they were called in Treehouse coverage, are very BREATH OF THE WILD-inspired. Hell, they might actually be snippets from the BREATH OF THE WILD maps, since they feel so familiar in design and atmosphere. In these zones, you have free control of the camera, and Pokemon are visible in the grass and overworld, similar to POKEMON: SUN & MOON. However, their presence doesn’t look completely natural yet. Perhaps I was spoiled by DETECTIVE PIKACHU, but I would love to see Pokemon wildlife brought into the ecosystem of the world in a more organic way.
Pokemon Trainers are marked in the overworld by pink light beams, similar to the beacons you can place in BREATH OF THE WILD. Additionally, the types of Pokemon you can catch vary by weather, as well as time of day. You can attract the attention of wild Pokemon by whistling, which will draw them to you like magnets.
In much more pleasing news, the battle system HUD has been completely redesigned to be less cluttered. The command folders have been shunted to the side, and the text speeds have been increased as well, to create an overall more streamlined battle experience. However, the one new addition to this game that seems odd is the inclusion of Dynamax battles.
Dynamax battles have two purposes—general battle, and for online raids. Dynamax has been mocked as “Godzilla Pokemon” since it’s announcement at the Direct a week ago. Mega Evolutions (POKEMON: X & Y) and Z-Moves (POKEMON: SUN & MOON) will not be included in this game, instead being compounded (supposedly) into the Dynamax gameplay.
To me, this doesn’t make much sense in generic battles against trainers. Dynamax appears to slow down the fight’s pace, but my impression could be wrong. However, the new “raid” feature makes sense. Like FINAL FANTASY turn-based boss-fights, trainers can join together online to battle giant Pokemon. It’s unclear how the “rewards” will be divvied up by the party, but it seems that one person will be able to Dynamax per raid, with the other trainers serving as support.
It’s still hard to get a read on POKEMON: SWORD & SHIELD, but on the surface level it looks to be a fun game that’s in line with the franchise’s past games. One thing that has been made clear recently is that the Pokedex will be much more limited than in previous games, and will mostly comprise of new, region-specific Pokemon – a change that hasn’t gone over well, to say the least. But here’s hoping the next evolution of POKEMON will be enough of to keep fans content and satiated.
SWORD & SHIELD will release on 11/15/19, exclusively on Nintendo Switch.
LUIGI’S MANSION 3
TWILIGHT ZONE: TOWER OF TERROR meets GHOSTBUSTERS in the latest Mario Universe game. Mario and friends venture to a haunted hotel, hoping for a relaxing vacation. But things get spooky super quickly, and it’s up to Luigi and his brand new Poltergust G-00 to exorcise the spectres.
I absolutely love the creepy cartoony aesthetic of this game. After so many LEFT 4 DEAD and DYING LIGHT-type titles, I’m raring for something a little more NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Building upon the first two games of this series, LUIGI’S MANSION 3 gives Luigi more dynamics and abilities.
Once a ghost has been captured, he can use them to assist with other fights and captures. A suction plunger has been built into the Poltergust G-00, which can be used to open doors and move items for puzzles. He has an air jump, similar to MARIO SUNSHINE’s water pack, that not only helps him traverse the hotel, but can also serve as a knockback when Luigi’s overwhelmed.
But most importantly… Gooigi. What a name! What a concept! I would die for Gooigi.
Slimes are all the rage in Japanese anime right now. So of course Luigi gets a slime body double. He can transfer his consciousness into Gooigi at will, becoming almost indestructible. Gooigi can move through iron bars, can walk over spike pits, and is generally immortal. That is, until he finds water, at which point he melts like the Wicked Witch in THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Nintendo announced an online co-op mode, Scare Scraper, that can accomodate teams of one-to-four players. The level designs actually look pretty inventive and fun, but I’m more interested in the game’s story mode.
LUIGI’S MANSION 3 will be available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch in 2019.
FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES
Alright, I’ll admit, I’ve never played a FIRE EMBLEM game. It’s been on my to-do list. So when this game came up during the Nintendo conference, I straight up thought it was an anime series announcement. That’s how good it looks.
I kind of assumed the whole game is supposed to look like a CG/2D hybrid television series, but after checking out the demo footage via Nintendo Treehouse, it looks a bit more like an XCOM-style tactical game. The graphics are decent when you’re in tactical mode, but they dramatically increase in quality during cutscenes.
FIRE EMBLEM is known for its gut-wrenching emotion and permanent character death. It’s designed to get you to fall for its characters, and THREE HOUSES seems poised to squeeze your heart in new and devastating ways. In this game, you’re a professor at a Hogwarts-style school. Your students are divided into three houses, and those characters will determine how you choose which house to join.
As the professor, you will literally work to help these characters grow up. You can assign them chores, talk to them over lunch, and plan lectures to train them in various skills. You’re literally shaping who they become, and will decide which ones to recruit to battle, post-school days.
It’s like Aerith from FINAL FANTASY VII. You devote so much time and energy building these characters up, and coming to love them, that when they die you feel it. Really feel it. And in that way, FIRE EMBLEM is very cruel, but also very good. I’m excited to play the game in full, when it releases next month.
FIRE EMBLEM: THREE HOUSES will be available for Nintendo Switch on 07/26/19.
LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK’S AWAKENING
This Nintendo conference was very Zelda-heavy, much to my delight. LINK’S AWAKENING has been teased for quite some time now, and it’s a game you’ve probably already made your decisions about. You either love it, or you hate it.
I love it. Sure, the aesthetic is cutesy, but I think it’s a beguiling update of a classic game. The toy-like charm really jumps off the screen, and it makes me feel like I’m a kid again, playing with Polly Pockets. It’s tiny, it’s quaint, and it’s tactile.
This Zelda game isn’t going to be breaking any barriers or winning any awards. But if you’re a fan of the original games, then this is a gorgeous reimagining. Regardless, it’s sure to spark some nostalgia. Additionally, a new mini-game has been added, in which you can create custom dungeons from pieces you collect and earn throughout the main game.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK’S AWAKENING releases on 09/20/19, only on Nintendo Switch.
CADENCE OF HYRULE
Speaking of games breaking the mold, however, CADENCE OF HYRULE is a weird, indie-gamer fan project turned wide release. LEGEND OF ZELDA titles are often known for their music, from jaunty 8-bit jingles to sweeping, orchestral swells, but CADENCE takes Zelda’s musical reverence and cranks it to an 11.
I am honestly surprised this game exists. It feels like it should be $4.99, not a $24.99 Nintendo E-Shop title. To me, it’s gimmicky. Inspired by Zelda canon, but not actually a part of the universe. The 8-bit world is cute and reverential, but it’s not new.
The game is beat-based, so all movement and attacks are timed entirely on rhythm. Groovy. The success of this type of system seems entirely dependent on the game’s soundtrack. Does the rhythm change depending on each encounter? Are boss battles an EDM nightmare, while overworld walks drag to the tune of a country ballad? WHAT IS THIS GAME?!?
On the plus side, you can play as Link or Zelda, and I have been clamoring for a game where she’s in the driver’s seat. It is the legend of Zelda, after all. But it feels like a cop-out that she’s first playable in an off-franchise game like this. Can you tell I’m bitter?
We’ll see how CADENCE fares upon release today, 06/13/19. You can find it in Nintendo’s E-Shop on the Switch.
SUPER SMASH BROS. CHARACTER DLCS
It’s not a Nintendo direct without the obligatory SMASH BROS. character DLC announcement, but this time, we’re actually getting what we wanted. Earlier this year, the staff of Merry-Go-Round games put together a wish list for SMASH BROS. ULTIMATE, and BANJO KAZOOIE was towards the top. And we weren’t the only ones clamoring for the bird and bear duo.
It’s like Banjo Kazooie was built for SMASH BROS. From Banjo’s swipes to Kazooie’s egg shot, the pair make for a versatile brawler. Kazooie’s run appears to be their side-B ability, curb-stomping enemies into the ground with a stun. Kazooie’s jump is also featured, and Banjo can keep some air time after a jump, similar to Peach. Finally, Jinjos make an appearance in Banjo Kazooie’s final smash, zipping across the screen in a rainbow blur of pain.
I missed BANJO KAZOOIE. I didn’t know how much, until I saw this trailer. From the iconic, peppy tunes to the nostalgic Spiral Mountain and Grunhilda’s over-the-top witch lair, this SMASH DLC rides the nostalgia wave hard. Personally, I can’t wait to play the stages and get to see our favorite partners in action this Fall.
Another character was announced for DLC—The Hero—but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t really care less about him. The Hero is five DRAGON QUEST protagonists rolled into one fighter, whose appearances and abilities change depending on which one you choose. He looks like a combo of Marth and Robyn from FIRE EMBLEM.
It’s a bit too little too late for this type of character concept—I’ve wanted something like this for Zelda since ULTIMATE was in development. And, since I know fuck-all about DRAGON QUEST, this reveal is boringly generic.
Both character DLCs release Fall 2019, available in the Nintendo E-Shop.
DARK CRYSTAL: AGE OF RESISTANCE TACTICS
Hot take—DARK CRYSTAL looks dumb. Apart from THE MUPPETS, I’ve never been a Jim Henson fan. While I applaud the use of puppets and the strange high-fantasy visual style, the production design of movies like LABYRINTH aren’t for me. So when Nintendo announced an XCOM-style DARK CRYSTAL game, to tie-in with the Netflix series, I slumped down in my chair and plugged my ears.
What is with the sudden influx of XCOM games?!? Genuinely, I’m asking. I thought they were relatively quiet, until MARIO + RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE. Are they popular? Tactical games really aren’t my cup of tea, so I have no idea if this type of announcement is going to go over well.
Sound off in the comments if I’m being ignorant or just wasn’t paying attention for the last five years. But I can confidently say I won’t be buying this game or following news of its development.
DARK CRYSTAL doesn’t have a firm release date, but the series is expected to hit Netflix on 08/30/19.
MARIO & SONIC AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES: TOKYO 2020
I don’t feel like there’s too much to say about MARIO & SONIC AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES. I’ve played a few titles in the series, and they’re… consistent. That’s probably the best way I can describe them. If you like mini-games, and nothing but mini-games, then this title is for you.
New Olympic sports have been added, as well as some familiar faces. And, if you can’t find any local friends to play, fear not! Online battles have also been added.
This title comes to the Switch in November 2019.
NO MORE HEROES III
I’ve never played a NO MORE HEROES game, but now I kind of want to. Travis Touchdown is back and bigger than ever, complete with his iconic light sword and Tony Stark swagger.
NO MORE HEROES III takes place a decade after the second installment of the series, and follows Travis Touchdown, a travelling assassin, as he fights his way through hordes of enemies in his hometown of Santa Destroy. Of course, things are a little less straightforward than that. A floating pyramid hovers above the city. The enemies look like crash test dummies, and there’s supposed to be a floating metropolis out in the ocean. Not to mention Touchdown’s foul mouth and fiendish arrogance.
I get a very DEADPOOL vibe from this game, and I am here for that level of zaniness. Here’s hoping it something like SAINT’S ROW—it’s been a while since I played something so offbeat and cuckoo.
NO MORE HEROES III comes to the Switch in 2020.
DAEMON X MACHINA
Fans of GUNDAM, rejoice! Finally, a mecha battle game for you. Heavily inspired by mech anime titles like EVANGELION, KNIGHTS OF SIDONIA, and GURREN LAGAN, DAEMON X MACHINA delivers fast-paced gun battles, aerial combat, and arena-style combat.
Per the trailer, this game doesn’t seem to have much of a story. But really, is that why you’re buying it? It’s like ramming toys together, full of sparks, lasers, swords, and space. My biggest issues with this title are the graphics and character animation, but I’m willing to give it a chance, since mecha battles are pretty damn fun.
DAEMON X MACHINA releases on 09/13/19, only on Nintendo Switch.
Out of all of the games that are coming to the Switch, ASTRAL CHAIN is the one that sparked the most intrigue, at least for me. Platinum Games—the studio responsible for the latest BAYONETTAs and NIER: AUTOMATA—has a pretty decent track record, and ASTRAL seems poised to continue their critically positive legacy. Plus, the design and the actual gameplay look really exciting and original.
In a futuristic city, a police task force squares off against invading extra-dimensional beings called Chimeras. Armed with a glowing sword and a hi-tech capture device, you clear the city and jump between worlds in the hope of purging the Chimera threat once and for all.
There aren’t many games where you get to control two characters at once, but ASTRAL CHAIN manages to do it effortlessly. (Looking at you, BEYOND: TWO SOULS.) The action in this game moves at a breakneck pace, you get to ride a cyberpunk wolf, and police a world that seamlessly blends BLADE RUNNER with PSYCHOPASS.
ASTRAL CHAIN releases 08/30/19, on the Nintendo Switch.
EMPIRE OF SIN
Another day, another XCOM game at E3. But this one’s set in 1920s Chicago! A passion project of Brenda Romero—spouse to John Romero, DOOM’s creator—EMPIRE OF SIN sees the player run a mob empire during Prohibition. Think of it like an interactive GODFATHER, and you’re Michael Corleone. Recruit some mooks, kill some people, and move some booze. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
This game looks okay, but I didn’t spark to it. XCOM isn’t really my style, but it looks like a solid, turn-based crime drama.
Release hasn’t been confirmed, but it’s expected to drop some time during Spring 2020 on Nintendo Switch.
MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: THE BLACK ORDER
After Square Enix’s MARVEL’S AVENGERS presentation, ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: THE BLACK ORDER just looks bland. The graphics are okay. There’s a lot of heroes you can play. The gameplay seems to be DIABLO-inspired, with multiplayer co-op baked in.
I’m surprised something like this is coming to the Switch, since it feels more like a mobile game. But if you’re a Marvel fan, this is probably up your alley.
MARVEL: ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: THE BLACK ORDER releases 07/19/19.
AND FINALLY… UPCOMING SWITCH PORT TITLES
It looks like the Switch is getting a copy of just about everything, so take a look at the list below!
- Hollow Knight: Silk Song
- Ni No Kuni: Wrath of White Witch
- Minecraft Dungeons
- Elder Scrolls: Blades
- My Friend Pedro
- Doom Eternal
- The Sinking City
- Wolfenstein: Young Blood
- Dead by Daylight
- Alien: Isolation
- Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
- Dragon Quest Builders 2
- Stranger Things 3: The Game
- Just Dance 2020
- Super Lucky’s Tale
- Super Mario Maker 2
Read our thoughts on Microsoft’s conference here
Read our thoughts on Bethesda’s conference here
Read our thoughts on Square Enix’s conference here
Read our thoughts on Ubisoft’s conference here
Read our thoughts on Devolver’s conference here
Continue checking Merry-Go-Round Magazine for all of your E3 coverage