Nintendo took the stage at E3 today and gave…a presentation. It wasn’t what a lot of fans were expecting. And by time Muppet versions of Reggie, Iwata, and Miyamoto hit the screen, all bets were off. Here’s a breakdown of Nintendo’s showcase.

Star Fox Zero

We have been without Star Fox game for an entire generation now, as Fox and company only popped up in Super Smash Bros Brawl. Where have they been in the interim? Nintendo answered that question by leading off with the new installment, Star Fox Zero.

The game looks familiar enough…Arwings and Landmasters squaring off against vaguely defined mecha-foes in unique environments. The conceit, by the way, is not the only thing that looks familiar. The graphics look like the old games…to a fault.

Maybe there are going to be some serious touch-ups in the coming months, but it looks like a serious step back for the franchise. “Blocky” and “cartoony” are the two words that come to mind, which is disappointing, but not altogether unexpected. Nintendo has set a precedent by going after the cartoon market, so fans who were expecting HD space battles should not be surprised by this.

That being said, it appears to make good use of the WiiU’s touch pad controls. While the TV will be providing a traditional, third-person “cinematic” experience, the tablet will be entirely first-person, which is a cool twist on the mechanics. Adding in the Arwing’s long-lost ability to transform into an AT-ST Armored Walker, and this looks like it will ultimately be a net positive for the franchise.

Yoshi’s Wooly World

The same can be said about Yoshi’s new adventure. The origins of this game are rooted in a Nintendo employee’s love for knitting the characters or whatever. It’s yarn. A lot of yarn.

Yes, it’s another kid-friendly game. Yes, it’s another 2D platformer. But I gotta say, somehow Nintendo pulled this one off, too. The gameplay looks smooth and the level and character design works well for the medium, and is in-line with Nintendo’s kid-friendly mission statement.

This game also appears to be taking advantage of its yarn-based concept much the same way that Paper Mario did over a decade ago. There are fun twists on mechanics and the environments look very unique, giving this game a flair that many games in the genre are lacking. And there are a lot of games in this genre…

Super Mario Maker

In a wonderful mix of “capitalize on old-school nostalgia” and “we don’t want to actually waste time designing levels,” Nintendo has given fans a do-it-yourself level designer. Despite the cynicism that laced that last sentence, I must concede that this will make a lot of fans very happy.

There is something intrinsically satisfying about being able to craft your own level and having others play it. Whether it’s a classic course, intense puzzle, or rage-inducing level of doom, people can’t seem to get enough of level builders, so we are happy to see it come to fans in vanilla form…no mods required.

It does beg the question of how many more side-scrollers we want from the company, though. Throughout the 90’s, Nintendo was known for its innovation. Despite what they keep saying about “reinvention,” it’s clear the company is playing it safe with their output.

We also got a look at a new Mario Tennis installment, which looks…pretty much how you’d expect.

It’s called Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, because, you know, it’s extreme.

Zelda Goes Handheld

The WiiU Zelda title had been delayed to 2016 prior to E3, so there was some concern about whether or not Nintendo could pack a solid punch without the franchise. Clearly Nintendo shared that concern, as they stressed two new titles for the Nintendo 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes and Hyrule Warriors Legends.

There’s not a whole lot to say about these two games. We’ll leave you with two stray observations: 1) Tri Force is three-player co-op NOT because the Tri-force has always been a part of the Zelda mythology, but because Nintendo said that four players would make the stacked-up Links “too tall,” which is hilarious, and 2) You can play as Tetra in Hyrule Warriors Legends and that is awesome because Tetra is awesome.

Also Coming to the States

Despite having a wide release in Japan, Nintendo also announced that the 3DS game Fire Emblem: Fates will be released in North America as well. This is fantastic news for 3DS players, as these characters are showcased heavily in Super Smash Bros., but are not well-known in the U.S. A new 3DS game could give these characters a bit of a bump in the polls.

Similarly, the massive open-world RPG Xenoblade Chronicles X is scheduled for a North American release in December, potentially filling a much needed space in the WiiU’s lineup…namely, an immersive time-intensive game. This game would likely have been glossed over if released at the same time as the originally scheduled Zelda title, so the delay might give this game a bit more time in the spotlight.

Also, Yo-Kai Watch is being introduced to North American audiences this year. This is another game being brought to the U.S., but with essentially no audience familiarity with this game, it’s really hard to get excited about it. Who knows, maybe it’ll still find a fanbase?

We Got Some Rhetoric about Amiibos

Amiibos are really cool and actually have some functionality. We like Amiibos. What we don’t like is the false scarcity surrounding them. This is not the 1920’s, Reggie. The only thing precluding them from being available is your company.

And rather than promising better availability, they touted the introduction of Amiibos as a wonderful success and simply introduced some new Skylander tie-ins. This was the point in the presentation that I became frustrated. I didn’t become genuinely angry until…

Metroid Got (Basiscally) Nothing

The last Metroid title we got was Other M, which many fans consider to not be a good Metroid game, or a good game, or even a game. With Retro Studios announcing their presence at E3, there was a lot of excitement that the series could be returning to form, and one member of Nerdy, Inc. may or may not have performed an ancient Chozo blood tribute.

That was what we got. A 3DS co-op game with cartoonish graphics and an intergalactic game of soccer.

A major fear that many Metroid fans have is that the franchise is getting slighted due to it being off-brand. That is to say, a dark, gritty, sci-fi isolationist game doesn’t fit with the current “party-style gaming with the whole family” vision. It would be a shame to see Nintendo push aside a viable franchise, as well as promise that Nintendo games can appeal to some hardcore gamers, but stranger things have happened. There are a lot of politics involved, sure, and there are likely bigger issues at play here than just Metroid’s place within the company’s plans. But that’s a conversation for another day.

All in all, Nintendo gave a presentation that was indicative of its current state within the industry. It’s the black sheep, and that’s how they want it.

Alex Russo likes to talk about video games. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.

Alex Russo

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