NINTENDO IN 2017: BEST YEAR EVER?

For all its faults–and boy we will get to them–Nintendo is actually having a very good 2017. In fact, it could be easily surmised that 2017 is one of the best ever years for Nintendo, and as a byproduct, a great year to be a new member to ‘the house that Mario built’.

Let’s start at the beginning. For the first time since the all-conquering power-house that was the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo has a home console that not only has promise but one that people, seemingly, want to buy. A recent Kotaku article has shown that the Switch has been tracking incredibly well in Japan, having more sales in the country after 26 weeks than Sony’s generation-winning PS4.

The Switch ditches many of the more, err, funkiness, of its predecessors, replacing it with something that differentiates itself from its competitors, but also offers rich game playing experiences and ideas unavailable from Sony or Microsoft. Being able to play the Switch on either a TV or on-the-go is its obvious selling point and it is one that has clearly resonated with consumers.

I could sit here all day eulogising about the Switch. However, as many a console manufacturer has found, a console is nothing without games, and oh boy did Nintendo drop a whopper with the Switch’s launch.

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The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild will go down in history as one of the greatest games ever created. If that doesn’t push your year from great to epic then nothing will. The fact that Nintendo managed to release a game of this quality and this polish with the launch of a brand new system is something to be applauded.

If the Switch got you through the door of the ‘Mansion that haunts Luigi’, then Breath Of The Wild made you want to pack up all your things and shack up with some plumbers, (or not) a gorilla and a spiked dragon-turtle thing–the game is that good.

Zelda is an incredible series with an incredible past, but to get BOTW as your first Zelda game is either incredible luck or great timing. Somehow, Nintendo managed to back up a new console with a generation defining game. How many other launch games of all the different consoles can we say that about? Certainly not any recently–Halo: Combat Evolved is the only one we can think of.

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You would think the release of the Switch and Breath Of The Wild would constitute an unparalleled year for Nintendo, but lucky for us they haven’t rested on their laurels–they are going all out for 2017.

Capitalising on what they do best–games for all the family–Nintendo has followed Zelda with the release of Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Now, admittedly, Mario Kart 8 is a Wii U port with a few more bells and whistles, but it is still an incredibly good game and makes brilliant use of the Switch’s multiplayer capabilities.

It’s a similar story for Splatoon 2, itself a very polished multiplayer game that can be enjoyed by everyone–Nintendo’s ultimate strapline.

The Switch has also seen its first third-party AAA game in the form of Mario+Rabbids Kingdom Battle. All-in-all, these three undercard games have a combined Metacritic score of 260 out of a possible 300 with the lowest being 83.

Obviously, critical reception isn’t everything, but, in the context of the year, it’s not a bad undercard of games that are backing up the main event, Zelda.

Oh, and Nintendo has one more heavyweight game to throw at us in 2017.

Mario Odyssey, the first 3D Mario game on the Switch is releasing later this fall. Now, it would be remiss of us to assume that Mario Odyssey will be an excellent game. Even considering nearly every 3D Mario game has been an unmitigated success, that doesn’t mean this one will be. However,  if it manages to live up to the lofty heights of its forefathers, it will be another incredible game to add to the Switch’s first-year lineup.

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Of course, Nintendo can’t leave it at that. If you are in the market for a retro-console, or, again, you are new to Nintendo, the fun-house-from-Kyoto has got your back, because they are releasing a retro mini SNES packed with classic games, including Final Fantasy III/VI and the never released Star Fox 2. It’s an incredible line up of games at an incredible price that Nintendo could release at any time, but they chose to release it in 2017, with, seemingly, everything else.

After all, I have said, you would assume that Nintendo has had a faultless year–releasing a brilliant new console, an all-time classic game, a few little gems of games and a retro console that is a must for fans. However, boy-oh-boy have they got a few things wrong, and those borderline catastrophes could turn your opinion on their year completely on its head.

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With Nintendo’s great year revolving around the release of their newest home console, you would assume they have plenty to go around. Well, you would be wrong. Nintendo has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with another, but in 2017, to not have enough stock of your brand-new console to go around is incredibly stupid, maybe even negligent. We are aware that when deciding how many you need you would have a higher and lower estimate of sales. With those estimates in mind, surely you would decide to shoot for the higher number?! Obviously, the poor sales of the Wii U probably skewed Nintendo, but still, it’s ridiculous that you have this great console with some great games and few people can get their mitts on one.

Now, to be fair to Nintendo, they are aware of the issue–as they should be!–but they can’t predict when the shortages are going to end–which is possibly the most unhelpful statement Nintendo could come up with.

Nintendo has a hugely successful console that people want but can’t get, sound familiar?

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If you think issues surrounding the Switch stock are a mess, then Nintendo can trump even themselves with the disastrous pre-order debacle surrounding the Classic Mini SNES, you know, the one we think will be excellent for a wide variety of people. Nintendo promised, they promised, they would have more available than its predecessor, the Classic Mini NES–itself, a nightmare to get hold of–so what happened when it came up for pre-order? It sold out quicker than water in the Sahara! But that was just in the UK. In the US, not only did pre-orders sell out very fast, but they went live in the middle of the night. Ridiculous.Now, how much of that was Nintendo and how much was individual retailers is hard to say, but it is still a ridiculous situation for Nintendo, and more importantly, consumers, find themselves in.

As a consequence, it seems SNES Classic it will be equally difficult to find as its father. We will revise our comments if things change, but it’s not looking good.

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On the surface, Nintendo’s 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for established fans and new members to the ‘house that Mario plumbed’ (or didn’t). However, it all predicated on the new Switch, and if you didn’t get your hands on one, then everything else is moot. As for the SNES Classic, at this point, it’s worth assuming that you didn’t get your hands on one, so everything you just read was pointless and probably really annoyed you, sorry.

As is the way with Nintendo, they create great things but seem adverse to allow consumers get them. In that sense, 2017 is no different. But, if you were lucky, 2017 is looking like a fantastic year for the elder statesman of the video-game world and will be looked back in history with reverence. Probably.

 

 

 

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