It’s been a while since we’ve seen a particularly long Nintendo Direct video presentation, and Wednesday’s news-filled flurry of game announcements lived up to the company’s reputation for surprises and weirdness. And in a tip of its hat to The Legend of Zelda series’ 35th anniversary this year, Nintendo capped its first Direct of 2021 with the reveal of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, coming to Nintendo Switch on July 16.
Skyward Sword was the only mainline Zelda game to launch with a serious reliance on Wii-like controls (Link’s Crossbow Training notwithstanding). The 2011 game required the Wii MotionPlus add-on, as its swordplay revolved around precisely angled swipes for the sake of certain enemies and puzzles, and this remaster will let players relive that experience by assigning motion controls to both left and right Joy-Con controllers. Don’t worry, Switch Lite owners: This HD re-release doesn’t mandate Wii-like waggling. If you prefer, Link’s sword angles and item tosses can be assigned to the controller’s right analog stick instead.
Whether this control update alone will redeem the game compared to other Zelda classics will probably be a matter of taste. Skyward Sword was notorious for clinging to classic series tenets in ways that bogged down its otherwise gorgeous and accessible gameplay (a criticism that somehow escaped Ars’ original review). Its successor, 2017’s Breath of the Wild, famously shattered the classic Zelda template—and for the better. But in general, even a lukewarm Zelda game is still a good video game, and like other remastered Zelda games before this one, it looks like we’re getting a handsome and tasteful touch-up of everything—and this does particular wonders for LoZ:SS‘s unique “watercolor” aesthetic, which looked quite blurry on the original Wii.
Sadly, the presentation included no news on the previously announced Breath of the Wild sequel, which is now nearly 2 years old as a concept. Instead, series fans had to suffice with a DLC announcement for last year’s hack-and-slash spin-off Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity.
The presentation’s “one more thing” moment wasn’t Zelda-related, surprisingly, but rather a hint of more Splatoon to come. Splatoon 3, slated for a “2022” launch, appears to mimic the same core four-on-four paint-filled combat found in the prior games, only with new, supercharged weapons and a wacky “launch into the sky” conceit. This will all take place in a new desert-like region called “the Splatlands,” so we hope this means some serious Mad Max vibes might come to the series, including maybe a series “Inkling” that plays a flaming electric guitar on top of a truck. (Hey, we can dream.)
Unsurprisingly, the presentation included the reveal of a new Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC character—though this came with the twist of that series’ fans are actually getting a pair of characters, in the form of Pyra and Mythra (tucked into the above Splatoon 3 gallery). This duo from the Nintendo-published RPG Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can swap between each other as a joint character, much like how Zelda and Sheik used to work as a combined character. Nintendo says fans should expect another video about their specific moveset ahead of the characters’ launch in “March 2021.”
The rest of the presentation’s first-party Nintendo Switch lineup included: a Super Mario-themed dump of cosmetics for Animal Crossing, coming March 1; Mario Golf Super Rush, complete with a wacky “Speed Golf” multiplayer mode, a Wii-like motion option, and an RPG-like story mode, launching June 25; an expanded version of the wacky Miitopia adventure game released on 3DS in 2016, coming May 21; and the first-ever translated versions of Nintendo’s classic visual-novel entries from the NES era, as two handsomely remastered games from the Famicom Detective Club visual novel series, launching May 14.
Speaking of Legend series: Square Enix’s bullish re-release schedule for its Mana series (named Seiken Densetsu in Japan) continues with Legend of Mana, the company’s PlayStation 1-exclusive action-RPG from 1999. Squeenix fans will appreciate quality-of-life tweaks and mildly up-rezzed graphics when this re-release launches on Switch on June 24. This announcement comes right alongside the previously announced RPG re-release SaGa Frontier Remastered, now slated to launch April 15.
Squeenix wasn’t done there, however, as it also used the event to unveil 2022’s Project Triangle Strategy, a hybrid 2D/3D tactical RPG that looks much like Bravely Default. This new, strangely titled game looks far more ambitious, however, with an emphasis on reactive tactical battling that allows troops to juggle foes with perfectly aimed shoves and elemental-attack combinations. In the latter case, for example, attack a burning square on the battlefield with an ice attack to turn it watery, then follow that up with a lightning storm to shock newly drenched foes. Between each strategy-rich battle, players will also be expected to make divisive choices that bring up a “scale” image, indicating a massive change to the game’s plot. All of this won’t be out on Switch for some time, yet the game’s playable demo version will be live on Nintendo Switch by the end of the day.
The rest of the presentation was rich with third-party Switch announcements. As a particular biggie, last year’s family-friendly battle-royale sensation Fall Guys will finally fill in an audience gap with a Switch launch “this summer.” Additionally, the Ninja Gaiden Master Collection anthology, whose title was previously leaked by a Hong Kong retailer in December of last year, has finally emerged as a real product, and it collects all three games in the series’ 3D hack-and-slash era. This anthology will launch on other consoles, as well, and while the Switch version appears to lock to 60fps, we have a hunch the other versions will clock in at higher specs, particularly resolution, when they launch June 10.
EA was on hand with a gosh-why’d-they-take-so-long flurry of game announcements. Two previously released games on other platforms, Apex Legends and Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville, will each launch on Switch in March, though the PvZ game will cost $ 40, while Apex will launch as a F2P game. Additionally, EA announced a dodgeball-multiplayer game called Knockout City (also coming to Xbox, PlayStation, and PC) with a strange trailer that almost looked like a Blizzard all-stars game full of a varied, fantastical roster, only to actually mostly consist of bubbly teenaged dodgeball players. This was followed by a vaguely teased F2P Star Wars multiplayer game set between Episodes VI and VII of the film series, dubbed Star Wars Hunters, which is slated to launch “this year” on various platforms.
As for other previously announced fare: we finally got a closer look at No More Heroes III, with a trailer full of confusing mini-games and low frame rates, along with its new release date of August 27. However, neither Bayonetta III nor Metroid Prime 4 made an appearance, despite both recently being confirmed by Nintendo as still in development. The rest of the announcement-filled, 50-minute Nintendo Direct is embedded below.
Listing image by Nintendo