It may have been the Year of Luigi, but it was hardly the Year of Nintendo in 2013. While the Nintendo 3DS was strong as ever (maybe the strongest it has ever been), the Wii U continued to have a rough go, facing a majorly uphill battle. Not shockingly, Nintendo effectively used Nintendo Direct presentations to announce the new 3-D direction of Pokemon X and Y, dated many major Wii U and 3DS titles through the presentation, the reveal of The Wind Waker HD and announcement Yarn Yoshi, plans to bring popular Japanese titles to America in 2014 and audaciously claimed 2013 to be the Year of Luigi.
The company found the Nintendo Direct presentations to be such an effective tool in 2013 that Nintendo forewent a public press conference at E3 and giving a smaller, private presentation in the famous West Hall. Despite the often dismissive attitude toward the Nintendo Direct videos, the truth is that they have been highly effective at allowing the company to date and announce titles throughout the year. Plus, the brilliant and sometimes surreal images that come out of the videos of Mr. Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime make the 30-minute videos worth watching.
It has been both a good and ho-hum year for Nintendo. The 3DS continued to have amazing support both from Nintendo and third-parties, resulting in numerous quality titles (many were some of the best of 2013). 2013 started off with a bang for the 3DS with the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening in February. To celebrate the release, Nintendo released a special Fire Emblem-branded 3DS with the game pre-installed. It was a nice sign of things to come as Nintendo supported the hell out of the 3DS with stellar first-party titles.
In March, Nintendo finally released Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon to the delight of many 3DS users and critics. March also saw the first Wii U/3DS game pairing in Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, which was the first foray into Wii U and 3DS connectivity. Sadly, the way to transfer data between the Wii U and 3DS was initially convoluted and made the allure of paying for both copies of the game particularly unattractive. However, it was an issue on Capcom’s part. If anything, Nintendo’s partnership with Capcom to fix the issues should prove invaluable when offering any sort of Wii U/3DS cross-system connectivity in the future (*cough* Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS #cough).
Nintendo doubled down on the Lego City Undercover franchise in April by releasing Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins for the 3DS. May saw an enhanced port of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, which brought new features to the Wii favorite. Outside of major Nintendo offerings, the early months of 2013 saw plenty of other interesting titles like Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of Titan, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers. Needless to say, there were some games to play for the 3DS in the first half of the year.
Summer was good for the 3DS. Despite not featuring a heavy saturation of games, the major titles released were highly impressive. It started with the long-awaited release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and a special Animal Crossing 3DS bundle to coincide with the release. While industry big wigs were busy preparing for E3, 3DS users were hankering down for a long summer gathering bells and stewarding a burgeoning town. June also saw Capcom bringing over the intriguing strategy-RPG Project X Zone, throwing together many famous characters from Capcom, Sega and Namco Bandai series in one adventure.
In July, Atlus finally released Shin Megami Tensei IV, marking the return of the main SMT series last seen on the PlayStation 2. The Shin Megami Tensei series is full of numerous spin-offs and side games (Persona being the most notable of them), but there is something about the crazy ideas found in the main series that makes it so compelling. Shin Megami Tensei IV was no different. August saw Nintendo releasing the second 3DS game for the Year of Luigi titles with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. The return of the Mario & Luigi series was welcomed by many 3DS users. Much later in December, Nintendo released a special Mario & Luigi 3DS XL bundle with the game pre-installed (they still exist in the wild).
On October 12, 3DS users once again prepared to catch ‘em all when Nintendo released Pokemon X and Y worldwide simultaneously. X and Y marked the first time a Pokemon game featured full 3D graphics. Not only did the new games tout improved graphics, but they also brought a wealth of new features that make catching tons of Pokemon easier and more user friendly.
October also saw Nintendo release a cheaper, more child-friendly model handheld with the 2DS. Featuring a tablet design with the 3D option removed and a cheaper price point, Nintendo released the handheld to appeal to children six and younger. Despite the intended audience, the Internet went crazy over the announcement of the 2DS with an energy that rivaled Arab Spring. In December, Nintendo released 2DS bundles with Pokemon X and Y pre-installed.
October was busy with Sonic Lost World debuting on both Wii U and 3DS and an eShop-only release of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies. However, the biggest title of the year for the 3DS was The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds in November. The game was a direct sequel to the iconic A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo. A Link Between Worlds released to much fanfare from both gamers and critics alike. Any worries of Nintendo ruining the legacy of A Link to the Past were put to rest once people go their hands on the game. As with all major releases, Nintendo released a special A Link Between Worlds 3DS XL to celebrate the release. Oh, and they released another Mario Party for the 3DS in November too.
Sad to say, the Wii U’s story for 2013 is not nearly as exciting as the 3DS. After solid sales of the Wii U in November last year, excitement for the system began to cool off almost immediately. The issue was primarily a lack of worthwhile software. After the Nov. 18 launch of the system, the system faced a long dry spell. Ubisoft delaying Rayman Legends from February to September and dropping its Wii U exclusivity certainly hurt. It was not until March, when Lego City Undercover and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate released, that the Wii U had anything worth playing. However, any momentum gained by those two releases was dashed as numerous games expected for the early launch window of the Wii U were delayed.
In June, Nintendo released Game & Wario to a middling reaction. Also, the “re-balancing” of Wii U stock was confusing and cause for worry when Nintendo pulled the Basic White model from U.S. shelves. While the early part of the year for the Wii U was full of missed opportunities, Nintendo recovered with the release of Pikmin 3. The game was excellent and a reason for Wii U owners to dust off their GamePad.
September saw the release of Platinum Games’ The Wonderful 101 and the spectacular Rayman Legends from Ubisoft. October saw the release of the fantastic and beautiful The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. The news of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze’s delay to next year hurt, but it hardly mattered once Super Mario 3D World released. In what was a wonderfully smart move, Nintendo released both A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World in the heart of the PS4 and Xbox One launches. The quality of those two titles overshadowed the typical launch quality of the next-gen launch titles, giving people something great to say about Nintendo. Nintendo made up plenty of ground near the end of the year with a smart Wii U price cut from $349.99 to $299.99 and good bundles in the Wind Waker HD bundle and New Super Mario Bros. U bundle. More than anything, the last half of the year showed there were some worthwhile games to play on the Wii U.
2013 was both good and bad for Nintendo. The 3DS saw an incredible slew of releases and strong bundle support, making it an excellent time to buy or own a 3DS. On the other hand, the Wii U struggled to find some sort of footing for most of the year but managed to recover a bit with a strong finish. 2014 is looking extremely bright for the 3DS with several exciting titles already announced for the early part of the year. The Wii U has some strong and exciting titles coming out somewhere down the line with Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. It will be interesting to see what Nintendo announces and dates in their next Nintendo Direct for both systems in 2014. If anything, you should own a 3DS.