A Little Zelda, A Lotta Farming: Takeaways from the Nintendo Direct!

Hey everyone! So, this week we were treated to a full-length, 40-minute Nintendo Direct where we saw reveals and updates for SO MANY GAMES. Seriously, if you remember the Directs we got in the Wii U days, it’s amazing to see how things have changed.

In this post, I’m going to briefly run through my main thoughts from the Nintendo Direct, from my standout games to some general points I noticed about the Direct as a whole. If you haven’t seen the Direct yet, or would like to watch any of it again, I’ve added the YouTube link below!

I might even write my thoughts on the Direct in an easy-to-consume list format, but frankly I haven’t decided… Maybe I’ll just ramble in one long text block to express my excitement. Probably not though. Look, it’s a Wednesday, I’m on a tangent, and I need to stop – so let’s get into it!

New Fire Emblem!

The Direct opens strongly with a reveal for a new entry in the Fire Emblem franchise, named Fire Emblem Engage! It’s incredible to chart the rise in popularity of Fire Emblem over the last decade – before the superb Awakening on 3DS, it was a franchise many people (myself included) knew through the Smash Bros. games. Nowadays, you can barely escape Fire Emblem thanks to the spin-off Warriors games and the mobile game Heroes.

I’ll be honest, that hairstyle seems a pain to maintain

However, I still feel that tingly excitement at a brand new mainline entry, and from the reveal, it looks like we’re once again going to get an engaging (ahem) roster of new characters to train up, fight with, and cry over if/when they die on the battlefield. With the usual appearance of dragons and darkness, it looks like the story will be standard Fire Emblem fare.

Well, mostly. The new Ring pairing system allows classic series characters like Marth to appear as an ethereal companion and assist characters in battle. This very much fits the Fire Emblem house style of developing the relationships between units and seeing benefits of that in battle – I just hope this system has depth to it, and isn’t just an excuse to put Marth on the cover art.

Aside from this, the strategy gameplay we saw looked similar to Three Houses, and there’s an open hub section to wander around – again, like Three Houses. Whilst I’m confident I will enjoy Engage either way, I do hope there’s enough differentiation that it feels like a full-fledged new entry in the series and not a retread of Three Houses. We’ll see when it releases on January 20th 2023, which is really not that far away! There’s also another of those stunning special editions that I’m going to struggle to resist spending too much money on…

Oh My God So Many Games

You know those quickfire news segments in Nintendo Directs, and those even-quicker montages of upcoming releases? There’s a lot of those in this Direct, which is obviously a positive thing. It really does emphasise just how well-supplied the Switch is with new releases; this ties into what I said about the Wii U days, when the release schedule was so much more barren in comparison. It’s important to keep in mind and celebrate how healthy the Nintendo landscape is right now. Attempting to keep up is daunting, but it’s a good problem to have.

The (in my opinion) smaller announcements of the Direct somehow still include: It Takes Two (2021 Game of the Year!); a new PROJECT ZERO; Octopath Traveler II; Mario + Rabbids: Spark of Hope news; Resident Evil 2, 3, 7, and 8 on Switch; Atelia Ryza 3; Tales of Symphonia Remastered; and more N64 titles on Switch, including Goldeneye 007 and the first two Pokémon Stadium games! I could keep going, and that’s without the other big reveals I’m going to talk about below. It’s ridiculous how much there is, and it’s kinda brilliant to see.

Nintendo’s First-Parties Are Out in Force

Going by this Direct, Nintendo’s first-party slate is both plentiful and well-supported right now. If we exclude the gold-standard tentpole releases (we’ll get to Zelda later, don’t worry), there’s still so much to look forward to. In terms of new announcements, there’s finally (finally!) a tease for Pikmin 4, and also the reveal of Kirby’s Return to Dream Land Deluxe, which has been ported and updated from Wii U. Pikmin 4 news has been long-rumoured, and it’s nice to see Miyamoto-san finally confirm it – and the brief footage we did get looked gorgeous. I likely won’t get the new Kirby game, but I do love how Kirby is forever filling in the gaps of the release schedule. What a trooper.

Run, Pikmin! Run for your lives!

Furthermore, we got updates for several other Nintendo games, both already-released and upcoming. Xenoblade Chronicles 3, Splatoon 3, Mario Strikers: Battle League Football, and Nintendo Switch Sports are all getting new content updates, which I’m glad to see happening. It’s not strictly first-party, but the Switch-exclusive Bayonetta 3 also got a substantial amount of new footage showing off the characters, story, and gameplay. So, basically, Nintendo is ensuring there’s always something to play. Which fits into the last point on how there are just so many games now…. Oh, it leads into my next point too? Ideal!

You Better Like Farming. No Really, You Better

Early in this Direct, STORY OF SEASONS: A Wonderful Life gets shown. As expected, it has a charming farm-life-sim vibe, with colourful visuals and a relaxed pace. “Wow,” you think, “Nice to see farming games keep getting released.”

A bit later, Fae Farm is unveiled, another farming game but with a more magical and adventurous tone. “Huh,” you think, “Another farming game, but this one is a bit different. Cool to see that sort of mash-up.”

“Now you’re here, you can never leave”

Shortly after (we aren’t halfway into the Direct yet), Rune Factory 3 Special appears, along with the announcement of another brand new Rune Factory game to come. “Oh,” you think, “That’s technically two more farming games. Seems to be a bit of a vibe in this Direct… “

By the time you get to footage of the action-packed – and farming-packed, of course – HARVESTELLA late in the Direct, it becomes quite amusing how many games show off a grid-based system of cultivating crops. After the success of Stardew Valley in particular, farming games have really hit the zeitgeist, and this Direct was an example of just that. Right now, they aren’t quite the genre I am looking for personally, but I do find it a very fun trend to follow the progression of. It isn’t a larger-than-life epic JRPG story anymore unless you can farm, or at least, it seems that way…

ZELDA NEWS! Let’s Talk About Zelda!

OK, it’s Zelda time. After so much waiting, we finally got some news on the next mainline The Legend of Zelda game! Perhaps most importantly, it means we can stop officially calling the game The Sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which as a placeholder title was perhaps the most unwieldy game title Nintendo has ever come up with. Instead, we have the much more intriguing name The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, which is satisfying in how it typographically roughly mirrors Breath of the Wild. Also, “Tears” could be read in two ways… It could indicate rips in the fabric of Hyrule, or perhaps the sorts of tears you’d associate with eyes, crying, that sort of thing.

I am confident it’s likely the latter. Especially as this makes me think of the Sacred Tears you collect in Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword – and the apparatus Link has in the new key art (below) looks a lot like the containers those were put into. That’s another Twilight Princess connection I can force through, too. I tell ya, Midna is coming back somehow. Anyway, speaking of that key art, it’s rather beautiful, and shows Link looking over Hyrule from one of the islands now lifted above it. It appears as though the game will have the Hyrule from Breath of the Wild below, but a layer of new areas now lifted above it, in a sort of adventurous exploded-view-diagram of Hyrule. Going up instead of across is ingenious, and such a different way of thinking. For years open-world games have attempted to one-up each other for the land distance they cover, and Nintendo has essentially said “Nah, actually, let’s go UP.”

Gah. So pretty!

Jumping through the skyline into Hyrule below appears to be the trademark thrilling feeling of this Zelda game, like an inverse of running out into Hyrule at the start of Breath of the Wild, and of course draws parallels to Skyward Sword. The sense of height and scale is jaw-dropping, and leaves me chomping at the bit to have a go for myself – we got a release date of 12th May 2023, so there is potentially less than a year to go! I say potentially, because frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of another delay. If that does happen, then I wouldn’t be particularly upset, as clearly Nintendo is going for something spectacular with Tears of the Kingdom. Give ’em all the time they need, as far as I’m concerned!

From the (very) little new gameplay they showed in this new Direct, Tears of the Kingdom continues to be based around verticality, with Link holding onto raising platforms, climbing the side of a high cliff face, and riding some sort of gliding platform to Hyrule below. We also see some sort of green energy at points around Hyrule that matches the backing of the Tears of the Kingdom logo – I imagine these are one of the main ways to propel ourselves back skywards to the islands above. We really got very little new footage; it feels like they’re hiding a lot on purpose, and I don’t think this is because it’s a mess. Instead, my theory is that there’s some key story point that significantly affects the structure of the game, and they don’t want to reveal it too soon.

Clearly, something seismically unusual is going on, which is literally tearing apart Hyrule (hang on… there is that tearing again). In the new footage, we see some new engravings showing a mysterious entity watching over a battle for Hyrule, as well as two figures who appear to be Zelda. One shows her falling or being suspended in the air; the other shows her hand-in-hand with another character who is conveniently cropped out. I really hope these are hints that we’re getting a playable Zelda, or at the very least that Zelda is going to appear more in the story (and not just in flashbacks or off-screen, please).

See, I may have ultimately split this Nintendo Direct article into 5 points, but then I started talking about Zelda theories, and I’ve inevitably gotten carried away. There’s just something about Zelda theories that makes the words flow, y’know? Nintendo gives us breadcrumbs and we talk about them for literally years. If for some reason you’d like to read more of my ramblings, including what I think is going on with that arm brace Link is wearing, you can read my views on the E3 2021 footage here!

This was quite an impromptu post, as there was loads to talk about from the latest Nintendo Direct. I mean, I’m now realising I clearly needed an outlet for my thoughts on The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, because that section was way longer than I expected… (insert nervous laughter).

Overall, I think the Direct was a solid 8/10 – lots of exciting announcements and a packed release schedule, but on a personal level, there’s only a few I’m actively going to play. I hope you all enjoyed the Direct, and this post! Have an amazing day!

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