A simple scroll through the menu on our Switch is enough to show that 2019 has been a great year for Nintendo and its console. The handheld hybrid has gone from strength to strength, gaining a non-hybrid member of the Switch family along the way, as well as more games than anybody could reasonably have time to play.
2019 had plenty of surprises, too, from a host of games you’d never expect to see on Switch for one reason or another to typically off-the-wall announcements from everyone’s favourite Japanese video game company. A Switch that doesn’t switch? VR with your console and a bunch of cardboard? A Pilates ring and a body-building dragon? Anyone?!
Let’s have a look back on an eventful 12 months in the world of Nintendo…
January – We Begin With An Apology…
Our reviews and New Year resolutions were in stunning synchronisation when we kicked things off with our first review of 2019: Fitness Boxing. Nintendo’s other big release that month was a Switch port of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe. January also saw the announcement of and apology for Metroid Prime 4‘s delay, which was probably for the best all things considered.
In other Nintendo news, the company participated ‘as an observer’ in a VR consortium event, which hinted at the quirky Labo release we’d see later in the year. 3DS sales and software slowed to a crawl, and a game-breaking bug in Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story probably wasn’t the best way to send off the venerable, ageing handheld. And speaking of things dying, the Wii Shop Channel was closed (giving everyone the excuse to whistle its infectious theme music for a day or two) and the price of brand new Wii Us skyrocketed.
The rumour mill kicked into gear early with whispers that Xbox-exclusive Super Lucky’s Tale might be coming to Switch. It sounded far-fetched at the time, but little did we know it was merely foreshadowing some rather unusual industry cross-pollination later in the year. With Microsoft tweeting about how much it dug Super Smash Bros., it all seems so obvious looking back.
Smash was still a relatively recent Switch release and fans were having fun making meme-friendly tier lists and rendering fighters in a realistic fashion. Cross-platform play was on the tip of everyone’s tongues, Splatoon 2‘s Splatfest events were in their prime making us choose between friends, family and other fun binary subjects, and people were still finding hidden Easter Eggs in old Nintendo classics. A few other heart-warming January tales rounded out the month and we were well on our way with 2019.
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February – Unleash the Directs
As January went on, rumours of an imminent Nintendo Direct announcement simmered, but it wasn’t until 13th February that Nintendo went and dropped an absolute whopper which confirmed multiple brand new Switch releases. Alongside a long list of announcements, Tetris 99 launched that very day and Super Mario Maker 2 was revealed, as was the brilliant Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening remake. Not only this, but before the month was over Pokémon Sword and Shield was also unveiled in a separate Direct presentation.
Elsewhere Nintendo announced its next mobile experiment in the form of Dr. Mario World, as well as plans to open a Nintendo Tokyo Store. With Super Nintendo World on schedule to open for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (and Miyamoto promising it would be worth the wait), Japanese gamers would soon have no shortage of ways to hand over wads of cash to Nintendo. Nintendo Switch Online had over 8 million accounts subscribed, although Nintendo was looking for ways to boost the appeal of the service, and the number of games available for Switch reached and impressive 1800 – not half bad in less than two years.
In a move that would echo a similar apology with Ring Fit Adventure later in the year, developer Imagineer apologised after stores in Japan ran out of physical copies of Fitness Boxing. The rumour mill started smoking with ‘Switch Mini’ conversations popping up all over the place, despite Nintendo playing coy. It was also rumoured that Microsoft was planning to release games on Switch, a move which made more sense the more we thought about it.
It was a big month for Nintendo, but arguably the biggest industry news was the announcement that Reggie Fils-Aimé’s body was ready to leave Nintendo of America and that Doug Bowser would be taking over as President from 15th April 2019.
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March – Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria
At the start of March – refusing to let the 3DS go quietly into that good night – Nintendo released the excellent Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn and left Switch-owning fans of the game wearing a frown. The month was bookended with a similarly joyful Switch release, though, in the form of Yoshi’s Crafted World. A host of games were announced, including a bunch in a Nindies Direct broadcast that – unbelievably – revealed Cuphead for Switch as well as Zelda/Crypt of the NecroDancer crossover Cadence of Hyrule. Famed N64-era dinosaur hunter Turok returned to Switch, too.
In other Nintendo news, the company revealed some interesting figures on its recruitment page regarding average salary and other juicy work stats, Masahiro Sakurai spoke about the lengths he went to to bring Smash Bros. Ultimate to the masses, developers told us what they really thought about the Switch eShop, and some lucky beggar found an ultra rare Nintendo World Championships 1990 NES cart in their loft.
Elsewhere, Google revealed its console-less Stadia platform, Sony decided to do its own Nintendo Directs, we glimpsed some lovely mock-ups of Switches and Joy-Con sporting the liveries of past Nintendo consoles, and another mock-up of a modern take on the Game Boy predicted the look of the Analogue Pocket over six months before its reveal. Freaky!
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April – Sonic, ports and virtual insanity
As is customary, April began with pranks and gags but the game releases soon started rolling in with Labo VR Kit (which released as the old kits won a couple of BAFTA awards) and updates to both Zelda: Breath of the Wild (which made us feel quite unwell) and Super Mario Odyssey. A slew of ports – several of them incredibly good – arrived on Switch, too, including Mortal Kombat 11, Cuphead and Hellblade.
In other Switch news, the console got a silent ‘boost’ power mode that improved loading speeds in certain games, Nintendo axed its Quality of Life department and removed 7th-gen consoles from its information pages, the company was ranked as the 9th most reputable in the US according to a report, and those ‘Switch Mini’ rumours just wouldn’t stop.
Overshadowing all that mere noise, though, was the fact that it was Game Over for Reggie Fils-Aimé at Nintendo of America as he retired and Doug Bowser took over as NOA president. Reggie quickly joined Twitter and got a new chair.
Elsewhere, Animal Crossing turned 18, Charles Martinet cleared up a decades-long Mario 64 dispute, we found out more about Kirby’s disturbing feet, and we depressed everybody by detailing exactly how your beloved retro consoles are slowly but surely dying.
And finally, the trailer reveal of the new-look Sonic in his upcoming movie capped the month off nicely with a reaction so universally negative that Paramount decided to redesign the character and delay the movie until Valentine’s Day 2020.
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May – Chugging along nicely
Following the horror of the initial Sonic reveal, the internet took it upon itself to fix things until the director of the film confirmed that they’d be reworking the character design. In other video game movie news, Detective Pikachu was generally much better received than the blue hedgehog.
Back to Nintendo news, a Super Mario Maker 2 Nintendo Direct gave us a better look at what to expect from the sequel, although there was a little confusion around some expected features which Nintendo didn’t include (at least not at launch).
The month of May saw plenty of games released on Switch, too, with Konami’s Castlevania Anniversary Collection, Capcom’s Resident Evil rereleases, Baba Is You and Gato Roboto being particular standouts. Another Pokémon mobile game launched while Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and Fire Emblem Heroes were scheduled for the axe in Belgium due to their lootbox-y, nefarious ways, and Nintendo also began its Game Vouchers programme for Nintendo Switch Online subscribers.
And in more random events, we took a look into the ever-changing world of the Switch menu icon, an inept criminal stole a Nintendo Switch on camera while wearing his work uniform, and a medical app hit the 3DS eShop for the bargain price of $99.99.
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June – The Electronic Entertainment Exposition
E3 month! From the window of the E3 Hype Train we observed Mario Kart 8’s fifth birthday, we delved into the background behind Perfect Dark‘s three different covers in Japan, Europe and North America and took a look at dormant franchises we’d like to see revived on Switch.
Ahead of E3, a Pokémon Direct revealed new details about Pokémon Sword and Shield, including the reveal of the Gen VIII legendaries. Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair was revealed, and Switch Mini rumours continued at a pace fuelled by some lovely mock-ups.
Then, of course, the E3 2019 Nintendo Direct broadcast dropped and all the hot takes flooded in. There were too many announcements to summarise here, but the Animal Crossing: New Horizons delay, Banjo-Kazooie in Smash and the official reveal of a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild were probably the biggest stories.
At the show we got our hands on the Switch remake of Link’s Awakening and Creature In The Well, sat down for a chat with Tetris Lord Alexey Pajitnov and generally enjoyed the post-announcement glow of an excellent E3 for Nintendo. Witcher 3 on Switch? Well I never! Not everyone was happy, though, with many Pokémon fans very disappointed to hear that Pokémon Sword and Shield would not feature the entire national Pokédex. And as support for ARMS quietly ceased, we looked back on that underappreciated little gem in the Switch catalogue.
In terms of new releases, Metroidvania Timespinner impressed us, as did Collection of Mana and the freshly released Zelda crossover title Cadence of Hyrule. Konami’s Contra Anniversary Collection hit all the right nostalgia buttons, Nintendo released the last 2D Mario you’ll likely ever need, and Virtua Racing took us back to our ’90s arcade roots.
And in site news, the lovely Zion officially joined the lovely Alex full-time to double the size of Nintendo Life’s lovely video production team and add a little transatlantic spice to our bumbling bevy of Brits.
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