Nintendo at E3: the past is the future

A brace of retrogaming-adjacent announcements for Switch

That was E3 2019. Good grief, what a lot of games! Tom Clancy this, Tom Clancy that. There was so much Tom Clancy, they should have named the show – wait for it – Tom Clance-E3. Ha! But yeah, total Clance-fest. With the exception of the excellent, jam-packed Nintendo Direct that aired on Tuesday, during which game after game was shown but not a trace of Clancy. What a Clance-tastrophe!

There was a distinct whiff of delicious retrogaming soup permeating the E3 Nintendo Direct, indeed, with a large focus on re-releases or new titles inspired by or continuing the lineage of classics. I thought I’d pull together a little look at them, laced with some of my own opinions – which, I hasten to add, are absolutely representative of the entire Retronauts staff. Let’s get summarisin’!

The Hero and Banjo-Kazooie in Smash

Hooray! Yet another Sword Anime has been added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate! Yes, The Hero from the Dragon Quest series is coming as part of the Fighters Pass! It’s a pretty obvious thing to say but this strikes me as something that’s a huge deal if you’re a fan of the long-running JRPG institution, but… er… I’m not. So I don’t want to say much in fear of coming across as a contemptible ignoramus. Dragon Quest guy! He comin’!

BRRREEEE! Also coming to Nintendo’s beloved pugilism simulator are Rareware’s honey bear and breegull, together once more as Banjo-Kazooie, stacked atop one another in the Great British tradition of gaming heroes who are stacked on top of one another! As seen in Head Over Heels and, erm, Banjo-Kazooie. But I uncharacteristically digress! This autumn (NOT “fall”), you can “be” Banjo-Kazooie. The boys are coming home! And one of them’s a girl!

No More Heroes 3

Following the bizarre cross-promotion fest that was No More Heroes: Travis Strikes Again, Marvelous dropped evidence of a true sequel to the Wii cult classic series last seen in the distant past of 2010. You’ll be able to once again take control of the cringeworthy embarrassment that is Travis Touchdown, and presumably recharge your beam sword by making wanking motions. Ho ho!

I jest, but there is a thick vein of immaturity running through this series that I find really difficult to appreciate. Of course, it’s kind of the point that Travis is a disgusting waste of space, but it seems like you’re supposed to think he’s cool. He’s not. If the series to date had decent gameplay I’d be more inclined to forgive them, but it’s been repetitive to a fault. Still, there is admittedly something compulsive about No More Heroes and we should support games that dare to be stupid. So, tentatively, hooray!

Panzer Dragoon

Is it a tank? Is it a goon? No, it’s some unholy combination of both that ends up being a dragon. And Panzer Dragoon, of course, is a Sega Saturn “classic”, which translated from Sega Saturn fan means that it was a game that existed on the Saturn. Again I rib you because I love you. But no, Panzer Dragoon is not a game I was ever able to take much pleasure in. It’s a rail shooter where you move a cursor around. Somebody pinch me.

Few details are known of this remake, but a close conversion of the original but with an updated framerate and cleaner graphics would be interesting and definitely appealing to fans. If we all go out and buy Panzer Dragoon, maybe they’ll finally re-release Panzer Dragoon Saga! Now that would be interesting, if only to find out just how poor it actually is without its rarity and expense to shield it from unbiased criticism. PLEASE DON’T HATE ME, SATURN FANS, I’M SURE THAT IT IS VERY GOOD.

Contra Rogue Corps

Now you’re talking!! This new Contra came out of nowhere, if you ignore the existence of a fairly nebulous “Contra” trademark filed a while back. To be fair, knowing Konami, that could have easily been a slot machine, or a colouring book. But it’s not! It’s a sort of 3D, isometric, kinda top-down game that looks akin to the PS2’s underrated Neo Contra. They’ve gone for a rather self-consciously wacky tone (Pandas! Uppity British aliens!) that rang some alarm bells for me, but it turns out that Contra Rogue Corps is being directed by Nobuya Nakazato, the chap behind Contra III and Contra Hard Corps – so it’s probably going to be really rather excellent.

The trailer showcased constant explosions, swarms of enemies and giant, screen-filling bosses. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, Contra.

Trials of Mana/Collection of Mana

This is mana from heaven (chortle!) for JRPG fans; ZSnes classic Seiken Densetsu 3 has finally been officially localised as Trials of Mana and released as part of Collection of Mana, which dropped during the Nintendo Direct. The collection is pricey but frankly worth it just for Trials, which has always been a superb, immersive but deeply accessible game. Sure, Secret of Mana and Final Fantasy Adventure are included too, but Trials of Mana is the main event without question.

Indeed, such is its cachet, Square Enix also announced a full 3D remake of the game (also called Trials of Mana), which is looking rather fine indeed, with beautiful colours and characterful 3D models of all your favourite Manas. Personally though, I wouldn’t wait – Collection of Mana, even at full price, is 100% worth your money and 1000% worth your time.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The upcoming full remake of The Best Zelda Ever™ revealed an exciting new feature in its E3 bow; a Zelda Maker of sorts, letting you piece together your own dungeons with bespoke pieces. Yes! Now you too can bring your Zelda-designing dreams to life, as long as they consist of some arrangement of the provided rooms. I’m being a little cynical here, but it isn’t a function I can see being enormously enjoyable for long. I’m hoping it’s something of a dry run for a fully-fledged Zelda design tool somewhere down the line.

As for the remake itself, I remain unmoved. Do not get me wrong – I am certain that it will be a fantastic, exemplary game and a shining example of Nintendo’s ridiculously high standards. But so overt is my fondness for the original Link’s Awakening, that I cannot particularly abide this remake. The original is a screen-by-perfectly-composed-screen masterpiece. It is so precisely and carefully designed that I am unable to suppress my feeling that no matter what form this Switch version takes, it will be inherently inferior. It’s like with Final Fantasy VII Remake – why wouldn’t I just play the original?

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