What mysteries does Nintendo's game catalog hold for the second half of 2008?
Nintendo could have bumped Mario Kart Wii back to the holidays -- which, given the company's proclivity for delays, is exactly what many people thought it would do. But the surefire hit racing game is out worldwide next month.
So where does that leave the rest of 2008, after the May launch of Wii Fit?
GameTrailers tried to pry into president Reggie Fils-Aime's brain to find out, but only got out of him that a "big game for the holiday that gamers will want" is on the agenda.
Well, I'd certainly hope so. But that doesn't mean we don't have visibility on what else we might see here in the States from Nintendo of America through the balance of this year. Look below for everything we know so far.
Barring a huge surprise from the Reg at E3 in July, Animal Crossing is likely to be Nintendo's big game for the holiday. I'm not saying this is the mystery game he's referring to. I'm saying that it's unlikely anything will overshadow it in terms of hype or sales.
Animal Crossing, first name-dropped by Nintendo worldwide president Satoru Iwata years ago at E3, was widely understood to be a flagship title for the WiiConnect 24 service. While it likely wasn't going to end up being a massively multiplayer animal-infested Second Life, the game's virtual-village theme and the DS version's online enhancements mean that the Wii version should be centered around a community of different friends' villages that you can visit.
Earlier this year, Nintendo said that Animal Crossing is on its way to Wii in 2008 -- in Japan. Localization concerns might keep it from a simultaneous U.S. release, but either way, we'll see it at E3 for sure.
Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, and now Wii Music. This is the next in line of Nintendo's smash hit series of adorable expanded audience games, and they'll likely move a million of these in record time, too.
Wii Music was one of the first games Nintendo ever showed off on Wii, and was even playable at E3 2006 in the form of the orchestra-conducting game that Miyamoto famously used to open the show.
Since then, they've shown off some additional modes, like the multiplayer jam-band game pictured at right, but have still pretty much kept the lid on tight. With a 2008 date also announced for Japan, this is a likely Christmas release in the States for the family crowd.
Here's another game with a long, tortured development history. Kirby began life as a latter-day GameCube title. Nintendo even passed out screenshots of the game (right) at E3 2005, alongside Geist and Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball.
Although Nintendo never did officially cancel the GameCube game, the fact that it disappeared from view and an identically-titled game ended up on Nintendo's release list for Wii would seem to indicate that the project went the way of Super Paper Mario.
But it would be foolish to assume that Kirby is merely a GameCube platformer with Wiimote waggling hacked in. The screenshots didn't exactly indicate that the game was very far along to begin with. And so much time has passed that it's quite likely that Wii Kirby bears little resemblance to the game it began life as. For all we know, it's a sequel to Kirby Air Ride. Either way, I'm not sure if this will make it to the U.S. this year, even if it's on Japan's calendar. It seems like more of a spring filler game, to me.
Mariobaseballwii Super Mario Stadium Family Baseball
Wii Sports and its ilk have kept the Mario sports games from making their return on Wii thus far, but this Namco-developed title heralds the return of the genre.
Mario's baseball outing didn't make much of a splash at the tail end of the GameCube's lifecycle, but this Wii update should revitalize things with Wiimote bat-swinging. I'd expect to see this one this year in the U.S. -- it's on for Japan, and it's right in line with what the Wii audience is craving here in the States.
DisasterDisaster: Day of Crisis
Announced right at the same time as Wii Music and delayed for just as long, Disaster: Day of Crisis is the black sheep of Nintendo's first-party Wii lineup. As a realistic action title, it's not exactly what you'd expect from Nintendo these days. But with developer Monolith Soft now wholly owned by Nintendo, this is as first-party as they come.
Nintendo keeps showing new screens of the game and recently reconfirmed it for a 2008 release in Japan, so we know it's still chugging along in development. Only question now is why it's taking so long? Perhaps because Nintendo knows that it occupies such a unique place in their lineup, they're making sure it's really worthwhile before putting it out the door. Certainly there's no lack of software in the meantime.
Nmp_bigReggie's Secret Game
Is Disaster: Day of Crisis the "big game" that Fils-Aime was hyping up to GameTrailers? It certainly fits the bill as a hardcore gamer's-game experience.
But let's assume for a moment that he's not pulling a fast one on us and is actually teasing an unannounced title. It could be a brand-new franchise, in which case our speculation must necessarily end here. As evidenced by the rabid reaction to Fils-Aime's statements, though, gamers are hoping for a franchise revival. Kid Icarus? Punch-Out?
Let's not get ourselves too worked up over it, everyone. Besides, everybody knows it's got to be the rumored Zelda spinoff by Retro!!!!1!
At any rate: Nintendo's second-half 2008 lineup, for better or worse, isn't nearly as mysterious as people seem to think it is. There are plenty of announced games, and the most likely scenario is that E3 will simply be the first time we get hands-on with them. I'm sure we'll see some new first-party Wii games announced at E3, but if you're expecting some sort of crazy avalanche of unannounced games, I'd manage those expectations a little better.
Now, when the hell do we find out what's coming out for Nintendo DS?