Things are looking a little uncertain for fans of Nintendo’s console games and hardware. That’s been the case for a few years now with the rocky run of the Wii U, but Wednesday’s announcements hit pretty hard: Nintendo’s next console, codenamed the NX, will be released in March 2017, and The Legend of Zelda for Wii U will be delayed to launch then on both systems. And that leaves potentially little new for Wii U owners to play later this year.
That’s disappointing. But some good news did come out of Nintendo’s info dump yesterday, at least if you like mobile games. We now know what to expect from the company’s next iPhone (and Android) releases, and unlike last month’s Miitomo, they will be actual games. In fact, Nintendo said just that: “Both of these are pure game applications,” they wrote.
Nintendo’s next two mobile games will be based on the Fire Emblem and Animal Crossing franchises, respectively, both of which have spanned many years and entries on its own hardware—and both will be out this fall. We don’t have a lot more details than that right now, but given each series’ legacy, we have a sense of how they could translate to the iPhone. So here’s what we expect.
Igniting the Fire
The Fire Emblem series stretches all the way back to 1990 and spans numerous entries—many of them handheld—although we didn’t see any in the States until 2003. Fire Emblem is a tactical role-playing game series wherein you’ll control units on a grid-based battlefield, not unlike iPhone favorites The Banner Saga and Final Fantasy Tactics. Of course, both of those games started on other platforms before being translated to touch.
What’s especially distinctive about Fire Emblem is just how hardcore of a series it is: They’re long, sprawling adventures, and if a character dies in battle under classic settings, he or she remains dead for the rest of the game. Also, the most recent Fire Emblem Fates released for Nintendo 3DS earlier this year spans multiple games, letting you view the struggle from the perspective of multiple factions.
In other words, it’s huge and engrossing, which usually isn’t what we expect from mobile games. So it’s no surprise to hear that Nintendo plans to streamline the experience for iPhone and make the game seem a lot less intimidating to newcomers. “While making it more accessible in comparison to the Fire Emblem games for Nintendo’s dedicated gaming systems, Nintendo aims to offer the great value of a role-playing strategy game,” reads the awkward press release statement.
That could be a difficult goal to achieve, striving to keep the scale and competitive balance of the source material while presumably embracing a free-to-play model and letting players pop in for quick sessions. Still, it’s doable: look at a recent freemium smash like Clash Royale. It’s a game that requires deep strategic planning, both on and off the battlefield, yet the matches only last for three or four minutes at a time. And it’s amazing.
Hopefully Nintendo can pull it off, as many Fire Emblem fans are no doubt worried about their under-the-radar, role-playing favorite becoming diluted by freemium tactics and in-app spending prompts.
Animal Crossing, on the other hand, is a much more obvious fit for a mobile release: It’s a game about cute avatars and creatures mingling in a cartoonish village, and it has social connections with online players. In some ways, it’s the game that we hoped Miitomo would more strongly replicate, as the ability to leave your little house and control your Mii avatar would’ve given Nintendo’s first iPhone app much more depth.
Although Nintendo says that it’s a “pure game application” like Fire Emblem, it will also connect to unspecified versions of Animal Crossing available for Nintendo’s own systems. “Nintendo will design the latter game so that it will be connected with the world of Animal Crossing for dedicated gaming systems,” says the press release. “By playing both Animal Crossing games, users will find increased enjoyment.”
The last core Animal Crossing game, New Leaf, released for Nintendo 3DS in 2013, although spinoffs Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer for 3DS and Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival for Wii U both released late last year. It’s likely that the newer games would offer that cross-compatibility via updates, unless Nintendo has even newer games in the pipeline.
What about the players who don’t have a Nintendo platform and don’t plan to play Animal Crossing on them? We imagine that’s the bulk of people who would download the iPhone game, so we hope Nintendo really does plan to make it a full-fledged, standalone experience.
The social interactions are ripe for a smartphone game, and Animal Crossing is so adorable and appealing that we could see ourselves logging in throughout the day to chat with friends and enhance our homes and villages. That’s if it’s done right on iPhone, of course, and we certainly hope that’s the case for both Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see both tie into Miitomo, using Nintendo’s social app as a hub for building connections in the games.
Neither Fire Emblem or Animal Crossing has quite the mainstream profile of Super Mario or The Legend of Zelda, but both are extremely well-regarded franchises that have produced some of the best games on the Nintendo DS and 3DS. Hopefully that makes them both an ideal fit for the iPhone, as well.
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