Nintendo Has a Plan This Holiday Season
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In the newest Nintendo Direct, starring Nintendo of America's Bill Trinen and Reggie Fils-Aime, there were no beads of sweat noticeable on their brows and no jittery hands after late nights of hatching up a plan to combat the PS4 and Xbox One. It was a whimsical start with an elevator scene between the two characters, with excitement on their faces, ready to unleash some juicy information to the faithful fans. That is Nintendo's outlook, and it is how it should be. Despite the three giant console makers always being pitted against each other by gamers and media alike, Nintendo consistently remains aloof, forging its own path. It realizes that the Wii U has little chance at making a market dent this holiday season. So instead, the Nintendo Direct focused on their handheld juggernaut, the 3DS.

And what better way to begin than by teasing us with more Zelda goodness, making our already desperate hands reach for it when it's so close to launch. On November 22, we will be able to grasp a copy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. But that didn't stop Reggie from doling out some juicy new features, along with a new trailer. From this short clip, we finally get more of a glimpse of Link doing a little outdoor exploration, showcasing some of the items he's acquired (or rented from Ravio). Various rods that control elements such as fire, water, and air were given a hefty showing. Bill Trinen expanded on a few more details, such as the bell given to Link from the good witch Irene, which enables him to hitch a ride on her broom and fast travel to various locations. StreetPass was the word of the day at Nintendo, and its use in Zelda was revealed. After meeting an elderly man named Gramps, you'll be able to create a Shadow version of Link, and outfit him with two items. You'll receive a rupee bounty based on your items and amount of hearts. After swapping Shadow Links via StreetPass, and locating your shaded doppelganger in the game, you can duke it out. There's nothing to lose, and rupees to gain.

Reggie also flashed the shiny new Zelda 3DS XL, with a gold top and black bottom to depict Hyrule and its Dark World counterpart, Lowrule. A satin Triforce is also emblazoned on each side, and the system comes preloaded with a digital copy of the new game.

Lest we forget about Nintendo's other mascot, Mario was next on display, with Mario Party: Island Tour, also launching on November 22 for the 3DS. Besides enlightening us on a few game modes, such as the Mortal Kombat-inspired Mini-game Tower stacked with thirty floors and boss battles, multiplayer was the key ingredient in this sneak peek. While there's no online multiplayer, the Download Play feature allows up to four people to play with just a single game cartridge. And it's not just a smattering of mini-games on one or two game boards. The entire roster of games and boards are available for full-on action. StreetPass has a hand in Mario Party: Island Tour as well, allowing you to upload the game data from people you pass, so you can see their scores and try to best them.

Though not a first-party promotion, the next title expounded upon is equally as enticing (if not more). Bravely Default, a beautiful and full-fledged RPG from Square Enix, was given plenty of highlights. It's got the insane class customization you'd expect from Square Enix, with plenty of ways to tackle each turn-based battle. One unique combat feature is pulled directly from the game's title. By choosing Default in combat, your entire team will defend-- this builds Brave points. These points can then be used to unleash devastating attacks. Other special maneuvers use Sleep points, which are gained through keeping the system in sleep mode. I can tell you right now that my 3DS will have a nice imprint in my jeans when Bravely Default launches early next February. StreetPass features include the ability to summon other players as NPCs during combat, and recruiting them to help rebuild your hometown.

One more game was given special mention, and that was Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. This will be the final chapter in his current trilogy, where the Professor and his motley crew must solve the mystery of a hidden mummy. There will be lots of travelling and lots of mind teasers to tackle. It will be the perfect primer for Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, which has already been out in Japan for a year now, and received excellent reviews. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy will be released on February 28, 2014.

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Mr. Trinen shifted gears from upcoming games to upcoming system updates, which brings with it a ton of welcome news.

First, the Nintendo Zone update from October was punched out as a refresher for those who may have missed the announcement. When you visit a Nintendo Zone, the Mii Plaza StreetPass data from the last six people will be shared to your 3DS. Plus, new SpotPass uploads will also be available at Nintendo Zone locations, such as exclusive Animal Crossing: New Leaf items, a mystery box for Super Mario 3D Land, Mii characters, and other game content. There was also a reminder to keep your 3DS close when out shopping on Black Friday, though what surprise Nintendo might have in store was left a secret.

Coming in December will be a major system update for the handheld. The biggest news is that your Nintendo Network ID will be available to register on your 3DS. Having the same ID registered on both the 3DS and Wii U will allow you to pool any eShop balances together, removing the restriction of separate funds for each system. But remember, the Nintendo Network IDs MUST be identical. One pre-Christmas present you'll receive with this system update is the addition of the Miiverse to the Nintendo 3DS, though little information was given regarding the service aside from the announcement.

Later this month, YouTube will be available to download on the 3DS. One special benefit is that you'll be able to watch videos on the top screen while searching for content on the bottom screen. My PS Vita has been the ideal portable device for my YouTube fix while roaming around the house, so we'll see if the 3DS version can top it. The YouTube application for the Wii U will also be receiving an update, allowing you to view content on the GamePad, or searching for videos on the controller while watching something on the television.

Wii U and Animal Crossing: New Leaf owners are getting an upgrade to the Animal Crossing Plaza app for the Wii U. New features included in the update (now available) are the ability to post and edit Animal Crossing-themed stamps to the Miiverse. Also, a monthly poll allows you to answer and rank an Animal Crossing-themed question. Future Animal Crossing Plaza updates will let you register your town's residents, allowing them to visit the Plaza, and the ability to transfer, save, and delete multiple pictures in your album.

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Pikmin 3 enthusiasts should prepare themselves for the next wave of downloadable content. Round 3, as it's called, contains eight new missions: four for Collect Treasure and four for Battle Enemies. Unlike past DLC, the stages in Round 3 are brand new, and include some interesting venues like the inside of a house decorated for the holidays, a construction site, and a factory. Captain Olimar will be yours to control in a select stage, with a twist that you must find the hiding Louis in order to recruit him to help nail the high scores. At launch, two of the eight stages will be available to download for free.

The ball was then thrown back to Reggie, who delivered a trailer showcasing eighteen indie titles coming soon to the eShop. Some exciting and interesting offerings such as Q.U.B.E. Director's Cut, Armillo, Tengami, Pier Solar HD, Teslagrad, Wooden Sen'Sey, and Unepic are definitely worth investigating for any indie lovers out there, especially with Reggie enticing us with special offers in the Nintendo eShop on these and first-party titles.

Mario closed out the show in fine fashion, teasing us with ten new things we didn't know in the soon-to-be released Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U. Quirky new stages such as the Golden Express with a train loaded with coins, Mario vs. Donkey Kong-inspired levels starring Toad, multiplayer foot races à la Mario Kart, and even hundred-second speed challenges are all new ways to experience Mario's new 3D platformer. Touch screen and microphone integration, a playable version of the vintage Mario Bros., and the chance to play as Rosalina with a second spin attack special move that also acts as a double jump are just a few more new things to look forward to.

The PS4 and Xbox One may be stealing the spotlight this holiday season, but that doesn't mean Nintendo is going to just sit idly by. With some welcome new system updates for both the Wii U and 3DS, as well as some salivating first-party and indie games nearly here, there's plenty for the Nintendo faithful to keep themselves occupied with until the new year.

Sean Engemann
Sean Engemann
@CardCanuck

Senior Contributing Writer
Date: 11/19/2013

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