Nintendo’s Pokémon Direct Was An Unfortunate Return To ‘Usual’ Form

by Jelani James

It would have been inconceivable about a year ago, but Nintendo has been on a bit of a hot streak recently. With the company riding high from last year’s release of Pokémon Sun and Moon, the Switch and the impressive The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it’s easy to forget that the best thing Nintendo had going for it at this point last year was a mobile game that wasn’t even its own. Then, with E3 just a week away, Nintendo gave an unfortunate reminder to their fans: They’re the same Nintendo that they’ve always been.

This reminder, of course, comes in the form of today’s Pokémon Direct. Announced on Monday, fans assumed the stream would reveal an assortment of new games — a fair assumption considering the last major Pokémon Direct confirmed the existence of Sun and Moon. Unfortunately, fans didn’t quite get what they were hoping for. Rather than the highly-rumored Pokémon Stars becoming a real thing, the latest entries in the series will be Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon — spin-offs of Sun and Moon slated to arrive later this year for the Nintendo 3DS. In addition, the 3DS will get Virtual Console releases of Pokémon Gold and Silver (the wording suggests these will be the original versions for the GBC and not the updated ones for the DS) because the Switch doesn’t have a Virtual Console of its own. So what did the Switch — which everyone assumed would be the star of the direct — get? Pokkén Tournament DX, an updated version of last year’s Tekken-styled fighter.

To give Nintendo credit, the stream wasn’t bad overall, but it certainly wasn’t what fans have come to expect as of late.

Rather, what we got today was a glimpse of what Nintendo was like in the past — a time when the Wii U was the company’s flagship console and the main controller was a nightmare to use in almost every game it was used in. Instead of announcing a brand-new Pokémon game (which is admittedly a stretch at this point) or even giving credence to the term “Ultra” by releasing Ultra Sun and Moon for the Switch, we got an updated fighting title that no one really asked for.

Despite this disappointing announcement, however, it would be unfair to believe that Nintendo is the same company it was a year ago. It’s a fact that the Switch has done incredibly well so far, so much so that the company’s stock value recently reached numbers it hasn’t seen in a decade. It’s also a fact that the Switch still has several highly-anticipated titles that will help maintain it’s current momentum, such as ARMS and Splatoon 2.

With that said, it will be interesting to see where Nintendo goes from here. The immediate future up through Super Mario Odyssey looks clear, but any time beyond that is hazy — there has been no word on the Virtual Console (which would have been a godsend today) and judging from today’s announcement, we’ll be waiting quite some time for a mainline Pokémon title on the Switch.

Can we expect more confusing news like what was shown today or will Nintendo be able to put its past behind it? The answer to that will be revealed at E3 where it has the perfect opportunity to solidify its grand return.

- This article was updated on March 8th, 2018