The Art of the Reveal
Author: John B
Like many of you, by February this year I was jonesing hard for a new Nintendo Direct. It had been five months since the last full Direct; there had mostly been radio silence since September 2019. Sure, we had gotten a couple of minis focused on Pokémon and Animal Crossing, but they hardly scratched that Direct itch. We already knew those games were coming, so there was really no chance of the thrill that accompanies the last-second surprise announcement that have earned Directs their revered place in Nintendo fandom. The Nintendo-loving world didn’t get their Direct fix until nearly the end of March. It was a Nintendo Direct Mini, which many of you may recall, and while it felt good just to have a Direct hit the net, there wasn’t really that killer reveal that we’ve come to expect.
As a Nintendo fan – heck, as a general video game fan – I look forward to Nintendo Directs in a way that is hard to explain for what is essentially the most elaborate commercial in the gaming world. Well, I guess it’s not that hard to explain; the games are cool and I devoted my entire childhood to watching 30-mintue toy commercials called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men so I’m definitely susceptible to well-branded advertising. Anyway, when news started surfacing that we probably aren’t getting one through at least the end of the summer I got nervous. What am I going to do the week of E3? Where will I get my masterfully orchestrated Switch announcements?
I understand the impact that stay-at-home orders are having on every industry in the world – heck, I’ve been furloughed for the past two months myself. Things are different, I get it. But it’s in times like these that people get desperate for a sense of normalcy; we crave something to make it feel like the world is still the world, and that we can go back to living in it the way we used to. We need something to distract us from trouble; something to look forward to besides more uncertainty and anxiety. Early in the quarantine, like many other gamers I had my anticipation for Final Fantasy VII Remake to keep me sane. It was the brighter tomorrow I could look forward to. Then it came. And then it went. And we were back to anxiety and uncertainty.
Many were pointing to the summer as their next ray of hope; Nintendo’s E3 presentation would surely be that lift we were all waiting for. Then we got the rumors that no Direct was coming. What do we do now?, many wondered. What will keep us distracted from reality, if only for a minute, if not speculating about the contents of the next Direct? Wholesome Games put together a valiant effort with their awesome Wholesome Direct, but new indie games – no matter how cool they look - by their very nature can’t engender the same level of devotion or enthusiasm a long-running series can – at least not before they’re even released. Enter last week’s surprise announcement of Paper Mario: The Origami King.
It was a short video, sure; barely longer than two minutes. But there it was all the same; that little, electric thrill that accompanies a thirty-second teaser at the end of a Direct. The promise of something familiar, something comforting, but nonetheless new. It’s something to look forward to. Sure, it wasn’t an event like a Direct is. We didn’t, as a fan community, get to spend a few days or weeks speculating, wondering, dreaming about what could be coming. So things are different; we didn’t get the full Direct experience, and who knows when we’ll get it again? But we got one part of it; for me, probably the most important part.
I want a new Direct; that’s almost literally never not true. Even within seconds of watching a new Direct, I’m hungry for more. Especially now, when I’m home all day crossing my fingers that I’ll be able to get through to claim unemployment for another week, I want something to happen that makes me feel excited and happy rather than anxious and uneasy. It appears I’m not going to get one; but the announcement of Paper Mario shows me that Nintendo still knows how to give their fans the thrill that accompanies a surprise reveal. We can’t have the sundae, but they still snuck us the cherry on top. I’m grateful for that, and I’m looking forward to picking up The Origami King when it releases – or maybe a little later, like when my employment situation is more stable. And while it may not be in a Direct, I’m looking forward to the next way Nintendo finds to give its fans the simple pleasure of the unexpected.
Like if they announce that Metroid Prime Trilogy’s rumored June release is actually happening. Sometimes things that you expect can be unexpected, too.