In our final First Party Preview, I cast my sights to Nintendo. An intriguing year lays ahead of the company with their promise to gamers that we will hear more about the impending NX (whatever that is), but there’s also the shining beacon that is The Legend of Zelda on the horizon as well. Nintendo 3DS is now getting a little bit long in the tooth at five years old despite the New Nintendo 3DS having a bit more grunt behind it, while the Wii U released in 2012 and never really kicked off. The company has also entered the mobile gaming space with Miitomo (the company’s first mobile game) landing in March. The saddening passing of company President Satoru Iwata also has played a part in their recent direction, and generally quieter media presence as of late. Combine all of these factors together and there’s a massive air of the unknown surrounding the company, but it makes the prospects for 2016 all the more exciting. In this piece I will look at each of Nintendo’s studios, discuss their past, their present and what we know of their future, so let’s kick it off with Part one.
State of Play – Nintendo’s First Party Studios – Part 1
Their Past – A lesser light in the stable of Nintendo first party studios, 1-Up studios (or formerly Brownie Brown) was formed in 2000 and was responsible for fantastic handheld RPGs such as Mother 3 and Sword of Mana on the GBA. Since then they’ve dabbled in their own works such as Blue Dragon Plus and Fantasy Life, but they’ve largely contributed their time to helping out other Nintendo first-parties in the development of titles such as Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes.
Their Present – 1-Up have been quiet recently, though their most recent work was Triforce Heroes and that did release just this past holiday season. The studio seems to most recently be working with others to help get their games out the door and with reports that software for the NX is deep in development don’t be too surprised if they’re lending their expertise to other internal teams to help get their projects over the line.
Their Future – The future of 1-Up lies greatly with the future of the NX. We know precious little about the upcoming platform but as Nintendo reveals more about it, you can expect that in turn we will learn more about 1-Up’s next work in the upcoming year. The studio hasn’t worked on their own unique IP since Fantasy Life in 2012 making them due for something new, but with heavy external pressure being put on Nintendo for its lack of Mario, Zelda and Metroid in recent years it’s possible that the studio may lend their services to one of Nintendo’s other first party studios to get the games out the door ASAP.
Their Past – Intelligent Systems are one of Nintendo’s busier teams within Nintendo and their history dates back quite a way. Formed in 1984 the Kyoto based Intelligent Systems have been present on all Nintendo systems. They kicked things off with the likes of Metroid and Fire Emblem on the NES and persisted with these through multiple generations up until most recently with Fire Emblem Fates arriving on 3DS this month for Western audiences.
Their Present – Intelligent’s most recent handheld release has of course been Fire Emblem Fates in Japan while the game faces imminent release in the United States. As with their previous work on Fire Emblem Awakening the studio has promised that they will be supporting the game further post release content. In December the studio released Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, a game they co-developed with Atlus, and you can presume that they’ll be assisting in getting the game overseas to Western shores.
Their Future – Despite having developed other new IP over the years, Intelligent are most known for their work in recent years on Paper Mario and especially Fire Emblem. The NX will need all the big guns firing when it launches so don’t be at all surprised if we see one of (or both) the franchises gracing the system somewhere within the launch window of the hardware.
Their Past – Monolith Soft has a studio that extends well beyond their exclusive time with Nintendo. Founded in 1999 the studio emerged as a third party studio who had developed Xenosaga and Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII for PS2 and Baten Kaitos for Gamecube. In 2007 they became a Nintendo First Party Studio where they developed Disaster: Day of Crisis, their big breakthrough title in Xenoblade Chronicles and lent their services to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
Their Present – 2015 was a massive year for Monolith Soft with the result being the worldwide release of Xenoblade Chronicles X for Wii U, one of the best received games across all platforms for the year. The studio will inevitably be assisting other internal studios in the development of their titles but expect 2016 to be a quiet year for Monolith Soft.
Their Future – Monolith Soft has found itself a winner with the Xenoblade franchises. Adored by critics and fans alike Xenoblade Chronicles and its sequel have both been referred to as being among the best JRPGs of the last decade, rejuvenating the genre and players interests in it. Expect them to stick with the Xenoblade franchise but don’t expect to hear anything about it for several years as they learn the intricacies of the NX and begin development on their next game.
Their Past – Founded in 2000, ND Cube was a joint project of Nintendo and their advertising firm Dentsu. Now owned in whole by Nintendo ND Cube was initially very active developing F-Zero: Maximum Velocity for GBA as well as a couple other smaller party games for GBA and Gamecube. The studio went quiet for 7 years however before they returned in 2010 with Wii Party and since then have been working on nearly yearly cycles having released games like Mario Party 9 & 10, and Wii U Party in recent years.
Their Present – It seems that the studio has well and truly been pigeon-holed as a party game studio. They’ve been churning out games in pretty short spaces of time recently but with the impending reveal/launch of the NX being upon us, perhaps the studio is already getting their ducks in a row to launch their newest games on the platform.
Their Future – Cast your minds forward a few months to E3 2016 where it is likely that we’ll be seeing the announcement of the NX – do not be surprised when we see the next work from ND Cube being present alongside the announcement.
Stay tuned tomorrow for the remainder of Nintendo’s first party studios!