Nintendo Bares Fangs At Next-Gen With Aggressive Release Calendar

While we've known about Nintendo's upcoming releases for some time now, today's Nintendo Direct Mini revealed just how emphatically the company will respond to naysayers throughout the busy Fall video game season. Sure, Wii U seems overpriced and under-supported, and has received numerous votes of no-confidence from major third-parties, but it's obvious that the company has been here before.

Nintendo knows how to respond, what moves to make, and that the fans will follow. Nintendo's aggressive release calendar will provide gamers a happy home while PS4 and Xbox One work out their own first-year drawbacks.

As was the case with GameCube, Nintendo has a burgeoning handheld market to fall back on while its console stutters. This has been true for decades, with portable challengers coming and leaving just as quickly. Sony's Vita simply can't hold up against the unending pressure from 3DS and we know it.

Starting with Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D in May, the Big N has essentially guaranteed a new, must-play game on 3DS on a month by month basis. Following DK's handheld outing came Animal Crossing: New Leaf, one of the system's fastest sellers and a huge driver for community building and daily play.

This month, Nintendo let third-party partner Atlus swoop in with Shin Megami Tensei IV, a major title for hardcore RPG fans that can certainly capitalize on the Persona series' popularity. Adding fuel to that demonic fire is a unique promotion offering a $30 rebate to owners of both SMTIV and Fire Emblem: Awakening. Europe has this title already, but next month will see the release of Mario & Luigi Dream Team as well.

September appears light for the 3DS, but with Phoenix Wright: Dual Destinies and other Q3/Q4 games without a release date, surprises could fill the calendar. Regardless, a small dead period in the lead up to Pokémon X & Y's international release on October 12th won't harm 3DS sales one bit. What's more, Nintendo said today that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Mario Party for 3DS are both slated for November, ensuring that Black Friday 3DS bundles will fly off shelves (if Pokémon doesn't already do the trick).

Still, the company's big, yellow box that other companies are trying to shoot, like in Star Fox, is Wii U and the lack of launch-year software. Pikmin 3's delays will finally come to a close next month when it's released on August 4th, but the console's busy Fall calendar started today with the release of a game nearly 20 years old.

Earthbound is now available on Wii U's eShop and in Europe for the first time ever. As stupid as it seems to get excited about a $10 downloadable on Wii U, it's now (almost) cheaper to buy Nintendo's first HD console and an eShop card than it is to buy a SNES copy of Earthbound second-hand.

With July and August locked down, Nintendo is positioning The Wonderful 101 from Platinum Games as September's major Wii U release, promising to focus heavily on the title in an upcoming Nintendo Direct. Platinum Games will prove a valuable partner in exclusive Wii U software with Bayonetta 2 also in the pipe as an exclusive.

Wii Party U will release in October, but for more hardcore gamers Sonic Lost World will also be out in the 10th month of 2013 as well. Even if you and Sega's blue mascot have fallen out of touch, Lost World looks like one of the better Sonic games you might have played in the past 10 years. This new (and exclusive to Wii U and 3DS, did I not mention the 3DS version?) game also benefits from the positive reception Sonic Generations and Sonic Colors have had in recent memory.

When you consider that The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD is also slated for October, it seems like the month is packed to the gills with important releases on Wii U. I bought my 3DS for the 3D Ocarina of Time remake, so it's probable that many Zelda fans who know they'll buy Wii U for the eventual all-new Zelda game will pick up the system in advance with this opportunity to revisit Great Sea.

An exclusive Disney Planes game, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and Super Mario 3D World are all slated for release by the end of 2013 as well, meaning there's a total of eight exclusive titles (not counting Earthbound) for Wii U over the next five months, not to mention several third-party multiplatform releases.

Even if you've fallen out of touch with the house Mario built, it's clear that the company wants you back. With all the fervor surrounding next-generation hardware from Sony and Microsoft, it's easy to lose sight of what's most important to general consumers: the games. If the software isn't there, the hardware will mean nothing. Gamers on message boards and in comments can see into the future and expect things that'll justify $400 or $500 purchases this November, but everyone else will see a Zelda Wii U bundle and snap it up.

We'd still like a price cut or alternative 3DS colors, but Nintendo made it clear today (even if you weren't watching) that it's in this competition whether overzealous fanboys have written them off or not. You can check out the entire Nintendo Direct Mini below. (How is 30 minutes packed with awesome game news "Mini"?)