Two weeks into the new year, it’s clear Nintendo has no intention of letting the momentum from 2014’s one-two punch of “Mario Kart 8” and “Super Smash Bros.” die.

Last week, a 3DS-centric Nintendo Direct broadcast revealed a downright aggressive lineup of new software as well as some upgraded hardware, most of which is slated to release in the first part of 2015. Together with some previously announced titles, these could add up to make 2015 one of the strongest years in a long time for Nintendo.

Here are the highlights:

The New Nintendo 3DS XL

Probably the biggest announcement — although not the most unexpected — was that North America will indeed be getting a new, upgraded version of Nintendo’s handheld gaming system, appropriately called the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Japanese and Australian gamers have been enjoying the new handheld, along with a smaller, non-XL version that won’t be coming to the U.S., since last fall.

The New 3DS boasts a bevy of somewhat minor improvements over its predecessors, the most notable being the addition of a “C-stick” — effectively a second analog stick next to the buttons. This is a tool gamers have been requesting for years, and Nintendo already has multiple titles in the pipeline that will make specific use of it, including the upcoming 3-D overhaul of “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.”

The other major feature added to the device is what Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Amis calls “super-stable face-tracking 3-D.” In previous 3DS models, the system’s 3-D feature could only be viewed when looking straight at the screen. Now, thanks to a nifty in-hardware upgrade, the camera tracks the position of the player’s face in relation to the screen, adjusting the 3-D “sweet spot” to allow for 3-D viewing from different angles.

The New 3DS will reportedly have faster processing power, shorter download times, improved battery life (including automatically adjusting screen brightness) and built-in Near Field Communication, making it possible to use Nintendo’s ever-expanding line of amiibo figures with certain 3DS games.

Along with the regular model, which comes in black or red, two limited-edition models were revealed: a “Majora’s Mask” version and a “Monster Hunter 4” version. All the models will be available Feb. 13, according to the broadcast, and have an MSRP of $200.

(Tracking down a “Majora’s Mask” 3DS might prove to be a bit of a challenge, though: It’s already sold out on sites like GameStop, and third-party sellers on Amazon are listing it for double its retail price.)

New games

While some of Nintendo’s big guns (i.e. “Star Fox” and “The Legend of Zelda Wii U”) aren’t hitting store shelves until later in 2015, the first part of the year is still looking like a potential embarrassment of riches, especially for 3DS owners. Tons of new games — many of which are slated to release during the next few months — were introduced as part of the Nintendo Direct, including:

“Fire Emblem” (3DS) — A new Fire Emblem game from the development team behind “Fire Emblem: Awakening.”

“Puzzle & Dragons Z”/”Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Bros. Edition” — A combo pack featuring two iterations of a popular puzzle game series from Japan, one done in the style of a classic Mario game.

“Pokemon Shuffle” (3DS) — A free-to-play puzzle/battle hybrid that uses a mobile game model of in-app purchases.

“Elliot Quest” (Wii U) — An 8-bit retro platformer from indie studio Ansimuz Games.

“Story of Seasons” (3DS) — A farming simulator in the vein of “Harvest Moon.”

“Citizens of Earth” (Wii U and 3DS) — An “Earthbound”-inspired RPG where gamers play as the vice president of Earth trying to figure out some weird goings-on following his election.

“Blek” (Wii U) — A painterly puzzle game.

“Etrian Mystery Dungeon” (3DS) — A spinoff from the Etrian Odyssey series featuring randomly generated dungeons.

“Fossil Fighters: Frontier” (3DS) — A game that mixes paleontology with a “Pokemon”-style battle system.

“Gunman Clive 2” (3DS) — An indie side-scrolling Western.

“Moon Chronicles” (3DS) — A sci-fi first-person shooter told in episodes.

“Codename S.T.E.A.M.” (3DS) — A turn-based strategy game featuring a steampunk Abraham Lincoln fighting aliens.

Between January and March, Nintendo will also be releasing wave 2 of its Sega 3D Classics line for the 3DS, featuring revamped versions of classic Sega arcade games like “After Burner II,” “Fantasy Zone” and “Thunder Blade.”


In addition to showing off some new characters from upcoming series in the “Skylanders”-esque toy series, more light was shed on how exactly Nintendo plans to expand amiibo functionality in the upcoming months. Up until now, the only games that have really made use of the Near Field Communication-powered figurines are “Super Smash Bros.” and, to a lesser extent, “Mario Kart 8” and “Hyrule Warriors,” all on the Wii U.

First of all, with the New 3DS XL’s built-in NFC technology, amiibos will now be able to be used on select 3DS games, as well.

Upcoming amiibos are not limited to just characters from “Smash Bros.,” though. A Super Mario Series of characters is also slated for March 20 that will be able to work with a dedicated amiibo mode in “Mario Party 10,” also releasing on March 20.

Details were likewise given for how amiibos will work in games like “Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker” and the upcoming “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse” for Wii U.

Cross-buy games

With the March 5 release of “Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars,” Nintendo will be experimenting with its first cross-buy game, meaning that players who purchase the title for Wii U will automatically have access to it on the 3DS and vice versa.

Wii titles on the Wii U

Finally, Nintendo has cracked the code: Wii games are now reproducible on the Wii U.

Previously, the only way to play Wii games on the newer console was to switch the hardware function to “Wii mode,” making it impossible for Nintendo to distribute Wii software as downloadable content.

That problem has been fixed, though. Following the Nintendo Direct broadcast, “Mario Galaxy 2” was immediately made available on the Nintendo eShop, and in the next few weeks, “Punch Out!!” and “Metroid Prime Trilogy” will also appear, with more games planned throughout the year.

What’s more, the Wii titles will be discounted at half-price for the first week after they become available on the eShop.

This will give Wii U owners access to tons of great games that they may not have had the opportunity to play on the previous generation of consoles.

Jeff Peterson is a native of Utah Valley and studied humanities and history at Brigham Young University. Along with the Deseret News, he also contributes to the film discussion website