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E3 proves that Nintendo is at the top of its game right now

Nintendo stole the show this year

Link catches a fish in a screenshot from The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (2019) Nintendo

If there’s an underlying theme to this year’s E3, it’s transition. Sony isn’t at the event at all. Microsoft is making moves for the future, banking on ideas and technologies that have not yet reached their full potential. New consoles are in the horizon. Seemingly every game worth talking about is coming in 2020.

And there’s Nintendo, pitching us largely on stuff for hardware we have right now. While there are rumors of an updated system model for the Switch, Nintendo isn’t devoting the bulk of its resources to making entirely new systems. Nintendo can focus on what it does best: games. Given the Switch’s limited graphical capabilities, Nintendo has no choice but to focus on the bones that make up its games, rather than wasting time trying to render the most realistic hair possible or what have you.

This, in combination with the slow death of the 3DS, has allowed Nintendo to devote an extraordinary amount of focus on a single piece of equipment, rather than splitting its focus between a console and a handheld. The company doesn’t have to choose what system gets what property anymore: It’s all for the Switch, of course.

People like to joke that the Switch is a repository for ports and remakes, and many of the announcements for Nintendo’s E3 presentation did little to disprove that. At the same time, portability changes everything for some games. Yes, I already have The Witcher 3. I haven’t beaten it; there’s so much game to get through. But being able to take The Witcher 3 anywhere means I’m that much more likely to actually get through it. Nowadays, I play my Switch way more than any other console. If something is announced, it’s not uncommon for me to think, “I’ll wait for the Switch port.” Nintendo has changed the way I approach gaming entirely this generation. I’m just as excited about old games as I am new games.

This isn’t to say Nintendo has nothing new to show. Super Mario Maker 2’s extended level-creation tools look absolutely bonkers. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate continues to barrel forward with exciting new characters. Seemingly every new monster announced for Pokémon Sword and Shield instantly becomes a fan favorite. Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems to eschew the arcadey nature of the 3DS game, and promises to get back to its roots. My entire social media feed seems to be dying to play Animal Crossing, especially after the disappointment that was Pocket Camp. Link’s Awakening looks cute as hell, and the ability build your own dungeons is a killer new feature. Cadence of Hyrule looks like a rad new take on Zelda. The next Fire Emblem game, which follow the lives of students in an academy, seems to take after Persona franchise in the best possible way. Astral Chain looks great based on what Nintendo has shown off during its Treehouse stream, but really, what else do you need to know other than it’s being developed by PlatinumGames? I’m excited by nearly everything that Nintendo showed off today.

We haven’t even gotten to the biggest bombshell at E3 this year: Breath of the Wild, one of the best games of all time, is getting a sequel. Never mind that it seems likely we’ll finally be able to play as Zelda. Nintendo probably could have announced this piece of information by its lonesome and it would have still won the entire show.

As Sony and Microsoft and gear up for their next era, they’re being pulled in a million directions. Nintendo, though? It’s just getting started.

The next level of puzzles.

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