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Nintendo consolidates an already special year

Short, sharp and direct, a Switched-on Nintendo shows its best side.

Nintendo stood out even more than normal at this year's E3, and that's not just because you could have cut Reggie into the new series of Twin Peaks without so much as changing a line of his charming doggerel dialogue. Nintendo's ditched conferences for a while now, relying on short, sharp video presentations that do the job of a conference in half the time, and with no need to brave Downtown traffic. This year, though, there was a stronger sense than normal that Nintendo is operating in a different world to its competitors, and that it's managed to transform its own recent fortunes. The strange place that Reggie addresses us from is success: palpable success. The Switch really has changed everything for Nintendo, and this Nintendo Direct was a chance to understand that.

The new machine is confident in the centre of the stage. No 3DS stuff in the show itself at all - that was the preserve of a post-show presentation where Metroid 2 remake Samus Returns was revealed - and did you really miss it? Not even a couple of almost-no-shows - a mini-trailer for Metroid Prime 4 that amounted to a logo, and the acknowledgement that a new Pokemon RPG was under development - could derail things. The Switch works. People want it. So those sizzle reels of people gathering on rooftops to play, gathering in cinematic underpasses, in craft beer bars, no longer seem so ridiculous, because many people watching will have seen these impromptu gatherings, friends hunched around Mario Kart - around Tetris - in their own world by now. Nintendo's dream came true.

If it's learnt a difficult lesson about the Wii U - that it was the perfect inverse of the console everyone would be eager to buy - the crucial message for this Direct is that isn't the only lesson to be learnt from the last generation. The Wii U struggled with games, and so the spine of Nintendo's presentation this E3 is a run of games, one a month, that will carry Switch owners through to the end of the year.

June gets Arms, a quirky leftfield classic that it is literally impossible to imagine any other platform holder coming up with. July gets Splatoon 2, a rarity in Nintendo's world as it's a fairly straight follow-up. Still, it's a follow-up to, you guessed it, a quirky leftfield classic that it is literally impossible to imagine any other platform holder coming up with.

August gets the Rabbids game, which as we all now know is also a Mario game, and also - I cannot believe I am typing this - an XCOM game. It's one of those rare breakout hits you get at E3. One glimpse and the premise is both head-spinningly weird and completely all-conquering. And it's third-party support, on a Nintendo platform!

September is Pokken, which may well delight those whose love of Pokémon has been reinvigorated by recent triumphs elsewhere, and then October is Mario. Mad, inventive, improbably, spectacular Mario, a grand tour of Planet Earth - well, he's already done outer space - that manages to look crazier with each new part of it that comes into focus. Mario riding a Vespa around yellow taxi cabs is never going to look normal, but the game clearly doesn't care, and so it pulls it off. And if you don't like it, here's Mario in a sombrero, anyway. Here's Mario racing around inside the walls of a spinning tower in a sequence that riffs on A Link Between Worlds and Mario's own peerless 2D heritage.

Here's what should terrify anyone trying to compete with Mario - not in sales, perhaps, but in execution. In Mario Odyssey you can possess elements of the world and take control of them for a spell. Tricky stuff for a developer. How to explain that to a player and to anyone watching? Games have tied themselves in knots for years with the moment where you leave one body and join another.

How does Mario handle it? It puts Mario's hat and moustache on whatever you're possessing, and anyone - literally anyone at all - will instantly understand the connection and the intent. This is why Mario should terrify rivals - not that it really has any in this area. It's not just the creativity. It's the clarity.

The lost art of video game manuals The greatest loss of the digital age. The lost art of video game manuals

And Nintendo's on a roll with both. November and December will be Fire Emblem and Skyrim, presumably, and that rounds out a year that, somehow, managed to start with a series-best Zelda. (The fact that Zelda's about to get DLC would seem like overkill if the first pack at least didn't look a little underwhelming.)

There are blank spaces that need filling in, of course: no word yet on the virtual console, or when Switch is going to get an overhaul to its rather rudimentary front end. But it's a measure of Nintendo's resurgence that it got away without addressing either subject in a half hour Direct in which every slight dud - amazingly, Yoshi games are suspect now, following a bland run, and fan-favourite Xenoblade looks in danger of losing some of the series' magic - is countered by a Kirby, by a shot of the number 4 that is enough to drive people wild.

How much potential has the Switch got? Enough potential that when you see Rocket League is on its way - a game that is very likely downloaded on one of the other boxes you've got in your house already - you think: Ooh, Rocket League on the Switch. That might be interesting. Well played, Nintendo.

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