Celebrating the Newbies

Splatoon hasn’t been the only new IP to come from Nintendo in recent years.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 06/05/2015 09:00 4 Comments     ShareThis

It’s not uncommon to hear people gripe that Nintendo is too reliant on its established franchises and doesn’t try anything new often enough. I think it’s an unfair criticism because there have actually been a lot of fresh new characters and games to come from the company that haven’t starred Mario, Link, or any other established mascot. So in celebration of Splatoon‘s successful launch, let’s look at some of the lesser appreciated new series and characters that Nintendo has graced fans with, whether they remember them or not!


First Appearance: Dillon’s Rolling Western (3DS, 2012)

Tower defense games are a dime a dozen on mobile platforms, but getting one on 3DS, developed by Nintendo itself, was a pretty big deal. Dillon’s Rolling Western and Dillon’s Rolling Western: The Last Ranger both starred the tough as nails armadillo sheriff Dillon, who fought to protect the citizens of his town from evil rock monsters. Smashing Grocks, collecting resources, and building stronger defenses were all part of the fun, though neither of the two titles left a lasting impression on fans or critics. Dillon’s latest appearance was in Smash Bros. as an Assist Trophy, but word of a new game for the character has been nonexistent. He’s got a lot of personality, though, so maybe a tweak to the series’ gameplay or a genre shift could give him the attention he deserves.


First Appearance: Pushmo (3DS, 2011)

If anyone could make a puzzle-platformer game addicting, it would be Nintendo. Throw into the mix a cuddly, sumo wrestling… cat? Just what is Mallo, anyway? Hard to say, but whatever he is, he’s been a charming and easy to root for hero since his debut four years ago. Whether it’s pulling blocks, crashing them down to the ground, or stretching them, Mallo and company have been a wonderful addition to Nintendo’s pantheon, and shows no signs of slowing down. It would be nice to see some kind of collection of his first three 3DS games thrown on a cartridge and put into stores, which could only serve to help the series and character connect to an even wider chunk of the Nintendo fanbase.


First Appearance: Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii, 2012)

To think that such an epic and enjoyable RPG had to have fans beg for it to be released in North America is saddening, but when Xenoblade Chronicles did finally arrive, it was well worth the wait. Revolving around a conflict between two opposing races raging across the corpses of two enormous, godlike beings, Xenoblade was notable for successfully playing fast and loose with many genre conventions. Its excellent voice acting helped bring the story and cast to life, particularly lead protagonist Shulk. Young, smart, and brave, he served as an excellent conduit for the player to become immersed in the game and the plight of its heroes. With a New 3DS XL re-release of Xenoblade Chronicles and Shulk’s inclusions in Smash Bros. (and immortalization as an Amiibo), it seems the character has made quite an impression on fans. When we’ll see him in a new game is, sadly, anyone’s guess.

Agents of S.T.E.A.M.

First Appearance: Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS, 2015)

It doesn’t get any stranger than a team of literary characters led by Abraham Lincoln fighting a horde of bloodthirsty aliens, but that’s exactly what Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is all about. As members of the titular organization S.T.E.A.M., Henry Fleming, John Henry, Tiger Lily, Tom Sawyer, and more engage in real-time strategy battles that are somewhat reminiscent of developer Intelligent Systems’ other series, Fire Emblem. Presented as a comic book with a corresponding aesthetic, Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. was a delight to play, but it’s unclear if the squad will ever get a chance to shine again in another game. Original ideas like this deserve to be embraced by fans, so if anyone hasn’t given the title a chance yet, they should be sure to hunt down the free demo in the eShop and see what they’ve been missing!

Commander Kahn and His Agents

First Appearance: Elite Beat Agents (DS, 2006)

I’m sorry, it apparently can get stranger than Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., as Elite Beat Agents is pretty out there, itself. When ordinary citizens reach their lowest lows, Commander Kahn, leader of a special agency of do-gooders, sends his Elite Beat Agents to provide help. A rhythm game, Elite Beat Agents employed the touch screen to have players tap and drag to the beat of every song. Victory meant helping each citizen resolve their problem, and there were a number of scenarios and songs to complete throughout the game. Madcap and frequently hilarious (and occasionally even touching), Elite Beat Agents was extraordinarily innovative and fun. Sadly, the title has yet to spawn any sequels, which is a shame; this is one game that deserves another shot. Maybe a re-release on Wii U’s Virtual Console can help get the ball rolling.


First Appearance: The Legendary Starfy (DS, 2009)

There does seem to be a trend with all these fresh IPs appearing on Nintendo’s handhelds, doesn’t there? From Game Boy, which hosted Kirby’s debut, to DS, which brought the world Nintendogs and more, Nintendo seems most comfortable taking risks on its portable consoles. Starfy is no different, though it did take a while for him to head overseas. The character had already appeared in multiple Game Boy Advance games before his DS adventure was deemed worthy of finally being localized. Starfy is reminiscent of Kirby in some aspects, with a very cutesy aesthetic and jovial demeanor. Though this sole entry in the series here in the West was a very fun and accessible title, Starfy didn’t make enough of a splash to continue on, at least so far.

There are plenty of other newer characters that Nintendo has developed over the years, and each has found a special place in many gamer’s minds. Which ones did we leave off our list who you enjoy? Anyone on here that you absolutely despise? Sound off below!

4 Responses to “Celebrating the Newbies”

  • 222 points
    PanurgeJr says...

    There are two reasons why the claim that Nintendo is over-reliant on old IP is ridiculous. The first, as this article points out, is that it is simply false. Nintendo has lots of new IP, but apparently being found on a handheld, or more recently as a smaller title on the eShop, and not as a full price physical release, is enough for people to ignore. The second reason is that how Nintendo uses their IP is a natural consequence of how they approach development. They create gameplay first, and then fit everything else to that. If they have characters that fit they’ll use them–and when you have as many characters as Nintendo has you will probably find one or two that you can reuse. None of their characters really fit Splatoon, so we get the Inklings. It wouldn’t work for Mario to rescue a constantly trapped Luigi or Peach in Pushmo, so we get Mallo. But we have Super Mario Kart because the Mushroom Kingdom characters work in it. We have Kirby’s Epic Yarn because he fit, even though it’s unlike any other Kirby game. In fact I’d claim there’s no way they’d come up with that game if they started with Kirby. And take all of Mario’s 3D titles. They’re all so different as to somewhat distort the truth by insisting that they’re the same IP. No, Nintendo’s approach is just fine, and I can’t wait to see what gameplay they show at E3, regardless of how it is packaged.

  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    Yay for Mallo and Shulk!

  • 0 points

    Code Name S.T.E.A.M. is a great title. A lot of people I talked to didn’t like it because the enemy turns took so long, but there was an update that fixed that. On the regular 3DS you can speed up enemy turns 2X, if you have the New 3DS you can speed up the turns 3X. It’s definitely a great game worth checking out. Unique and that is hard to find.

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