In Depth

Nintendo develops Zelda game for mobiles

Latest addition to game-maker's smartphone line-up could reach fans in early 2018

Nintendo is developing a new Legend of Zelda title to complement its roster of mobile games, according to the Wall Street Journal.

According to the paper, the Japanese games giant is co-developing the untitled game, which will be released after its Animal Crossing game, with the Tokyo-based DeNA.

As Animal Crossing - which also isn't named - isn't expected on smartphones until the end of the year, fans can expect the mobile Zelda game to "arrive around the beginning of 2018", says Alphr

Exactly how Nintendo would implement "exploring, puzzling and battling" from existing Zelda titles into a mobile game is "unclear", says TechCrunch

However, it may pursue a different approach to its Super Mario Run mobile game, as the "one-button" mechanic used in the Italian plumber's smartphone adventure would be "difficult" to apply to a Zelda title.

Since debuting on smartphone platforms with Miitomo in March 2016, "Nintendo has found greater success with Super Mario Run and Fire Emblem Heroes", ArsTechncia says

These games "contributed to a small but growing stream of income", which the site says equated to around ¥20bn (£136m) for the fiscal year ending this March.

In February, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima told investors the company planned to launch "two to three titles per year" for smartphone users.

He added they would also seek "additional support from other companies", although Nintendo had not approached any "specific companies" at the time.

Nintendo to release up to three new mobile games a year 

8 February

Nintendo has announced it will launch up to three new mobile titles every year, although fans may have to wait for a new Mario game for their smartphones. 

In a question and answer session with investors, company president Tatsumi Kimishima said they plan to release "two to three titles per year" optimised for smartphones. 

He added that Nintendo may ask for "additional support from other companies" to develop its mobile games, but it has not approached yet any "specific companies". 

The Japanese games giant entered the mobile industry with Super Mario Run towards the end of last year. It was downloaded a record-breaking 40 million times and rose to the top of the free download chart on Apple's app store.      

However, director Shinya Takahashi had some bad news for fans of the game.

While saying Mario played a "very active role" across Nintendo's business, he warned that did not guarantee the company will "absolutely release a new Mario game for smart devices in the next fiscal year". 

Mobile gaming appears to be a growing venture for Nintendo - it launched its third major title, Fire Emblem: Heroes, across both iOS and Android devices last week.

The Japanese role-playing game was a huge success, Sensor Tower reports, generating $2.9m (£2.4m) in global gross revenue on its first day on sale. 

That was considerably less than Pokemon Go's $10.2m (£8.1m) and Super Mario Run's $8.4m (£6.7m) first-day figures, but $1.5m (£1.2m) more than Clash of Clans. 

Fire Emblem: Heroes is available for free on the iOS App Store and Google Play Store, with optional orb packs available at an additional cost. 

Super Mario Run finally comes to Android

20 January

Nintendo has finally announced a launch date for Super Mario Run on Android devices - four months after it released on Apple's App Store. 

In a message on Twitter, the Japanese firm announced gamers can look forward to a March release and are able to register their interest now to be notified when the software is available to download.

Super Mario Run is Nintendo's first entry into the mobile gaming market and was an immediate success when it arrived on Apple iOS devices in December. It was downloaded a record-breaking 40 million times and rose to the top of the App Store's free-download chart. 

The game was also a hit with the critics, with the majority of reviewers praising its simplicity and ability to quickly adapt to the market. However, they also found it lacked the depth of previous Mario instalments and could sometimes feel compromised compared to the originals.

There's no mention on pricing for the Android version of Super Mario Run yet, but it is expected that the opening three levels will be free to play, while the remaining 21 can be unlocked by paying a one-off fee of £7.99. 

This is set to be a significant year for Nintendo, as the games company is also launching its new Switch all-in-one console at the beginning of March.

Combining a home console with a handheld unit, it features detachable Joy-Con controllers which allows gamers to play against each other using the device's portable screen.

Super Mario Run: Reviews and where to find it 

16 December

Super Mario Run has arrived on Apple's iOS app store and the critics are raving about it.

It is expected to be a commercial success and could achieve a global net revenue of $71m (£56m) in its first month, with only Pokemon Go and Clash Royale bettering it. 

But can Mario's debut mobile outing live up to the adored originals?

Touch controls

In this version, to make the character jump or activate features, players have to tap the screen in the style of a traditional side-scrolling adventure.

Nintendo has had to change the tried and tested Mario formula to fit comfortably with the touch controls, says The Verge, leaving it feeling like a "compromised version of the classic games". 

Nevertheless, adds the site, they have managed to create a "surprisingly robust experience" using relatively simple framework.

While the game is an automatic runner similar to Temple Run, environmental features such as stop blocks "modify [its] behaviour", allowing "room for creativity and even exploration". 

Jumping with a simple tap of the screen and delaying Mario's fall by holding one finger down is a smooth process that's "easy to pull off but difficult to master", says IGN. Fingers never seem to obstruct the view of gameplay as there's "plenty of open space towards the bottom".

Super Mario Run features "all of that famous Nintendo charm" that works brilliantly on a small screen, says Expert Reviews. It shows the rest of the mobile market how "fun, fast and simple games should be" while its ability to be played natively on both iPad and iPhone highlights "Nintendo's knowledge of the handheld gaming space".

Gameplay

According to Eurogamer, Mario's jump controls carry greater significance than on his other titles, with the portrait layout shrinking the player's view of the level and "enforcing a kind of attentiveness".

Racing through the game is "a breeze", it continues, but players will miss the "serious depths" of level design. Collecting coins and hidden areas may seem impossible to reach, but they act as an "unspoken demand that you return". 

The biggest change to the formula is how Mario interacts with enemies, argues Polygon. "Running straight into, say, a Goomba won't hurt Mario. Instead, he'll push himself over it safely." 

It adds that World Tour features locations that will appeal to fans of the series, but feels "all-too-brief", concluding: "Mario may finally have a home on a much bigger platform than Nintendo's own hardware, but his best adventures remain elsewhere."

Where to find it

Super Mario Run is only available on the iOS app store at the moment and is free to download. However, after completing the first three levels, players will be prompted to purchase the full game for a one-off fee of £7.99.

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