Nintendo has been getting a lot of flack for its decision to hold a digital press event rather than a traditional press conference, as they did for the first time last year. But after an exhausting day full of scruffy white men killing each other, driving sims, and unremarkable sports titles….I was left jaded. If the Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony press conferences this year proved anything it’s that big companies are still only interested in making games for preteen boys itching to express their masculinity in as over the top a manner as possible.
No surprise, then, that I could count the number of playable female characters shown on my hands. And what of the big games? Assassin’s Creed Unity has four playable characters and not a single one is a lady. Metal Gear Solid V’s lone female character, the questionably dressed Quiet, was barely showcased in its new trailer and the most we saw of her was her ass. The new Rainbow Six game centered around rescuing/passing around like a basketball a female hostage whose home had been invaded. And of course that title garnered some of the most applause of any game screened all day.
While games like The Division, Rise of the Tomb Raider , Fable Legends, Dragon Age Inquisition, Valiant Hearts, and Mirror’s Edge 2 offered breaths of fresh feminine air they were shown amidst a smog of hyper-masculine gore-fests.
Then came this morning’s Nintendo digital event, showcasing major female playable characters in almost every single title put on display.
The first big announcement was the inclusion of Miis as playable characters in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. This means that literally anyone can join the fight, including all the lovely lady Miis you’ve got saved on your console. I can’t wait to have my Miley Cyrus Mii enter the fray. But the news didn’t stop there as Masahiro Sakurai unveiled that Kid Icarus’ Palutena will be joining the battle as well. The goddess has long been rumored to join the game’s roster, and now we finally get a first look. This isn’t the first sign that Smash Bros. is making room for more ladies. The additions of Wii Fit Trainer, female Villager skins, and Rosalina show an effort to make the game’s cast most diverse.
The upcoming Pokemon games Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire bring back playable protagonist May as players’ female trainer option. May was featured prominently in the anime and it’s nice to see her back in the spotlight.
A new IP called Splatoon was shown off, featuring a team of magical squid-girls going to turf-war with multicolored ink shooters. The game looks like a fun spin on arena-style multiplayer games of this sort, and how refreshing to see a female character put at the forefront of the game’s footage.
Hyrule Warriors, the upcoming Dynasty Warrios/Legend of Zelda hybrid, will allow players to control not only Link but the fierce ladies known as Impa, Midna, and even Princess Zelda herself. The opportunity to play as Zelda alone is a HUGE sell for the game, but the return of popular characters like Impa and Midna in prominent roles sweetens the deal.
The highly anticipated Xenoblade Chronicles X was shown off and has been reported to have a fully customizable main character. This means that adventurers will be able to pilot mechs as whatever gender they please when the game drops in 2015.
And of course we got to see more Bayonetta 2, which is easily one of my most anticipated games of this year. The big surprise is that Bayonetta 2 will be shipped with the original game as a single package on Wii U, meaning those who missed Bayonetta’s first adventure won’t be late to the party.
So let’s recap. In one forty minute presentation Nintendo managed to squeeze in 9 prominent, playable female or gender-customizable characters and after an entire day four different AAA companies could only show us a handful.
Say what you want about Nintendo but on this front they’re at least trying to diversify.