Many stalwarts of the video gaming industry are facing difficult times in a rapidly changing gaming landscape, with Sony poised for what some are calling a risky move in upgrading the PlayStation 4 much earlier than expected to meet the demands of 4K TV owners, and Microsoft mulling similar changes for the XBox One. In an even more precarious position is console gaming's last Golden Age survivor, Nintendo, whose Wii U failed to catch on with the public the way its predecessor did -- leaving the company to once again pin its hopes on its library of legendary franchises and a mystery new venture still codenamed The NX.
But major new games are still releasing to the Wii U; and one of the most anticipated, Star Fox Zero, launched this week alongside a promotional anime short film on YouTube -- and now some eagle-eyed viewers believe that said anime feature may have stealth-revealed The NX.
The NX reveal theory (which has not been commented on by Nintendo) began gaining traction on social media shortly after the anime feature (Star Fox Zero: The Battle Begins) first appeared on Nintendo's YouTube channel on April 18. In the opening scenes of the 15-minute short, series mainstay Falco Lombardi is seen using his downtime to play through the original Super Nintendo version of Star Fox on a TV gaming console. Of note is that the console is utilizing a controller with its own dedicated display-screen (and the color-scheme of a PAL SNES) in addition to the larger main monitor, the same way the Wii U does. But the device isn't designed to look like a Wii U; leading some fans to posit this is meant as an early tease for the NX -- which is widely believed to be a console/handheld hybrid whose controller can play games on its own screen or stream to a television.
While the idea of Nintendo using a background gag in an anime short to stealth reveal its next new console is admittedly far-fetched, the timing is interesting. E3 2016, the gaming industry trade show where insiders and analysts are widely expecting The NX to be formally announced, is right around the corner -- meaning that both Nintendo and third-party developer partners would likely already have finished or near-finished prototypes of the new console (predicted to launch in some capacity before holiday 2016) hardware to work with. Amusingly in the anime, Falco has difficulty with his game's controls until Slippy Toad (the team's tech-guru) equips him with an upgraded heads-up visor, ironically mirroring complaints by several early reviews that Star Fox Zero's unique Wii U control scheme may be difficult for some players to get used to.
In the short, Team Star Fox finds themselves en route to the dog planet of Coneria for a brief stopover and hoped-for recreation, only to be pressed back into action when a wave of attack robots dispatched by galactic supervillain Andross besiege the planet's capital city in a bid to capture military leader General Pepper. While the team is victorious, a running subplot lays the foundations of a dark secret involving Andross known only to Pepper and Star Fox's elder member, Peppy Hare, which seems set up to drive the plot of potential further installments (or the game?)
Framed as a reboot of the Star Fox franchise's often convoluted continuity, Star Fox Zero is a space-dogfighting game set in the Lylat System; an alien galaxy primarily inhabited by humanoid animals. "Star Fox" is the name of a celebrated team of fighter pilots who assist the system's aligned planets in military operations against Andross, an exiled gorilla warlord who has marshalled an army of robots and repitles to conquer the galaxy by force. Members Fox McCloud, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare and Slippy Toad technically comprise the second-generation of the team, which was originally led by Fox's father and Peppy -- who both had personal history with Andross.
Star Fox Zero releases in most territories on April 22, 2016.