Nintendo has announced today that Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker has an official release date: December 5, 2014. This comes after Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, but I think it's easily the more exciting game of the two. Here's why:

Smash Bros. is a hugely important franchise for Nintendo, but many fans are already getting a pretty awesome taste of the game on 3DS right now (myself included). Plus, it covers existing (if incredibly fun) territory. Captain Toad, though, basically represents a whole new franchise for the company.


Sure, it's set in the Mushroom Kingdom, using an established character from the Mario roster, but the gameplay is decidedly unique. Swap out Captain Toad for a new set of characters, and those detractors who complain that the company lacks innovation would likely have little to say. But, as Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto once said:

Certainly within Nintendo, we have people internally who are saying, ‘Well, we have our old characters from our old games, and that’s old IP, and we should think about creating new IP.’ But the question that we always ask is: ‘Does a new character really make it a new game?’

And to me, the answer to that is no. What makes it a new game is new gameplay and new interactions. So when we’re creating a game, we’re always looking at it from, ‘What is the gameplay, and how are making that gameplay new?’ And then, ‘Who is the character that is best suited to that gameplay?’

Captain Toad is a perfect example of that concept.

With a setup involving careful examination of smaller, environmental-based puzzles, having a slower, more timid protagonist is perfect. Rather than shoehorn a contrived narrative around unknown characters, utilizing the nervous-but-brave Captain Toad provides all the motivation we need to dive straight into the fun.

Plus, it's hard to argue that revisiting the gorgeous art style and graphics engine of Wii U's Super Mario 3D World warrants any kind of negative reaction.

The game is, of course, based on a series of levels featured in 3D World, but it's set to be a fully realized vision of this previously "bonus" content. Riffing on a small-but-strong gameplay concept and polishing it to perfection is one of Nintendo's best tricks, and all hands-on reports of the game indicate that Captain Toad is on track to uphold this reputation.