After announcing and showcasing the prototype for their next-gen system at last E3, Nintendo had a lot to prove this year, in order to generate hype before the holiday season.
Once the briefing was over, the response from gamers is universally “meh”.
The briefing started off with a video of Shigeru Miyamoto, relaxing in his green room, surrounded by his beloved Pikmin. He walked on stage to find even more Pikmin in the audience (via superimposed video). Using his whistle from the same game, he called onto stage Bill Trien, head of product marketing, to help translate.
Right off the bat, we start with a great game announcement (if it wasn’t apparent enough), Pikmin 3. During the demo, Miyamoto stated that he knew he definitely wanted to work on this game once the system’s specs were finalized. The updated graphics and HD resolution allowed for him to pull the camera back so the player can see more of their surroundings. Using the touch screen on the controller, players can control multiple teams to achieve goals throughout the game. The short presentation was a good way to demonstrate some of the new features found in the Wii U system.
You can read the full recap after the break.
Next up was the man himself, Reggie Fils-Aime. He had a big order to fill. Many people were instant converts with the Wii, with it’s then-innovative controller and gameplay. This time around, Nintendo would really need to show gamers why they should upgrade to the new console. Reggie did get one thing right though, by postponing news about the majority of the non-gaming aspects to future events, and therefore focusing on the games itself, 23 in all during the event (something that I wish Sony and Microsoft would follow).
One of the non-gaming tidbits Reggie briefly talked about was how the Wii U will “elevate your living room entertainment.” with the ability to connect to Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube and Amazon Video. Ok, so we’re going for the Xbox 360 “home entertainment” crowd. I can understand that. Let’s get to the games.
Nintendo is pushing to promote “asymmetric gaming,” where each gamer will have a unique experience within the same game. The announcement that each Wii U can support dual GamePads was a relief (though we found out later that if two GamePads are in use, the framerate drops to 30 fps). Reggie briefly goes over the features of the GamePad controller, something that his boss, Satoru Iwata, explained during Nintendo’s Pre-E3 streaming press event. Same goes for the social networking aspect, with the exception that this will not be available during the launch window.
Alright, game time! First up is the latest Mario installment, New Super Mario Bros U. It looks like just a graphical update to the regular Wii version, but we’re told this is brand new. The ability to use the GamePad as a “boost mode” is a nice touch, allowing one player to support the other players by placing blocks or breaking barriers.
Next is an issue that Nintendo seems to be tackling head on this time around, a lack of 3rd party developers. Martin Tremlbay, president of WB games, is on stage to talk about Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition. Using the GamePad, players can access inventory, use detective mode, guide batarangs…basically features that would regularly require to open the in-game menu in order to access. It still looks nice though. The trailer showcased new armored costumes for both Batman and Catwoman, used with the new “B.A.T.” meter, which charges up through combat and unleashes a devastating attack once full.
Following the bat is Scribblenauts Unlimited. Aside from the updated HD graphics, players now have the ability to create objects using the GamePad and then using them in-game. Creations can even be shared and used by friends online. Another new feature is multiplayer. I can only imagine the chaos my friends could think up with this game. Plus, Maxwell’s backstory is revealed in this game.
Time for a montage! There are some impressive games coming to the Wii U, including Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank!, TEKKEN Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Directors Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and Aliens Colonial Marines.
So it’s apparent that Nintendo has a good deal of 3rd party titles on the way. Going back to first party titles, with the announcement of Wii Fit U. Same idea as the first, but with better graphics, expanded routines and minigames. A few notable features are the ability to use the GamePad to continue exercising without the need for a tv, plus syncing a pedometer to keep track of your stats while away from the game.
FreeStyleGame, the developer behind DJ Hero, are working on a new karaoke game, tentatively titled SiNG. Lyrics are shown on the GamePad, while friends can dance along to characters on screen. Awkwardness ensues.
Scott Moffitt, executive VP of sales for Nintendo, stepped on stage to announce a separate press conference for 3DS titles, but also briefly showcased a few new games: New Super Mario Bros 2 (which is apparently all about the gold coins), Paper Mario: Sticker Star (which admittedly looks really fun), and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. To wrap it up, a handful of 3rd party 3DS titles were shown in a montage: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Disney Epic Mickey, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
Next up is a video of LEGO City Undercover, which players use the GamePad as a crime-fighting tool. It was a bit jarring to hear fully-voiced characters instead of the usual grunts we hear from previous LEGO games, but the gameplay looks solid.
Developer Ubisoft is up next, first showing off Just Dance 4. This game that will just not die will allow a player to use the GamePad to select dance moves and poses for other players to perform. One of Ubisoft’s other Wii U offerings is ZombiU. (This is a completely retooled version of Killer Freaks from Outer Space that was shown at last year’s E3, just with more zombies and less aliens.) This first-person survival game utilizes the GamePad in everything, from inventory to maps to sniper sights, etc…not to mention shaking it vigorously in order to get rid of zombies. For fun, you can snap a pic of yourself and “zombify” it, which Reggie did on-stage, saying ”Agghhh, I like French food.” Ubisoft ended their presentation with a montage of clips from their Wii U titles, including Rayman Legends, AC3, Rabbids Land, Sports Connection, Avengers: Battle for Earth, Just Dance 4 and Your Shape.
Finally, Reggie introduces NintendoLand, a theme park of Nintendo’s cherished classics. Note that this doesn’t mean ports of those games, merely a selection of mini-games based on the classic titles. This is basically Wii Sports for the new system, made to educate players on the new features. There are 12 ‘lands’ in total that your Mii can visit, some with titles like ”The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest,” “Animal Crossing: Sweet Day,” “DK’s Crash Course,” and “Takamaru’s Ninja Castle.” These games can handle up to 5 players simultaneously, with players 1-4 using Wiimotes, and the 5th player utilizing the GamePad. The demo shown was based on Luigi’s Castle, with players 1-4 walking around a maze with flashlights trying to locate player 5, who is a ghost.
After some final words by Reggie, there is a final shot of NintendoLand with fireworks going off. This was a major buzz-kill. Reggie made it sound like he was giving Steve Jobs’ iconic “One more thing…” presentation. Instead, we get…fireworks.
Overall, I give Nintendo props in focusing (mostly) on games during their briefing. They hit several issues that plagued previous systems, but many titles that people were expecting (Zelda, Metroid, etc…) were missing. Although I’m still not deterred from buying a Wii U on launch day, the entire presentation was a bit “meh.” That should have been expected though, as the Wii U is nowhere near as a game-changer as the initial Wii was.
Check out Nintendo’s full press briefing for yourself and let us know what you think!
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