Monday, 11 June 2012

Nintendo E3 Press Conference

Coming into E3 it was obvious Nintendo were in a good position with new content to show off because they were the first company to release their ‘next-generation’ console. While Microsoft and Sony unveiled some exciting new games and software, a new machine always has a certain aura surrounding it. With this in mind I was prepared to be blown away, even though my initial response to the Wii U wasn’t wholly positive. Can Nintendo really support their new hardware with fantastic exclusive titles that can appease both casual and hardcore gamers?

Nintendo’s conference began with a cute introduction video of Shigeru Miyamoto relaxing in his dressing room before his time to jump on stage. As the camera panned around the Nintendo legend, a group of Pikmin wobbled their way across the dressing room floor before accidentally dropping into Miyamoto’s jacket pocket. He then proceeded to leave the dressing room and come on stage to rapturous applause – deservedly so may I add. Using AR the conference camera began to pick out members of the audience and put Pikmin all around them, receiving lots of laughs and applause from the rest of the hall.

With the help of a translator Miyamoto moved swiftly onto the Wii U, discussing the importance of their new machine to not be dependant on the TV in your living room. With this came the announcement of Pikmin 3, a highly anticipated title from one of Nintendo’s most popular modern franchises. A quick playable demo showed groups of Pikmin getting involved in new activities like building. The new Rock Pikmin was also introduced and these cool little guys could be used to break down tough environments and objects. The Wii U game pad will constantly show a map that gives players a better vantage point of how and where to move their Pikmin. Players will be able to join forces with up to 4 leaders to coordinate and control the Pikmin forces in what Miyamoto describes as deeper and more intricate gameplay. Pikmin 3 certainly looked like it was coming along nicely and after 10 years since the original in the series, it’s about time Nintendo brought back these lovable critters.

The big man himself Reggie Fils-Aime was up on stage next to emphasize that there’s simply not enough time to discuss all of the Wii U’s media functionality with platforms like Youtube and Netflix alongside the games this conference, so Nintendo was going to concentrate on the latter for this hour. A guided presentation of the Wii U controller was demoed before moving onto the Wii U’s home board, the Miiverse. This will allow players to interact with each other in a very similar fashion to Sony’s PlayStation Home. Miiverse will soon become available for the Nintendo 3DS, PC’s and Internet enabled Smartphones.

The ideals of interaction with other players on a global scale were intertwined almost immediately with the announcement of New Super Mario Bros. U. A demo showing off NSMBU revealed a brand new item for the Mario Universe, an acorn that allowed players to glide like a flying squirrel across chasms. 

It was now time to talk about third-party titles for the Wii U with Martin Tremblay from Warner Bros. Studios arriving on stage to discuss Batman Arkham City Armoured Edition. On-screen footage and a demo showed the Wii U controller being used to organize Batman’s utility belt, tools and gadgets, along with using the camera on the controller for scanning for clues in detective mode.

Next up was Scribblenauts Unlimited, a fully-fledged HD console version of this excellent puzzle game. Now players will have the ability to make up their own unique concepts instead of merely putting in words and having objects appear. I really feel that this should be a downloadable title and will be very frustrated if this is a full RRP release for the Wii U because I see no reason why anyone would pay full price for this when they can buy it for pennies on iOS and the market place. 

A Wii U montage was shown after the Warner Bros. representative left the stage with Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Aliens Colonial Marines and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge all making the highlight reel.

More footage hit the big screen as Fils-Aime introduced Wii Fit U with a first-look featuring a calorie counter and clever use of the Wii U controller to enhance the games and exercises, as well as perform them without the actual use of your TV. Nintendo’s notion of social and healthy gaming continued as Sing was shown off next. Using the Wii U controller as a board for lyrics, this sing-along dance game allowed players to face their friends instead of the TV while they performed. Other players could also sing along and dance while the main player sang into the microphone itself.

It was time to take a break from the Wii U and with that it was Scott Moffitt’s turn to discuss Nintendo’s 3DS handheld. It struck me that Nintendo were certainly finding it difficult to stray any distance at all from their roots with the announcement of New Super Mario Bros. 2. Although Mr. Moffitt claimed this title to be very different to NSMBU on the home console, I found this very difficult to believe despite a new ‘gold’ mechanic that saw almost everything on screen turn to gold coins for Mario to collect. Little information was provided other than a US release date of August 19, so let’s hope for a similar date in Europe.

Mario was certainly very popular this conference with Paper Mario Sticker Star also revealed for the 3DS. Now this on the other hand did look very interesting with the RPG mechanics stemming from stickers that you find in your adventure and use during combat. I’ve always been a huge fan of the role-play elements of the Paper Mario franchise and I hope this will end up being a staple for 3DS owners.

Last but not least the 3DS title I have been most looking forward to was shown off – Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon. Luigi’s Mansion is still considered a cult classic amidst GameCube enthusiasts and it’s an absolute delight to see the green plumber return in what was one of my all time favourite adventure franchises. As Mr. Moffitt left the stage another montage reel highlighted the third party content we should be looking forward to on 3DS including Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited (didn’t we just see this as well … oh gosh) and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.

Nintendo’s new partnership with Lego was up next with Lego City Undercover being premiered. This ended up being an open-world Lego adventure game with tributes being paid to Grand Theft Auto, Mario and even the Matrix during the short video clip.

Moving swiftly on it was apparent that Ubisoft were certainly the big development group this E3 with them once again stepping out onto another conference stage to show off more of their impressive titles. First up was Just Dance 4 showing off the Wii U controller’s unique ability to change the dance moves the 4 players holding Wiimotes had to do. Next on Ubisoft’s agenda was the highly anticipated ZombiU, which was easily the most exciting title announced for Nintendo’s new machine. The Wii U controller acted as an inventory device, radar scanner, hacking unit, sniper scope and just about everything else you can hope for in a survival horror game. I was truly impressed with the way the footage showed off the gameplay and I hope it plays as smoothly as it looked during the presentation. The Ubisoft portion of the conference ended with a quick highlight reel of other titles coming out for the Wii U including Assassin’s Creed 3, Rabbids Land, Sports Connection, Rayman Legends, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013 and a Marvel Avengers title.

Finally Fils-Aime revealed Nintendo Land and allowed Mr. Eguchi (the producer behind Animal Crossing, Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort) to elaborate on Nintendo’s new virtual property. Mimicking a theme park, you will be able to take your Mii to this resort where rides, attractions and games are shaped and influenced by some of Nintendo’s most iconic franchises – an example would be Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, which plays like a mix of Bomberman and Pac-Man. Once again, while these mini games might be cute and enjoyable, I believe Nintendo don’t quite understand that very similar mini games are available on tablets and Smartphones, so I don’t quite understand why people would waste their time playing these games.

Nintendo Land ended a pretty dismal conference from Nintendo. I felt that Nintendo simply can’t move into the future and constantly rely on us gamers to enjoy the same experiences over and over again. Ubisoft pretty much threw Nintendo a lifeline this event with some fantastic titles including ZombiU but I don’t really feel many people are that excited to play Nintendo’s first-party titles like New Super Mario Bros again and again. The Wii U while impressive on certain levels is yet to entice me, especially considering I know that this machine is only fractionally stronger than the Xbox 360, a current generation device. What will happen when Microsoft and Sony announce their new machines next year, well I’ll tell you, I’m 100% sure the aforementioned hardware will blow the Wii U straight out of the water, especially considering the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3 are already pretty much producing the same type of dual-content that Nintendo are pushing with their Wii U tablet controller.

Ultimately I predict a storm brewing for Nintendo because the gap in the market they so cleverly found using the Wii has now been filled with social gaming through Smartphones, SmartTV and tablets, which all provide the same experiences the Wii did, but for a whole load cheaper. Trying to plug away at those same consumers will prove ineffective this time round, which will be a huge blow for Nintendo. With that in mind, I don’t think the Wii U can offer something special that gamers will feel is a staple for their video gaming experience.

Igor Kharin.

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