E3 2011 - Nintendo Press Conference
This is the final post for the big three, E3 press conferences. There are still plenty more games and announcements to come over the next few days, so keep checking back here for lots more updates and opinions.
Nintendo’s E3 2011 Press Conference
Nintendo opened-up in style with a symphony orchestra playing over dramatic footage from the last twenty five years of Zelda. It was a goose-bump inducing opening gambit, even for a Zelda ignoramus such as me.
Our walk along memory lane continued as Shigeru Miyamoto talked us through what is in store for Zelda's 25th birthday. He explained that there would be a Zelda for each Nintendo console, including a downloadable Link's Awakening for Wii, 3DS Ocarina of Time and a free DSi downloadable, co-op title, Four Swords. He capped this off by putting to rest a persistent rumour by announcing that Skyward Sword would be coming to the Wii this holiday, and will not, as some believed, be a Project Cafe launch title. What all of these Zelda games have in common, and most of the titles discussed during the presser, is that there was no new game footage on offer - something which was a source of frustration throughout.
President and CEO Satoru Iwata was next to take the stage. He touched upon how best to work around the mental boundaries of games and talked at length about having “deeper” games with “wider” appeal. This company babble was followed by a teaser of five upcoming 3DS titles, which the next speaker, Reggie Fills-Aime, confirmed as being Mario Kart, StarFox 3D, Super Mario World 3D, Kid Icarus Uprising and Luigi's Mansion 2.
Before going into the details, Reggie subtly slagged us off for being unsure of what we really want and took the liberty of telling us what we should be looking for in our games. It’s always nice to have someone tell you what it is that you are after! The five 3DS games all looked very impressive, and Reggie told us that Super Mario 3D and Luigi's Mansion 2 are completely new, developed from scratch. I was particularly intrigued by Kid Icarus Uprising which was running fast and smooth.
Reggie then presented a compilation of 3DS footage from third party developers which included Resident Evil Mercenaries 3D and Revelations, Cave Story 3D, Driver Renegade, Tekken 3D, Snake Eater Metal Gear Solid 3D and lots more. Sticking with the 3DS, he talked briefly about older games being released through the Virtual Console with 3D, and named Excitebike as the first example - which will be available as a free download. Something about Pokemon and Pokedex 3D followed, during which time I slipped into a brief coma of disinterest.
Finally, after much procrastination, it was time for the first new console unveiling in five years. Nintendo have retained the Wii brand and will be calling their next generation console the Wii U. There was no shortage of gibberish as Fils-Aime explained the significance of the U - unique, unifying and utopian! - but none of it really matters. It’s a silly name, but then so was Wii, and now that seems as regular as PlayStation or Xbox.
Nintendo opted not to show the console itself, but instead focused their efforts on the unique controller, which we have since learned will be limited to one per console. This distinctive piece of hardware looks more tablet than controller, with its huge touch screen. Its capabilities seem endless, allowing you to switch from the TV to controller screen for remote play and used in conjunction with the Wii-mote, balance board, zapper etc. in many inventive ways. Other uses included a canvas, a video phone and a magnifier of sorts for the action on the TV screen.
It is difficult to put into words some of the ways the controller was being used, and that is most certainly to Nintendo's credit. However, my main concern is that it looks rather unwieldy and I can’t imagine holding such an over-sized controller for extended gaming sessions, which would be to the detriment of the core gamers whom Nintendo were adamant they want to win back. It would be unwise to pass any sort of judgement on the Wii U remote until I've tried it, and I’m hoping I will have the opportunity at Tokyo Game Show, this September.
Nintendo continued to focus on the controller for the remainder of the show, never once giving information on the console base. This caused a great deal of confusion, and it wasn’t until afterwards when images of the console box were released that it became completely clear that the Wii U wasn’t just an impressive new peripheral for the existing Wii.
A new Smash Brothers was mentioned for both the 3DS and Wii U, but it was Lego City that was the first game properly announced for the new console, which was a bit of a head scratcher. By the time we reached the third party developers, the glaring lack of game footage had become a worry. However, I was very pleased to see a number of high-profile third part titles announced, including Batman Arkham City, Tekken, Darksiders 2, Dirt, Colonial Marines and Ninja Gaiden 3. Initially, it wasn’t clear whether the footage of these titles was taken from the Wii U, but Nintendo later confirmed that the vast majority were from the PS3 and 360 versions, but that the Wii U would match these visuals.
For a 90 minute presser, Nintendo shared very little. They talked-up a storm but, with the exception of the Wii U remote, they were unable to back it up with visuals. Their decision to concentrate almost exclusively on the capabilities of the Wii U controller was understandable, though somewhat disappointing. It represents Nintendo at their best and looks to partner their well-established innovation with the cutting-edge technology missing from the Wii.
Whatever your take on the announcements, it’s hard to deny that it was a very confusing showing. There was far too much procrastination and not enough substance, and it left many unsure of what they had seen; part of a new console or a new way of controlling Wii games. At the end of the day it is irrelevant, as in a year’s time few will remember the round-about way in which Nintendo debuted the Wii U, a console whose future appears to be rather bright.