• E3 2011: Nintendo's Conference Recap

        Focusing on the Wii U and 3DS
        By Valerie Hilgenfeldt

        When the conference began shortly after 9:00AM yesterday, June 7th, late arrivals were still shuffling into the Nokia Theater, and Shigeru Miyamoto was speaking through a translator about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and – surprise, surprise – the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda in general. While chatting it up about Link wasn't unexpected, it did serve to quash the pre-E3 rumor that Skyward Sword would be moved to the Wii U, as the title's slated to be released in late 2011, and the new system won't see the light of day till next year.

        By mentioning the Wii U already, we're getting ahead of ourselves, so let's take a step back and review what happened through the course of the conference.

        9:14AM – On top of the Zelda titles already mentioned, Nintendo revealed that a 3DS version of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures will be released as a free download. Since their mantra is practically “multiplayer,” it's a good idea, and the 3DS can use all the help they can give it. They continued by praising the individuals who have worked on The Legend of Zelda franchise over the years, and mentioned the fully orchestrated concert tour they're launching to further celebrate the series' anniversary (and Koji Kondo's music making).

        9:21AM – Satoru Iwata proudly made his first of several appearances. During his opening remarks, he referred to the lines dividing players by age, group, and gender; “mental boundaries still exist in how games are defined,” and “as an industry, what we haven't achieved yet is a platform that is equally satisfying for all players. Yet, this is exactly” what Nintendo intends to create, Mr. Iwata claimed. Then he pulled a bait and switch, saying they'd continue talking about that later (to an “aww” from the audience), after they'd touched on this year's Nintendo 3DS releases.

        9:24AM – After a sequence of 3DS preview videos (demonstrating Mario Kart, Star Fox, Super Mario, Kid Icarus and Luigi's Mansion 2), Reggie Fils-Amie strolled into view, posing: “Is it possible to deliver something for everyone?” It was an enticing line wasted on another video about the 3DS Mario Kart, which was touted to be something we've “never played before,” when it simply looked like every other recent Mario Kart, with the addition of hangliding and racing underwater with a propeller on your bumper. Gliding came across as a fancy way to enjoy long jumps (which already exist in the franchise) while the latter – well, we'll let you pass your own judgment. What was new were the limited kart customization options. The public will see the whole package released this holiday season.

        9:30AM – Next, Reggie talked about the 3DS Star Fox, wherein players could use traditional controls or motion-sensing to pilot their Arwings. In multiplayer mode, the system's camera streams live video of everyone's faces, enabling you to see your opponents' reactions (and they yours). Separating the Star Fox 64 remake from the subsequent title on the list, Reggie noted that the upcoming Super Mario is the first “Mario adventure created from scratch for a portable system.” Rolling the footage, Nintendo revealed it's more classically inspired than the franchise's Galaxy iterations, looking like a mix of New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 64-style play. It's also coming out this year.

        9:34AM – Kid Icarus is brought to the forefront again. It's the game everyone wanted last year that still isn't here, though this time, Nintendo focused on its three-on-three multiplayer mode – and not much else (sans mentioning Augmented Reality cards). Luigi's Mansion 2 followed, entertaining conference-goers with its sense of humor, but it didn't have anything new that could convert the original's naysayers. It was the last in-house title shown before a third-party reel demonstrated Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Games, Ace Combat 3D, Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, Driver Renegade, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions, Tekken 3D, and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D.

        9:44AM – Following yawn-worthy talk about a free portable Pokedex provided with the latest 3DS system update (and a welcome referral to a new, free download, 3D Classics Excitebike), Reggie finally got to what everyone was really there to see: Nintendo's new system. Starting with, “You might remember how the 'Wii' name started to make perfect sense...”, he went on to say: “could it also be a perfect fit just for you?” Its name was then revealed: Wii U. Personally, I preferred Project Cafe, but I'll get used to this, much as I got over the loss of Revolution. Tying their new system's label to its successful predecessor made perfect marketing sense, and the videos that followed quickly shoved that subject into the background, revealing what the U could do.

        9:46AM – Tablet-like in shape, and featuring a high resolution touch screen, the Wii U's controller could accept and display a video stream from the console itself, enabling players to leave the system on and take their game anywhere in the household, even if the television was otherwise occupied. Games specifically tailored to the controller would exist too, such as a match of Reversi played on a tabletop between two people (and when they were done, the Wii U controller was tilted to clear the board). Thanks to the accelerometer and cameras present on its front and back, the device can function as a truly Augmented Reality-like extension of your gaming, like a golf tee set on the ground at your feet, or a sniper scope moved around in front of the television to zoom in on far-away Miis. Text can only say so much, so to truly understand what it's offering, check out the video below (starting at the 2:05 mark):

        The conference continued until around 10:11AM, and consisted of a plug for the Miyamoto and Iwata interview (available in text format at http://e3.nintendo.com), numerous third-party developers singing the innovative Wii U's praises, and mentioning a string of titles headed for the HD system (which will be released next year), such as: Darksiders II, Tekken, Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Online, Dirt, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge.

        Evidently, a lot of the developers outside of Nintendo are excited about the Wii U, and with good reason. While we touched on how the PlayStation Vita could dethrone the Nintendo 3DS, and despite Nintendo's own insistence that their latest portable has a future, it's clear that everyone's eyes are going to be firmly fixated on the fascinating Wii U. Tablets are what the casual masses have migrated to, and that's effectively what the Wii U's controller is; cloud computing is the future, and Nintendo's new system utilizes that functionality; augmented reality is what many enthusiasts are looking forward to, and the Wii U brings all of us several steps closer to realizing it.

        With a controller whose multitude of buttons can either be comprehensively utilized or completely ignored (catering to both hardcore and casual gamers alike), HD display capabilities, and more, it's easy to be excited about the Wii's successor. Nintendo is paying attention to what the world wants after all, and – going by how abysmal Microsoft and Sony's conferences were – they're walking heads held high into what could be a very prosperous future.
        Comments 3 Comments
        1. Frogacuda's Avatar
          Frogacuda -
          Nintendo seemed more on top of the hardware thing this time (although there are still many questions) but what I found strangest was that this is the first time I've seen a new console from Nintendo announced without a single first-party game, and virtually no exclusive third party games. Surely Nintendo doesn't want this to be a port-box.

          I'm also worried that the few games shown in the third party reel that WEREN'T obviously just footage of the PS360 versions (Tekken, Ghost Recon) looked really bad. I don't know if that's because they're early or if it's because this system isn't as powerful as Nintendo wants us to believe.
        1. Raz's Avatar
          Raz -
          While there wasn't even a CG trailer to show it off with, they technically announced a new Smash Bros., but only in passing -- considering, who knows when it'll be available? Even if the Zelda tech demo is meant to be a teaser for a new Zelda title (a la the GC Ocarina-inspired demo and the vastly different end product, Wind Waker), that wouldn't be at launch either. The last possibility is Pikmin, which they could've been working on for a while. Nothing that really screams "system seller," though -- I suppose they're banking on the U's technology itself to sell the thing.
        1. Frogacuda's Avatar
          Frogacuda -
          Even Smash Bros they announced as a multiplatform game. I suppose you're right that they mentioned Pikmin, but not so much as a bullshot for that.

          Just an unusual way to bring out a new system.
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