Right away, I have to say that Nintendo's Press Conferece this year really grabbed me on an emotional level. I regularly had tingles down my spine with the footage that was shown of new games, and just when I didn't think Nintendo could make me feel even more elated, they did. There has been lots of talk on Nintendo this week, and these can all be traced back to the decisions that formed their presentation. Some good, some not so good. You'll get a mix of both in the following write-up.
The presentation started right away with an epic Zelda orchestra just below the front of the stage, with the screens showing us a retrospective look at past Zelda titles, including Wind Waker and even the CD-i version. This served as a nice way of introducing Shigeru Miyamoto who seemed very passionate about Zelda's 25th Anniversary. At this point, it seemed like this was going to be an Anniversary celebration that would be properly serviced (unlike Ubisoft's).
I certainly agree with Miyamoto's words that music really is an "indispensible piece" in game development, but I loved how he emphasized the truth of this with the Zelda franchise. Miyamoto drew attention to key moments like opening treasure chests, commenting that the musical jingles are what really make these moments so long-lasting in people's minds. So in line with this, Shigeru requested that the talented orchestra play a few 8-bit tunes for the audience. This lead to some positive reactions from the crowd to which Miyamoto seemed visibly grateful for.
To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the franchise, it was announced that Nintendo would be releasing a total of four Zelda games this calendar year. Link's Awakening was added to the Nintendo eShop on the same day to introduce the Game Boy Color line-up; Ocarina of Time 3D will be out in a few days, housing an improved framerate, revamped graphics, a new sense of realism, and new modes; Four Swords will be releasing this September on the DSiWare platform as a free download; and finally, Skyward Sword will be releasing this holiday season accompanied by a gold Wii Remote and the promise that it will be the "most satisfying Zelda experience of any game in the series". Tieing in with these four releases, it was announced that orchestra symphony concerts would be held in regions around the world in the months to come. Additionally, music CD's will be provided as Club Nintendo rewards to those who register Ocarina of Time 3D early.
After bringing out some of the Japanese development heads and offering sincere thanks to those who have been supporting the Zelda franchise, it was time for Iwata to take the stage! He quickly touches on the aspects of the DSi and Wii launches and how these were historic moments in the industry for expanding the gamer population. And despite the changes Nintendo has seen in "who plays, where we play and how we play", it was acknowledged that mental boundaries still exist. And so it was this understanding that helped spear-head the development of a new gaming platform, one that will "equally" satisfy all players in ways the Wii has not, through "deeper game experiences" and "wider appeal".
Iwata believes that this new platform presents a major step in reaching the company's goals of serving every player and their individual gaming "appetites". Instead of letting the cat out of the bag, though, he stopped himself from continuing and said more details would be announced later on in the show. Instead, Nintendo wanted to use this opportunity to first draw attention to the 3DS and its budding potential. And on that note, a captivating video was shown, showing off Mario Kart 3DS, Kid Icarus and... Luigi's Mansion?! Aww yeah. Too bad there was no mention of Animal Crossing.
Reggie picked up where Iwata left off, quickly commenting that they are indeed listening to their target audience -- people want "comfortable" (familiar franchises) and "surprise" (those same franchises offering new experiences). Starting off the set of headline 3DS titles for the upcoming year is a trailer for the new Mario Kart game. At first, everything seems to be pretty straight-forward, with retro tracks like Maple Treeway (Wii) and Airship Fortress (DS) making an appearance. But then we see paraglider and motorized propeller add-on's featured on karts, which instantly gave me a Diddy Kong Racing vibe. This "entirely new" game also features monster trucks and other vehicles that make the inclusion of bikes in Mario Kart Wii look small by comparison.
In contrast to Star Fox SNES where many felt like they were flying in 3D, the 3D effect will be fully realized in Star Fox 64 3D. It was revealed that the new battle modes will make use of the 3DS' Cameras to show real-time reactions from rival players -- an interesting, albeit unnecessary move. Next up was Super Mario (name not final) for the Nintendo 3DS. The footage we were treated to for the first time looked really really clean and crisp, and it was great to see the Tanooki Suit back in a modern Mario game. We were told to expect the game to release before the end of 2011. Following that was footage of Kid Icarus: Uprising, which looked very impressive. One of the main things they decided to focus on at this conference was the ability to battle other players in 3-on-3 multiplayer matches. There was also a tease that AR Cards would be used to conduct battles in the game as well, but we'll have to wait for more information on that. And finally, a trailer of the new Luigi's Mansion 2 was shown with much excitement from the audience. This sequel will feature not one but "several" mansions, and with Canadian team Next Level Games taking control of the game's development, there's much to look forward to with this long-awaited return.
We were then shown footage of third-party games coming to the Nintendo 3DS in the next few months, including Resident Evil: the Mercenaries 3D, Ace Combat 3D, Cave Story 3D and Tekken 3D. It's great to know developers really are focusing on providing new content to 3DS-owners. Switching gears for a couple minutes, Nintendo then decided to touch on the launch of the eShop and discuss how accessible their service is compared to what's been done before and the kinds of exclusive games that are currently available through this hub.
Then came the moment people were waiting for. It was time to announce the name of the new platform and put to rest all of those crazy rumors we were hearing about for weeks and weeks. The name for the Wii's successor was revealed to be Wii U, with the prevailing thought being that this new console will be "the perfect fit for you not us". We've seen Nintendo aim for the family-building approach for the last couple years, and slowly there have been hints that they want to strive for more personalized customizable experiences which is exactly what the Wii U hopes to offer. What else does the "u" in Wii U symbolize? Reggie made a couple (corny) suggestions that early players will find the system to be unique, unifying and even utopian. More than that though, it's inferred that the letter "u" can mean what you want it to, as the player. At its core, the system is "infinitely complex" yet "perfectly simple" at the same time and to get a taste of what's to come in 2012, we were shown the first official trailer for the new product.
Early on in the video, I started worrying about the 'New Controller' (name to be determined), thinking in my head how much it reminds me of the uDraw Tablet. But as the trailer showed other uses of the new device beyond allowing you to draw on it, I started to have a much more positive attitude. For example, you can use the motion-sensing capabilities of the rectangular controller to control, say, a baseball glove on screen in a game of Wii Sports. You can also make video calls (a move I'm very surprised about given Nintendo's older business model), use it to browse the Internet in a different way, and interact with your TV screen in other cool ways.
"Up until now, home console games have occupied the TV screen", Iwata points out. But now, "U" won't need to stop playing when someone else needs the TV. Instead, players can continue playing on the New Controller which is either genius or shaky for the future console, depending on how you look at it. Nintendo is creating this platform particularly with the "most dedicated players" in mind, claiming that the variety and intuitiveness of the play controls will ideally re-define the future of gaming. They did stress, however, that this is "not designed to be a portable game machine". What they're doing is creating a new structure for home entertainment and a new bond between TV, games and the Internet. Iwata re-assures us that new ideas are already popping up within Nintendo and amongst third-party developers. There's already talk of a new cross-platform Smash Bros. for the 3DS and the Wii U where they will work together in some fashion.
To provide "tangible proof" of the Wii U's staying power even in its early prototype stages, Nintendo announced they have created eight interactive experiences for the event. Although these aren't actual games, you could easily see some of these (like Chase Mii and Battle Mii) being included a start-up package for the new system's release. Nintendo offered a tease of the system's graphic capabilities by showing a tech demo of a bird flying around in a Japanese garden with pretty cherry blossoms and highly-detailed water effects.
We were then shown a testimonial video where early adopters in the game developer space had positive remarks to share on the device. This included team representatives from 5th Cell, Ubisoft, Disney Interactive, EA Sports, and THQ. Along with this, Reggie briefed us on some of the working titles of established IP's that developers already thinking of bringing to the new system, including Darksiders II, Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Dirt, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. Just when I thought the core audience couldn't be emphasized even more, the president of Electronic Arts took to the stage (something that has never been done before!) to announce the new "breakthrough" in their relationship with Nintendo.
To round off the Press Conference, Reggie asked everyone to consider the company's four current platforms: DS, Wii, 3DS, Wii U. In reality, they all "share a common pedigree", as he put it, of innovation. The two screens of the DS changed gaming. The Wii's motion controls changed gaming. Glasses-free 3D has and can still further bring change to gaming. And now, Wii U opens up a "second window" to the game world with plenty of new opportunities still waiting to be explored. And with that, Reggie walked off stage, cueing lots of game logos to briefly appear on-screen before the Press Conference was officially over!
Did Nintendo's presentation manage to win me over? Not completely, but for the most part, they did a great job. There were definitely some gaps in their presentation of the Wii U but that's probably because it's still in the prototype stages. Still, the fact that some outlets are misunderstanding the intent of this new system (i.e., that it's not just the 'New Controller') says that Nintendo didn't convey all their ideas in the best way possible. Not to mention, too, there were some great teases to look at as Reggie was making his way off the stage, and some of these were actually new games! Instead of officially announcing these at the conference, they just showed us a logo to prompt our interest in coverage from game journalists. Sadly, some games like Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Mario Party 9, Fortune Street, and Super Fossil Fighters flew under the radar to make room for their focus on the Wii U and the 3DS. Perhaps they could've used a bit more re-focusing so that these titles could be covered properly. Either that or Nintendo's conference should have gone on for even longer. At least this tells us that Nintendo will have a busy year ahead of them.
- All about games; little-to-no filler stuff
- Catered to the core audience very well
- Wii U shows a lot of promise
- Zelda's 25th Anniversary was approached well
- Good use of industry data/highlights; worked in their favour
- Nice Zelda fan service at the start
- EA president coming on stage!
Most Memorable Highlight:
- Could have articulated the premise of the Wii U better
- Some new DS, Wii and eShop titles were not announced; flew under the radar