|It's over. Go home.|
At any rate, it's Nintendo time, after I gave up before even getting to them last year. So, after seeing the dire state of the industry and general corporate cluelessness thoroughly reflected in Sony and Microsoft's conferences, it was up to Nintendo to swoop in and save the day.
Yes, they did. But you wouldn't know it from the overreactions on many corners of the internet, because remember - Nintendo can do no right, no matter what.
Wii U Conference
The whole conference opened with a recorded bit involving father of modern gaming Shigeru Miyamoto leaving his dressing room to open the conference, with Pikmin appearing everywhere. A gutsy, but risky pander, considering that it's a relatively niche Gamecube franchise - relative to the rest of Nintendo's backlog - to headline with at an event like E3. Joined by Bill Trinen, Miyamoto gave us some details on Pikmin 3 along with a first trailer and the revelation of one of the new Pikmin types. Game looks lovely, and I can see this game outselling the original Gamecube games with the much larger audience the Wii U should ultimately have, but it was definitely a surprising pick to open with, as it's no old-school Mario in terms of wide reach, that's for sure. Having been stressed by the first game's time limit - but still having managed to beat it completely with all the extra treasures - and personally considering Pikmin 2 to be one of the very best Gamecube games, though, I'm really looking forward to this title.
Moving on, there was talk about the new Wii U GamePad and uses for its second screen - which is a resistive touchscreen just like the DS and 3DS's lower screen. They discussed game design philosophy and how these new additions to the controller work out differently in a console than a portable. There's been some criticism of the fairly constant talk - particularly on vision and philosophy - throughout the conference, and I'd say there's some legitimacy in that, as it slows down an event that many viewers want to be nothing more than a series of game and hardware feature announcements in rapidfire succession from beginning to end. Personally, though, in contrast to the competition, I find it nice to actually see hardware and software design vision on display, and a parade of something other than one-note first-person shooters and gory hack and slashers.
Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime appeared next and announced that they had 23 WIi U titles for the stage show, and that the Wii U and 3DS titles to be discussed were only a small part of what was playable for each system. A strong array of set-top box style video streaming features were announced for the Wii U, including Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon Video. And he also confirmed that the Wii U would be able to support two GamePads, not just a single GamePad in conjunction with Wii remotes. There was a look at the 'social window' of Miiverse in the GamePad's screen with communication very similar to the 3DS's Swapnote application, as previously unveiled at last Sunday's Nintendo Direct conference that first introduced the forthcoming Miiverse social network.
Then it was on to Wii U game reveals. This began with New Super Mario Bros. U, the biggest game of the show. Though these old-school 2D Mario titles always come under fire from self-proclaimed 'hardcore' gamers, they have a track record of moving 20-25+ million copies and a huge amount of hardware. The upcoming New Super Mario Bros. 2 on the 3DS will be vital in getting the 3DS's western hardware sales from merely good to outright great, and New Super Mario Bros. U has the power and mass appeal to guarantee a gigantic launch for the Wii U. And it's the first Mario game to launch with a Nintendo console in 16 years, no less - first 2D Mario to launch with a Nintendo console in 21 years, too. A huge deal and amazing call. The game resembles Super Mario World in inspiration more than the NES Mario titles like previous New Super Mario Bros. games, and the game looks absolutely gorgeous and polished, with some stunning backgrounds and the most personality in a New Super Mario Bros. title's visuals yet. Flying Squirrel Suits and more Baby Yoshi were confirmed, along with the usual four-player local play and some very cool asymmetric multiplayer features allowing for up five players to play at once, with someone using the Wii U GamePad to create Boost Blocks and assist or troll their fellow players depending on their mood, potentially playing a vital role in multiplayer speed runs. This game looks like something magic, and it'll undoubtedly help the Wii U to sell out for months, as New Super Mario Bros. Wii did for the Wii.
They moved on to some third party highlights after that with a look at Warner Bros.' announced games so far, in Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition, the definitive version of the game-of-the-year favorite from 2011 with all of the downloadable content included on the disc and some exclusive Wii U features. Lacking either of the other systems it was originally released on, I'm definitely interested in this myself. They also presented Scribblenauts Unlimited, the latest installment in the popular Scribblenauts puzzle adventure series, which is also receiving a 3DS release, and the Wii U version will allow a second player to join in with another GamePad for cooperative play. A fantastic approach to the popular series.
After that came a third party reel which included footage of THQ's Darksiders II (An interesting looking Zelda-esque action game. Unfortunately, THQ is on the very brink of collapse now after some very poorly chosen PS3/360 investments, assuming too much of an audience they should have known better than to bet on.), EA's Mass Effect 3, Namco Bandai's Tank! Tank! Tank! (A straight port of the hilarious and very fun-looking arcade game - I'm really looking forward to this one, and I'm hoping it sets a precedent for strong, quirky Namco Bandai Wii U support after they often neglected the Wii - failure to release Tales of Graces on the Wii in the west being a notably big mistake.), Namco Bandai's Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (The clip even included a Mario reference!), Atlus's Trine 2: Director's Cut (A solid little start from Atlus, and an eShop download indie release.), Tecmo Koei's Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge (Which, unfortunately, is said not to be particularly great.), and Sega's Aliens: Colonial Marines (Developed by Gearbox, which has been championing the Wii U's capabilities since the console's debut at E3, and the game looks excellent for those into this sort of title. Sega, on the other hand, is unfortunately facing catastrophic losses after repeated failure after failure on Sony and Microsoft platforms in recent years where their games visibly do not sell. And yet they've now got the latest and most expensive yet of Toshihiro Nagoshi's PS3-exclusive Yakuza titles on the way to lose an incredible amount of money for the fifth time this generation. At this point, it's rather crystal clear that Sega is going to go out of business if they don't drop Sony and Microsoft's platforms where their games have - with the exception of Phantasy Star Portable on the PSP in Japan when the platform was still healthy there - never sold well, and lost a tremendous amount of money this generation. Sega's fanbase of old has visibly merged with the Nintendo fanbase today - Nintendo and Sega fans having much more in common with one another than with the Sony or Microsoft audiences, which typically have no respect on the whole for Nintendo, Sega, or either company's legacy. Despite this, Sega recently pledged more support to Sony's already largely dead Vita portable, committing to costs no sane executive should even consider greenlighting - at this point, the best thing that could happen to Sega would be for Nintendo to buy them. They're just going to go out of business otherwise, at this rate.).
Soon after, Reggie brought joy to the internet by invoking the 'my body is ready' meme that he spawned years ago and unveiled Wii Fit U, draining the joy of the 'hardcore' as quickly as he'd provoked it. Of course, for all the predictable complaints - it was just a few years ago that the internet was consumed with 'hardcore' gamer temper tantrums proclaiming the original Wii Fit to represent the 'end' of all gaming - this is another vital mass market appeal title that's guaranteed to sell millions. I never did pick up the original Wii Fit or Wii Fit Plus myself, but this one looks even better. It apparently allows you to carry over your save file from previous Wii Fit games on the Wii - and it has been confirmed that Wii downloads like Virtual Console and WiiWare games, as well as save files, will be transferable to the Wii U - and will also come with a special pedometer that detects a variety of things, not just your steps, to add more information on your daily movement and exercise upon syncing with the Wii U GamePad. Also, there's butt luge on the balance board. Can you really say no to butt luge?
Drawing further ire from the 'hardcore' was a fresh new mass market oriented unveil, SiNG (Working Title), a karaoke and dance first party Nintendo title for something to appeal more directly to the Just Dance crowd from Nintendo themselves, without using the 'Wii something-or-other' name that many of these games did this past generation, and Wii Fit U is obviously continuing that trend. The title seems well suited to completely replace Sony's own Singstar karaoke series, which has lost relevance in Sony's decline. A smart idea all around, as well suited to functioning as a karaoke machine as the Wii U is in the first place, easily choosing between songs on the GamePad screen in party settings.
Scott Moffitt came out briefly after that to bring a little 3DS news, teasing the hour-long 3DS conference they had the next day on the 6th. New Super Mario Bros. 2 was revealed to be full of gold coins, with a focus on collecting one million coins, with lots of powers oriented toward the appearance of coins everywhere. Local two-player cooperative play has been confirmed in the game as well. A guaranteed huge hit. Slated for August 19th release.
|For some reason every sticker or 'sticky' joke I keep coming up with is dirty.|
Paper Mario: Sticker Star was next, the fourth installment in the popular and very funny Paper Mario role-playing game series. Everything in the game world seems to revolve around stickers, scissors, and all sorts of interesting ways of interacting with the environment this time. It may not have the partners who usually join you in this series, but it's possible they were held back from the trailer and screenshots as so to diligently avoid spoilers. While the entire series has been excellent so far, Sticker Star looks and feels to me like it may have the sort of magic and sense of wonder all throughout the sprawling game world that we saw in the very first game on the N64 but haven't quite seen in the others, The Thousand-Year Door on the Gamecube and Super Paper Mario on the Wii, which were both excellent games regardless. Sticker Star drops in time for the holidays, and it's a title I'm particularly excited about, personally.
And then Moffitt also showed Luigi's Mansion 2, now renamed Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, the long-awaited sequel to the original Luigi's Mansion on the Gamecube, which arrived at Gamecube launch eleven years ago. It looks like a thoroughly polished, enjoyable exploration and ghost-busting filled experience like the original was, now with multiple mansions, some special new flashlight moves, more puzzles, and a new mission structure for lots of things to do. Another holiday release, though I'd love to see it arrive closer to Halloween, personally.
Moffitt's time on stage ended with a short third party 3DS game reel featuring Disney's Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (Which looks like a wonderful mix of modern Epic Mickey adventure/RPG platforming gameplay and old-school Castle of Illusion aesthetics.), Kingdom Hearts 3D (Never really got into this series myself, not a fan of the director, but the environments in this game are gorgeous and the gameplay looks fun.), Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (Which feels more like God of War than Castlevania to me - I can't wait for Mercury Steam to be done with the franchise, personally, and I'm hoping that Konami will return the series to its original timeline with future 3DS and Wii U titles by Koji Igarashi, whose style of Castlevania is what the fanbase has been asking for more of for years now.), and Scribblenauts Unlimited.
Last year's big surprise Wii U unveiling of a Nintendo/Traveller's Tales collaboration on a LEGO spoof of the Grand Theft Auto series, previously named LEGO City Stories, was given a hilarious full unveil with its new name, LEGO City Undercover. The game will have separate Wii U and 3DS versions - the 3DS version not yet unveiled or seen, but still confirmed - and the game itself is essentially a big cop movie spoof making fun of things like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon. The game looks beautiful and incredibly fun in motion, and as one of at least several sandbox-style games coming to the Wii U launch this holiday season - and one of the first, if not the first on the 3DS - it's one of the most exciting titles on the system, as far as I'm concerned, as it appeals to my own tastes far more than Rockstar's series. There's lots of goofy dialogue and dramatic moments, over the top brawling combat, the expected vehicle stealing and exploration, a job system to switch into disguises for different vocations to unlock access to various parts of the city and more things to see and do, and the ability to communicate through video calls back to the police department and scan for criminals with the Wii U GamePad. The game looks like a beautiful showpiece for what the system can do, and the game looks like it'll appeal to pretty much everybody. That's enough of my salivating.
Following that was Ubisoft's time to showcase their strong third party support. They've announced eight titles for the new console already: Sports Connection (For those looking for something in the vein of Wii Sports, as the Wii U doesn't have one of those announced yet.), Avengers: Battle for Earth (A motion control focused crazy brawler featuring tons of Marvel superheroes and villains. Looks fun.), Rabbids Land (The always hilarious Raving Rabbids return in their first Wii U party outing, this time centered around a theme park they've taken over, set in a Mario Party style board game format.), Just Dance 4 (The inevitable continuation of their smash hit franchise that's always sold best on the Wii by miles - the Wii U version will have exclusive features.), Zombi U (I'll get to that in a moment - it's a big title.), Rayman Legends (An exclusive follow-up to Rayman Origins for the Wii U, following Origins largely not selling on anything but the Wii, given its style of cartoony platforming gameplay.), Assassin's Creed III (The latest in the hit action/stealth series.), and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 (For those who'd rather use a different exercise program than Wii Fit U.).
They went on to demonstrate Just Dance 4 first, with its exclusive Wii U controller features on stage - another huge third party title that will sell millions and help sell the Wii U to a ton of people. The 'hardcore' crowd still hates the franchise, but at this point, it's time to let it go - if people are having fun, especially in numbers these large, it's not a bad series. Fun is paramount in gaming, period.
Up next was the aforementioned Zombi U, a revival of Ubisoft's very first game, Zombi, from the ZX Spectrum in the mid-'80s. Rather than just your typical zombie first person shooter, this is more of a serious survival experience, set in a seemingly rather open London. You spend your time working on missions to help other survivors and escape while collecting weapons, food, medical supplies, and more to get by. The game makes excellent use of the Wii U tablet, having you shift your focus away from the television screen when looting corpses, going through items, and working on opening doors and so on to proceed, shifting to camera angles on screen to keep you constantly looking over your shoulder for zombies. And these are more your old-school Dawn of the Dead style zombies, which mostly groan, lurch, try to break down doors and barricades, and gradually overwhelm you. The worst I've seen, behavior-wise, is the occasional zombie in demo footage that will scream and run at you. The game's legitimately very tense and beautifully designed, a surreal atmosphere pervading the ruined yet familiar London landscape. The game also features a really cool, unique feature wherein if you die, you don't restart, but instead, you're switched over to controlling a different survivor elsewhere in London. And if you track down your last character who just died, you can kill them as a zombie and get all of your weapons, food, and supplies back with your old bag. Likewise, friends can come and kill your character turned zombie, too - not sure if there's any online cooperative play or not, though, as much as that would benefit a game like this. There is an aysmmetric competitive move, though, in which a player gets to use the Wii U gamepad to play zombie master and spawn a horde of zombies to attack the others. A very big, ambitious title that looks much more in tune with the roots of what makes zombies appealing, as opposed to the Michael Bay style barrage of constant gunfire and explosions Resident Evil 6 has become.
Ubisoft ended their stage time with a reel featuring some of the previously mentioned titles they've announced. They deserve to be applauded for betting as heavily on the Wii U as they have - the biggest third party commitment yet - with such a smartly balanced lineup of titles for 'core' and wider audience gamers, bringing something for everyone. Watch_Dogs, an extremely ambitious title they unveiled at E3, may also see Wii U release in the future. It seems tailor-made for the Wii U GamePad and its touchscreen.
|This is the part where you cast aside cynicism for childlike joy.|
In many ways, in conjunction with Miiverse, Nintendo Land looks as though it could be Nintendo's answer to Sony's Playstation Home, but done much better. A virtual Mii world to hang out in and meet up with friends while playing little games and perhaps customizing your own living space with little things earned from games would fit in well with the world created for Nintendo's Mii avatars and add an additional layer to the burgeoning social focus Nintendo is adopting with the launch of the Wii U and Miiverse later this year. In the least, it's known for certain that you earn coins for achievements scored in Nintendo Land and spend those on statues to customize your own park. A nice idea. Holding special online holiday events with special prizes and seasonal content, as well as weather from rain to snow and more would be a great addition, too, whether within Nintendo Land or some other similar style of virtual Mii social space online expanded from the concept. Nintendo Land looks like the kind of place a lot of Nintendo nerds dreamed about as kids - someplace you'd want to log into and never leave. I wouldn't be surprised if the large, populated hub area contained special activities like scavenger hunts and such as well.
Reggie then closed the main Wii U conference with a repeat of their focus with the platform and the Wii U's slogan: "Together. Better." We were left with a scene of fireworks over the lit-up Nintendo Land at night - a beautiful sight with a magical atmosphere that I cannot wait to see in-game myself. Between the revealing of Miiverse as our main social hub in the forthcoming Nintendo Network - around which we're missing many, many details yet, which will be continually revealed as we move toward the Wii U launch this holiday season in further Nintendo Direct online conferences, along with more games - and the introduction of fresh online virtual Mii worlds in which to socialize, relax, and have fun within a magical atmosphere, Nintendo's off to an amazing start with their new social online focus. I can't wait to see where they go from here - the more virtual Mii worlds and playgrounds we get to roam, play around with, and build up with our friends on the Wii U and 3DS, the better.
Then on the evening of the 6th, Nintendo held another hour-long conference for the 3DS. There's not as much to recap here, so this won't take long.
Following a surprise appearance by the Nintendo Direct conference's Non-Specific Action Figure - who became a new meme this E3, along with Reggie being portrayed as a purple Pikmin - we saw more of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and Scribblenauts Unlimited. All known games.
After those came a sizzle reel with LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Which got an excellent demo released on the 3DS eShop.), a good looking Transformers Prime game, and Rabbids Rumble, an appealingly strange looking seeming Rabbids RPG with a focus on collection of the Rabbids, leveling them up, and battling them in wacky turn-based battles.
The eShop celebrated its one-year birthday, otherwise, and we got a new wacky, bizarre comedy series on Nintendo Video by the now-over/long-running Nintendo Week digest series' Phaea Crede. As usual, the original comedy Nintendo's been producing this comedy is pretty cheesy and odd, but it's hard not to like.
They ended with another look at New Super Mario Bros. 2. Disappointingly, there was no Animal Crossing, as I've been looking forward to that game and had been hoping we'd see it out this fall. Fire Emblem: Awakening was quietly announced just after the conference, though, with even less fanfare than Nintendo's own announcement's of the Wii U's great-looking Project P-100 (A Platinum Games collaboration full of bizarre superhero mob and alien combat.) and Game & Wario (Working Title) that appeared on their website but received no mention in their stage shows.
In The End
Aside from that, there's rumblings of more major western third party support for the Wii U coming in the next few months, including Skylanders Giants from Activision, possibly the latest Call of Duty, and EA's usual sports games. Word is that there's due to be more of a Japanese third party lineup unveiled soon enough too, as entirely lacking as the Japanese presence at E3 this year was - and I'm speaking as someone who primarily plays Japanese games - though what presence there was was more on Nintendo platforms than any others by far, at least. The 3DS has some more quality third party titles and localizations on the way too, including Adventure Time: Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage!? by WayForward, Planet Crashers 3D by Renegade Kid, Unchained Blades by XSeed, Code of Princess by Atlus, and Harvest Moon: A New Beginning and Project Happiness by Natsume. No sign of SWERY65's promised PS3 Deadly Premonition Director's Cut, though - I'm hoping we might see a Wii U port of that yet, given that even that would be a more viable market for an ultra-niche title like that than the PS3 at this point, and implementing Wii remote and nunchuk controls would do wonders for the game.
With no Wii or DS games showcased, there's still questions of whether we might see Pandora's Tower and the Fatal Frame 2: Crimson Butterfly Wii remakes released in North America yet this year too - the former's already out in Europe and the latter will be arriving there later this year. They'd make a nice send-off for the platform, as fantastic as Xenoblade Chronicles has been, and as much as I'm looking forward to The Last Story later this summer.
There was no Wii U release date or price given either, as Nintendo announced well before the conference that they wouldn't be telling us either of those. They'll be saved for future Nintendo Direct online conferences with more hype, no doubt. I'm hoping for no more than $300 - less would be a dream - and otherwise, launch has been confirmed for the holidays this year.
As noted throughout this post, it's not to say that everybody's happy, of course. There are many of those who were never going to be pleased by these conferences - those in particular who believed Nintendo needed to drop the original Wii's focus (As well as name) from the Wii U entirely and narrow their focus to the so-called 'hardcore gamers,' following Sony and Microsoft off their current cliff. Refreshingly, that's not what we saw Nintendo do - rather, the followed through with promises made about the Wii U at E3 last year, promising both a serious commitment to online and for the platform to have a 'wider and deeper' focus, aiming at an even broader audience than the Wii, while also intensifying their 'core'/'hardcore'/'traditional' gamer focus and strengthening third party ties. These were lofty promises, and they delivered on all of them.
In reality, looking at what Nintendo pulled off, continuing their mass market focus while the others continued their self-destructive behavior when the industry's outright collapsing around them, Nintendo didn't just win E3, they won gaming. The Wii U has one of the best upcoming launch lineups of any new console or portable in ages, and the 3DS has a good lineup with more surprises, apps, and firmware updates coming yet this year, as well as New Super Mario Bros. 2 to get the western sales to catch up with Japan's incredible enthusiasm for the platform. Despite all the anger - which I'll be elaborating on in a sort of postscript post on E3 and looking back at my old Sane Gaming series - Nintendo ran circles around the competition.
Microsoft showed an increasing disinterest in gaming and a refocus on set-top box features with a weak game lineup that won't alter their current downward trajectory. Sony abandoned their dying new portable and provided nothing for the PS3 that will get it out of its own spiral, and unveiled a peripheral they're only going to see a big net loss on that they can't afford now. Nintendo unveiled the Wii U with an aggressive lineup targeted at continuing what made the Wii a smash hit and taking things further, as well as the vital software needed to greatly strengthen the 3DS's position in the west. And they're still keeping their cards close - we only saw known things for this year at this point, where Sony and Microsoft had no lack of 2013 content on display. We haven't even seen the tip of the iceberg yet in terms of Wii U games and features, and there'll undoubtedly be many more great 3DS surprises over the course of the remaining half of the year, with many Nintendo Direct conferences yet to come and many questions to be answered about the Nintendo Network, Miiverse, and more. Sony and Microsoft have largely gotten all the hype they can out there for their platforms for the bulk of the year now - the announcements, surprises, and hype with Nintendo is far from over.