Saturday, July 2, 2011

E3 2011 Impressions: Nintendo

This year's E3 ended two weeks ago, and I got my impressions on Sony and Microsoft out of the way fairly quickly. So why not Nintendo? Well I was a little fatigued in writing and decided to play some Final Fantasy VI. Then the Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy concerts happened in Chicago. But in the meantime new details have slowly been trickling out on Nintendo's newly announced console from E3 2011. This has allowed for me to bring together my thoughts on the system and express them here. For this set of impressions I will use a different format, as Nintendo's conference was very different from Microsoft and Sony's. Let's get to business, shall we?

Nintendo's E3 2011 was unique and fun. I mean come on, an orchestra playing Legend of Zelda themes celebrating the last 25 years of gaming history? We heard great themes from many of the games, all the way up to the new Skyward Sword. The brief footage shown from that game is very nice. Better yet, when Miyamoto came out on stage afterwards he announced there will be a tour celebrating LoZ's 25th anniversary. Let's hope they come to the Boston area! *Hope!*

Speaking of Skyward Sword, I want to bring up some cool things I learned in post-E3 interviews with Miyamoto and the like. I can't remember if this came from a news site or from an Iwata Asks column, but nevertheless Miyamoto stated some very interesting facts. The main element I am referring to is that of quality. Miyamoto stated that he told his development team that if Skyward Sword isn't the best Legend of Zelda game, that there won't be any more Zeldas. Damn. I feel like that must have pushed Nintendo to do their very best. At least I really hope so. Apparently the same was stated of the new StarFox 64 3DS game. If it's not the best StarFox 64 remake or best available option for playing the game, then there won't be more StarFox games coming. Very interesting.

Let's talk briefly about the games Nintendo showed at their conference. All of them were for the 3DS. This clearly exemplifies the fact that Nintendo is head strong on supporting their new handheld. My problem with this is how there was only one new game announcement, while the other 3DS titles we already knew about.

Mario Kart 3DS looks like another Mario Kart game, but this time it will feature new tracks and 3D graphics. Some other new components are the abilities to fly your carts and submerge them under water. Also, there's a new customization feature for your vehicle. I don't know much about this, but hey, they need to add new material to keep making these games interesting. Mario Kart's a lot of fun, so I'm looking forward to this 3D installment.

Starfox 64 3DS looks like an improved version of the classic game from the Nintendo 64. Some new features include online play with friends where the characters' faces are actually your opponent's faces. I've actually recently heard this isn't online play, but local multiplayer play. That... kinda sucks for anyone hoping for playing online. Nevertheless, it makes great use of the 3DS' internal facing camera. Also, motion control and tilt features will give a new way to play the classic title. Wanna do a barrel roll? Go ahead by tilting your 3DS. Now that's something you couldn't do with you N64 controller now is it.

Reggie Fils-Aime goes on to give more information on the already announced Super Mario 3DS. Mario's back and this time the world around him will be in 3D. Dawning the famed Tanooki Suit, Mario looks like he's doing his job sidescrolling and platforming his way to save the princess. Super Mario 3DS will be here sometime this holiday season.

More details are here on Kid Icarus: Uprising! And I must say it looks very good. I must admit when the trailer rolled I was hoping for a "bark like a dog!" comment like before, but we got even better lines this time. Something about Medusa and meeting the light. We already knew the new Kid Icarus game from Team Sora was a part shooting game, part action game. But now players will be able to fight against other players online and play in teams as well. Also, AR cards are coming for Kid Icarus so people can battle one another. I saw this feature demonstrated live on the Jimmy Fallon late night show and it didn't seem to work so well. Hah, Reggie lost to Cerberus or something. Maybe a few kinks need to be worked out before the AR card game launches. What I want to know is where's our Pokemon card game AR battles? Lots of money in that one Nintendo!

Speaking of Pokemon related things, when the Nintendo eShop went live just before the start of E3 2011 a new Pokedex application was launched. It's for the new Pokemon Black and White games and you somehow collect them and can look at them in 3D. There are special cards involved, and I believe they were given out at E3. Whether you get them by playing the games or by special cards, they stay in your 3DS. Kotaku posted some of these cards for people with 3DS' to collect the pokemon on their website. So anyone who has a 3DS out there, take a look!

And so finally, it's time for a new game announcement!

Luigi's back with his vacuum to suck up ghosts! We are told this isn't a simple revision, as the new Luigi's Mansion is going to be making a big use of 3D in several new mansions.

A wide range of developers were announced last year that would be supporting the 3DS with new titles. Nintendo thought it would be appropriate to show us an update on these titles that are still in the works. Resident Evil, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, Ace Combat, Tetris Online, Cave Story 3D, more Resident Evil, Driver Renegade, Pac Man and Galaga, Tekken 3D, and Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D are all new titles that will be coming to the 3DS sometime in the future.

Reggie goes on to talk about the overnight download release of the eShop and the 3DS' internet browser. He points out that we can now download 10 separate 3D trailers and that demos will be coming soon. The Virtual Console is up and we can now download classic gameboy and gameboy color games. Other older console games will be given new life in 3D and we'll be getting the classic Excitebike game for free with the launch of the eShop! Cool stuff, huh?

And now it's time to talk about Nintendo's next platform. We've been waiting a while for this announcement and the rumors have been pretty big. And so, the next console coming from Nintendo is called the "Wii U".

We've heard details about the predecessor to the Wii's controller, but up until this point it's all been rumor.

The Wii U's controller has a 6.2 inch touch screen, two analog sticks on top, a d-pad, 4 regular a, b, x, and y buttons, at least 1 camera, and motion capabilities. Video chatting and browsing the web with the new controller can be expected in 2012.

The system will be backwards compatible to all games and accessories from the Wii. That means you will be using your Wiimotes with the Wii U. At this time Satoru Iwata was on stage to explain that the Wii U is being designed to cater to the most experienced and dedicated players. He makes it clear that it's not a portable gaming system, but that the system will wirelessly transmit data to the controller's screen. You can play with an HDTV's screen, just the controller's screen, or both screens at the same time.

Nintendo wants to create a strong bond between the internet, friends, and family with the Wii U. Thrown right in the middle of things, Iwata announces a new Super Smash Bros. for both the 3DS and the Wii U and that the software will work together in some fashion. Of course development of this game likely hasn't started yet because Sakurai's been working on the new Kid Icarus game in full force.

We are shown a video of what Nintendo has to offer with the Wii U. They are tech demos and simple renditions of new ways to play, but nevertheless how could we not eat this up? The graphics are beautiful and the lighting is detailed. A new feature called shield pose allows for us to move the controller's screen to get a better view of the game's world. Many other new ways to play were shown in the video, and as many of them were neat to see, we have to remember that everything is still in the beginning of what this new machine and controller may do.

Another video rolls that samples what game developers have to say about the Wii U, and then Electronic Arts joins Nintendo on stage to talk about their newfound partnership. This is all because the Wii U is a system that will have the kind of power and graphics that EA wants to make games for.

Final Impression:

The Wii U has a funny name, not going to lie. But then again we all thought the Wii was silly too. Nintendo's next console won't be out until next year sometime after March. That's so Nintendo can put the Wii U on their projections for their next business year. Dipping sales in the Wii will be no problem with the release of a new console.

But let's take a little bit of a deeper look at the Wii U. Nintendo has been saying that they want it to be heavily integrated in people's living rooms. This means the system would always be on. You can change your TV to something someone wants to watch and continue the game on your controller. Neat yeah? If I was younger I would like the sound of that, but now I can play video games in my room and not have to worry about getting kicked off by family members. Nintendo states that this system will cater to the hardcore crowd and I believe this is mainly referring to the fact that it's an HD system. The issue? Next-gen consoles have been in HD since 2006. Rumor has it that the Wii U will perform better than both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. That's an interesting notion that not even developers can really confirm. One thing we do know is developers don't have the final machine in their studios. They've been given underclocked kits to test out the hardware and software. This is also why at Nintendo's press conference they showed footage for future Wii U titles from Microsoft and Sony platforms. To me, that's kind of sloppy. But Nintendo's said they don't want to release footage of games yet unless they have the thing cranked to... uh... U. A nice shimmer that NIntendo did showcase was a tech demo of Legend of Zelda for the Wii U. It looked amazingly well done and that's a good sign in the graphics department.

Graphics aren't the most important thing in enjoying a video game, but it will certainly attract developers who want to make games for HD systems. It will also attract the kind of gamer who must have the best graphics in town. It will allow for games like Call of Duty and other large franchises to finally be released on a Nintendo platform that's up to par. It has to be pointed out that the controller idea has never been done before for a home console, and like other Nintendo devices we could see another revolution in gaming. It's difficult to tell. The DS wasn't so hot when it first came out but look where it is now.

One of the best new features for this console is the ability for the controller's screen to expand the game's world. Imagine playing a horror game and standing in a hallway that's dimly lit. You hear something behind you and don't know what it is. In normal games you would either have to turn the character around for the camera to readjust or swerve an analog stick. With the Wii U, you can potentially move the controller behind you. The controller's screen will show you what's behind you (which is now in front of you) and your TV will show you what's now actually behind you. It's like you're actually looking around in the game's world. Now wouldn't that be fun? I *really* hope this makes it to release.

-Jared C.

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