We don't need no stinking conference.
Eschewing the light show at a planetarium approach that other companies go for at E3, Nintendo once again sidestepped the glitz and pomp of a live conference and instead opted for a digital presentation of their upcoming Wii U and 3DS titles. Considering how few surprises were up their sleeves, it was probably a wise decision, as it allowed them to play to their fanbase in a good humoured, smily and genial manner. And there was only one “thank you for your patience” too.
The tables were even turned, in a light ribbing manner, on Nintendo’s detractors who lament their (over) use of staples characters above their other IP, as the opening animation featured an audience member sarcastically shouting “Oh great, another Mario game!” It was funny, but the next clip of Reggie Fils-Aime and Satorue Iwata fighting in a faux-Matrix battle set the scene, before morphing into Miis and continuing in the Smash Bros arena. This was fan service with a sly wink.
Soon, the defeated Iwata places one of the Mario NFP toys Nintendo have been touting onto his GamePad, to bring the portly plumber into the game to fight in his stead. We then heard a little more detail from Masahiro Sakurai from Sora Ltd. about the Mii fighters that were used. They were decided against for Smash Bros Brawl, but they’ll finally feature in Super Smash Bros with a choice of class - either Brawler, Swordfighter or Gunner - and four special move options from a list of twelve. The claimed wide difference this gives is perhaps stretching it, but it could be a novel touch to add variety; and there’ll be many who want to match their own persona against the likes of Link and co.
The 3DS version wasn’t forgotten either, as we got some fast paced footage of lots of gameplay, menus and options. One area the portable had the upper hand was in release dates - it’ll be out October 3rd on the 3DS, whilst the Wii U has the vaguer “Winter” as a ballpark ETA.
Then came the news we’d all been waiting for; what would they call the NFC compatible figurines? Step forward, the "amiibo" - If you guessed that one then you should probably play the lottery. Silly names aside, the possible implementations of the technology sounded quite interesting, even if it was dressed up as more revolutionary than accompanying toy sales. Touch an amiibo on your GamePad’s NFC (near field communicator) and it can trigger occurrences in-game. For Super Smash Bros that was having the character in question appear as a controllable fighter. There’s also the possibility of some depth, as the communication isn’t one way; the figure’s data alters as you play, meaning that the toys won’t simply be interchangeable duplicates of one another. Even Mario Kart 8 will use them, but we didn’t learn any more on that sadly.
Step forward, the "amiibo"There was lots of warm fuzzy nostalgia during the presentation, with old clips of Zelda and Mario showing up, designed to act as reminder of who Nintendo are, were and will aim to be. It was perhaps pushing it a bit far when Reggie claimed the game creators that work with Nintendo believe “there’s nothing wrong with having a little fun”, as if other developers and manufacturers hate fun, but it kept in with the warm cosy feel.
And what could be more cuddly and family friendly than a bunch of developers talking about Yoshi’s Woolly World whilst sat in a yarn shop? It was all feel good from the team at Good-Feel, as they had a convivial chat about Yoshi as an action game (eh?) and how they tackled getting across the feel of a crocheted universe. The gameplay footage looked great, the depth and textures help bring out a really organic air to it all, and the 2 player co-op seemed like it tied in nicely with the focus on no time limits level exploration.
A highlight for anyone who played the excellent Mario 3D World and enjoyed the Captain Toad levels was his appearance in his own game. Captain Toad: Treasure Hunter looks like it takes all the puzzling elements of the aforementioned levels and increases the size and scope. There was even a brief glimpse of some genuine Gamepad use!
The biggest moment though was saved for the words Legend of Zelda to flash up on screen. Game director Eiji Aonuma sat in front of a backdrop, clearly containing Link astride Epona, that was a wide vista of gentle grass blowing, trees swaying and sun drenched views. Aonuma spoke of the change to game design, moving away from compartmentalised sections of a map and towards an open world.
Then we finally got a glimpse of the scene behind him in action, as Link was chased by a bizarre enemy before leaping from his steed and firing a magical arrow towards his target. It doesn’t appear like the earlier tech demo has been the basis for much of this art style, with hints of cel shading and a less realistic look, but the net’s no doubt already awash with screengrabs for you to make up your own minds with.
A cinematic live action trailer teased us towards Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, whilst Bayonetta 2 showed off a new trailer; everything was suitably action packed, with giant enemies, a little bit of cut-glass accent repartee and finally we saw the fancy Metroid and Link costumes our heroine can don.
If those two were a nice pairing of a solid banker and a potential cult classic, the next title was more of mash-up of the two elements in terms of its appeal in the West. Hyrule Warriors is the collaborative title that’ll fuse together the Zelda universe with Dynasty Warriors gameplay. The creative minds behind the game spoke of how they attempted to keep the essence of both series and how they hoped it would please all the fans.
The underlying mechanics are very much Musou, the battles are fluid with masses of enemies on screen at once and you must choose where to fight if allies are in trouble. The two player co-op will allow for one player to use the TV and the other the GamePad screen, whilst news that not just Link, but also Zelda, Impa and Midna would be playable characters is sure to lure in the Zelda faithful. It was also one of the few titles on show that had an impending release - September 26th.
Sticking with the GamePad use, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was shown to be every inch a follow up to Canvas Curse on the DS. Use the stylus to draw lines that help the little puffball navigate levels in a haze of bright colours and cheery backdrops. There wasn’t much to warrant an extended sequence, as the time was better off handed to the next title, Xenoblade Chronicles. The trailer was an anime-esque emo battle of epic proportions, all space combat, mechs and emotional dialogue. It wasn’t a long trailer, but it ticked all the right boxes. Sadly both titles stick with the now popularly vague 2015 ETA.
In the creativity stakes, Nintendo’s big surprise was one that sadly had already been leaked. Mario Maker slotted into the presentation’s themes of building on nostalgia and traditions by showcasing a level building game that utilised no only the Mario design, but multiple variations of the platformer through the ages. Pipes, blocks, power ups and enemies can be placed onto a grid screen with the stylus. Nothing was mentioned about possible level sharing, but it’d be mad if it wasn’t the core of the game’s appeal and another forward step for Nintendo into the age of ever connected consoles.
And that leap forward was emphasised by the reveal of Splatoon, a mutiplayer shooter that pits two teams of four against one another in a desperate bid to gain control of a map by covering it with their side’s ink. The battle of colours takes on a tactical element as players can switch between squid and human form, with each having certain abilities. For instance, in squid form you can swim fast through your team’s ink. Once again the GamePad got a plug, this time thanks to its gyro sensor aiding aiming and its use as a means to survey the overhead map.
The presentation bowed out with Fils-Aime earnestly saying how they couldn’t fit everything into the broadcast. Whilst this was half true, largely due to the copious conversational filler, the fact that Tomonobu Itagaki has now confirmed that his latest project, Devil’s Third, will be a Wii U exclusive makes you think that perhaps they just didn’t want to break the family friendly fun theme.
Once again the GamePad got a plugThe final reveal was a gorgeous anime sequence of a battle between the Kid Icarus character Pit and Link. It segued to Lady Palutena entering the brawl, thus confirming that she would be joining the roster of Super Smash Bros fighters. At least that should have been the final reveal. In a little epilogue piece, a swivel chair revealed Shigeru Miyamoto, GamePad in hand, espousing the tablet controllers ability to offer new experiences and signing off by saying he'll see us on the show floor.
And with that, the fan service was complete; it was good humoured and let us know that the big titles are still the cornerstones of Nintendo's future. However, the peripheral products like the amiibos and soft sell of the GamePad with minimal examples of its implementation may leave you wondering whether you empathise more with the heckler in the crowd than Reggie. Be honest, who doesn't want a new Starfox?
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