E3 2012: Nintendo Conference Recap

And last of the Big Three conferences is Nintendo’s.  With the new Wii U console looming, Nintendo had a much larger task this E3.  Rather than coasting, which is what Microsoft and Sony seemed to do, Nintendo had to sell the Wii U to the audience.  Nintendo started off pretty strong with this.  They aired a pre-E3 presentation, which illustrated the Wii U’s numerous features.  Many of the features listed were pretty cool, and were set to literally appeal to every audience: casuals, core gamers, you name it.  However, once we get to their conference, things start to go downhill.

The conference starts off pretty strong, with the reveal of Pikmin 3.  Now, I’ve never played the first two, but Pikmin 3 looks pretty damned appealing.  Pikmin 3 appears to be what the first two games were like, but upgraded due to the Wii U’s features and hardware.  For instance, placing the camera in the first two games was a problem, was resolution prevented you from placing the camera too far out.  At the same time, the camera couldn’t be too far in, or you wouldn’t be able to see the world.  With the Wii U’s upgraded resolution, the camera can be placed a lot further out, while still retaining clarity.

Additionally, Pikmin can be aimed and launched using motion controls.  The presence of a map on the Game Pad screen allows for greater tactical capabilities, as you can better control your Pikmin with that map awareness.  To add to this greater tactical sense, three more leaders were added, for a grand total of four.  At the same time, leaders can also be treated as Pikmin-lite.  We’re told that the map on the Game Pad is pretty much required to control all four leaders effectively.  My micromanagement skills in games aren’t really all that great, so I can’t say if I’ll enjoy this level of strategy, or be overwhelmed, but it’s highly appealing, nonetheless.

Shigeru Miyamoto also emphasized the damage you can now cause. I'm sure it's an amazing feature if Miyamoto emphasized it.

And here’s where the conference starts to go downhill.  While Nintendo did only show games, they didn’t really show any heavy hitters.  Third party AAA titles from last year like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Mass Effect 3 were shown, as well as upcoming games like Assassin’s Creed III, Aliens Colonial Marines, and Darksiders II were also shown.  New games like Scribblenauts Unlimited and Lego City: Undercover were shown, with some unique new features that take advantage of the Wii U.

Ubisoft was all over the Wii U, as well.  On display were Rayman Legends, a new Rabbids game, the prior mentioned Assassin’s Creed III, a new Just Dance, and Zombie U, which is probably the most interesting game on the Wii U, in my opinion.  Zombie U is a first person survival horror title, but with all the bells and whistles of an additional tablet.  For instance, you use your inventory on the tablet, but you have to pull up the tablet.  In game, this is represented by the character having to stop to check his bag in real time.  So it’s probably not a good idea to check your inventory while zombies are close, or you might become one of them!  The tablet is used for rifle scopes, and you tilt that around to move the scope around.  Lastly, when you come across a door with a keypad, you use the tablet to punch in the correct combination, while the main screen shows the view behind you, usually with zombies closing in on your position (which is an interesting mechanic).  While I can’t vouch for how good the other aspects are, these highlighted mechanics will certainly make the game interesting.

This will kind of be like playing Silent Scope, except without that clunky Xbox controller.

Uncharacteristically for a Nintendo game, only a small number of first party titles were shown.  New Super Mario Bros. U is… well, more New Super Mario Bros., but with added Wii U social features, and NintendoLand is pretty much the Wii U’s Wii Sports.  Basically, you get a set of minigames that are modeled after Nintendo characters and games, but most of these minigames involve a ton of asymmetrical gameplay, the keyword of the Wii U.  And I guess that’s about it as far as first party Wii U games go.

And just so Nintendo wouldn’t run out of time promoting the Wii U, they devoted the 3DS to a separate conference, where they discussed.  Castlevania Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate is basically a clunkier Metroidvania title.  While I’m a bit worried the game will be a lot more linear than previous Castlevanias, I think it’s a title I’ll still have fun with.  Disney’s Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion is like an old platformer, but takes the 3DS’ features into account (which I’m not seeing yet, but whatever).

I'm also really worried that it'll be too clunky, and play nothing like the older Metroidvania titles.

Additionally, a new Paper Mario game was announced for the 3DS, and it uses the 3D feature to make everything look like a pop-up book.  The new thing here is that you can rip stickers off of almost anything in the environment, and use them in battle.  This idea kind of reminds me of pins in The World Ends With You, which have a wide variety of effects.  Then Nintendo announced New Super Mario Bros. 2, with a heavy emphasis on coin collecting now.  Also, the new Fire Emblem is coming to America (that’s probably how much emphasis Nintendo gave for that confirmation, by the way).

So, you’d think that with all these games, Nintendo ultimately knows their audience, and are clear winners of E3.  Well, not for a lot of watchers, no.  Under any other circumstances, Nintendo’s conference would’ve been fantastic, as it’s hard to find anyone who dislikes every game shown.  But considering one would have to buy a Wii U before they can start playing these games, there’s suddenly a huge turn off.  None of the games shown are good enough to sell a system.  While I think buying a system for one game only is a stupid notion, you can’t really attach a killer app to the console yet.  Only Pikmin 3 and Zombie U come close, regardless of what Nintendo thinks about the core gamer audience and Mario games.

For most people, Nintendo probably would’ve won if they just showed up.  Afterwards, however, that wasn’t exactly the case.  Nintendo can’t win people over just by showing up, or more realistically, through their brand name alone.  Though Nintendo didn’t have a good grasp on the core gamer audience, they found a goldmine with the casual audience.  However, Nintendo has to fight to get back those core gamers, now more than ever.  From what I’ve seen of the conference, Nintendo still doesn’t get it.

Nintendo teasing F-Zero fans with this NintendoLand minigame probably doesn't help things.

Perhaps it was a case of how everything was structured.  If the conference had less NintendoLand, people would’ve enjoyed it more.  Hell, I wish I knew why Nintendo showed it at the very end, a spot you usually reserve for the big finishers.  You want to leave your crowd very excited, not bored.  Hell, if Pikmin 3 was shown last, people would’ve definitely enjoyed the conference more, as Pikmin 3 would leave the conference off on a high note.  NintendoLand only reinforces the idea that conferences should be ended with a bang, not a whimper.

On the other hand, we have cases like Fire Emblem, which was announced almost offhandedly in a later interview.  How the Wii U fares all depends on how they handle their audiences from this point.  However, for many, the Wii U seems to be a pretty decent console without much of a reason to buy it.  And that’s exactly what a conference for a new console shouldn’t do.

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A mad scientist who's so cool!


A mad scientist who's so cool!

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