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Here’s a roundup of the announcements from Nintendo’s main E3 press conference and the flurry of events that have followed.
Gamers pining for Nintendo to adopt a more orthodox name for its latest creation have had their wishes cruelly swept aside. The successor to Nintendo’s most successful home console will be known as the Wii U. A day after Sony upped the ante in the control scheme arms race with the PSVita, Nintendo has followed suit. As rumoured, the Wii U will utilise a tablet style controller with a 6.2 inch touch screen designed to accommodate finger or stylus. It will also feature internal motion sensors, an inwards facing camera and rumble functionality. Web browsing and video calls will be supported. With its twin thumb sticks, dual triggers, d-pad and face buttons, the controller also appears to be suitable for more traditional games. As expected, the new unit features high definition graphics and is backwards compatible with the Wii and its controllers.
While Nintendo has verbally confirmed that a new iteration of Super Smash Bros. is in the works for the Wii U, there have been precious few first party announcements. The platform holder has instead relied on tech demos to sell the concept to gamers. Conference goers have witnessed a more realistic rendition of The Legend of Zelda. Link clashed with a gargantuan spider as the player selected weapons from a menu on the controller’s touch screen. Nintendo also showcased an experience dubbed New Super Mario Bros. Mii, a colourful side-scrolling platformer that allows players to import their Mii avatars into the Mushroom Kingdom. Certain releases will permit players to seamlessly continue with the same game on their touch screens even after their televisions have been switched to other channel.
The potential benefits of the system and its controller have been further illustrated in a series of mini-game demonstrations. Chase Mii challenged one player to evade capture by darting through a maze displayed on the touch screen. Meanwhile, up to four others equipped with Wii Remotes, pursued via a split screen interface on the television. Battle Mii followed similar principles, but allowed players to shoot one another. Both were somewhat reminiscent of Pac-Man Vs., a 2003 release that required multiple players with GameCube controllers to take on one player with a Game Boy Advance. The final game, Shield Pose, tasked players with deflecting arrows launched from pirate ships. One of the enemy ships was displayed on the television, but in order to spot the other two, the player had to scan the horizon to the left and right by using the controller and its screen as if were a telescope. Though no announcements to this effect were made at the conference, it seems possible that these bite-sized gaming experiences will end up in a Wii Play style collection.
While Nintendo was arguably playing its cards a little too close to its chest, it has released a ‘sizzle reel’ of third party titles expected to arrive on the Wii U. While Nintendo has spent much of the past five years courting the casual market, all of these titles appear aimed squarely at the dedicated gamer. Highlighted titles included fantasy action epic Darksiders II and moody first person shooter Metro: Last Light, both from THQ. Codemasters is bringing rally franchise Dirt to the console, while Tecmo Koei is readying bloody action game Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Namco Bandai is set to support the console with a Tekken release. With regard to the latter, it appears that players will be able to customise the appearance of their characters using the Wii U’s drawing functionality.
While the third party vision was impressive, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has since confirmed to GameTrailers that that it wasn’t produced using the Wii U. Fils-Aime attributed the decision to employ 360 and PS3 footage to the fact that final Wii U hardware is still “a year away”.
Tactical shooter Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online was the solitary Ubisoft title featured in the Wii U reel. However, as reported by 1UP, the French publisher has since teamed with Nintendo to announce four more games for the system. The deliriously titled Killer Freaks From Outer Space is a first person shooter with a b-movie aesthetic. Other Ubisoft games in the pipeline include versions of Assassin’s Creed and Raving Rabbids, though it isn’t yet clear if these will be new games or ports. The publisher is also working on an untitled sports game.
While the announcement of new hardware will always gobble up the lion’s share of press attention, Nintendo was also keen to support its existing systems with new software. The long wait for the gorgeous looking The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will end this holiday season. Mini game collection Mario Party 9 will be coming to the Wii, as will Kirby Wii, a new 2D platformer starring everyone’s favourite pink… thing. Also on the way to the almost superseded console is Fortune Street, a bizarre stock market themed board game from Square Enix that brings the Mario and Dragon Quest franchises together. Look for this one to receive a holiday 2011 release. Spring will see the arrival of Namco Bandai’s sports themed mini game collection Go Vacation, while Ubisoft’s Just Dance 3 is expected in October. Though a release date is yet to be announced, Nintendo confirmed that diabolically challenging music franchise Rhythm Heaven will also be making its first appearance on the console. The platform holder also took the time to promote SEGA’s Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Anyone interested in seeing a hedgehog ride a horse should probably check this out.
After four relatively barren months in terms of software, the Nintendo 3DS has also received some much needed love from its publisher. One of the more exciting moments of the presentation, at least for GameCube tragic like the staff of The Black Panel, was the announcement that work has commenced on a sequel to decade old ghost hunting adventure Luigi’s Mansion. Anyone hoping for Nintendo to furnish the 3DS with some original IP would be sorely disappointed, unless, that is, they happened to check the list of forthcoming eShop titles. The Rolling Western is a frenetic looking action platformer with tower defence elements and a cowboy hat wearing armadillo as protagonist. Meanwhile, Picture Lives allows players to illustrate their own characters and environments and may appeal to fans of Drawn to Life or Dood’s Big Adventure.
A number of long mooted titles were confirmed to be in the works for the 3DS, including Animal Crossing and Paper Mario. Furthermore, previously announced games like Super Mario, Kid Icarus Uprising and Mario Kart have been assigned holiday 2011 release dates, while Tetris and Star Fox 64 3D are expected in September and October of this year respectively.
Even the humble DS hasn’t been left out in the cold, with Nintendo announcing Kirby Mass Attack, an intriguing hybrid of platforming and real time strategy. Other titles on the way for the six year old handheld include Professor Layton and the Last Specter from Nintendo, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 from Square Enix and Super Fossil Fighters from Red Entertainment.
So there you have it! Fascinated by the Wii U? Troubled by the dearth of software announced to support it? Let us know what you think of Nintendo’s offerings at this year’s show.
Microsoft @ E3 l Sony @ E3 l Nintendo @E3 l 3rd Parties @ E3 l Podcast