by Dick Ward
We're expecting a lot out of Nintendo this year, especially since they've said that this press conference is all about Wii U games. They already talked hardware and they're talking 3DS later. We're also really hoping to find out the basics – a date and price for the Wii U.
Nintendo’s press conference starts off with a bit of talk about the Wii U hardware, but things quicky move on to the actual games when Shiguero Miyamoto comes out to introduce ‘Pikmin 3.’ The game looks pretty, and it’s just the kind of ‘Pikmin’ game we’re used to. Doesn’t seem like there’s much to write home about in terms of innovative gameplay.
The Wii U gamepad is pretty unobtrusive in this one. If you don’t want to use the pad for gameplay, you can simply use it to quick scroll and look at your mini map. You’ll be using Wiimore and Nunchuck controls for the game – no word on traditional controllers.
‘Pikmin 3’ is designed to introduce more casual players to deeper and more strategic gameplay. Kind of like a “my first RTS.” The core audience seems pretty happy with this announcement and the new ‘Pikmin’ game.
Reggie takes the stage and promises 23 Wii U titles over the next hour. We won’t be seeing much about the system or the 3DS since each has its own separate conference.
Reggie says he won’t waste our time talking too much about the Wii U hardware. Then he goes on to tell us all about the Wii U hardware. Happily, the system will allow you to use two gamepads instead of the originally expected single Wii U gamepad. That’s going to prevent a lot of fights between siblings!
We see a few things about the Miiverse and other Wii U features. It’s nothing we didn’t already see in the Pre-E3 conference.
Here we go – Reggie is going to show us some interaction with ‘New Super Mario Brothers U.’ You’ll be able to brag a bit to your friends between level and all that good stuff – again nothing we haven’t seen before.
‘New Super Mario Bros. U’ is nice looking, as you might expect. There are a few new powerups, four player mode and some very cool looking new levels. There’s also a new boost mode that will let you place blocks via the Wii U.
We get a look at a few new mechanics too, including using Yoshis as balloons. This game just looks plain fun. It's nothing crazy and new, but hey, it doesn't necessarily need to be.
‘Arkham City’ appears on the screen – this could be impressive. Graphics look nice if a bit aliased. It’s hard to tell if that’s due to the Wii U or simply brought on by the cruddy stream quality. I’m guessing a combination of both.
Again, the Wii U game pad isn’t used in any significant way. You can pick weapons and a few other small things, but nothing that seems to terribly intrusive.
Nope, ‘Arkham City’ is indeed cruddy looking. ‘Scribblenauts,’ on the other hand, is graphically very nice. It doesn’t seem to offer too horribly much above and beyond what previous ‘Scribblenauts’ games have to offer, but it might not need to do too much more to impress.
Now Nintendo shows us a sizzle reel of upcoming games and I'll admit, I started getting pretty excited. 'Mass Effect 3' and 'Darksiders 2' on a Nintendo system seems really cool, but the you have to stop and realize that both games will be coming much later than on existing systems and don't actually look any better.
Reggie talks about the intro of 'Wii Fit' and drops the "my body is ready" meme on us. Nice to see he has a sense of humor about it. He talks about 'Wii Fit' and 'Wii Fit Plus' sales, which apparently total 43 million worldwide.
Alright, we all know what 'Wii Fit U' is so I'm not going to bother explaining it. What I will say is that this looks controller-breaking dangerous. During one of the exercises shown, you do a sort of fake jump that requires you to put the Wii U gamepad directly in front of you. I can just see it now – slip, crack, done. Then a nice healthy jog to the store to get a new controller.
Reggie comes up to introduce 'Sing' next. It's karaoke. The lyrics come up on the Wii U gamepad and the TV so you can face your friends while you sing. Again, this seems like a recipe for controller breaking disaster.
I'm a karaoke guy. It's something I do and something I love doing – performing is awesome. Here's the thing – karaoke is performed in bars for a reason. Alcohol lowers your inhibition, and drunken karaoke makes you feel less awful about your inability to sing. Alcohol also makes it harder to hold on to expensive touchscreen game pads.
'Sing' seems like a dud, and it's even more evident by the very light applause that came after it. [edit: Reports indicate that folks at the presentation weren't actually clapping and that the noise was a part of the game video. This has, of course, not been confirmed.]
Nintendo VP Scott Moffitt takes the stage to talk 3DS, and he delivers some dialogue that's supposed to be funny but just sounds like, angry. He mentions that a 3DS show is happening at 6pm PT/9pm ET on Wednesday. You can catch that in the usual places.
'New Super Mario Bros. 2' is looking good. It's absolutely crazy with gold coins – we see Mario hit a POW block and collect at least fifty coins at once. We see the enemies turn gold and start dropping coins like crazy, then Mario grabs a golden fire flower and breaks blocks which turn into coins. One-ups don't look like they'll be hard to come by.
'New Super Mario Bros. 2' has the Racoon Mario power-up from 'Super Mario Bros. 3.' That gets the crowd fired up! The game will be coming out on August 19th in the U.S.
Up next, more Mario. 'Paper Mario: Sticker Star' pops up on the screen and we get to see a new element to the series – stickers. You can collect stickers from the scenery and they become your attacks in battle. You'll also use these stickers as ways to traverse the landscape.
'Paper Mario: Sticker Star' comes to the 3DS this holiday season. It'll be really interesting to see how the 2D style of 'Paper Mario' looks when it comes to the 3DS.
'Luigi's Mansion' is next. We see new ghosts, and of course there will be new controls. That's about all we hear about that one.
Okay, I know those were all Mario games – technically a Luigi game, but you know what I mean – but this is exactly the kind of thing that Nintendo needs to be doing with the Wii U if they want to appeal to the core audience. I'm psyched to check out both 'New Super Mario Bros. 2' and 'Paper Mario: Sticker Star.' 'Wii Fit U' isn't selling me.
We get a glimpse at upcoming 3rd party 3DS games, including 'Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate,' which looks nice and moves really smoothly. 'Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion' takes me right back to 'Magical Quest Starring Mickey Mouse' which was a killer platformer for the Super Nintendo.
'Lego City' comes to the Wii U in the form of 'Lego City Undercover.' This has a kind of 'Crackdown' feel to it and it actually seems like it could be pretty awesome. The gamepad seems to be used as a minor thing – tracking down random baddies. 'Lego City Undercover' will also be headed to the 3DS, though it'll be a different game.
"Engrossing game experiences for the hardest of the core to the newest of the newbies" says Reggie. He brings out Yves Guillemot from Ubisoft to take the stage. After Ubi blew it out of the park on Monday, we can hope for some awesomeness here.
Yves spends some time saying the same things that Reggie has been saying about asymmetric gameplay and then thanks him – for making the system? Another Ubi rep comes to the stage to show him Puppet Master mode in 'Just Dance 4.'
Puppet Master mode is designed for a multiplayer experience, and actually looks like it could be fun for people that dig the dancing genre. Using the Wii U gamepad, one of the players selects the moves that have to be performed. The other people playing have to perform those moves. You can even be mean and make them hold a pose for an extended period of time. This seems like a good way for people that don't want to play a dance game to participate, or a good way to switch things up once you have the choreography to every song memorized.
Time for 'ZombiU' where it's "one bite and you're dead." Is that true? Seems a little rough. The gamepad is used for scanning areas and sniping, which seem a little unnecessary. It's also used to hack doors, which is pretty cool, since it allows you to keep seeing the oncoming horde on the main screen while hacking away. You don't lose sight of the looming threat.
Reggie plays with a feature that turns your face into a zombie face for a bit and then we see more upcoming Ubisoft games. It's much of what we saw at Ubi's press conference, including 'Avengers,' 'Assassin's Creed 3,' and 'Rayman.'
'NintendoLand' is the way that Nintendo is hoping to show off the Wii U – Reggie says it's like the Wii Tennis for the new system. Katsuya Eguchi takes the stage along with a translator to introduce 'NintendoLand.'
The game will feature 12 different Nintendo themed attractions that you can visit with your Mii. When you visit each individual land, you'll don an appropriate costume and play a game related to the land. Three out of the five games they're showing at the show are multiplayer.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion is the first attraction that Nintendo's showing off. Aw, cute, it looks like Pac-Man! If you're using a Wiimote, you run around the maze and hope not to get caught by the ghost. If you have the Wii U gamepad, you're the ghost, and you have to catch the players. The player's can't see the ghost unless they shine a light on it, but the ghost can see everyone at all times.
We're a few minutes in to the explanation of one mini-game. It's not that complicated of a game, but we're learning every little bit of information we can get. He's talking strategy, explaining the nuances of the game and giving us a step-by-step gameplay presentation.
'NintendoLand' looks cute and if its bundled with the Wii U I can see people getting some enjoyment out of it. I highly doubt we'll see it as a standalone. It launches at the same time as the hardware, but Reggie doesn't say whether it's a pack-in game or not.
Wait, that was the finale? This really could have used a surprise at the end. Zelda, Mario, Star Fox, Mario Kart, Pikmin or even a new IP would have been great. Instead we see fireworks in 'NintendoLand.'
Before the even started it seemed like there was no way for Nintendo to beat Microsoft and Sony at putting together a really unexciting press conference, but they may have pulled it off. We saw hardware we already knew about, games we either knew about already or don't want in the first place and we didn't even get the answer to the biggest question of them all.
How much is the Wii U and when is it coming out? We know just as much as we did going in. It's coming this holiday season at a not-yet-announced price.