A company which began its life making dominoes has come a long way to giving the most user-friendly games consoles ever, but Reggie Fils-Aime, President of Nintendo of America, is keen to stress that “technology is only a tool, what matters is the experience.”
After a disappointingly samey E3 last year, Nintendo had a lot to do prove they haven’t run out of ideas, and sure enough they don’t disappoint. The biggest announcement is new hardware the 3DS (which looks very shiny, look up), boasting 3D gaming without the need for pesky 3D glasses.
Before that though, we are graced with the return of one of Nintendo’s best-loved characters – the first of many as it turns out – as Shigeru Miyamoto introduces us to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, with enhanced Wii Motion Plus controls.
At first he tries to explain things from a video screen, but soon this becomes too complicated so he slashes his way through the back wall to enter the stage, to an uproar from the crowd. Skyward Sword boasts new weapons, with a lot of the mechanics from the ever-popular Wii Sports such as rolling Link’s bombs out like a bowling ball.
Despite some technical mishaps on stage when trying to demonstrate the title, which Miyamoto clearly has a lot of love for, it receives a warm reception from the crowd, particularly for the new control style which sees the Wiimote become Link’s sword and the Nunchuck his shield.
After Reggie tells us that some of us like realistic games and some of us like cartoony ones (duh…) he goes on to show Mario Sports Mix. In the mix are volleyball, basketball, hockey and ice hockey for now, but since the game won’t ship until Christmas they’ll probably throw in tiddlywinks or something too.
Next Reggie dispels some myths about Wii gamers, assuring us they aren’t people who just play Wii Sports and Wii Fit occasionally and then get bored *shifts eyes uneasily*, in fact, according to Mr Nintendo, many so-called ‘casual’ gamers are “channelled along their gaming journey” by games such as Mario Kart Wii and New Super Mario Bros.
In order to continue these gamers development, Nintendo have handily come up with Wii Party, Mario Party 10,000 in disguise with a couple of other game modes attached. The game is centred around the 177,000,000 ‘Miis’ that have been created around the world and encourages social development, despite the console not having online capabilities strong enough to support interfacing with people worldwide easily.
The first third party title to be announced this year is Harmonix’s Just Dance 2. The sequel to the first game (obviously) it adds more tracks, more players and dance-offs to make making a fool of yourself more fun than it ever has been before (until Kinect comes out of course).
The announcement of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn has been a long time coming and offered little surprise but it was Goldeneye returning to Nintendo that had everyone in the room salivating. A remake? A re-imagining? Does it matter? The game features Daniel Craig as the man in tux this time and appears to have retained many locations from Rare’s classic.
Unfortunately the graphics don’t look much more advanced than it’s N64 (grand)father and despite a few small but brutal touches there is nothing here that will ever live up to people’s understandably unreasonable expectations, since the original meant so much to so many people and it will always have that magic because it’s in the past.
An unusual entry from Disney next as they present Disney Epic Mickey, an adventure through 80 years of the company’s history with familiar characters and locations along the way, as well as things which have sunk into the vaults at Disney. It features three play modes, simple free roam exploration, traditional quests, and travel. The latter looks the most interesting as the game transforms into a sides-crolling actioner akin to Mario’s early days with an impressive visual style as the game takes you within a cartoon, very Viewtiful.
The first of two unexpected returning protagonists for Nintendo is Kirby, who stars in his own game for the first time in seven years – Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The visual style is stylised so everything is made of wool and Kirby himself is simply an outline. This leads to an easily manipulatable game environment, pulling land closer so you can reach it etc. and the presentation is stunning.
Dragon Quest 9‘s porting to US shores fails to spark much interest despite its incredible popularity in the East, but what does get people shouting is the latest footage of Metroid: Other M, which looks impressive without revealing very much at all.
If there’s one underrated Nintendo character, it would have to be Donkey Kong – if not least for his spelling-mistake name – since DK never seems to get the limelight to himself…still this won’t be changing, but Donkey and Diddy will be back with Donkey Kong Country Returns. Environments are a lot more interactive since the original, and the relics of his Super Smash Brothers outings are on show, along with all the staples like bananas, lots and lots of bananas.
For their grand finale Nintendo saved the best till last, with the unveiling of super-cool handheld the 3DS, which boasts not only increased graphics capability, a widescreen top screen and funky 3D technology which allows you to see games in immersive 3D without the need for polarising glasses, but two cameras on the back which allow you to take digital 3D pictures.
Developers seem very excited, a video shows many big names singing the 3DS’ praises for its potential, and the platform has attracted more third party launch support than any console Nintendo has launched before, promising – on release – titles like Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Kingdom Hearts and Assassins Creed.
The 3DS also gives an old Nintendo IP to have a new adventure, namely Pitt (the annoying one in Smash Brothers Wii with that endless sword spinning attack) and Kid Icarus Uprising. The graphics for the game look particularly impressive for handheld, edging ever closer to the Wii’s capabilities.
As Reggie welcomes out a horde of attractive women to demonstrate the 3DS for the audience, you get the feeling that Nintendo have had fun at this event, their presentation has a sense of humour, they don’t take themselves too seriously and they produce some fantastically entertaining games, as well as pushing the boundaries wherever they can. They might not be as ‘hardcore’ as they used to be, but if you were having a gaming marathon at your place tomorrow night, they’re the company you’d like to invite.
James Michael Parry