Everyone was waiting to see what Nintendo had under its red cap this year at E3. With their new console being unveiled (previously codenamed Project Cafe), many were speculating that Nintendo had taken the necessary steps to bridge the gap between the hardcore and casual gamer.
You wouldn’t know that from the way the conference started, though. LA’s Nokia Theatre was massively overcrowded and we were welcomed by the nostalgic melodies of the Legend of Zelda soundtrack that accompanied announcements of the 25th anniversary celebrations occurring worldwide (including the Zelda Orchestra touring the globe). It was an unremarkable opening that only reinforced the growing criticism of Nintendo’s reliance on their prime mascots.
New 3DS titles were announced with Super Mario 3DS, Starfox 64 3DS (Lylat Wars for us Brits), Mario Kart 3DS and Luigi’s Mansion 2. It was the latter that impressed most, providing a sequel to the criminally underappreciated Gamecube launch title that sees Mario’s brother investigate a haunted mansion with a torch and a vacuum to suck up ghosts. The sequel looks every bit as charming as the original, with the action spread across multiple mansions. It’ll land on the 3DS later in the year.
Super Mario 3DS featured much of what we’ve come to expect from Nintendo’s mascot, and Starfox looked rather dull in all honesty. Mario Kart implements some interesting new features, with flying and underwater driving sections added to the usual colourful action, but it all starting to look suspiciously like Diddy Kong Racing.
Resident Evil, Mario and Sonic at the Olympics, Kid Icarus and Metal Gear Solid all appeared in 3D glory, so there’s plenty to get excited about in terms of Nintendo’s handheld. It’s something of a relief given the very poor support it had at launch.
The 3DS announcements were fairly underwhelming compared to the unveiling of Nintendo’s new console: Wii U. “Unique, unifying and, maybe, utopian. It’s for you.” Nintendo’s spokesmen stated. First impressions are that it’s quite a bizarre device. While the console itself is being kept under wraps, the controller is the point of focus for the system. A cross between a tablet and a giant DS, the pad has a massive touchscreen in the middle that interacts with both your television and console in a unique way. Most impressively, you can take the game away from your television and play using the screen in the middle of the pad. No more fighting over the remote!
The controller can also interact with various games. Use it to aim your crosshair in shooter titles; aim your mitt and catch a baseball in a sports title; lay it on the floor and use it as a ball in a golf game. It really offers a unique experience depending on the game you’re playing and the peripherals you choose to pair with it. While it has traditional circle pads, buttons, gyroscope, microphone and inward facing camera, Nintendo has included compatibility with all previous Wii accessories and games. It’s an impressive piece of technology, but the early footage clearly aims for the casual marketplace.
Super Smash Bros. is the first new game to be announced for the system and, while no details were given, it will have compatibility with the 3DS – exciting news for anyone who enjoys brawling with Nintendo’s top characters. An open-world Lego game, Lego City Stories, will also be released on Wii U but the announcement received a rather muted response.
The mood of the theatre shifted with the announcement of some major titles also heading to the console. Batman: Arkham City, Darksiders II, Assassins Creed, Tekken, Ghost Recon Online, Metro: Last Light and Aliens: Colonial Marines cemented that this is a console for the more serious gamer.
Visually, it’s hard to tell exactly how the console compares to the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Titles such as Tekken and Darksiders II appeared a little on the rough side, while Metro: Last Light and DiRT could proudly stand among the PS3 and 360 iterations. Nintendo didn’t announce any of the console’s specs, so it’s currently unknown what sort of graphical capabilities are expected. The buzz behind closed doors is that it’s superior to both 360 and PS3 in terms of power.
There is encouraging support from developers too. Irrational Games’ Ken Levine calls it “revolutionary”; CEO of EA Games, John Riccitiello, entered the stage referring to it as, “a stunning breakthrough in gaming technology.”
There’s a huge amount of buzz for it around E3. It’s a console with a massive amount of potential, and it’s hard to think of a more impressive announcement at E3 over the last few years. There are still a lot of questions to ask about online capabilities, 3D support and the console itself but it looks like Nintendo has stolen E3 with their second window to your gaming world. Check back for our hands-on thoughts later this week.