The last of the Big 3 conferences. Third parties aside, with Microsoft and Sony turning in dismal showings, it’s Nintendo’s game to win.
We start off with a view of Miyamoto’s dressing room. Pikmin skitter around it, trying to stay out sight. Miyamoto is asked to come onto stage, and one slides into his pocket by accident, the green leaf on its head sticking out. A line of Pikmin follow behind him on the video, and then he appears on stage. Walking past backgrounds of green leaves on the screen behind him, he states the obvious, that he’s there to talk about Pikmin. He says he thinks they’re all around, where it cuts to audience members, with little digital Pikmin appearing on their shoulders in the video broadcast. Miyamoto then mimes a whistle, the sound effect playing, to summon Bill Trinnen onto stage to translate.
Brandishing a Black Wii U GamePad, he talks about how they knew they wanted a screen on the controller, even if it had to be small, because they wanted something they haven’t had since their start of console gaming: independence from the TV. Those are called portables, but I digress. We finally, after years of promises, get to see Pikmin 3 in action. He appreciated the new clarity HD resolution brings to the title, with all the small Pikmin running around, and how they break down objects more realistically. Gameplay was based around Wii Remote Plus and the Nunchuk, with optional motion-tracked Pikmin throwing, but the GamePad gets a different, overhead view of the game that can be used to control multiple leaders at once. Captain Olimar isn’t among the four new leaders shown, which he specifically points out is for a secret reason. Multiplayer modes have you hunting as much fruit as possible in the time limit, and once you’re done playing a round, you can watch a replay. “And maybe, as you start to play, you’ll see Pikmin all around you too,” Miyamoto comments, then acts surprised as he pulls a red Pikmin plush out of his pocket. After fooling with it for a moment, he mines throwing it out to the audience, but doesn’t. He then “blows his whistle” to summon Reggie-san to stage. Reggie responds, “I feel just like a purple Pikmin.”
“In one form or another, 23 Wii U titles on stage today.” In retrospect, it didn’t feel like they hit close to that number, even if they technically did so with logos or very short clips. He lists a Gaming/Social/Entertainment breakdown, stating that their focus was on the Gaming aspect today, and that Entertainment will come later. To their credit, though, they rambled off how they were going to have Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Amazon Video like it was no big thing, as opposed to a certain other company this E3 stopping for applause each time they named these defacto movie services off.
Back on the gaming side, they states a focus on Asymmetric Gameplay, games where the Pad player was doing something different from the rest, maybe with completely separate Win and Lose conditions, not necessarily competitive ones. They did confirm two GamePads could be used simultaneously with the console, but neglected to mention the framerate limitations that would occur when doing so at the conference. A video summarizing the controller features played, again pointing out the clickable analog sticks, and making note of the trigger buttons being used commonly “in shooters.”
Talk has switched to Miiverse, the gathering of little Miis around the application tiles on the Home Menu. They congregate around these tiles based on your tastes, and trending tastes as well. Miis chatter with speech bubbles, that can include text, drawings, facial expressions, high scores and screenshots. So each time you boot up your Wii U, you can be greeted with a city full of Miis screaming crude drawings of penises at you. Welcome to the future.
An introduction to the next Mario game, set for Wii U launch. Reggie starts off with a lie, saying everybody asks them to make the next Mario game “Just like the last one, but better.” I know that’s not what I want out of Mario games, I want to see more Galaxy-tier disruption. Either way, New Super Mario Bros. U features Yellow and Blue Toad again, and sports Flying Squirrel suits and Baby Yoshis, with powers such as spitting bubbles and inflating like a balloon. Some of the backgrounds actually have a visual stylization to them now, one looking like a swirling surrealist painting, but the foreground can still be clinical and boring, albeit more smoothly rendered. GamePad integration comes in the form of Boost Mode, where you can place down extra blocks in a 4-Player game, and you can play the game independently of the TV if desired.
Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition is next mentioned, with Reggie pausing so Harley Quinn can interrupt him. She introduces Martin Tremblay of WB Entertainment, to pimp the year-old Bat Port. The name comes from new armored outfits available for Batman and Catwoman (personally speaking, I don’t believe covering up Catwoman should qualify as a “feature”), and new touch screen features like scanning with the motion tracking, using the controller as SONAR, inventory management, guiding a remote-controlled Batarang, and activating a new BAT mode charged up by combat, which makes Batman hit harder. Also, certain actions can be mimicked, like pulling something toward you with the Bat Claw, like the Grapple Lasso in Metroid Prime 3. It’s clear new challenges were stuck in the game to explain use of the Wii U controller features.
Tremblay next shows off Scribblenauts Unlimited for Wii U. The first thing our demo player does is look at his dog, and then make a disturbing “Auto Mutt” with wheels for legs, then a digging claw coming out of its butt. His girlfriend looks at it, and then helpfully adds a mohawk to it. The game now has multiplayer, much more depth to the control of your object creation, and talks about Maxwell’s backstory and how he got the magic notebook. Because, you know, that’s vitally important knowledge.
We get a demo reel of 3rd party Wii U titles. Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, Aliens Colonial Marines, and a clip of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 with growing and shrinking fighters, complete with Mario sound effects. A lot of ports makes for questionable support.
Reggie next weaves us a yarn about a far-flung E3 long ago, where he first stepped onto a Balance Board, and announced to the world that his body was ready. The audience cheers at the quote. 43 million copies of Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus sold worldwide, so it’s unsurprising that their next reveal is Wii Fit U. New minigames like bouncing on a trampoline, shooting mudmen with water, and what’s supposed to be downhill sledding, with the player in the trailer grunting way too much as he rocked around on his butt. The game also ties with a new Fit Meter, a pedometer akin to the Pokéwalker, but as later outlined, it can track far more than just steps, and supposedly can even recognize the exercise you’re doing without aid of the console. The game is finally demonstrated as being played without using the television.
Next was SiNG, which was just a dressed-up karaoke machine, showing you the lyrics on the screen. It also instructed those watching (not the singer) to dance and clap, things it probably doesn’t actually track. This reel in particular annoyed some press, because it ends with clapping, and sounded like it was coming from the audience when showed at the conference.
Scott Moffitt is brought up on-stage to cover the 3DS software line-up a little, and starts off by complaining multiple times how little time he has, hyping a separate showing of E3 software they’ll be doing the next day at 6 PM PST. He starts off with three first-party titles, every single one of them set in the Mario universe.
The first being New Super Mario Bros. 2. A different game from New SMB U, it’s “all about the gold.” Pretty much everything Mario interacts with spew gold coins everywhere, the enemies can be gold and Mario can power-up with a golden suit. He can also fly properly with the raccoon tail, which got some cheering. Next was Paper Mario: Sticker Star. It looked like mostly the same footage we saw a year ago, but more polished, and they explained the mechanic of ripping stickers off scenery to use the in battle. Battles seemed to be against more enemies than usual for a Paper Mario game, and there was also a “Paperize!” move that dropped the screen down in a flat image, where Mario could drop an object like a bridge onto it, akin to Ōkami. Finally, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, with Luigi completing mission-based challenges in a number of different mansions now. Something about the graphics looked better this time around, smoother perhaps. Following all that was a quick 3rd party reel, with Castlevania Lord of Shadows Mirror of Fate Subtitle of Excessiveness, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited (a different 3DS version), and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
Then back to Wii U for the Nintendo-published Lego City: Undercover. A fully-voiced open world action game, you use the Wii U pad as a crime-solving device. The trailer had a few goofy Lego jokes, like grabbing a criminal’s hand, and the peg for it pops out, and some Nintendo jokes mixed in as well, including Chase warping down a green pipe he builds, and a Zelda victory sound during a “ninja sequence.” There’s also a very different 3Ds version on the way.
Then it became time to pat Ubisoft on the back, and rightly so given the way this E3 has been going. After a vaguely awkward pause at the start, Yves Guillemot introduces Xavier Powix to herald the hero of gamers everywhere, Just Dance 4. The pad can be used to pick different choreography on the fly, to the tune of “Moves Like Jagger.” Reggie’s asked what it was like being the puppet master, and he responded, “Being the puppet master is like being the president of Nintendo of America.” The audience laughed, maybe not for the reasons Reggie suspects. Zombi U is described with a little more depth, as a “one bite and you’re dead” game, asking players “How long will you survive?” The Pad can be used as SONAR, inventory management, a scanner (OctoG123 was right!), a sniper scope, for door hacking, and to shake free of enemies. You can also use the cameras to “zombify” your face, which Reggie used for far too long, and uttered some strange things in the process.
Then the Ubi reel of Wii U titles from their conference, with AC III, Rabbids Land, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and Avengers Battle for Earth.
Nintendo takes a break to again hype their All-Access website again, It’s like they’re playing commercials during a giant commercial.
Finally, a new franchise… so to speak. “Welcome to Nintendo Land” renews my hopes for Captain N in Smash, but this is Katsuya Eguchi’s title designed to be the Wii U version of Wii Sports, instead based around 12 attractions designed to teach people what’s special about the controller. Clearly a fleshed-out version of the demos seen last year, with Miis dressed up in Nintendo character costumes. Miiverse implementation will be discussed at the developer’s roundtable, but for now, they demonstrated Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, a sort of maze game where the Wii U GamePad plays a ghost, that is invisible on the TV screen, the Pad player hunting down the ghost catchers, who are trying to spot it in their flashlights. The hub has some nice graphical shader effects on display. They mentioned that Nintendo Land is launching at the same time as Wii U hardware, but did not say it was going to be a pack-in.
Reggie’s back again, hyping their E3 website once more. He drops what seems to be the Wii U’s tagline, “Together. Better.” They then cut to a display of fireworks from Nintendo Land, which would be nicer if it wasn’t just one firework exploding the exact same way over and over.
And the conference is over. But wait! Immediately following online was a stream by Iwata from the Dokusou conference room where he delivered the last Nintendo Direct. First was a showing of Wii U Panorama View, which is the evolution of the city demo shown at last E3, where you look around a panoramic video using the GamePad. The “family” demoing it gets way to excited over it. And yes, Iwata explicitly says it’s prerecorded video.
Then, a deeper look at Nintendo Land, two minigames dubbed Animal Crossing Sweet Days, and Donkey Kong’s Crash Course. After the Donkey Kong demonstration, it cut to Iwata… staring at a bunch of bananas. You’re going to see that picture a lot.
Following that, Wii Fit U. Core Luge, the trampoline game, then a particularly awkward sequence where “Grandma”‘s Mii was dressed in a maid outfit, and the family was yelling at her to serve desserts without dropping them. The Wii Fit U’s stat tracking is called Body Test. It doesn’t need the TV, and can take photos of you to track progress.
The view cuts back to Iwata immediately holding a Balance Board. he calls it “the best-selling bathroom scale in the world.” He then shows off the Fit Meter mentioned before, and outlined its abilities a little more, such as how it can track atmospheric pressure and altitude.
Zombi U again, same controller video, a little more abbreviated, but with an extra violent pickaxe stab to the head at the end. Back to Iwata, “I understand if you are defeated in the game, you can turn into a zombie. This has already happened to me.” It cuts to a video sequence of zombie-faced Iwata introducing people to the Wii U, in the Dokusou room.
It then cuts back to normal Iwata, but in a clearly different outfit, obviously recorded later. He repeats the summary of Batman Arkham City: Armored Edition. “This is a ot of fun. Being more like Batman is just one of the things the Wii U Pad makes possible.” And then surprisingly, he ends the stream for the day, but mentions more events are coming. Games like Project P-100 and Game & Wario were completely ignored.
There’s still hope for more Nintendo announcements tonight at the Developer’s Roundtable and tomorrow at the 3DS Event, especially with Smash Bros MIA. But for all Nintendo’s talk, it was a pitiful showing of their powerful franchises, and at a conference starved for games, it was maddening that they didn’t even show some of them. Project P-100 is a fun-looking action game made by Platinum Games. Why wasn’t it at least in a sizzle reel? And so many of their powerful franchises were missing, or diluted with Miis for Nintendo Land. Microsoft and Sony can at least be pointed toward winding down their current generation development, but there was no excuse for such a lean showing from Nintendo, especially when they skipped other details like price and launch date in favor of “focusing on the games.” I’m not about to call it their worst E3 Conference, especially when they emphasized how they were saving announcements for other events during E3. But who would have guessed that of all the companies with major press conferences at E3, Ubisoft would be the one to come out with guns blazing, hitting the marks gamers were looking for, and offering real surprises?
As before, feel free to post your thoughts on the Nintendo Conference below.
This post was originally written by the author for TSSZ News.