Last but not least, we have the glory of the Nintendo presentation. Disregarding that debacle with Pac-Man in 2003, Nintendo always manage to put on a good show, but this year they forewent the expense of a media briefing in favour of a worldwide Nintendo Direct. Here’s how it went.
None of the recent Nintendo Directs would be complete without the appearance of Satoru Iwata with his signature bow and cheerful smile. He explained the situation – we were to see the games on show at E3 2013, which most of us were not attending due to being lowly scrubs. Before we could worry too much about our position in the world, though, we were launched into a trailer for Pokemon X and Y Versions.
Taking place in a brand new region (shaped suspiciously like France), the new Pokemon games offer a radical shift in style to the sort of presentation we’ve seen in previous games. Far from the top-down 2D sprites that introduced me to the series, the fully-3D world even offers diagonal movement! Frankly, there was no outcry when Pokemon Colosseum featured that, so we’re not sure why it’s a big deal. Really though, the main change will be the introduction of the Fairy type – super-effective against Dragon-types and offering up several new strategies which we’re sure people with little better to do will pour hours into. Furthermore, there’s Pokémon-amie (we told you France was the theme) which functions as a kind of Nintendogs for Pokemon, allowing you to bond with your Pokemon and increase their happiness stat. How soul-crushingly nerdy is that? Pokemon X and Y release on October 12.
Next up was the game everyone had been waiting for – a new 3D Mario game. These are always a big deal for Nintendo fans, not only because of their quality but also because they act as an opportunity to define the kind of trajectory Nintendo will take with the generation as a whole. Super Mario 64 showcased Nintendo’s focus on exploration and world-building that were also exemplified in the Zelda games on Nintendo 64. Super Mario Sunshine showed that Nintendo were willing to branch out and take risks with their properties, as in Metroid Prime and Zelda: Wind Waker, while still keeping the core gameplay intact. Super Mario Galaxy demonstrated that the features of the Wii could be about more than gimmicks and really add something to an experience (as well as showing the Wii could pull a graphical blinder if it wanted to!).
This time though, one could be forgiven for being a little disappointed. Super Mario 3D World follows in the vein of 3DS’ Super Mario 3D Land in that it functions more as a 3D extension of the 2D games rather than a new style of Mario platformer in its own right. While it still looks fun, and the cat suits and 4 player co-op (this time featuring Peach!) seem like they’ll be worthwhile additions, it has given me a very strong urge to play Super Mario Sunshine again this summer. Super Mario 3D World releases in December 2013.
Mario Kart 8 was up next and it must be noted that this is probably the best-looking Wii U game thus far (at least until X is released – more on that later). Running in 1080p at 60fps with dynamic lighting up the backside, it’s clear that this is going to be the nicest of Mario’s racing outings to behold. Still, graphics aren’t everything, so we’re also happy to report that elements from the previous games – bikes, gliders, underwater sections, power slides – will be returning, alongside completely new additions such as zero-gravity sections of track that will surely placate those F-Zero fans who have been pining for an update of late.
Mr. Iwata promises that Mario Kart 8 will have the best online features yet seen in the series, and we certainly hope that’s true, although having said that a monkey with an ethernet cable has better online features than Mario Kart DS did. Still, it’s an encouraging promise and with the dropping of friend codes in favour of usernames and MiiVerse, here’s hoping the latest Nintendo racer can live up to expectations. Mario Kart 8 releases Spring 2014.
Wii Party U followed that announcement, the equivalent of a one-man band coming onstage after AC/DC finish their final encore. There are some nice ideas, such as GamePad-playable multiplayer games (we were shown one that seemed to be based on Scalectrix, but it’s unlikely to light anybody’s world on fire. If you’re interested, Wii Party U releases on… well it was supposed to be summer, but it’s been delayed to October. Sorry about that.
Also delayed was Wii Fit U. With a courteous bow, Iwata gives the most polite ‘we appreciate your patience’ you’ll ever hear.
Remember Art Academy on the DSi? Well we do, and it seems Nintendo are developing a Wii U version, which makes sense given the Wii U Gamepad is just a giant touchscreen. It’s still a long way off but inspired by the quality of Miiverse art, a special Miiverse version featuring pencils and pastels is set for release this summer.
A montage of Wii U and 3DS third-party releases follows, showing, in order: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins (Wii U and 3DS), Deus Ex: Human Revolution – Director’s Cut, Disney Infinity, Just Dance 2014, Rayman Legends, Scribblenauts Unmasked (Wii U and 3DS), Planes, Shin Megami Tensei IV (3DS), Skylanders Swap Force (Wii U and 3DS), Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Sonic Lost World (Wii U and 3DS) and Watch Dogs.
All of this should go some way to dispelling the notion that Wii U has no third-party support. It may be lacking enthusiasm from EA, but it certainly doesn’t want for adult or mainstream games from other publishers, like Ubisoft and Capcom. Speaking of which, here are a load of third party and independent games on the eShop. Enjoy!
Featured were: Ballpoint Universe, Cloudberry Kingdom, Coaster Crazy Deluxe, Ducktales: Remastered, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, Mutant Mudds Deluxe, Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, Scram Kitty & His Buddy on Rails, Shovel Knight, Spin the Bottle: Bumpie’s Party and A World of Keflings. Pretty good, eh? Well, maybe not Spin the Bottle.
Back to games you actually care about, and we had a few announcements on The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD. Along with the obvious switch to a larger number of pixels, it seems the game has been moved to a new engine to accommodate the Wii U system and as such there are a lot of different features. For one thing, the Wind Waker itself seems to occupy a slot on the D-pad, freeing up an item slot for more useful goodies. Sailing and the day/night cycle return in force, but this time the King of Red Lions appears to have a fast-sailing mode.
One big change from the original game is regarding the Tingle Tuner and the way Tingle will feature this time around. Link will receive a Tingle Bottle, giving the opportunity to send Miiverse messages around the world. They even wash up on other players’ shores, which is adorable and useful. How exactly the more unique (or annoying) features of Tingle’s, like placing bombs or granting temporary flight will translate has yet to be seen, but one imagines they’ll implement it somehow.
Graphically, it’s rather interesting. Lots of bloom and re-rendered textures can often spoil the look of a game but in this case it gives the whole thing a sort of macro lens appearance, which I suspect may be intentional on Nintendo’s part, especially since the models remind me quite a bit of papercraft dolls with the new engine.
Beyond graphics, I look forward to seeing the sailing speed raised, but to be honest I’m not sure it really addresses the issues many players had with the endgame Triforce hunt. While I actually loved that part of the game, and thought it really encouraged the player to go out and explore the vast world they’d created, I understand a lot of players disliked the fetch-quest nature of the task. Perhaps it would have been better for Nintendo to include the two cut dungeons (which they may well be doing, but as of yet we have no idea). The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD will be released in October 2013.
You may have heard of The Wonderful 101, but if you haven’t it appears at first glance to be a version of Pikmin with little plant people replaced with superheroes. However, despite superficial graphical similarities, it actually plays rather differently. The player controls a group of 101 heroes, who using their ‘unite mode’ can transform into huge structures like weapons with which they take on their enemies. It’s uniquely Japanese in its weirdness and hopefully should provide a lot of arcade fun to those of you who aren’t boring. The Wonderful 101 will release on September 15.
The King of Swing and Mario’s oldest foe, Donkey Kong, returns to our screens later this year and will be bringing with him Dixie Kong, who’s been absent for a while. Donkey Kong’s home has been invaded by Vikings, and the Kongs must work their way across several hectic, side-scrolling worlds in order to defeat their foes. What’s really impressive here is the level of graphical fidelity. You can see Donkey Kong’s fur, the levels are bright and vibrant and the pacing of the action looks superb. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze releases in November.
In a spectacularly campy video sequence, Platinum Games showed off a little more of Bayonetta 2, the game that caused so much controversy last year when it was announced it would be a Wii U exclusive rather than making its way into the hands of other, dumber players who like to get mad about this sort of thing. While I would have appreciated not having a big close-up of the titular hairy witch’s crotch, it still looked like a big fun action-shooter with an emphasis on unrealistic moves and combos and I can’t wait to play it. Nothing with a trailer that ends with a giant demon fight can be a bad thing, unless it’s the evening news. Bayonetta 2 releases in 2014.
When the Monolithsoft logo flashes up on screen, you know it’s time to get excited. The developers of the sublime Xenoblade Chronicles have been known to be working on a new game for a while, but it’s only now that X (its working title we presume) has begun to get a little fleshing out. Amongst transforming mecha, huge creatures, vast worlds to explore and some sort of ominous countdown tower, there’s a lot to get giddy about and I strongly urge anyone reading this to follow the game very closely indeed.
It must not go without saying that X features some of the most unreservedly beautiful graphics on the Wii U so far. While they stay firmly grounded in real physics and lighting, the worlds they create are enormous, alien and full of intrigue. It would be remiss of me to point and laugh at the Xbox and PlayStation owners who deride the power of Wii U, because graphics have already got about as good as they will get. It is on content where the next paradigm shifts in gaming will come and it may well be that X can help Nintendo to gain the upper hand. X releases in 2014.
Of course, there was one game everyone came to see from Nintendo at E3. It was, as always, Super Smash Bros., and they certainly saved the best until last. Opening with a masterful bait-and-switch involving showing the villager from Animal Crossing going about his day, we soon launched into a montage of scenes from both the Wii U and, for the first time, the 3DS versions of the game. Among other things, we learned that we can expect to see stages based on both The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Skyloft from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.
The Animal Crossing villager was shown as a playable character with a variety of useful tools, while a surprise reveal showed us that for the first time Megaman would be joining the fray, inability to shoot diagonally and several different forms intact. Because we’re immature, seeing ‘hard man’ flash up on screen did raise a giggle or two. After the presentation, another fighter was revealed: The Wii Fit Trainer. Having appeared in three games so far and playing an integral role in Nintendo’s recent history, it’s not hard to see why she was chosen, but the decision has already raised hackles among the more rabid sections of the fanbase. Ignore them Nintendo. You’re doing great. Super Smash Bros. releases in 2014.
Overall, Nintendo had a solidly successful, if not mind-blowing, E3 showing this year. A strong lineup of games spread fairly evenly apart should help them ride the waves of new console releases with a steady hand, and we look forward to hearing more from them in the future. My personal Nintendo game of E3 was X, since it seems to offer a huge amount of potential and is a really exciting idea. What was yours? Leave a comment below.