Nintendo has a lot on the line this year; they need to get people to “get” Wii U, and maintain their enthusiasm right up until the release date (something they failed to do with the 3DS). Microsoft tried to pull the rug out from under them with their Xbox SmartGlass (”use the table you already own”), but between their preemptive Nintendo Direct video about the Wii U and what they presented at their show, I think they minimized any damage that Microsoft might have caused with their presentation. Still, there was a lot of crucial information left out, and once again, Nintendo has a product that people have to actually use to “get it.” On the plus side, the games look like they’ll be there to support it… maybe.
The show got off to a playful start with Mr. Miyamoto introducing Pikmin 3. Finally. We’ve been waiting for this game for how long? Well, the wait may prove to be worth it. The game looks gorgeous, and has some new Pikmin including Rock Pikmin and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it glimpse of a flying, pink Pikmin (a Pinkmin?). The new game has four leaders, greatly expanding the way you go about completing tasks, although Captain Olimar isn’t among them. Apparently you’ll find out why in the actual game. While the Wiimote and Nunchuck can be used from the game, using the Wii U’s Gamepad provides some expanded abilities, like having an overhead map and being able to quickly jump between the four leaders and… well, hopefully some more helpful features. All in all, Pikmin 3 looked great, but no release date? Come on, Nintendo. This game better release when the console launches.
Then Reggie came out and prepared us for the rest of the show. It was going to be all about Wii U… mostly. This reinforced what Sunday’s Nintendo Direct video promised, that we would see a bunch of games for the new console. However, this meant that there wouldn’t be much time to talk about Wii U itself, but Reggie helpfully pointed us to e3.nintendo.com to learn more. It was also interesting that after the promise of “unique” from the Nintendo Direct video, we saw a bunch of ports, sequels, and franchises throughout most of the rest of the show. I suppose they all have “unique” ways of playing them, thanks to the new Gamepad controller, but I was kind of hoping for some new “unique” IPs. More than “unique” the buzz word of the show was “asymmetric gameplay.” Fancy. On the plus side, Reggie did reveal that the Wii U will support two Gamepad controllers. Sweet.
There was some more talk about Miiverse, but nothing new so far as details. It’s an interesting combination of social media and online connectivity; or at least, that’s what it looks like. We don’t have any details on what the online plan for all of this is, how we’ll find friends, connect with new people, play games online, and so on. But we will know which Wii U games are trending globally, which of our friends are online, and what they’re thinking, thanks to the presence of their Miis, and we can share game content like screen shots and more in the Miiverse. It has the potential to be a very Nintendo-like take on Xbox Live; whether or not it lives up to that remains to be seen.
Next we got a peek at New Super Mario Bros. U. The whole social media aspect of the Miiverse will be a big feature in this game as a “real-time social window”. More importantly, we got to see a new squirrel suit that allows Mario to glide, some weird but fun looking uses of Yoshis, and while up to four players can play the game, a fifth can actually use the Gamepad to place blocks and just generally help the others progress. Asymmetric gameplay, people.
Then Batman made an appearance. Not in person (which would be awesome), but rather in a new version of Batman: Arkham City. Called the Armored Edition, Batman and Catwoman will sport some new exclusive armored suits, which is sweet. Also, there’s a new element to the combat that makes Batman more powerful. More importantly, you can do things with the Gamepad like guide your remote batarangs by tilting the controller, or plant explosive gel and select which ones you want to explode and in what sequence. Also, the Gamepad can be used as an enhanced Detective Mode, and give you quick access to inventory. All pretty slick. Enough to justify buying an all-new copy of the game and a new console to play it on? Mmmmm…
Scribblenauts put in an appearance next, and I have to say, it seems like a natural for the Wii U. Here’s a game that has you creating and writing and making all kinds of wacky things, so a tablet with a touch screen and stylus seems like it’s a perfect fit for this type of game. Plus, the new Scribblenauts Unlimited will also have multiplayer for the first time ever.
Next we got a fancy trailer that showed off a bunch of other games coming to the Wii U. Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank Tank Tank, Tekken Tag Team Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor Cut, and Aliens Colonial Marines. It’s nice that the Wii U apparently has so much third party support, but I’m still curious how Nintendo is going to convince gamers that the Wii U is unique enough to repurchase and play through a game like Mass Effect 3 all over again. I’m a bit skeptical about that, and about how appealing a bunch of games that have been out for quite some time, some over a year, will be for gamers when the Wii U get its own version of them.
Well, that’s a problem for another day, and to help us de-stress from all our problems, the Wii U is getting its own version of Wii Fit. Wii Fit U will have all kinds of new activities to help have fun and get fit. One that was demonstrated was trampoline. By placing the Gamepad on the ground, one could see the trampoline from a first person perspective and see it fall away as you jumped up in the air and have it rush up to meet you as you fell back down. It also allowed you to aim your landing with more precision. Bobsledding was also demonstrated, which works just like the cow sledding did in Raving Rabbids; sit on the board and steer by leaning your body (in the Rabbids game, it was declared the first time gamers used their butt to steer, but Wii Fit is more mature than that). Players can select the workouts they want from the Gamepad screen, and even continue their workouts with the balance board while a lazier family member watches TV. Apparently, Wii Fit U will also come with a fit meter that you can carry with you when you go jogging or do other activities, and you can upload things like calories burned into your activity log on Wii Fit. All in all, I’m ready to get fit again.
Everyone seemed to have at least one head scratcher at this year’s show, and at least for me, SiNG was just that during Nintendo’s show. I’m sure there’s a market out there for a glorified Karaoke machine, but when it comes to convincing me of why the Wii U will provide a unique gaming experience that I can’t have anywhere else, this wasn’t it. Let’s move on.
Although the show was all about Wii U, a little time was carved out to talk 3DS. I was wondering if Nintendo would do this; I didn’t think they could ignore the handheld all together in their big show. We got a quick peek at New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the system. There’s a new gold flower and a ridiculous amount of coins to collect in the game. Since it is the summer of the Olympics, Nintendo cleverly stated that this game is all about the gold. Looks fun, and what’s this? It released August 19th? Sweet. Next Paper Mario made an appearance. The new gimmick for Paper Mario Sticker Star is, well, stickers. Collect them to use in battle, to find hidden secrets and to access new areas. Paper Mario is one of my favorite franchises, so I’m pretty amped about a new version, and it could have a lot of potential in 3D. The new Paper Mario hits this holiday. Finally, we haven’t heard much about Luigi since he was first announced for the 3DS, but we got a few more details about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. The game features multiple mansions to explore, it has new ghost types to capture, and most importantly of all, we finally know when it’s coming out; this holiday season. It’s been a long wait for this game, I hope it proves to be worth it. The 3DS section of the show wrapped up with montage of games coming to the system, including Castlevania: Lord of Shadow, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts 3D. Finally, the 3DS is getting some quality games; is it too little too late?
Lego City: Undercover is coming to the Wii U, and it looks like a lot of fun. All of that Lego charm is on display, and the Gamepad gives you some unique tools to solve crimes and interact with the city. An open-world Lego adventure game; I can’t wait.
Ubisoft is getting behind the Wii U big time, and they got the spotlight for a few minutes to show what they’ve been working on for the new system. First was Just Dance 4. Reggie got to play “puppetmaster” for this demo by using the Gamepad to pick which moves the dancers would… er… dance. That’s fun, I guess, but underwhelming, really. The next showing was far more intriguing. ZombiU looks like it’s really going to put the Gamepad to some good use. The demo showed off everything from a scanner to sonar to inventory to a sniper scope to hacking doors; all innovative but intuitive uses for the second screen of the Gamepad. Plus, the game looks pretty intense and scary. And as an added bonus, the camera on the Gamepad can “zombie-fy” you. Good for giggles. This impressive demo was followed by a montage of Ubisoft games coming to the Wii U that included Assassin’s Creed III, Rabbids Land, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and Avengers: Battle for Earth. What, no Splinter Cell? Can you imagine the possibilities of Splinter Cell with the Wii U Gamepad?
Finally, Nintendo unveiled Nintendoland. Think of this as the Wii Sports title for the Wii U; it’s the game that will help people “get” why the Wii U is so unique. Like Wii Sports, it’s a collection of mini-events to play that take full advantage of the Wii U Gamepad and show off what it’s capable of. However, rather than a sports theme, Nintendoland is an amusement park; complete with Nintendo themed worlds such as Zelda Battlequest, Animal Crossing Sweet Play, and Luigi’s Mansion Ghost Mansion. A lengthy demo was shown of Ghost Mansion in action. I don’t know if any of you remember waaaayyy back to the GameCube days. That’s where this whole idea of “asymmetric gameplay” first emerged as you could connect your Gameboy to the GameCube. One game, Pac-Man Verses, allowed one player to be Pac-Man on the Gameboy with a classic, overhead view of the game. Up to four other players played as the ghosts on the TV screen and could only see their zoomed in section of the maze. The ghosts tried to get Pac-Man before Pac-Man got them. It was truly a lot of fun. Ghost Mansion is pretty much a replica of that. Luigi and his friends are trying to find a ghost in the maze of a mansion. It looks like plenty of fun… to play; watching it and having it explained step-by-step was less than enthralling, and really killed the momentum of the show. I’m sure Nintendoland will be a great way to show what the Wii U is capable of, but too much time was spent with it here. It was said that Nintendoland will launch with the hardware this holiday season, but I’m not sure if that means it’s launching at the same time, or that it’s coming bundled with the system a la Wii Sports. If Nintendo is smart, they’ll do the latter.
And that was it. No firm release date for the system. No price for the system. No specifics on the online plan for Miiverse. Nintendo promised they’ll have much more information about the Wii U, and a whole other show dedicated just to 3DS software at their E3 website, e3.nintendo.com. Hopefully more details and specifics about the Wii U itself, and not just the games, will show up this week. All in all, Wii U looks fun. I’m not sure it’ll be worth repurchasing games just to have a second screen option for them, but the new games have some cool possibilities, as does the Miiverse. Did Nintendo do enough to get people on board with their “unique” new system? Guess we’ll find out this Christmas.