Well folks, as I’m sure you know by now that magical time of year known as E3 is upon us. As a Nintendo loving freak it’s always a day of particular excitement as the big N likes to go nuts showing off all their new toys and software. Sure, it’s not always a winner (anyone remember the Nintendo Vitality Sensor? Nope, didn’t think so), but it always at least interesting.
This year there were no embarrassing Zelda demo flubs, just big ol’ roll out roll out of Nintendo products that will force kids and immature adults to empty about bank accounts in the name of childish glee that only Nintendo can provide. Since the big N was relentless in unveiling new products this year, we’re going to break this down into two parts. First up is Nintendo’s fast approaching system the Wii U. On the next round we’ll get to my beloved 3DS. But for now, let’s get into the wild and wonderful new world of touchpad console gaming.
Before the good folks at Nintendo even rocked the mic at their official E3 conference, new details about the anticipated system were slipped onto the internets. We got to see a fancy pants final gampad controller showing off dual analogue sticks instead of those unsightly circle pads from last year (thank fucking Christ!) as well as news that the system would be able to support two gamepad controllers (whoohoo!), gamepad controllers will be able to interact with certain outside objects (could be cool, let’s see how that goes), gamepad controllers would also be available in black (um…sure, I guess that’s great), very Xbox looking pro-controllers will be available (nice) and the system will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 (oh…hmm…). The new tech specs were nice, but in an era where everyone with a keyboard and an internet connection worries about the impending death of consoles, that price doesn’t look very appealing.
I can’t help but feel Nintendo might be shooting themselves in the foot with that launch price. After all, they just got burned on selling the 3DS for an exorbitant price one short year ago. I understand that the new controller was responsible for the hike in price from the company, but lets not forget that they deliberately brought us the cheapest system last time and won the console war as a result. This could be a big problem for Nintendo, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. The bottom line is that Nintendo seemed to listen to all of the complaints about their prototype Wii U last year and have come back with a brand spankin’ new version that addressed all the issues. The system itself sure looks sexy. But let’s face facts, it’s useless without actual games and boy-oh-boy were some game details dropped during E3 (even if it didn’t boast quite the excitement level as when Nintendo revealed my two childhood favs Donkey Kong Country and Goldeneye would be getting reboots a couple years ago, but I can’t expect Nintendo to personally direct all their gaming decisions at me every year even though I’m a narcissist). This system is looking good, but what can you play on it? Calm down people, I’ll tell you.
Ubisoft starting things off with some obvious additions like dance and fitness games, sports, a Rabbids titles, and the pretty great looking Rayman Legends (which will provide more of the sidescrolling awesomeness of Rayman Origins). However, their two big announcements were ZombiU a zombie first person shooter that uses the gamepad controller in some really creative ways (like seeing a zombie come at you in POV when it’s too close, requiring you to shake the controller to beat off the undead…undeniably awesome). What was exciting about that game was the fact that developers are continuing to try to get some M rated content on Nintendo platforms. Sure it’s a bummer that it’s got to be through zombies yet again, but hey I’ll takes what I can gets. Ubisoft’s last announced game is an Avengers title that will even include Spiderman and some folks from the X-men Universe. There aren’t a hell of a lot of details on the game other than that, but it was enough to make me squeal with glee. Other third party Wii U titles included ports of Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed, and Arkham City. You can only get so excited about ports, but it was nice to hear that Nintendo’s new system can chug along with the same horsepower as the HD competitors, the system will embrace more than just kiddie titles, and there were actually some creative uses of the gamepad included to spice up the old games.
Now, let’s get into Nintendo’s first party line up. Yes, there will finally be a new Pikmin title to get all those folks giddy about their old memories with the franchise (and you won’t need to use the gamepad, suggesting that this sucker is a left over Wii title held back for the new system). Nintendo Land was the big new title revealed. True to form for the company, their biggest original game was actually just the latest excuse to repackage their old mascots. However, this sucker looks pretty good, a collection of minigames based on famous franchises that tries to create the joy of each title in a simple, short, almost arcade style presentation. Taking off on theme parks a la Disneyland, each franchise gets it’s own ride of sorts ranging from Zelda inspired sword n’ archery battle, a Donkey Kong mine cart run, and most excitingly an F-Zero racer that will be the first time the franchise as received a new title in way too goddamn long. Nintendo Land will ship with the Wii U and will be a fantastic way to introduce the new system’s capabilities to gamers while also paying homage to all their classic characters. We also got at New Super Mario Bros. Mii and while I obviously can’t wait to get my hands on that thing, it doesn’t look that different from New Super Mario Bros. Wii apart from new additions like Yoshi (which even then only emulate games that are decades old). I love the gaming nostalgia that Nintendo does well, but it is a little worrying that the big new titles they are using launch their system are ports and reboots. I know launch titles don’t define a system, but it’s still a bit of a bummer.
In a way, that’s kind of how I felt about Nintendo’s Wii U E3 presentation as a whole. Obviously the Wii U looks like an impressive piece of hardware, but nothing the big N had to show off screamed out as being must-own software and that’s a bit of a problem when launching a new system. When the Wii debuted at E3 many moons ago, you could step outside anywhere in the world and hear the squishy sounds of gamers everywhere collectively shitting their pants. Motion gaming was so bold and innovative, the system sold itself. No big games were needed, we were all just desperate to jump on the motion gaming bandwagon. Now that the Wii U in launching, there should be that feeling of anticipation for the next chapter in video game culture…but I’m just not feeling it. Rather than innovating, Nintendo is merely trying to play catch up with HD consoles and iPads. I’m sure their new system will play like a dream and open up all sorts of exciting gaming possibilities over time. However, there’s nothing on deck right now to make it seem like something a non-Nintendo hardcore or screaming child will have to own. That could be a major problem when it comes to sales, because consoles aren’t the only way to get gaming kicks anymore.
You would have thought that Nintendo would learn from the 3DS’ soft launch that they really had to provide something special with a new system to get gamers’ attention, yet they haven’t really done that and seem to be depending on gamers ongoing Nintendo nostalgia to sell their systems. Granted they are a big enough company that they will shift plenty of units that way, you just have to wonder how excited the general public will really be over this new console. Color me excited, but under whelmed. I never saw that coming. Hopefully the Wii U will seem more enticing as more details slip out closer to launch. Look, I’m buying the thing regardless, but I should have felt the need to smack my head off the wall repeatedly in an attempt to induce a coma in myself that will last until the launch date after this presentation. That didn’t happen (possibly a good thing for my health) and to be honest I’m no more excited about the system now than I was before E3. That sucks, but hey it’s not as if Nintendo was the only company to provide a lackluster presentation at E3 this year. It was practically the theme of the conference.
Sigh…ah well…tune in tomorrow for my inevitably gushing thoughts on Nintendo’s 3DS presentation (In case you haven’t noticed, I love the living fuck out of that handheld)