E3 2012

Nintendo at E3 2012 – The Personification of Average.

The following can describe Nintendo’s E3 press conference as accurately as possible: Lukewarm > This looks good > I like the sound of that > Awesome! > What is this? > What are you doing Nintendo? > This is horrible > Kill me now. A lot of people were expecting something special from Nintendo this year, what with their new console to showcase and all of the respective games that would be releasing on it, as well as their already-selling-well 3DS handheld device. Things looked promising but ultimately, Nintendo’s choice to focus on ports, underwhelming Mario titles and glorified mini-game collections ran things firmly into the ground.

Before I start on the bulk of this post, I’d like to add an addendum regarding the Sony E3 conference. As I’ve said before, I did not watch the conference, due to the time it was broadcast in the UK, and I have yet to watch it, except for a few trailers and announcements (The Last of Us looks absolutely spectacular, by the way). I do not plan on discussing the conference in detail but I will say that it was probably better than Microsoft’s dismal effort, n0t that that would be any difficult achievement to obtain.

Pikmin 3

I may be grossly out-of-the-loop here but I really don’t know what Pikmin is or where it stemmed from. All I know is that it seems to be a well-loved game franchise that’s been absent for a long time, possibly longer than it ever should have. I’ve heard of the name before but it’s one of those titles that’s slipped by me for years without me noticing its existence. That being said, the concept for Pikmin 3 and the way it seems to play are hugely interesting to me. Whether or not the game is interesting enough to convince me to purchase the Wii U console remains to be seen but my curiosity has been piqued.

Oh, and let’s have some appreciation for how amazingly cute those Pikmin are. Can somebody please make one just for me? My muscles ache from their cuteness.

Wii U Hardware Announcements

Obviously, with the Wii U rapidly approaching release, Nintendo has to start trickling out some information regarding the console’s capabilities, power and features. We all wanted to know the exact specifics on how much power the console contains, or does not contain, over current-gen systems, as well as the release date and price. Whilst we got a vague release window (fall 2012), we got no price to speak of. As for the specifications,  those details supposedly emerged after the conference concluded, which indicate a substantial amount of power but a bizarre lack of an internal hard-drive, which could be a problem given Nintendo’s drive to make full games downloadable from the marketplace in the future.

During the conference Nintendo announced that two GamePads will be able to play on the same console simultaneously, although this sounds less like news to me and more like something that should have always been a given fact. What would be the point in having it the other way around, especially with how much Nintendo are hyping up this controller to enhance the games they’re used to play?

The possibilities opened up by having two controllers accessible at the same time are rather wide. An example given was one player having to work their way through puzzles whilst the other drops obstacles for them to beat whilst sitting merely yards away from each other. It may not sound like much to some people but to me, it gives off a sweet stench of intrigue.

It was also announced that the Wii U will feature YouTube, Hulu and Netflix support among others. Personally, every device worth a damn these days has access to the same apps so it’s neither surprising nor particularly unexpected to hear this. The current Wii has access to a few of these so its stronger and popular brother was always going to see some loving.

Miiverse

The Miiverse is possibly one of the most interesting things to come out of Nintendo’s conference, at least for me, which is quite the statement considering it’s neither a game nor a demonstration of the hardware at hand. Miiverse is, in essence, a social network that allows players to communicate with each other by exchanging status updates, hand-drawn pictures, caps of their facial expressions and the like. The Miiverse takes dominance over the Wii U’s home menu and Nintendo also confirmed that the concept can expand to the 3DS, phones, web browsers and tablets, so you can communicate with your friends even when you’re away from the console. Only after the event came the rumours of Nintendo moderating your status updates for ‘up to thirty minutes’ to make sure you’re not spreading filth to the gaming populace. It doesn’t sound good to me but it’s taken Nintendo this long to give people the chance to write their own messages rather than select from a list of words, so I’ll take it.

Miiverse is confirmed not to be available at launch, which really does sting terribly, but the promise of its eventual arrival is acceptable enough. Nintendo have an interesting thing on their hands here; let’s hope they don’t trample it into the ground with their typically hard-stance on making everything kid-friendly.

New Super Mario Bros. U

A new Nintendo console wouldn’t be complete without a Mario game appearing on it in some shape or form and one has been announced in the form of New Super Mario Bros. U. The game looks exactly as you’d expect it to, with added 4-player co-op and compatibility with Miiverse. The game also features use of the GamePad features I mentioned above, with one player playing the level and another using their controller to observe the level from above and assist the other as they continue through it.

Unfortunately, there is nothing about this title that particularly screams out for attention. It’s a Mario game, yes, and I’m sure it’ll play well but I cannot help but be underwhelmed at it. It doesn’t demonstrate the increased power of the Wii U nor does it feature any massive new concepts to the formula it chooses to uphold. The 4-player co-op may introduce new ideas into the game but for the most part, it’s a case of ‘same old, same old’.

Another Super Mario Bros title was unveiled for the 3DS, launching this August in the US, with a heavy focus on coins, coins and more coins. What’s particularly noticeable is how similar it looks to the above title; obviously not in the graphical department but in the gameplay and style of the game for sure. If you were to put the graphics as the same quality as each other and tried to play ‘spot the difference’ between them, I’m fairly sure you’d have a difficult task of determining which one belonged to which device. That’s a problem in my eyes, though not one that will harm the sales for each game I’m sure.

Wii U Third-Party Support

As well unveiling their own first-party titles for the Wii U, Nintendo also introduced a range of third-party titles that will be arriving on the console after its release. We have Scribblenauts, which I know nothing of, as well as a confirmed roster of games such as Ninja Gaiden 3, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Mass Effect 3 and others. One that they spent a large amount of time focusing on was Batman: Arkham City.

There’s no doubt that Arkham City is a fantastic game. I’ve mentioned as much numerous times on this blog before. However, as good as it is, it’s eight months old. Players in the millions have already played through it to the end, some more than once. The Wii U version would have to contain a significant amount of exclusive content to make it worth purchasing again, and it doesn’t. It is basically a port of the game with new controls, and that simply isn’t enough. You can’t expect somebody to purchase a game again barely a year down the line, at full price I may add, for little more than fancy controls. The only people this re-release caters for are the hardcore Nintendo fans who have never owned any of the other two consoles and as such, have yet to play the game at all.

As earlier unveiled during the Ubisoft conference, ZombiU takes centre stage once again during Nintendo’s conference and the game looks rather fantastic. You can use the controller to line up sniper shots, as a radiation scanner, to shake off attacking zombies and more. The game also appears to have an inventory system worthy of a survival title of this type. In all, the game looks very impressive for those of us love zombie action and fighting to stay alive against all of the odds. If there’s any title with the possibility of steering me towards a console purchase, it would be this.

It was also confirmed that the Wii U’s third-party support would also feature appearances from Just Dance 4 (yawn), Assassin’s Creed 3, The Avengers and more. Some obviously sound more interesting than others and some sound like the typical shovelware, but it’s good to hear that the console will be getting some third-party support post-release.

Lego City Undercover

How a Lego game can look so deep and exciting as this is beyond me. I must have Lego City Undercover now. It’s that simple. The game just looks like an incredible amount of fun, and it’s not difficult to liken the title to ‘Lego Grand Theft Auto’ whilst you’re watching the gameplay of it. You can explore an open-world environment, hunt down criminals and kick their square behinds, go undercover with said criminals and, basically, have as much lego-flavoured fun as humanly possible. It’s also confirmed that a 3DS version is in development, so not only can you maul criminal lego scum on the big screen but also on the small screen too.

To be honest, whilst games like New Super Mario Bros. U don’t make me want to splash out for a Wii U, Lego City Undercover absolutely does. It looks to have the perfect blend of fun, action and humour to make it worth a purchase and that’s what I like to see. You can keep your Mario and your zombies and everything else, Nintendo – just give me square men fighting crime and I’ll take it without question.

3DS

Announcements concerning the 3DS weren’t a large focus of Nintendo’s press conference as they confirmed a special event, to take place the day after, that would be solely focused on the 3DS. Their excuse was that they didn’t have enough time. Fine. What they did mainly showcase during the main event were three games: Paper Mario, the aforementioned New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Paper Mario looks…strange, but bare in mind that this is coming from someone who has never played a Paper Mario title before and it’s  to be expected that the concept appears wacky to me. Still, it looks like a lot of 2D paper-ish fun that I’ll definitely keep an eye on.

Luigi’s Mansion, however, looks rather great indeed. I played the first title on the Gamecube many, many years ago and although I never finished it and got lost more times than I can count, it was still a highly enjoyable title. The new title looks like more of that same fun, condensed onto a handheld device yet retaining the same charm it carries with it. This game was always on my watch list but now it’s taken a higher position.

I was strongly expecting a 3DS redesign, with two circle pads, but that doesn’t seem to have happened at all. I am surprised by that because it would make sense for them to do it, especially with the way they clearly regret not doing so with the release of the circle pad pro attachment. Maybe it will happen at a later date or maybe it won’t.

Regardless of the above, third-party support for the 3DS was also explored with the announcement of several titles arriving on the device, such as Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and more. None sound of much interest to me but I’ll wait to see more on them before making a definitive judgement.

Wii Fit U

Yawn. You do exercises on the balance board. Nothing new. You can play the game and exercise to your heart’s content, even on the controller’s screen. No thank you. I’ll put the trailer in here but don’t expect any massive innovations.

Nintendo Land

Nintendo concluded their press conference with a very underwhelming, very uninteresting, Nintendo Land, which is basically a collection of mini-games made to appear like a fully-fledged title worthy of the accompanying price tag, if it actually has one (I’ll get to this shortly). The mini-games are supposed to show off the Wii U’s features, as well as feature support for Miiverse and possibly online multiplayer, but that doesn’t stop the game from looking devoid of a firm direction in what it wants to be; is it a game that shows off the console’s features? Is it a collection of mini-games that are just for fun? I’m not sure, and from the looks of it, I don’t care to know much more. What may happen with Nintendo Land is it could be packaged in with the console, for no further cost, similar to how Wii Sports was put in every box containing the  Wii console. If that’s the case, a large portion of my negativity surrounding this title may dissipate. If the game is sold separately and for a price, that won’t be the case. If it’s free, be as underwhelming as you like.

It wasn’t the best game for Nintendo to end their conference on at all. To be honest, it probably would’ve been better to start off with this title and get it out of the way and end with the Pikmin 3 announcement. At least that would’ve garnered some degree of after-discussion that wasn’t mostly negative.

Nintendo’s E3 outing was highly anticipated, especially due to their ability to demonstrate new hardware – something which the other two competitors didn’t have the luxury of. However, what actually transpired was a very average selection of games, with a few gems hidden in there, and an over-reliance on third-party support that contained either tired franchise entries, ports or underwhelming titles. The 3DS barely even featured during the event and whilst they explained why, I can’t help but feel that they could have spent the time they used to demonstrate Arkham City on talking about the 3DS.

Overall, Nintendo failed to make an impact this year and that’s a huge shame because they had so much potential to truly steal the show.  Plus, where was Zelda? I was expecting at least a brief mention of it, given the fact they clearly showed a Zelda game during their initial Wii U reveal last year. His absence was extremely noteworthy.

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