E3 2012: The Nintendo Conference

It’s to be expected, I suppose, that since this is the year of Nintendo’s next hardware launch that we’re not going to get a conference chock full of new first-party announcements. In an interview soon after the conference Reggie Fils-Aime himself even said that the focus of Nintendo’s press conference was less about big titles coming in the distant future, and more about what people can expect from the Wii U either at launch or during the nebulous “launch window”.

This is all a very sophisticated way of saying that Nintendo’s press conference this E3 really wasn’t very exciting. There were a couple of announcements, a lot was shown about the Wii U, and something was said about the 3DS Cue curtain. But any hope for a big first-person announcement, including my secret belief that a new 2D Metroidgame would be announced for the Wii U, were dashed.

It all started so well, though! That may be the most heart-breaking part of it all! That lovable scamp Mr. Miyamoto took the stage and without missing a beat announced Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, showing off some of the new Wii U controls, as well as a rock-type Pikmin that has me wondering if we’re going to eventually get every Pokemon type intoPikmin. While I’ve never had a chance to dig into the Pikmin series, it looked bright, it was colourful, there seemed to be a discussion that the new game would have multiplayer, and overall fuzzy warm Nintendo feelings were felt.

I think it was the moment that Reggie took the stage, uttered the phrase “Nintendo is all about the games”, and then started a ten minute discussion on the new services the Wii U would provide (Hulu and Netflix were specifically disclosed) that I came to realize my dream of a Link and Samus-fueled conference may sadly not be the case.

There were some important hardware tidbits released, however, including the announcement that Wii U’s will be compatible with two tablet controllers at once, instead of the previously-held belief that only one tablet controller would work on a console at a time. Which was crazy. Like, utterly, console-ruiningly insane. But don’t worry they fixed that! There’s also apparently something called the Miiverse, which I just have written in my notes as “Twitter but with Miis”, which likely means it’s just another application Nintendo will spend too much time on for it to not be used by Wii U owners.

Two Mario games were shown, New Super Mario Bros U for the Wii U and New Super Mario Bros 2 for the 3Ds, in what can only be called a concerted effort by Nintendo to screw with the heads of its fans by releasing two games that look almost exactly alike, calling them almost the same thing, and then going out of their way to tell you they’re completely different. I need to call this out right now – one of those two titles needs to change. You can’t release two games that look alike and name them almost the same thing. I don’t care if they’re for two different consoles you’re just going to confuse the hell out of people! It’s confusing the hell out of me already! Apparently the 3DS version’s “all about the gold”? What the hell does that even mean!?

Batman Arkham City Armored Edition was announced, which has some cool Wii U-only tablet mechanics, but you don’t care since you’ve almost assuredly already bought and finished Arkham City and aren’t about to buy it again so you can tilt-control the batarang. Mass Effect 3 and Darksiders 2 were both quickly shown in a Wii U title roundup, but again you don’t care because by the time the Wii U comes out you’ll have likely already bought and finished both those games. I feel like the success of the Wii has put Nintendo in a really strange mindset, where they seem to feel happy playing catch-up now in their attempts to win back the hardcore crowd. There was a look of satisfaction on Reggie when he discussed in a post-conference interview how the Wii U’s getting Mass Effect 3, but I can’t in my wildest dreams imagine it’s going to sell well almost a year after its release on other consoles – consoles which, by this point, almost everyone already owns.

And of course Wii Fit U and a karaoke-esque title tentatively called Sing were unveiled, and I’m sure both of those titles will move like they’re on fire, but the comments on the stream I watched seemed almost unanimous in their lack of caring for either. Gamer’s don’t want to be reminded that they’re out of shape, or can’t sing, and it’s gamers who are watching E3 on TV or livestream.

It wasn’t all kitchy announcements for the Wii U, though. Scribblenauts Unlimited was shown off, and now apparently you can make your own words! One shudders to think what 4chan’s going to do with an ability like that, but it’ll likely lead to some cool and imaginative gameplay quirks. Personally I always just summoned Cthulhu to solve my problems in Scribblenauts, but it always just seemed to be the logical choice.

Alongside Scribblenauts Unlimited came Lego City: Undercover, a mixture of Lego and GTA that fulfills all the requisite cute and charming bars needed for a lego game. The trailer shown only made me realize just how bad I want a dark and gritty Lego remake of the movie Heat, but that’s probably just me.

What really did manage to get some true excitement out of me was the discussion of upcoming 3DS titles. While the gentleman announcing the 3DS upcoming titles could not have been more stilted and awkward, as he…talked like…this for the complete ten minutes he was on stage, Luigi’s Mansion for the 3DS and Paper Mario Sticker Starwere shown off; both of those series’ have in past contained some of the most original creative work out of Nintendo, and I think the release of those two games may finally push me over the edge into buying a 3DS.

Nintendo’s big finale, or rather “big” finale, was an in-depth look at their pack-in title for the Wii U, Nintendo Land. Hoping that lightning can again strike twice for the company, a la Wii Sports for the Wii, Nintendo Land looks to be a nintendo-themed minigame collection that shows off the quirky mechanics the Wii U tablet controller will provide, all wrapped around Nintendo characters. There was an extensive Luigi’s Mansion minigame, which involved working with other people to hunt down invisible ghosts that looked interesting, but went on for far too long in the demo, something called Zelda: Battle Quest, a Donkey Kong single-player minigame, and some ninja shooting gallery which didn’t look like it was worthing tying a Nintendo character around, so they didn’t.

Nintendo Land looks interesting, but it’s a minigame collection, nothing more. And with the glut of minigame collections that eventually poisoned the Wii, I’m not sure if making the first marquis title for the Wii U a minigame collection is a good idea. Time will tell of course, and if they can hit the mark like the original Wii Sports did they could have a huge hardware seller on their hands, but I don’t think the gaming public is in the same place regarding minigame collections as they were when the Wii was released.

Overall Nintendo’s press conference just felt bland. It wasn’t the worst showing we’ve had this E3, and there were some moments where you could hear yourself saying “Yah, maybe this Wii U could be cool.” But for those watching E3′s conferences, they’re always waiting for the big unveil, the new IP or announcement that’ll give us a “whole new gaming experience”. And Nintendo didn’t really provide. The public (or, specifically I) wanted a new Metroid, or something new and crazy that evokes the same emotion as Watch_Dogs did yesterday for Ubisoft, but it wasn’t there. The conference may have had some steak to it, but there definitely wasn’t any sizzle.

Additional Notes

  • Shigeru Miyamoto is a charming little imp of a man, but Reggie has and will continue to scare the living bejeesus out of me. He looks like he should be starring in a “Scared Straight” film
  • Although Reggie did say his “body is ready” for the Wii U. So the internet’s probably happy with that stupid meme callout
  • They only showed it for a moment, but they’re making a new Mickey Power of Illusion game for the 3DS. I got tingly just writing that down
  • No more dance games at press conferences. Please. Everyone just feels uncomfortable