Again, Nintendo have chosen not to go with a live show in favour of a video event. This is pretty much in keeping with their preference for tightly-edited video and online promotions in recent years, though the lack of a stage show again will keep those Reggie Fils-Aime .gif fans wanting.
Nintendo has always been about games first and foremost. While they’ve flirted with more mainstream lifestyle tech in recent years, particularly via the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo have always been staunch traditionalists when it comes to the software. Anyone looking for hardware announcements would’ve walked away disappointed by this year’s event, which basically stuck to the ‘games and only games’ philosophy – which given the dearth of major games on the Wii U, is no bad thing. The highlights of the day:
Super Smash Bros 3DS Delay – From ‘summer’ to October 3rd, with the Wii U version still with the vague window of ‘holiday’. Not having a set release date for the holiday period this late in the game probably doesn’t bode well for its chances of getting a release in time for Christmas.
Amiibo – Nintendo’s answer to the Skylanders/Disney Infinity craze. Basically, toys that can be scanned by the Wii U gamepad which adds those characters into supported games, Super Smash Bros first then Mario Kart 8 getting compatibility later. And why not.
Yoshi’s Wooly World – A new Yoshi-centric platformer with a wooly motif with Yoshi able to unravel himself and his surroundings to navigate the levels. Looks gorgeous, and exactly the kind of thing the Wii U does well.
Bayonetta 2 – Announced for October, with the original bundled in. This is great news for the hardcore crowd: Bayonetta was one of THE sleeper hits of the last generation, and having it packed in with the sequel will make for a feast of gleefully mental action gameplay.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker – Now that Luigi has finally had his day in the zeitgeist, it looks like another Mario bitplayer is getting a solo gig. Not much information on this one yet.
New Zelda on Wii U – Slated for 2015, the long-awaited new Zelda game for Wii U was the head-turner of the day, and not just because of its gorgeous looks. This time we’re getting a true open world, in a style that immediately brings the Elder Scrolls games to mind. Design-wise, it seems that it’s going back to the more mature end of the Zelda scale with an older Link, i.e. he’s a teenager again (One day I’ll get my Grumpy Old Link game… one day…). With rereleases of legacy entries garnering more interest than new Zelda games in recent years, this adoption of modern open-world design may just be what the Zelda series needs to keep itself vital, and alongside Mario Kart 8 may actually give gamers compelling reasons to buy a Wii U.
Hyrule Warriors – Zelda plus Dynasty Warriors, basically. We got some new details, like there being no splitscreen with multiplayer taking place between the TV and gamepad. Also, Midna was announced as being playable.
Splatoon - A clever online multiplayer game in which teams of players compete to paint a majority of the level in their team’s colour. It features paintball-style combat, allows players to turn into a squid in areas painted in the ‘friendly’ colour and by all accounts worked well with the Wii U gamepad. MCP writer Maxwell Patterson may not approve of them stealing his forum handle, mind.
The video presentation was a compact 40 minutes, though Nintendo wasn’t done yet. In a special event, Shigeru Miyamoto revealed an early version of the Wii U version of Starfox. Though a barebones build, Miyamoto was able to demonstrate how he plans to use the Wii U gamepad, with the pad’s screen showing a cockpit view of the action with motion-control aiming. Used in tandem with the traditional behind-the ship-view on the TV it definitely sounds like an interesting twist on the series’ gameplay. Three modes were showcased: Arwing, a dogfight mode most reminiscent of classic Starfox; Vs Wolf, a one-one-one showdown against Wolf O’Donnel; and City, putting you in a helicopter over an urban landscape with the Gamepad giving you a top-down view of what’s below.
Miyamoto also took the opportunity to showcase two mini-games: Giant Robot, a Sumo-style robot fighting game which utilizes the Wii U pad’s various functions to move different parts of your body, and Project Guard, a tower defense-style game in which you switch between security camera-style turrets using the motion controls for aiming. Reportedly it was implied that these mini-games may be connected with Starfox, though no solid details were divulged.
Nintendo have oft been accused of leaning on their legacy franchises with new gimmicks bolted on, and you could certainly say the same about this year’s showing. However, it can also be argued that if there’s one thing the Wii U needs at the moment it is strong releases from their core IPs to make the console more enticing to long-time gamers. As weird (yet in line with the bizarre cuddly-but-at-arm’s-length persona Nintendo seem increasingly comfortable with) as the canned briefing format is, Nintendo managed to turn more heads this year than at any recent E3, for a console many have been all too happy to write off as dead in the water. That alone qualifies as a huge success.