Nintendo came on strong in their press conference. Hot on the heels of the 25th Anniversary of the Legend of Zelda, Nintendo also took the time to finally unveil their successor to the Wii. Did they win everything? I felt their conference did really well for them. But calling it the Wii U? Either they’re being zen about the name, or Nintendo is basically telling everyone that no matter what they call it, they’re ready to print money.
Things started off with a live orchestra playing themes from the Legend of Zelda series over its 25 year history as a montage of footage was displayed on a screen in the backdrop. Hearing a live orchestra was a nice, classic touch, that set the tone for what Nintendo wanted to say. After a few more pieces, Shigeru Miyamoto stepped onto the stage looking as excited as a first-time gamer, even going so far as to act out a few memorable Zelda moments with the orchestra.
With the help of a translator (and a format which had him speaking at the same time as Miyamoto), the famed designer talked about the future of Zelda on the Wii and what they have planned next for its 25th anniversary. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords will be a free download and the next game in the series, Skyward Sword, will be out for the Wii this holiday season. Concerts will also be held in every region to help celebrate the series’ anniversary with music.
Miyamoto then invited several colleagues that had worked on the series out of the 200 that had done so over its lifetime. On hand were Takashi Tezuka (the Super Mario and Zelda series), Yoshiaki Koizumi (Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Super Mario Galaxy Series), and producer, Eiji Aonuma (The Legend of Zelda series).
Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, took the stage next and spoke on Nintendo’s philosophy of innovation in serving every player. This was, of course, to set the tone for what was coming up later on with their new console details. After that, Nintendo of America’s president, Reggie Fils-Aime, stepped up and started strong with what was coming for the 3DS.
A new Mario Kart game for the 3DS featuring customizable karts was shown off and slated for release this upcoming holiday season. Starfox 64 3D was also introduced with a few new tweaks to make use of the handheld: motion controls such as tilting the console to fly your ship along with using the camera to display players’ faces during multiplayer matches. I’m not sure how well the motion controls might work because of how finicky the 3D is if the screen is angled wrong, but I guess we’ll find out when it finally arrives.
A new Super Mario was also teased for the 3DS and footage of the long awaited sequel to Kid Icarus, Kid Icarus: Uprising, was shown off looking Panzer Dragoon-ish with its flight sequences and every bit as fun as it could be. It will also make use of augmented reality cards, actual cards that can be used with the 3DS for new gaming opportunities. Uprising is slated to come out before the end of 2011. After that, a short trailer for Luigi’s Mansion 2 played showing Mario’s brother vacuuming up ghosts as he did in the first game.
After that, a trailer showing off a few third-party games for the 3DS teased Ace Combat, Resident Evil: Revelations, and Cave Story 3D along with a few others. A new browser was touted along with the new eShop functionality.
A Virtual Console service for the 3DS was also announced, bringing classic portable games from the Gameboy and Gameboy Color to the 3DS. For a limited time, a free 3D version of Excitebike was also being offered for free.
But what would a Nintendo conference be without Pokemon? A new game for the 3DS was also announced featuring Pokedex 3D. Using the 3DS, you can fill it up by doing things such as scanning in AR (augmented reality) markers. Each Pokemon was also said to have their own AR marker and can be used against “real world” backdrops. So if you want a family picture with Pikachu, now’s your chance.
Reggie Fils-Aime then began to talk about the new console and revealed its official name: the Wii U. Yeah, I wasn’t too sold on the name, either, but what came afterwards was a torrent of visual information that promised what Nintendo would do behind it. Up first was a look at the new controller which sports a 6.2 screen in the middle of it. Right after showing the controller, the video started up showing how it was going to change gaming.
With the Wii U, you can immediately transfer what you’re seeing onscreen to the controller if someone else wants to use the television. The controller will offer a new perspective on games that make use of its functionality, can be used to play games on its screen, and even make video calls.
After the video, Satoru Iwata returned to the stage and explained some of what was seen. The Wii U will have backwards compatibility with Wii peripherals and the image on the controller isn’t being generated from there- it’s being transmitted from the actual Wii U to the screen. This kind of interconnectivity was described by Iwata as a means to create a bond between the games, you, your family, and even the internet.
After that, a new Smash Bros. was also teased for both the 3DS and the Wii U and a new video presented several more concepts that Nintendo was working on: a chase game between Miis, a game called Shield Pose where you had to use the controller to block pirate arrows, and a space shooter with wingmen using Wii-motes to cover you as you fly everyone through combat. A new open-world Lego game by Telltale, called Lego City Stories, was also slated for the system.
Then came a few soundbites from industry leaders such as Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot, Irrational Games’ Ken Levine, Warren Spector at Junction Point, and Karthik Bala at Vicarious Visions. They teased things such as the apocalyptic “Zelda clone”, Darksiders 2 from THQ, being promised to launch on the Wii U along with Batman: Arkham Asylum, Tekken Wii Successor, Assassin’s Creed, and Ghost Recon Online.
After that, the real trailers started up. This was Nintendo addressing the “hardcore” players
that had felt ignored with the Wii. And to look at what was being
offered, I think they succeeded. The games featured were Dirt (Codemasters), Aliens Colonial Marines (Sega), Metro Last Light (THQ), and a big surprise from Tecmo Koei, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge (working title).
EA’s John Riccitiello stepped up onstage following Iwata and Fils-Aime after the stream of trailers, there to promise his company’s support of the new console and the exciting direction that it offered game designers for titles such as Battlefield 3.
After John left the stage, Reggie Fils-Aime returned to offer a few final words in closing. He made it a point in mentioning that the DS, the 3DS, the Wii, and now the Wii U, all have one thing in common: innovation. In finishing, he encouraged everyone present to explore the new worlds in gaming that Nintendo wanted everyone to experience.
The Wii was a daring gamble that opened up gaming to many people that otherwise would probably not have invested the time or the money into seeing any of it. It’s arguable that other factors, such as the Wii’s low price at release played a larger role, but its unique (for the time) motion controls made it stand out from the PS3 and the Xbox 360. But as far as being innovative, it certainly hit the mark with later efforts from both Sony and Microsoft to mimic that success vindication that Nintendo had managed to change the game.
Though there was no mention of price or other technical bits at the conference on the whole, it was clear that Nintendo dropped a buzz bomb on the competition by putting them on notice a year before the Wii U’s release on where they were going. Given the success of the Wii in terms of units sold and what it had done to pressure its peers into following its lead, the Wii U could once again shake things up forcing everyone else to play catch up.
But to Nintendo, that’s business as usual. And for gamers, another new world of possibilities from the house that Mario built.