I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo’s Wii U will be the talking point of this year’s E3 and undoubtedly it is the biggest story of the conference – but has Nintendo done enough to stem the tide? We take a look at the announcements from Nintendo and see how it all stacks up.
In our E3 predictions, we said a couple of things. Mainly I believed that Nintendo’s new console needed a killer app – a game that simultaneously dazzled and showed us how the new controller would work. Something akin to Mario 64 and Wii Sports. A new, innovative Mario game, I said, was the dream.
I wanted to see a set of games that reinforced the fact that the 3DS was here to stay. That it was a format worth owning and investing in.
I wanted to see a reinvented Zelda – a Zelda I could get genuinely excited in.
I wanted to see games. I wanted to be surprised by games.
On reflection – during the conference at least – I didn’t really get what I wanted. But I did get something.
Let’s start with the 3DS.
The biggest problem with the 3DS so far is software. The launch selection has been lackluster, and in response Nintendo has shown us what looks like another incredible Mario game in Super Mario 3D and… a new Mario Kart game. Oh, and Luigi’s Mansion 2. That’s it.
3DS software support was, and seems to remain, wanting. All of these games were already fully expected. A Super Smash Bros. game was announced but not shown and, once again, no surprises there. The third party video montage showing ‘unprecedented’ third party support was completely impotent. I saw nothing that convinced me that Nintendo will be able to maintain 3DS hardware sales.
That said – Super Mario 3D looks incredible. It’s everything the game needs to be: Mario gaming in a 3D environment with accessible controls and what looks like incredibly well designed levels with a unique, bold art style. It looks like the kind of Mario game the console should have launched with.
Now to Zelda.
The show opened with a stirring orchestra rendition of the Zelda soundtrack. It was an amazing display of just how potent nostalgia is when presented in an sweeping, majestic manner. As I said in our liveblog – my tear ducts were ready! It was a perfect way to let us know that Nintendo was serious about pushing Zelda forward in terms of production values.
Then they didn’t show the game at all. Not even a trailer! Which was literally bat-shit crazy, since Nintendo did release a trailer later – and an incredible one at that! I was fully expecting a live demo of the game at the very least.
However, I am now convinced that the Skyward Sword will be a return to form for the series. Which is a relief.
Now to the big announcement, Nintendo’s latest console – the Wii U.
To begin with, I hate the name – which is probably a good sign – but I understand that Nintendo has built a strong brand with ‘Wii’ and it would be silly to waste those efforts.
My main concern with the Wii U is this: I was surprised Nintendo didn’t surprise me. We knew the controller would be some kind of tablet, but outside of the additional buttons and analogue sticks, I’m not really seeing the Wii U doing anything an iPad can’t already do. For the first time in forever I’m watching Nintendo responding to what other companies are doing in the marketplace, and that’s never been a good position for them to be in.
Still, it looks like Nintendo has taken a good, long hard look at precisely how they can utilise the new technology and innovated in that way, instead of through technology. The bottom line is that while Apple know tablets, they sure as shit don’t know games. Nintendo understand gaming better than anyone, and it looks as though they’re really aware of the numerous ways in which this new tablet controller can be used to that end, whereas Apple are happy to coast on that front.
My gut instinct is that the Wii U will succeed. But not on a level anywhere close to the Wii. The tablet controller isn’t fresh enough to sell the mainstream – Nintendo would be wise to target the core market, at least to begin with. Folks like you and me are most likely itching to spend money on a new home console. It’s been a while.
On a personal level, I’m simply happy to see Nintendo games being produced on the cutting edge of visual tech. Yes, yes, yes – visuals aren’t the most important thing, but I miss the days when Mario 64 blew my mind on every possible level, not just from a design standpoint. Right now Nintendo has a grace period – a chance to complete on an even keel with the Ps3 and the 360. Hopefully this will convince third party developers to get on board as well.
But I simply do not understand Nintendo’s reluctance to show a proper game on the thing! Tech demos are all well and good – but Nintendo really needed to show a killer app, one that simultaneously sells the device, and teaches us how it can be used – shows us the possibilities. How about a Nintendogs that takes advantage of Augmented Reality? How about a proper next generation Mario game instead of a NSMB retread? I think the lack of concrete software for the device was easily the most strongly felt absence.
Ultimately, when the Wii Remote was first shown, I was completely lost in the possibilities. Whether or not Nintendo ultimately delivered is of no consequence because, back then, I felt like gaming was transforming before my eyes.
This time? I feel like I’m getting a faster, slightly confusing horse. I’m excited, but not surprised. I’m keen, but not blown away. I’m surprised that Nintendo didn’t surprise me.