The Wii U is right around the corner, and Nintendo let us know it.
At Nintendo’s E3 press conference today, the Wii U was given the showcase that we’ve been waiting a year for. Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime was present for the majority of the presentation as he showed us exactly what the Wii U will be capable of when it launches (presumably) this holiday season. While nothing concrete was given regarding a release date, price point, or launch titles, and no TRULY killer app was showcased, we were still given plenty of reasons to be excited about the WiiU.
The show kicked off with Nintendo’s creative god Shigeru Miyamoto being adorable and awkward, presenting the long-awaited Pikmin 3. The alien ant simulator is looking incredibly sharp and immediately showed off why it’s a smart move for Nintendo to move to HD in the coming generation (besides the fact that, you know, it’s 2012). Rock Pikmin will allow things like walls to be destroyed, the little fellas can create bridges, and the game can be controlled any way you’d like. With a Wii Remote and Nunchuk, players can control with precision and point to where they’d like; using the GamePad, you can get a wider view of the level and plan accordingly. Combined, these control schemes will allow you to tackle the game with expertise. It’s looking to be amazing.
The GamePad was presented in a simple tutorial video for the uninformed. The tablet-like controller has a huge central touch screen that uses either your finger or a stylus, clickable analog sticks (two generations later), triggers and shoulder buttons, an accelerometer and gyroscope, rumble, a built-in camera and microphone, speakers, and of course, a home button. Picture the Wii’s original Classic Controller but with a huge screen in the center. The console will support two GamePads. It’s a world of possibilities.
The Wii U is, according to Fils-Aime, going to CHANGE YOUR LIFE by the way it presents games, social interaction, and entertainment. While Microsoft spent a good amount of time focusing on video and entertainment content for the Xbox 360, Nintendo only briefly breezed by the fact that the Wii U will be able to stream content from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, and YouTube. Not a bad start, and a step up from Nintendo’s standard-definition last resort Netflix app on the Wii and 3DS.
On the social level, people will be connected by the Miiverse, a sort of “main street” for the main menu of the Wii U. There, you can interact with friends and strangers you’ve encountered to gather around games representing both your tastes and trending tastes. You can communicate with text or with drawings using the GamePad, and display facial expressions for added communication. Since this feature is browser-based, it will be accessible from the 3DS, PC, and any smart device you’ve got. Sounds like Nintendo has finally discovered the internet!
We were then introduced to the Wii U’s Mario title, New Super Mario Bros. U. While they REALLY need to get rid of the “new” in all their games (this currently makes two, soon to be three, New Super Mario Bros. games not so new), the side-scrolling platformer still looks like a blessing. There are baby Yoshis everywhere, including an inflatable red one, and a blue one that shoots bubbles. There’s also a squirrel suit for flying! Awesome! You can play using the Wii remote sideways with up to four players, and a fifth player can hop in with the GamePad and alter the levels! The player with the GamePad can add blocks and other items to the game world to help or hinder other players. This is just one of many examples of Nintendo’s new gameplay innovation – asymmetric gameplay. But more on that later.
Third party titles were shown off, and with the Wii U (for now) matching the tech of the 360 and PS3, modern titles can finally hit the little white wonder. Games include Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Darksiders II, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank! (best name ever?), Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, and Aliens: Colonial Marines. That’s a hell of a lineup.
Continuing the fitness gaming trend that they started, we were also shown Wii Fit U, a new version of the hugely popular, if only marginally effective, fitness game that helped push millions of Wii units. The balance board is still the focus, but the GamePad allows you to do things like choose your workouts, upload workout data from outside the game, and use the GamePad as the actual game screen so you don’t disrupt someone using the television for something else. Very convenient.
Then there was SiNG, a karaoke game that looks like a karaoke game – awful. The lyrics are on the GamePad, and it encourages people to dance like idiots and sing along. Maybe you’ll like it? I kind of hope not.
The 3DS was mostly kept out of this conference so it could have its own little showing tomorrow night, but we did get our greedy little peepers on a trio of awesome looking games. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is due out this summer for the 3DS, and has lots and lots of coins. A gold shell leaves a trail of coins, coins turn into coins, and coins come from nowhere to be collected like coins. Coins. Also, the raccoon tail! Paper Mario: Sticker Star is another exquisite looking title in the line of 2D/3D RPGs, with a focus on stickers to be used in battle. Stickers are everywhere! Collect them and fight with them! IT WILL BE FUN! And finally there was Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, which looks like a much more elaborate and creative game than its predecessor. There are themed mansions, more ghosts, and loads of puzzles and things to do. It looks incredible.
We also got a video of just a handful of other 3DS titles heading our way, including Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate, Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (there was an Aladdin level! I’m buying 50 copies!), Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Kingdom Hearts games have dumb names, but it, as well as the other titles, served as a great teaser to what else is to come.
One trailer caught up in the middle but that struck the heart of my inner child was Lego City: Undercover. It is an open world LEGO game and it looks a LOT cooler than it sounds. Or maybe you think it sounds really cool, in which case it looks exactly as cool as it sounds. There’s crime fighting, disguise wearing, and even some platforming through a city made of LEGOs, and the GamePad serves to give you crime dispatches and help you scan for criminals. And for the zero of you out there that obsessed over LEGO Island on the PC back in the late 90s, I think I saw the Brickster in there. OH MAN.
Some hilariously accented Ubisoft gentlemen came out to introduce a lot of neat looking, if gimmicky, titles they’re bringing to the table. Just Dance 4 looked like the other games in the series, which is kind of dumb but probably fun if you don’t like videogames, but asymmetrical gameplay was shown off in the person with the GamePad forcing dance moves to change on the fly at their whim, inconveniencing dancing players. There was also Zombi U, a first-person shooter that uses the GamePad for things like your map, inventory, environment scanning, sniping, breaking free from zombie attacks, and door hacking. It can also use the camera to turn you into a zombie in real time, which Reggie showed off in an absolutely frightening manner.
Ubisoft also showed their lineup for the Wii U, with games like Assassin’s Creed III, Rabbids Land, YourShape: Fitness Evolved 2013, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and Avengers: Battle for Earth. Glad to see Ubi getting behind the Wii U so strongly. And a side note – look for Ubisoft’s demonstration of Rayman Legends from their conference last night. That alone may sell you on the Wii U.
The show was closed with a whopper of a game: NintendoLand. Fils-Aime described it as doing for the Wii U what Wii Sports did for the Wii – that is, showing off what the console can do in a fun, simple way that anyone can enjoy. NintendoLand is a massive virtual theme park with twelve attractions (games) based on classic Nintendo franchises. It also looks to be a bit of an MMO: many, many Miis were shown strolling around the park. Miis can get into costumes depending on where they go, and can then play these Nintendo themed games by themselves or with others. Attractions included Zelda:Battle Quest, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, and Luigi’sGhostMansion.
Luigi’sGhostMansion was shown off at length, and it had a mansion-like level with four Mario-themed players controlled by the Wii Remote. The fifth player, the one with the GamePad, is the ghost. The GamePad screen also shows off the mansion, but it also shows the ghost’s position, which is controlled by a touch of the screen. The ghost is to roam around the house, scaring the four players unconscious. Since the ghost has its own screen, the four players see nothing. They, however, are on the hunt, and can use their flashlight to shine it on the ghost when their controller’s rumble indicates that it is near. If the players hold the light on the ghost long enough without their battery dying, they kill the ghost. But if the ghost scares all four players, the ghost wins. Asymmetrical gameplay showed a lot of promise here, and I definitely look forward to seeing what else NintendoLand offers.
Like Microsoft’s conference, a lot of people thought Nintendo’s showing today was a nightmare. These are the same people who expect brand new annual entries in the Metroid, Zelda, Mario, StarFox, Animal Crossing, Kirby, and Donkey Kong franchises. We can’t have it all at once, and Nintendo can’t bust out all its key franchises at once. The Wii U is looking like a fun system, and one where Nintendo is finally getting a lot of things right. The games look like good fun, the third party support is strong, and while we didn’t get everything we wanted today, you can bet that there’s a lot more to come.
Any system with something as drastically different as a whole new way to play takes a while to grow into something that both hardcore and casual gamers can enjoy. It took the Wii and the DS a while to find its footing, and they both turned out to be unbelievably awesome consoles. Glorified tech demos are okay to start with, and a company like Nintendo is not dumb (okay, they’re a little dumb) and knows how to space out the truly stellar titles. For what it’s worth, we got to see a lot of awesome games for the Wii U today, and many games showed off a great deal of promise.
And if you’re still not satisfied, the 3DS conference is tomorrow and that’ll probably blow our heads off.