Ta Dah…: Nintendo's E3 Presentation

Everybody knows that you never lead with your showstopper. Yet Nintendo started right away with perpetual smile machine Shigeru Miyamoto announcing Pikmin 3, a long requested title from Nintendo fans all around. Goodwill surounding Nintendo’s presser couldn’t be higher – surely the rest of the conference would be full of solid gold hits.

Yeah, about that…

Before we go on, there were a number of noticeable absences from this press conference. Many people have already noted that Nintendo neglected to announce a launch date or price for their console; we may have to wait until TGS for that. But there was also a lack of on-stage gameplay here. Granted, previous live demos haven’t exactly been the most dignified, but I would have appreciated seeing some of the new games in action.

Speaking of which, Pikmin 3. The game introduces a new Rock Pickmin type, and you can now control up to four leaders at once, even to the extent of picking another leader up and throwing them to a desired point. Aside from that, it is the familiar Pikmin game that people have been requesting for years.

The wait for a new New Super Mario Bros game, on the other hand, hasn’t been as long.  If you’ve played any Mario game, then you’ll already have a good idea of how New Super Mario Bros U will pan out. There’s the usual array of new items, including a sugar-glider suit and as a dinosaur that shoots bubbles. The most interesting new feature is the integration of the Wii U Gamepad, which will allow a fifth player to interact with the environment and assist the other four players.

This is part of one of Wii U’s bigger selling point. Reggie Fils-Aime pulled a lot of lines from his swatch of corporate phrases – “New disruption”, “[Manufacturing] a new experience” – but there was one phrase that got used so often, it approached drinking game levels: “Asymmetrical gameplay.” This is in reference to the Wii U Gamepad’s screen, and how it can provide a gaming experience separate from what’s on the TV screen. This could prove interesting, particularly since it was confirmed that the Wii U will support two Gamepads at once.

We got a practical application of this with a Wii Fit U trailer (yes, there is a Wii Fit U coming out, try not to look so surprised). One of the game’s uses for the Gamepad is to allow exercise to continue even if the TV is being used for something else. I hope more games will utilise this feature. There is also a pedometer peripheral, the Fit Meter, which can be used to track steps and calorie loss. …I hope more games will utilise this peripheral?

Nintendo also announced SiNG (Working Title), a karaoke game. The less said about this one, the better, lest we tarnish our brand new website with Carly Rae Jepsen talk (although it would certainly boost out search engine results, as would ONE DIRECTION, #QANDA and E3. Hang on…)

The show then moved on to third party titles. WB Games went on stage to announce Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition, effectively a port of the existing Arkham City game. The game will use the Gamepad for, among other things, inventory and Batarang steering. They also announced Scribblenauts Unlimited, which will introduce a narrative, multiplayer as well as deeper customisation – finally you can create that unholy dog-car hybrid of your dreams!

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot also made an appearance, detailing how some of his company’s games will use the Gamepad. Just Dance 4 will allow players to select the choreography for his or her victims fellow dancers, while ZombiU will use the controller as “Sonar, inventory, scanner, sniper [scope], door hacker” and so forth. From the brief glimpses of gameplay, ZombiU looks decent – not as horribly majestic as yesterday’s trailer suggested, but promising nonetheless.

On that note, it will be interesting to see how the third parties will use the Wii U Gamepad. I imagine there will be about a year where it’ll be used solely for maps and inventory screens before developers spend more time with the controller and imagine some novel uses for it. It was the same case with the DS in its infancy.

The press conference wasn’t all about the Wii U, although it might as well have been. The 3DS got a brief mention, and a couple of previously mentioned projects got name checked, including New Super Mario Bros 2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. There will be a dedicated 3DS stream tomorrow with more details.

One of the more impressive shows was Lego City: Undercover, an open world adventure game. It looks like it will retain the goofy charm, platforming and collector hooks of previous Lego games while unshackling itself from the restraints of licences and linearity. That there is a Grand Theft Auto mission structure wrapped around it is just gravy. Quite simply, it looks fun.

The show closed with a lengthy demo of the Nintendo Land. It will take many of Nintendo’s brands and slot them in to a variety of minigames. By Reggie’s admission, the game is trying to be the Wii Sports of the Wii U, introducing players to the features of the new hardware; or, to put it another way, it’s a polished tech demo repository

Here, they showed off a minigame based off Luigi’s Mansion called Boo. Four players are trying to chase an invisible ghost around a maze, while a fifth player, who is using the Gamepad, plays as said ghost. It’s very evocative of Pac-Man Vs. for the Gamecube. I’m most curious as to how this game will be released, if it will be included with every console sold.

Considering how much information Nintendo needed to convey for its new console, this press conference ended up being light in meaningful material. Sure we got a Pikmin 3 announcement, but everything else we already knew or was of such little import that it wasn’t really worth the time in the lights.  It was more interesting following Twitter over the course of the presentation. The beginning was marked with a distinct lack of cynicism; by the end, the snark had well and truly returned.

But this is the same routine we go through every year. We go in to Nintendo’s press conference expecting a show, expecting to be entertained. And for a fleeting moment before reality kicks in, we are transfixed. Whether this is our fault or Nintendo’s is another discussion altogether, but we can agree that this presentation could have been improved with a bit more showmanship.


PS. At least there were plenty of candidates for The King of E3 2012, from Iwata’s Bananas to Zombie Reggie to, well, whatever the hell this is.