June 7, 2011
Nokia Square, Los Angeles
Since Reggie Fils-Aime came to work at Nintendo, the company's pre-E3 shows are usually entertaining, and as such, are usually quite well attended. This year's is more so because Nintendo's the only company at the show who's got a real bombshell to drop.
They're killing time before the show proper with Nintendo trivia on the big screen, but weirdly, a few of the questions have something to do with the second, third and fourth Metal Gear Solid games ... which have never appeared in any form on Nintendo hardware. I wonder if Hideo Kojima is lurking backstage.
It's also a useful reminder that Nintendo is the oldest big player in the game right now. They've increasingly turned into a monument to themselves in the last few years, arguably beginning from the release of the first Smash Bros. game, and that seems to be a big part of their corporate identity in a way that never even occurs to Microsoft and Sony.
We begin with a Zelda trailer in celebration of the series's 25th anniversary, which gets immediate applause and a weird sound somewhere between a scream and a cheer. Maybe that's what a mass squee sounds like in person. Who knows?
Oh, there's an orchestra down below the stage playing the musical accompaniment, complete with vocalists. I didn't think my seat was that bad, but when you manage to miss the presence of an orchestra...
Miyamoto takes the stage, wearing a suit and a weird tie (it kind of makes him look like he's about to audition for the part of Max Headroom — ask your parents), played on by the orchestra. He starts in English but eventually asks for a translator. Last year was Super Mario Bros.'s 25th anniversary, and this year is Zelda's. The last piece played by the orchestra was the theme song for Skyward Sword, and Miyamoto's thrilled to hear it performed in this environment.
He talks about how important Zelda's music is, as an introduction to letting the orchestra play some Zelda music, including sound effects: getting an item, solving a puzzle and the fairy fountain music.
To celebrate the anniversary, Link's Awakening has been rereleased and should be available worldwide by the end of today.
Next weekend, The Ocarina of Time 3D launches around the world, with hint movies for new players, a Master Quest and Boss Challenge mode for returning players.
On Nintendo DSi, Four Swords Adventures is being made available as a free download. It's actually a surprisingly fun game, but you needed three friends with GBAs and link cables to really play it, which limited its market. It should be much more accessible on the DS.
Skyward Sword is coming this holiday season for the Wii. You can use the Wii MotionPlus to swing your sword and fire arrows, and there's a special golden Wii Remote that'll be made available as a promotional item when the game's released. It makes Miyamoto feel like, "I'm the one who's fighting all those battles ... it's great exercise." Both Skyward Sword and Ocarina of Time 3D are available on the show floor this week.
The Zelda 25th Anniversary symphony concerts will be held in each region throughout the world in the fall of 2011. You'll also get a soundtrack CD for registering Ocarina of Time 3D with Nintendo, and a number of other events and activities are planned for later in 2011 to celebrate the anniversary.
Within Nintendo, over 200 people have worked directly on the Zelda series, and Miyamoto invites some of those talented people onstage to thank them, including Eiji Aonuma. He also thanks all of the people who have been playing and enjoying Zelda for the past 25 years and leaves the stage to orchestral music with a big "THANK YOU!" banner on-screen.
Satoru Iwata, the global president of Nintendo, takes the stage. "We stated a goal," with the DS and Wii, "of expanding the gamer population." It's successfully changed how people play games, "but mental boundaries still exist in how game systems are played." The Wii is seen as strictly for more casual gamers. "What we haven't achieved yet is a game platform that is equally satisfying for all players ... yet this is exactly what we intend to create with our new platform."
Said new platform will offer "deeper game experiences, wider appeal to all gamers ... and let everyone see games in a different way."
They're not offering the full details right now, but their ambition is "to serve every player." They want everyone on one platform, casual to hardcore.
Several of the franchises "you know so well" are moving into 3-D, and he walks offstage as a trailer starts. Looks like we're getting a 3-D Mario Kart, a 3-D StarFox ("Do a barrel roll!"), a 3-D Super Mario Bros., and hey, look, actual Kid Icarus footage. Wait a second ... wow, a new Luigi's Mansion. Did not see that coming.
Reggie Fils-Aime takes the stage. "Look. We hear you. You want what you've always wanted, but you also want something new. You wanna play things that look like they always have, but you want the buzz of the new. You want comfortable and you want surprise. Contradictions? No problem. They come with the territory. But is it fair to ask, and is it possible to deliver something for everyone?" That's the plan for Nintendo 3DS.
First off, it's Mario Kart, a "tricked-out version you haven't driven before." The karts have hang-gliders attached, and you can drive underwater using propellers on the back. There are also a number of different carts you can drive with each character, including a monster truck. It's coming out this holiday season.
Next up, it's StarFox on the 3DS. "This time, the 3-D is entirely real." You can either control it traditionally or use the hardware itself as a control yoke, tilting and turning the 3DS itself to make the Arwing climb or dive. You can also use the camera to film yourself in the victory screen. It's coming out in September.
Mario is coming — inevitably — to the 3DS, in the first 3D Mario adventure "created from scratch for a portable system." Super Mario 3D "incorporates quite a tale." Looks like the old Raccoon Suit is back, but otherwise, it does not look wildly dissimilar to Mario Galaxy. It's coming out "before the end of the year."
It's time for more details on the new Kid Icarus, subtitled Uprising. "Arm yourself against the Underworld." There's a lot of voice acting, and the gameplay seems to owe a lot to the third-person action-adventure games of the past few years; it took me a while to realize what I was thinking of, but it reminds me a bit of one of the 3-D Castlevania games. You can battle other players in 3-D arenas in team-based activities, involving defeating the other side's angel. Medusa is back as at least one of the major villains.
This week, we can play Uprising against other players in 3v3 matches, and the augmented reality cards can be used to conduct battles. It's all coming to stores later this year.
Luigi's Mansion 2 is another ghost-hunting game, set in another haunted mansion. It seems to switch from 3-D and 2-D pretty routinely, with some cool spooky music. It "is not a simple revision. It's an entirely new game ... featuring not just one, but several new mansions."
Some of the notable upcoming third-party 3DS games include Cave Story, Driver: Renegade, a 3D port of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, the two Resident Evil games, Tekken and a Tetris game.
With the next system update, Fils-Aime says, a new Virtual Console is being released just for the 3DS, offering classic Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. You'll also be able to get a free 3-D re-release of Excitebike.
As another free giveaway, 3DS owners will receive a special Pokedex minigame. By searching out Pokémon to document in it, via either augmented-reality markers or receiving data through Street Pass, you can unlock various Pokémon to use as props in the pictures you take with the 3DS.
"But in thinking about a new Nintendo system ... could it be a perfect fit just for you? ...Absolutely." It's officially called the Wii U. (So much for that "Nintendo Nintendo" rumor, although that would've been funny.) The controller lets you share screens from the TV to it, play on it by itself, use it as an auxiliary screen or touch-screen, browse the Internet, and more; it can replace or supplement the TV.
It's coming out in 2012.
Iwata would like to provide a little more explanation than the trailer we just saw was able to provide. You can use the controller by itself without the TV, along with all the currently existing Wii peripherals like the Balance Board. It's the old GBA connector cable from Four Swords taken to its natural conclusion; it has triggers and shoulder buttons on the back, with two circle pads on either side, a control pad on the left, four buttons on the right, a touch-screen, a microphone, its own speakers, an accelerometer, built-in rumble and a camera. It's actually looking more and more like a tiny tablet.
The images displayed on the new controller are generated only by the Wii U and transmitted without latency issues. You can place the new controller by itself on a table and play without a TV at all, or structure a game to use both screens simultaneously. One example is of using the screen as a "tee" for a golf game.
They want to create a "strong bond between games" and between "you, your friends and your family, all interacting in the same room." Use the big screen to share photos and videos online, use the controller for video chat even while watching TV...
Miyamoto's put the most thought into how this works as a game design tool, so they show a translated video of his opinion on the issue. "I think this has a lot of possibilities ... so many that we're trying to decide where to begin."
e3.nintendo.com has the full "Iwata Asks" interview with Miyamoto.
"New ideas are popping up one after another," Iwata says, "and we are not alone." Apparently Sakurai is going to make a Smash Bros. for both the 3DS and the Wii U, playable together on both platforms.
Eight different "interactive demonstrations" to show what the system can do will be playable on the show floor. They're not really games. Example: a bird lands on a tree just as it bursts into flower, and takes off again with petals flying everywhere. It's a pretty good example of the system's raw rendering power.
"How the new controller can change things" with New Super Mario Bros. Mii as an example: Your Mii can play the game right alongside Mario. Another example is "Shield Pose," where you move the controller to block incoming arrows.
"Chase Me" is set in "a familiar-feeling Nintendo world," which looks different if you're holding a new controller or a Wii Remote. You can see a bird's-eye view with the new controller's screen.
One game they can confirm is coming to the Wii U is LEGO City Stories, co-published with Traveller's Tales Games, a Warner Bros. company. It'll be an exclusive for the Wii U and the 3DS.
Peter Moore, THQ's Danny Bilson, Yves Guillemot from Ubisoft, Martin Tremblay from WB, Ken Levine from Irrational, Warren Spector, Frank Gibeau from EA ...
Confirmed third-party games for the Wii U include Sega's Aliens: Colonial Marines, Batman: Arkham City, a version of Dirt, Ghost Recon Online, THQ's Metro Last Light, Ninja Gaiden III, a Tekken game that offers the ability to fully customize the characters with the touch-screen (the example shown is drawing giant comedy eyebrows on Kazuya's face) and as a launch title, Darksiders II.
Can you even put a Darksiders game on a Nintendo platform? Isn't that going to start some kind of intertribal gang warfare between it and the Zelda fan community?
John Riccitiello, the CEO of EA, comes out onstage to talk about the raw potential of the Wii U. That's about all he says. He has some interesting ideas, like moving a football game's play data onto the Wii U touch-screen to provide a cleaner, crisper image on the TV, but he's just here to talk about what's possible instead of what's happening.
EA is "undergoing a transformation..." and has begun making "...games that aren't things that you buy, but are places that you go." I suppose I can see that, with their strong emphasis on community this year.
Closing statement from Reggie Fils-Aime. Nintendo's current hardware all represents the same thing: innovation. They want to keep moving the video game industry forward.