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Nintendo Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing Summary

by Adam Pavlacka on June 16, 2015 @ 10:30 a.m. PDT

During Nintendo's Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer, Fire Emblem Fates, Hyrule Warriors Legends, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, Metroid Prime: Federation Force, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem, Skylanders Superchargers, Star Fox Zero, Super Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles X, Yo-Kai Watch, and Yoshi's Wooly World.

June 16, 2015, 9:00 AM

Of all the E3 press events, Nintendo's was the least impressive. Yes, there was some new stuff announced, but most of what was here we've seen before. The presentation didn't feel like anything special; instead, it was just another Nintendo Direct.  Maybe the point was to not focus too much on E3, but simply having it during E3 means that fans were expecting something bigger and better.

At least the Nintendo Direct started out strong with Star Fox Zero. Produced in collaboration with Platinum Games, Star Fox Zero was first announced last year. The main "hook" with Star Fox Zero is the dual-screen control scheme allowed by the Wii U. The TV displays a traditional, external view of your Arwing, and the GamePad shows you the cockpit view. Players can use the gyro controls in the GamePad to fly from first-person view.

In a short video, Shigeru Miyamoto gave a shout out to the unreleased version of Star Fox 2 for the SNES, explaining the Arwing could transform in that game, but this is the first time it will happen in a released game. Miyamoto also said that the game's title was inspired by the Kanji character for "zero," which looked like a fox tail.

After the game overview finished, Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aimé came out and plainly stated that Nintendo wouldn't be talking about mobile or the upcoming NX system. Information on NX is easily the most wanted thing among Nintendo fans, so completely avoiding it at E3 was just odd. Instead, Nintendo jumped into more Amiibo news. No, Nintendo didn't address the continual shortage issues in the U.S. (despite Europe and Japan seemingly having no issues with Amiibo stock). Instead, it announced a limited partnership with the Skylanders franchise.

Skylanders Superchargers, this year's Skylanders installment, will include support for two exclusive characters on the Wii U. Both Bowser and Donkey Kong will make an appearance in the game, along with their custom vehicles. The characters will work in Skylanders Superchargers as normal Skylanders characters. Twisting the base changes the configuration of the NFC chip inside the characters, allowing both Bowser and Donkey Kong to also function as Amiibos in other Nintendo games.

A bright spot was the announcement of The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes for the 3DS. The game borrows its look and feel from A Link Between Worlds, but it stands out by focusing on co-op gameplay between three characters. You can either play live with two friends or play solo with two computer AI paper dolls. Players can switch between Link and either of the characters at any time.

Using all three characters will be required to pass puzzles. For example, you may have to pass a bomb across a chasm to get it to where it needs to be. A fashion element will have players collecting items to create new outfits to wear. These outfits will have new abilities that can be gained by equipping the outfit in question. How a dungeon plays will change based on which outfit and ability you have equipped.

Also in Zelda news is Hyrule Warriors Legends for the 3DS. This is a port of the Wii U version of the game, described as a "reimagining." It includes all of the DLC characters from the Wii U version and additional stages and characters from The Wind Waker.

The Metroid franchise made an appearance with Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a four-player, co-op experience set in the Metroid Prime universe. Oddly, the game seems to eschew the traditional aesthetic and go for a "cute" look, with characters that appear to be low poly. In an even stranger move, the game also includes Metroid Prime: Blast Ball, which is 3v3 sports battles. Yes, Metroid Prime has become a sports franchise. It is an unusual direction for the series, but we'll reserve judgment until it releases in 2016.

On the RPG side, Nintendo showed off more of Fire Emblem Fates on the 3DS. Most of that presentation focused on traditional cel animation, though, with only the briefest snippets of actual gameplay shown. Given that the final game is due to ship in Japan before the end of the month (even if the North American version won't be out until 2016), it would've been nice to see a little more of the core of the title. Instead, Nintendo fell back on what was more or less an extended commercial.

Speaking of anime, Nintendo also showed off an updated trailer for Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem by Atlus on the Wii U. The trailer focused on animated sequences but was entirely in Japanese with no description whatsoever for international audiences. If you didn't know what the game was, you could've easily mistaken it for an idol simulator. As far as communicating what the game was or why someone should care, this bit of the presentation failed miserably.

We got a peek at some gameplay footage for Xenoblade Chronicles X, which looked great, but again, there was little in the way of description or context. It was just a stand-alone trailer announcing the Dec. 4, 2015, release date.

Animal Crossing fans will get to check out Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer for the 3DS on Sept. 25, 2015. The game focuses on decorating your house and appears to ignore the role-playing elements of the franchise. The Wii U will get its own Animal Crossing installment with Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival, which looks like an Animal Crossing-themed version of the Mario Party games. Up to four players are supported, but each player has to have their own Amiibo. No Amiibo, no play.

The super cute and cuddly Yoshi's Wooly World for Wii U got a more detailed presentation, though it is due to ship in Europe this month and in North America later this year. The game makes excellent use of the Wii U hardware, impressing with its ability to accurately replicate the yarn look. Amiibo support is here, with different Amiibos given Yoshi a new look. For example, if you use a Mario Amiibo, Yoshi's yarn is recolored to look like Mario. If you use a Samus Amiibo, Yoshi will look like Samus, and so on. Nintendo will also produce an actual Yoshi Amiibo, replicating the yarn look from the game.

Back to the short form trailers (which are light on details), Nintendo was promoting the U.S. release of Yo-Kai Watch for 3DS, which is scheduled for later this year. A RPG with monsters, Yo-Kai Watch looks to be similar in scope to Nintendo's ever-popular Pokémon franchise. It will be interesting to see how Yo-Kai Watch holds up in terms of play.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam also got a short trailer, showing off some gameplay with "regular" Mario and Paper Mario teaming up against the Koopa clan. A highlight was them riding an oversized papercraft Mario model like it was a mech and just wiping out foes. Mario also made an appearance in a Mario Tennis Ultra Smash trailer for Wii U. Yup, it's tennis.

With the presentation running out of time, Nintendo finally brought out its ace in the hole, Super Mario Maker. Miyamoto was on hand to show off some Nintendo history in the form of original design sketches from Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Some of these were character designs, but others were hand-drawn level maps that were used to design each of the levels before programmers imported them into the game.

Super Mario Maker will support Amiibo by way of costumes. If you tap an Amiibo, when Mario gets a mystery mushroom, he will turn into that Amiibo character. This means you can run around as the Wii Fit Trainer if you like. A special 8-Bit Mario Amiibo will be released that makes your in-game Mario super-sized.

Also highlighted was a Super Mario Maker art book, which will be available alongside the game.

There is no arguing that Super Mario Maker is likely to be a top seller for Nintendo, and it was incredible seeing some of the history, but as an E3 presentation, the Nintendo Direct was a disappointment. More flash than substance, Nintendo relied too heavily on trailers and didn't spend enough time on actually talking about the games. It didn't help that most of the content consisted of games that were already known. The net result was a presentation that felt like filler, rather than one that revealed a whole bunch of information. This was Nintendo phoning it in.

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