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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

E3 2012 - Day 2 - Part 2: Nintendo Press Conference

A skit featuring Shigeru Miyamoto surrounded by the tiny creatures featured in the new Pikmin.  There was a breif introduction of the concept behind Wii U, the fact that the next Nintendo would have a dedicated screen independent of the TV.  The controller, at first glance appears sleek, light and seem to be just the right size.

The first game announced was Pikmin 3, a lush-looking game that features the little strange creatures in a wooded environment.  The WiiU allows there to be a second screen for use as a map so that the TV can
show the pikmin closer.  The game looks good and seems to be a solid start to the Wii U's coming cycle.

Following that we saw Reggie Fils-Aime present the Wii U and we were given a quick rundown of the Wii U GamePad.  The device has a lot of great features that operate independent of the WiiU, making it a great standalone piece of hardware.

MiiVerse is the new social feature on the WiiU.  It shows what games your friends are playing, and it also shows you players you recently met while playing other games.  It appears as a large 3D field populated by icons representing different games.  The Miis gathering around the icons represent players currently playing that game or using that software.  It adds a level of openness that feels as though you are part of their world.  I like this menu.  In addition to showing players online, you can also use the GamePad to write messages that will be displayed and can send messages to other players or broadcast them in the MiiVerse.

We got to see one game that is going to be one of the big ones for the Wii U, New Super Mario Bros. U.  The game looks great, allowing four-player simultaneous play and even offering a new game mode called Boost Mode, which allows a player using the GamePad to create special blocks to aid the other players as they attempt to complete the level.

Next up was Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition.  The game is a re-release of the great Arkham City with Wii U GamePad implementation.  The second screen, touch, and motion controls allow for more use of Batman's various gadgets and attacks.  The video shows the GamePad touch used to set off explosive gel placed around a room and to guide a flying Baterang as it navigates tight corners.

Scribblenauts: Unlimited was announced for release on both the 3DS and Wii U and promises to be limited only by your imagination.  The demo is sort of dopey but does show the range of things that can be made.  There isn't a whole lot on gameplay though on this one, at least not during the press conference.

It seems Nintendo is trying to get the hardcore gaming crowd with their next mash up, which included a few games for the big kids.  Darksiders II looks to have a nice graphical touch and some slick action.  Mass Effect 3 has the potential to be a killer app on the Wii U if the GamePad is used properly.  A new party-based action game called Tank! Tank! Tank! pits you and two friends in tanks against big monsters.  Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is a pleasant surprise.  Trine 2: Director's Cut offers yet more cool possibilities for the GamePad.  Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge looks as bloody as ever.  Lastly, Aliens: Colonial Marines is a dark shooter that takes place in Ridley Scott's acclaimed world.

Wii Fit U seems to be more of the same, just with new GamePad features including the ability to continue training on the separate screen while watching TV independent of the Wii U.  Still, there's nothing wrong with trying to get us fat gamers off the couch.  I know I would do good to lose a few pounds.

The new social music game SiNG (as it's currently titled) is basically expensive karaoke, only without the smelly bar.  The lyrics appear on the GamePad which allows you to face your friends rather than the TV and  your friends can follow along with additional group features.  It looks kind of lame to be honest, not really the big leap forward in music games you'd expect given the buildup Fils-Aime gave the game.

The 3DS took the stage next, revealing New Super Mario Bros. 2, a brand new, separate New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo's handheld system.  An August, 19 release date brings Mario closer than expected for 3DS owners.

Next up was Paper Mario: Sticker Star, an RPG that takes the Paper Mario formula and adds stickers that change how the game plays, acting as weapons that unlock special abilities.  This is a pretty cool idea, going so big as to creating a giant table fan that arises from the horizon and blows enemies away.

Luigi's Mansion 2 for the 3DS promises 3D adventure gameplay, new features and new challenge.  Luigi's Mansion seems like an odd choice to be honest.  The game is a sequel to a mostly-derided game that has its fans, but has many detractors.  I would have expected them to bring out a more beloved game to attract a few older gamers to the 3DS who have thus far snubbed it.

Lego City: Undercover is the next Wii U game on display that seems like a lot of fun.  It features a large open world and lots of challenges.  It uses the GamePad as a map, a communicator and for its motion controls.  The game seems to have a nice blend of different play styles and humor.  Fils-Aime also announced a "portable version" that is presently under development.

Just Dance 4 allows a person to use the GamePad to control the moves that come across the screen.  This seems like a cool idea for a party game.  ZombiU was next and I do like the look of this game, though I already covered it in the Ubisoft article.

We got a first glimpse another new social feature for WiiU.  NintendoLand is a theme park-like hub that allows you to explore different games.  It is sort of a theme park, but it really just seems like a series of mini games.  It seems... okay.  It promises twelve games (five of which are available at E3) and each one seems sort of weak to be honest.  I do think the best one of the few that I saw appears to be The Legend of Zelda: Battlequest, which is a party-based action game in which you control your Mii dressed as Link and fight off different mobs with different weapons and tactics.  Luigi's Ghost Mansion is really just a Pac Man clone with invisible ghosts, nothing very innovative there.

The the amusement park setting of NintendoLand is fitting, but neither it or the games seem all that thrilling.  It may be fun to play, that remains to be seen, but we need to see more games, Nintendo.  I say this after watching the press conference and leaving rather underwhelmed.  Given all of the excitement around the Wii U I would have expected a little more from the House that Mario Built.  Not so much.  The press conference, as a whole, was pretty boring.  Nothing as awe-inspiring as Beyond or as fan-pleasing as Halo 4.  I would like the Wii U to be a step up from the Wii, and by that I mean I would like the Wii U to actually have fun games on it, so we'll see, in the future, if the Wii U can survive the fight, because this next year, given the rough economy and the limited number of AAA titles coming out this holiday season, is going to be an uphill battle for everyone including, and especially, Nintendo.

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