It's time for Nintendo's "Digital Event"--their alternative to a live E3 press conference. While last year featured a "just okay" Nintendo Direct video, Nintendo has rebranded this video with the hopes of delivering a memorable E3 experiences. Read on to get my take on whether or not they succeeded.
Okay, wow. The opening minute of this Digital Event is amazing. I laughed out loud. By myself. That takes some work! I don't know why everything is stop-animation, but I love it; and I love that Nintendo has already poked fun at themselves for:
- Reggie's last name being hard to pronounce
- Not having a "real" press conference
- Having announced too many Mario games recently
- The realistic vs. cartoony Zelda debate
- Mother 3
- The games media always giving them a hard time
Fantastic intro, Nintendo.
SUPER SMASH BROS. FOR WII U
Reggie vs. Iwata in a hyper-stylized live action fight video was, again, hilarious. Nintendo clearly went the extra mile with this "Event" to give it a significant amount of polish and quality--something that is often lacking in E3 press conferences. They could be on to something here.
Of course, this is a lead-in for Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (is that really the title?), with Reggie & Iwata transitioning into a round of Smash...playing as Miis! I'm pretty sure this is hadn't been announced previously, so that's cool. It's actually a little surprising they didn't incorporate this into Smash Bros. Brawl on Wii; but, hey, now it's a new feature!
Also, we get a glimpse of Iwata using NFC figurines by placing a Mario statute on his GamePad, which brought in a helper Mario character for his Mii in the game. What exactly this means wasn't clear, but it sure helped him win the match. It didn't turn him into Mario, though, as the final scene showed Iwata's Mii and Mario standing side by side. I wonder how they'll use this without creating major balancing issues.
Masahiro Sakuri then shows up to confirm that Mii Fighter is confirmed for both Wii U & 3DS. Oh, and he acknowledges that they considered Miis for the Wii version but decided against it. He rightfully points out that the Miis have a lot of visual details in their clothing and accessories to make them fit in the world of Smash. There are three varieties:
- Mii Brawler (fast, no weapons, close-quarters)
- Mii Swordfighter (calmer/slower, armed with a sword)
- Mii Gunner (basically, they have Samus' arm cannon and a lot of projectiles)
Even cooler is that you can customize up to four special moves, so there are really a ton of options to make unique fighters.
He then moved onto the 3DS version, commenting that they are focusing a ton of their energy on getting this ready for release ("Thank your your patience"--classic Nintendo line; I half expected a delay announcement).
Release dates: 3DS = Oct. 7, 2014, Wii U = Holiday 2014 (didn't get pushed to 2015!?).
Reggie's back (in person this time) to announce the official name for their NFC figurines, dubbed "amiibo." Apparently, even Skylanders & Disney Infinity figures on Wii U will be able to have Wii U-specific functionality, allowing two-way information to pass between the GamePad and the various figurines. I like the idea that your individual character figurines are more than just a way to unlock content via a physical toy.
Apparently, they're promising amiibo functionality in other games...including Mario Kart 8! That's exciting, and (thankfully) shows a commitment from Nintendo to the Wii U's GamePad, despite many critics calling for a GamePad-less Wii U package. Thank goodness that's not happening.
DEVELOPER STORY: YOSHI'S WOOLY WORLD
I'm seeing a Japanese yarn shop...must be talking about the Yoshi yarn game. Yoshi's Wooly World -- official title! Man, if you thought Kirby's Epic Yarn looked beautiful, this game just looks ridiculously good. The move from 2D (Kirby) to 3D (Yoshi) gives some of the game environments an almost photo-realistic look.
Of course, it's still utilizing 2D gameplay, and the videos show that the gameplay looks, at least partly, inspired by Yoshi's Island, but without any Mario or Luigi babies. Two player co-op looks pretty fun, especially with ability to eat and spit out the other player's Yoshi! It's that classic co-op/vs. mish-mash that Nintendo started with New Super Mario Bros. Wii a few years back. This game won't be released until 2015, but it already looks like a must-buy title.
FIRST LOOK: CAPTAIN TOAD TREASURE TRACKER
Toad!? Isometric puzzles? GamePad viewfinder mode? Holiday 2014!?
Okay, this was a surprise! Nintendo packed a lot of visual information in a pretty short trailer, but Captain Toad Treasure Tracker looks like a really creative title. The levels are full 3D, but seem to exist in a much smaller space than, say, a level in Super Mario 3D World. And, of course, the point is not to run quickly and explore open environments.
No, this looks like a puzzle exploration game centered around moving Captain Toad through a 3D (and very vertical) environment with lots of nooks and crannies. The levels are definitely Mushroom Kingdom-inspired, including some ghost houses (maybe even more of a nod to Luigi's Mansion). The visuals look very beautiful, but I get the sense that this might be a downloadable-only title on the eShop. They didn't announce that, though, so that's pure speculation on my part.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA FOR WII U
Aonuma is here to talk about The Legend of Zelda (that's the only title they gave it). He's talking about how Zelda changed from the 2D NES/SNES era to the 3D N64/GameCube/Wii era and how, even in a huge game like Wind Waker, they still had to limit various parts of the world to be smaller, isolated parts of the world.
Whoa--he's showing what the world of Zelda Wii U looks like! Wow, a really gorgeous, vibrant detailed landscape (in motion) with:
- A cottage in the background
- A rider on a horse (can't tell if it's Link & Epona or not)
- Rolling Hills
- A pine forest
- A tall mountain
It looks...freaking awesome. He says that you can walk all the way to that mountain because the boundaries have been removed: "you can enter any area from any direction." This is in-line with what he had said in a previous Nintendo Direct about wanting to make this new game less linear than previous 3D games in the series.
Now we're getting a LOT more action! A spider/mech thing (more mystical than mechanical, really) is chasing the rider--yup, it's Link--and shooting LASERS at him! The game looks phenomenal in action; and, although this is all likely not actual gameplay, it does look believable to be running on Wii U hardware.
At the end of the trailer, we get a good look at Link's face and can see the art style: it's cel-shaded but with a very anime-inspired and more adult look. It's certainly not photorealistic, but that likely wouldn't be the right path for Zelda. This looks like a wonderful cartoon come-to-life but without the cutesy look of Wind Waker that was so (initially) polarizing. Look, if people complain about how gorgeous this game is, then I'm not sure Nintendo will ever please them.
Pokemon Omega Ruby & Omega Sapphire for 3DS. These are coming. I'm not a huge Pokemon fan, but this is good news! And the trailer was super short.
Getting a sequel to Bayonetta for Wii U has been a story almost as long as we've known about this console. Here's another trailer...ah, but with a few MAJOR surprises:
- Bayonetta gets a Link costume, which can trigger Zelda treasure chest sound effects!
- She can also wear Samus' armor (from Metroid)
- The game comes with the original Bayontta on the disc!!!
That last bullet point is actually pretty exciting: I wasn't sure about getting this since I hadn't played the first, but this makes it a much more appealing package. Good move, Nintendo! This comes out October 2014.
DEVELOPER STORY: HYRULE WARRIORS
So, you'd be forgiven for not knowing a lout about the "Dynasty Warriors" series, as it's mainly a big Japanese franchise. This game had been announced a while back as a mashup with the Zelda universe. It's a game series that involves fast-paced action and a lot of bad guys on-screen for you to chop down.
You can play as Link, Zelda, Impa, Midna...that's all pretty cool. And, really, the game looks very true to the Zelda art style (closest to Twilight Princess' art style). I'll need to read more about this before deciding if it's worth a purchase, but it does add yet another game to this year's Wii U lineup when it releases September 26, 2014.
KIRBY AND THE RAINBOW CURSE
It looks like we will be getting a spiritual successor to the DS' wonderful Kirby: Canvas Curse in 2015 with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. The gameplay from the original involved controlling Kirby completely with the stylus and drawing lines that became his path for rolling through the environment. It sounds weird, but I absolutely loved the original game. The mechanics were responsive enough to let you do quick mid-air changes, loop-de-loops to gain speed, and maintain precision control over the little pink fluff.
All of that is back, but with a hand-molded clay art-style. I don't know where all of Nintendo's "handmade" art direction is coming from, but I think it's so unique and visually appealing. The PlayStation press conference, while great, got a little bogged down in zombies and horror titles; it's refreshing to see so many bright, colorful, and whimsical titles coming from Nintendo.
XENOBLADE CHRONICLES X
Metroid? Could this be Metroid???
We're seeing (and hearing) what looks a lot like the computer systems featured in the recent Metroid games with a Japanese voiceover:
BLADE: Beyond the Logos Artificial Destiny Emancipator." (what the heck does this mean?)
Ack, no. This is Xenoblade Chronicles X. I think, previously, this was just known as "X," so it's nice to see this get an official name. I really don't mean to sound down on this game; it looks very cool. I was just hoping we were getting a new Metroid there. In any case, this is another 2015 title, so I'm sure we'll here lots more about it.
FIRST LOOK: MARIO MAKER
If you were paying attention over the weekend, this game announcement got slightly spoiled by a leaked picture of the E3 show floor, but the concept is great: "Create your own custom Mario courses!" With a GamePad-powered level editor, you can drag and drop everything you need to make your own NES-style Mario levels. What more could you ask for?
Interestingly, the game features the clapping hands from Mario Paint (which was already what I thought of the moment I saw the interface). I wonder if they will announce (later on) any kind of Mario Paint mode, as fans have been asking for a sequel the unique mouse-controlled SNES titles for years now.
Surprise: you can even swap the art style between NES and Wii U-caliber graphics! Eat your heart out, Little Big Planet. Mario (and his much better jumps) are here now; or, rather, they will be in 2015.
DEVELOPER STORY: SPLATOON
Splatoon is an eight-player, four-on-four, online action game, a nice statement from Nintendo that they have more to their online strategy than Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros. for Wii. The game looks, visually, very reminiscent of De Blob, with lots of brightly-colored paint splatters everywhere.
You control squid-like characters that can move through ink splatters; in fact, you need to lay down ink of your team's color to even move forward, which contributes to the "paint the whole map" objective. Also, a few cool GamePad features:
- Tilt to move the camera
- See a full map
- Tap other players icons (on your team) and warp to their location instantly
I look forward to seeing an online-specific done with the Nintendo touch. They typically will only put games online if it meets a certain "fun" threshold, and I enjoy that quality check (at least from first party games). Another 2015 release, but a pretty unique one!
Well, that looks like the end with Reggie rambling off all of the social media channels (Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on which you can follow Nintendo, but it also sounds like we'll get a fair amount of other announcements throughout the week. Oh, wait...there's one more thing:
SMASH BROS. FIGHTER ANNOUNCEMENT
Palutena from Kid Icarus will be joining Smash Bros.! They put together a pretty awesome hand-drawn anime cutscene with Pit fighting Link for this announcement. Really cool.
Well, that's the end now. Right? Nope, one more thing:
NEW GAMEPAD STUFF
Miyamoto showed up at the end to tease some new GamePad + TV-specific games in development. Check the "Nintendo Live from the Treehouse @ E3" coverage for more. This video did show Miyamoto playing something that used the GamePad's gyroscope functionality, but the screens (GamePad and the TV) were blurred out to avoid revealing whatever he's working on. Cryptic!
Okay, that really was the end.
Initial reaction: a GREAT showcase. I have to be honest, unless you're at E3, I think this is more exciting than watching a long, drawn-out press conference. 46 minutes and packed with content, presented in a clean, highly polished manner (much moreso than a typical Nintendo Direct).
I enjoyed the jokes at the beginning and throughout (the Bowser/Peach conversation over the last donut was pretty classic). I just love seeing Nintendo's humor and fan-service shining through in a video like this. They just really showed that they get it.
Predictably, there was very little third party content shown. Really, almost none. We didn't even get a "third party content" sizzle reel like we have in the past. I'm sure they're still working on cultivating more content, but you can tell that Nintendo has taken an approach of putting their own house in order (and getting more Wii U systems in houses around the world) rather than promise late ports or other similarly disappointing news. While I would have loved a big third party announcement, it just wasn't realistic.
But I was very happy with everything Nintendo showed: Mario is getting a breather (thank goodness), we got to see the (awesome) art style of the new Zelda, and we saw a number of surprise announcement games. I'm particularly stoked for Captain Toad.
I really enjoyed this "Digital Event." It's a great format for Nintendo, and I think they have a strong 2014 lineup, as well as great content for 2015. There's always more that they could have done, but it's hard to complain about such a fantastic lineup of strong content presented in such a sharp way.
Great job, Nintendo.