Written by Paul Sahbaz and Photographs by Sean Chin
No company had more riding on this year’s E3 like Nintendo did. With a new home console coming out at the end of the year and the Nintendo 3DS just coming out of some early growing pains, the company had a lot to prove, especially to the naysayers. Earlier on in the week Nintendo cranked the dial up on the hype machine by announcing that their E3 showing was to be spilt into three events, a “Nintendo Direct” on Sunday, the main press conference on Tuesday that would concentrate on Wii U and a third event on Wednesday that would deal exclusively with 3DS. Many, including myself, assumed foolishly that this meant Nintendo were getting the small stuff out of the way on Sunday and removing the 3DS content from Tuesday’s event because they were going to blow everyone away with a spectacular Wii U showing. This did not happen.
Nintendo had a decent showing but it left me and many others disappointed. I’ll get the negative ranting out of the way first before I delve in to the positive aspects of the show. First and foremost, what in the name of Reggie’s geometrically perfect square head was Nintendo thinking when they decided to end their press event with Nintendo Land? As stated in my impressions for Microsoft’s show, mini-game collections, non-games and fitness games should be kept at a minimum at these conferences. There’s nothing wrong with mentioning them and spending a few minutes on some but when you drag it on for what felt like hours, we start having a problem. They spent a exorbitant amount of time on the minute details of Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, one of the a relatively shallow mini-games featured in Nintendo Land. I could feel the skull numbing boredom from the audience and I wasn’t even there in person. In addition to this, trotting out the likes of Batman Arkham City isn’t very convincing. The game will be a year old by the time the Wii hits shelves and I don’t think a single person will buy Nintendo’s new console just to play that, and there lies the problem. Nothing Nintendo showed, outside of New Super Mario Bros. U, is a system seller for the Wii U. Pikmin 3 looks great, Zombi U looks good (even though the name is horrendous) but these games aren’t the ones people buy new consoles for and the storm of third party ports is nice to have but many can be had on other platforms right now. Then we had the 3DS conference on Wednesday. Some cool new stuff was shown in greater depth; a new Castlevania, and more details on Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon, Epic Mickey and Paper Mario Sticker Star. Undeniably, these games look cool but I was incredibly disappointed with the fact that Animal Crossing was not shown. For me, personally, this is the most important franchise Nintendo has on handhelds after Pokemon and the lack of E3 presence means that this thing is a while away. Speaking of Pokemon, 3DS functionality for the DS sequels to Pokemon Black and White was mentioned but details weren’t given. The weirdest thing about both press conferences isn’t what they showed but what they decided not to show. Fire Emblem for the 3DS was confirmed for a North American release later this year but not at the aforementioned 3DS conference. For the Wii U a new Wario Ware like game called Game and Wario and Project P-100, a new franchise from Nintendo and the makers of Bayonetta, Platinum Games, was buried in post conference press kits. Why? Instead of spending so much time playing year old ports and Nintendo Land some of that time could have been spent on these two games making the conference a little less disappointing.
On to the positive, Pikmin 3 looked amazing, It was on of the few games on display that actually showcased the power of the console. I’m glad to hear that the game’s primary control method is the Wii-remote & nunchuck with the pad as a map and secondary input. It seems like a great way of playing an action-strategy game like Pikmin. Zombi U also looked pretty good, it’s impressive graphically, especially for a first generation game, and the use of the tablet for sniping, imputing passcodes and inventory management seems small but together they can make a huge difference in how a game plays and feels. In addition to this, the announcement that Mass Effect 3 was heading to the console was good to hear. While I’ve already played this on the 360, it’s good to hear more people can get their hands on it, hopefully it will include all the DLC that’s sure to release in the months ahead. The Miiverse also looks like a great idea and what their doing with it and New Super Mario Bros. U sounds fantastic. Speaking of which, New Super Mario Bros. U looked surprisingly good. That series has so far looked and felt soulless to me, but the new attention to the art has re-energized me on the idea of 2D Mario, the HD resolution probably helped with that.
All in all, a decent showing. Decent, however, isn’t good enough this year for Nintendo they needed a performance similar to their grand slams in 2004 and 2010. Those two are remembered even today. The revelation of the original DS and Zelda: Twilight Princess in 2004 and the landslide of big name games for 3DS and Wii in 2010 are landmarks in E3 history and people were expecting something closer to that. Of course, those asking for Zelda six months after the release of Skyward Sword were being unreasonable but a Star Fox, F-Zero or something else to that effect would have been very very welcomed. Next year, Nintendo won’t have the industry’s eyes on them like they did this year. Sony and Microsoft will be trying to steal the show with their next machines so I hope the reason Nintendo was holding back is because they plan to steal the thunder by dropping more than a few bombs at next year’s event.