Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Nintendo's E3 2009 press conference: Recap, commentary and observations

Don't forget to check the article below this for a rundown of how my predictions fared!

After last year's E3, people had lost much of their faith in Nintendo. The script was pretty crummy, the announcements were sparse, and what was announced (Animal Crossing: City Folk) wound up being somewhat underwhelming when it landed in stores that November. Surely this E3 would have to be better than last year's event... Right?

The first game shown (After a brief bit of sales talk) is one we saw coming thanks to that loose-lipped Japanese newspaper; New Super Mario Bros. Wii is the name of this new side-scrolling adventure for the Wii. Stylistically very similar to the New Super Mario Bros. game on the DS, players can play as Mario, Luigi, or different-coloured Toads. Nothing was said on the subject of other playable characters, but I wouldn't be surprised to see more join in on the fun.

The multiplayer aspect of the game is seamlessly integrated with the single player, with people free to come and go as they please. This new mode is both competitive and cooperative, much like what you'd see in the Four Swords games in terms of player interaction. Whenever someone dies, a bubble appears on screen containing them. If other, living players are inclined to do so, they can pop the bubble and free their allies/foes and continue along. Although they didn't say, I'd assume that if all four die without freeing a bubble-encased player, the level ends. The same probably occurs when all players exhaust their supply of free lives. An additional way players can work together is picking eachother up on their shoulders and carrying them around. This comes into play with the following power-up...

One new ability was shown off in the demonstration, and that was the Propeller Suit. From what I could see, players can save themselves when falling by activating the propeller and whisking themselves to safety. It can also be used mid-jump to add a bit more height to a leap. If a player without a Propeller Suit grabs another play who has one, they can be flown around as a passenger. A neat little touch, gently forcing players to work together if need be.

In the official trailer, another new power-up is shown off: The Penguin Suit (Not an official name, just what I've dubbed it). Acting sort of like an Antarctic Hammer Bros. Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3, the Penguin Suit gives the wearer the ability to toss about snowballs at his or her enemies. So far, this and the Propeller Suit are the only known power-ups, but seeing more wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Not much else is known about New Super Mario Bros. Wii, but if the DS game was any indication, it's sure to be a classic side-scroller with enough content to keep people busy for a good while. New Super Mario Bros. Wii will be available worldwide this holiday season.

Directly following that was the announcement of the other game leaked by Nikkei: Wii Fit Plus. Despite its name, it doesn't seem to use the Wii MotionPlus at all. In fact, it still uses just the Balance Board and Wii remote, with no new peripheral or anything attached to it. Several new modes are the draw this time around, with different work outs designed to focus on different parts of the body.

Also new are 15 minigames, from a platformer-like distraction to what Cammie Dunaway referred to as "Brain Age for your behind". Yup. It's Butt Age (See below).

Wii Fit Plus doesn't look to bring a whole lot to the table in terms of new content, instead serving as more of a, well, a Wii Fit Plus. Anyone who has yet to get into the craze (Such as myself) should probably just wait for this to hit shelves this fall, sold in two packages: With a Balance Board (For newcomers like myself), or without (For Wii Fit owners looking for a little more).

After this, Reggie appeared on stage to show off the Wii MotionPlus (I know, I was expecting more sales talk, too). After talking a bit about how revolutionary and accurate the device is, he handed the show over to Bill Trinen, who proceeded to demonstrate for us a few parts of Wii Sports: Resort.

To begin, Bill Trinen started off at the first part of the game players will experience: Skydiving to the resort island. By twisting and turning the Wii remote (With MotionPlus) in the air, players can make their Mii do all sorts of moves, and even grab a hold of other sky divers and create formations in the air. This little beginning level is a perfect way to introduce the player to the abilities of the Wii MotionPlus, but like this is merely the start of the game, this is also merely the start of the new peripheral's abilities.

In the archery game, the Wii remote is held pointing up, with its back facing away from the player. The Nunchuk takes the role of the player's other hand (Which one depends on the player's hand dominance). Aiming is achieved by moving the Wii remote around, and this is where it gets cool. Even though the IR sensor is pointed straight at the ceiling, the Wii MotionPlus can still determine where on the screen the back of the remote is "pointed" at. Bill moved it around in space in front of him, and the way it was matched so perfectly on screen almost made me forget there's no IR camera on the bottom of the controller.

After this, Bill called Reggie back on stage to demonstrate the basketball free-throw game. By holding their hands above their head as if holding a basketball, with the Wii remote in the "throwing" hand, the two of them managed to have a nice, fun and challenging round of free-throws, with Reggie barely edging out Bill by sinking a "money ball" worth extra points. I'm no fan of basketball (And as such probably just used horrible terminology), but I must admit I'm excited for this part of the game. It looks challenging, yet fulfilling, and truly shows off the scope of the MotionPlus' abilities.

Wii Sports: Resort looks like an excellent sequel to the Wii game that started it all, and I'm quite looking forward to getting my hands on it on July 26th.

After this, a string of trailers for already-known games began to play. Final Fantasy: Crystal Bearers (With some pretty crummy voice actors, sadly), Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Mario & Luigi 3: Bowser's Inside Story (Excellent title) all went by, followed up by a trailer for something no feasible reach of the imagination could have possibly foretold...

Oh, people dreamed about it and people hoped for it, but I don't think anyone ever truly believed it would ever happen. Now, I never played the first two games personally, so I don't know a whole lot about the significance of any people shown in the trailer, but I can say that it featured some truly beautiful graphics. Screenshots really don't do it justice, so be sure to check out the trailer on Youtube.

A string of less-significant announcements followed, with stuff like Style Savvy (Localization of Girl's Mode), James Patterson Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion (Sort of an interactive novel based on the book) and C.O.P. The Recruit (An actually somewhat cool, GTA-style cop game from Ubisoft). Following this was a bit of shilling in the DSi's direction, and the announcement of Flipnote Studio (The localized name for Moving Memo Pad). Following this was the announcement of an all new game: Mario VS Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!

The third title in the Mario VS Donkey Kong series, Minis March Again! looks to consist entirely of user-created content shared over the Nintendo WiFi Connection. Going along with this is a level editor said to be even more robust than that of the previous game, giving the player an insane amount of space to work in and many additional tools and traps.

Now, what's the coolest part of this? Mario VS Donkey: Minis March Again! is exclusively for DSiWare. That's right; Nintendo is finally throwing their weight behind the fledgling DSiShop, and Mario VS Donkey: Minis March Again! will be debuting their on June 8th. Once again, you're not misreading this; This game is coming out next week! Sometimes digital distribution can be an amazing thing, huh? No price point has yet to be announced, but I'm expecting it to fall in the "800+" price range, possibly becoming the first game to actually be of a "+" price.

Following this are three more less-notable presentations; WarioWare: Made in Ore is to be called Wario Ware: DIY in North America, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is once again shown off (No new information), and they announce that we'll soon be able to upload our DSi pictures directly to Facebook.

After the above, Iwata appears on stage and begins to say how many people on Earth are playing games these days and how Nintendo has enlightened millions to the wonders of gaming. Basically sales talk in disguise. Iwata then turns to something new...

...another peripheral? But... I thought we were through with such things! Oh well, maybe it'll be something coo-What? It's a glorified heartrate monitor?

...I'm honestly speechless here. Apparently, so was Iwata, as he basically told us that it monitors our blood pressure as we play to gauge how we're reacting to it... Or something. He was being incredibly vague. My guess is this is still waaaaaay in the experimental stages, making it a mystery as to why they chose to show it off today.

At this point I'm pretty blown away by all the announcements (Excluding the previous one). Although I wasn't thinking it at the time, I'd probably have been alright with it if they decided that was enough for today and ended the conference. But they still had at least one more ace up their sleeve, and that was...

Super Mario Galaxy 2, a sequel to what is probably the Wii's greatest game yet. This was just crazy to me. After hearing of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, I was sure that the major Mario-related news had wrapped up for the day. I was gladly shown otherwise. Although no story details explaining why have surfaced yet, Mario is once again taking off into space, but this time he's got a friend in the cold depths of nothingness: Yoshi, mashing together dinosaurs and intergalactic adventure in a way I never imagined could qualify as not cheesy. Dinosaurs in space: Only Nintendo could make that work.

Yoshi seems far-improved from his last 3D platforming appearance in Super Mario Sunshine, though, gaining a Super Mario World-style ability to eat fruit and take on new powers and colour schemes. When turned orange, Yoshi gains Sonic-like super-speed, and turning blue causes him to blow up like a balloon then deflate, floating into the air and taking Mario to new heights.

Many other enhancements seem to have been made to the formula from Mario's first space adventure, with actual planet-sized planets and a new drill item showing up in the trailer. Also appearing in the trailer was a Super Mario Bros. 3-style "giant" galaxy, featuring humongous Goombas and blimp-sized blocks. Now who says you can't build on perfection?

Nintendo is expanding upon a winning formula here, and I have every reason to believe that this will be an amazing addition to the Super Mario Galaxy universe (No pun intended). Super Mario Galaxy 2 is currently slated for a vague "2010" release.

Bringing us back to Earth after the previous announcement (Okay, pun intended that time), Nintendo turns to showcasing a few mature third-party Wii efforts; The Conduit, Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles and Dead Space: Extraction all get their time on the big screen. I'm glad to see Nintendo pushing third-party Wii software. It's a lesson they've done well to learn after the N64 and Gamecube days!

After this, I thought, the show's bound to be over. A goodbye from Reggie, a final wave, and the lights go off. That's what I thought. That's not what happened. Instead, Nintendo announces that their partnership with Team Ninja has begun to pay off, and that the two have been working together on an established Nintendo franchise. First thought: Zelda. The trailer starts, and I see waves. Okay, so it's Wind Waker... Wait, that was just the Team Ninja signature. Whoops. So now we're in deep space, floating through a debris field. Oh my god, it's got to be Star Fox! Wait, who's this? Some woman in a space station? That's not Star Fox at all... Some commander-like guy asks her a question and OH MY GOD IT'S A NEW METROID.

Samus is back, but this isn't a first-person shooter. It's more of an action platformer, similar to Ninja Gaiden (A Team Ninja product). But in space, and with an arm cannon, so by default it's infinitely superior (Nerd alert). Freed from the restraints of first-person shooters, Samus now takes matters into her own hands... Literally. I mean, look below.

She has a freaking space lizard in a headlock. That's just plain badass. Samus is now able to punch the crap out of things, as well as shoot them. If that alone doesn't make this game awesome enough for you, watch this trailer and try not to smile. Go ahead, I'll wait...

...finished? Did you smile? Damn straight you smiled. And did you hear that at the end? She spoke. Samus talks now. She's probably the only silent protagonist I ever wanted to see go vocal (Except maybe Gordon Freeman, he's gotta have tonnes to say), and here it is. I really have to get my hands on that Metroid Prime Trilogy when it comes out and get back into the universe of Metroid. I've got to be ready for when it lands next year!

After this, Reggie takes the stage once more. What, he's announcing more? Stop, you're going to kill me! Well, I'm alive, so I guess that tells you no more announcements were made. And now, after all these surprises and revelations, the conference finally comes to a close. Looking back on it as a whole, I'd have to say this was definitely in the same league as the 2007 presentation, and nearly up there with the 2006 showing. If you honestly came away from this conference disappointed, I'm sorry, but I don't think you'll ever be satisfied. Nintendo delivered today, and they've shown that us gamers that have been with them for all these years still fit in with their plan. Thank you, Nintendo.

To summarize: Yes, it is better than last year's event. And don't call me Shirley.

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SpinachPuffs said...

I agree with you on that Vitality Sensor - it made no sense and seemed to be very experimental. I'm wondering if Nintendo pulled it out last minute to try and combat Microsoft's Project Natal announcement. (Obviously, it didn't work)

Despite all this awesome, my award for coolest E3 trailer actually goes to the Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer. George Lucas should pay attention to what BioWare can create.

PsychoDuck said...

I managed to catch that Old Republic trailer during what I saw of the Microsoft conference. Definitely looking very cool.

...so then, anyone wanna buy me a 360?

bobsuperjr said...

XD It's 3 points, not free throws BTW. Good report and impressions. (I'm working on something similar myself. X_X) MotionPlus looks very promising, and I hope 'Minis March Again' is lower than $20. PLEEZ? Looks like a great game, and it would be great just on my DSi's memory. Hopefully this is worth it.

PsychoDuck said...

@ Bob:

"It's 3 points, not free throws BTW"

See? I told you I knew nothing about basketball!

"I hope 'Minis March Again' is lower than $20. PLEEZ?"

I am insanely doubtful that it will cost $20. I was more thinking $10, but I wouldn't be surprised if if was as low as $8.