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E3 2010 – Nintendo Press Conference

18:5516/06/2010Posted by D+PAD StaffNo Comments

Nintendo has long been criticised for its disregard of core gamers in the recent past, where the company’s efforts have instead been subsidised in focusing on their ever-expanding casual market. Core gamers wanted something to shout about again, and Nintendo duly delivered in the best possible fashion. Reggie Fils-Aime was welcomed to the 2010 E3 stage for the Nintendo press briefing and, briefly putting the memories of past E3 efforts behind him, was keen in immediately putting to rest core gamers’ desires, with the brilliant Shigeru Miyamoto magically appearing onto the stage, for the announcement that all Nintendo fans were waiting for- a return to the land of Hyrule in a brand new Zelda adventure.

Miyamoto insisted the game, developed exclusively for the Wii, entitled The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, acts as a “key turning point in Zelda’s history”, although the following and embarrassing on-stage demo of said game was underwhelming to say the least. It’s not to say the game isn’t fully functional, but Reggie was keen on insisting “technical difficulties” led to Shigeru’s failed attempts at controlling certain aspects of his on-stage demo. What he did manage to show was fantastic- including the 1:1 control (via MotionPlus support) of Link’s sword, where a shake of the right hand will equip said sword, with the Nunchuk controlling the shield. Whilst the showing did at times seem a little unresponsive to his movements, we were assured that it would feel streamlined and smooth on the show floor and I’m fully confident that this will be the case. Besides, when do demos ever go according to plan!?

The way that certain enemies could only be killed through specific sword swipes was particularly impressive; as such it’s to be expected a great deal of creativity will have gone into the game’s enemy types to ensure fresh and distinct play experiences throughout. Shigeru also presented the selection of items that are key within Zelda titles (this time, holding the ‘B’ button brings up a radial menu where the cursor can then select an item). From the bow and arrow (the aforementioned technical issues), to the beetle that can be deployed and controlled by the Wii Remote to collect hidden items, to the motion-controlled whip, SS’s game play already seems to have a strong emphasis on offering deep rewards for experimentation with each weapon, and huge reserves of opportunity for a bountiful amount of intriguing puzzles. The cel-shaded visuals and bright, vivid and colourful kingdom of Hyrule also looked superb and were a joy to behold. Miyamoto ended his first involvement with the conference with a proud mention that the game is scheduled for release next year.

And thus, the mentions of legendary gaming characters could not be stopped, as a new Mario sports game was announced- in a similar vein to Mario at the Olympic Games and Super Mario Strikers, titled Mario Sports Mix. The trailer showed Mario and friends competing in volleyball, handball, hockey and basketball, although expect a full list of included mini-games later, in time for its 2011 release. Yes, Nintendo seemed keen on revisiting past gaming series with a string of titles announced throughout the conference that were frankly, brilliant. GoldenEye may have been leaked slightly before its full announcement here, but it couldn’t hinder the crowd’s overzealous applause of its first showing. Featuring the likeness of Daniel Craig, 16 player modes (including “paintball”, “melee only”, and “you only live twice”), as well as split screen and online multiplayer, it promises to deliver where no other game on the Wii truly has so far- a core FPS experience, aiming to match its rivals on its more powerful counterparts.

A return for Kirby was also presented neatly, with a beautiful art style, conveying its cutesy exterior. Its classic 2D platforming mechanics meanwhile looked intuitive and outrageous fun, with a number of guises for Kirby employed. The game, which focuses on a fabric/ thread thematic reference is named Kirby’s Epic Yarns- gamers can also enjoy interacting with the world, such as unzipping backdrops, or pulling the background back in a neat folding effect to reveal something completely different. It’s the kind of innovations from the classic 2D platform that Nintendo always seems to conjure and promote so well. It looked positively sumptuous. But Nintendo weren’t going to stop any time soon, as the classic tune of bongo drums greeted another trailer, leading to a revival of Rare’s flagship Donkey Kong Country from the days of the SNES. Developed by Retro, Donkey Kong Country Returns has an identical look to the classic Super Nintendo title (exploding barrels, mine carts, banana collecting, and all!), with updated graphics and the ever familiar sights, sounds and erm, monkeys.

Disney and Junction Point’s Epic Mickey was also smartly demoed. A beautiful 2D art-styled cut scene with Mickey and Peter Pan’s Smee set off the showing, with the game then transposing back into its 3D environment. The game, with a world populated by characters rejected from Disney’s past, focuses on the progressive game play mechanics of “drawing and erasing”, either removing parts of the world with “thinner” or drawing onto the world with paint- restoring it to its painted glory. The platforming looked joyously responsive, with the camera tracking Mickey exceptionally well through the 3D world. Split into different zones (action, quest and travel)- the latter, which was demoed, involved Mickey in a side-scrolling 2D platformer in a similar style to his first cartoon animation, Steamboat Willie, with its classic black and white flickers juxtaposing with the previous world excellently.

Nintendo seemed almost keen to skip over more casual releases Wii Party and Just Dance 2 in favour of giving the core fan-base what they deserve for being forgotten in recent years. Wii Party is a Mii- inclusive party game, the like of which we’ve all seen, and no doubt, played before- featuring 13 party game modes, delivering “yet another Nintendo game that will drive social interaction”. The latter, Just Dance 2, continues the hugely popular Wii-exclusive dance game, and invites up to 8 players to dance in “crew face-offs” and features over 40 new tracks.

Team Ninja’s Metroid: Other M was also presented via a neat trailer, with Samus set to return on August 31st. Reggie also boasted about Dragon Quest IX’s incredible success from the launch in Japan, spouting figures sold to be a massive “4.2 million copies” for the Nintendo DS exclusive, demonstrating its status as a “phenomenon”. He continued to confidently announce its scheduled release in the US in 26 days, with one of the biggest applause of the presentation greeting his sentence.

And finally, the cornerstone of the presentation. Banishing any negativity towards the product, Reggie stated “today, we’re not just raising the bar, but extending that bar into the distance”, with the most jazzed-up and electric entrance of an inanimate object you ever will witness. Ladies and gentleman: the Nintendo 3DS. Demonstrated by Satoru Iwata, the recently revealed but only now shown successor to the DS, the 3DS, ought to take the limelight as the highlight of the show. In addition to its new analogue control method, its 3.5” wide-screen top display, graphical improvements, and motion sensor and gyro-sensor, the 3DS adds an all-new dimension to games, without the need for glasses (something they seemed keen to express!). Sadly, such a device could not be shown on stage since it needs to be held to gain true effect, although it was guaranteed to promise “a better sense of height, depth and space”, with the ‘Project Sora’ announcement from last January revealed to be the first title developed specifically for the new hand-held, this being Kid Icarus: Uprising.

The two external cameras also allow users to take photos in 3D, whilst the “3D depth slider” will allow players to choose exactly how much of a desired 3D effect they wish to implement. It’s certainly a clever touch, and will relieve any grievances the player will have with such a new experience. New games from Level 5 (a new Professor Layton), Activision (DJ Hero 3D), Namco Bandai (Ridge Racer), Capcom (Resident Evil) and Konami (Metal Gear Solid) were also reeled off, each making use of the all-new functionalities and perception that such a device enables. It certainly looks intriguing and interesting, with extremely glowing reports already surfacing from the show floor in LA from insiders. As they kept re-iterating within the show, however, to truly understand will require you to hold the system yourself. But don’t expect booth babes to come showing you the new 3DS like it happened in the show, as you’ll simply have to buy one at the local, grungy shop when it’s released later this year.

In retrospect, Nintendo have done extremely well in positioning themselves in a much brighter light for the core gamers amongst us with their showing at E3 2010. Far from the calamitous reveal of the vitality sensor at E3 2009, classic IPs were revived and given excessive levels of optimism and excitement, and more new games were announced than can be detailed sufficiently here. The 3DS should be an enormous success, with the technology seemingly being much more than a gimmick, whilst the new level of interaction to games with such a device can allow developers another forward-thinking role in the year’s to come. We’ve seen them step up to the plate with the touch screen and motion sensing, now it’s the weight of three dimensions – I can’t wait!

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