E3: Nintendo Conference – “It prints money!”

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The Nintendo conference has proven once again that Nintendo is an innovative company that provides high quality games and systems while keeping things perpetually fresh. However, every new piece of hardware or software they release always comes with one function that stays consistent throughout the ages: The function that gives us the irresistible urge to open our wallets and dump the contents into a big pile. This pile is then poured into a large pool where Nintendo execs may swim in it a la Scrooge McDuck.

Despite this, they are not technically robbing us, as they are providing things to us that are nothing short of purely whimsical. The conference opened with a full orchestra playing classic Legend of Zelda jingles and songs in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Legend of Zelda. I personally don’t own a 3DS yet, for both practical and financial reasons; I’d love to enjoy games both new and old in the glorious third D, but at the same time, I like being able to afford groceries. The 3DS remake of the classic Zelda game Ocarina of Time touts revamped graphics, an improved frame rate, and a free soundtrack available for people who register their copies of the game with Club Nintendo. The game is set to be released on June 19th, 2011. In addition to this, the Nintendo eShop will soon be carrying Link’s Awakening, the 1993 classic Game Boy game. All hope is not lost for Zelda fans who do not yet own the latest Nintendo portable, though. A free download of Legend of Zelda: Four Swords will be available for DSi owners this fall via DSiWare.

Not many new details were released about the upcoming Zelda platformer, Skyward Sword, during the conference. However, producer Shigeru Miyamoto did announce that a commemorative gold Wiimote emblazoned with the Zelda logo would be released alongside the game.

The Legend of Zelda news didn’t stop at just video games. Miyamoto announced that the orchestra that had been accompanying the press conference would be going on a worldwide tour to play orchestral versions of Zelda songs both new and old. Official tour dates are yet to be released.

Once the Legend of Zelda segment had concluded, Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime and CEO Satoru Iwata took the stage to talk about the Nintendo 3DS. A montage of Mario Kart, Star Fox, Super Mario, Kid Icarus, and Luigi’s Mansion (respectively) wowed the crowd just before Mr. Fils-Aime went into the details.

Mario Kart 3D – Fils-Aime described this as a “tricked out” version of an old classic, with go-karts transforming into hang gliders and karts with underwater capabilities zooming every which way. Footage was also shown of karts that can be customized with different bodies and wheels. The game is slated for release this holiday season.

Star Fox 64 3D – This game utilizes the 3DS’s internal tilt function in a very interesting way. Remember when you were a little kid playing a racing game? You’d take a sharp turn and tilt the entire controller, entirely convinced that it was aiding you. That functionality has been incorporated into Star Fox 64 3D. Tilting the 3DS will actually tilt the aircraft you are piloting (traditional controls will also work for those players who prefer not looking silly whilst playing). Still keeping the good ol’ days in consideration, picture this: You’re playing a multiplayer round of Star Fox 64 with your friend and you’re just about to destroy his ship. You line up your shot and fire a direct hit. Immediately after this, you look over and see the the feeling of defeat pour into his expression. With the 3DS camera, you can get that same satisfaction of seeing the look of defeat on his face while playing wirelessly. Star Fox 64 3D drops this September.

Super Mario – When New Super Mario Bros. came out for the Nintendo DS, it was a revamped version of a classic that was an instant hit. This new installment of the franchise is the first 3D portable Mario game that is built entirely from scratch. Classic elements from previous games will be incorporated, such as the ever-popular Tanooki suit. An exact release date is not yet set, but keep an eye out for it sometime this year.

Kid Icarus: Uprising – People were reeling at last year’s E3 when the announcement was made that a new Kid Icarus game was in development. More footage of the game was shown today, along with the report that 3 on 3 multiplayer battles would be available in the game. The game will also utilize the 3DS’s outer camera and Augmented Reality cards, which can be used for in-game battles.

Luigi’s Mansion 2 – Fils-Aime made it clear that this game was not a remake, but an all-new game. This new game utilizes the 3D capabilities of the hardware, allowing Luigi to explore brand new mansions full of ghosts for Luigi to cram into his vacuum cleaner.

After this wave of first party game demos, a montage of third party games played on screen, including titles such as Resident Evil: The Mercenaries, Mario & Sonic, Ace Combat 3D, Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, Driver: Renegade, Pacman, Galaga, Tekken 3D, and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D.

Exclusive downloads from the Nintendo eShop were also announced, with Fils-Aime explaining that games from both the classic Game Boy and Game Boy Advance libraries would be available. Titles such as Excitebike that even predate these systems would also be available.

Being the enormous nerd that I am, I was waiting for Reggie to say the one word I wanted to hear: Pokemon. The proclamation of new Pokemon stuff further drove it into my head that I need to reevaluate my financial priorities so that they include a 3DS at the top of the list of things I need to buy in order to feel true happiness. Owners of the latest Pokemon games, Pokemon Black and White, will be privy to an enhanced Pokedex for the 3DS. This “Pokedex 3D” arrives with data for 16 Pokemon, the rest of which can be added via spot passes, interaction with other players, and AR markers. In addition to collecting data on Pokemon, the user can superimpose Pokemon into photos, which can then be sent to an SD card and uploaded to the Internet. Now when your boss refuses to believe that you were only late to work because a Snorlax blocked your path, you’ll have the evidence to prove it. The Pokedex 3D is only available for the 3DS and available exclusively through the Nintendo eShop. Best of all, it’s free!

Wii U Controller

Reggie Fils-Aime showing off the Wii U controller.

Once the 3DS segment wrapped up, the moment everyone had been waiting for had arrived. Speculation has been swirling like mad regarding the latest console from Nintendo. The Nintendo Wii U put on an incredibly interesting demonstration. The controller itself houses a 6.2″ screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, analog sticks on either side of the controller, the traditional d-pad, L and R buttons on their respective side of the controller as well as left and right Z buttons on the underside, and the classic ABXY button setup. In addition to these features, the Wii U controller also packs a microphone, camera, accelerometer, and a gyroscope. Oh, and the screen is a touchscreen.

This may sound like the makings of a new portable, but it is not. Let’s say you’re playing a game on the Wii U, but someone else wants to use the TV. This used to lead to arguments and most likely fistfights, but the Wii U can be used in a way that allows the game on your television screen to be transferred to the screen on the controller seamlessly and without latency.

You can pick up right where you left off when switching from the TV to the controller screen.

Some games only require the use of the television, some only using the controller, and some that utilize both simultaneously. Either way, I know I’ll be lining up for one of these and reevaluating my friendships with loved ones who don’t do the same. Still not convinced? Then I have two words for you, doubtful reader: Backwards compatibility. The Wii U controller works not only with all existing Wii games, but all Wii accessories. Oh yeah, and you can draw on it with a stylus like a freaking tablet.

Heck yes, Nintendo.

As if that wasn’t enough, an announcement was also made that a brand new Super Smash Bros. game was in development for both the 3DS and the Wii U and that they would be able to interact with one another.  This is why we love you, Nintendo. This is why we love you.

Super Mario Bros. Mii, Shield Mii, and Chase Mii were also announced for the Wii U, but these were just prototypes that showed off the Wii U’s features and not actual games, marking the very first moment during the conference where I didn’t care what was on my screen. Sure, the demos were neat, but I’d rather have the games themselves show off the functionality of their systems.

After this, a montage of 3rd party games in development for the Wii U was shown, naming titles like Lego: City Stories, Darksiders 2, Tekken, Batman: Arkham City, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, Aliens, Ninja Gaiden 3, a slew of EA titles, and many more.

So many titles!

Say what you will about Nintendo, but they know how to innovate, and they do it well. I know I’m a bit of a Nintendo fanboy, but I do my best to be honest. I’ll admit it, I made fun of the Wii when it first came out; I mocked the controller, the fact that it can’t even play DVDs, and made the ever-present Family Guy joke “No one makes fun of Adam Wii.” It’s times like this that I wish I were actually there, not only because of the exhilarating feeling that comes with being at E3, but because I’d be able to test out the Wii U myself, thus giving me the ability to write an even better review.

Perhaps next year.

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