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Nintendo’s press conference today at E3 2012 was expected to be a big blowout of their new console, the Wii U, but the most exciting part of the conference already happened two days ago with Satoru Iwata’s Pre-E3 Nintendo Direct special reveal of the revised Wii U gamepad, the Wii U Pro Controller and the Miiverse. Sure, more time was spent on the games planned for the launch window of the system/ However, most of the games that were shown off didn’t really sell me on the Wii U’s potential. Also, like last year, Nintendo didn’t want to say anything in terms of specs for their new console at the show as they still want the controller and experiences to do the talking, yet most of the demonstrations during the press conference were pre-recorded in a video and not done live in front of the audience. Considering their track record of past Wii demos being botched, I can see why Nintendo did not want to have live demos for the sake of time, but pre-recorded videos are not going to get the job done in persuading people to buy the WiiU.
Anyway, the conference started off with Shigeru Miyamoto finally announcing Pikmin 3 for the WiiU. It will support multiple control styles with the Wii Remote Plus + Nunchuk and the new WiiU gamepad. Four players can also play together at the same time. Pikmin fans have been waiting for awhile for a new sequel and at least that is finally happening as it was the only noteworthy franchise besides Mario that had an appearance at the conference. A Zelda game that was teased last year via a tech demo was not present this morning. The big third party game that Nintendo decided to spotlight was Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. A pre-recorded video showed off how the game is differently with the Wii U gamepad such as controlling the remote batarangs and using detective mode. Exclusive content is also planned for the new version and all DLC that the previous versions had are expected to come as well. A montage of other third-party games was shown after the demo with footage of Mass Effect 3, Darksiders 2, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
A big focus of Nintendo’s conference today was how they’ve quickly become huge backers of social media. This kind of backfired on them for the show, since they plugged their own online coverage of the show and Facebook pages so much, they didn’t have time for a 3DS showcase or more in-depth WiiU game demos. They still have lots of faith with Miiverse, which was announced two days ago, as Reggie Fils-Aime didn’t really focus on that saving it for a developer roundtable tonight. First-party games will surely use Miiverse to their full advantage, but it seems third parties have not messed around with the social platform yet. They also briefly touched on entertainment support like Netflix and YouTube as well as other services available on WiiU.
Nintendo’s mascot Mario had a big and expected presence this morning with new 2D games for WiiU and 3DS. New Super Mario Bros. U, which is such an unoriginal title, takes full advantage of Miiverse’s social aspects and the new WiiU controls with the classic Mario gameplay. The game does look better and it is nice to see some different backgrounds for once too. New and old powerups are expected to be in along with four player co-op like NSMB Wii. Besides the new WiiU game, expected to be out on their launch day hopefully, there is New Super Mario Bros. 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star for the 3DS. NSMB2’s new theme is gold and Mario can turn into a gold version of himself getting more coins than he usually does. As seen in the first announcement pictures, the SMB3 raccoon suit makes a return to a 2D Mario game. The new Paper Mario game is the more interesting of the two as it features stickers spread throughout the world that are useful in combat. Mario fans should be happy of what is come in the coming year, but I’m personally excited for a new 3D Mario game on WiiU whenever Nintendo decides to make one.
The casual space was also another big focus of Nintendo’s show today as expected with Wii Fit U and Sing, which is a working title. Wii Fit U continues that franchise with new controls and balance board support if you still have that thing around. I do like some of the potential they showed off, but it is only for those that like fitness games. I did laugh at Reggie saying certain memes during that segment. Sing is a new karaoke game made by Freestyle Games, the folks that made the DJ Hero games, as you use the WiiU gamepad to look at the lyrics to sing. As a big DJ Hero fan, it is unfortunate to see the Freestyle guys not work on that franchise because of its disappointing sales and Activision driving the rhythm genre to the ground at the time, but its good to see them working on the genre again.
Besides Warner Bros., Ubisoft once again was the big third party at another press conference as they showed their launch lineup. ZombiU was the highlight of that segment as we saw what the WiiU gamepad can do with that game. You can even look at yourself on the WiiU’s touch screen in zombified form, which the audience got a kick out of when Reggie tried it out. Just Dance 4 was also there, but that is pretty self-explanatory besides the new WiiU controls. Ubisoft making appearances at both Sony and Nintendo’s press conferences goes to show that they are going hard to be competitive with EA and Activision. Traveler’s Tales’s Lego City Undercover by Warner Bros. also had some screen time this morning as well with a 3DS version coming along with the WiiU version.
Arguably the big downer of Nintendo’s press conference was their closing game Nintendo Land. They didn’t do a good job explaining what the game is and the segment went on for a little too long. Nintendoland is basically a virtual theme park featuring Nintendo’s iconic stable of characters for Miis to interact with each other, but also simply a new mini-game collection at the same time. This was also another excuse for all those tech demos they showed off last year to be in this game. One of the featured mini-games there was Luigi’s Mansion related, but is a different twist on Pac-Man VS and one of the tech demos from last year. Miiverse support for the game will be explained later this week as Nintendo Land is expected to come out the same time as the WiiU launch. I won’t be surprised if this is the pack-in game if Nintendo decides to include one with the WiiU considering how big they want it to be.
Did Nintendo do enough to sell people on the WiiU with their E3 press conference? Honestly, that answer is a disappointing “no”, they still have lots to prove that this is a console that can compete in the next generation. They were able to blow the lid off early with the revised gamepad, pro controller, and Miiverse two days ago, but the first party games they have planned for the launch window is somewhat lacking and not surprising. Sure, New Super Mario Bros. U is gonna be a big success and I like what they’re doing with the design so far, but I expected something way better. Pikmin 3 being finally announced is also a good thing, but only a niche audience that loved the previous two games would appreciate this new one. The only big WiiU announcement I’m happy about was Reggie saying that the WiiU will launch with two gamepads into of one. The 3DS was barely mentioned as they’re saving that for a later time this week, but at least Nintendo still cares for the handheld unlike Sony’s Vita for now. Nintendo Land as their closing game didn’t make a good impression because of how it was presented, but I can see there is some potential with it. In general, I was disappointed with how the demos were pre-recorded than being done live. Of course, they are saving launch dates and prices for a later time as they said in the past, but Nintendo still needs to do some more work to make WiiU a console worth purchasing this holiday season.