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E3 2010: Nintendo Press Conference, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Nostalgia Bomb

16. June 2010

Microsoft’s Press Conference yesterday really set the mood for me for the rest of E3 2010. As if I wasn’t excited enough, actually having the show here really got the blood flowing. So it was with excitement that I sat down to watch Nintendo’s chance to prove themselves this year.

And prove they did. Word has been circulating recently that the Wii is on the decline. The initial hype of motion controls and reaching a non-core audience has subsided, and as the other consoles begin cashing in on the Wii’s game, Nintendo has to get people interested in their offering again. What better way to do this than to hook the core gamer crowd–the ones that have, for the most part, shunned the party games, the rare first-party software, and the emphasis on “waggling” control gimmicks? The answer is simple: give them more of what they identify as Nintendo.

Nintendo opened strong, showing the first gameplay footage of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. This installment of the popular series seems a natural evolution of Twilight Princess; Link looks much like he did in the first Zelda game for the Wii, although the general art direction is much less dreary and dark than in Twilight Princess. The control scheme also has been kept, although the Wii MotionPlus gives the player more accurate sword control; no longer are sword attacks mere gestures created by shaking the Wiimote. A greater emphasis has also been placed on the Nunchuk acting as the shield. The item select screen is similar to how it was in TP, and many items make some use of the motion controls. The bow is controlled by holding the Wiimote up and drawing back with the Nunchuk, and a remote-controlled beetle is controlled by moving the Wiimote not unlike a paper airplane. These items seem to be taken straight from Wii Sports Resort, and it’s not entirely a bad thing. Finally, while not dated, Shigeru Miyamoto stated that Skyward Sword would be available next year.

Moving on, Reggie Fils-Aime focused on more usual fare. Wii Party is a Mario Party clone, using Miis instead of Mario characters. Honestly, there are enough Mario Party games, so I don’t think this is anything to get excited about. He then announced the Mario Sports Mix, adding Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, and Dodgeball to the list of sports the Mario franchise has covered. Also highlighted was Just Dance 2. Having not even heard of the first iteration of this series, I can’t comment exactly, other than this is the kind of casual game that the Wii has been known for.

After that, the disappointments ended and the excitement grew. Golden Sun: Dark Dawn was shown at length, followed by the Goldeneye remake trailer I linked to yesterday. Reggie began talking about the games of yesteryear, and how many people still fondly remember software from the SNES and N64 era. What better way to capture that nostalgia than revive two nearly forgotten franchises? Kirby Epic Yarn is the first console platform game in the series since Kirby 64, and despite the cute aesthetic, I’m interested in how it will play out. Donkey Kong Country Returns seeks to free the titular character from a life of bongo mini-games, and the footage shows it is feasible.

Satoru Iwata appeared on stage, shifting the focus away from the Wii and to the new Nintendo 3DS console. The handheld, shown for the first time at the event, looks unsurprisingly similar to its predecessor, with a few exceptions. The D-Pad is lower on the console than before, and in its place is a “slide pad” joystick. Start, Select, and Home buttons are located under the bottom screen. A slider is located on the right edge of the top screen, for adjusting 3D visuals on the fly. The system is equipped with three cameras: one on the inside top-screen and two on the outer side. The touch screen is the same size as the DS’ and DSi’s, but the top screen (the one displaying the 3D image), is stretched into a widescreen format.

Hardware is nothing without software to support it, and Nintendo did not disappoint in that regard. The first footage of the 3DS launch title “Kid Icarus Uprising” was shown, and much focus was given to third-party game support, including a new Metal Gear Solid game, and remakes of Starfox 64 and Ocarina of Time.

My thoughts on the press conference? HOLY FREAKING CRAP, now is the best time to be a Nintendo fan. The trickle of first-party games for the Wii has been disappointing since console’s first year, and it’s obvious Nintendo plans to rectify that, bringing in Retro and Team Ninja to help. Most of the big Nintendo names gets some sort of support this year, and the lineup for the new handheld console is simply beautiful. I’ve been content to keep my DSlite for years, seeing nothing in the DSi and now DSiXL worth upgrading, but I will probably be getting the 3DS on launch. Even objectively, I would say that Nintendo stole the show this year, simply because they actually used the media hype to announce new games and products, whereas Microsoft and Sony focused on improving last year’s announcements.

That’s it for the Nintendo E3 review. I wasn’t able to watch Sony’s press conference, but for the sake of being fair, I’ll link you to Joystiq’s.

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