With the Wii U supposedly set to launch later this year in time for the holidays, it was generally assumed that this E3 would be dominated by all things Wii U. Few things in gaming can generate attention (and not just the attention of gamers but of all tech devotees) like a console launch.
The show last year was the appetizer. Nintendo delivered the Wii U unveiling like a hors d’oeuvre, giving us just a taste, but withholding the real meat for a later date. It was a common procedure that was enough to keep the attention on Nintendo without forcing it to show their full hand.
And it worked. The Wii U has been the talk of the industry, not just for what it is, but what it signifies. It is the opening shot in the upcoming battle of next-gen consoles. And yet, Nintendo’s press conference was surprising devoid of anything resembling firm details on the Wii U hardware. No specs, no price, no release date.
What Nintendo did do was release information on several games. So with the eyes of the gaming world firmly staring holes into Nintendo in anticipation for details on the Wii U, Shigeru Miyomoto, Senior Managing Director and overall legend, took the stage to start Nintendo’s E3 2012 press conference.
The show began without preamble. We all know the Wii U is coming out, and so the show simply began with the understanding that we don’t need a recap of what it is or why we were there. To that end, we welcomed the first look at the Wii U through the announcement of the upcoming Pikmin 3.
It has been 10 years since the last Pikmin, and the franchise looks better than ever. The environments were lush, the water effects looked incredible, and the details available were impressive. The gamepad, Nintendo’s tablet-like controller, will act as a map and also allow you to control some of the action without even seeing the game on a TV. It seems probable that Pikmin 3 will be a Wii U launch title, but that wasn’t confirmed.
As the Pikimin love fest concluded, Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Amie took the stage and began the long-awaited discussion of the Wii U. He let us know that the conference would be packed with content, and an hour would be barely enough to show off the 23 Wii U titles they planned to unveil.
To begin with, Fils-Amie confirmed Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon video will be available on the Wii U. Fils-Amie promised that there will be several more announcements coming in regards to the Wii U as an entertainment center beyond just a gaming system, but for now, the highlight is on the gaming aspect and we’ll have to wait a bit to see what else Nintendo has in store to compete with the growing multimedia reach of the PS3 and especially the Xbox 360.
Fils-Amie then referred to the social possibilities of the Wii U, citing the recent video from Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. A major feature of that, the social connection through the MiiVerse, will revolve around the gamepad, which then took center stage.
The first long-unanswered question about the Wii U’s gamepad was answered, and Fils-Amie confirmed that the Wii U will accept two gamepads per system. Nintendo then showed a closer look at the controller, highlighting the button configuration and layout, which was mostly as expected.
Fils-Amie then discussed the MiiVerse that Iwata introduced earlier in the week. When connected, you will see dozens of other Miis that you can communicate with via text bubbles you write on your gamepad. You can also pass on drawings and emoticons. You will soon be able to connect to the MiiVerse via your Nintendo 3DS, a PC, or any connected device, although that won’t be available at launch.
Next up was a not-surprising surprise: the unveiling of a new Mario title, New Super Mario Bros. U. No word on whether or not this will be a launch title, but it would seem to be a reasonable assumption. The discussion then went back to the MiiVerse and the integration. As you are playing the new Mario game, you will be able to see other players’ comments and discussions. If you need help with a certain area, you can ask for advice, help out others, or just discuss the section in general.
We got a look at the game, and the linear platformer looked to be a traditional Mario game, and it will feature four player co-op. The touch pad will also have a level of integration, and the player using that controller can interact and help the others along. The game was pure Mario, and it looked great–especially the backgrounds, which were stunning.
But first party properties are only part of the upcoming selection, and to hammer that point home, Martin Tremblay, President of Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, took the stage to officially introduce Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition for the Wii U. The Wii U version will feature armored suits for Batman and Catwoman, and beyond just the aesthetic (and presumably defensive) benefits, the new armor will feature a power up that will be used to unlock new puzzles. The gamepad will also be integrated, and you will be able to use it to do things like steer the batarangs and set off explosions.
Next up came Scribblenauts Unlimited for the Wii U from 5th Cell. The gamepad will allow you to create new designs that you can then share to the TV for other players, as well as the online community.
A quick video then showed several new games, including: Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3 (which may have gained the largest applause of the entire show), Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge, and Aliens Colonial Marines.
Fils-Amie then brought up Wii Fit and the Wii Balance Board. The next stage in that technology will be coming soon, as the Balance Board and the gamepad will be used together to advance the Wii’s fitness potential. The Balance Board itself will soon receive new software on the Wii U, but adding the gamepad allows you to add more possibilities—for example, the video showed a runner adding her calories burned following a run to the gamepad via its sensors.
A new party game tentatively titled Sing was up next. It is very much a work in progress, but the demo showed a group dancing to the images on screen while one person used the gamepad as a karaoke machine.
But while the show was primarily dominated by the Wii U, the Nintendo 3DS fought its way onto stage to introduce three new titles.
The first of those was Super Mario Bros. 2, which will be available on August 19. But you can’t stop Mario, you can only hope to contain him. With that in mind, the next 3DS announcement was the return of Paper Mario, in the upcoming Paper Mario: Sticker Star due this holiday season. Joining his sibling, Luigi will also return to the ghostbuster trade in Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, also due this holiday season. Expect more on all three titles later this week.
There will also be several third-party games on the way, including: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Mirrors of Fate, Disney’s Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts: Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.
When Fils-Amie retook the stage, it was to announce Lego: City Undercover for the Wii U. For the most part the game looks like a traditional Lego game with all the originality and humor you would expect. You play a cop named Chase McCain, and the game will feature crimes that you will solve using the game pad. A portable version is also on the way.
Joining Fils-Amie on stage was Yves Guillemt, President of Ubisoft, discussing the collaboration between the two companies that has long been known, and was also highlighted yesterday at Ubisoft’s conference. Just Dance 4 was the first up. The integration with the gamepad will allow one person to choose the dance moves that the dancers will need to pull off, while the others dance to his or her choices.
Next up was Zombie U, which only showed a cinematic at the Ubisoft conference but featured a decent amount of gameplay today. In the demo on display, the gamepad is going to be an essential tool. You will be able to use it to open locks, scan areas, search your inventory, and even snipe enemies using the gamepad as a scope.
Ubisoft then showed off a few other games coming for Wii U: Assassin’s Creed 3, Rabbid’s Land, Your Shape Evolved 2013, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and Avengers: Battle for Earth.
One game that Nintendo hopes will epitomize the Wii U is the upcoming NintendoLand. The title is set up like a Nintendo amusement park that combines 12 different attractions. Only five have been announced, and those will be built around Zelda, Donkey Kong, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, Luigi, and Animal Crossing. The title is a collection of mini-games in the vein of Wii Sports, and each title will be developed to fully utilize the new Wii U hardware. It will also include integration with the MiiVerse, which we will hear more about later.
One example shown was based on Luigi’s Mansion. With four players using the standard nunchucks, they will use their flashlights and rumble features to hunt for the ghost they can’t see. The ghost, however, will be controlled by the player with the gamepad, who can see the whole map and all the players, but is vulnerable to the flashlights of the other players. Not surprisingly, NintendoLand will be a launch title.
And that’s it, that encompasses the entirety of the Nintendo E3 press conference showcase. The show then ended to muted applause, and the Wii U remains something of an enigma. The big reveals we have all been hoping for, things like price, release date, and specs, remain a mystery.