The Average Gamer

E3 2011 – Nintendo Press Conference Highlights

E3_SmallLogoNintendo was the last of the big companies to take the stage and bring a close this year’s pre-E3 media briefings. Obviously everyone was eager to see what Nintendo’s new console looks like and what Mario’s latest outing would be. Here’s what Nintendo revealed.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

This is coming to the Wii later on this year, around autumn time, as Nintendo have now finally finished it. Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening will be available to buy via 3DS eShop from the 7th June 2011. The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords will be coming to the DSi and 3DS for free later on in the year.

To celebrate The Legend of Zelda’s 25th anniversary there will be a series of symphony concerts playing the classic Zelda tunes that we’ve come to love over the years. As soon as I find out the times and dates for these concerts I’ll post the details.

Mario Kart 3DS

In the 3DS version of Mario Kart, the karts have undergone some fairly radical upgrades to cope with the new track locations. For instance the karts have propellers for the underwater tracks. For other tracks the karts come with a James Bond like hand glider attachment.

Mario 3DS:

This is a brand new Mario game built from the ground up specifically for the 3DS. After watching a demo on a 3DS in the Nintendo stand, sadly in video form, I was impressed with the 3D. You could really feel the depth to the levels, especially when you come across the giant flame towers belching hot plasma straight into your screen. The rest of the game was classic Mario.

Starfox 3DS

In Fox McCloud’s latest adventure you can either use the standard d-pad controller or tilt the console to control his ship. Starfox 3DS also makes use of the 3DS camera to show you other players at key points during the game. You can get to see everyone’s happy, sad or angry faces. Hmmm, I’m not keen on this little bit of functionality. No doubt it will be funny for the first couple of times then quickly get boring. Starfox 3DS will be coming out in Sep 2011.

Luigi’s Mansion 2

Luigi is back and still armed with his ghostbusting vacuum. With similar looking gameplay to the original game on the Gamecube, Luigi’s Mansion features some very nice looking 3D visuals. The lighting effects in particular were quite stunning. Luigi also gets to explore multiple mansions this time.

Pokedex 3D:

The global phenomenon comes to the 3DS via a 3D Pokedex. This will be downloaded only through the Nintendo eShop. It will also be free.

3DS System Update:

Nintendo also mentioned that with the June 2011 3DS system update you get a free version of Excitebike 3DS for a limited time. Don’t forget this game is now 27 years old, so don’t expect something ground breaking. The Virtual Console and 3DS demos will be appearing later on in the year on the eShop.

Wii U:

This is the name for Nintendo’s new console. It main feature is its big, new controller, which hogged all the limelight during the press conference. I actually don’t remember seeing the small, Wii-shaped console that accompanies the controller such was the focus on the controller.

The controller features a 6.2 inch touch screen at its centre. It also includes a microphone, camera, accelerometer, speaker, control pad, two circle pads, a rumble feature, A/B/X/Y buttons, L/R buttons and ZL/ZR buttons. Accompanying the controller is the base unit which looks very much like the Wii and varies in power according to which website you read. Nintendo have announced that it will support HD visuals, which would be a substantial improvement over the shockingly poor graphics that you get from the Wii.

Wii U allows you to switch from playing a game on the TV to the controller. This is useful if someone wants to watch something else on the TV. Other functionality includes the ability to draw on the controller’s screen (if you have any talent) to create beautiful masterpieces. You can use the screen to play board games too. The screen allows you access your inventory or a map without you having to interrupt your game.


Nintendo Wii U Controller And Console

The controller has other uses too. You can point it at the screen and use it as an aiming device or to have a look around the gaming environment. It can also be used for video calls and to zoom section of web pages like a magnifying glass. Err, yay? In one potentially annoying feature, you can send pictures from the controller screen to the TV to replace what someone else might be watching.

Wii accessories can be used with Wii U. So all those controllers you’ve bought for your Wii will still be useful.

In terms of games, Lego City Stories is coming to Wii U and the 3DS. This will be an open world game packed full of Lego vehicles. Darksiders 2 will be available for Wii U at launch. Other notable games that caught my attention were Batman: Arkham City, Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon Online and Aliens: Colonial Marines. Alas, there were no firm details about how the controller will be used in each of them. Nintendo also teased that Smash Brothers will be developed 3DS and Wii U and will work together in some fashion.

And that’s it for the Nintendo media briefing. There were units to play with during the E3 Expo running 8 different tech/gameplay demos, but no actual games. We did get to play with the Wii U so look out for our hands-on impressions post. Randy Pitchford did mention during his talk during the Aliens: Colonial Marines live demo that they have got the game running on Wii U hardware, and that they’ve had the units for some time. But that was all we got out of him.

So this leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions about the Wii U. How much is it going to cost? When will we see it in the UK? What’s the backward compatibility like with Wii games? Are developers going to retro fit Wii games to take advantage of the new controller and what do they think of it? And what are the games going to look like on the new hardware. Tech demos and just that, demos. Rarely have they been representative of what it’s like to play games on the console that you get to buy and plonk in your living/bedroom.