Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Nintendo's E3 Conference 2012: Not-so-live Impressions


It's the big one, well at least for me anyway. :D To shake things up a little this year, I decided to make a few quick predictions before I hit play on the conference. Of course I'd have loved a huge blow-out full of awesome games, but watching these year after year has taught me to keep my expectations a little more in check. These were my relatively modest predictions for the conference:

1. The next 3D Mario will be shown in some form. I know that would be unthinkable in the past given the relative recency of Mario Galaxy 2, but with the glut of Mario games in the last few years, I don't think those rules apply anymore.

2. I think they're going to announce the next Wii Sports title here. I'm guessing they think it's big enough deal at this stage to not make it a pack-in, maybe not even with a peripheral.

3. I guess this is more of an anti-prediction, but I think Metroid and Zelda are fairly unlikely to show up here. Maybe on 3DS?

4. There's obviously going to be a big blow out of New Super Mario Bros. Mii or whatever terrible name they're giving it. :D

5. Surely to goodness we're finally going to see Pikmin 3 here. I expect heavy use of the gamepad screen and some really pretty graphics.

6. I think Nintendo are going to delve into their vault and resurrect a franchise we haven't seen for a while on Wii U. The fanboy in me says Star Fox, but I think F-Zero or maybe Wave Race are more likely candidates.

7. I imagine EA and Ubisoft will be repping hard here, without too much new stuff to show off.

8. I think there are going to be at least one or two big, new third party announcements made, even if they're just logos; either timed exclusivity or significant, exclusive Wii U content.

9. And that's most likely going to be it, though I bet there will be at least one big announcement saved for the Developer's Conference tomorrow seeing as they're streaming it. A teaser Smash Bros. trailer seems like a strong possibility again.

10.If you thought they were done talking about the philosophy of the Wii U on Sunday, prepare to be disappointed.

A few cool core games, some casual stuff, some third party announcements. Surely Nintendo would be able to deliver at least that? Well, let's delve into the real thing and find out!

0:00:00 - Hmm, an age-gated conference. Just where did you pull the Wii U from this time, Reggie?

0:00:25 - So, looks like we're opening with some kind of skit. I expect Starfox 64 promo vid levels of greatness here, guys.

0:00:35 - Fuck yeah, Pikmin!

0:01:16 - An army of Pikmin march after Shiggy. Video is certainly delivering so far. :D

0:01:43 - Pikmin talk, yes, yes, yes.

0:02:06 - This is so dumb. I love it. :D Look at how pissed that middle guy in the teal shirt looks. God, I hope they cut to Jeff from Giant Bomb here.

0:02:29 - The whistle! And Bill Trinen wobbling on stage. Already better than the MS conference. :D

0:03:00 - Yep, more Wii U philosophy. Is the lack of an available TV screen for gaming really a problem? I've got two TVs and a monitor in this room alone. :D

0:03:20 - You know, waiting for the console to boot up is never an annoyance for me. Wading through the dozen or so logos that preface every game now though... What's the Wii U going to do about that, eh Shiggy?

0:03:40 - "This is Wii U". Shiggy's showing off the gamepad, but I can't help thinking he's continuing to fuel the confusion some folks had about the nature of the system here.

0:04:00 - Oh, that lifestyle photography. Always a highlight of the Nintendo conf. Everyone in this pic looks kind of insane. :D

0:04:09 - It's finally dawned on me that the Pikmin in Shiggy's pocket is a handkerchief.

0:04:43 - Woo, Pikmin 3. No messing about with subtitles here.

0:05:24 - Shiggy's dead on with the camera situation. I never felt really satisfied with the camera position the the fist two games no matter where I put it. HD should be a big help. Can't really tell how nice the game looks here though; I've got the video playing in a small window so I can do this at the same time.

0:05:50 - Bridge-building looks cool. Ooh, a new Pikmin type.

0:06:13 - Liking the rock pikmin. I'm going to tear up some bulborbs with these bad boys. Wiimote + nunchuck for the controls; interesting. Well, it worked well in the NPC games, I guess.

0:06:27 - Hm, don't know about waggling to charge, Shiggy.

0:07:01 - So the gamepad is going to used to show a scrollable map. Will definitely be useful, but I was kind of expecting more.

0:07:39 - Okay, the gamepad can be used on it's own too, allowing for some deeper strategy. Shiggy's showing off four new leaders for the Pikmin, not including Olimar. If I picked things up correctly these guys appear in the gamepad-only mode. There's almost certainly got to be some multiplayer/online feature utilising these guys too.

0:09:25 - No, it's a Pikmin plushie! Pretty excited for this now; not sure my feeble brain will be able to co-ordinate four captains at once though. :D

0:09:45 - Oh Shiggy, I could just eat you up. :D No time to ponder the unsettling ramifications of the previous sentence; it's Reggie time, bitches.

0:09:57 - "I feel just like a purple pikmin" Come on, Reggie, your not that overweight.

0:10:32 - "It's all about the games". I'm convinced Reggie's said the exact same line a couple of years ago. Get some new material, man.

0:10:37 - "23 Wii U titles on stage today" Half of them better not begin with "Imagine" or end with "z".

0:11:04 - Some hardware talk.

0:11:41 - Games, Social, Entertainment. We're slipping dangerously into Xbox territory here.

0:12:00 - Reggie starts reeling off content providers. What, no cheers this time guys? And you all seem so stoked for that Spanish TV provider yesterday.

0:13:26 - They're pushing the social media stuff hard this year. In other news, I've just run out of tea.

0:13:38 - Hastag: #notmyproblem

0:14:29 - Asymmetric gaming talk. It's the new form of disruption, apparently. The time for Pac Man Vs. Championship Edition has come.

0:14:45 - Support for two gamepads on Wii U. That's good news.

0:15:09 - A Quake guided tour. Are rocket jumps involved?

0:15:23 - No multi-touch then. The white console and gamepad in the reflection are a nice touch though.

0:15:30 - Still not sure about the buttons on the right being placed under the control stick.

0:16:21 - Ooh, a headphone jack on the gamepad. Could be handy.

0:17:42 - Miiverse talk. Nothing new so far.

0:18:10 - "This reminds me of the very first Super Mario Bros". Obvious troll is obvious.

0:18:25 - And all anyone will see is endless drawings of cocks.

0:19:04 - I really hope the Wii U store isn't going to be available "eventually" too. :D

0:19:14 - A new dynamic demonstrated by an old friend? If Ravi Drums or Shawn White walk out on stage, I'm going to piss myself laughing.

0:19:56 - No, it's Mario. New Super Mario Bros. U. Ugh, same generic artstyle as the last few, but I'll still buy the shit out of it anyway. (sigh) Looking closely at that picture, it looks like the baby yoshis from Super Mario World are making a comeback and packing some kind of bubble blowing powers. We've also got an inflated yoshi with Luigi hanging onto it. And joy, the two generic toads are back too. (sigh)

0:20:56 - We're into the NSMBU trailer. The backgrounds actually look a little less generic this time at least; some seem to have a slightly hand-drawn look. The name of the animal escapes me, but there's a new suit offering a gliding ability similar to the Super Mario World cape. [Edit: It's a flying squirrel]

0:21:06 - Were there red coins in NSMB Wii? Well they're back here anyway, with the same satisfying sounds collecting them produced in Mario 64. Also just noticed a couple of goombas with Jack-o'lantern-style heads. Another tribute to Super Mario World perhaps?

0:21:21 - So the pink baby yoshis inflate. The bubble blowing works just how you'd expect it to.

0:21:35 - That haunted house level looks great, but mostly everything looks as plain as ever. Still excited to play it though.

0:21:56 - We get to the asymmetric stuff at last - boost mode: like the Tingle tuner but for Mario, or girlfriend mode, in other words.

0:22:34 - Third party talk incoming. Hopefully it's not all stuff that came out six months ago on 360/PS3.

0:22:36 - A still render of Harley Quinn is now talking to Reggie. /facepalm

0:22:49 - Marty Tremblay from Warner Bros. interactive. Exxxtreme!

0:23:16 - Oh God, that was awkward.

0:24:10 - Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition. Wonder what's different here?

0:24:45 - Detective vision and inventory on the gamepad, as predicted by everyone. Exclusive in-game armour and some gimmicky motion shit. Great.

0:25:57 - B-A-T mode. Meh. Looks pretty trivial and gimmicky. I'm having flashbacks to third party implementations of GBA-GameCube connectivity here.

0:26:13 - Motion-controlled batarangs, because everyone loved this stuff in Heavenly Sword, right guys?

0:27:00 - The tablet-based inventory management is the only decent new feature here. Can't see myself bothering with this version to be honest. Are they at least going to bundle the DLC with this?

0:27:22 - Okay, Scribblenauts. Been hoping this would appear on the Wii for a while.

0:27:26 - 4 million worldwide. Wow, a lot more than I would have guessed.

0:28:14 - I know none of the game journalists there are going to care about this, but I'm pretty excited.

Hah! Testicles.

0:29:31 - They know no one's going to share their creations with each other, right? At least not when they can't involve dicks in any way.

0:30:23 - Sizzle reel!

0:30:43 - Mass Effect 3. Cool. Now with exclusive, non-shit ending.

0:30:54 - Tank! Tank! Tank! from Namco Bandai. Looks awful.

0:31:08 - Tekken Tag 2, with some Smash Bros.-style power-ups, by the looks of things; throwing people in volcanoes will never be the same again.

0:31:05 - Nice! Trine 2 Director's Cut. Man, I really need to play the first game.

0:31:23 - Ninja Gaiden 3. Doubt anyone's pumped for this any more. Published by Nintendo. Weird.

0:31:44 - Some solid announcements, but nothing that's going to shift Wii U's there.

0:32:22 - Reggie's body is ready...for more Wii Fit.

0:32:45 - :D

0:33:20 - Wii Fit U. Already confirmed last year, practically. Makes sense.

0:34:15 - I really wish they'd stop featuring these types of promos within E3 conferences. This isn't nearly as bad as the Nintendo Direct one on Sunday though.

0:34:58 - Urge to skip ahead rising.

0:35:44 - Yes! Wii Music 2 incoming. You know you want it, people.

0:36:37 - Great, another Karaoke revolution knock-off. Next!

0:36:48 - Fuck, this looks like the worst party ever. Pub, anyone?

0:37:20 - So does this come supplied with Auto-Tune, or do we need to supply that ourselves?

0:37:25 - "Sing is definitely a game you want in your collection" Nope. No, it's not.

0:38:17 - 3DS talk. "Where is the love?". I swear, if the fucking Black Eyed Peas walk out onto the stage now...

0:39:21 - Three first-party 3DS games, starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2. Time for a game of spot the difference, guys.

0:39:26 - Oh, "it's clearly different from the new Wii U Mario game that Reggie talked about earlier" Okay, never mind then. :D

0:39:58 - Gold all up in this bitch. Not too sure what to make of this, TBH.

0:40:08 - Yeah, P-meter!

0:40:22 - Paper Mario finally. Still wish this was a Wii U game though.

0:41:53 - Paper Mario: Sticker Star. The central sticker collecting mechanic looks sadly gimmicky and unnecessary. Wonder who's making this.

0:42:10 - Luigi's Mansion 2. Who needs 3DS games outside the Mario franchise, eh guys. Not to sound like a broken record, but I really wish this was on Wii U too.

0:42:46 - Looks nice, about on par with the original. Mission-based; interesting.

0:44:07 - Number of reels sizzled: 2.

0:44:50 - Castlevania. Epic Mickey. Scribblenauts. Kingdom Hearts DDD. That's it? I'm not brimming with confidence about that stellar third party line up, I'm afraid.

0:45:10 - Lego City. Joy.

0:45:56 - At least they're not under any illusions about their target audience. Looks kind of like GTA for kids.

0:46:14 - SWEAR TO ME!

0:47:11 - Okay, looks like the game might actually have a decent sense of humour. Maybe it won't be completely worthless after all.

0:47:27 - Cute Mario joke aside, that looks worryingly reminiscent of the other Lego games. And screw those.

0:48:23 - Something for everyone approach from Ubisoft. Well, that's one way of putting it.

0:48:27 - You people do know you're clapping for Imagine: Party Babyz, right?

0:48:41 - Yves Guillemot. I guess Mr. Caffeine was busy.

0:49:00 - (sigh) These exchanges between Reggie and the devs aren't getting any less awkward as the conference goes on.

0:50:55 - Oh fuck, Just Dance 4 again. Remember everyone, we're all a little gay.

0:51:21 - Did Ubisoft's female dancers loose a bet or something? Same bloody atrocious outfits from last night.

0:51:59 - Is that Patrick Klepek? :D

0:52:58 - Zombi U is such a bad name. I do hope it gets everyone to start affixing U to the end of every Wii U game though. :D

0:54:04 - Had kind of forgotten about this since last year. So it's an FPS making heavy use of the gamepad screen. Could be kind of neat, but like so many early Wii and DS games demonstrated, shoehorning the console's new features into everything never turns out well.

0:54:53 - Zombie Reggie. Awesome. :D

0:55:12 - Oh God, kill it with fire!

0:55:29 - An Ubisoft sizzle reel this time. Man, I hope Ass Creed III is good. Brotherhood already felt too samey for me. I haven't even picked up Revelations yet.

0:55:31 - No hint as to what Rabbids Land is yet. Carnival-themed mini games I bet, judging by the logo at least.

0:55:55 - Yeah! Rayman Legends looks rad; I really need to play Origins.

0:56:22 - So, two decent games then. Well, at least there weren't any Petz titles in there.

0:56:55 - Nintendoland. I've had this reveal spoiled by the Gamespot video description, but I have no idea what it actually is. Segagaga for Nintendo perhaps?

0:57:06 - So, mini games?

0:57:35 - Lame. Well, at least it isn't another faceless Wii Blank title, I guess.

0:57:52 - Uh, aren't Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort in the same franchise, Reggie?

0:59:14 - Zelda, Luigi's Mansion, and Animal Crossing themed attractions. Tom Nook breaks your legs at the end of that one.

0:59:43 - The ninja star thing is back from last year. Looks nice in HD at least.

1:01:24 - More Asymmetric gameplay talk.

1:02:45 - Hah! The Luigi's Mansion themed game is totally a Pac Man Vs. knock-off.

1:03:15 - I'm getting the sinking feeling that Pikmin 3 is going to be the only major announcement here. While it's been a pretty fun conference, once the dust settles, I'm not sure anyone's going to be excited about the games they've shown off. They're just aren't enough big exclusives from either Nintendo or the third parties. Like I said last year, a bunch of six month old ports from the other HD consoles aern't going to get anyone to pick up the Wii U at launch.

1:06:24 - A Nintendoland trailer. The Nintendo trappings are definitely cute, but if it's just another mini game collection, it just makes it all the more disappointing
1:06:40 - Was that Ridley? Nice.

1:07:31 - Wii U reconfirmed for the holidays.

1:08:17 - Jeez, they're really pushing the Nintendo All-Access thing pretty hard, aren't they?

1:10:02 - Well, I guess that's it. They're finishing up with more Nintendoland footage. I imagine this was the point the internet exploded with rage. :D If this is it, I'm going to be listening to a lot of pissed-off podcasters tomorrow. :D

If there's one thing I can say for Nintendo, they do know how to put on a fun E3 conference; the Xbox briefing this definitely wasn't. :D As a ramp up to the Wii U's launch though, I think this conference was a pretty big misstep. The Wii U is launching in a matter of months; they really needed to get people excited about the console here, but I don't think anything they showed really did that.

The first party games they showed definitely looked good. I'm excited to play Pikmin 3 and Super Mario Bros. U, but where was everything else?  Everyone knew these games were coming to the Wii U already, and by in large they didn't care. Nintendo needed to show some stuff this year that could cut through that apathy and get people pumped for the launch; a launch that's mere months away now. I think showing off some fan favourites like Smash Bros. or Metroid in HD for the first time would have done that; I think a couple of big, unexpected third party exclusives would have done that; I think showing off some mind-blowing, out of left field uses for the tablet would have done that. We didn't get any of that stuff.

I've got no doubt that Nintendo could have put on a show-stopping conference here if they thought they needed to, but they didn't seem to. Why? Well, I've got a strong, unsettling impression from this conference that they think they're launching the Wii U with this killer line-up of hardcore, third party games; something that would certainly get some people excited for the Wii U, if it was actually true.

Of all the games we know of that fit into this category, almost all of them are multi-platform, quite a few of them already having been released on other platforms as far back as last year. And worse still, this conference gave no indication that any of these games would feature any meaningful new content; would run, or look better on the Wii U; or would make anything beyond obvious or even worse, gimmicky, use of the touch screen. Don't get me wrong, it's great that these games are going to be available on the Wii U, but I just can't see who's going to buy the console to play them. People who care about these types of games already have a console that can play them; reaching parity with the other other machines on the market does not an awesome software line-up make.

Having watched this, even as a Nintendo fan I'm not sure how I could justify the purchase of a Wii U at launch to anyone considering it. Maybe the gamepad will be used in some cooler ways later? Maybe there will be some more good exclusives beyond the launch window? Nintendo certainly didn't provide evidence of either at this conference and without that, without generating the type of hype they did for the Wii or the 3DS, I can't see anyone beyond hardcore Nintendo fans picking up a Wii U come launch day. But what do I know? Maybe hordes of soccer moms will decide they need to spend $300+ to get hold of the new Wii Fit or that Pac Man Vs. is much more palatable in a Luigi's Mansion wrapper. I doubt it though.

But enough depressing talk, let's see how I did with those predictions:

1. Wrong -  No 3D Mario.
2. Wrong -  No Wii Sports, surprisingly.
3. Correct - No Zelda or  Metroid.
4. Correct - New Super Mario Bros U is shown.
5. Correct - Pikmin 3 is finally shown.
6. Correct - Takamaru's Ninja Castle is technically a revival of Nazo no Murasame Jō. :D
7. Wrong - Well, mostly. No EA, and Ubisoft had a good few new games to announce/show.
8. Wrong - No major third party stuff announced.
9. Wrong - No game announced at the Developer's Roundtable.
10. Correct - Philosophy all up in this bitch, also gold.

Well, half right. Not bad I think. Here's hoping next year's a better one, guys.

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