Wednesday 11 June 2014

Nintendo E3 2014 - My Thoughts

Last year Nintendo adopted their new format for an E3 presentation - instead of hosting a massive conference in a huge convention centre, they opted to stream a 40 minute video online showcasing their newest games for both the Wii U and 3DS consoles. This year Nintendo have chosen to follow the same formula - Play Nintendo was their 45 minute presentation posted yesterday, and within it were some wondrous details on upcoming titles for both of Nintendo's newest systems.

So without further ado, let's take a look at what was displayed...

Everyone has been psyched for the latest installments of the Super Smash Bros. series since Nintendo lightly announced them way back at E3 2011 - it wasn't until E3 last year that we finally got our first glimpse of the new games, which will both arrive towards the end of 2014. While it's a shame they're keeping the literal and dull titles, the games themselves certainly look like they'll deliver - Smash Bros. for 3DS offers a variety of single player and multiplayer modes similar to its Wii U counterpart. Nintendo have worked hard on debugging the games and preparing them for release, and so the 3DS version has been delayed from a summer release to October 3. The Wii U version currently does not have a specific release date, but it'll arrive towards the end of this year for sure. I'll probably be grabbing both versions and am curious to see how they can interact. What's also amazing is that Nintendo will release a Gamecube adapter for the Wii U, allowing you to plug in and play Smash Bros. with GC controllers once again. The adapter will see a bundle release with the Wii U game and a Smash Bros. GC controller for around $100/£60, which is sweeeeet.

Next, Nintendo revealed a series of toy figures, dubbed Amiibos. These figures act very much like the ones seen in Disney Infinity and Skylanders. They can be scanned on the Wii U GamePad and downloaded into compatible games, offering customizable characters. The data can be sent back and forth to the Wii U and the figure itself, meaning your influence on the initial data in the game is transferred and stored back on the original figure itself. I'm not 100% sure how this really works, but hopefully this will not force you to dish out more money to get new characters in Smash Bros, as that's a concept I've never been fond of. Following this, Nintendo showed a presentation of the upcoming Yoshi's Woolly World, the second Nintendo title to adopt a yarn based visual style following Kirby's Epic Yarn in 2010. While it's not something I've been overly hyped for, it certainly looks creative and fun, and the visuals are absolutely gorgeous.

One of E3's most anticipated titles was finally unveiled around 20 minutes into the presentation - The Legend of Zelda for Wii U. In the past, Zelda co-creator Eiji Aonuma has always wanted to create a Zelda title with an open world feel. Zelda games are known for the expansive worlds, but there has always been a clear segmented feel to them - you walk down a path, the game loads, and you come out in a new part of the world map. A lot of the towering background details are just for visual flare and not actual places within your reach. Nintendo tried to create an open world feel with The Wind Waker in 2003, but the Great Sea was lacking in activity and all the islands were once again clearly segmented from the main world map.

But now, thanks to the power of the Wii U, an open world Zelda reminiscent of Skyrim is finally possible. My biggest disappointment following the games reveal was the use of a cel-shaded visual style - hear me out before you go apeshit. While Wind Waker and Skyward Sword are beautiful games, the realistic tone of Zelda is also one I've constantly admired. At E3 2011, the Wii U had a Zelda tech demo which displayed HD visuals much like those seen in Twilight Princess, and I would've killed to see this game have that same style. What I'm hoping is that Nintendo have not settled on cel-shading as the definitive visual style for Zelda, as the series has always explored multiple artistic styles and graphical capabilities and I want that to still be possible. But I digress; the brief clip showed the expansive world beyond the horizon, which is all within reach to the player. An open world feel means objectives are far less linear and can be tackled at your own pace. The rest of the footage shown showed Link (maybe) racing through the field on his horse, being chased by a giant mecha-octopus thing shooting lasers. The battle culminates with Link (maybe) jumping into the air and firing some mechanical explosive arrow at the monster. Perhaps a technological aesthetic will influence the games design? Who knows. But damn, it looks cool.

Nintendo next gave us the first footage of the upcoming Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Sapphire. Enhanced remakes of the 2003 GBA games, these next instalments of the Pokémon series adopt the 3D visuals first seen in X and Y last year. I found myself interestingly disappointed with Y when I eventually got it - while the visuals and music were superb, a disappointing lineup of new Pokémon, a god awful story and OP and underdeveloped Mega Evolutions resulted in me trading in the game before I even finished, which is a first for me when it comes to Pokémon. On the flip side, Ruby and Sapphire had some of the best Pokémon characters within one of the series' best regions - the story of those games was also epic in scale and thoroughly entertaining. Combining this with the updated 3D visuals, tons of new features and all the newest Pokémon will surely make Omega and Alpha essential titles when they release on November 21.

I'm gonna wrap it up here as I'll be going on all day otherwise. Next we saw more footage from the upcoming Hyrule Warriors, which also received release dates of September 19 and September 26 for Europe and North America respectively. A combination of Nintendo's Zelda and Tecmo Koei's Dynasty Warriors, Hyrule Warriors is a hack n slash video game where players can journey in teams across the world of Hyrule, slashing away at opponents and taking down gargantuan bosses. Dynasty Warriors 3 is the only game of that series I've played, and while I did like it, I've never been a huge fan. Still, Hyrule Warriors sure looks to be a lot of fun. We were next shown a preview of the upcoming Xenoblade Chronicles X, which frankly I couldn't give less of a fuck about as I hated Xenoblade from 2011. So moving on - Mario Maker! This upcoming Wii U app slated for 2015 will allow players to create their own Mario levels in both 8 bit graphics and the 512 bit New Mario Bros. graphics, which is sure to be tons of fun. Following further announcements of Wii U titles Splatoon and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, the show ended with an interesting speech from Miyamoto himself - who claims to be working on loads of new experiences for the GamePad. In the background, we see something on the TV that looks very much like an Arwing...

Great stuff from Nintendo overall, and easily the best of E3's many conferences. Not only were the announcements great, but the 45 film itself was wonderfully pieced together with entertainment value in mind. Those Robot Chicken segments, man...

Thanks for reading!