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E3 2008: Consoleation Extra Nintendo Press Conference RecapEPosted July 15, 2008 by Peter Skerritt
Nintendo’s press conference at E3 was rather pale in comparison to what Microsoft presented yesterday, but there were still a few surprises sandwiched between lots of numbers and claims of paradigm shifts. We saw the Wii MotionPlus in action, saw a transformation of a long-awaited Wii title, and saw the announcement of a truly surprising DS installment of a popular third-party franchise.
The event kicked off on a strong note with Shaun White making an appearance to demonstrate his new game, Shaun White Snowboarding. The game utilizes the balance board and seems to have a pretty intuitive tricking system. The soundtrack sported some interesting tracks as well, including a decent remake of Ring of Fire. The visuals seem decent enough, although it was tough to make out certain details, such as the consistency of the frame rate or mountain details. This UBI Soft game is due late this year, likely in time for the holiday shopping season.
After Satoru Iwata’s paradigm shift speech, the event’s first big announcement came as Animal Crossing: City Folk was officially unveiled for the Wii. The visuals are pretty much the same as we saw them in the first Animal Crossing game for the Gamecube, but new innovations have been added to the original game. Players can now visit a bustling city, which boasts storefronts including a fashion store, beauty salon, auction site, and the Happy Room Academy, which lets players see what other players are doing. The other big story here is the introduction of WiiSpeak, which is a wide-range microphone that encourages group conversations. This was demonstrated on-screen during an online fishing tournament and sounded just fine… although, for a family-friendly game, the possibility of less-than-stellar language could plague the experience.
Three major third-party Wii releases had trailers shown at this point. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which is due late this year and is based on the upcoming animated feature film, boasts multiplayer lightsaber duels and utilizes both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk attachment. Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party will utilize the Wii Balance Board and looks to be the same kind of crazy humor that we’ve come to expect from this series when it arrives in the fall. Lastly, a trailer for Call of Duty: World At War was shown and the players used both the Wii Zapper and the Wii Remote and nunchuk combination. The visuals here looked decent enough, but there were no real details about the game given—including a solid release window.
The focus of the event then shifted to the Nintendo DS, and, after seeing some PowerPoint screens full of numbers and stats, five new DS titles were revealed. Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades will arrive later this fall and promises several different versions as well as the ability to share songs between versions of the game. SPORE Creatures allows players to take the SPORE experience on the road and boasts creature sharing, which will also affect the single-player experience. A sequel to Pokemon Ranger was also announced for a November release, as well as a localized version of Cooking Navi, which is basically a portable cookbook.
In what was perhaps the event’s biggest surprise announcement, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was unveiled—but not shown. The game is set to take place in Liberty City and promises the same sandbox style of gameplay that the franchise is known for, but no other details were made available except for the Winter 2008 release window. It will be interesting to see how this game will utilize the functionality of the DS as more details become clear about the title’s development.
After a discussion of other uses for the DS outside of gaming—such as airport help, baseball line scores, and more—focus returned to the Wii and the official unveiling of Wii MotionPlus and its pilot software release. Wii Sports Resort, which is pegged for a Spring 2009 release, had three of its events showcased live on stage. The first event, Disc Dog, demonstrated the power of the Wii MotionPlus attachment as the on-screen character literally mimicked all of the on-stage player’s motions. Throwing a Frisbee was literally as easy as, well, throwing a Frisbee. The next event was a Jet Ski event that looked similar in some respects to Nintendo’s Wave Race series and showed both throttle and steering controls. (Note: Reggie Fils-Aime is dangerous on a Jet Ski.) The last event shown was a sword fighting simulation which pitted Reggie against Cammie Dunaway. There was a lot of flailing that went on, but the possibilities looked cool for the game. When Wii Sports Resort ships, it will come with one Wii MotionPlus attachment; consumers will also be able to buy the attachment on its own, but no price point was mentioned.
The event closed with the reintroduction of Wii Music as Shigeru Miyamoto made a musical entrance using the Wii Remote and nunchuk to play the sax while a drummer, who was using the same combo plus the Wii Balance Board for pedals, accompanied him. As it turns out, the game has seen a rather dramatic transformation since we last saw it. Although the orchestra simulator that Miyamoto demonstrated in the past is still there, new elements, including simulating 50 instruments and a pretty realistic drum set simulation are now included. Miyamoto emphasized that the Wii Music isn’t about scoring, like most music games are, but rather about making and sharing music. Players will also be able to edit different performances to create music videos. The Wii Music session ended with a five-piece band, led by Miyamoto himself, playing the familiar Overworld theme from Super Mario Bros. The game has been promised to retail during this coming holiday season.
Overall, Nintendo’s conference was pretty underwhelming. Although there were some surprises, there was more chest-thumping and rhetoric and less of a focus on the games themselves. What about WiiWare and the Virtual Console? How about the new Wario game? Were the rumors of new versions of Punch-Out!! and Kid Icarus just rumors, or is Nintendo still holding something back? The arrival of Grand Theft Auto for the DS will be a story to follow, the announcement of Animal Crossing: City Folk was welcome, and it was great to see Wii Music finally reemerge after basically disappearing for many months, but it was hard for me not to come away from this event feeling less than impressed. Knowing Nintendo, though, there still may yet be some rabbits in Mario’s hat that are waiting to be pulled; we’ll just have to wait and see.
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