NIKOLE: Nintendo's E3 2011 press conference took place first thing in the morning. Nintendo requested we be there two hours before that. So naturally, I was hoping Project Cafe would somehow materialize as some type of gaming console slash coffee maker. Turns out my dreams of caffiene were dashed with an hour long line due to heavy security checks. My bag was searched and a metal-detecting wand traced my body. Nintendo wanted to make sure I was both caffiene and gun-free.
Trivia occupied guests while they took their seats and waited for the show to start. The majority of questions were about Zelda; I obviously owned.
KEVIN: Nintendo's E3 Press Conference pre-show consisted of pop tunes and Nintendo trivia like:
What was the first game to feature Mario as a baby?
- A. Super Mario Bros 3
- B. Super Mario Bros.
- C. Super Mario World
- D. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Do you know it? It's Yoshi's Island! Of course! (I had no clue, my seatmate had to tell me). Speaking of seatmates, that is literally one of the best things about this press conference, which is being held in the Nokia Theater at LA Live in downtown Los Angeles. Seatmates mean tons of new StreetPass friends. After this press conference, I can rule the world with all of my new Mii Plaza citizens.
NIKOLE: The pre-recorded soundtrack of songs from Muse abruptly stopped as green lights lit the room. An orchestra started playing music from Zelda and Link appeared onscreen. A montage of Link over the past 25 yeears began. Games from the NES, GameCube, and Wii. Then Zelda's Lullabye started, and differernt clips of Princess Zelda over the years was on display. I got a little teary-eyed. Okay, I cried. It was beautiful and I will cherish it for always.
KEVIN: But before we could wish for more coffee, an entire orchestra and a choir rose from the ground and began playing orchestral Zelda music, while scenes of Zelda games played on a huge screen behind the stage. If you could have these guys accompany you while you played the games, people would never, ever leave their homes. They could even make going to the bathroom seem majestic. Seriously.
NIKOLE: Zelda's creator Shigeru Miyamoto came out to discuss how the game has evolved over the past 25 years. Through a translator, Shiggy (we're on a first name basis) began to talk about the importance of music in the zelda series. I immediatly had flashbacks of Miyamoto rocking out on stage with a plastic saxaphone. But thankfully, Wii Music was abandonded. Instead, the live orchestra, at Shigeru's command, performed several iconic melodies from the series. Da na na naaaa!
KEVIN: The Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary, that's what all of the hoopla was about. Shigeru Miyamoto, Senior Managing Director (and legend) of Nintendo came out to welcome us. "Mmmmm, Zelda. It sure does bring back memories!" Last year was the 25th anniversary of Super Mario, and now it's Zelda's turn. The song they performed this morning was a tune from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and Miyamoto underscored how important the music is to Zelda. So the orchestra struck back up to play some of the iconic sounds and melodies from the games.
NIKOLE: As an ode to Link's past, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening has been added to the 3DS store. A few more annoucnements, like Four Swords coming to DSi as a free game. Shigeru also confirmed we'd see Skyward Sword launch Holiday 2011. To commeorate the release there will also be a special edition gold wii-mote available to consumers. I guess that's cool. Also, a free Ocarina of Time soundtrack will be offered to the first gamers who register The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D with Nintendo Club.
KEVIN: All of Nintendo's hardware systems will be getting a new Zelda game. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening will be available today on the e-shop. It'll help teach you the basics of Zelda gameplay if you're unfamiliar. Next weekend, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will launch for the 3DS, giving you an updated version of that classic. Then in September, on the DSi, Nintendo will have the four-player co-op Legend of Zelda: Four Swords as a free download.
Then, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will be out for the Wii this holiday season. "It's finally done!" quipped Miyamoto.
They'll also offer up a gold, Zelda-themed Wiimote as well, and that will launch in tandem with the game. There will also be a Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary concert touring around the world, bringing you the music of Zelda this fall. Additionally, two music CDs will be coming out: the official Ocarina of Time 3D soundtrack (free to people who register the game with Club Nintendo), and the Legend of Zelda: 25th Anniversary CD will launch with Skyward Sword later this year.
NIKOLE: Satura Iwata came out to tease the new console next. He promised a deeper, wider experience and then said he'd tell us more later. I get it, we have to talk first, maybe have dinner. I can dig it.
KEVIN: Satoru Iwata, Global President of Nintendo, then took to the stage to talk about hardware and game systems. Touting the popularity of the Wii, he does admit that Nintendo does not yet have a console that appeals to all gamers equally. That's what they hope to achieve with their new system, which promises to be "Deeper and wider." Deeper game experiences, and wider appeal to all gamers. "It will let everyone see games in a different way," he says. They're going to make us wait for awhile to get the full details, which got a big groan from the audience. Me included. It's like a "But don't order yet!" being thrown in your face. However, he does say that the console is coming out next year.
NIKOLE: The crowd quickly forgave Iwata for the tease thanks to a montage of 3DS games which include "Do a barrel roll" Star Fox, Tanooki Suit Mario, and Kid Icarus. The biggest applause? Luigi's Mansion. Didn't see that coming...
KEVIN: While the new system won't be out until 2012, this year there are some new things coming to the 3DS, starting with some familiar franchises. Super Mario (Tanooki Suit gets a big cheer), Starfox (another big cheer), Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, Luigi's Mansion (another cheer) are all heading to the 3DS, and they'll all be playable on the show floor.
"We hear you," said Reggie Fils-Aime, promising that 3DS will be bringing you things that matter most to gamers: headline titles with fun new gameplay. To prove his point, he showed off the new Mario Kart, which features a lot of new gameplay, including underwater racing levels this holiday season. Starfox 64 3D will be adding tilt controls, and live camera pictures that update as you play multiplayer, showing you what your fellow pilots look like. Look for that in September.
Finally, we're getting our 3D Mario created from scratch for the 3DS. It incorporates some unique 3D gameplay platforming, including side and overhead 3D views, teleport cubes, Mario's white outfit, and of course, the Tanooki. "This game has quite a tail," Fils-Aime joked.
NIKOLE: It's the first Mario game to be vreated from scratch for a handheld? What took so long? Tanook Suit confirmed. Special powers? Uhh, adorableness!
KEVIN: From there, it was straight into Kid Icarus: Uprising, which looks pretty impressive. If you're one of the fans who has been waiting for the return of this game, you should be pretty happy with what they have on tap. It features multiplayer, a wide range of weapons, and ARG card battles!
NIKOLE: Looks like a PG-rated God of War.
KEVIN: "The first brother of video games is back, and he's got his vacuum." Luigi's Mansion 2 for the 3DS finally restores the other famous Italian plumber in video games, and his ghostbusting adventures look like fun. It features several new mansions as well, not just one.
NIKOLE: I never really gave Super Mario Ghosutbusters a chance as a kid. Reggie made it a point to say this wasn't just a rehash of the old game. I guess that needed to be made clear?
KEVIN: Resident Evil Mercenariess 3D, Mario & Sonic at the London 2012 Olympics, Ace Combat 3D, Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil Revelations, Driver Renegade, Pac-Man & Galaga Dimensions, Tekken 3D, and Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D were all shown off in a trailer, a few of which got big cheers (most notably, Cave Story 3D).
Then Fils-Aime talked about the newly created Virtual Console for the 3DS, which comes with a free 3D version of 3D Classics Excitebike. Retro-awesome! Excitebike was one of my favorite NES games back in the days of yore, and if you haven't checked out the new version (available now), you need to asap. It's worth it. Also coming to the 3DS via the e-shop is Pokédex 3D, which offers more Pokemons, and the ability to take a photo with actual Pokemen. It's a free download, available right now.
NIKOLE: The Pokédex app is a good idea. But they are executing it wrong. I don't want to collect more cards. What would be cool is a way for my Pokédex from Black and White to be compataible with this new 3DS Pokédex.
KEVIN: Shifting tracks and talking about the Wii, Fils-Aime said "That name made a lot of sense, once you started hearing it as 'We.'" So now iwe're introduced to Wii U, which is the name of the new system.
Yes, seriously. No, it's not a college for Nintendo addicts. It's the name of the new console. But, it does feature a pretty sweet-looking controller that looks like an iPad married a Nintendo control pad. It offers seamless transition from playing a game on the tv, and then swapping to the screen on the controller so someone else can watch TV.
You can play solely on the new controller, like it's a completely separate system, and it works in tandem with the new console itself, offering ARG-style gameplay. It even works with Wiimotes. A player onscreen put the controller on the ground and it became a golf tee, while the Wiimote allowed them to swing the club and whack the ball. It even has video chat functions, can double as an inventory screen in Zelda, offers video and photo sharing to your television screen, and can function as a browser. So… lame name, extremely cool system. It looks like Nintendo may have won E3 2011.
The controller has a 6.2 inch screen, and the system is backwards compatible with Wii peripherals like the balance board, zapper, and so on. It features left and right circle pads, a d-pad, a touchscreen, triggers, and the traditional X, Y, B, A buttons. There's an inward-facing camera, a microphone, and a gyroscope as well. It offers high-quality HD images both on your main screen, and on handheld, and you can play it without a TV screen at all. But, it's not a standalone system, and needs to be within range of the base unit to receive images and information.
NIKOLE: I get it, it's all about me. The Wii U is not the name I was hoping for, but I didn't like Wii at first either. The trailer showed what the Wii U controller could do. The moment that sold me was when the picture of a parot could be sent from the controller to the tv with just a flick. The display is 6.2 inches big, I have small hands, and naturally, large concerns.
KEVIN: Miyamoto is extremely excited about the system, and the new gameplay innovations it offers. In a video talking about the new system, he talked about how jazzed he is about it. However, there's not a large launch slate of titles set to launch with the system. That will be many months away, and here's hoping they learned from the 3DS launch that they will need some tentpole games to sell the platform.
Hold on, maybe I spoke too soon. Smash Brothers will be coming out for Wii U and for the Nintendo 3DS, and they will "work together in some fashion" according to Iwata. There will also be "eight interactive experiences" at the convention center which are more tech demonstrations, not final gameplay examples. To that end, they showed off some HD video of a bird landing on a cherry blossom tree, and some koi swimming around in a pond. Nifty, but is that a game?
New Super Mario Brothers Mii will be coming to the new system, and in it your Mii will play alongside Mario, punching blocks and bopping Koopas. Chase Mii is another new title, offering compatibility with the new controller and Wiimotes, and the game plays different depending on which controller you're using. In another demo, two galactic fighters are trying to blast you, "It's not easy," said Fils-Aime, "But it's a lot of fun." These aren't actual games yet, just demos. So, we'll see what that ultimately means.
Lego City Stories will be published as a launch title as a new, open world game, bringing a city full of Lego vehicles to Wii U and the 3DS.
In a video of developers talking about the system, Danny Bilson from THQ called it the "Swiss Army Knife of controllers." Even Ken Levine from Irrational was excited about the system, which promises a full console experience that he can enjoy in bed, while his wife sleeps peacefully beside him, provided he uses the headphones.
Ready for this release list? Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon Online, Dirt, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metro: Last Light, Tekken, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge, and Darksiders 2 will all be coming to the new system, and let's hope that they are in full fashion, not a ported-down Nintendo version of these games. The teaser videos are Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the games. Obviously we'll have to wait until we get our hands on the retail versions of these games to see what they look like in the end.
NIKOLE: Now that's a line-up. I don't know if all of those games will be out at launch nor do I know if I'll choose the Wii U over the Xbox/Ps3 when buying a multiplatform game. Nonetheless, I'm impressed.
KEVIN: John Riccitiello from EA joined Iwata and Reggie onstage to talk about the new console, and in front of games like Madden, Battlefield 3, and FIFA 12, he talked about how excited EA is about the new system. There were no specific announcements, but he's very excited about the new console.
Reggie then took to the stage to close things out, and tell us that we'd be holding the Wii U controller in our hands this week. And in fact, right now we're about to go put our hands on the new 3DS games, and those eight Wii U experiences. There isn't a bevy of Nintendo girls marching out with those Wii U things strapped to their waists, so that's a bit of a letdown.
Is this a new Revoluton for Nintendo? We'll have to wait and see. Personally, as a gadget lover, I'm excited.
By Nikole Zivalich and Kevin Kelly.