The expo, however, has dwindled in impact in recent years. Thanks to a cut in budgets and the rising advent of casual games, shows and booths are now split in showcasing two types of games: those for gamers and those for non gamers. Nintendo themselves have been heavily criticized, particularly in their show in 2008, in which they focused on a non-gamer perspective and only gave us gamers an underwhelming Animal Crossing.
I guess the high brass at E3 realized their mistake and E3 is pretty much back to normal again, and I gotta say this year's presentation brought back some deja vu and familiar spasms of excitement.
So, how did Nintendo end up faring? I guess I'll split my opinions into three sections: What I Loved, Not Sure About, and What I Didn't Like.
What I Loved
The 3DS: The DS, Nintendo's handheld console, has recently achieved the title of the most successful portable platform ever made. It's a bit of an oddity, with it's dual-screen layout and the use of a touch screen/stylus, but that doesn't matter when you have one of the richest libraries in all of gaming. The DS has by far the greatest selection of games that this generation of games has to offer, ranging from Nintendo hits such as Mario Kart and Pokemon to popular third party titles Castlevania and Final Fantasy, and even obscure gems such as Retro Game Challenge.
Nintendo's experimented with new iterations of the DS over the past six years, such as the lite and DSi, but none have nearly been as ambitious as what they're doing with the 3DS. You ever been to a IMAX theater? You know those 3D glasses you gotta wear to get the full effect? Those are a thing of the past, because with this device, you don't need 'em!
Unfortunately, there's no way to present this in a video, but that mishap was compensated in what was likely the greatest trailer I have ever watched, for anything.
Let me tell you, I was dying of laughter when I watched this on the live stream. There's really no way I can justify an explanation of how funny it is to watch Shigeru Miyamoto being eaten alive by a handheld gaming system.
There are a ton of games announced for this beauty, but there was only one that received a full trailer, and it was none other then the aforementioned, mysterious "Project Sora", which is headed by Kirby/Super Smash Bros. creator Masahiro Sakurai. What could it possibly be?
A SEQUEL TO FREAKING KID ICARUS, THAT'S WHAT.
"Bark like a dog!" Please let these lines be in the final game. They are a thing of beauty we have not seen since Star Fox 64.
Kid Icarus was one of the lucky few that were showcased, but there were many titles announced for Nintendo's latest brainchild. Let's go over some of the more interesting ones.
Mario Kart: I played the living hell out of Mario Kart DS, which is by far the best game in the Mario Kart series, and it's a game I'm hoping to go over on here soon. And with this announcement, can you blame me? I'm curious to see how the 3D effects in this title will work, considering how in driving games you're always in the rear view. In any case, let's hope this replicates the success of it's predecessors!
Animal Crossing: Everyone's favorite slice-of-life series returns! The previous handheld Animal Crossing, Wild World, split the fanbase in two as to whether or not it was a worthy sequel to the original Gamecube title. Personally, I didn't see what the big deal was. You couldn't play NES games anymore? So what? I have great memories of late night chats just hanging out at friends' towns over Wi-Fi, not to mention the game itself had a bunch of costumes to fool around with and a little more personality to the animal residents.
Most everyone agrees, though, that City Folk for the Wii was a definite misstep, since it was really just the DS game with a city slapped onto it and the ability to ruin grass. The new 3DS title is taking advantage of Wild World's "Scrolling World" aesthetic, but it's too early to tell whether this will be yet another replica. There is one obvious change, however...
Holy bajeesus! They increased the size of your human character. That's just...spooky. We've always been cast in the role of what was essentially children, so I suppose it's nice that the series is growing up a little.
Paper Mario: FRICK YES! I love the Paper Mario games, and this one is returning to the turn-based format most players seem to prefer after the Super Paper Mario departure. I've noticed how the graphics are just about on par with the Gamecube title, The Thousand Year Door, and that's just impressive. If the previous cardboard/paper effects we've seen in the series are any indication, I think we'll have ourselves a real eye-popper in terms of 3D.
A sign of things to come....OUTTA THE STORYBOOK
Star Fox 64 3Ds: YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
A REMAKE. OF STAR FOX 64. EEEEEEEEYEEEEESSSSSSSS
Nintendo, I only have three requests.
1. Make the Wi-Fi multiplayer experience more varied then what we had in Command. It doesn't have to be Assault quality, but the multiplayer found in the original title needs much improvement.
2. No Krystal.
3. FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY ON THIS SWEET MOTHER EARTH, PLEASE BRING BACK THE ORIGINAL VOICE ACTORS! If you can make the guy who did Fox perform a recent goofy radio commercial, SURELY you can do this! THE INTERNET IS ON ITS KNEES BEGGING YOU HERE!
DO A BARREL ROOLLLLLLLLL
Hey, Mimi, if you're reading this, fun fact: This is a remake of the game you got for me at Christmas Eve back in '98. How time flies!
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3DS: Hey, everyone. It's the Ocarina of Time remake you've always wanted! And it looks pretty awesome. Along with Star Fox, I'm wondering what new features they're going to add this time around. Let's just hope it's a step ahead of Super Mario 64 DS (Just didn't capture that same feeling!).
The third party lineup is incredibly strong as well. A Boy and His Blob? Sweet! Super Monkey Ball? Lose the Banana Blitz art style and we'll talk! A PORT OF METAL GEAR SOLID 3: SNAKE EATER? YEYEYEYEYEAAHHHHH
So, once again, Nintendo knocks it out of the park with handheld gaming (although I'd like to know the release date/price). But what about a KO on the console side? There's one game in particular that I think guarantees to be a quality title. To me, at least.
SAY HELLO TO DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS! Man, I do NOT know what is up with the revival of 2D gaming on the Wii, but damn is this trend the greatest gift ever, or what?
Donkey Kong Country was a highly acclaimed trilogy of games that are considered by many dedicated fans to be among the absolute summit of quality on the Super Nintendo console. This is asserted by those who remember at what were mind-blowing graphics for the 16-bit system, and what is supported by an absolutely fantastic soundtrack. Personally, I really do wish I got to spend more time with the titles, as I only had the first one (It was all about Donkey Kong 64 for me, folks!). Now, I feel like going back and diggin' em out.
That's a story for another time, though.
Anyway, Donkey Kong's been in a bit of a pickle after his Nintendo 64 outing. For some strange reason, Nintendo kicked our favorite gorilla out of the spotlight and since then has been relegated to a second-class, perhaps even third-class franchise. Oh, sure, every now and then, he'd bang some bongos in or star in obscure gems such as Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. But as Mario, Link, Samus and the rest engaged in sweeping epics and ravished much attention, the primate and his family slowly became forgotten, only grabbing reserved spots in various Mario sports titles.
I may not have gotten to experience Donkey Kong Country like many older fans did, but I can tell you that the sheer excitement everyone is sharing over this complete bombshell is by far the most genuine I have seen out of all the games at this conference. Gamers have been begging for a return to the Country for about a decade, now. And now this long-awaited wish has finally come true. Tears of joy are being shed over this. I mean, I can't help thrusting my arms out as Donkey Kong is bouncing from baddie to baddie while swinging on vines and riding on mine carts. Considering that this is being handled by the guys behind the Metroid Prime trilogy, Retro Studios, I don't think we have anything to worry about.
Welcome back, Donkey Kong. We've had fun playing with you in Mario Kart and Smash Bros, but it just wasn't quite the same. Same thing goes to you, Diddy. I don't know why everyone is claiming they've always hated you, but man have I always wanted your shirt.
What I'm Not Sure About
Kirby's Epic Yarn: I can't believe I'm putting this here.
I mean, a Kirby game. For the first time in a long while, I'm unsure about a Kirby game. That's really surreal. I mean...
Geez, you know, I love Kirby. I really, really do. Should I be excited just on the fact that it's the first time he's had an adventure on a home console (the handhelds seem to be his expertise) in ten years? HELL YES. And yet, I'm not excited, and everyone else is raving on how much they love the game's art style and I don't and it's just..just..erghhh...
Let's take a look at the trailer.
It's not that I'm staking my pride as a man. No, seriously, screw that. If I cared about what people thought about what I played, I would've stopped playing Nintendo games a long time ago.
Maybe I'm not obsessed with Kirby games as much as I used to be, but I'm always up for a new adventure with the pink puffball, and I always end up having a great, even nostalgic time. I mean, Epic Yarn gets one thing right: Like every other game in the series, it is absolutely adorable.
It's not that I mind a new spin (no pun intended) on a Kirby game. I mean, hey, you gotta shake up a game's formula at one point or another. And that's exactly what they did in 2005's Kirby: Canvas Curse. So what's the big deal? Why did everyone else fall in love with this from the start, and I didn't? I've been thinking about this all week, and I think I finally realized it today.
I'm too stubborn about changing the look. This requires a bit of explanation, one that I'm going to be incredibly in-depth about in later posts. I've always felt that Nintendo games have this unique, mystical beauty to them that I've never been able to find anywhere else, and Kirby is right up there with the Pikmin series as my absolute favorite in regard to this. Just take a look at the backgrounds for the Super Nintendo/Game Boy Advance games in the series and you are already looking at a piece of art. Kirby games literally take place in a magical wonderland, and the way this is visualized has always taken my breath away. Oh, the fun I'll have talking about this! It is absolutely, hand down, my favorite part of the series and I've always treasured it.
But..here, it's not present. Is the yarn theme gorgeous in it's own right? Yes, and normally I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. But it's not Kirby gorgeous, and while admittedly it's probably the best series suited to this style (or, hey, how about a new IP?), I just can't help but be skeptical if it can pull off that warm, fuzzy feeling I've always channeled from this series. Again, Canvas Curse not only shook up the gameplay, but also featured this strange Picasso look to the level designs/background, and it worked very well in an abnormally beautiful way. I've also read that in this new title, Kirby can't lose lives (in other words, he can't die) and the theme of the game is to collect beads. Yeah...I don't know. I've never cared much about challenge, but even I have limits on this kind of thing.
This is all eerily familiar to me, and my thoughts are traveling back to seven years ago. Back in 2003, a Kirby spinoff title named Kirby Air Ride was to hit the Gamecube in the fall. I don't exactly remember my thoughts on the previews featured, but all of the impressions were not very positive about the game, and it eventually lead to surprisingly low marks among many critics, such as IGN and Gamespot, who claimed the game was too simple and was not a satisfying racer.
And you know something? I bought that game anyway and I loved it. It had its (minor) flaws, but I played it very heavily over the next few years and my friends and I still bring out it out every once and a while and fool around in the city mode. I remember soon after, I swore that in terms of Kirby games, I would not listen to the scores reviewers would give it and I would buy it regardless of people's opinions.
Will that be true here? Yes, it will be. Besides, the game looks great enough on it's own gameplay merits. And hey, I can't help but get excited for co-op two player! Am I the only one getting some Kirby Super Star vibes? That's always a good thing.
It is growing on me (the music really calms me down), I just need time.
We'll just have to wait and find out what my childhood hero has to offer. I'm putting my faith in you, Kirby. Reach for the sky with this one, and we'll go out for the strawberry shortcake you love so much.
What I Didn't Like
I guess I have room for three things.
I'll be brief with my first complaint. Nintendo, I love you. Really. You're the source of happiness and joy in my life. I guess I can forgive you for pretending the Earthbound franchise doesn't exist in North America (OR NOT), and every now and then you do something that leaves even the most dedicated of fans scratching their heads (HEY GUYS AFTER RUBY COMES OUT LET'S MAKE BORING POKEMON SPINOFFS FOR OVER THREE YEARS), but most of the time they're just minor problems.
Most of the time.
I'm going to be blunt. If you ever, and I mean EVER showcase a trailer of an entry in the Just Dance series (NO ITALICS FOR YOU) and FREAKING ASSAULT THE EARS OF EVERYONE WATCHING YOUR CONFERENCE AND BE PROUD OF IT then I swear to god I am going to find the hideout of the infidels involved with this demon filth and exact my fiery indignation upon those monsters. YEAH. THAT'S RIGHT. MONSTERS. SCREW THIS SHOVELWARE.
We're still cool, Nintendo. But there's a game you yourself are publishing that I am completely unexcited for. In fact, I really have no idea at all why people are going gaga over this.
And that, my friends, is the new Legend of Zelda, known as Skyward Sword.
Now, let me make this clear: I like, no, I love Zelda games a lot. The Wind Waker is one of my all-time favorite games, and I have great memories of entries such as Majora's Mask, Link's Awakening and The Minish Cap. However, I can't help but feel that the series has been entering a decline in the past few years. Twilight Princess, while being an astounding game in it's own right, did not retain the charm the series had established for itself over the years and kind of missed the point. Phantom Hourglass was the same deal (only it was a half-decent game), and I have not yet played Spirit Tracks.
It's not really so much that I'm yearning for "the ol' days" (although that would be really nice) as much as is that I just wish Nintendo would pick up what the series has been missing for the past few years. With Skyword Sword, I can't honestly say they've picked it back up at this point, because it's just....
Watch both of the trailers, I'll explain.
Am I the only one completely underwhelmed? Thankfully, I'm not, as several of my friends agree that there's really nothing to get hyped up about.
This was, unfortunately, hurt by the game's presentation onstage. The game makes use of the Motion Plus, an accessory that enhances the accuracy of the Wii Remote. For example, if you're making the motions for swinging a sword, the game will copy your exact move. Awesome, right? It didn't go so well for the introduction, as wireless interference screwed with the demonstration and almost made the whole thing a joke. Thankfully, it's been reported by countless journalists/recorded videos that it works perfectly on the demos, but you know? That's not what I'm worried about.
I'm concerned about how utterly, thoroughly bland the game's aesthetic presentation is. Once again, it's a style most people dig, but this time I have absolutely no clue why. From earlier hints given by Nintendo, the game was going to retain the realistic Twilight Princess motif, but with more of a "painted" look. Really, I think the game looks like the abnormal lovechild of TP and The Wind Waker's cel-shaded atmosphere, and not only is it a style that doesn't clash very well, it is nearly devoid of any charm or personality whatsoever.
Seriously, it's just boring.
I'll get to more of this in a bit, but this also was not helped by the incredibly boring trailers. Not only did they (mostly) focus on the same area over and over again, it seems the only purpose to these demonstrations was to show off the Motion Plus capabilities and the shiny new weapons, and while that may be satisfying to most people, that's not really what I'm looking for. For example, Miyamoto and I believe Eiji Aonuma, a man heavily involved with the Zelda series, had stated numerous times of their intention to revamp the Zelda formula (Zelda games normally follow a pattern of town-field-dungeon-town-field-dungeon), and yet we see none of that here! It's just things we've, for the most part, witnessed for the entirety of all the 3D Zeldas. I certainly hope the more accurate control isn't the "revolution" we've heard about.
Speaking of "the same area", I'd like to elaborate on the art style I mentioned earlier. For those not in the know, Zelda games generally make the use of fantasy environments, such as fairy gardens, medieval/ye olde villages, sacred temples, and even underwater caverns. Usually, these are presented in that whimsical, Nintendo style that's always given Zelda it's own charm, so it's not nearly always as serious as, say, Lord of the Rings. I really don't see that here. In fact, this is something that's taken right out of Alice in Wonderland, which can work in a Mario setting but definitely not here. Giant mushrooms in a Zelda game? Uhhh...right. It's not like we haven't seen "out there" elements in the series (Jabu-Jabu, anyone?), but I feel that, from what we've seen, it's a really misplaced setup for Zelda.
This is what we're missing.
Look, I get the flaws in my argument. I realize how terrible and ugly The Wind Waker's first teaser was too. I know that the Twilight Princess trailer had some of the elements I mentioned earlier. I know this is a game still in development, which explains the horrible texture jobs. But, you know, at least The Wind Waker was trying something new at the time, and while I understand Twilight Princess had the element of surprise and appealed to everyone who wanted a realistic look, at least its trailer was 100x more exciting then what we have here.
The thing is, I'm going to buy the game anyway. And I'm going to enjoy it to at least some extent, but at the moment I'm just reaaaalllllyyyyyy skeptical. Call me when we have a better understanding of the game's landscape*/structure.
*Yes, I do know there's a connection between land and sky that was announced at the roundtable, but, uh, you know....that would be great trailer material.
Finally, once again, my long-awaited Pikmin 3 is absent. Now, I'm actually a very patient person, but I can't help being somewhat irritated that we haven't seen anything two years after it was subtly announced. It's nice to know that it's on Wii, but isn't it about time we've seen it by now? I want to see the purple fatties.
So that about wraps it up.
Oh, wait, I forgot to comment on the interesting Microsoft/Sony conferences! I guess it must've been because they completely sucked ass. And I'm saying this with no bias whatsoever. Attempting to copy the Wii's motion controls is one thing, and while it is some really cool technology they're showing off, the problem is that what they showed is nothing new. Oh boy, time to go bowling! Oh wait, Wii Sports. All right, time to chill with some pets. Hey, wasn't there a game called Nintendogs? Okay, let's talk about a Tiger Woods Golf game no one cares about for a half hour!
Seriously? I was honestly looking forward to what they'd have up their sleeves, but I, and in fact most others, are left very disappointed.
It's pretty obvious that Nintendo's won this E3. Most people absolutely loved nearly everything they had on there, but as you can see I'm more mixed on it then they are. Really, I didn't like the first half that much, but I think it started to turn around with Epic Mickey (Two games with the word epic in the title? What times we live in!) and of course Donkey Kong Country Returns. It's obviously the best conference they've had in years.
Good job, guys.