A Wii Love Goes A Long Way

I get odd looks whenever I tell people that I enjoy playing with my Wii. No, not because of over-played innuendo, but because Nintendo has had a bit of problem convincing even the Miyamoto-faithful that there’s more to the system outside of Wii Sports. It’s a shame, since I can personally attest there’s some quality gaming to be found: the hilarious gaming-satire No More Heroes, long-awaited N64 sequel Sin and Punishment 2, the heavenly Mario Galaxies and the inspired Bit.Trip series, to name a few. Sadly, if gamers haven’t already written off a title solely because it’s on Nintendo’s white box, they do when they find out it’s not available in their region or it can only be acquired through WiiWare. While I would never make the argument that the Wii can match the sheer volume of core titles the Xbox 360 and PS3 churn out weekly, if you look beyond the shovel-ware stocked at Asda, you might just find something special.

Accurate 1:1 sword controls? And a whip as a usable item!

Which is why I’m so pleased that Nintendo had a strong performance at this E3. At a show less about family smiles and more about games, classic franchises were reborn en massé, most with new developers at the helm. Sure, we got a couple of minutes of casual titles like Wii Party, but there wasn’t a Wii Vitality Sensor in sight. Instead, the majority of the conference acted as a love-letter to the core, offering (arguably) more new games and surprises than either Sony or Microsoft’s show.

Kicking things off with appropriate flair, a new Zelda title, Skyward Sword, was announced and demoed by Shigeru Miyamoto himself. Despite being a technical disaster on-stage (we were assured it was Wi-Fi interference), it is reported to control fluidly and take full advantage of Wii Motion Plus for 1:1 sword controls. I’m a sucker for the series as it is, so hearing that the game merges the art of Twilight Princess and Wind Waker is all the sweeter. We also got a trailer for Team Ninja’s Metroid: Other M, now finally approaching its release window, and it looks to be an effective hybrid between classic 2D Metroid gameplay and the first-person concepts of the Prime series, with an emphasis on story-telling that may help it stand out from its forebears.

Are you a bad enough ape to rescue the banana horde?

With Rare no longer in the picture, Retro Studios, having already done exemplary work with the Metroid franchise, is bringing DK back in style with Donkey Kong Country Returns. While some might accuse this of being a simple retread of past ideas, the trailer is undeniably impressive; new mechanics, including barrel-blasting between foreground and background areas, feature prominently. More surprising is Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a game which not only pushes the very limit of acceptable cuteness, but also sports probably the most unique 2D-artstyle I’ve seen since Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. While it remains to be seen if the gameplay can follow suit (early criticism cites its easy difficulty), there is a lot of potential in the platform-morphing gameplay. Nintendo rounded off things for established platforms by showing off Epic Mickey (interesting), confirming the Goldeneye remake (risky) and announcing a new Golden Sun title (whoo).

Of course, a new commitment to Wii gaming was secondary to the real news of the the conference: the official reveal of the 3DS, successor to phenomenally popular Nintendo DS. I’m a big proponent of handheld gaming, with a DSi XL, a PSP Slim and an iPhone to my name, but even I was unsure about Nintendo’s direction with the 3DS. I needn’t have worried. Okay, so I may have shouted “SOLD!” the moment I heard there were StarFox 64 and Ocarina of Time remakes on the way (I, er, have some fondness for the latter), but the extremely strong early third party support for the console itself is promising. A Metal Gear title? Check. Resident Evil? Check. Final Fantasy? Of course. A new Persona title from Atlus? Heck yeah!

I'm stiiiill in a dream, Snake Eater~

While software is ultimately what defines a system, without the hardware to back it up, the 3DS could flop harder than the Virtual Boy. Thankfully, my initial skepticism of the technology seems unfounded: show-floor reports claim the 3D effect on the new widescreen display is very real, adjustable and glasses-free. Nintendo has even teamed up with movie-distributors like Disney and Dreamworks to get in early on providing 3D movies. And with GameCube-level graphics, a real analog-stick and the bottom touch-screen still in play, this all-in-one system could potentially dominate when it hits Europe and the United States early next year.

Historically, Nintendo has strived when it’s backed into a corner. The DS and the Wii are still selling by the truckload, so what has prompted this gesture to the hardcore? Perhaps they feel threatened by Microsoft and Sony aiming to steal a chunk of the market they ironically helped create. Regardless, one thing is for sure – if Nintendo can keep up this momentum, it will go a long way to repairing the damaged relations of recent years. Now if we could only get 720p output and a unified online service, we’d be all set!

Well, great. Now I have to buy this. Thanks a lot, Nintendo!







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