Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day 2 of E3 09: Nintendo

Last year, Nintendo left us questioning the historic game maker as we were sorely disappointed with a lack of strong announcements. The presentation was laden with big numbers, "paradigm shifts", and unexcitable casual games that left the hardcore audience with their tail between their legs. This year, Nintendo attempted to fix all of that.
They kicked off the presentation with what seemed to be a huge announcement; a new Mario game for the Wii. This time, Mario reenters the 2D side-scrolling platforming genre with New Super Mario Bros. for Wii. Looking very much like the same game released on the DS years earlier, the Wii adaptation has enhanced graphics, boasts new items and enemies, and supports up to 4-person multiplayer. While somewhat interesting, the game seemed to lack real depth and appeared to be fun for a couple of minutes here and there. It's set to launch this holiday season.
Building upon the success of Wii Fit and the balance board, Nintendo upped the ante on competing fitness games with Wii Fit Plus. Being more of an expansion on the first Wii Fit, Plus adds new exercises, new minigames, and a choice of where players want to focus their workout. It's set to release this fall as a bundle with the balance board and as a standalone game.
Last year, Nintendo also gave a glimpse of their new addon, Wii MotionPlus. This tiny cube attaches to the bottom of the Wiimote and provides enhanced precision control. To help demonstrate this, Nintendo gave a further look into Wii Sports Resort, which was also shown briefly last year. This year, archery and basketball were displayed on stage. President of Nintendo America Reggie Fils-Aime also shared that third party developers like EA, Sega, and Ubisoft were also working with the MotionPlus technology.
Nintendo brought out some videos of upcoming RPGs from SquareEnix, including Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers for the Wii and Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. Final Fantasy wasn't much to talk about but Kingdom Hearts seems to bring the action RPG to the portable DS, instead of the card-based action seen previously in Chain of Memories for the GBA. Nintendo also displayed their own contender in the RPG genre, Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. In this branch of the Mario & Luigi saga, the dynamic duo go inside the Koopa King himself. Currently out for the Japan, Bowser's Inside Story will hit North American shores this fall. Nintendo then announced that they were reviving another RPG name in their arsenal, one that hasn't been heard from in years. While most people, like myself, were expecting this to be a new Earthbound game or at least a Mother 3 port, the game they were talking about was Golden Sun DS. Although somewhat of a disappointment, I did enjoy the Golden Sun games for GBA and am excited to see what the game brings to the DS.
From here, the show started to go downhill. Nintendo tried to show off their diversity in games pandering to different target markets; Women's Murder Club, C.O.P: The Recuit, and Style Savvy. They talked about some upcoming downloadable programs for the new DSi. Some interesting things shown include FlipNote Studio (a mini-animation program available this summer) and WarioWare DIY (create your own minigames in true WarioWare fashion). This summer, DSi owners will also be able to upload their edited photos taken with the DSi to their Facebook profiles. Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was also mentioned, but no new information was distributed.
CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata came out to talk about Nintendo's goal in further expanding their gamer population. And just as I predicted, he had another new peripheral to show off. This time, he brought out the Wii Vitality Sensor. What this essentially does is measure the pulse from your finger and it can tell how nervous you are, your focus level, etc. Iwata's goal with this device is to help gamers achieve greater relaxation, but he failed to show the device in action or any games that would utilize such a device.
Nintendo had another trick up their sleeves this year. They unveiled yet another new Mario game; Super Mario Galaxy 2. The game builds upon the first game, but adds new levels and everyone's favorite little green dinosaur, Yoshi.
Reggie attempted to get the audience pumped about the future third-party games in development for the Wii by showing off Sega's sci-fi shooter The Conduit, Capcom's Resident Evil: Dark Side Chronicles, and EA's Dead Space: Extraction. Yet no one seemed too intrigued since these games have already been revealed earlier.
To wrap it all up, Nintendo came out with a big announcement. Teaming up with Team Ninja (Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive), Nintendo announced Metroid: Other M. The new Metroid game returns to the 3rd person, something we haven't seen on consoles since the SNES. It's set for a 2010 release. Great ending that I'm sure not many in the audience were expecting.
Overall, Nintendo's press conference this year gets a C+. Though they did have some exciting new announcements (Metroid: Other M, new Mario games, and Golden Sun DS), the lackluster games overwhelmed the extraordinary. I will commend Nintendo on at least attempting to satisfy hardcore gamers while still concentrating on the casual gamer market, but the process of achieving a perfect balance between the two has yet to be perfected.


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