Tuesday, July 15, 2008

E3 2008 Impressions: Nintendo

With Microsoft's press conference being done and dusted we were left with whatever Nintendo or Sony had up their sleeves at this coming E3. I never even watched Sony or Microsoft's presentations last year, I mostly only just caught up on the big announcements with my handy RSS reader. All I could really remember from Nintendo's conference last year was the immense feeling of disappointment after seeing their real big guns just amounted to the announcement of the Wii Wheel and Wii Zapper peripherals both of which amounted to really cheap hunk's of plastic that simply just hold the Wii remote in place, apart from maybe a couple of hours of experimenting with both respectably I preferred the typical nunchuk and Wii remote combo, or in the case of the Wii Wheel using the Classic Controller for Mario Kart. While they did show Wii Fit (which I have no interest in buying) which turned out to be quite a huge seller and announce dates for Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl (the latter of which was delayed by a good three and a half months) I really didn't have that much to look forward to. This year, I've felt a lot of the same things with the notable exception being that I still have no idea what Nintendo's big blockbuster game of this holiday season will be.

Nintendo's Press Conference:
The Good:
  • Animal Crossing: City Folk looks like everything I was really hoping for, this wasn't a flooring announcement or anything but if its half as addictive as its Gamecube and Nintendo DS counterparts this looks like it will be quite fun, the City gives off kind of a Harvest Moon vibe to me but it fixes a lot of what was wrong with the random events in the prior installments. I'm also really glad to see that they finally put their foot down and made online play a big deal for this one, hopefully by then we would have something better than the friend code system for this.
  • The surprise announcement of the Wii Speak accessory for Animal Crossing was sort of a mixed blessing for me. I liked the idea of a Microphone that can pick up every voice in the room but why didn't they release this for Super Smash Bros. Brawl? that game is far more suited for voice chat than Animal Crossing, and will this wind up like the voice chat in Pokemon Pearl and Metroid Prime Hunters where you could only chat to registered friend code friends. If that's the case, then it would be barely worth it.
  • Of the three third-party titles that Nintendo highlighted, the clear winner was Call of Duty: World at War. From the brief clip it probably had some of the best third party graphics on the Wii and its one of the few times I was proven right when a developer stated that "they developed the Wii version from the ground up and that its not a PS2-port" where I'd actually believe them.
  • The WiiMotionPlus accessory looks like everything the Wii remote concept was promised to be at Tokyo Game Show back in 2005. I was impressed by the amount of precision the device had and I'm excited to see how some third parties will approach the accessory. I really wish this kind of thing was a mandatory update on all future Wii remotes and an add-on for all existing ones. No developer would want to touch it if its sold separately.
  • Luckily the WiiMotionPlus will be bundled with Wii Sports Resort much like how a Wii remote was bundled with the mediocre Wii Play. This one shows a lot of promise, especially with the new 1:1 sword fighting minigame that Wii owners were practically begging for since they first saw the controller. I wasn't impressed with how much the frisbee minigame relied on the sensor bar during the live demo but I'm sure these issues can all be addressed by its Spring '09 release date.
  • The drum kit in Wii Music looked really intuitive, especially using the Wii Balance Board as a kickpad.
  • There was a new trailer for MadWorld which showed off more of the gameplay though nothing much was really revealed from it.
  • The Japanese GBA cult title Rhythm Tengoku is coming to the United States in form of the Nintendo DS game Rhythm Heaven. The title looked like a combination of the quirky random microgames from WarioWare with all the fun of those oh so popular rhythm games. Elite Beat Agents proved that the Nintendo DS is an excellent system for games that would allow you to tap on the screen, this will probably be pretty awesome.
  • They announced that there would be a new Grand Theft Auto game on the Nintendo DS, but it could easily just turn out to be another Grand Theft Auto Advance and play like the archaic top-down Grand Theft Auto games. If it plays like a GTA III era title, then I'm pretty interested.

The Bad:
  • Why did they devote 10 minutes of precious E3 time to the terrible looking Shaun White snowboarding game from Ubisoft? its bad enough seeing those poor graphics blown up on a large screen but was it really necessary to hear a boring 5 minute story about someone breaking their wrist snowboarding to lead into this? I'd stick to my SSX Blur for the Wii...I could at least stay on my board for that one (the people demoing this either really sucked or the game was poorly made, I'm leaning more towards the poorly made part).
  • Wii Speak will be sold separately from Animal Crossing for $29.99. With such little support I don't think anyone would want this thing, it kind of reminds me of the Broadband adaptor on the Gamecube which ultimately was really only used for a couple of Phantasy Star games and LAN features for Mario Kart and Kirby Air Ride. The broadband port was so useless that it would later be the basis for the Gameboy Player attachment for the Gamecube.
  • There's nothing there to convince me that the new Star Wars: Clone Wars game is really anything more than uninspired shovelware. The gameplay didn't look that much different than the already disappointing looking Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and does anyone even care about the Rayman Raving Rabbids franchise anymore? I think by now most hardcore Wii owners are far tired of minigame collections, just give us a real Rayman game already.
  • Wii Music was one of those things where I was initially very excited after seeing the drum kit and all but my enthusiasm was pretty much gone as soon as Shigeru Miyamoto came on stage and explained that it's impossible to lose in Wii Music and it pretty much amounts to miming playing an instrument with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk while the game does 90% of the work for you. I can't really see this having any lasting value and I broke out laughing seeing four people waggling their Wii remotes on stage with a forced smile on their face. I'm really not feeling this one.

While far from a mess, Nintendo's press conference totally ignored the demands of the "hardcore" Wii audience (and by that I mean, people who play the Wii for more than a couple of weekends) and was focused mostly on corporate bragging and gimmicks. While Animal Crossing was a satisfying announcement, the title is FAR from a traditional game and I would have much rather had at least a teaser for a real Zelda title or something. I'm a huge Nintendo fanboy and this conference just left me with lukewarm feelings.
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