Video Game News, Commentary, and Fist Fights
E3 comes around only once a year, so it should come as no surprise that this expo is met with much expectation, worry, and excitement. Every year with the weeks leading up to the great event, we gamers while away the hours with dreams of what will await us on the day of our favorite company’s conference. What big franchises will be there? Will I get my Zelda, Halo, or God of War? Is there going to be a new franchise? Is there going to be a big surprise? We sit and dream and let our imagination take us to bright future where the games are bigger and better. Needless to say, there is a lot of pressure riding on each company going into E3. Certainly they cannot please every gamer. There are those that will praise any decision a company makes, those that will revile a company for any decision they make, and all those in between. Now that E3 2012 is over and done with, we find ourselves reminiscing on the events of the past week and how they measure up to our lofty expectations.
As with every year E3 comes around, I found myself most excited for Nintendo’s conference and what would hold for the full unveiling of their new console, Wii U. While I certainly paid attention to both Sony and Microsoft’s announcements as well, I feel that Nintendo had the most to lose this year and thus needs the most explanation. If you had been listening to our podcast in the weeks leading up to E3, you know well that we had high hopes for what Nintendo would unveil during their conference. Nintendo had said that they would be bringing the focus back to the hardcore crowd after almost 6 years of courting the elusive casual gamer. Given this information, I expected more out of Nintendo’s E3 showing than what was actually shown there.
First off, let’s talk about Nintendo first party since this is the big reason any hardcore gamer buys a Nintendo console. First party games shown at E3 include: Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros U, Nintendoland, and Game and Wario. The first two we knew beforehand would be at the show, and the latter two we found out about at the show. Pikmin 3 has been in development for several years now, so there were big expectations for this game going in. After seeing footage of the game it, well, looks like Pikmin. It seems to play the same as before albeit with slight alterations to control given the two different control methods (Wii U Gamepad or Wii remote and nunchuk). Having played the first game I can say that I am very much looking forward to this game and seeing what else it has to offer. Further, even though it looks and plays (from what I have observed) almost the same as before, since it has been so long since the second game released, the game should still feel fresh especially with the added dynamics of multiple astronauts to control.
Pikmin 3 – They risk their lives and for what?! Cherries?
New Super Mario Bros U was the other game we knew about going into the show. If you have been listening to the podcast you know that this was a game that I had mixed feelings about. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the Mario series and have enjoyed playing New Super Mario Bros Wii. That being said, I think that the New Super series is not nearly as compelling as past side-scrolling Mario games. Now what exactly do I mean by that? Let me use Super Mario World as an example. In Super Mario World, there is a similar looking map screen to that of the New Super series. The map flows in an intelligent and sensible manner and has branches in the path. Underneath the surface, however, there is much more depth. There are secret paths that lead off the beaten trail. Beyond that, even, there are secrets within secrets. Here is an example; you go into a level and find a key, you find a hidden area with a locked door and use the key to unlock the door. This opens up a branch in the path on the world map to a secret level. You enter the hidden level and find that you need to find another secret to continue the hidden path on the map screen which leads to a star shaped warp pad. The warp pad leads you to Star Road which, upon finding another secret, leads you to the Special World. Do you see the many layers involved here? Not only is this game accessible to casual gamers but to the hardcore crowd as well. You could traverse the whole world map without deviating from the beaten trail and be none the wiser. This is the sort of experience I expect from the Mario series and what I hope to find from New Super Mario Bros U. I am hopeful for this game after seeing the baby Yoshi’s that look very similar to those Yoshi’s found in Mario World. Despite some reservations, I know that this game will be fun no matter what. It is a Mario game of course, and Mario games are famous for their perfect control and addicting gameplay. This is just not the game that I necessarily want it to be.
New Super Mario Bros. U – Baby Yoshi’s!
Now let me briefly touch upon the two games announced at E3. Nintendoland was Nintendo’s “big reveal” at their conference. It is, for all intents and purposes, what Wii Sports was on the Wii. It is essentially a “proof of concept” game. Nintendoland showcases the asymmetric gameplay Nintendo has been talking about, which lets five people play at once (one on the Wii U Gamepad and others on Wii remotes or Wii U Gamepad Pro) with one player working against or alongside the other four. Nintendoland is a virtual theme park for 12 of Nintendo’s iconic franchises, each of which has their own minigame to showcase how the Wii U Gamepad can be used and how asymmetric gameplay works. It looks like it will be a very fun party game much like Wii Sports was, but much like Wii Sports I probably won’t be playing it after the initial few months or so. Unless it is included software with the console, I most likely won’t be spending money to buy it separately. Game and Wario is the last of the Nintendo published software and, in my opinion, the least notable of the bunch. Essentially it is Warioware, but without the microgame mentality. I was never a big fan of the Warioware series, but the lightning fast microgames sort of made Warioware what it was. Getting rid of what made it unique seems a bit detrimental. Regardless, I won’t be getting this game.
Nintendoland – Now they just need to make a real-life theme park
Game and Wario
Now, Nintendo has never been a huge third party magnet. Most of the successes of Nintendo platforms come from first party efforts; this should come as no surprise. However, it seems that the third parties have really stepped up to the plate for the Wii U. Most notably among them is Ubisoft. Ubisoft had quite the strong showing at this year’s E3 across all platforms. Nintendo’s Wii U was no different. With such titles as Zombie U, Rayman Legends, and Assassin’s Creed 3, the Wii U’s launch is actually looking quite promising. There are several other titles that Ubisoft announced for Nintendo’s new platform, but these are the three that will most likely capture the interest of the core gamer like me. Zombie U is a survival horror game built from the ground up on Wii U. Unlike modern zombie games, Zombie U is all about how long you can survive. If you are bitten once, you’re character is dead and can no longer be used. Rather than respawning, you take control of a new survivor and can find your previous character’s reanimated corpse shuffling around trying to kill you. In order to retain your loot, you must find your zombified body and take it back. The Wii U Gamepad takes a central role in what makes this game so unique. When you are looting bodies, picking locks, scanning for items, etc., gameplay is not stopped. This will make performing such actions extremely nerve racking. Much like you would in real life, you will constantly be looking from the Gamepad to the big screen, to make sure there is no undead creeping up on you. Whereas most zombie games nowadays are more action oriented, it will be interesting to have a zombie game where I actually am terrified of what may lurk around every corner.
ZombiU – Because there aren’t enough zombie games nowadays…
Rayman Legends on the other hand is a much more light-hearted game. Playing similarly to Rayman Origins, Legends is a new platformer that was highlighted (not necessarily exclusive) for the Wii U. What sets this game apart from its predecessor is the asymmetric gameplay element. There will be 1-4 players platforming much like in Origins, while the player with the Gamepad will play as a flying creature that can manipulate the environment. They will cut ropes to lower platforms, move objects out of the way, create new paths, pick up enemies, and the list goes on. The Wii U Gamepad is what will make this gameplay so compelling though. Certainly this could be possible on just the TV screen and a Wii remote, but with the Gamepad that player will see different aspects of the environment than the others do. This opens up many gameplay opportunities, including the ability to punish your unwitting “allies”.
Rayman Legends – Pure kooky, fun, platforming goodness
Last of the Ubisoft titles I would like to highlight is Assassin’s Creed 3. To put it simply, this game looks awesome. Everything from climbing to killing looks so much smoother than in previous games. It will be great to see a different sort of environment than a grandiose city filled with wall handholds. While we don’t know much about the specific Wii U elements of the game, we do know that the touch screen will be used for mini-map and item selection. This alone would make it worth the purchase for me. Item wheels are all well and good when there is no other option, but having a clean HUD and all your weapons at your fingertips will make this experience all the more enticing.
Assassin’s Creed 3 – Just kill em with your awesome
So where does this leave Nintendo’s presence at E3 2012 as a whole? This is something I have mulled over for a few days and if you were to ask me right after viewing their conference, I would have told you that it was overall lackluster. The hype surrounding Nintendo and Retro Studios revealing big name titles coupled with the Majora’s Mask remake fakeout, made the actual conference leave something to be desired. However, given the third party presence (including games like Mass Effect 3, Arkham Asylum, and others that have previously been released on other consoles) I would say that Nintendo is looking at a better than average launch. I don’t think that they will be repeating the mistake they made with the launch of the 3DS. While they certainly have most of the launch software coming from third party companies, Nintendo has a Mario game and Pikmin 3 at launch. Even though I remain wary about the New Super series as a whole, I know that the gameplay will be a solid and thoroughly enjoying experience. There seems to be a game for every type of gamer that will be around for the Wii U launch window. Overall I am content with the Wii U’s lineup, despite my anxiousness at what exactly Retro Studios is working on. E3 rarely lives up to the enormous hype that we gamers surround it with. After the dust settles and we all calm down, at least we can breathe a sigh of relief that there was no Ravi Drums.
What did you think of Nintendo’s E3 conference? Were you excited, petrified, sad? Did Reggie really look like a purple Pikmin? We would love to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below!