Nintendo launched its 2011 E3 press conference with a live orchestra and choir to perform various Zelda themes while images from all of the games (even the CDi one!) played on the screen. Miyamoto emerged to talk about the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. To celebrate the occasion, the classic Link's Awakening is available in the Nintendo eShop starting today, Ocarina of Time 3D is out next week, and this holiday will finally see the release of Skyward Sword (along with a limited edition Zelda-branded gold Wiimote!). But most interesting is that Four Swords will be offered up as a DSiWare download this September... for free! There's also going to be a concert tour where you can see them perform Zelda orchestrations all around the world. An Ocarina of Time 3D soundtrack will be available to those who register their copy with Club Nintendo early, and a soundtrack of the concert tour will be released around the same time as Skyward Sword. They also promised other announcements, but those will come later on during the year.
Iwata then took the stage to talk about how they wanted to create a new gaming platform that could bring both the hardcore and casual gamers together. But of course, they weren't going to announce that so early in the presentation... that's for later on. First, they've got 3DS games to announce!
After a short video of clips, Reggie came out to talk about upcoming Nintendo 3DS titles. Mario Kart will be out for the 2011 holiday season, and looks to include both flying cars (with hang gliders) and underwater sections (with propellers) as well as some vehicle customization. Star Fox 64 3D will let you use traditional button controls or the gyroscope, but more awesome is that the inward-facing camera will capture your reactions for multiplayer matches where your face is projected in a little box above your ship! Super Mario 3D looks like a 2.5D platformer with really nice graphics... and the raccoon suit... that you'll be able to play later this year. Kid Icarus Uprising will also be hitting shelves later in 2011, and will feature three-on-three multiplayer. Defeat the other team and capture their angel. But the crowd really enjoyed the reveal that Luigi's Mansion 2 will be coming to the 3DS with several new mansions and fun 3D effects.
Then they talked about third-party 3DS support, showing off footage of upcoming games Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D, Mario & Sonic at the 2012 Olympic Games, Ace Combat 3D, Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Resident Evil: Revelations, Driver Renegade, Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions, Tekken 3D, Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D. When they showed a swath of game logos on the screen, I saw Animal Crossing among the others, but they never mentioned anything about it. They're such a tease.
After Reggie wasted our time talking about the eShop and old news like Excitebike 3D and the Pokedex, it was time for the big reveal: The Wii U.
Basically, it's like a HD Wii, but with a large tablet controller. There's a 6.2 inch touch screen in the center, with two analog thumbsticks at the top corners with a D-pad and traditional 4 buttons below them and L and R buttons and left and right Z triggers underneath. It also features an inward-facing camera and a microphone as well as an accelerometer and gyroscope. They showed a video that teased a lot of the new controller's possible uses, like drawing on it with a stylus for some Art Academy action, using it as an inventory screen with touch controls for activation in a Zelda game, and seeing your golf ball as you swing above it in a golf game. But the craziest thing was that if someone wants to watch TV, you can let them while you transfer the game onto the touch screen! The controller is not the console, but you will be able to stream the video and audio to the controller so someone else can use the TV. Actually, most of the talk was about the controller, and not about the console, leading many to believe that the controller was the console. But there was one shot where you could clearly see a very Wii-looking console in the background. You could also weigh in with Wii Fit using just the tablet controller, or sweep your hand across it to throw throwing stars at the screen, or browse the internet and share pictures and video you find with the TV for others to see. Clearly Nintendo wanted to create something that could pretty much do anything. But it'll be up to developers to get creative with it. (Since they've kind of let me down with Kinect games, I'm not optimistic)
The tablet controller looks awfully big, so I'm not sure how comfortable it will actually be to use, but I'll let you know with another article after my hands-on time with it later today. Also, it seems that you can also use the Wii controllers with Wii U. Because the Wii U won't be out until 2012, there wasn't anything to really show, but they did produce a lovely video of a bird flying around some trees and cherry blossoms into a koi pond, but that looked more CGI than in-game graphics to me. Still, the footage they showed from games in development looked sufficiently next-gen and high-def. Welcome to 2010, Nintendo!
They announced that a new Smash Bros. game was in development for both the 3DS and the Wii U, and that the two games would have some kind of connectivity. No details, though. There aren't any actual games to play at the show, just some interactive demos to show off the system's functionality. Though they did announce some titles in the pipeline: Lego City Stories, which looks like LEGO GTA, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Dirt. Darksiders II, Aliens Colonial Marines, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Online, Metro Last Light, Tekken (with customizable costumes and characters) and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. They all looked pretty spectacular, especially the Aliens game.
Then EA's John Riccitiello came out to promise that EA was seriously behind Nintendo's new console, but that was basically all he had to say about it. He's excited. So that was a thing that happened.
Reggie closed the show by reminding us that the DS and Wii still exist alongside the 3DS and Wii U, and that with each platform they create they want to change the way we play games. Fair enough, although I'm not sure the Wii U will draw back the hardcore gamers Nintendo lost with the Wii. The games look promising, but the tablet controller is still really gimmicky and branded with the Wii name. I mean, everyone laughed at motion controls, but Nintendo was the one laughing all the way to the bank as the Wii sold like hotcakes. If they can get all those people to buy a Wii U and lure back the hardcore gamers with the next-gen HD graphics, they could have another hit on their hands. We'll just have to wait and see...