Of course, Nintendo's big news going into their E3 press presentation was going to be their new Wii U console. In fact, they had so much to talk about that they ended up splitting up their presentation into thirds. On Sunday, they released a pre-E3 video that basically explained the talking points of the Wii U and its gamepad controller, and on Wednesday, they're going to have another presentation where they reveal new 3DS games headed to their portable. Because today it was all about the Wii U with just a little bit of time for their AAA 3DS games (which unfortunately didn't include Animal Crossing...). So did it impress?
Naturally, Nintendo opened with a fun video of Miyamoto backstage with Pikmin wandering around him before he took to the stage. Then they superimposed Pikmin onto amused audience members. Which of course led into the obvious announcement of Pikmin 3 for the Wii U. The graphics look really nice, although why anyone would opt for a Wiimote/Nunchuck control scheme over the Wii U gamepad is beyond me, since the touchscreen displays an area map for you. Also, with four cadets to control, I suspect there might be some four-player multiplayer coming in a future announcement.
Reggie then took over the stage and claimed that they would show 23 Wii U titles, but in the end, I don't think they quite added up to that many. He also mentioned their new console would have Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Video and such, but insisted that this would be all about the games. Of course, it took a little bit more talking before we could get to them. First came a short video illustrating the features of the Wii U gamepad, and news that the system would support two gamepads, not just one and four Wiimotes. Of course, they didn't have any games yet that would demonstrate gamepad vs. gamepad play yet. They also really played up the social aspect of the Wii U, having the first screen you see when you boot up the system be the gathering of tiny little Miis around the games that are trending. It seems a little cluttered, but we'll see how it actually looks in its final form. Also, no mention of Friend Codes, but I'd assume that Nintendo is going with their system for the 3DS, where you trade the system code, and it works for all games. That's a lot easier. Although Reggie does mention that you'll also see Miis from people around the world, so not sure how that's exactly going to work.
Of course, Nintendo would be fools to launch a system without a game from one of its major franchises, and thus we have New Super Mario Bros. U. So it would seem that the Wii U games will continue the trend of putting the system name after the franchise title. Of course, this will just make them all sound like awesome schools we all want to attend!
Next, Warner Bros. talked about bringing Batman Arkham City to the Wii U in what they're calling Armored Edition. The internet coughed during this, so I kind of missed the main selling points that are supposed to make people buy this game again for another system if they've already played it on the Xbox 360 or PS3, but if they're not lying that controlling the Batarangs will be easier, that's a heck of a selling point! I don't need armor for Batman. His costume is already armored-looking enough, thank you.
The crowd got really excited for the following announcement, which was Scribblenauts Unlimited. The animated toon graphics were lovely, and the idea that if you can't find the word you want, you can combine them to crate a new item to use in the game. Oh, and there's also multiplayer! After that came the montage of third-party Wii U games, which included Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank!, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director's Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3, and Aliens: Colonial Marines.
Then came a trailer for WiiFit U, which updates the fitness game for the new console. I was already happy about being able to do the weigh-in using the gamepad screen so you don't have to turn on your TV, but the mini-games they showed didn't really grab me. It's clever, the way they have you using the gamepad in different ways, but I wasn't sold on it until they revealed that there's a pedometer that you can wirelessly synch to the Wii U gamepad. I can automatically upload my runs into WiiFit U? Awesome.
Next up was a variation on the music party game called SiNG (working title) where the lead singer holds the gamepad vertically to read the song lyrics while they face their friends. The friends dance along with the choreography on the TV and then sing the chorus when the words show up there. The idea is to get everyone involved so it's not just one or two people singing at a time. And of course, they used "Call Me Maybe" in the trailer, so that's stuck in my head now, thanks a lot.
Then they did their mini-3DS announcements, starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2. Which is not Animal Crossing. Then they showed Paper Mario Sticker Star. Which is also not Animal Crossing, but it looks awesome, so I'll give it a pass. The gameplay gimmick this time is that you collect stickers from the game world by peeling them off of things and then using them as attacks in battles or as items. Their third big title worthy of inclusion in the main press presentation was Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. Which I played at last year's E3. And still isn't out yet. I guess they've been finessing it all this time? Still not Animal Crossing. In the third-party 3DS game montage that followed, they showed Castlevania, Epic Mickey 2, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and Kingdom Hearts 3D. So no big surprises, really.
LEGO City Undercover was revealed for the Wii U, and basically looks like a LEGO GTA where you're a cop instead of a criminal. It's a massive open world that you explore and bring criminals to justice. All with that typical LEGO humor and style. So of course, you know I'm all over this like white on rice. Oh, and they also said they're developing a totally separate LEGO City portable game for the 3DS. Which I will probably also play!
Then Ubisoft took a turn on stage, and they started with a demo of Just Dance 4. I was hoping to see Reggie shake his groove thang, but unfortunately, he just demonstrated how you can use the Wii U gamepad to select the dance moves that the four dancers would have to try and perform. (To their credit, only two of the dancers were pretty girls. The other two were pretty boys.) Then they showed off Zombi U, and it seems that Ubisoft was nice enough to save actual gameplay footage for Nintendo's event. It looks really nice. Smooth animations, and the lighting is beautifully moody. There's also some clever use of the gamepad beyond just maps, inventory and the like. At one point, you had to hack a keypad on the touch screen while on the TV, you could see the zombies closing in on you! Fun! Ubisoft wrapped it up with a trailer montage of some other Wii U games including Assassin's Creed III, another Raving Rabbids game, YourShape Fitness, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and The Avengers.
Their final announcement was Nintendo Land, which for a fleeting moment I thought would be an actual amusement park that we could visit and jump on trampolines and hit our heads on boxes (because that was wicked fun at the Mario launch in Times Square). Unfortunately, it's just a mini-game collection featuring all their franchises, like Mario, Animal Crossing, Zelda and the like. (Of course, we still saw no Animal Crossing here, either, but at least they mentioned it!) It launches alongside the console this holiday season, and I'm going to call it right now: Nintendo Land will be the Wii U's WiiPlay. It's a mini-game collection that basically teaches you all the different things the hardware can do.
It wasn't the strongest climax to the press presentation, but I guess they couldn't really close with Mario, since it's basically just a high-def Mario platformer with vaguely-defined social interaction aspects to it. Still, while the 3DS got short-shrift, I think Nintendo did what was probably most important to them, which is to show off the Wii U and some impressive games to get people hyped up about it. I was skeptical about the bulky gamepad, but now seeing how Microsoft wants you to use your phone and tablets with your Xbox 360, and Sony wants you to use your Vita with your PS3, it's not so strange after all. I'm just sorry that I'm not actually AT E3 this year to get my hands on the games myself and try out the redesigned gamepad. While Nintendo's ideas can sometimes seem a little out there, they usually end up turning out pretty fun. Remember how many people thought a dual-screen handheld was a crazy idea? Nintendo laughed at that one all the way to the bank!