There’s no question that Nintendo had a whole lot to prove going into E3 this year, even though they decided to bypass a traditional presentation once again. It’s no secret that the Wii U has been struggling, and despite the strong sales of Mario Kart 8 and the upcoming hype about Super Smash Bros., Nintendo was going to need more than that to prove that the Wii U is still a force to be reckoned with. And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what Nintendo did, by announcing a bunch of shiny new games as well as giving a few new looks on the titles that we already knew were on the way.
The opening of Nintendo’s E3 Direct presentation was absolutely genius: President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime and President and CEO of Nintendo Satoru Iwata literally battled one another before turning to Super Smash Bros. to settle their differences. This led to the announcement that three different types of Mii Fighters will be available as playable characters in the upcoming Wii U and 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. Nintendo then showed off a new line of action figure toys called “Amiibo” that will virtually transport characters into games like Super Smash Bros. and, eventually, Mario Kart 8.
The Amiibo seems to be an important part of the Nintendo brand going forward, as a big emphasis is placed on the Skylanders-esque technology. And it certainly seems to be working for those games, so why couldn’t the same success happen for Nintendo games in the future as well? Nintendo was certainly in high spirits today: The presentation itself was a pretty joyous affair, with lots of humor and references that would bring a smile to any Nintendo fan’s face. In between the announcements we were treated to hilarious stop-motion skits that seemed to have been courtesy of the Robot Chicken crew (I know I definitely heard Seth Green’s voice at least once).
Nintendo showed off some amazing new footage of a few games we knew were coming in the next year or two, including Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, Zelda Wii U, and Yarn Yoshi, newly rechristened as Yoshi’s Woolly World. Each of these games were especially eye-popping in their own right, and I’m particularly excited about the bigger sense of openness that’s been placed on 2015’s next Zelda adventure. I was kind of hoping that Yoshi’s Woolly World would have gotten a holiday 2014 release, but it looks like Nintendo is still putting all of the weight on Super Smash Bros. for that. Interestingly enough, the 3DS version of the anticipated brawler was delayed until October, after a previously announced release date for sometime this summer.
Nintendo also had a handful of surprises to throw our way as well, like a new game called Captain Toad Treasure Tracker which looks like a fleshed-out version of the Captain Toad missions in Super Mario 3D World. There was also the announcement of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, a lovingly clay-mated take on a Kirby adventure, and a sequel to the 2005 DS hit, Kirby: Canvas Curse. In one of the most welcomed surprises of the morning, Nintendo also unveiled the Mario Maker, a new level editor which lets players create their very own Mario platforming levels, with assets that run the gamut from the original Super Mario Bros. all the way up to New Super Mario Bros. U.
Unfortunately, Nintendo began to lose a little steam towards the end of their presentation. After Mario Maker, they spent a substantial amount of time talking about a new multiplayer shooter called Splatoon. In the game, players form teams of humans that can conveniently turn into squids as they compete against another team by seeing who can cover the majority of the level map in vats of colorful ink. It kind of reminded me of de Blob, only in an online shooter environment like Team Fortress 2. But while the game certainly looks cool and all, I would have gladly traded that time to see a bit more of the other projects that Nintendo quickly breezed through before this.
After Splatoon, Nintendo closed their presentation not with another heavy hitter Wii U game reveal, but the announcement that Palutena from Kid Icarus will be a playable character in the new Super Smash Bros. game. It was a pretty anticlimactic finish, especially considering how long the cinematics were leading up to Palutena’s reveal. However, there was something else right at the tail end of the presentation that I can’t quite get out of my head… I think Nintendo may have just quietly teased a new Star Fox game on Wii U.
The alleged tease came as legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto talked about the remainder of E3 while playing a game in the background. It’s hard to tell because Miyamoto’s screen was intentionally blurry, but it sure looked like he was playing a new Star Fox game on Wii U. If true, it’s a little bit curious that Nintendo didn’t close with a full-fledged announcement, even if it was just a logo: it would have easily blown the roof off the place. Let’s just hope this indicates a brand new Star Fox game and not just a release on the Virtual Console.
[UPDATE: As I write this reflection, Nintendo has now confirmed that a new Star Fox title will be coming to Wii U in 2015. It is currently being worked on by Miyamoto, who is also involved in two other upcoming games known as Project Giant Robot and Project Guard. In addition, Nintendo announced the existence of Mario Party 10 on Wii U following the presentation. All amazing things to be sure, buy why on earth didn’t Nintendo reveal at least ONE of these heavy hitters during the actual presentation?!]
Overall though, did Nintendo succeed at this year’s E3 amidst their ongoing financial woes and public criticism? I would definitely say so, although I still can’t say how it will affect the Wii U’s shaky future in the long run. As a huge Nintendo fan and proud Wii U owner, I’m more than excited to play all of the amazing new games that were shown today. But aside from the upcoming Zelda (and Super Smash Bros. of course), I’m not sure if any of the games that Nintendo has on the horizon are going to be system sellers for the Wii U.
Still though, Nintendo came to E3 (virtually, at least) with a ton of new games and surprises hidden up their sleeve. Despite an ending that kind of just fizzled out, their overall showing this year will only serve as more proof that they are still some of the most creative minds in the gaming industry today.