E3 2012: The Nintendo Outlook

The Nintendo press conference at E3 was really in two parts this year. The first part was Sunday’s Nintendo Direct video presentation which showed off some of the hardware behind their new Wii U console. Tuesday’s press conference was more about the games coming to the Wii U and 3DS with some first-party debuts and some surprise announcements of games coming to Wii U.

Sunday’s Wii U Video Presentation

The final Wii U controller (called a GamePad) was revealed. Things that haven’t changed include the slightly bulky look with the touchscreen in the middle. The thumb sliders have been replaced by proper thumb sticks which appear to work the same way as thumb sticks for XBox and PlayStation controllers. Motion control fans don’t have to fear though. The GamePad will have a gyro and motion sensors so there will be some level of motion control supported. There is also a NFC reader (near field communication like RFID) built into the controller which makes me think that Nintendo sees a future in games like Skylander. And so you don’t have to get off the couch, the GamePad can also act as a TV remote control.

Nintendo also unveiled a Wii U Pro controller which looks remarkably similar to an XBox 360 controller. The main difference is that the Wii U Pro controller has the positions of the right thumb stick and buttons have been swapped from where they are on the XBox controller.

The Mii community has been upgraded for the Wii U. The online network is now referred to as the Wiiverse. There seems to be a massive upgrade in social online content compared to the current console generation. You can chat with other people as your Mii character (either text chat or with drawn images), read an activity feed of what your friends are up to on their Wii U (including on your smartphone) and Skype with other people using a camera on your GamePad.

Tuesday’s Keynote Presentation

On the software side, the first game presented by Nintendo for the Wii U is Pikmin 3. Not unexpectedly, the Pikmin themselves are rendered much more clearly on the Wii U than on previous consoles and they can be controlled using the touchscreen on the Wii U GamePad. If you’re a Pikmin fan, you’ll no doubt be impressed by the U version of the game.

Nintendo also revealed the necessary Mario game that will launch with the Wii U. It’s New Super Mario Bros. U which is a new NSMB game and will be the first Mario game in HD. The Wii GamePad will be used to leave messages for your friends in the Wiiverse and to add blocks to the levels. There will be a new fitness game called Wii Fit U which will use both the Wii GamePad camera and the balance board. This consoles Wii Sports equivalent appears to be NintendoLand in which the system’s capabilities are shown off with the game.

The presentation only had Ubisoft releases in terms of new third-party games shown for the Wii U. Just Dance 4 was demoed on stage again much to everyone’s dismay. ZombiiU was the focus of the Ubisoft portion of the show. The game was first-person with controls on the Wii U GamePad. This includes accessing tools and inventory through the touchpad. Sniper rifle sights and door touchpads would be access through using the touchscreen.

A number of previously released third-party 360/PS3/PC games were announced as being released on the Wii U. Batman: Arkham City is coming to the U as Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition with the touchscreen used to set explosives, guide the batarang and move the camera. Scribblenauts will launch as Scribblenauts Unlimited with object building on the touchscreen and a multiplayer mode. Other games that will make the jump to the Wii U include Mass Effect 3 (probably without the crappy ending), Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and Trine 2: Director’s Cut.

In keeping with everybody else’s presentation, Nintendo also promoted the Wii U as an entertainment hub. They noted that the U would have Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and Amazon Video. The big Wii U hardware/software announcement was that the system would support two GamePads. No two player or two GamePad compatible games had been developed in time for the press conference so none were demoed.

The 3DS wasn’t left out. The Mario family of games was the focus of the 3DS portion of the presentation. Nintendo unveiled New Super Mario Brothers 2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. Third party 3DS games which were noted as coming soon were Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate, Epic Mickey, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.

Trailers and gameplay videos from the big Nintendo announcements are on page two.

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