Finally, Nintendo’s Direct presentation begins, and it was a strange new direction with a humorous Robot Chicken-esque clay-mation opening followed by a Street Fighter style battle between Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata. Except that it’s about Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS. No alternative titles were offered, leading us to believe these will be the final titles, which is a bit of a shame. The funny clay-mation skits would bookmark the announcements from then on.
Information was then thrust upon us. You can play as Miis, which was a rumour recently but it had far more depth to it than I think most people will have expected. It seems there are three Mii classes to choose from, each offering a unique play style. The Brawler is a fist-fighter who uses martial arts. My first thought was “Dragonball Z”. Then there’s The Gunner who has an arm cannon like Megaman or Samus. Finally, The Swordfighter, who apparently wields a sword. Who’d have guessed? The costume for this class looks a lot like Trunks from DBZ too. Coincidence? Anyway, each class has a choice of 12 customizable moves, meaning there are 36 unique special moves in total.
The newest feature and the one that I suspect will be the most talked about, was the “amiibo” system. These are small figurines of various famous Nintendo characters that include chips (not edible) inside that contain and save data. Lead designer Sakurai explains you scan them on the e-reader on the GamePad and the characters pop up in the game. Other games will utilize this function, including Mario Party 10 and Mario Kart 8. Arguably, the most interesting functions will be reserved for Smash Bros. which will be released sometime this Winter. The amiibos are unique to you, meaning you can upload them, and train them as well as customize their moves. Yes, you might be able to change their existing moveset! After levelling up your Mario or Link, let’s say, the new data is saved to your amiibo, allowing you to take it to a friend’s house, upload it to their Wii U and destroy their unique Mario or Link. Levelling up against fellow players is faster than training against CPU too. I can’t begin to express how many doors this opens. It’s a big deal.
They briefly touched on the 3DS version and showed a montage trailer showcasing many new modes. They wouldn’t go into great detail yet but it seems you can tailor the game to a great degree. There also seems to be a hell of a lot of trophies and collectables.
Reggie Fils-Aime returned to discuss the amiibo toys. He mentioned Disney Infinity and Skylanders Trap Team will have unique functions for the Wii U. As previously mentioned, other games will use the amiibo functions. We can assume Mario Kart 8 will have downloadable characters. Hey, perhaps the idea I had the other day, of expanding the franchise into a general “Nintendo Kart” might come to fruition. What if you could use the Link amiibo to get him as a playable character in Mario Kart 8 and he rides around on a kart-like Epona? This is purely conjecture by the way.
The presentation then moved on to other games; the primary one being Yoshi’s Wooly World scheduled for a 2015 release. It looks like Kirby’s Epic Yarn which means it is visually unique and adorable. Everything in the game is made of various types of wool and a lot of emphasis was placed on the idea of transformations, both to Yoshi himself, and the levels. They contrasted the game with a typical Mario platformer, stating that while you get from A to B under a time limit in those games, this one has you exploring big levels at your leisure; unlocking secrets and expanding play areas. There will include a two-player mode in which the second player controls another Yoshi. They can work together to solve puzzles and complete levels, and can even swallow each other up and spit them back out which has numerous functions.
Next came a bit of a surprise. I first thought I was looking at a new Mario Galaxy game, but it was in fact a new IP known as Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. You play as a Toad who goes adventuring around different courses reminiscent of stages found in Galaxy but is apparently being hailed as a Super Mario 3D World spin-off, which makes sense.
Finally, the moment I was waiting for came as Eiji Aounuma, creative director of The Legend of Zelda series appeared and discussed changes to the formula. Nothing to panic about though, as he clicked his fingers and an image appeared behind him. A screenshot that will make you re-evaluate your life. Zelda in glorious vibrant high definition. All we see is an massive open field, pockmarked with the odd rock and bordered by looming mountains. It turned out to be not static however, as the grass swayed in the gentle breeze. The grass. Oh, the beautiful grass. He compared the new look and level design to previous entries in the series, stating that he always used boundaries and made large open areas in small doses. In particular, he highlighted The Wind Waker and discussed how, despite the fact it was a large open world on The Great Sea, the play areas were smaller islands within boundaries. He plans to do away with that and so has made the new Zelda a fully open-world game. I hesitate to use the words Elder Scrolls but they did come to mind when he explained that you could range as far as the mountains in the distance. He added that you can travel in any direction, from any direction. The image also included Link on horseback and the graphics seem cel-shaded to a similar degree as the last home console release, Skyward Sword but obviously in far greater detail. Aonuma went on to say that powerful enemies can appear in even the most idyllic and peaceful locations, such as the one in the screenshot. Suddenly, a large octopus/spider-like creature emerges from the valley and proceeds to shooting fireballs all over the place, destroying rocks and burning the grass. Oh, the grass! Link turns and escapes on Epona’s (must be, right?) back. The creature is frightfully fast, pursuing Link and destroying fences as we cut to different areas. I got a strong sense there may be destructible environments. The confrontation ends near a river, which the creature plunges into. Link fires explosive arrows at it’s eyes and throws off his green hood to reveal a rather different look. He’s wearing a blue shirt, similar to Wind Waker Link at the start of his adventure. He sports a ponytail and looks a lot more effeminate than previous incarnations (but still badass) which leads me to strongly suspect we may have a female Link here. He or she leaps into the air and we get a close up of the bow and arrow as it transforms with a hybrid of magic and technology into a blue light arrowhead which Link fires off camera. It’s absolutely epic and exciting. The rumoured subtitle of Unbound King was never mentioned so we still await concrete details.
Following this was a live action trailer for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Sapphire which culminated in game footage. Looked like what you’d expect, which is a good thing.
The next trailer was Bayonetta 2 which we all know by now is exclusive to Wii U for some reason. Having never played the original, I wasn’t particularly interested until a bonus scene came up showing the main protagonist wearing a Link outfit then Samus Aran style armour! Some shots of bonus levels were seen complete with mysterious Zelda-esque sound effects. Finally, they revealed that Bayonetta 2 will include the first game, in addition to the unique Nintendo-centric features in one pack. Now I’m interested. Expect a release in Winter.
More footage of Hyrule Warriors was shown plus interviews with various developers working on the game, including Zelda and Dynasty Warriors stalwarts. Midna from Twilight Princess is confirmed as a playable character and she rides around on Wolf Link, using dash attacks and her massive magic hand to pulverize enemies. The team went on to state that the battlefields are huge and multiple battles occur at the same time. It’s your job as the hero to make you way over to these skirmishes and turn the tide. A two-player mode was also revealed, which will allow simultaneous play on the TV and GamePad, meaning no split-screen confusion. Lots of playable characters will be….playable, such as Princess Zelda (who looks absolutely badass) and Impa who looks even more badass with her katana of doom. US release date is September 26th so the rest of the world can expect a similar purchase date.
A short trailer for Kirby’s next 3DS game was shown which looked very fun, followed by an extensive trailer for Monolith Soft’s mystery X title which is officially called Xenoblade Chronicles X. The trailer featured many mechs and characters, giving a very strong Gundam vibe to the whole affair.
We then got our first look at Mario Maker. This game (or rather software) allows you to design your own Super Mario Land style levels. You use the stylus to drag and drop various items, enemy positions, blocks, and even the size and locations of pipes. I was very pleasantly surprised to find you can change from 8-bit to New Super Marios Bros. 3D graphics on the fly. Think of it as the LittleBigPlanet of the Mario Universe and you’re on the right track. Lots of potential there.
The last major new announcement was Splatoon, a new 8-player team-based shooter in which each team has ink guns that can cover the ground in their team’s colour. The object of the game is to mark more territory than your opponents and it looks like it could be a lot of fun. Your character can transform into a squid which can swim fast in it’s own colours allowing you to traverse the maps at speed. Should you attempt to move through enemy territory, you’ll slow down. The gameplay looks fast and fluid with players able to scale walls and slide around while attacking and defending. The potential for different tactics is highlighted by the dev team. Travelling quickly through your own ink is great but enemies can use the trail to track you for example. The GamePad is being utilized as a real-time map, marking territories and enemy positions, offering further strategic elements to the game.
Initially believing that to be it, we were further surprised by another trailer. An anime cutscene opened featuring Palutena of Kid Icarus fame talking about Hyrule. What? Yes, that Hyrule. Suddenly a brawl erupts between hero Pit and Zelda protagonist Link. It’s an epic anime battle in which they both talk smack to each other. It didn’t occur to me that it was another Smash Bros. trailer until towards the end. I honestly thought it was a new mash-up game or animated series! (Anime Link looked awesome). Turns out they were simply announcing Palutena as a playable character to Smash Bros. and a welcome one at that. She has lots of cool looking magical attacks but she seems to love announcing them at the top of her voice such as “Mega Laser!”, “Black Hole!” and “Super Speed!” During her montage, we see many other characters, notably Diddy Kong, but I don’t recall seeing Captain Falcon anywhere. Should I be worried? Finally, we have a shot of Dark Pit landing behind Palutena before we fade to black.
Miyamoto then appears holding the GamePad and briefly discusses other new projects. There is no mention of Star Fox U or the half dozen other rumoured products such as F-Zero, Metroid, Paper Mario and Advanced Wars. This left me feeling disappointed but post-presentation videos and chats revealed there are several more projects yet to be revealed. Mario Party 10 was just one of them. They revealed that the main character is actually Bowser, who the player with the GamePad controls and he’s able to bully the other players (presumably using Wiimotes) into doing tasks. Sounds a bit Dungeons and Dragons.
Finally, we were treated to a showreel of mostly indie games for the 3DS and Wii U, far too many to mention. Look for more information and updates to this article soon including videos and screenshots.
Overall, I was pleased with the games on show, though I do wish Nintendo would make more of an effort. Still, they are who they are and they always do things differently. The major announcements were fantastic, especially Zelda but I stand by my previous opinions: The Wii U is on it’s last legs. Sales will boost, probably dramatically like they did with Mario Kart but it won’t be enough to save the Wii U and keep it competitive with it’s rivals in this generation. There will be many, myself included who feel that this is all coming a bit too late. Why couldn’t Nintendo have released the big guns earlier and more frequently? We’re having all these major titles thrown at us in the space of a year and it’s a little worrying most of the rumours have not come to fruition or that Nintendo would dare to hide them for later. Where is Star Fox and Metroid? This E3 was their chance to save themselves and in that regard, they have failed.
Still, it’s not bad at all for hardcore Nintendo fans. I’ve always seen the Wii U as an alternative console rather than a next-gen one anyway and the unique games on the way are more than enough to sate any gamer’s appetite. Did I mention the grass?