E3 2014 as a whole has been a resounding success for everyone this year – especially after the shambles that was E3 2013. But when I reflect over what I’ve seen the past few days I have to say Nintendo was the company that blew me away the most this year due to a number of factors.
Nintendo had to do something to convince people that the Wii U was a console they needed in their life – even if they already owned an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 – and they needed the games to back it up. After the massively successful launch of Mario Kart 8 only two weeks ago, Nintendo had the attention of gamers everywhere and they used their 40 minute digital event to send a message home: “Play Nintendo”
Nintendo came out throwing punches – quite literally – with Super Smash Bros. at their digital event stream. Like Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS is widely regarded as being a massive system seller. It began with an amazing scripted fight scene between Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata. The scene finally shifted to an in-game perspective where it was announced that players would be able to play as their Mii characters. Mr Iwata used what looked like an NFC figure in conjunction with the Wii U gamepad to trounce Reggie before handing over to Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai who detailed just how unique Mii’s were compared to other fighters. Players can use whatever Mii they like and can customize their move-sets from 36 different moves and 3 different classes of Mii – brawler, swordsman and gunner. As well as this, it was announced that the 3DS version would be releasing on 3rd October 2014 with the Wii U version coming soon afterwards.
Personally, I have high hopes that Super Smash Bros. will be an even bigger heavy hitter for the Wii U than Mario Kart 8 was. The series has been a massive success story on the N64, GameCube and Wii and Nintendo know that fans will be clamouring for it – myself included.
Reggie then talked about the NFC figures which were glimpsed earlier. These figurines – known as Amiibo – would work in a very similar fashion to Disney Infinity and Skylanders. Nintendo could very well be onto a winner with these figures as they have promised support for games already released such as Mario Kart 8 and future titles such as Super Smash Bros. The figurines are embedded with a chip which can transfer data to games and have data transferred back to them. Nintendo were slim on the full details, but I’m sure we’ll hear more very soon. Whilst I remain sceptical on how much of a success – or not – these Amiibo figures could be, Disney Infinity and Skylanders literally print money and Amiibo could certainly follow suit.
Moving on, Nintendo put some of its new games into the spotlight with “Developer Stories”. First up was the unbelievably adorable looking Yoshi’s Woolly World. From the team behind Kirby’s Epic Yarn – a game which I’m aware is very good, yet it’s still sitting on my pile of shame for some silly reason – Good Feel are hoping to create yet another hit game, this time with Yoshi as the central character. Aesthetically, the game looks absolutely gorgeous – even more so than Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Yoshi will retain many of his abilities from the Yoshi’s Island series such as being able to swallow enemies – although they turn into balls of yarn instead of eggs now and can be used in a variety of ways. Co-op will also be included, which looks to be both fun and challenging. Personally, the game didn’t get me too excited, but it’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the future – and it’s almost certainly made me want to play Kirby’s Epic Yarn again.
Next up was – at least what I would consider – a new IP starring everyone’s favourite mushroom person – Toad. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker is built upon similar gameplay in Super Mario 3D World, but is taken a step further. Toad isn’t particularly good when it comes to agility and being able to retaliate to enemies, therefore he needs to get through levels gathering as much treasure as he can before finally making his way to the end without being taken out by enemies. Watching the gameplay, I was getting a real Spelunky vibe from it – not that that’s a bad thing though! Whilst it’s certainly not going to be a system seller it’s certainly a clever little experiment – that looks adorable as hell – and it’ll be interesting to see how well it’s received upon launch later in the year.
Then came the announcement everyone has been waiting for ever since the tech demo at E3 all those years ago. Eiji Aonuma was here to tell everyone about the next Legend of Zelda game for the Wii U. Our very own Rik has already given us his thoughts on this new entry in the franchise which can be found here, however I reckon I should chime in too on the subject. Aonuma essentially told us that Zelda on the Wii U would be set in a vast open world – with Aonuma drawing comparisons to previous games like WindWaker and using the old cliché of “You can go to those mountains if you walk far enough”. The puzzle solving aspect from an open world viewpoint will be an interesting development, with Aonuma telling us we can approach areas from any angle. Visually the game looks absolutely stunning – if what we’re looking at is definitely in-engine – and you can see for yourself in the image below.
It’s looking to be one of the most ambitious titles Nintendo has ever released, and even though we’ve only seen the bare minimum right now Nintendo needs to keep the game in the spotlight and get it released sooner rather than later if they want to keep sales of the Wii U going at a good pace.
Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were shown next, giving us our first look at the gameplay. Personally, I am beyond excited for these games. Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire are my favourites in the entire franchise as a whole and to see them in full 3D with all of the new gameplay mechanics introduced in Pokémon X/Y you can be damn well sure that these games are going to shift even more 3DS consoles – if that’s even physically possible at this point given the immense success of the handhelds. November cannot come soon enough!
Bayonetta 2 was next on the list, and what was needed more than anything was a release date. After a gameplay trailer showcasing more of the game – as well as the announcement that the original Bayonetta would come bundled with the game along with Nintendo themed costumes such as Link and Samus – we were given a tentative “October 2014” release date. Whilst this could change at any time, I have hope that Platinum Games will get the game out before the year is up. It also reminded me that I need to finish up the original game. Furthermore, announce Bayonetta as a playable character in Smash Bros already Nintendo!
Eiji Aonuma then appeared yet again alongside developers from Tecmo Koei to discuss Hyrule Warriors, an ambitious mash-up of Dynasty Warriors and Legend of Zelda. After seeing the initial trailer for the game earlier in the year my curiosity was piqued, but after seeing what was showcased at E3 I can safely say “I need this game”. It’s the Zelda beat em’ up game that – quite frankly – I never even knew I wanted to play. The combat, the characters and the premise of the game, everything about it makes me want to play it. Playing as Zelda, Impa and Midna as well as Link – with more characters currently unannounced – is a first for the Zelda series (No, I’m not counting Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon and we shall never speak of it again). The fact that the game is out this year too is exceedingly good news, I reckon I better get a Wii U by then.
A fleeting glimpse of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse was then shown. Making full use of the gamepad, you can draw lines to help navigate Kirby throughout the levels similarly to Kirby Canvas Curse in the early days of the DS. The only problem I see is that the game could maybe be too familiar. From what I saw, the game plays almost identically to its DS counterpart. Once we see more on the game, perhaps we’ll understand better what it’s trying to accomplish.
Xenoblade Chronicles X was up next with a… slightly confusing trailer – at least as far as I’m concerned. I’ve really not been keeping tabs on the game as I’m not the biggest fan of JRPG’s. The game focuses on exploration which might be enough to get me interested, but honestly Xenoblade Chronicles X is a complete unknown to me.
Nintendo then showed off a really nifty little idea in the form of Mario Maker. The game allows you to create your own Mario levels in the style of Super Mario Bros. and New Super Mario Bros. with you able to switch between the graphics of the two games at any time. Whilst it’s a cool little idea many modders have been able to do this kind of thing for years and – more than likely – to a much greater degree than will be offered in Mario Maker. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, with the release of Mario Maker the tools to create will be put in the hands of a much wider audience and I’m sure we’ll be seeing some absolutely insane levels being created. It has the essence of the Trials series about it and I’m sure there will be masses of levels to enjoy from the community upon release.
Lastly, we got a first look at another brand new Nintendo IP named Splatoon – quite possibly one of the most unique ideas I saw in the entirety of E3. Whilst many AAA developers constantly try to reinvent the first and third person shooter, Nintendo seem to have done it with ease. The concept of Splatoon is simple, you need to cover the map in your own colour of ink to defeat the enemy team. However there’s more to it than that, you can also turn your character into a squid who is able travel quickly through your own teams ink and get an edge on your opponents. Enemy players’ ink will slow you down so it’s imperative to make your own paths through the level whilst also blocking off your opponents where you can. The gamepad also shows a map overview which shows how much turf has been inked by each team and also allows you to teleport to your teammates. There seems to be an awful lot of strategising for a game this simple and a there’s great deal of varying equipment to help cover your areas with ink quicker. It’s a great idea that’s catering to younger and older audiences alike. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on Splatoon to try it out for myself.
Rounding out the live event was an announcement of Palutena from the Kid Icarus series making her debut in Super Smash Bros. and a quick teaser from the grandfather of video games – Shigeru Miyamoto – who is unquestionably working on a new Star Fox game as well as some cool prototypes making good use of the Wii U gamepad. A new Star Fox game is bound to get many people hyped as it’s been years since we’ve seen one on a Nintendo home console.
However, Nintendo didn’t stop there. Their Nintendo Treehouse livestream went on throughout E3, announcing a variety of new things such as yet another new IP called Codename S.T.E.A.M as well as the announcement of Bandai Namco games including Pac-Man into Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo also hosted a two hour long Super Smash Bros. tournament in the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles showcasing pure, unedited gameplay of the games in the hands of some of the best players in the world.
Overall, Nintendo really do have the right idea on how to approach E3. Even though they didn’t deliver a press conference, the reactions that they got out of people were even greater than any of those I saw at Sony, Microsoft, Ubisoft or EA’s conferences. When the new Zelda was shown people were going ballistic and Pac-Man’s announcement for Super Smash Bros. raised the roof at the roundtable developer conference where the trailer was shown for the first time.
Nintendo are truly back with style and ready to take names and they used E3 to play their cards right. Their PR for this year at E3 was astounding too, no corporate mumbo jumbo, just all of the things that make Nintendo unique such as their ability to capitalise on new ideas and the state of the industry. The Wii U is on the road for a remarkable comeback and – as Reggie Fils-Aime frequently stated throughout the digital event – there’s truly never been a better time to Play Nintendo.