Closing the press conferences is Nintendo, who held their Media Briefing this morning at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Though expectations were high after Sunday’s Wii U announcements, the conference was underwhelming.
Opening with a short clip of Miyamoto leaving a dressing room with Pikmin in tow, as the gaming icon makes his way to the stage he discussed that since he’s been working on the new Pikmin title, he’s been seeing the multi-colored minis everywhere. He explained that Nintendo aims to be central to the living room, even if it’s small. Miyamato then announced Pikmin 3 for the Wii U, after 10 years since the last game on the Nintendo Game Cube. In the game demo, it was apparent that graphics are improved on Wii U, which beautifully showed how Pikmin can build bridges with new materials, as well as a new type of Pikmin: Rock Pikmin. Wii U hasn’t completely let go of motion control, however, as the Wii Mote and Nunchuk allows players to aim at specific targets.
Afterwards, Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo of America, made his way to the stage to talk more Wii U news. He confirmed that streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, YouTube will all be available on the system. He also went into the detail about the Wii U itself, explaining how it will be able to handle having two players using the Wii U gamepads, as well as how the newly announced Miiverse will be the social hub of the console. The stream will show player’s game friends and those they’ve met from playing games online. The console will gather tiles that represent personal tastes and trending entertainment that may target the player.
With entertainment in mind, Fils-Aime introduced a new Wii U title, New Super Mario Bros. U. The five-player game allows four on WiiMotes and one on the WiiPad and featured Mario in a flying squirrel suit and Yoshi floating through levels. The game looks very pretty in HD, and included a Boost mode which allows players to run through levels quickly with use the gamepad to place blocks to help other players.
Third party support was briefly touched upon, but it was nothing anyone hasn’t seen before, though the announcement of Mass Effect 3 coming to Wii U raised a few eyebrows. Another Wii U original title announced was Scribblenauts Unlimited, from as confirmed by Jeremiah Slaczka of 5th Cell. The game allows for players to not only use their dictionary skills to use objects for puzzles, but to combine words and create all new objects – like an Auto Mutt, a dog on wheels.
The 3DS was not a big focus of the show, with very few software even mentioned for the handheld. Fils-Aime reassured that there will be a webcast later tonight for just 3DS games, but touched on Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Paper Mario: Sticker Star and gave us a release date for New Super Mario Brothers 2, which will hit stores on August 19.
Even the Wii Fit U announcement couldn’t save the conference, as the use of both the Wii U gamepad with the Wii Fit balance board wasn’t as innovative as it appeared to be. The conference ended on a strange note, as he announced Nintendo Land, a game aimed to be the “Wii Sports” of the Wii U by showing off the innovative functionality of the system. The mini-games shown were all based on Nintendo franchises: Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day and Donkey Kong: Crash Course. While Fils-Aime explained that players would have to play Nintendo Land to understand it, it was still confusing as to what made the game anything more than a collection of Nintendo-themed mini-games.
Though the social stream and HD upgrade allow the Wii U to compete with current gen consoles, it’s still missing key aspects like usernames, an achievement system, or cross-game chat that has made modern connectivity so successful. And with this most likely being the last year before the announcement of next gen, the Wii U risks being not only a step behind Microsoft and SONY, but an entire generation. Nintendo lucked out this gen, as the Wii became a best selling console among the newly tapped casual gamer, but it’s unlikely that the same market will be willing to buy another console that appears to be so similar.