Friday, 16 July 2010

E3 2010 Review: At the Nintendo Conference [2/2]

Here we go, part 2 of my Nintendo E3 conference review. The second half of the big N's show was somehow even more awesome than the first half. The last part saw me talking about big games like Zelda: Skyward Sword and GoldenEye; Some of Nintendo's flagship titles. Practically everything in the second half of the conference was made up of flagship titles, new and old. Let's start with the game that kicked-off this amazing line-up. And that game would be...

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Silly name aside, Kirby's Epic Yarn was the game that literally spun excitement in to Nintendo fans' brains. After all, the pink blob hasn't had a home console release outside of the virtual console in years. At the conference, we were shown a beautiful trailer as well as a very surprising release date. More on that later. But first, let's discuss the most notable changes about the new addition to the Kirby franchise.

For Epic Yarn, the series has scored a brand new look as well as a new key gameplay element. I'll talk about the latter addition first. In past Kirby games, the pink blob's powers involved him sucking up enemies and either spitting them out or absorbing their powers. As far as we know, these well known elements have been ditched for a new knitting based system, hence the title. Kirby is equipped with some Yarn which he can use to wrap around enemies, pull string, grab items and much, much more. Some examples we saw of this in the trailer were when Kirby was shown pulling some string in the background. This pulled part of a level further to Kirby so he can advance forward. Two boss fights were also shown with the hero spinning yarn around a massive dragon's tongue (in the form of a button) and smashing it back into his face. The other boss involved a giant fiery bird thing firing missiles which can be grabbed with the yarn and thrown back at the the foe. It's all very clever stuff and a unique gameplay concept that I'm pretty sure hasn't been done before. The way Epic Yarn plays isn't the only thing that has changed in the game. The new title has also implemented a new look to fit the knitting them. Background features such as mountains and plains look like coloured patches sewn onto the game and characters and bosses all look like they have been knitted. It's very beautiful, especially with that catchy music track playing in the background of the trailer. This isn't the first time Kirby has taken up this new look though. The art style was actually inspired by a Japanese ad for Kirby's Dreamland on the NES. In this case, what goes around comes around.

Aside from the new gameplay-style and art-style, the trailer also showed off some other stuff. There's another new gameplay element similar to the classic Kirby formula included in Epic Yarn; The pink blob can still take on new forms. I'm not entirely sure how Kirby gains these abilities, but he was shown turning into his new forms in an instant, most probably via button-press. Several new abilities were shown, such as turning into a car to speed up hills and through levels, a surfboard which allows the blob to ski on water, a UFO form that allows him to suck in enemies and electrify the area and finally, and unarguably most awesome, a huge robot that could launch missiles and smash stuff up with a giant fist. How is that not cool!? Anyhow, it's good of Kirby to still stay a little true to his roots with these new transformations. Hopefully we'll see much, much more new abilities in the coming months.

Speaking of months, Kirby's Epic Yarn will in fact be in our games libraries in a few of those. That's right, that soon! An exact release date hasn't yet been confirmed, but Reggie did tell us that it will be out anytime between now and Christmas. Better start saving up the pennies then, Kirby fans! Now that I've finished talking about the game that kicked-off the second half, let's get onto the next announcement.

Anticipation Level: 8/10 

Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies
The small section on Dragon Quest 9 was pretty brief and not very exciting, so I guess I'll not talk about this one for to long. The latest DS Dragon Quest game was released in Japan about a year ago and it's still not out in the US or here yet, but in a few months that will have changed. Now I'm not a big fan of DQ games personally, but the latest addition to the series sounds rather quite awesome. It's your standard RPG antics in the game, from taking on side quests and slaying monsters, to creating fully customisable characters to add to your party of heroes; But DQ 9 expands on that with Nintendo wi-fi connection. In Japan the game is one of the most played DS titles over wi-fi, and here that should be no different thanks to Nintendo launching an advertising campaign.

But what makes Dragon Quest 9's online functionality so addictive? Well, DLC is practically endless, with brand new items and locations added every once in a while. As well as this, even if you don't have wi-fi set up, you can close your DS and wait till you receive new quests and new maps from other DQ players in sleep mode. This worries me though; Will anybody actually do that? Sure, that's what happens over in Japan but does Britain actually go outside with their DS on and walk around endlessly just to get a few new items? I wouldn't bother personally. You can still have a lot of fun with the game even without any DLCically endless, with brand new items and locations added every once in a while. As well as this, even if you don't have wi-fi set up, you can close your DS and wait till you receive new quests and new maps from other DQ players in sleep mode. This worries me though; Will anybody actually do that? Sure, that's what happens over in Japan but does Britain actually go outside with their DS on and walk around endlessly just to get a few new items? I wouldn't bother personally. You can still have a lot of fun with the game even without any DLC, but it'll add a lot to your game hours if you do choose to get some. For example, Reggie mentioned the top DQ fan in their establishment has played her copy of Dragon Quest 9 for over 120 hours, and she feels she's just getting started. If you're not impressed with that then you clearly have no soul.

DQ 9 was one of the smaller announcements at the conference, as all we were told was that it's coming out in a few months. Whether you pick it up or not it's your choice, but as I'm not a huge DQ fan I may only consider it. Anyway, onto the next game.

Anticipation Level: 7/10
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Metroid: Other M
Sure, the latest addition to the mighty Metroid franchise was announced last year, but Nintendo managed to produce a suitably epic trailer at this year's conference to celebrate the game's upcoming release. I, for one, am very excited about Samus Aran's latest adventure. It's a direct sequel to Super Metroid on the SNES which in many fans opinions is one of the best games in the franchise. With the addition of full voice acting, Nintendo and Team Ninja have the ability to take the bounty hunter down emotional corridors she's never visited before, allowing for a much more epic and emotional experience. I'm sold. We already know a lot about Other M, and the new trailer didn't tell us much else about the game. The vast majority of it was showing scenes of Samus alone, rather than the past trailers we've seen with her and the Galactic Federation soldiers going around shooting giant purple aliens. This trailer however, showed some very impressive locales including what appears to be a forest disguised as a more metallic enviroment. Let's hope the open world thing stays intact, as that would be awesome. Nintendo and Ninja have said in the past that Super Metroid fans will love this, and while I don't have Super Metroid, I'm still 100% certain that Other M will be a must buy.

Metroid Prime was one of my first Nintendo games (I got my Gamecube for free at the start of the Wii era with a lot of games, including Prime 1) and I still haven't completed it to this day. I genuinely think Samus' GC debut was virtually impossible, and not very rewarding. Still, it was a great game and I probably can't complete it because I'm rubbish at it. I will probably get Prime 2 someday, but I heard that's even harder! As for my favourite game in the Prime series (so far) Prime 3 is nearing completion. It's just the damn backtracking. I reckon it's because the Prime series is in first person and there is a more open world available to you than past titles, so the backtracking thing doesn't really work. In 2D, it does. Metroid: Other M is esentially a 2D Metroid-Vania style game, despite flicking into 3D at times. It is played with the Wii remote held on it's side, controlling Samus with the D-Pad. Even if there is backtracking, I reckon I can handle it (I've made my way through all three Castlevania DS games, as well as the original Metroid on VC).

Metroid is one of my favourite series of video games ever, full stop. The new 2D in 3D makeover for Samus Aran as well as full voice acting look to make Other M feel both fresh and nostalgic. It's out on September the 3rd, 3 days after the game's release in the States. Can't wait.

Anticipation Level: 10/10 

Donkey Kong Country Returns
Wow. And when I say wow, I do mean wow. Completely unexpectedly, Nintendo announced a brand new Donkey Kong Country game at this year's conference, and the reaction was absolutely amazing. I've never played any of the original Country games, but I can assure myself that the people who have played them got very, very excited. But does the King of Kong's new game look to live up to these gargantuan expectations? My answer is a solid yes. Like I said, I've never played any of the original SNES DKC games, or actually any Donkey Kong games for that matter, but when I saw the trailer for Donkey Kong Country Returns, I thought it looked amazing. It's basically the first Country with a pinch of Jungle Beat. The 2D in 3D visuals from the GC game are kept for this outing, and the style and charm of the original Country games are mixed in to make one great looking title.

Developed by Retro Studios, the developers of the Metroid Prime trilogy of games, this is a strange turn for the company. They've brought out 3 isolated games starring Samus Aran, and now that Team Ninja have teamed up with Nintendo to make Other M Retro were asked if they could revamp the much more comedic and cartoony Donkey Kong Country series. It's based on the original game, as it will feature some bosses from that title. The story is also pretty much the same. DK's massive stash of bananas has been nicked by some little metal mask dude, and it's up to him and the gun and jetpack toting Diddy to save the day. By taking back their stolen bananas. Right. Anywho, I guess the story doesn't matter; When you're playing a game like this it's the gameplay that should be polished more. The new wii controls involve shaking the remote and nunchuck to make DK perform a ground pound, and jolting the wii remote up to make Diddy use his jetpack. It's simple as that.

You can probably tell that I'm not all that bothered about Donkey Kong Country Returns, but I can assure you pretty much everyone else in the world is. We'll just have to see if it lives up to these mighty expectations when it's released near the end of the year.

Anticipation Level: 7/10

The Nintendo 3DS!
It's been a few months since Nintendo announced that they were working on a brand new successor to the DS range of consoles. They code-named it the 3DS and revealed it will make use of proper modern 3D technology without the need for expensive glasses. We've heard small snippets about the new handheld since it was first announced, but now Nintendo have come out in a massive explosion with a full reveal of the console, it's features and a whopping number of games that are being developed for it; But before those I'd like to talk about the console itself.

In terms of graphical power the 3DS really shines. Literally. The graphics can be compared to the PS2's visuals when they appear to be at their best in games like MGS 3D and Kid Icarus (more on those later) and the 3D effects will probably enhance the visuals even further. People wanted Gamecube style graphics and guess what? Nintendo have definitely delivered something even better. Now let's consider the system's new additions outside of what's on the screen. Nintendo have added what they're calling a slide-pad designed for analogue control, as well as a 3D-depth slider to increase or decrease the 3D effects. According to the lucky gamers and journalists that got their hands on the system at E3, the analogue controller works very well and is at the moment better than the PSP's previously unrivalled analogue nub. A sigh of relief there, then. And the 3D-depth slider may not sound too exciting, but I can say it was unexpected as most gamers assumed there would just be a 3D on/off button. There's still the D-pad and face buttons which haven't been changed, and similar to the DSi the power switch is on the inside of the console, but instead this time on the right-hand side to make room for the buttons and slide-pad on the other side. There's again two cameras, but this time the inside camera is at the top of the new widescreen display and the outer camera is split into two lenses on the front of the system. Why two lenses, you say? To take 3D photos of course! Again, Nintendo are coming in with the surprises there.

That's not all the new features of the 3DS. We're not quite sure how it will work just yet, but if your 3DS is in sleep mode and you leave it in your pocket during a walk round, you will discover when you open the system that new downloadable content such as mini-quests, ghost data, online rankings and so on will be there waiting for you. I assume this will work by independently seeking out wi-fi access points to download new data. This system also works with other 3DS systems; For example, if you're on a bus and another person has their 3DS system in sleep mode, data will be swapped depending on what game data each system has stored on it. For example, if players have been playing a bit of time trial on the new Mario Kart 3DS game, ghost data from those tracks will be downloaded onto each system in sleep mode. It sounds like a great feature, and there's no money involved whatsoever. Speaking of downloadable content, the 3DS will be compatible with all past DSi software, as well as DS game carts. This will probably mean you can copy over your DSi's photos to the 3DS and view them in 3D on there. This would make sense as the cameras are no Mega pixels higher than before. DSiWare apps will also work on the 3DS too, and hopefully we'll be able to copy them over via SD card this time in case anyone's planning on selling or trading-in their DSi or DSi XL systems for the 3DS. Which is what I am doing.

After discussing some of the Nintendo 3DS's awesome new features, president Satoru Iwata said probably the best thing we've ever heard at a Nintendo conference: "In the end, gamers care most about games." Bravo! At this point I got even more excited than I already was, and the results were incredible. Nintendo announced the vast majority of currently developed 3DS games outside of the E3 conference, but I'm going to discuss them in detail in the next part of my E3 review. As for what was revealed at the conference itself, well, that was a shocker. No, I'm not on about the new version of Nitendogs (now entitled Nintendogs + Cats) they briefly talked about, but something we previously knew as "Project Sora". Beginning in early 2009, this project was actually established for one reason: to create a game exclusively for the 3DS coming straight from the genious behind Brawl and Kirby. Iwata said this new game had to star a character that most hardcore gamers were familiar with. That character turns out to be Pit, the winged star of Kid Icarus on the NES.

Kid Icarus: Uprising
The Kid of old hasn't had a starring role in a videogame of his own since the NES days, but now, on the 3DS, he has a few new moves to show us. After talking for a while about the 3DS, president Satoru Iwata revealed Kid Icarus: Uprising, and a selection of games from the 73 strong line-up we were about to find out about. I'll save what's outside of the conference for the next part though. Anyway, back to the return of the Kid. You probably wouldn't think this is true till you see the game for yourself, but Uprising is a Sin and Punishment-esque on rails shooter. Surprising, as the original game was a Zelda and Metroid like 2D platformer. Still, this new title looks awesome.

For Uprising Pit has taken his look from Super Smash Bros Brawl with him to blast away at the Underworld army. This is understandable as the guy who did Brawl is working on this, so why change the way he looks? His annoying voice work is also kept for this game too, which was fairly humourous. The story is fairly bonkers; Medusa, the snake-haired demon queen of the Underworld has waged war on the heavens and the queen of the heavens simply sends off Pit, alone and against an entire army of beasts (and eggplant men). What seems to matter though, is the fact that Pit has indeed returned in a game that looks beautiful and will hopefully play brilliantly. As I just said, the new Kid Icarus game looks absolutely astonishing in terms of visuals. Pit flies through vast landscapes and towns while blasting away at enemies, and while we didn't see it in 3D because that would be impossible on a projector or for those watching online, but I can imagine it would look amazing in action on the 3DS itself. A great example of the 3D effect would be one point we saw in the trailer where several cannons were firing lasers at the winged angel which he had to dodge. The thick lasers looked like they would make use of that "coming out of the screen" thingy like when that guy pointed a gun at the screen in Avatar, but probably even better.

We haven't heard or seen much about Kid Icarus: Uprising yet, but I assume it'll be a launch game if they've been working on it for over a year. So far though, it looks awesome and will hopefully play just as well.

There we go, that's the final part of my Nintendo conference review done! Hope you enjoyed it. My overview of what was outside Nintendo's conference will be up pretty soon. Sorry for being so late with everything!

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