Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Feature: Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011 - My Picks

Up until now Nintendo haven't exactly reached the expectations they dreamed of with their latest handheld, the system we all know as the Nintendo 3DS. After the amazing sales and popularity of the various DS and Game Boy incarnations before it, you would've expected the 3DS to become just as successful as its ancestors, but when it came down to it this was not exactly the case. Since the systems failed launch period, legendary Nintendo president Satoru Iwata has apologetically admitted the poor sales of the hardware through the recent price drop and for those who've been supporting the handheld since the beginning, a bunch of free NES and Game Boy Advance titles available to download exclusively to pre-price drop 3DS systems. While gamers are properly chuffed with both the price drop and the free games (the system has seen a massive 400% increase in sales since the price was reduced, which is undeniable proof in itself) it's obvious why the 3DS didn't quite meet the biggest game company's high expectations in terms of feedback since Nintendo have attempted to make amends.

So, why didn't the Nintendo 3DS do quite as well as expected? Well, there are several possible reasons. First off, those buffoons at the diabolically crap and attention-seeking tabloid we know as The Sun made up a load of rubbish (as per usual) about how the 3DS's 3D visual effects can burn your eyes, give you immense headaches, send you into an irreversible coma and eventually kill you, among other such unbelievable idiocy, resulting in the clueless general public actually believing this... Well, you get the idea. I could turn this post into a rant about The Sun, but I won't. Let's just say News of the World then, The Sun next. Anyway, one of the main reasons why the 3DS didn't get into as many peoples' grasp as it should've was the poor quality of the system's launch titles. A ported-over fighting game and a 6 hour long flight simulator were the only titles that really shined on day one, with a bunch of poor to relatively decent games, a glorified mini-game and two shiny remakes of Nintendo 64 classics being released from launch up until now. However good Ocarina of Time 3D and Starfox 64 3D are, nobody can deny they're not anything brand-new. And let's not forget that pretty much all of the best-looking upcoming 3DS titles are to be released in 2012; Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Resident Evil: Revelations among many other future releases being the games in question. Another aforementioned reason for the lack of system sales was undeniably the rather steep cost of the system up until the price finally dropped a week or so ago. Nintendo really didn't get the success they envisioned with the 3DS.

Of course, that was then. Let's move on to the now, and the glorious bright future that Nintendo are unleashing to make even more amends for the unsuccessful story that was the 3DS launch. Yesterday the big N held another press conference at the aptly named Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011 event and in turn unveiled what we should've seen at this year's disappointingly average E3 conference. 3DS games. And lots of 'em. Not to mention an absolutely huge turning tide of brand-new footage featuring The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, which I'll get onto in the second part of my previews of the next Zelda game, coming later on this month. Back to all this lovely new 3DS stuff, the future that Nintendo initially envisioned with their latest handheld looks like it will soon come into being, and it's about time too. Pretty much every at least decent upcoming game you can think of to be released for the system was shown-off in some form or another at yesterday's show. On top of loads of new footage for hotly anticipated, previously announced titles such as Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7 and various other first party games, the world's biggest games company unveiled a fair few all-new games that look to boost the awesomeness of the upcoming 3DS library even further. To celebrate this tidal wave of new information and footage, this post will be focusing on what was announced at the conference yesterday, not to mention the many games that 3rd-party developers and publishers revealed as well. Come 2012, it looks like the 3DS success story will finally begin. At last, the future is finally bright - the future is finally Nintendo 3DS. Without further delay, let's begin with the various peripherals and whatnot the big N showed off at the conference...

3DS Firmware Updates, New Colours and Peripherals...
Most Nintendo gamers should be aware of the much criticised extra Circle Pad add-on that was unveiled along with Capcom's 3DS expansion of Monster Hunter Tri (trust me, I'll get onto that later) and the extremely negative response it received. People dismissed the peripheral as an excuse to say Nintendo should have included a second analogue control mechanism on the 3DS in the first place, and seemingly undeniable proof that they'll most probably be releasing an updated console with an extra Circle Pad built-in sometime soon. The main gripes with the add-on were the fact that some games could potentially require it to be played, it looked uncomfortable and more importantly rather ridiculous and not very compact. Luckily Nintendo completely erased some of these false rumours about the extra Circle Pad yesterday and said it would only be used for camera control and extra purposes that would never make it compulsory to play certain games. Thank goodness for that. What was also revealed relating to the add-on was the games that are to use the peripheral. We already know that Monster Hunter Tri G will be making using of the extra control, but the likes of Metal Gear Solid 3, Ace Combat, Resident Evil: Revelations and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance were included in a list of six games announced to make use of it. You can check out an image of the actual Circle Pad add-on above. Personally I'm not too bothered about it but that doesn't mean I'm against it in any way - Let's just be thankful it isn't a compulsary addition to the 3DS hardware.
The extra Circle Pad Peripheral that's being causing a barrage of controversy lately was properly shown off at the event.
Speaking of 3DS hardware, a brand-new ultra girly (not to mention rather sexist) piece of pink 3DS kit was unveiled at Nintendo's conference. President Satoru Iwata himself said that the release of this new system colour would hopefully introduce female persons to the world of gaming. Or they could just buy a pink one to play Nintendogs + Cats. As vile as the new colour is, the pink edition of the DS Lite sold in quite a high number, so many good old Iwata is right in thinking it would attract the female crowd, however sexist the whole 'pink is for girls' stereotype is. The 'Misty Pink' 3DS system is to launch in all major regions soon. Alongside the new pink 3DS design, it was also confirmed at the conference that us here in the UK will be seeing the 'Metallic Red' model currently exclusive to Japan on our shelves, which marks the fourth 3DS colour available in our region. On a much more exciting note, our trusted Nintendo prez also confirmed that a firmware update is coming to the 3DS that will enable the system to support video recording features, which is pretty damn awesome if you ask me. While the 3DS camera most certainly doesn't have the highest mega pixel count of all time, it's still a nice, not to mention free, addition to the system. This could also be considered another way of Nintendo saying, "all those speculating the release of a new version of 3DS, shut up and have a free video recording expansion on your current systems!" It looks like we aren't really going to see a retail 3DS upgrade for a while at least, which is in many ways a good thing. What is also great is the software that Nintendo unveiled at the conference, which in true segway fashion means that I'll be writing about said games next...

Super Mario 3D Land
I must admit, I've never really been a big fan of Mario games. Because of this fact I've not really been looking forward to the mustachioed plumber's next big release that we now know as Super Mario 3D Land, an intruiging title that will land on 3DS before next year, and will hopefully give the system some much needed support from a first party Nintendo game that isn't a remake in the same year as the 3DS's English release. As much as I'm not a fan of Mario titles, I still find them pretty darn fun to play so my undeniable hype for Super Mario 3D Land finally initiated with the heap of new stuff regarding the title that was to be found at the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011. While I'm looking forward to the plumber's next kart racing game (which I'll be getting onto in a minute, just you wait and see) a Hell of a lot more than the next title in the 'main' Mario series, this still looks pretty wicked. 3D Land couldn't really be described as the next 3D (in terms of polygons) Mario because it's more of a "3D Mario game that plays like a 2D Mario game", as said by Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto in a recent interview regarding the title. If this doesn't make sense, think of 3D Land as a New Super Mario Bros. game, except it's a 3D platformer. Levels solely focus on getting from A to B, with the mission-based gameplay of 64, Sunshine and the Galaxy games completely removed from Mario's 3DS debut. Just like in the classic 2D games, free hub exploration is replaced by a map allowing you to travel between levels marked 1-1, 1-2, 1-3... and so on.

While the more linear approach Nintendo are taking with Super Mario 3D Land may sound rather lazy, it's actually no different from the concept of the New Super Mario Bros. games as I mentioned previously. When mixed with the linear level progression and borrowed ideas from previous 2D games, 3D Land looks set up to be a rather unique title. Despite this, the new 3DS title will introduce some new ideas rather than being a complete retro throwback. At the start of the latest trailer Mario is seen picking up something similar to the Propellor Suit from NSMB. Wii, except this time it comes in the form of a block; a Propellor Block, one might call it. Also new is the teleport block, which is another way of translating the warp star from the Galaxy universe into this kind of Mario game. Enemies like Goombas and Koopa Troopas can harness the same power-ups as Mario himself, which may have been touched on in past titles but never to this extent (Tanooki-tailed Goombas for the win!).

What's perhaps most interesting is the positively puzzling moment in the new trailer that genuinely fooled me. This moment involved a perspective trick that would only be solved by turning on the 3D on your 3DS, otherwise you'll be fooled into thinking a certain block is in one position when it actually isn't. It really has to be seen to be believed, so check out the trailer. So it ain't all old stuff, and in the end you've got to keep in mind that what we've seen of 3D Land thus far is scarce. Before Galaxy 2 came out, Nintendo showed off nothing but the earliest levels, and when that game was finally released it exploded with new ideashis moment involved a perspective trick that would only be solved by turning on the 3D on your 3DS, otherwise you'll be fooled into thinking a certain block is in one position when it actually isn't. It really has to be seen to be believed, so check out the trailer. So it ain't all old stuff, and in the end you've got to keep in mind that what we've seen of 3D Land thus far is scarce. Before Galaxy 2 came out, Nintendo showed off nothing but the earliest levels, and when that game was finally released it exploded with new ideas and originality. I feel Nintendo are taking the same route with 3D Land, even though this clearly isn't the next big 3D Mario game and rather feels like a new 2D game in 3D if that makes any sense whatsoever. All in all I'd say I'm looking forward to it, roll on November 18th when the game jumps onto our shelves!

Mario Kart 7
As I mentioned above when writing about Mario's next platformer, I'm not really a huge fan of the plumber's 'main' games. What I am a rather big fan of however is one of the spin-offs starring characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, namely the excellent Mario Kart series. Mario Kart DS and Wii were brilliant games in my opinion, and the next title in this kart racing series, Mario Kart 7 on 3DS, looks to be the best yet. Retro Studios of Metroid Prime and Donkey Kong Country Returns fame go behind the wheel in developing the latest Mario Kart, and they've clearly been taking many of the complaints regarding past games into accont with 7. Let's face it, Mario Kart Wii was a bit of a Marmite game: many loved it and many absolutely despised it. I would consider myself one of the former. Still, even I can't deny that the series' latest home console outing had its fair share of frustrating faults. Items were unbalanced and rubber-banding AI in later difficulties made the game extremely annoying at times, but Retro are doing the decent thing with the latest 3DS outing and are fixing these issues, while managing to shove in a lot of new content in the process. I genuinely believe this could be the biggest and best Mario Kart game yet.

So what are these lush new features the great Retro Studios are adding? First off, some new characters. In an interview shown some time after the Conference, the producer of Mario Kart 7 revealed two new faces who've never had a chance to go behind the wheel in a Mario Kart until now. If you've ever played a Mario Kart game you must be aware of Lakitu, the cloud-riding dude who flies on the track waving the flag at the start of a race and letting you know when you've cleared a lap after each trip around the track. Well, now you can actually play as Lakitu, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. Of course, new characters is never an all-new feature in each subsequent Mario Kart game, but this time some form of ability will be implemented in some chararcters, with Lakitu having the ability to stay airborne for longer. The other new character the producer introduced was Metal Mario, who as you may have guessed is the complete opposite of Lakitu. This metal version of the series' main man weighs a ton, meaing that he drops alititude a lot fast than his rival racers. However, Metal Mario's increased weight allows him to inflict much more heavy rams on other karts, allowing him to send others off-course much easier than if you were using a standard character.

We've also been told by the game's producer that there will be 16 new tracks in the newest game, including one 'sprint'-style stage based on Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit's WuHu Island. What he means by this is that you only take one long lap around the extended track rather than the usual three, which could lead to a lot of competition in getting the best time on this stage. Previous tracks also return in the form of Retro stages, which may not be anything new but they seem to have picked some great choices from past titles, such as the Waluigi Pinball from Mario Kart DS which offered pure eye-candy, and will do more so in 3D. Also confirmed are two new power-ups, one of which was talked about by producer Konno himself and the other I happened to notice in a video of the game. The first new item is the Fire Flower, which has been included in Mario games since Super Mario Bros. on NES and makes its Mario Kart debut on 3DS. Also new is the Tanooki Leaf, the ability of which the item will entail is currently unknown.

It's safe to say that there's a lot more to say about Mario Kart's 3DS outing than Super Mario 3D Land. I haven't even got on to the first-person perspective that supports gyroscope controls to really make you feel like you're properly driving around the game's crazy tracks, as well as the kart customisation features we saw at E3, not to mention the Glider and underwater sections on tracks that seem to add a greater sense of strategy to racing in the game. Oh, and I also declined to mention that Mario Kart 7 will include 8 player online multiplayer, which is what I definitely wanted to see more than anything else. Your status on Mario Kart 7's online multiplayer will also be shown on the 3DS Friend List (for example your record times and whatnot) when playing the game, which is a very cool addition to what's already on offer here in Mario Kart 7. The game will also include StreetPass and SpotPass features as if the online multiplayer alone wasn't enough. Overall, I can't wait for the next installment in the Mario Kart series, even more so than I'm looking forward to Super Mario 3D Land. The game launches off the starting line and into UK shelves on December 2nd, so there's not long to wait!

Monster Hunter Tri G and Monster Hunter 4
A few weeks before the Nintendo 3DS Conference 2011 event took place, Capcom announced Monster Hunter Tri G for 3DS along with the controversial aforementioned secondary Circle Pad peripheral. Naturally, some gameplay and whatnot of this portable expansion of Monster Hunter Tri was shown off at the event, but to the immense shock of myself and many others, they also announced that another, brand-new game in the series is heading to 3DS: Monster Hunter 4. While only what is essentially a tech demo was shown at the conference making it clear that we won't be seeing the game proper for a long while, this announcement was pretty damn unexpected to say the least. Before I talk about that though, back to Monster Hunter Tri G. I did a First Impressions post on Monster Hunter Tri recently, so you'll most probably be aware of my opinion on the series that has been oh-so popular in Japan since its PS2 origins. Tri G is, as I said, an expansion of the Wii game that was released last year, except it's on 3DS and not in its original place on Nintendo's home console. Capcom have introduced an amount of brand-new content, such as new beasts to best in hunts, a revamped hub made specifically to look amazing in 3D and all-new weapons and armour sets. Unfortunately, with all the new stuff, some content from the original Monster Hunter Tri apparently must be stripped in the 3DS game. And, being Capcom, the thing they happened to take out of Monster Hunter Tri G is the online multiplayer. They've axed the online. Hooray, more reasons to hate Capcom. Sarcasm aside, the lack of online multiplayer in an expansion of what is one of the best online multiplayer games around is enough to disappoint any Monster Hunter fan, but Tri G still looks to offer a solid single player experience.

While the online in Monster Hunter Tri is utterly brilliant, there's really nothing much more satisfying than battering a huge dinosaur-like collossus on your own, without the help of other hunters who tend to make difficult hunts rather easy. Monster Hunter Tri G essentially looks like it's going to be the satisfactory package that was the original's single player mode, but that doesn't mean your hunter alias won't be getting any help from others in the portable expansion. Anyone who's played Tri's solo adventure will remember Cha-Cha, a tiki-like creature that I still regard as one of the most infuriatingly annoying video game characters of all time; Forget Navi or Slippy Toad, this little fellow will induce more headaches than both of those hated characters put together. Still, he did help quite a bit in quests, healing your hunter and carving up extra treasure from the carcasses of dead beasts, and in Monster Hunter Tri G you'll be helped by not only Cha-Cha, but many of his buddies too. Indeed, you'll have multiple Cha-Chas helping you on your quests, which will undeniably be extremely annoying but also rather useful. Some new monsters naturally invade the portable expansion of Tri too, with Baroktor being the game's cover star. This beast looks a lot like Barroth, a huge ram-like monster who appeared in the original Tri, only a lot more green and blue. Apparently Baraktor uses the green goop on his body to attack hunters who try to best him in showdowns, but the glowing spots on its body reveal its weak spots. Sounds like an interesting monster to have as cover star for Tri G, but a cool one nonetheless. Other new creatures have been shown in screenshots and the like, but the exact details of said beasts have not yet been unveiled at the time of writing this post. Alongside new monsters to hunt and an increased amount of Cha-Chas to help your hunter out, one other big addition has been introduced in Tri G: A competely revamped hub to make full use of the 3DSs parralax barrier capabilities. This renovated version of Monster Hunter Tri's village looks to boost the visual eye candy of wondering around preparing for hunts all the more in the 3DS expansion, and that's judging from what we've seen in 2D. With these new additions and possibly more to come, it'd definitely be a shame if Capcom didn't release Monster Hunter Tri G in PAL and NTSC regions. Sure, there's a disappointing lack of online capabilities, but this game would certainly be yet another great title squeezed into the 3DS library in 2012. Whether Capcom will release it outside of Japan or not is yet to be confirmed, but we can always hope...

Another game in Capcom's popular Monster brawling franchise that clearly has a much better chance of being released outside of the land of the rising sun is Monster Hunter 4 for 3DS (and possibly some other consoles, too). Yes, Capcom revealed the next main game in the series at the conference alongside the new stuff shared with us regarding their portable expansion of Monster Hunter Tri. Not only will this future instalment have online multiplayer, but it'll also be offering a much-needed twist on the standard Monster Hunter gameplay from what we saw in somewhat of a teaser trailer at the conference. Yes, you still play as a hunter with a sole focus on beating up beasts and boosting your ego, but this time things feel a lot more human. The teaser that Capcom showed off at the conference depicted a scared to death hunter, legging it from a massive land beast in a more realistic fashion than any previous Monster Hunter game. He hurls himself across gaps between breaking pillars in order to escape from the monster he's so terrified of, barely making it across said gapss. Grasping onto falling pillars of land and eventually making it up a steep slope, another even more deadly dragon-like monster appears, brawling the hunter's previous pursuer while the tiny human hurls himself out of the way. The hunter eventually decides to man up and jumps onto the dragon, stabbing it in the neck while the creature is airborne. At the end of the trailer the hunter brings the massive monster down and in turn shows us what a difference Monster Hunter 4 is going to make for the series. What was previously an admittedly clunky questing game with a rather repetitive focus on MMO-esque questing looks to become a much more heart-pounding battle against a multitude of huge beasts, complete with more realistic physics. And trust me, I like what we've seen of Monster Hunter 4 so far, what little there was to be seen at the conference. The game is clearly in early stages of development, so who knows when it will end up being released? While Monster Hunter Tri G is less likely to be released in the UK, it will surely be out next year if Capcom do make the right decision (which is unlikely because they are Crapcom).

And so, there you have it. My three, or technically four games that stood out for me personally as highlights in Nintendo's most recent gaming event. Loads of other games were revealed, and I'll most certainly be going into more detail on those titles in future posts. Until next time, look forward to my upcoming Skyward Sword Preview and peace out!


George said...

That was a great blog Noodle! Love de facts!

Noodle said...

Sorry, it ain't finished yet. I had to get it up last month so I posted what I'd done. I'm finishing it off as we speak!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog, and I look forward to the second part =P

(btw this is super yoshifan from the ONM forums)

Noodle said...

Cheers, good to see people from ONM are actually clicking that link in my signature now xD