Sunday, 24 June 2012

Feature: My Impressions of Nintendo's E3 Conference [Part 1/2] [2012 Edition]

Well, here we are again, folks. If you watched Nintendo's E3 2012 Conference and have been reading the pieces of writing found on this site for a while, you'll know what to expect here; My own personal opinionated run-down of everything that happened at the show. If you're not familiar with E3 yet, check out some of my previous pieces of writing regarding the topic, because I ain't wasting any time discussing it here. I must admit that, while it was undeniably disappointing, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this year's Nintendo conference, much more so than the bland-fest that was 2011. More than any conference before it, this year packed a fair few memorable moments in the form of interesting new games and utterly hilarious moments, and these factors made for a much more enjoyable watch than the Queen's Diamond Jubilee that took place on the same day. I'm proud to be a British citizen not celebrating such an apparently momentous occasion, instead opting for keeping my eyes glued to a screen showing the events of the Nokia Theatre. And I've got to say, I'm glad I did.

Before I begin, I'll have to inform you that this year things are going to work a tad differently for my E3 Impressions. Let's face it, in some ways like the conference itself this year, my last two E3 Impressions posts didn't go down too well. I couldn't even finish the 2011 edition due to accidental erasure and a lack of motivation, and the 2010 one, while completed, is another example of how poor I was at writing around the time I started out. Because of this, I don't want to mess this one up, and I'm sure you readers don't want me to either. So, I've decided to basically go through my highlights of Nintendo's conference, skipping out anything pointless, or giving anything that deserves no more than a brief mention... a brief mention. Yes, I'm talking about the likes of SiNG, Freestyle games' disgusting alternative to what would've been DJ Hero 3 if Activision didn't idiotically can the franchise, as well as Wii Fit U, which definitely doesn't look bad but just doesn't interest me in the slightest. I will, however, be discussing what we saw at the anti-climactic end of the conference, what I consider to be the main gripe everyone seemed to have with this year's show (again, I still quite enjoyed the event as a whole). Well, without further ado, let's explore my opinions of 2012's Nintendo E3 Conference. I'll try my hardest not to drag this on for too long, much like the climax of the show itself...

This year's conference begun at its peak. While this wasn't exactly a smart move considering the downfall of interesting software following the first announcement, the reveal of this particular game, one many of us have been eagerly anticipating for oh-so long, at least made for a fantastic opening to an otherwise sinking below satisfactory conference. Kicking things off, a short skit featuring Shigeru Miyamoto himself was projected onto our screens, involving him making his way to the show floor in a similar fashion to Jools Holland. However, like Jools never would, Miyamoto had a few familiar, petite creatures in his vicinity. After arriving on stage, the main man behind the third iteration of the franchise that was about to finally be unveiled in gameplay form, spoke the name of said franchise, not long before its helpful, interplanetary creatures were displayed on the shoulders of several, embarrassed-looking attendees in the audience. This marked the first laughable, enjoyable moment in a conference stuffed full of memorable segments such as this one. Anyway, the well-renowned game developer soon called upon his own helper, Bill Trinen (who should be familiar to anyone who has watched a previous Nintendo conference, if not, he's the guy's translator), in a fashion similar to that found in the game I still haven't written the name of. So, to make things a little less difficult for me, we all know that Pikmin 3 was finally shown-off at this year's conference. And it looked astonishing.

Opening the conference was, at long last, Pikmin 3. But more on that in a few paragraphs' time. Although, it's probably worth noting the flying pink creature that wasn't even mentioned in word form. Flying Pikmin?
There's no doubt that Pikmin 3 was the highlight of the conference for me. But, before I begin discussing this spectacle, just as Miyamoto-san and Trinen unveiled the near-final version of what is now called the GamePad before showing any footage of the title, let's take a look at the main driving force behind the conference as a whole; I'm of course referring to Nintendo's next console, the Wii U. Last year's reveal of Nintendo's latest piece of hardware was so underwhelming and disappointing that it hurt just a little inside, and while I keep going on about how poor E3 2011 was, I can't stress this particular piece of disappointment enough. It's not to say that the console looked bad, it's just, well, we didn't even see the console until after the big unveiling, which was quite frankly a naff move from a usually clever company. The whole segment regarding the system was focused on the controller and the intriguing possibilities for game design it offers. Clever as it was, I would've liked to have seen the system at the right time, too. Well, this year we've got a good look at both the slick, stylish console and its intuitive GamePad through both the E3 Conference and the pre-E3 Nintendo Direct that was streamed the Sunday before the big show. You only have to take a look at the image above to see that Nintendo haven't messed around when designing the system. The Pad is still the genius 'viewing window' it was last year, but the current model also sports dual analogue sticks as opposed to the circle pads we saw on the previous design, which is a blatant improvement.

The black model of the Wii U hardware is looking rather slick, if I do say so myself. When I do eventually buy the system, this is most definitely the colour I'm going for.
Also later touched on in the conference was Miiverse, the built-in social network set to rival what the Wii lacked in this generation as opposed to its supposedly hardcore cousins, the PS3 and Xbox 360. Before I shove a copy of MadWorld down a raging Microsoft fanboy's throat, I must express that I love it when Nintendo do things differently. Instead of ripping-off Xbox Live and whatnot for the Wii U's much-needed revolution, they've come up with a clever way of bypassing the feature by developing one with the same concept but a very different outlook. Miiverse projects several different game icons across a landscape similar to the 3DS and Wii's Mii Plazas, albeit on a much larger scale. The Miis you'll find in the Miiverse are those of your friends, your own personal Miis and your creations, as well as other large chunks of communities playing and discussing the games you own, naturally under the individual blocks. As New Super Mario Bros. U showed later on in the conference, Miiverse social interaction can also be implemented into the actual games, but more on that later. It's a simple concept, much more so than the likes of the non-Nintendo consoles of last generation, but I'm more excited about this if only for the company's breaking out of the norm. This feature alone got me hyped up just a little bit more for the Wii U following its initial announcement at the pre-E3 Nintendo Direct showing, which is no bad thing after the wholly unexciting display of last year's E3.

And now, we return to my personal highlight of the entire show: the long-awaited sequel that is Pikmin 3. Bill and Miyamoto-san introduced the first bit of footage for the game following their Wii U talk, and both those in the rafters of the show floor and many of us at home well and truly went nuts, and for good reason. In the form of an actual game set to see release, this is the first high-definition footage of a first-party Nintendo game to be beamed into our eyes, if you forget those tech demos last year. There's another upside to the glorious visuals, too, aside from the game looking great. Miyamoto explained that, during the development of the original Pikmin just over ten years prior to the third series instalment, they had trouble deciding on how close or far away from Captain Olimar they should position the camera. Commanding a swarm of 100 Pikmin didn't help this in standard definition, but in HD it can be dealt with without much effort. They say graphics aren't everything, but this proves that visuals have some importance. Regardless, as awesome as Pikmin 3 looks visually, gameplay is obviously the number one priority for a title like this, and what we've seen so far doesn't involve disappointment. One can't deny that Pikmin 3 looks similar to its predecessors in a conceptual sense, but the various new features and improvements implemented into this release are set to be nothing short of exciting.

Here's Pikmin 3, in all its high definition glory. There's not much else that can be said, to be perfectly honest.
Where do I start? At the beginning would probably be the most suitable solution. After discussing the benefits of a much higher resolution than the GameCube was capable of supporting, Miyamoto went on to briefly explain the concept of the series. I think his brief description was effective, in that he noted Pikmin is a real-time action management game. I'm not going to go into all the details, here, just the new stuff. A new Pikmin type was quickly introduced; the Rock Pikmin. The hard-bodied creatures are blatantly a lot tougher than their counterparts, and can be used to break glass walls and hurled at enemy armour to put a dent in it. Speaking of dents, the way in which the Pikmin break down walls and the like is a lot more realistic in the third game, as its lead developer explains. He went on to explain that the strategy element of the game as a whole is much deeper in this release, and he certainly wasn't joking. Players now control up to four Pikmin leaders, none of which were Captain Olimar, surprisingly. Apparently his absence is explained through the story of the game. Back to strategy, the game mainly uses the Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk for precise 1:1 controls, but a GamePad mode is also integrated. With a top-down outlook on the map, players can see what each of the four commanders is up to at a glance, proving more benefits of the innovative controller. There's so much more I could say about Pikmin 3, but nothing that hasn't already been said. Put simply, it looks awesome and when I do eventually get my hands on a Wii U I'll definitely be adding this release to my collection. Unfortunately, the conference begun to sink from here on out. Read on...

Oh, and here's New Super Mario Bros. U in all its gorgeous HD clarity. I sincerely hope they change the name of this title so people don't think it's just another re-hash. The following paragraph explains why...
Once again, I'm going to have to quickly refer to E3 2011 before I move on. Alongside the Wii U last year, we were shown a compilation of already released or upcoming PS3 and Xbox 360 games that were supposedly coming to the system, a couple of which were apparently just shoved in there to fill time (Metro: Last Light, I'm staring right at you). This year is different, because we have a driving force for the conference; new games. And, as Reggie Fils-Aime stated soon after the big reveal of Pikmin 3, this year's conference was all about the games. He wasn't lying. Refraining from the urge to reference the 23 Enigma, Reggie stated that we'd see 23 games at the conference that afternoon, and we did. At this point, Nintendo's second first party game of the conference was revealed; New Super Mario Bros. U. Don't be fooled by the unoriginal, re-hashed title of the game, because the amount of new ideas stuffed into the brief footage we were shown of it was of a much higher frequency than the entirety of Super Mario 3D Land, and we all know of my attitude towards that game's unoriginality. Whether it be the Baby Yoshis, which have seen a fairly drastic change in everything but appearance since their last appearance in Super Mario World, or the insane-looking Squirrel Suit, New Super Mario Bros. U has introduced enough new ideas to get me pumped, already. The same can't be said about the 3DS instalment in the admittedly over-milked series, but more on that in the second half.

If you've already played Batman: Arkham City on PS3 or Xbox 360, there's not really anything new for you here aside from improved graphics and GamePad integration. That's not to say that this isn't a must for those who haven't played it before, mind...
In the previous paragraph I noted that Mr. Fils-Aime stated that we'll be seeing 23 Wii U titles at the conference. Of course, quality usually holds more importance than quantity, and this is where the conference fell a bit flat. Yes, we're getting enhanced editions of games that would've never appeared on Wii, but brand-new stuff would've undeniably been better. Regardless, let's quickly analyse the first of these games, Batman Arkham City: Armoured Edition. You may scoff at this being only a slightly enhanced port, but anyone who complains clearly can't accept that this was a smart move. Anyway, Batman: Arkham City Armoured Edition takes the original game and updates it with a number of new features making use of the GamePad. Bats can now activate bombs by pressing them on the viewing window, and the new B.A.T system, while a tad unoriginal, isn't unwelcome. Plus, this is the same phenomenal game many of us experienced last year (me unfortunately not being one of those people) but with a few adjustments. It's like re-releasing Ocarina of Time. It's lazy, but it's opening a game up to the masses that haven't yet played it. Again, you can't complain.

You may scoff, but Scribblenauts is an ingenious franchise and Unlimited, arriving soon on Wii U and 3DS, looks to be the series' greatest release.
Moving onwards, a few of us found ourselves mesmerised by WB Games' next exclusive Nintendo offering. Well, I did at least. This new game, the Wii U version of which was focused on at the conference, is said to be the definitive release in the series it finds itself in. This announcement was also the first from a third-party at the conference to be brand-new. Scribblenauts Unlimited, like Nintendo's next home system, feels truly like a revolution in comparison to the first two DS releases, both of which were already superb and rather ingenious. If you've never played or even heard of Scribblenauts (in which case you probably groaned through this part of the conference due to the decidedly casual trailer - you shouldn't have) then let me briefly explain the concept before I move on to the innovations implemented into the next release. The original Scribblenauts was a DS release that went on to sell over a million copies thanks to its genius concept; players could quite literally write almost any word and it would appear as an in-game object. Dinosaurs? You've got it. Cthulu? Amazingly, yes, alongside a number of internet memes and the like, too. The sequel, Super Scribblenauts, introduced Adjectives into the fray allowing for even more creativity. Now, Unlimited is set to expand and innovate even further with its free-roaming exploration, multiplayer and customisation modes. Looking to feel like more than an expansion, this is one to be excited about, folks.

And this, fellow readers, is where I bid you adieu. Well, for the first half, at least. You can expect part 2 of my in-depth E3 Impressions up before the month ends, so look forward to that. For now, though, be sure to leave a comment, whether it's in regards to the post or your own personal views on Nintendo's conference or E3 as a whole. As always, thanks for reading!

Part 2 Coming Soon...


Anonymous said...

Good read that was. I agree with all of it really. Plus kudos to the Diamond Jubilee comment. Look forward to reading more,


Kezz said...

Great read. I agree with most things, but I can't really say I'm excited for Scribblenauts Unlimited. Can't wait for part 2. (:

Tom Badguy said...

I thought E3 this year was a pretty big bummer. I'm just pumped for Star Wars 1313. That's about it.