Sunday, 1 July 2012

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

We suitably ended part one of my Nintendo E3 2012 Impressions on a cliffhanger of sorts, and now it's time to finish it. Following the reveal of Super Scribblenauts, Nintendo of America's main man Reggie returned to the spotlight and was quick to introduce a short showcase of games set to arrive on Nintendo's upcoming home platform, the Wii U. Some of these were titles we saw last year, but I can't help but discuss a few specific chunks of the oncoming storm that is the Wii U. Opening up the video, cheesy background music and all, was Darksiders II. The original Darksiders was thumped for its slight unoriginality in both combat and storytelling, but the sequel looks to be in the same boat as Red Steel 2, in that it appears almost entirely different and vastly improved when compared to its predecessor. Now, I haven't played the original game, but I'm certainly excited for its sequel. The fluid beat-'em-up gameplay and Zelda-like exploration, dungeon crawling and puzzle solving, as well as various RPG elements will most likely make for a winning recipe and a more than welcome release in the Wii U's launch window. Granted, we saw some of Darksiders' sequel at last year's conference, but to complain about this would be nitpicking on a minuscule scale. This could be one of the Wii U's first heavy hitters.

Next up was Mass Effect 3, and I think I've pretty much summed that up in one sentence. Back to new games, Aliens: Colonial Marines (hilarious how both a punctuated colon and the word colon are used in this title) is looking rather good. Coming from Gearbox, the same lovely folks who developed one of the best shooters of the last few years, Borderlands, as well as one of the most hilariously bad, Duke Nukem Forever, this Alien spin-off looks to be both true to the franchise and impressive in its own right. Judging from what we've seen of it, Colonial Marines seems to have a sort of Metroid Prime-esque vibe to it, with dark, dank lighting and the deadly antagonists jumping seemingly out of nowhere, paired with harrowing exploration as opposed to linear levels. Whether or not this will top, be on par or fall short of Metroid Prime is down to the final release, the Wii U version of which is said to be the definitive version directly from Gearbox, but judging from the run-up to the release this just might be a game to look forward to, folks. Various other games were shown in the video, including a new version of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, cult indie sequel Trine 2 and the still-ultra violent Nintendo-published version of Ninja Gaiden Sigma 3, but I think it's time to move onto the next major announcement...

...Or announcements, rather. If you saw the conference, or read the previous two paragraphs and indeed the first part of this opinionated synopsis, you may well have noticed a distinct lack of anything non-Wii U related, but at this point, that changed. Well, for about five minutes. Regardless, Reggie begun a 3DS-focused segment soon after the reveal of Wii Fit U (which, if you read part one, you'll know why I'm bypassing). This wasn't quite the big selection of new releases for Nintendo's current handheld that we'd hoped for, another disappointing aspect of the conference, but we were still shown a few things. Unfortunately for the favouritism-focused cynics among us, all three of the 3DS games shown during this press conference were Mario-related, although the man discussing these three games, Scott Mofitt, was set to unveil a lot more in a 3DS-exclusive, pre-recorded conference the following day. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great. Yes, we saw a fair few games and even an appearance from the non-specific action figure, but nothing we hadn't seen at least a few days prior. Enough about that, though, this post does happen to be about Nintendo's main E3 conference, after all. The first of the three games shown was Nintendo's next 2D-outing for Mario. We got more than a glimpse at New Super Mario Bros. U earlier on in the show, which in my opinion looked fantastic, but the same honestly can't be said about New Super Mario Bros. 2.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the first handheld Mario release that plays out on a 2D plain to feature 2 player co-op. That's all well and good, but does this release pack anything else we haven't seen previously?
I've already ranted about the apparent lack of originality judging from the games initial announcement, and its ridiculous title (surely this should be either New Super Mario Bros. 3 or 4?) but let's get to the meat of things here - Does New Super Mario Bros. 2 look like it's going to be a good game? Certainly, but the aforementioned lack of originality remains mainly intact. We do however, know of the main gimmick behind the game, one not seen before in Mario titles... Sort of. As Scott explained, this 2D outing is 'all about the gold', and you'll be hearing the word 'gold' a fair bit in the next few sentences. Basically, the collection of gold coins is one of the main focuses in the game, much more so than every Mario title before it. New power-ups like Gold Mario and the Coin Block have the plumber practically bathing in coins, which helps contribute to one of the main tasks you'll find when playing the game: the gargantuan task of collecting a million coins. I'm not against this concept of gold-hoarding, but it's not really all that clever, either. What could be considered worse is that the core game is looking almost identical to the original DS game and it's Wii successor. While Mario fans will most probably cope, I can't see myself picking this one up straight off the bat, and seeing how these games never seem to drop in price, I can't see myself buying it soon after, either. Still, New Super Mario Bros. 2 will surely satisfy many, even though it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth thanks to its unoriginality.

The diorama-like environments of the Paper Mario series should look even better in three stereoscopic dimensions.
As you should know from that last set of words, excessive rehashing and re-releasing bugs me quite a lot. luckily, then, the next two games shown were two sequels set to impress, ones that I personally can't fault just yet. Again, both are part of the Mario series, but when the games in question are part of two particularly ace spin-off series', this repetition can easily be ignored. For the sake of getting this post out as soon as possible, I'll be skipping the final title that was revealed, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, simply because we didn't get any new information regarding the game that we didn't find out at 2011's conference. Regardless, the game still looks great but I personally reckon that the other title is more worthy of an analysis. Mario RPGs may have begun at their peak with Super Mario RPG on the SNES, but since then several other spin-offs fitting into the same genre have spawned. The Mario and Luigi series is the most recognisable nowadays, but Paper Mario is soon to attempt to steal the crown with its upcoming 3DS iteration, Sticker Star. However dodgy the title of this game happens to be, it fits in well with the basic premise of the newly introduced element; Stickers. Any fan should know that the Paper Mario series has always taken place in a shoebox diorama-like open world, but in this iteration stickers can be found smacked onto the virtual paper, begging to be peeled off. And it's worth collecting these stickers, too, as they control pretty much every battle command; whether it be simple moves like stomping on papered Goombas, to activating a massive fan to solve puzzles in the overworld or send enemies flying. Outside of the Stickers element, Sticker Star is still very much a core Paper Mario RPG, one that many of us should be looking forward to...

Despite the basic nature of its source, Lego City Undercover does actually look surprisingly gorgeous and inventive visually.
And so, we're brought out of the realms of 3DS news and shoved right back into Wii U games with what may have been a wasted reveal. Let's face it, what was then known as Lego City Stories didn't exactly get shouts of enthusiasm at last year's conference, but it took many of us by surprise this year with its witty comedy, lush visuals and gaping open world premise. After the annoyingly unfunny Scott Moffitt left the stage following his quick 3DS showing, quotable legend Reggie returned to the show floor and was quick to introduce the game in its new form - as Lego City Undercover. You may scoff, because while this is clearly a game aimed at the younger members of society, this release looks like a genuinely good game judging from the trailer. It also looks funny. Of course, this is to be expected from TT Games' Lego titles, which have brickified various franchises for years now. Past Lego titles have been drastically similar, all with few changes in each subsequent release. Well, TT are now focused on innovating their development; Lego Batman 2 did this with a massive open world and various new elements, and Lego City Undercover already looks like it's going to do the same. This title can only really be compared to Grand Theft Auto (it is blatantly obvious that's what the developers were going for, in fairness), only in a kid-friendly shell. Instead of committing crimes playing as highly detailed sweary folks, you'll be doing the complete opposite: fighting crime as fictional cop Chase McCain, a blocky protagonist in what will most definitely be a laughable quest to rid the city of evil. The great thing about this release is that, aside from the aforementioned GTA in terms of gameplay, it has practically no source material... Excluding the odd pop culture reference. So, a GTA game made of Lego featuring some funny dialogue and clever references. If this turns out bad I'm going to eat my shoes and look like I'm enjoying it. And I'll have you know my shoes cost 50 quid.

Like deceased zombie food, apocalypse survival games starring countless undead aren't exactly rare in this day and age, but ZombiU is more than welcome to serve up some realism on Wii U.
If you read part one of of my E3 Impressions (if not, why on Earth did you skip to part 2?) you should know that Pikmin 3 was without a doubt my personal highlight of this year's conference, and I'm sure many others share this opinion, too. Well, you might be shocked to know that another game, one from Ubisoft, no less, ended up being a close contender. Skip past a rather amusing Just Dance 4 showing in which Reggie played the 'puppet master' (which he hilariously described as "like running Nintendo of America")  and you'll find Ubisoft's reveal of ZombiU. Remember that hilarious WiiU demonstration I dedicated a whole post to several hours before E3? Turns out the game shown in that video was, yes, Ubisoft's new zombie apocalypse survival game. Don't get me wrong, I love slightly mental games of the same ilk, such as Resident Evil Mercenaries and TimeSplitters' zombie modes,  but a realistic outing is something we haven't really yet seen in the world of gaming. If you consider fighting off hordes of reanimated corpses realistic, anyway. In ZombiU, the possible successor to Ubisoft's first ever game, Zombi, you take control of a character with one task: survival. To help you, you'll need tools which are handily all fitted into your Wii U GamePad. Guns, axes, medical kits, you name it. The intuitive controller also acts as your means of hacking locked doors, looking down the sights of a sniper rifle, shaking hungry carnivores off you, and so on. Fitting more into the realism aspect is the fact that, if you're bitten just once, your character will be zombified and you'll take control of another still-human avatar. Cleverly, when your character has been reanimated, he'll be an undead foe to best in your next game. Also clever is an augmented reality extra packed into the game, something that made for yet another laughable moment in a particularly amusing conference. After being instructed to hold the GamePad in front of his face, Reggie did so and was soon to be zombified. As if this wasn't funny enough, he began spouting ridiculous lines like, "I like French food!" and "I'm hungry now!". Oh, Reggie, please don't leave Nintendo any time soon.

I don't think I've ever posted such a colourful piece of artwork here on the blog. 
And so, we reach the final segment of this post. What I'm about to explore was easily one of the most controversial topics at this year's Nintendo conference, and indeed E3 as a whole. You should know by now that I'm referring to Nintendo Land, the Wii U launch title that the Big N reckon will boost console sales massively, just as Wii Sports did at that system's launch. It's not to say that the game looks bad, but it was easily this year's conference's biggest and most infuriating flaw. Why? It's quite simple, really. The reveal of this important yet unpleasing mini-game collection was stretched out for far too long. In the space that they could've shown off several of the attractions found in the virtual theme park that is Nintendo Land, they spent a quarter of an hour doing an overly in-depth synopsis of what is essentially Pac-Man: Luigi Edition. And it didn't get a good response, not even from yours truly. It's not to say that there isn't anything positive to state about this release, mind. Had the announcement been of a shorter length with more than a single, slightly uninteresting attraction, the Nintendo Land reveal probably wouldn't have been as boycotted as it is now. Interestingly, Nintendo were in some ways forced to stretch out the announcement until the very end of the conference. Read on and you'll discover why...

Since E3 there have been a number of revelations regarding an upcoming Wii U release from the much-loved Retro Studios, the same Nintendo subsidiary that brought us the excellent Metroid Prime trilogy and the brilliant retro revival that was Donkey Kong Country Returns, one of my favourite 2D platformers to date. Put simply into words anyone could understand, Retro were supposed to show off their new game at E3, but they (along with Nintendo) felt that it wasn't quite ready. Honestly, this is more than fair. A stretched-out catastrophe of an announcement regarding a game that actually looks rather good judging from what we saw outside of the conference may not have been the best idea, but at least we now know there was a reason for it. Personally, I'm pumped for Retro's new release, and hopefully we'll discover more about it in the not too distant future. Back to Nintendo Land, it's essentially a party game, one packed with various mini-games that support both Wii Remote Plus and the GamePad. Pac-Man: Luigi Edition (it wasn't actually called that but it's not exactly difficult to forget its true name) actually looked particularly poor in comparison to the other multiplayer events on offer, shown after the conference ended.

This multiplayer Zelda experience found in Nintendo Land is known as Battle Quest. Slightly generic name aside, I would've preferred to see this shown-off at the conference as opposed to a Pac-Man impersonation.
One example of a mini-game that appeared superior to the ghastly experience we witnessed at the conference is a Zelda based mini-game in which players battle it out with the very same fluid 1:1 motion controls of last year's fantastic Skyward Sword. Personally, this is something I'd definitely want to try out. I'm willing to bet Nintendo Land will be packaged with Wii U systems at launch, so I probably will eventually. However, this leads us into one key argument: will this release actually sell the system? Only time will tell, but in my opinion I doubt it will have the same effect as Wii Sports did. Let's face the facts, here: Nintendo Land is far too overly complex for the stereotypical 'casual' gamer, as much as I hate using the phrase. Wii Sports was a simplistic experience that was more than easy to pick up and play - Literally all you had to do to play Tennis was waggle as soon as the ball reached your Mii. It's just my view and I'm willing to reserve judgement, mind, but be sure to share your own views in the comments below.

Closing comments are tough to deal with when it comes to a controversial topic. A lot of people didn't find enjoyment out of this year's Nintendo E3 conference, and that's fair enough. I personally felt that people were mainly complaining about what we didn't see; first-party games catering for the more serious gamer specifically. Surprising as it may be, not many people have even heard of Pikmin, which was pretty much the only thing that would've fit neatly into this position. It's as if we've been waiting for it for so long that people have forgotten how great a franchise it was almost a decade ago, and it still is. For me, the main thing about E3 isn't the announcements, it's about having a great time. Yes, the games shown-off contribute to an enjoyable experience, but in the same way that Christmas isn't all about presents, a worthwhile experience makes the yearly Electronic Entertainment Expo exactly that: worthwhile. I enjoyed myself watching and exploring this year's E3 a bucketload more than the one that took place in 2011, and what's more is that, with the Wii U seeing launch before the year ends, we're set to have another great experience in 2013. At this, I bid you all adieu. A special thanks to Nintendo for making this post possible, and of course, you. As always, I'd greatly appreciate some constructive comments. Here's to improvement on my part; Hopefully we'll have an even better E3 synopsis next year...

1 comment:

Kezz said...

Great read, and well written. :D

Have to say I pretty much agree with everything said about the games. And I rather enjoyed this year's conference too, was far better than last year's.