The Wii U, 3DS, Wii and their conference - how did it all go?

The E3 is behind us, we’ve had time to sit down and think it all over - so what did we think of Nintendo’s showing at this years E3. Everything from the actual conference to what was shown off. Let’s begin.

Daniel Miller’s recap

The Good – The announcement of Smash Bros. 3DS/Wii U was enough to redeem Nintendo’s presence at E3 for me. Luigi’s Mansion 2 was also a very welcome announcement of a new game. The other big games we saw like Super Mario 3DS and Mario Kart 3DS also looked great, even if we had already seen them in the past. Skyward Sword looked fantastic, too, and made me excited for this final hurrah for the Wii. People also seemed to enjoy playing the Wii U, even with the limited tech demos shown.

The Bad – The press conference was handled strangely. There were only a few announcements of new, unseen games at the conference. Many new games shown off by Nintendo at E3 were excluded from the conference in an odd bid to focus more on third parties, but in actual fact it just made the conference seem lacklustre. I’m talking about Kirby Wii in particular which looked great in the trailer they released and on the show floor demo, but was nowhere to be seen at the conference. Other big hitters like Pikmin 3 were nowhere to be seen (even if it has moved to the Wii U). The press conference was meant to set up Nintendo’s presence at the show over the following days, but I don’t think it quite got there.

The Ugly – The entire segment about the Wii U during the press conference was pretty appalling. People wanted facts and solid information on the new console and instead they got a weird presentation that could have been about a Wii controller accessory. Instead of giving us information on the specs of the system or walking onto the stage holding the console itself, they played tech demo videos that didn’t answer too many questions. We still don’t know what’s powering the console and didn’t actually get a look at the unit itself until after the conference. I felt that this part of the conference really fell over. Luckily the good impressions of the console from the show floor saved Nintendo’s showing this year a little. However all the games shown off seemed to be just tech demos that will wind up in the next "Wii U Play" pack. We didn’t actually see any proper games except for Ghost Recon Online, and even then there was no stage demo of that game at the conference in order to get a really good look at it. In fact, there were no stage demos at the conference at all!

The 3DS’s line-up also failed to inspire. Don’t get me wrong, the first-party Nintendo games they showed off did indeed look very good. But there was absolutely no indication of any big third-party games heading the system’s way. The PlayStation Vita inspired a lot more confidence in that area. The 3DS can claim a Metal Gear Solid 3 port, which is also getting the HD treatment on the home consoles, and a Tekken game. There was not much there to inspire that big third-party developers are in it for the long haul in the next year. Also, there was a lack of new Nintendo titles for the 3DS being announced other than Luigi’s Mansion 2 and the tease about Smash Bros 3DS. Where was F-Zero 3DS and the others we hope are coming to the system? The Smash Bros. 3DS announcement was great though, but the stinger was that development hadn’t really started yet.

Phantom Ganon’s recap

The Good - Skyward Sword looks absolutely fantastic and has the potential to be the best in the Zelda series. Now I know a lot of people said this last time as well, but I think what people were more excited for then was a grand adventure with a really mature theme, something that Zelda really is not. Not to say Twilight Princess didn’t work; it just didn’t have the same magic as other Zelda games. But the excitement for this game is being purely generated from the gameplay mechanics shown and the control scheme. It is looking the goods.

The Zelda Anniversary is being done right. Nintendo could’ve simply given us another compilation package and told us to run along, but they didn’t. Yes, Ocarina and Skyward Sword we already knew were coming, but in the 25th Anniversary of Zelda, a remake of what’s widely considered the best game of all time, a new original console Zelda game along with a free downloadable in Four Swords, not one but two Zelda soundtracks and a gold Wii Remote Plus, all spell a good celebration to me.

Nintendo games on the 3DS. A lot were games we knew were coming but the fact is, there are a lot more games coming out from Nintendo this year than last year. Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D, Kid Icarus and Star Fox will all come between now and next E3 (barring any horrendous delays) and Luigi’s Mansion 2 was an awesome surprise for me, considering my first ever console game was the original.

The Wii U has potential. A great deal of potential. My mind is swimming with all sorts of ideas of how the controller can be used to make a great hardcore gameplay experience. Like how about the screen being a map screen for Metroid Prime but also becoming your Scan Visor when you point it at the main screen? Hopefully the developers will give us some great new gameplay concepts and fun times, but that’s for next year’s E3.

A final note, the fact that two words, Smash Bros., can excite so many journalists in the Nokia Theatre is a testament to the series.

The Bad - Third-party games for the 3DS and a lack of surprises by Nintendo for the 3DS. Excluding the two Resident Evil titles, Tekken and Metal Gear, it seems like they’re still missing a great opportunity. Nintendo didn’t have a huge launch presence, something I thought would be jumped on by third parties as a chance to get some franchises established on the new system. It hasn’t really worked and it’s probably why Nintendo has had a less-than-stellar result in the early adoption of the system. Past the games I listed above, there really seems to be nothing more from third parties which is a shame. Not to mention, aside from Luigi’s Mansion 2, Nintendo didn’t provide too many surprises either, which is another great shame since E3 is usually the time of gaming surprises.

A lack of games for the Wii U. Now this isn’t so much bad as it is frustrating, but when Nintendo announces a new console people expect to see games for it. And apart from Ghost Recon Online and Killer Freaks From Outer Space, there was nothing playable. Well, no actual games anyway, there were a lot of prototype styles of game ideas to show people how the controller can be used. I’m not too upset about this one though, since Wii U will almost definitely have another E3 showing in it before it reaches stores in 2012. That’s when I’ll be wanting to see what third parties have done and that’s when I’ll want to see which Nintendo IP will be up first in line for launch.

The Ugly - Nintendo not being clear as to what the Wii U actually was. Now when I watched the press conference for the first time, I did not even give a second thought to the fact that the controller might’ve just been a peripheral. After all, I’d been following the news and I knew Nintendo were going to be announcing a new console at E3. But having rewatched that portion of the press conference, it really wouldn’t have been too hard to have thought of the controller as a new peripheral for the Wii. All it would’ve taken was for Satoru Iwata to have spent a minute talking about the actual unit itself, or even holding a prototype of the console as he usually does. Surely though, when people saw the HD games, things would’ve clicked? Still, Nintendo should not have left any doubt in anyone’s minds as to what was going on.

All in all, a good conference for me but not at the level of last year’s where all they did was announce games and give the 3DS an awesome showing. Then again, 3DS was much closer to its launch than Wii U is to its launch now.

Ben Robinson’s Recap

The Good - Even though it is against my journalistic tendencies to descend into such an immature perspective of E3 as some sort of contest, there is almost no denial that Nintendo ’won’ E3 2011. With a bevy of strong titles for the 3DS, a few fitting titles to send off the geriatric Wii and the showing of a new console (which is always guaranteed to get get mouths watering prior to the big reveal), Nintendo’s presentation was far more geared to a showboat of excitement rather than a business speech. Nintendo chose not to rest on the laurels of profit figures of the Wii, such as recapping its performance in the current financial year, and didn’t even dive into esoterics regarding Nintendo’s commitment to innovation.

Nintendo decided to engage the audience from the beginning with a full orchestra, complete with choir, performing a stunning Zelda medley. What came next was a slew of Zelda-related info, including more footage of Skyward Sword, the imminent release of Link’s Awakening via eShop (which had launched one day prior to the conference), a free downloadable version of Four Swords via DSiWare later this year, a gold Zelda-themed Wiimote, two CDs containing Zelda music to be made available soon and a worldwide orchestra tour focusing exclusively on Zelda music. I highly doubt even the most jaded and cynical Zelda fan would have anything negative to say about this. Nintendo understands their fans quite well at times, and this shows.

What we saw next was mostly older 3DS games - most of which had already been announced a year earlier at last E3 and were now making the rounds with more footage, looking a little bit more intriguing with an extra year of development under the collective hood. Luigi’s Mansion 2 was a pleasant surprise, which I am very much looking forward to. An under-appreciated launch title for the Gamecube, Luigi’s Mansion was a great experiment in gameplay and the sequel is being developed by the talented Next Level Games, who were responsible recently for the revival of Punch-Out!! on the Wii. Kid Icarus: Uprising confirmed voice acting and multiplayer, Mario Kart 3DS will feature underwater and hang-gliding sections and is being developed by Texas-based Retro Studios, Starfox 3D will feature strong online features, and Super Mario 3DS is looking like a superb cross between Super Mario 64, Galaxy and Super Mario Bros. 3. The Wii front was decidedly weaker, with the only apparent title to look forward to being Skyward Sword; which is fortunate, because it will sell like hotcakes.

Of course, Nintendo announced their Wii U. A console with the ability to stream HD output to a screen as well as to a touchpad on a handheld controller. The graphics will bring Nintendo up to speed in the industry, revitalise Nintendo’s standing in the ’hardcore’ community with any luck, and hopefully move Nintendo further away from the kiddy image they suffered throughout the lifespan of the Gamecube. Everything looked exciting, and the machine appears to have a lot of potential. Hopefully Nintendo will show us what it can really do before the end of the year.

The Bad - We can all get behind a strong line-up of our favourite Nintendo games making their appearance on the 3DS, but where are the third parties at? Things are looking surprisingly quiet on that front, with the only notable standouts for third party games for the rest of the year appearing to be RE: Mercenaries, Snake Eater 3D, Bit.Trip Saga and Frogger 3D. Nintendo learnt its lesson with third parties on the Gamecube; support for Wii was strong due to lower development costs, but Nintendo is going to need to work harder to reel in the big fish for the 3DS. Let’s see it happen, Nintendo.

As for the Wii U, what are we seeing that is new? It’s fantastic that it looks to be bringing back a more traditional gaming perspective in some ways, and maintaining the core vision of Nintendo’s ’blue ocean strategy’ at the same time, but really I don’t think Nintendo is pushing it for all it can be. Darksiders II, Assassin’s Creed, Arkham City, Ninja Gaiden 3... these are all exciting prospects for what the Wii U represents, purely from technological and business standpoints, but by the time the console launches, these games will be old news. If you have a PS3/360, are you going to wait over a year for that game you are looking forward to just to buy it on Wii U? Probably not. Add that to the fact that all the footage was shown from excerpts of the 360/PS3 titles and we have a problem; Wii U is going to be launching with old titles, and they might not even look as good as its last-gen counterparts. This is especially concerning.

I also thought there were a few baffling omissions to the conference; some game trailers were only available from when the conference had finished via Nintendo’s press kits, such as Paper Mario 3DS and Kirby Wii, amongst others. Why they weren’t included is confusing, but it’s entirely possible Nintendo needed to trim down their conference to only what was needed.

The Ugly - Oh dear, Nintendo. We clearly haven’t learnt any lessons from Twilight Princess, have we? If anything, the announcement of Smash Bros. for Wii U goes above and beyond they very early announce of Twilight Princess, which was announced in 2003 as a direct sequel to Wind Waker, shown off at E3 2004 and launched in November 2006, a year after it was promised. With Smash Bros. announced before Sakurai-san has even managed to get a team together (and later voicing doubts on whether he can even assemble enough people), the hype buildup is going to be tremendous. Not to mention the wait. Nintendo should have stuck to their policy of remaining watertight about games in development and only announcing them when they are at least grounded in some sort of concept.

The Wii U is interesting in concept, but there’s a problem: we barely know anything about the console. The untrained eye would have seen the controller, the other Wiimotes seen as compatible with the console, the similar tech demos to the Wii and the re-branded name and though it was just a controller that Nintendo was announcing. Wii U is a beefier Wii, with a new touch-sensitive screen embedded in the controller, HD output and a lot of potential. However, where are the specs? Why the focus on third-parties and no launch titles from Nintendo? Why no real footage? Online connectivity? Why are we stuck with circle pads on the controller and not analogue sticks? Why, why, why? With the 3DS announcement heralded by a slew of gameplay (tech demos skipped right over) with a tagline of ’you need to see it to believe it’, the system was sold from the start. This is not the case for the Wii U. Hopefully, developers will be able to convince Nintendo’s audience that the controller will be put to more creative uses than inventory management and map subscreens, because as it stands, without a lot of software to sell us on the concept, we’re left with all this potential and no details to look over.

And where are we going with the Wii? Look, I love Zelda - I am looking forward to Skyward Sword with a ridiculous amount of anticipation. Hopefully Rhythm Heaven/Tengoku is released at least stateside so I can import it, and Kirby Wii ought to hold me down as well. But if Nintendo is really going to launch Wii U next year around December, then there is a serious problem for next year; the Wii will have NO GAMES. For a company that emphasises ’content is king’, the Wii is really going to lose market share big time after Skyward Sword shakes the last few coins out of the Wii. It’s not too concerning for people like myself, who have an extensive back-catalog that still needs to be played through; every other person is going to be accruing a thick layer of dust on their Wiis, if you’ll pardon the terribly overused expression.

Generally, I’m disappointed Nintendo expected to hold us over with only the lightest of details on the new console, and the only footage reel we got was of gameplay from the other consoles’ versions. Nintendo needs to up their game and show us what the Wii U is really all about before the end of the year.