After Nintendo’s previous couple of performances at E3, which were somehow even less exciting than Uruguay vs France, even the most optimistic fan of the Kyoto-based company can’t have thought at the start of the week that it was likely to win the battle of the three press conferences, particularly considering Microsoft’s unveiling of Kinect, and Sony’s pushing of 3D and the Move controller.
Seeing is believing.
Despite a fairly disastrous on-stage demo of the long-awaited and freshly monikered The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, where the Wii Controller malfunctioned due to a combination of venue lighting and multiple wi-fi signals, which left creator Shigeru Miyamoto inwardly practising his English swear words, and the fact that other initial Wii game reveals such as minigame collection Wii Party and Mario Sports Mix resembled the mediocrity that has caused many hardcore gamers to effectively abandon Nintendo’s console in the past couple of years, the conference improved markedly soon thereafter.
An old-school 2D platformer revival was in effect – no doubt buoyed by the success at retail of New Super Mario Bros Wii – with games like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns looking both charming and great fun to play. The nostalgia factor continued with the superb Epic Mickey (which has always interested hardcore gamers due to the involvement of Deus Ex creator Warren Spector), which is a love letter to all things Disney, and the reimagining of N64 classic Goldeneye 007 sent all ex-student hearts of a certain age a-flutter.
But if memories of the past were where the first part of the conference shined, then Nintendo’s glimpse of the future (which could be in shops as soon as the end of this year) was where the show really soared to a new level. The Nintendo 3DS was unveiled: a piece of handheld magic which plays games and movies in full stereoscopic 3D without the need for any silly glasses. More powerful than the DS, with a bigger screen, and a big line-up of third party developers already developing lots of games for the new console, it’s fair to say that it went down a storm with the attending audience. The almost unanimous feedback from those lucky people who have managed some hands-on play with the device, is that it works and it’s brilliant. I received an excited text from friend of the blog and E3 attendee Chris Schilling soon after the event, who was very excited indeed.
The software lineup for the 3DS is a videogame fan’s wet dream. New versions of Mario Kart, Pilotwings and Kid Icarus; remakes of Ocarina of Time and Starfox 64; sightings of the Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil franchises. The full Nintendo press release listing the games in development resembles that of a console which has had years in the market, so the fact that all of these should be delivered near the launch window is a big surprise. Once again the nostalgia factor is in effect, yet this time it’s also allied with the visual and gameplay possibilities that 3D will be able to introduce.
Yes, there are the obvious questions about price and UK release dates, and whether the games will be overpriced in the same way that has adversely affected the British software market for the current DS, but these are questions for another day.
For now, as a troupe of female models came onstage all holding 3DS consoles in a crowd-pleasing finale to the conference, there was little doubt that Nintendo had finally delivered again at E3. And, given the success of the DS, Nintendo’s rivals had better watch out.