I'm back from E3 2012--the show that brought us the Wii U launch (window) lineup, Non-Specific Action Figure, and hordes of loose Pikmin that Iwata undoubtedly had to clean up. Personally, I'm a bit surprised to see the fairly negative vibe towards the Wii U in certain corners of the internet, as I had a great time fooling around with the funky new GamePad and its myriad of unusual uses.
But I digress--onto the impressions!
Nintendo Land works, and works well. I can understand it being sort of an anticlimax as a finishing reveal for Nintendo's conference (compared to something like Twilight Princess's first trailer), but while the game still seemed like a bit of a mystery by the end of the conference, Nintendo Land itself ended up being a lot of fun on the show floor, and an extremely good idea for a Wii Sports pseudo-sequel. Not only does it showcase what the system can do in a myriad of mini-games, but it gives them the context of a Nintendo-centric theme park, making it more interesting than the scattered selection of the original Sports and even the resort theme of its sequel. Plus, it can introduce more casual gamers to other Nintendo series, potentially making them more interested if/when a new Animal Crossing, Zelda, Donkey Kong, etc come along. Let's take a look at each game...
Luigi's Ghost Mansion: The conference lost some momentum in getting too caught up in the gameplay details of the Luigi's Mansion mini-game and made it seem more confusing than it actually was. Basically, four players are trying to catch an invisible ghost with their flashlights, and the fifth player is trying to "kill" the other four players without losing all his life first. The players can revive each other by shining light on their buddies' cold, dead corpses for long enough, but it does leave them vulnerable to a ghost attack! This game ended up being a lot of fun, and one of my favorites of Nintendo Land, sort of like the next logical step for Pac-Man Vs. or something. Being one of the humans (a Mii dressed as one of the Mario/Wario bros) is actually pretty tense since you know there's a player out there who's gunning for you and is almost entirely invisible. Playing as the ghost is similarly good fun due to the feeling of being powerful and deadly like a cuddly assassin. Try it out.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course: I didn't really get to play much of this one. You're basically steering a wheeled something-or-other around a large, 2D environment based on the original Donkey Kong (steel girders, platforms and all). The sole means of control was in tilting the Wii U GamePad, and it worked well enough to be fun. The main issue I had with this game was the difficulty; you got a handful of tries, and going either too fast or too slow would kill you very quickly. And due to the player not really knowing what speed is required for the next section they'll play through, the gameplay felt a little too trial-and-error.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest: Leave it up to Zelda to steal the show again. This three-player game involves your Miis dressed as Link, storming into a Moblin hideout to take out their leader before their shared life bar (six hits total) depletes entirely. The environments and enemies in this game have a great "fake" look to them, like you're literally beating the stuffing out of Disneyland-style mascots--albeit in Moblin form. Two of the "Links" use the Wii Remote like in Wii Sports resort, with the combat being very similar (foot movement is automatic). The third player is the support, wielding a bow and taking out Moblin snipers and the occasional heart-dropping bird. The demo ended with a fight against a massive, shielded Moblin, and was great fun in either of the two roles.
Takumaru's Ninja Castle: The extremely obscure Takumaru gets a starring role in this fun ninja-style mini-game, where the player hurls shurikens at sentient, cardboard ninjas. It's worth it to go for accuracy, since your combo will continue to build until you miss. The GamePad is used as the player's hand, where you basically slide your finger across the screen to throw shurikens, and the speed depends on the speed of your swipe. On a side note, I'm wondering if his sudden reappearance means he's got a shot in the next Smash Bros...?
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day: Remember last year's Find Mii? I'm starting to think that Nintendo Land is a way for Nintendo to bundle together all their mini-games from last year into one showcase piece. Don't be surprised to see the Samus game showing up again! In the Sweet Day game, four players run around town trying to collect a total of 50 candies, while the fifth player on the GamePad uses the two sticks to control two guards to try to catch the players. Three catches and the guards win. It's a fairly straightforward game but it makes for a good time and it's different enough from Luigi's Ghost Mansion to be worth checking out in Nintendo Land.
All in all, Nintendo Land is shaping up nicely. While I'm not sure if it'll see the success that Wii Sports did, it's definitely using the GamePad in clever and interesting ways, and I can't wait to see what else is in store when it launches with the system (hopefully included). According to the logos, we should also see Mario, Pikmin, Star Fox, Metroid, Game & Watch, Balloon Fight, and Yoshi.
This surprise game felt like a cross between Pikmin and Viewtiful Joe...which I guess makes sense since P-100's developers, Platinum Games, are comprised of several of the mad geniuses behind Joe. You're essentially running around the city, taking out huge, over-the-top robots with huge, over-the-top attacks and recruiting normal citizens to make them huge and over-the-top. I didn't really fully grasp the controls, which require you to slide your finger on the WUG to activate certain attacks, but it sure seemed like a manic and creative game. If this ends up being anywhere near as viewtiful as Joe, then I'll be happy as a clam. Keep your eye on this one.
New Super Mario Bros. U
I find it somewhat difficult to round up all my thoughts on NSMBU, and this is because they offer a mix of creative, fun, and filler-free gameplay mixed with some of the most standard and safe design philosophies I've ever seen from Nintendo. I can't help but wish to see a more ambitious take on the King of Platformers, something with an amazing soundtrack, spectacular surprises in each level (a la Donkey Kong Country Returns), and just that extra bit of effort put forth to make something that redefines 2D platforming. To see the NSMB line continue is starting to feel just a little mass-produced and soulless, unfortunately.
But the good news kinda makes all that not really matter: the game is very fun. It's got plenty of stuff to hop around on, lots of minor puzzles to get Star Coins, some good environmental variety even at this point, and if the trailer is anything to go by, a serious desire to replicate Super Mario World (fitting, considering this is the fourth NSMB game as well). I'll absolutely buy it and enjoy it--I just wish 2D Mario could still be one of the best games ever.
Tank! Tank! Tank!
Tank! Tank! Tank! started off as an arcade game back in 2009, and it was all set up for four players in the Namco booth. Make no mistake--with four players all sitting in their own tank cockpit, each with an extremely violent tremor accompanying every weapon and explosion in the game--the game was easily some of the most fun we had at E3. The four of us (myself, fellow BitF admin Chris, my brother, and our friend) chose one of three game modes, the co-op one where everyone works together to take out massive bosses before the time runs out. The bright visuals and nonstop carnage make for an extremely fun and over-the-top arcade experience, right from the get-go (where you take your picture to represent yourself). It took several tries across all three days of E3, but we finally defeated the three bosses presented in the arcade game and got the highest score on the cabinet!
While the arcade version was tons of fun, the Wii U felt slightly lacking in the single-player mode. There was no rumble in the demo, but the guy running it assured me it'd be in the final version. And TTT is the kind of game that'd work better with multiple players anyway. But that said, it seemed like a faithful port of the arcade version, even if it didn't really look much better.
Game & Wario
Hey, Nintendo! You need to announce new first-party games in your conference like this one! Game and Wario really popped up out of nowhere, a pleasant surprise for those who thought the 23 games shown at the conference were all they had. I played two of the modes, both of them slightly slower-paced. In one, you have to find a few hidden people in a static cityscape. The WUG shows a zoomed-in view that you can zoom in further, and like in Pokemon Snap, you get more points for centered pictures, a nice size, etc. It was decent. The second one was a game where the WUG player picks a character in a busy cityscape and tries to inconspicuously collect three apples on the ground. The other players don't know who the thief is, and have to surmise it by looking at the screen and watching very closely when the fruit disappears. It's pretty creative and encourages craftiness. I would've liked to have tried the faster-paced games too though.
This was awesome! Surprisingly, it may even be nicer-looking than the gorgeous Rayman Origins, and it plays better too. Something about the controls and progression just seemed tighter than last year's game, making for a more polished platforming experience all-around from what I could tell. But just as importantly, the game's design was highly creative and made some of the best use of the Wii U controller at the expo. You basically use the touch-screen to control the grinning bug Murphy and interact with all sorts of things in the environment. This can vary from revealing Lum-filled flowers, changing yellow Lums to pink ones (increasing their value), cutting ropes to help or sabotage Rayman, rotating platforms, making platforms appear, poking eyeball enemies...there was never a shortage of things to do. I'm hoping NSMBU's WUG usage incorporates more elements like this one to keep players busy. And the demo closed with this awesome chase sequence where the actions were keyed up to a great rock tune played by psychotic, guitar-weilding old ladies. Ubi Soft is doing great things with this one!
And speaking of Ubi Soft, the popular ZombiU seems to be shaping up nicely as well. Apparently a lot of people are clamoring for more survival-horror in their survival-horror games (imagine that), so the "one bite and you're dead" element is a welcome change and provides much of the game's tension. It doesn't look particularly better than a nice-looking Wii game, but the usage of the WUG is creative and really adds to the experience. I played kinda sloppy and got all my guys killed, but maybe you'll do better. Got my eye on this one too.
Wii Fit U
I've always kinda liked Wii Fit. The mini-games are never really amazing but they do a good job of making you work out and not really having it feel boring or whatever. I played two Wii Fit U games; the first was a toboggan-type snow saucer thing where you're supposed to sit way back on the board and lean into curves and to get acceleration. Rest assured that my skinny abs were feeling the burn after just a third of the lap. And the second game was a trampoline one where you look down at the WUG and try to center your balance to land in the middle of the jump. It was also fun, but felt slightly less intuitive since you can't really jump for best results (it's more like a forceful tiptoe). WFU is about what I expected, but if the price is right (30 or even 20 bucks), I'll probably jump right back in.
SiNG had sort of an off-putting trailer at the conference, and seeing as how I'm not really into pop at all, I wasn't really planning on playing it. At some point, though, I just decided what the heck and went into the cushy sound-proof room in the corner of Nintendo's hall to check it out. According to the developers there, the game was designed around getting everyone involved, even if it doesn't require other controllers. So they asked who'd like to try a song, so naturally I volunteered right freakin' away. One of the songs was a pop one that I didn't recognize, another was a rap one that I didn't recognize...but then I heard the last song, It's in his Kiss! You better believe I picked it.
SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP SHOOP It's in his kiss THAT'S WHERE IT IS Ohhhh yeah, it's in his kiss THAT'S WHERE IT IS
So yeah, that was indeed where it was. Basically everyone else sang backup by watching the TV (which displayed the lyrics and a dancing Betty Everett) while I boogied up on the GamePad and followed the onscreen prompts to work up the crowd: "Oh yeah! Let's keep it going! Jam to that funky marimba, woo!"
Honestly, SiNG is getting some hate but I thought it was pretty fun, if kinda goofy. If they include enough songs that I know I might be game. Also, this was the only area in the entire show where I saw the Wii U system itself:
I'm definitely excited for this one, and the demo only made me wish it was out even sooner. Pointing and throwing with the Wiimote takes a little getting used to, but it definitely works nicely and should ultimately make the game faster-paced (which is good, considering there's tons to do). The level I played involved breaking down some walls, throwing the new Rock Pikmin around at the surprisingly large amount of glass-based things, making bank by collecting fruit, and generally just enjoying one of the best games on the whole show floor. The boss battle that followed was equally impressive, giving that nice "realistic giant creature" vibe that Pikmin 2 had in spades, along with a creative method of defeating him and some beautiful animations. It looks great, it plays great, and the preview trailer has tons of promise! There is no way I won't buy this title, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being the best Wii U game this year.
Sony All-Stars Battle Royale
Sony's Smash-type fighter starred four characters at E3: God of War's Kratos, Sly Cooper, Twisted Metal's Sweet Tooth, and Fat Princess. The arenas are closed in, so what you have to do is beat up your opponent to fill your special meter. Then, once it's high enough, you can unleash a super attack that will ideally defeat your opponent for good. As far as I could tell, there is no health bar and no other way to defeat your opponent. All in all, the game was kind of a bummer; the method for building up damage is somewhat nonsensical and it feels like my performance isn't particularly integral to the end result. And on a more superficial scale, unlike Nintendo, Sega, and Capcom, Sony just doesn't have the first-party clout (yet?) to pull off an All-Star game like this, as evidenced by non-Sony properties like Fat Princess. The mechanics just felt iffy all-around.
Persona 4 Arena
Now this PS3 fighter, I liked! I didn't really know what I was doing (as usual), but I managed to pull out a victory with ol' Teddie nonetheless. The animations are very fun to watch, the moveset seems inspired, and I really like the choice of cast and general concept of the game as a whole. Persona 4 fans will definitely want to check it out, as there are references to the game galore and the art style is just lovely. It also includes a few Persona 3 characters, like Elizabeth.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate
I only played this briefly while in line. It seemed kinda cool, although the controls were definitely different than the usual 2D Castlevania. The 2.5-D approach is kind of a nice surprise and allows for a more cinematic feel. But I really didn't get to play all that much of it unfortunately.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
I still have to question Nintendo's thought-process for releasing two more NSMB titles so close to each other--a series that was dangerously close to being "vanilla" already--but this was pretty fun. I'm wondering if the coin collection aspect will bring to mind memories of N64 collectathons, but for the most part, it was pretty heavily performance-based rather than plodding. For instance, stepping on a switch will change the Cheep-Cheep enemies to golden Cheep-Cheeps, leaving behind a trail of coins that you have to hustle to nab. I've always felt that grabbing coins is rewarding, so I'm especially interested in the challenge mode for this one. Also, you can fly. 'Bout time!
Also, Reznor is back!
...Whew! I think I covered it all. If you have any questions about a specific game, be sure to ask. All in all, I have to say it was a very good E3 (if not as great as last year), and so here are my awards!
~WORST GAME OF THE SHOW~
The worst game that I played wasn't in the Nintendo area, the Sony area, or the Microsoft area. It was in the (very cool) video game history museum section in the corner of the South Hall. It was there that I was acquainted, for the first time, with...
~BEST NON-GAME UPCOMING THING OF THE SHOW~
Wreck-It Ralph, Disney's upcoming CGI video game movie! They went all-out with the props, including a huge Ralph statue and this awesome vintage (fake) Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade cabinet!
~BEST GAMES OF THE SHOW~
3. Nintendo Land: Surprisingly good, some great multiplayer ideas, creative and cool concepts all-around 2. Pikmin 3: Entertaining from start to finish, polished and pretty and charming 1. Rayman Legends: Goes the extra mile with platforming creativity, as well as Wii U creativity
~BEST MOMENT OF THE SHOW~
This week, my body was finally ready.
Thanks for reading! Now to go clean the giant footprint off my butt.
NintendoLand needs an attraction where you take turns by passing the controller, like Wii bowling and golf. Like a themed mini-golf course. Then I can see it being as popular as Wii Sports.
But, that would mean there's a wiimote only attraction. We don't know if wiimote+'s will be included with every Wii U. Not that that would be a bad idea considering how many of the games need a remote and uPad to play anyway.
Yeah, I was hoping we'd see each other at some point! I even got your Mii while waiting in line for the 3DS conference, so I figured you had to be around there somewhere. Sorry we didn't bump into each other, it would've been cool to play some of the Wii U games together.
Man, I need that fake retro cabinet! Thank you for the impressions! What did you have to say to Reggie?
"BRING MOTHER 3 TO AMERICA NOWWWW AGHGHGH"
Hahah, well no. Actually, when he showed up, he was just making his way through the crowd and no one else seemed to notice him, so I got all excited and started to follow him, unsure of what I'd say. The friend there with me in the pic, Lucia, walked up to him, tugged his sleeve and told him that I was a huge fan and would like a picture. Then the three of us started joking about Iwata cleaning up Miyamoto's Pikmin that got loose or something, I don't even remember but I think I made him laugh a couple times. He was totally cool and friendly too, it was great. The guy is quite imposing in person, as one might imagine. Large hands.
Yes, I was underwhelmed by the whole thing, but I didn't have the amazing chance to demo anything. You have put a few of my fears to rest.
Want to know something? I think ET was a fun game. I got it when it released and the fact it had a proper objective and an ending made it something special. The instruction manual explains the gameplay pretty well and I just think it was just too complicated for gamers of its era. The Internet made it seem worse than it is.
Yeah, Wii U is definitely day 1 for me. It's not so much that I was necessarily blown away by any one aspect in particular, but like the DS, it's a system that's well-equipped for all sorts of really creative applications and plenty of new gameplay experiences. Heck, just the fact that you have to play each game twice (that uses asymmetrical gameplay) is cool in and of itself. And bobsledding WAS fairly painful!
The GamePad in Pikmin 3 was just used as an overhead map--honestly I kinda forgot about it. The Nintendo rep said they were experimenting with the uses of the Pad for the game, but for the purposes of E3, the demos were Wiimote/Nunchuk only, so no GamePad alone controls.
To clarify regarding Tank! Tank! Tank!, the four of us played the arcade version together, not the Wii U one (which I played alone). In either case, it controls pretty well, with a single stick (or the arcade wheel) and a single fire button. The tanks move fairly quickly for tanks, keeping with the arcade feel.
I can't really make heads or tails of Game & Wario at the moment. There's actually not all that much Wario/Ware-like about it from what I've seen, outside of some genuinely hilarious "realistic" poster-style art for each of the mini-games. And while the phrase "mini-game compilation" is one that may push a few buttons, that's what it seems like at the moment.
ZombiU looked nice, make no mistake, but for a ground-up next-gen game, it doesn't necessarily look better than, say, Shattered Memories. Oh, except for the HD aspect of course. It's a solid-looking game, it just didn't impress me as much visually as something like Pikmin or Rayman.
The rest of my group was similarly unimpressed with PSABR, all Smash vets. Maybe the oddball mechanics will actually work in the game's favor in the end, but I still felt like my performance didn't affect the results as much as it should've.
Good question, but it looks like mum's the word on that. Nintendo's still being pretty secretive about a lot of their games--I couldn't get a straight answer about if Pikmin was launch day or not either.
I heard somewhere Pikmin 3 ran at 60fps. Can you confirm? What was NintendoLand's theme park framerate?
Shoot, I don't have the best eye for framerates unless I'm looking for them. It did look smooth, though that could've been because I'm not used to Nintendo games in HD. The theme park section of Nintendo Land wasn't playable, but I'd guess the minigames were probably 30 fps.
Great impressions/pics/whatnot! Sounds like you had a fun time.
How did Takamaru's Ninja Castle control? Like, how much precision was required? Did it feel intuitive and accurate? Was the Gamepad comfortable to hold in odd positions? I'm kind of worried about these types of usages.
I've been trying to figure out what Sing offers that any other karaoke game wouldn't, besides a Japanese Karaoke Box aesthetic, perhaps. Oh, and The Shoop Shoop Song is totally pop! Why, Betty Everett hit #1 with a bullet!
It's interesting to see a Smash fan's take on All-Stars.
@ploot EEEEETTTTTT!!! I had it, too. I'm not going to say that it was a great game, but it had it's mysterious charms.