Nintendo hasn’t held a traditional press conference at E3 since 2012, instead favoring to deliver their news online via their Nintendo Direct broadcasts. So far the reason behind this hasn’t been particularly clear, but this year we finally got our answer:
You can’t do that on stage. Stay weird, Nintendo.
Anyways, here are the highlights from this year’s E3 Nintendo Direct.
Star Fox Zero – We’ve known there was a new Star Fox game coming out for Wii U for some time, and this is the first time we’ve seen any real gameplay footage or heard significant details about the project. At the moment, the most interesting mechanic is the ability to view the game in first person through the Wii U gamepad – as always, no one knows how to use Nintendo’s hardware like Nintendo. Thankfully the game has a heavy flight focus, avoiding the walking segments of Star Fox Adventures completely. Right now the graphics don’t look up to snuff with what the console can do, so hopefully they see some improvement before the game’s release.
Skylanders SuperChargers – Another entry in a series seemingly designed entirely to sap as much money out of the pockets of parents of middle schoolers as possible. Now you can shell out your hard-earned dollars on plastic versions of Donkey Kong and Bowser.
The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes – This new Zelda game clearly harkens back to Four Swords Adventure, with a three-player co-op title for the 3DS. The game looks to be filled with creative puzzles and new mechanics based on the three person design. It could get somewhat exhausting playing this single-player, as it requires switching off between the three characters, but the game also offers online play.
Hyrule Warriors Legends – It wasn’t good on Wii U, and it won’t be much better on 3DS.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force – This might have the most universally negative response of any game revealed at E3. Yes, Super Metroid and Metroid Prime are some of the greatest games ever created, and this certainly isn’t the followup that people have been waiting for. No, this doesn’t seem to have any association with the franchise other than the name being tacked on to increase sales. But did you all forget how bad Other M was? And that there’s a Metroid Prime Pinball game? It’s not like this is the Star Wars Christmas Special of Metroid; the series has already had its weak spots, and this looks like another fairly fun game that just isn’t quite up to par with the high points of the franchise.
Fire Emblem Fates – Fire Emblem If will come out on 3DS later this month in Japan, and this is simply an announcement of a North American port under the name Fates. The game seems to maintain the franchise’s strong story focus, complete with some gorgeous cinematics, although the voice acting is predictably bad.
Genei Ibun Roku #FE – Um, so I’m a little baffled by this one. There’s lots of singing, and also warriors from a different dimension, and noticeable boob physics, and a lot of switching between anime visuals and rendered graphics. It’s probably an RPG? Apparently the title is tentative, which it should be, and I’m reading that there’s some relation to the Shin Megami Tensei and Fire Emblem franchises, but I wouldn’t have been able to tell. All I can really say for this one at the moment is that it looks INTENSELY Japanese.
Xenoblade Chronicles X – Well at least this time Nintendo has the sense to release their Xenoblade game around the same time in North America as in Japan. The game’s art design looks fantastic, and the early word from Japan has been stellar so far, so this one should be a safe bet.
Animal Crossing Happy Home Designer – Well, it looks as adorable as Animal Crossing always has, and this time with an interior design focus. If you already like this series, chances are this one will win you over too, but there doesn’t appear to be anything significantly new to this entry.
Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival – So it’s Mario Party, but a lot more simplistic, and with characters that most people won’t recognize that you have to buy individually? I’m a little baffled – the aesthetic of the game seems catered towards toddlers, which is fine, but it doesn’t appear you can play this game if you can’t read. Not sure who this game is marketed towards exactly.
Yoshi’s Woolly World – We’ve known about this one for a while, but it’s the first in-depth look we’ve gotten at the game, and it seems to absolutely recapture the intense adorableness and the clever shape-changing puzzle platforming of its spiritual predecessor, Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The yarn games might be too cutesy for some, but I loved the first game, and this one looks bigger, sweeter, prettier, better.
YO-KAI WATCH – A new game from Level-5, the developers behind Ni No Kuni, and this game looks very similar. I appreciate that Nintendo now puts so much effort into bringing their previously Japan-only franchises to America, but I wonder if Western audiences will need another Pokemon equivalent on 3DS. Still, after Ni No Kuni was such an enjoyable and popular game, maybe this one will be as well.
Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam – This new entry in the Mario & Luigi series of RPGs also includes characters from the Paper Mario series. It’s been a while since we’ve had a new game in either, and both franchises have a consistently excellent standard of quality, so very high hopes for this new game. Also, props to Nintendo for cleverly combining the various components of their now-expansive Mario universe, which they’ve never done before. And what a great title too.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash – It’s Mario. He’s playing tennis. It’s a new Mario tennis game. You can play tennis. You can be Mario. You can play tennis as Mario. Go tennis Mario mushroom tennis Toad. A+.
Super Mario Maker – This make-your-own-Mario-game engine appeared throughout the press conference, but it didn’t get a proper look until the end. Miyamoto described it as “game designer training” and pointed out how the early Mario games were designed to be intuitive for players to learn as they go. Indeed, this should be a great resource for aspiring game designers, and I love that it allows creators to choose between the graphics from all of Mario sidescroller history, from Super Mario Bros for NES to New Super Mario Bros for 3DS. The most comparable franchise, Little Big Planet, may have more available resources for designers, but no franchise has platforming mechanics as strong as Mario, so this will likely end up becoming the idea DIY game.
Given Nintendo’s press conference lasted roughly half as long as those of its competitors, the company announced and previewed a LOT of games in that time. Every time they stopped to discuss the design philosophy and creative process behind their games, it felt personal and conversational, whereas Sony and Microsoft always seemed to be giving a sales pitch. However, Nintendo’s showing lacked both the big surprises from Sony’s press conference and the new IPs and new tech from Microsoft’s.
They may have announced a huge number of games, but for every new entry geared towards hardcore players – Star Fox Zero, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes – there was a game clearly designed for casual players, little kids, and merchandising money – Skylanders SuperChargers, Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, Mario Tennis. It’s probably fair to say that Nintendo “lost” E3 this year relative to the other big 2 companies, and given Wii U has struggled to sell as long as it’s existed, this doesn’t bode well for the once dominant company.