Two weeks ago I divulged the E3 predictions of Iwata’s super-powered dessert fruits but, while the predictions seemed safe and conservative, things did not quite pan out as the bananas had thought they would. Specifically regarding Nintendo’s performance I feel like things went better than predicted in many ways. As of this writing there is still one day to go for E3 2014 but I hold little hope that anything earth shattering will come about in the final day. But the bananas have been wrong before, so I cannot speak in certainties.
The biggest omission from the whole Expo and the special E3 Direct Nintendo posted was their Quality of Life business. If this project becomes anything more than a lineup of casual-focused motion controlled games I will be pretty surprised. Iwata and the rest of Nintendo have kept quite mum on the subject ever since Iwata mentioned it earlier this year and so far as I could see the rest of the gaming press has moved on from it as no word on the project or its absence has really made the rounds yet. This is probably for the best, and I maintain the whole initiative is a completely unnecessary effort by Nintendo to branch out of their strong suit because they are either too afraid or unwilling to address some age old problems. But in truth I was prepared for this to eat in to their presentation in much the same way TV promotions ate into Sony’s press conference. Oddly, Sony was the only of big three distributors that really fluffed up their presentation as both Nintendo and Microsoft managed to keep it all about the games with one glaring exception on Nintendo’s part.
I had stated I wanted to see at least two new initiatives from Nintendo at this E3 and happily I got more than just two. Unhappily one of those was the unveiling of the previously hinted at NFC (Near Field Communications) trinkets meant to interact with the Wii U gamepad and 3DS. Our own Imitanis recently discussed this feature, so I will not go into detail here. But I cannot keep from commenting on its heavily demoed involvement in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (which I will henceforth refer to as Smash 4 since that is just as good a name as the one they are giving it). These toys will allow powered up versions of CPU fighters to either fight with or against other players or even among themselves. The so called “Amiibo” will add some sort of ancillary collectible toy dynamic to a game Nintendo has clearly pinned all of its core gamer hopes on. It represents an odd little addition that can only hope to gain traction in a much younger crowd than I fear Nintendo realizes they currently court. I expect this to resolve in to a curio laughingly remembered before this generation is out.
As for the games, Smash 4 and the newly titled Xenoblade Chronicles X were shown off in more detail, as expected, but alongside them were a smattering of new games (or only recently leaked ones) like Splatoon, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Captain Toad, an untitled Starfox, Mario Maker, Kirby: The Rainbow Curse, and of course the new untitled Zelda game. Two other games, Project Giant Robot and Project Guard struck me more as minigames to be either bundled together or appended to some other unannounced title. So overall this represents a pretty big push from Nintendo’s own studios and personally I am interested in most of them, which probably comes as the biggest surprise. After years of great ideas for games hampered by waggle controls on the Wii, Nintendo and third party games on the Wii U all look and promise to be the kinds of games I want.
I also mentioned the third party front would be slim-to-none and I was almost right. Aside from the Nintendo published Bayonetta 2 there was little else that piqued by interest besides the questionable Hyrule Warriors, and the surprising Devil’s Third that Nintendo platforms have on the horizon. But I had honestly almost forgotten about third party titles in the face of eleven first party and exclusive titles shown off during the E3 Direct and on the show floor. But now that things have settled down and the realization that many of those titles are a long way off, it becomes apparent once again that Nintendo’s future looks destined for long software droughts to be marked by shining examples of first party releases. In short, it really is shaping up to be the GameCube all over again.
And finally I would like to discuss something more general regarding Nintendo’s E3 presence this year. Slowly since last E3 and very evidently during the this year’s E3 Direct presentation, Nintendo has been loosening up their image in a way they have not since the early Reggie days of “kicking ass and taking names” back ten years ago in 2004. Over time their new Nintendo Direct videos, published roughly every month, have become more comedic and increasingly self deprecating and acknowledging of internet memes. In the last few months Nintendo has published videos with skits written by the internet famous Mega64 and for several parts of their E3 presentation they contracted the people behind Robot Chicken from Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim programming block. The intro to that presentation, where the company’s CEO and President of the North American branch engage in a wire fu fight, also shows a lot of how Nintendo has been thinking about their audience. Whether this leads in to anything meaningful or if it is all just so much fan service to bolster their reputation in a time of need, I would rather not speculate because the answer is probably too depressing. All I know is that Nintendo continues to more actively court the user base they neglected for the past nine years and that I can at least enjoy the show while it happens. If Nintendo wants to keep showing their executive beat each other up in their press releases, I am not going to complain.
So, by the time this article goes live E3 2014 should be well and truly done. Baring any last minute surprises I think I touched on all the highlights of Nintendo’s presence at the event this year. Anything from their attendance that particularly struck you or anything I neglected to mention that you liked? I will not ask you if you think Nintendo “won” E3 as I think that is a stupid question, but let me know what you thought about their announcements this year in the comments or else I will assume you no longer love me.