E3 2012: Nintendo

Nintendo unveiled Pikmin 3, LEGO City Undercover, Batman: Arkham Asylum Armored Edition, Nintendo Land, and more to promote its upcoming new console, the Wii U. But a lot of games and important details weren’t invited to the party.

Aside from Ubisoft’s consistently squirm-inducing, unfunny E3 shows, there is no one that puts on a more lifeless show than Nintendo. Every single person that comes out on stage speaks in a slow, stilted teleprompter recitation that makes me wonder if Nintendo actually instructs its presenters to abstain from emoting at all times. Sheesh, what a snoozer. It wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s exactly the same every year.

Nintendo’s saving grace is its popular game franchises, but this year they had a different message to sell: their new console, the touchscreen-driven Wii U. They kicked things off with the announcement and on-stage demo of Pikmin 3. This new game got a big reaction from the crowd, looking really great running on the Wii U’s drastically improved hardware.

Again and again, Nintendo repeated the mantra that Wii U will “change how you play games.” There was also a great deal of talk about the notion of “asymmetrical gaming,” a new way of playing where one gamer uses the WiiPad to play a game in one way, and other players use WiiMotes to play the same game in a very different way. They reiterated that the Wii U hardware supports two WiiPads, and showed an overview video explaining all of the pad’s features.

After a little talk about “Miiverse,” the “main street” area that’s the first thing gamers will see when firing up the Wii U, a new Mario game was announced for Wii U: New Super Mario Bros. U. Check out the gameplay video.

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A representative from Warner Bros. was invited onto the stage to show off Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition, a new version of Arkham City made just for Wii U. They were light on details, but the game appears to be a port of the existing game with some new abilities powered by the WiiPad.

Scribblenauts Unlimited was also announced, which was really interesting. It looks like WB is taking Scribblenauts to the next level, introducing RPG elements into the game with large, explorable environments, and even crazier customization options for the things you create. They’re also providing Maxwell’s backstory for the first time, in this new game.

Next up, they showed off a reel of other third-party games that are coming to Wii U, including Mass Effect 3, DarkSiders 2, Ninja Gaiden 3, and more.

After a promo video for Wii Fit U (yawn), and then another for a party/music game called Sing (mega-yawn), we were treated to a little 3DS love, in the form of two new game announcements: New Super Mario 2 and Paper Mario: Sticker Star.

Back to Wii U, Nintendo brought out a game a lot of people (yours truly included) have been dying to see more of: LEGO City Undercover. TT Games is really bringing it for this one, in what looks like a wide open world full of crime and exploration and building fun. Can’t wait to try this one out.

After an awkward intro to Just Dance 4, Ubisoft showed off ZombiU, their Wii U exclusive zombie-fighting game. The focus isn’t on winning so much as staying alive as long as possible. The game looks outright gonzo — in a good way — and methinks gamers are really going to dig it. A cute moment came at the end of this demo — the only moment that Reggie Fils-Aime showed any hint of personality on stage — where he was encouraged to use the built-in camera on the WiiPad to show a live, augmented reality version of himself with a zombified face. Probably got one of the biggest and best reactions of anything Nintendo showed.

Nintendo’s last announcement was Nintendo Land, an online playground that’s being built to introduce gamers to what the Wii U can do and communicate its potential in a simple, accessible way. It offers 12 virtual locations to visit, each one a unique game that shows off the possibilities of the Wii U and its asymmetric gaming model, and it’s got a big social component as well. It struck me as having some similarities to PlayStation Home, only more candy-colored and cartoony.

That was pretty much it for Nintendo’s 2012 E3 presentation. I’ve seen a lot of talk about how much time Nintendo spent showing us games we’ve already seen on other platforms, such as Batman: Arkham City, and not showing us any new IPs. I have to agree. Paying tribute to franchises like Mario and Pikmin always gets good mileage among Nintendo fans, but for the Wii U to be the revolution that they want it to be, we need to see some never-before-seen stuff. ZombiU looks terrific, but that was the only new IP shown — and that wasn’t even from Nintendo.

Despite this, it was an entertaining show that went a long way to show off just what the Wii U can do. But I have one gripe I just can’t get past: Why on earth didn’t they announce the release date and price? This was the moment for Nintendo to stake its claim, to let the whole world know when and where we’ll be able to get our hands on this new console, and how much it will cost. But these topics were never even addressed.

What the heck, Nintendo?

One of the most interesting announcements related to the Wii U came not from the Nintendo press conference, but from GameTrailers’ live coverage on Spike just after the presser. It’s a new title from Platinum Studios tentatively called Project P-100, which finds you collecting heroes to fight off an alien invasion. It’s pretty interesting and different, and exactly the kind of new blood that Nintendo should have shown more of during its press event. Check out the trailer.

The rest of this week, watch for more first looks at major new games straight from E3!

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Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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