Ever since the PS1/N64 era, Nintendo has been in a peculiar position. The company has consistently decided to go its own way with every generation, to varying amounts of success. With the N64, the company eschewed disc-based media to go cartridge; with the Gamecube, it decided to ignore other systems' media-playing capabilities - a pattern continued to this day; with the Wii, it made the bold choice to go with motion controls and significantly broadened its audience in the process; and with Wii U, it took a risk by introducing second-screen gameplay to us - something which next-gen developers certainly seem to be embracing on other platforms.
While the company's handhelds dominate that particular sector of the market, Nintendo's console business hasn't felt like it's in the race to be "top" for quite a long time. The company instead seemingly prefers to do things its own way, and those who have been loyal supporters for many years continue to lap up new installments in classic franchises.
Today's Nintendo Direct presentation at E3 had relatively few surprises, but it confirmed a few things we knew were coming. Here's a roundup of what happened:
Pokémon X and Y
We got a glimpse at the new Pokémon games first of all, including exploration and battle gameplay. Aside from the cel-shaded visuals, it looks pretty much like Pokémon always has, albeit with a few extra visual flourishes here and there.
Of particular interest to series veterans will be the fact that X and Y introduce a new type of Pokémon - Fairy type, which is super-effective against Dragon type.
Of lesser interest is the inclusion of a gratuitous "rub the touchscreen" minigame in which you feed, pet and play with your Pokémon. There's also a feature that uses the device's camera and tasks you with pulling the same face as your Pokémon. Fun for small children, perhaps, but it doesn't sound like it adds a great deal to gameplay.
Super Mario 3D World
December 2013 will see the release of a new Mario game for Wii U. And no, not a new New Super Mario Bros game, a new Mario game. Super Mario 3D World is a 4-player 3D Mario game in the mold of Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS. Fans of Super Mario 2 will be happy to hear that Peach returns as a playable character, presumably because Wii U is finally powerful enough to do her flappy skirt justice or something.
The game looked good, but not necessarily the revolution in the series that some were hoping for.
Mario Kart 8
Surprise! There's a new Mario Kart game coming for Wii U. As well as incorporating the motorbikes from Mario Kart Wii and the hang-gliders and underwater racing from Mario Kart 7 on 3DS, the new game includes fully 3D courses which allow you to race on the walls and even upside-down on the ceiling at times.
Nintendo claims the new game has the most robust online offering of the series to date, but didn't give any specific details during the presentation. Miiverse will apparently play a role, though exactly how remains to be seen.
Mario Kart 8 will be out in the spring of next year.
Wii Party U
As often as many of us derided minigame collections for the Wii, some of them made great party games, and Wii Party U - like Nintendo Land before it - well and truly embraces the idea of simplistic gameplay for communal fun.
The new game features a combination of board games, party games that make use of the Gamepad as a second screen, and tabletop minigames that can be played using nothing but the Gamepad.
Wii Party U has been delayed and doesn't have a specific release date at this time, though it should be out later this year.
Wii Fit U
There wasn't much to show about Wii Fit U, since it too has been delayed - this time to the winter of this year. Iwata seemed very apologetic about these two delays, noting that "after the Wii U's launch, we couldn't release games as smoothly as we wanted; for those who have been waiting, I appreciate your patience."
Iwata acknowledged the high level of talent on display using Miiverse's drawing tools, and announced a new Art Academy title for Wii U designed to allow these digital artists greater scope to express themselves. The new title isn't due for a long time yet, so in the meantime Nintendo will release a downloadable tool on the eShop allowing enthusiastic Miiverse artists to draw with colored pencils, standard black pencils and pastels. The tool will be a separate download from the eShop, but will be able to post its creations directly to Miiverse.
Third Party Games
There were absolutely no surprises in this segment - we saw Assassin's Creed IV, Batman Arkham Origins (including a 3DS spinoff), Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director's Cut, Disney Infinity, Just Dance 2014, Rayman Legends, Scribblenauts Unmasked, Disney's Planes, Skylanders Swap Force, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Sonic Lost World and Watch Dogs.
It was nice to see Nintendo give some acknowledgement to Atlus with a brief bit of Shin Megami Tensei IV footage, though.
Digital and Indie Games
Iwata didn't explain a whole lot about the company's indie strategy going forward, but did confirm a host of independently-developed downloadable games, including Ballpoint Universe, Cloudberry Kingdom, Coaster Crazy Deluxe, DuckTales Remastered, Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara, Mutant Mudds Deluxe, Oddworld: New 'N' Tasty, Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails, Shovel Knight, Spin the Bottle: Bumpie's Party (what?) and... A World of Keflings? (Double "what?")
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD
Not a lot here we didn't know already; confirmation that the game would be in full 1080p resolution and incorporate the new shaders.
One new thing we did see, however, was the Wii U's replacement for the Gamecube original's "Tingle Tuner" Game Boy Advance connectivity. Instead of the Tingle Tuner, we have the Tingle Bottle, which allows you to write messages (including screenshots if desired) and cast them into the ocean; meanwhile, messages from other players will occasionally wash up on the beaches of your world.
The Wonderful 101
It was nice to get a glimpse of how this game really worked and played. By drawing symbols on the Gamepad screen, you can unite your merry band of heroes and morph them into various weapons, more of which you can unlock as you progress through the game.
The game also supports up to 5-player multiplayer, it seems, with each player having their own group of heroes and battling together against common foes.
The Wonderful 101 will be out on August 23 of this year, and will apparently have a Nintendo Direct devoted to it very soon.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Retro Studios' new title is a new Donkey Kong Country game that, for the most part, looks fairly conventional for the series - 2D gameplay with 3D backgrounds, albeit this time in HD resolution. This time around, Donkey Kong Island has been overrun by "vikings" - actually creatures such as walruses and owls sporting impressive beards - and it's up to Donkey, Diddy and Dixie Kong to sort things out.
The game's slight twist on the usual formula is that it isn't locked to the standard 2D perspective: there are a number of sequences - particularly where you're firing the Kongs through those cannon thingies - where the camera shifts and views the level from other angles. For the most part, it's business as usual for the series, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The last time we saw Bayonetta 2, Iwata said, we didn't get to see her from the front. The new trailer gave us a much better look at the spunky heroine, and showed off her new hairstyle and costume. Her new hair is short and shaggy, but she seems to have acquired some black wings that, if the team at Platinum is continuing with the series' established and bizarre mythology, are presumably also made from her hair.
Insofar as her character goes, she's still very much Bayonetta - we're introduced to her in the trailer with her long legs akimbo, making suggestive comments as she kicks, punches and shoots her enemies in the face.
We also got a glimpse of gameplay - it looks similar to the original's way of doing things, with dynamic backgrounds to the carnage, ridiculous set-pieces and brutal execution attacks.
Bayonetta 2 is set for a 2014 release, and additional info will trickle out during the course of this E3.
Monolithsoft's new title - referred to as just "X" in a distinctly Xenobladeish font - looks pretty spectacular, and appears to build on the lessons learned from the company's past, excellent JRPG extravaganza.
X features a large-scale open world that you can explore either on foot or in a giant transforming robot. The aesthetic is quite similar to Xenoblade - the landscapes are large, expansive and stretch off into the distance, and the ground is covered with realistic, dynamic foliage. The main difference is that thanks to the giant robos, you can now explore these spectacular settings from the air as well as on the ground.
X, or whatever it ends up actually being called, will launch in 2014.
Super Smash Bros.
There are indeed two Super Smash Bros. games on the way - one for Wii U and one for 3DS. The 3DS version features a cel-shaded art style similar to the new Pokémon, while the Wii U version features a more "CG-style" aesthetic with more "realistic" (for want of a better term) characters.
New additions to the character roster include an Animal Crossing villager and Capcom's Mega Man. It looks like the latter will have access to the various abilities of the Robot Masters during play, which could make things interesting.
The official Super Smash Bros. community is also now open on Miiverse for fans to discuss the upcoming games.