While Wii U may be struggling at present, Nintendo still has enough banked goodwill thanks to 3DS to ensure that people pay attention when it holds one of its semi-regular Nintendo Direct events.
Today's event was no exception. While it wasn't the most exciting presentation we've ever seen, there were at least a few pleasant surprises along the way, one of which I'm very excited about.
Let's take a look at what happened, then.
Third-party support is an area where Nintendo is often criticized -- particularly on Wii U -- but the big N was keen to highlight a couple of promising-looking games in the near future.
First up, Sonic Lost World was showcased. The Mario Galaxy-esque 3D platformer will be available for both Wii U and 3DS on October 22, and the two versions will be able to communicate with one another -- the 3DS version will allow you to create and customize remote-controlled vehicles in Tails' lab, then send them to the Wii U version. The vehicle can then be used to support Sonic by collecting rings and performing other special tasks.
Secondly, it may be multiplatform, but Wii U is still looking like arguably the best way to play Ubisoft's upcoming Rayman Legends, due out on September 3. Iwata highlighted the game's diverse worlds, music-based stages and five-player co-op play. Wii U Gamepad support was showcased, too, demonstrating how players can manipulate platforms, rotate elements of the environment and even cut through some materials using the touchscreen. The Wii U version will also allow Rayman and Globox to dress in Mario and Luigi costumes respectively.
Iwata teased an upcoming Art Academy title for Wii U, noting that it would offer detailed drawing and art lessons using the Wii U's Gamepad, but didn't give any further details beyond the fact it was still being worked on.
We did, however, see a little more of Art Academy SketchPad, which will be a downloadable eShop title. With SketchPad, you can make use of a variety of virtual papers, pencils and other materials to create your own artwork, then share it online via MiiVerse. The official Art Academy MiiVerse community will launch on August 9, at the same time as the app becomes available. Nintendo is also looking into ways to showcase the best user-created artwork.
The Year of Luigi
Mario & Luigi Dream Team enjoyed a brief moment in the spotlight, highlighting the game's focus on cooperation between the two brothers through making use of badges that work together. You'll also be able to work your way through various increasingly difficult "Challenges" in the game to earn powerful gear, and if you find yourself struggling, you'll be able to make use of a Hint Block prior to battle to get some strategic suggestions. Our review of Dream Team is coming soon -- in the meantime, why not check out Cassandra's interview with its creators?
Besides Mario & Luigi Dream Team, Iwata also confirmed that Luigi will be appearing in both the Wii U and 3DS version of Smash Bros -- as if anyone thought he would be absent in the first place.
Pokémon Rumble U
The new Pokémon Rumble game is a Wii U exclusive in which you battle against toy Pokémon and befriend those you defeat in battle across the game's 70 stages. The game will reportedly incorporate all 649 Pokémon from the games up until the most recent Black and White incarnations of the series, and 18 different NFC figures will be available exclusively at GameStop. These figures will not, apparently, be required to see "everything the game has to offer."
Pokémon Rumble U will be available on the eShop on August 29.
Summer Carnival '92 Recca
A surprise announcement was the impending 3DS eShop release of Naxat Soft's 1992 top-down Famicom shooter Summer Carnival '92 Recca.
Recca's original Famicom cartridge is very rare and commands a high price today. Nintendo is bringing it to the eShop for much the same reason it brought Shantae back recently: to allow a much wider audience to enjoy it without having to pay through the nose.
Recca is regarded as one of the most impressive Famicom titles ever created, pushing the 8-bit system to its absolute limit with the number of sprites on screen at once. It's also super-challenging, so if you're looking for a new shmup to play competitively, this is well worth taking a look at.
Other eShop Releases
Also confirmed for eShop release was the NES version of Donkey Kong, which will be along on August 15; classic football game Tecmo Bowl; and Wario Land 3, which will be coming to 3DS' eShop on August 29. Super Mario Bros 3 will also be available for both the Wii U and 3DS eShop "later this year" on the off-chance you haven't played this on every Nintendo system you own just yet.
Nintendo confirmed the new StreetPass functionality was up and running after the recent firmware update. Now you can passively receive StreetPasses from people who have connected to the same Nintendo Zone locations as you.
As well as picking up a bunch more StreetPasses, though, you'll also be able to collect Animal Crossing items from Nintendo Zone locations between August on September. The first of these -- a pumpkin pie -- will be available on August 11. Head along to a Nintendo Zone location, fire up Animal Crossing and head to the Post Office in town to receive your gifts.
The New Adventures of Professor Layton
The final chapter of Professor Layton's new adventure is coming to 3DS. Few details were revealed about it, but it looks to include a significant number of 3D sections, including flying through the air while shooting down balloons with specific numbers on them according to clues. The game otherwise looks to be more of the same adventure/puzzle action -- and that's no bad thing. Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, as the new game is called, will be with us next year.
More significantly, this Nintendo Direct revealed that Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright would be getting a Western release in North America in 2014. Again, few details were revealed, but the anime-style trailer certainly suggested we're in for a suitably overdramatic experience. The game has been available in Japan since last November, and incorporates elements from both series -- it was also the first time the Ace Attorney series enjoyed full voice acting.
Legends of Zelda
We saw a bit more from the new 3DS Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds, due out in November. The game looks, unsurprisingly, strongly reminiscent of SNES classic A Link Between Worlds -- particularly in the Light World. Link, however, has had a bit of a makeover, highlighting the fact that A Link Between Worlds is set far in the future from A Link to the Past. (Interestingly, though, it's still called "A Link to the Past 2" in Japan.)
One thing highlighted in the gameplay footage was the intriguing mechanic whereby Link can step into paintings on the wall and get around otherwise impassable obstacles by becoming two-dimensional. This also looks like it will provide a means to teleport around "through" walls and be the source of some interesting puzzles.
Meanwhile, Wind Waker HD is looking lovely (if a little bloom-heavy, still), and Iwata confirmed that the latter half of the game will enjoy some "fine-tuning" -- though specifics weren't given. Wind Waker HD will be out in October.
Animal Crossing Plaza
Animal Crossing fans with a Wii U now have two reasons to turn on their console: the launch of an official Animal Crossing series MiiVerse community, allowing you to talk to an interact with other fans of the series as a whole, and the new Animal Crossing Plaza app for Wii U.
The latter allows you to see posts about Animal Crossing from MiiVerse along with calendar events and messages from other fans. You can also import pictures saved on your 3DS' SD card into Animal Crossing Plaza, sort them into albums and post them to MiiVerse, as well as post about your favorite animals or filter posts by your favorites. The whole experience is wrapped in an interface that looks very "Animal Crossing-y" -- though it's not a game in and of itself.
Animal Crossing Plaza should be available on the Wii U eShop later today. It'll be a limited-time service until the end of 2014.
Nintendo's next Nintendo Direct presentation will be on August 9 at 7 am Pacific Time, and will focus on the upcoming The Wonderful 101.