You were a brave soul if you got up early to watch Nintendo's E3 Nintendo Direct presentation this morning. Not only was it at 7am, but it was also possibly the most frustratingly stop-start-stutter video stream I think I've ever seen. Fortunately, it settled down eventually and gave us the chance to see what the big N had planned for the near future.
I asked my colleagues what they thought of what they saw. Reactions were... mixed.
After yesterday's epic Royal Rumble between two heavyweight titans, Nintendo's press affair felt more like a cozy fireside chat, with mulled wine, and Perry Como playing in the background.
Acting almost like nothing else is happening in the world around them, Nintendo trotted out a modest selection of titles that looked decent, but didn't exactly set the pulse racing. It all just felt a bit underwhelming and lacking immediacy.
To me, Nintendo's opportunity seems obvious and open: Sony and Microsoft are slugging it out for the adult video game market. There was almost no sign for anything for the kids. And that's where Nintendo can come in and rule the roost. Stop pretending Wii U is next gen and instead start rolling out cute, cuddly and fun stuff for the kids and kids at heart. And cut the damn price like you did with 3DS. That's where success will be found - and that's where Nintendo's core strength has always been. It's almost like they're doing that - but they need more focus, more games and a concerted effort to explain to the industry what Wii U really is rather than fudging it like they are now.
Nintendo has the summer to get itself sorted out. Otherwise I think it's going to be a rough, tough winter for them.
Nintendo said they'd be focusing on Wii U games for their hour-long E3 Nintendo Direct, presumably because the 3DS is doing just fine and doesn't need help like the Wii U does. Unfortunately, that presentation left the console looking even more anemic than it was before the show. At least back then we had hope for a turnaround. Instead, we saw a handful of new titles, none unexpected - except in the case of Retro's new Donkey Kong Country, which was unexpected only in how unsurprising it was. After all the rumors flying around about Retro's mystery project, to see them going back to the DKC well pretty much deflated the Internet. The saddest part? Wii U software announcements and demonstrations didn't even fill up the full hour; the stream only ran for about 40 minutes.
I think everyone expected Nintendo to take bold actions to reverse the Wii U's ailing fortunes the way they did a few years ago with 3DS. They took it on the chin with that system's price cut and free games, but it worked for them and now 3DS has become a bonafide smash the world over. I don't know if they're holding back some kind of surprise for their upcoming show floor presentation or if they genuinely think a handful of gentle sequels will save the day, but coming in the wake of yesterday's slobberknocker back-and-forth between Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo's presentation had a distressing oblivious quality to it. They're like the heedless swimmer paddling out into deep waters where a pair of sharks are circling, frenzied by the taste of one another's blood.
The good? Super Mario 3D World looks charming, and probably as close as we'll get to a modern version of Super Mario Bros. 2. And… Mega Man? Something? I don't know. I didn't expect a miracle from Nintendo, but I thought they'd at least demonstrate some actual effort.
Watching Nintendo's Direct @ E3 conference felt like eating a salad after binging on fast food. Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and Sony all had elaborate sets, cool lighting, PR folks talking up the games like every single one was the best ever made. After all four, and especially following Sony's middle-finger moves toward Microsoft, I felt like my senses had melted. So watching a relatively simple format for forty minutes was refreshingly direct.
That being said, I have a bone to pick with Super Mario 3D World. Not to sound daft, or question the cartooned logic behind a Mario game, but why the hell does a bell turn you into a wall-climbing cat? Have I missed something, or have I just gone mental?
I'm taking a break from Mario platformers since I started Mario 3D Land and felt absolutely nothing (perhaps I've misplaced my childhood innocence). Similarly, I had been boycotting Mario Kart games like one might go off a food they were forced to eat over and over for years on end, but today marks an unexpected change in my boycott. In fact, I think Mario Kart 8 is the game that gets me to buy a Wii U. Instead of looking at cartoonishly colored, overly saturated maps, I was looking at wonderfully detailed HD tracks and carts with anti-gravity mechanics.
I'll also be picking up Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, despite it's stupidly long, stupidly oxymoronic name. It'll be my first Donkey Kong game since Diddy's Kong Quest, and I'm curious to see if the 3D barrel mechanics live up to the hype.
I came away from Nintendo Direct feeling quite positive about the big N's future. Sure, none of the stuff on display is ever going to compete with the heavyweight punches being thrown by Microsoft and Sony right now, but I think Nintendo know that better than a lot of people seem to be giving them credit for. Instead, what they showed was a solid, if relatively unremarkable, lineup of titles - including some further details on their most interesting exclusives Bayonetta and The Wonderful 101.
Bayonetta 2 looks pretty great, albeit rather similar to the first one. I'll be happy with that, though; despite not normally being an action game person, I absolutely adored Bayonetta's first adventure. The Wonderful 101, too, looks marvellously creative and fun to play, though I wonder if the novelty will wear off after a little while.
I also thought Wii Party U looked surprisingly good. Before you mock and deride me for this, I will note that Nintendo Land is by far the most-played game on my own Wii U due to the fact that everyone who plays it loves it. When friends come over, we pretty much always have a game or two of Mario Chase. Having something similarly accessible but with more variety of games on offer sounds like a winning formula to me, and there looks to be a fun mix in Wii Party U.
Highlight of Nintendo's presentation by far, though, was Monolithsoft's X, or whatever the damn thing's actually called. I absolutely adored Xenoblade Chronicles, and to see a game that looks very, very much like a spiritual successor to that masterpiece well and truly tickled me in my happy places. An open world that you can not only explore on foot but also fly and drive around thanks to some sort of awesome-looking Transformer? Sign me up. Right now. And don't you dare drag your heels over bringing this one to the West, Nintendo.