The smoke has settled and the dust has cleared from what many have deemed a by-the-book E3 that had little highs and many lows, including Nintendo’s “reveal” of their new system, the Wii U. I recently had a chance to play many of the demos that were available at E3, and while I was anxious to try out Nintendo’s new console, I was more interested to see if all of the Internet damnation was viable or if it was just more jaded remarks from a collective community that never seems content. Critics have already extensively broken down each gameplay scenario from each of the demos shown at E3, so instead of regurgitating the same information from the quick slices I was able to play I will instead be delving more into the new interactive scenarios thT Nintendo’s most important asset—their new controller—could create and also tell you why it’s okay to finally forgive the Big N.
Quick Impressions and What it Means for the Future
Rumors have spread in recent years that Nintendo was working on a tablet type of controller that would mimic the touch screen interactivity that they had created for the DS. Because of this direct similarity, you will see many games utilize the second screen in very similar ways, most notably as a way to access information that would otherwise be located once you paused your game (i.e. inventory screens). Considering the limited amount of time that many third party developers have had with the device, expect many developers to continue to use this functionality in similar ways that it has been used in the past as they try to make the launch date of the system. Of course, there were some exceptions to the rule, which could lead to a revolution for the couched multiplayer gamer.
Rayman Legends and most of the games from Nintedo Land have managed to bottle and recreate some of the frantic multiplayer atmosphere that was created when the Nintendo 64 was released. Each game uses the tablet screen as a voyeuristic look into what the player is seeing on the big screen. Even though the tablet screen was mimicking what was on screen, each tablet used that information in different ways, including the ability to manipulate the world around you to help the player on screen or by only letting the player on the tablet have access to certain information that could be used competitively or cooperatively. This was by far the most innovative look into what Nintendo’s controller could offer, which manages to set itself apart from what is currently on the market.
Even though the types of gameplay scenarios presented on the tablet could easily be recreated over an internet connection, there’s something that adds to the intensity when you can see and hear the person next to you. Also, depending on how the developer wants to utilize the screen for a second player, doors could be opened for other people in the household to join in that would otherwise be too intimidated to play. This is accomplished by allowing the person next to you to feel like an active participant that goes past the star gem collection that was introduced in Super Mario Galaxy. An example would be the full interaction of the world represented in Rayman Legends and the need for the second player to manipulate the world in order to proceed, while New Super Mario Brothers uses the screen to simply drop down platforms for others to jump on.
In actuality, Nintendo has introduced another layer, in which an active participant could easily dictate the nature of the world around you, thus creating new experiences for both players, depending on the level or type of player that they are. Many will argue that this kind of interaction has been available since the rise of internet gaming, but as we have seen, Nintendo is the often the gateway for many newer gamer’s and this is a great introduction to that chaotic, engaging and human touch that the company excels at and can really alter the content’s overall value to new and veteran gamers.
The Conference: Warranted Hate?
Let’s start off by saying that E3 2012 was there for the taking if Nintendo wanted it. Many critics, journalists and gamers alike have critiqued, debated, and rated each of the Big 3’s press conferences and announcements with most (surprisingly) naming Nintendo as the biggest failure. Of course, to be the biggest failure, Nintendo must have not lived up to the high expectations placed on them—either from history or from a bar that they have already set.
When I parallel the word “history” with Nintendo, for me and many others immediately fond memories are invoked in the form of childhood experiences that drew upon new possibilities. For many of us, Nintendo was our introduction to interactive media, and because of that, the company is a source of those many fond memories. The problem with those nostalgic feeling is that they invoke such polar reactions. After all, when you feel let down by such a revered icon as Nintendo, it feels like an attack on your very childhood. After all, these aren’t merely memories of a game—but a representation of a specific time. Most of us can recount the multitude of games that have affected us as well as the timeframe in our lives when it happened, and nothing clouds the mind more than snippets of our youth. Again, after all, everything was right in the world then, there was no taxes, no rent, and free food for all.
These idealized memories create feelings and expectations that sometimes may be unachievable or just aren’t related to the same vision that Nintendo has now decided to explore, most notably with the DS and Wii. In fact, Nintendo’s latest conference should have many saying, “déjà vu.”
Did Nintendo drop a price point? No. Did Nintendo explain their online strategy? No. Did Nintendo reveal a release date? No. Did Nintendo show off really any triple-A products for launch? No. These omissions should ring a bell for anyone that has covered Nintendo’s last two launches, the Wii and the DS. Both systems seemed to lack direction, both had developers and gamers confused, and both went on to outsell anyone in the same space. In other words, Nintendo has moved on. This doesn’t mean that Nintendo has forgotten about you, but when they start to be known to demographics that include others besides the males between the ages of 15 and 30, you would be stupid not to realize that the company may be rethinking their market strategy. That being said, can’t we, as core gamers, move on as well and give them the respect that they deserv
Wrap It Up
Nintendo has done exactly what they have wanted to do. They have created a system with a name that closely parallels the Wii, in order—it seems—to invoke all those new memories they have helped to create for a demographic that was, until this point, seemingly unreachable. They have taken elements from their best selling Wii and their best selling DS, combined them, and created a package that will be potentially affordable to those same types of gamers that picked up their last systems. Most of those people don’t care about release dates and price points six months in advance. They will start to worry about it when Ellen starts giving them away like gangbusters this holiday. That is their market, and that is their direction.
Having said that, as a gamer that plays what many would describe as core titles, I couldn’t be more excited for a new system. The new controller’s capabilities create a new type of experience that I hope many developers will tap into. And that right there is the real deciding factor. Nintendo has created the tools. Nintendo has given everyone the opportunity to create something special, and really it comes down to the talented developers and their creativity to define the Wii U’s future. After all, it’s all about the games and no one can argue that Nintendo hasn’t delivered on that promise for decades.
// Notes from the Road
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