Nintendo at E3 2012 Verdict: The Wii U falters under lofty expectations
It was the most anticipated E3 press conference of the year and with an entire Wii U launch line-up to showcase, Nintendo missed the mark spectacularly.
The stage was set for Nintendo to steal the show yesterday, having held their press conference after two lacklustre efforts from Sony and Microsoft.
With the Wii U set to launch later this year, this would be our first look at the first-party launch line-up of the console and as such, would be the antidote to the endless iteration of established franchises that we saw from their rivals above. How could things go wrong for Nintendo?
Having been in development for years, Pikmin returned in glorious style to open the Nintendo show, with a charming pre-demo clip featuring the series’ stars of Nintendo genius Shigeru Miyamoto beforehand.
While the game didn’t appear hugely innovative – more a HD version of the previous series installments – Pikmin 3 kick started the show in fan pleasing style and was arguably the highlight of the entire conference. It’s never a good sign when your worldwide demonstration peaks in the first five minutes, however.
LEGO City Undercover
Officially announced by Nintendo at last year’s event, Lego City was well worth the wait. Essentially a Grand Theft Auto for kids, the game had a clever sense of humour and appeared to showcase depth yet seen from a LEGO title, coupled with fantastic graphics. Though the game may skew a very young audience we’re dying to give it a go.
Two nearly identical New Super Mario Bros games
We’re at ‘Lowlights’ already? Yep, one of the biggest disappointments for us is that after last year’s hugely battered financial results, Nintendo are playing it very safe with two side-scrolling platformers for the New Super Mario Bros franchise, one for Wii U and one for 3DS.
The Wii U title is the most troubling, as despite the swoon-worthy graphics, it appears to utilise the console’s tablet very little, other than apparently allowing a second player to place helpful blocks for their friends. It’s hardly the system shifting equivalent Super Mario 64 was to the Nintendo 64 back in the mid-1990s is it?
When Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime referred to NintendoLand as the “Wii Sports of the Wii U”, you could feel gamers worldwide shift forward in their seats. Could we have something just as ingenious and console defining as the sports title that sold Wiis by the truckloads?
Actually, no. What we discovered was that NintendoLand was instead the Wii Play of the Wii U; a series of re-skinned mini games already demonstrated at last year’s event. In the case of the Pac Man Vs-resembling hide-and-seek Luigi’s Mansion component, it also seemed unnecessarily complicated.
That NintendoLand closed out the show was extremely disappointing too, especially when Reggie had “one last thing” for us after its demonstration. Rather than a secret Wii U title being revealed, however, we returned to NintendoLand and were shown a series of the games’ fireworks in full flight. Yes, that’s literally how they closed the show…
A swath of already released third-party Wii U titles
Once it became evident that Batman: Arkham City – Armored Edition was one of the highlights of the Wii U’s third-party slate, you could feel the life of the Nintendo conference being sucked out.
Not only did Arkham City have disappointing graphics, its tablet usage was extremely gimmicky, offering – as expected – little more than a new method of using the game’s ‘Detective Vision’ and utilsiing items. There was some third-party innovation in the form of Ubisoft’s ZombiU yet it was buried under an avalanche of Wii U titles already released, such as Ninja Gaiden 3 and Mass Effect 3.
Expectations are always sky-high for Nintendo’s E3 showings yet this was perhaps one of the most disappointing shows that they had ever put on, as it failed to convince on the merits of the Wii U and more importantly, made us question what they had been up to for the past twelve months.
Rather than giving a tantalising look at anything from the likes of The Legend of Zelda or Super Smash Bros series, not to mention the top-secret game in development from Retro Studios (Metroid Prime), we saw much safer New Super Mario Bros, karaoke (SiNG) and fitness titles (Wii Fit U), with Nintendo clearly licking their wounds inflicted from the sales underperformance of the 3DS handheld.
Rather than attempting to reverse the trend through innovation or ingenious of the still unconvincing promise of the Wii U tablet, it looks like we’ll have a Wii U launch slate that may please Nintendo’s shareholders but not their biggest fans.