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E3 2012: Nintendo press conference summary
by Andrew Testerman
Today at 9:00 PDT, Nintendo took the stage as the last of the "Big Three" press conferences. In a presentation thankfully bereft of either dubstep or cover-based shooting, Nintendo showed off games and functionality for their upcoming console, Wii U. Nintendo largely played it safe, relying on pre-established properties to do much of the heavy lifting, and it started significantly stronger than it finished, but Nintendo's conference still lacked any outright bad moments, resulting in a pleasant, if unexciting press conference.

Pikmin 3

The first big title Nintendo showed was a Wii U sequel to its beloved RTS series, Pikmin. Pikmin 3, which is over ten years old and wow do I feel old typing that, adds several new Pikmin types, including a gray rock-like one used for breaking barriers, and co-operative play. Pikmin 3 is controlled via the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, along with an option for the Wii U GamePad. Mr. Miyamoto noted Olimar's absense from the presented footage, along with the new four-player co-op. The game looks great in high definition, with bright colors and whimsical art design looking like an oasis in a desert of so many brown-colored military shooters. Pikmin 3 doesn't have a release date yet, but hopefully it should come shortly after the launch of the Wii U, just like the original Pikmin did for the GameCube.

Wii U GamePad

First explained during Sunday's pre-recorded address from Mr. Iwata, the newly redesigned Wii U GamePad received its own sleek promotional video that highlighted its various functionalities. In addition to its dual, clickable analogue sticks and four shoulder buttons, the Wii U GamePad also includes a TV remote for controlling television channels and inputs, a volume control and headphone jack for the controller's screen, and new indentation on the back for added comfort. Time will tell how the controller feels during extended play sessions, but it finally has all of the needed buttons for playing multiplatform games.


Another Wii U feature that was detailed during Sunday's address, the MiiVerse looks to be Nintendo's social functionality à la Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. The layout looks like a cross between PlayStation Home and Mii Plaza, with Miis crowding around icons for various games. Nintendo CEO Reggie Fils-Aime also mentioned that players could send messages to each other through text, as well as messages drawn through the Wii U touchscreen. Perhaps the most surprising facet of the MiiVerse is that it can used on PC and smartphones as well as the Wii U itself, an important feature if Nintendo wants gamers to actually use the service.

New Super Mario Bros. U

Continuing Nintendo's recent love for 2D Mario, Fils-Aime announced New Super Mario Bros. U, a new sidescrolling Mario game for the Wii U. Gameplay looks similar to other New Super Mario Bros. games for the DS and Wii, except that its bright, Day-Glo art-style look even better in HD. Fils-Aime noted using MiiVerse connectivity to compare high scores or ask for help from other MiiVerse users. New Super Mario Bros. U retains NSMBWii's four-player co-op, and the quick on-stage demo showed off several new power-ups, including a flying-squirrel-looking take on the Tanooki Suit and several differently-colored dinosaurs shooting bubbles and lighting up dark areas.

Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition

To highlight Nintendo's efforts to get third-party developers onboard with the Wii U, Warner Bros. Interactive demonstrated a version of Batman: Arkham City with new Wii U-specific functions. Most of the new abilities used the GamePad touchscreen to replace the pause menu, letting players browse the map, upgrade equipment, and view character profiles while remaining in the game. Several gadgets also make use of the GamePad touchscreen, such as the remote-control Batarang, which is steered using the GamePad gyroscope, or the explosive gel, which can be detonated individually by tapping it. The additions to Arkham City: Armored Edition are minor, though, and fans who already routed The Joker and Dr. Strange last fall likely won't have an incentive to do so again.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

5th Cell's inventive, creative platforming game will be coming to the Wii U with a few new upgrades. In addition to summoning items by typing words into the game, Scribblenauts Unlimited allows players to create their own items for puzzle-solving using the GamePad touchscreen. Scribblenauts Unlimited also features a story mode that offers details on the main protagonist's notebook.

Wii Fit U

Wii Fit was one of Nintendo's runaway successes when it hit the Wii in 2008, and Nintendo is hoping gamers will pull their bathroom scales out of their closets for another go-around on the Wii U. A video demo of a couple working out together showed the Balance Board, GamePad touchscreen, and television interacting together; the couple selected exercise games using the touchscreen, then performed them using the Balance Board. Wii Fit U also packs in a pedometer for keeping track of fitness performance, and lets players use the GamePad display for workouts while the television is in use. As a Wii Fit player who has fallen off the wagon, I thought that Wii Fit U looked like a neat, if unsurprising, update to the current Wii Fit formula, though the Wii Fit unconverted will likely remain so.


Perhaps the most self-explanitory title anyone could ask for a karaoke game, Sing is Nintendo's new karaoke game from developer FreeStyleGames, the team behind Activision's DJ Hero series. Sing displays the lyrics for songs on the Wii U GamePad, letting players face their loyal audience rather than the television. Perhaps hoping to create an extra feeling of cameraderie between players, Sing also prompts the audience to sing during specific moments like the chorus or a bridge, or to clap or follow an onscreen dance. It looks a little dorky, but based on the popularity of games like Just Dance and SingStar, Nintendo and FreeStyleGames might just be on to something with Sing.

3DS Trio - New Super Mario Bros. 2, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon

More of a glorified plug than anything else, Nintendo showed three first-party 3DS games in preparation for tomorrow night's 3DS-specific conference. New Super Mario Bros. 2 looks similar to the DS original, with a new (and, so far, unclear) focus on coin-collection. Paper Mario: Sticker Star continues the series' playful paper gimmick by adding stickers, which are used as battle commands, secret area signifiers, among other unspecified uses. Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is similar to last year's demonstration, with the additional announcement of multiple mansions to explore. Not much is known about any of these games, but Nintendo will doubtlessly cover then further during tomorrow night's conference.

Lego City: Undercover

Traveller's Tales' newest Lego game takes a page from open-world affairs like Sleeping Dogs and Grand Theft Auto. Undercover puts players on Lego City's police force, solving crimes and rescuing those in trouble. Similar to character-changing in games like Lego Star Wars, Undercover grants players the option to swap disguises for different abilities, like a robber's ability to break locks or a construction worker's jackhammer. Platforming in Undercover looks more complicated than past Lego games, with characters spinning off of flag poles, wall-jumping, and running along the side of buildings. Traveller's Tales' brand of goofy humor is also thankfully intact, with a funky faux-'70s-cop-show vibe permeating the trailer and one-liners permeating the fully-spoken dialogue. If you've ever wanted to swap Tattooine for Liberty City, Lego City has you (under) covered.

Just Dance 4

The Just Dance series is one of Ubisoft's most profitable on the Wii, and Just Dance 4 several features exclusive to the Wii U. During the conference, Fils-Aime used the GamePad to choose dance moves that were acted out by a troupe of dancers onstage. Fils-Aime even trolled the dancers by having them hold a difficult pose for an inordinately long time. Other than the so-called "puppet master" mode, Just Dance 4 looks like more of the same, though that should hardly disappoint the millions of casual gamers who keep buying the series.


Ubisoft offered an ambitious shooter that took advantage of Nintendo's new technology last time the company released a console, but whereas Red Steel received low marks from critics, ZombiU (more like ZombiEwww That Name) looks to have the gameplay to support its ambitions. ZombiU looks different from other zombie shooters like Left 4 Dead or Dead Island—one bite from a zombie is fatal, and gameplay is far slower as a result, relying on scanning the environment with the GamePad to detect enemies and usable resources. The tone is murky and the violence is strong; Ubisoft is clearly serious about having an exclusive, strong game for the Wii U.


Nintendo's finally showing at their press conference was a so-called "theme park" game based around twelve pre-existing properties. NintendoLand is something of a minigame collection intended to show off the Wii U, similar to how Wii Sports demonstrated the Wii's capabilities when it originally released. One game shown was "Luigi's Mansion: Haunted Hijinks," which looked a little like PacMan Vs. for the GameCube; four players are in charge of hunting down an invisible ghost using Wii remotes, while the ghost harasses the other four through the GamePad. Others were briefly touched on, including last year's throwing star mini-game. NintendoLand will be Nintendo's big push title when the Wii U lanches this holiday season, though whether it can capture the magic of Nintendo's famous sports pack-in remains to be seen.

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- Andrew Testerman

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