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Nintendo E3 Conference - Summary Page #1

The Sarge

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I don't think it's been posted yet, but here's Edge's opinion of the conference:

First things first. We’ll be simple. Where on Earth was the Vitality Sensor?

That bitter disappointment aside, we had to be content with a press conference which apparently effortlessly hit a sweetspot in the Venn diagram of self-celebration, wry deference, nerdish awkwardness, earnest confidence and creative vigour, one that it’s hard to imagine any other videogame company coming near.

But Reggie Fils-Aime couldn’t entirely hold himself back from grandiloquence, obviously. “We hear you,” he boomed. “You want what you've always wanted, but you also want something new. Contradictions? No problem. They come with the territory. But can you make something for everyone?”

We nearly believe he has the answer, to the extent that even 3DS seems to have a road ahead of it that isn’t quite so rocky as it seemed yesterday. But maybe Luigi’s Mansion 2 had a little to do with that. Nintendo’s lineup for this year is pretty strong: Super Mario blends Galaxy’s clever camera work with traditional 2D, Mario Kart adds another sprinkling of bells and whistles to the wobbling pile (honestly, we never thought hang gliding was missing from the mix, but hey), Star Fox 3D and Kid Icarus Uprising add multiplayer. And Fils-Aime claimed 3DS’s network features, which are finally opening today with the introduction of eShop, are “beyond anything we've offered online before”. We will see, but the demos and Virtual Console, including free Excite Bike, are reasonable starts.

And free Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, via DSiWare, is a fantastic way to send off DS. Nintendo’s unwillingness to let good games lie is a delight – even if it also means sitting through Miyamoto banging on about Zelda again, this time to orchestral accompaniment as if he really won’t let Wii Music lie either. Anyway, as owners of both not enough GameCube-Game Boy Advance link cables and not enough Game Boy Advances, the idea of actually being able to play Four Swords Adventures properly is utterly delicious.

OK, sorry, enough blather. What do we think of the name Wii U? Fine, yep. But then we liked Wii from the start. U’s short and full of Iwata’s word associations - unique, unifying, utopian, uh, you, and another rhyming one that dovetails rather neatly with that funny Wii name joke.

What is Wii U? On paper, it’s hard to say. We don’t have a spec sheet that tells us fill rates and memory speeds, so how it measures up to Xbox 360 and PS3 is hard to say. The demo of a bird flying through a blossoming Japanese garden, festooned as it was with visual effects, looked pretty enough. So did a flash of a Wii U Zelda. But then, Nintendo isn’t a company that splays its products open on a slab, expecting their internal features to explain function. Nintendo expects developers to make functions that will explain features.

That, historically, Nintendo’s the only developer that’s able to make sense of its technology is another matter, of course, one that Reggie was at pains to dissolve with a series of talking developer and publisher heads. EA Sports’ Peter Moore, THQ’s Danny Bilson, Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot, Irrational’s Ken Levine, Junction Point’s Warren Spector and more all explained how inspired they are. Let’s hope that this time, their inspiration gets to market. Incidentally: no Activision?

So Wii U is portable, except it isn’t. It has a screen that’s used for all sorts of smart things, like using Wii Fit without having to be in front of the TV. It does motion control and touch control and it will take pictures. It does all the traditional gamer games and it does Othello on the dining room table. It does video conferencing and photo sharing, and a weird form of web browsing that involves holding the controller up to the TV and moving it about.

On these terms, it seems to be a system that will integrate very easily into a busy family home, one in which arguments constantly rage over who’s controlling the TV. The kids can do all those motion games, gamer adults can play FIFA or Call Of Duty when they’ve gone to bed, or while they’re watching Peppa Pig. And now we live in a world in which Apple has carved a space in homes for at least the idea of a tablet computer, Wii U will seem comfortably familiar.

But in homes that don’t need to be so multifunctional, Wii U will have to prove its quality over the existing consoles via the traditional methods – through graphics and how nice that enormous controller is to hold. Battlefield 3, Batman Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Aliens: Colonial Marines, Metro Last Light and Ninja Gaiden Razor's Edge is a great roster of titles committed to the system, but they’re going to have to offer something significantly better that what PS3 and 360 are currently capable of for Iwata’s dream “to serve every player” to come true.

Until that’s clear, we’re left with the admittedly brilliant idea that Nintendo had of wheeling out EA head John Riccitiello, who was looking as lethal as ever. Not because he’s simply threatened us into believing in Wii U, of course, but simply that, as head of the traditional videogaming company that does most to serve every player right now, if he thinks Wii U is a good idea, perhaps we should, too.

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