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E3 2008: Nintendo Press Conference

E3 2008Nintendo

Nintendo held their press conference in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. This is where they hold the Academy Awards. For all I know I could have been sitting at the same seat where Keanu Reeves once sat. The digs were pretty lavish and the bottom floor of the theater was entirely packed with journalists from all over world, but none of you care about that. Here’s what went down at the press conference in chronological order.

The first game shown off was Shaun White Snowboarding by Ubisoft. Shaun White, the Olympic gold medalist himself, demonstrated the game for a minute or two by riding down the mountain. I couldn’t really tell how tricks were pulled off, but it seemed to make really good use of the Wii Balance Board. Shaun was shifting his weight forward to go faster and leaned left and right to move. After that, Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, gave the half-pipe a go. She landed most of the tricks, some of which seemed almost impossible considering the dangerous angle of her snowboarder. It definitely didn’t look like a hardcore simulation, but at least the characters were lifelike and not Miis. It comes out at the end of the year.

Right from the start it was obvious that Nintendo seemed more focused on families than hardcore gamers, although they did address them at several points. Cammie talked about her family in the beginning and said stuff like: “I don’t like a smile taken off my face for anything.” The rest of the announced games definitely catered away from adult fare, but there were some welcome surprises and a whole lot of bragging.

Satoru Iwata, the President of Nintendo, was up next and noted the importance of innovation. “For all of us in the video game industry, standing still is dangerous,” he said. The display behind him said that gamers need to be engaged, enriched and enthused. “Everyone held a pessimistic view of Nintendo,” he noted. “Not even Nintendo employees could have predicted we would have sold millions of bathroom scales throughout the world.” He gestured to the Wii Balance Board to some laughter.

The first big announcement was Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii. Developer Katsuya Eguchi addressed the crowd in a dubbed video interspersed with gameplay footage. The most noticeable thing was that the world is much larger. Instead of the sleepy town in the first game, things have been expanded into a legitimate city. It certainly wasn’t a metropolis, but it looked like there were many more things to do. The graphical style remains unchanged, although there were plenty of new features. A nice addition was that the main character can now look like your Mii. The biggest addition was Wii Speak, which will allow people to communicate through a microphone. A bunch of friends sitting around a fishing pole and just talking looked like it could add a whole new level of interaction to the game. Hopefully those teenage racists that populate Halo servers will stay far away from the laid back Animal Crossing: City Folk.

Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, addressed the crowd with numerous charts and graphs explaining just how awesome the DS and Wii are and why everybody loves them so much. There were a lot of those corporate buzzwords that executives just love to use, but he showed some trailers of upcoming third party Wii games. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, based on the upcoming animated film, seems to focus entirely on lightsaber duels. Lightsabers fights were the first thing many people wanted when the Wii was first announced, so this will surely please a lot of fans. Next was Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party. Keeping in tune with the family theme, a couple of giggling girls were shown playing the game. Finally, Call of Duty: World at War was shown. The best part of the game seemed to be the co-op play.

Cammie Dunaway took the stage once more to address the DS line-up. The most exciting announcement was Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Nothing was shown of the game except for a log, but Cammie said that it will take place in a modern Liberty City and feature new characters and game engine. A DS version of the game is certainly interesting, but can this version of Liberty City hold up after seeing it’s potential in Grand Theft Auto IV?

The biggest news with Nintendo lately has been their plan to release an accessory that will make the Wii motion sensing much more accurate. The Wii Motion Plus was announced the other day, and people seem to split between excitement in the possibilities and anger over having to pay money for an upgraded controller. No price was announced, but Wii Sports Resort was shown with the use of the accessory. Cammie loaded up a mini-game called Disc Dog, which involves tossing a Frisbee for a dog to fetch. Her Mii was holding the Frisbee and it corresponding exactly with her movements. If she moved her wrist up, the Mii would do exactly the same. It was very impressive. After she sloppily threw the disc, she said that the controller even “picked up my bad wrist action.”

Quick RundownHere’s a brief summary of what Nintendo did
-Demoed Shaun White Snowboarding
-Announced Animal Crossing: City Folk
-Announced Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars
-Showed off Wii Sports Resort with the Wii Motion Plus
-Shigeru Miyamoto played some Wii Music
Reggie then showed off a mini-game similar to Wave Racer on the N64. This game didn’t seem to take advantage of the Wii Motion Plus and the speed definitely needed to be cranked up. To end the demo, Reggie and Cammie faced off in a sword fighting game. The two were on a platform and thrust the controller as if it was a sword. It didn’t look particularly deep, but seeing the two Miis bonking each other on the head was extremely satisfying. I can imagine plenty of exciting fights taking place after a few drinks. The game comes out in the U.S. and Japan this spring.

At this point, hopes of new Zelda or Metroid games began to waver. Nearly 45 minutes had gone by without anything wildly unexpected. The stage went black and then a series of fancy lights started shining everywhere. A drummer demonstrated Wii Music with the Wiimote and Balance Board. The music was loud, but it sounded pretty good. Shigeru Miyamoto then took the stage playing the saxophone with the controller. The jazzy tune was then backed by an ensemble of other players. It turns out he was playing a song from F-Zero.

“People who can’t read music or play instruments can experience the joy of playing instruments,” Shigeru said. There will be over 50 instruments, including a cowbell. A handful of other executives walked on stage and formed a 6 person band. They all jammed a vibrant rendition of that song from the first level of Super Mario Bros. They all looked to be having a fun time, and perhaps that best sums up Nintendo’s current goal. Instead of hardcore gaming experiences, they’re looking to create simple games that friends can all play together. Some attendees were disappointed, but who can argue against Nintendo’s sales? A new Zelda and other installments in storied franchises are inevitable. They just won’t be shown at this year’s E3.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2003. Get in touch on Twitter @akarge.

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