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E3 2010: Nintendo Press Conference

E3 2010Nintendo

Nintendo’s E3 press conferences have been arguably underwhelming in recent memory to those faithful fans that have made the company what it is today. Perhaps a little wiser this year after the painful shows spent watching people waggle on stage, Nintendo proceeded to deliver one of the most nostalgia inducing E3 performances of all time and spoke directly to the Nintendo fan in all of us.

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Rather than put it off until the end, Reggie Fils-Aime kicked off Nintendo’s show with the main thing everyone wanted to see: Zelda on Wii. Arriving in 2011, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword looked absolutely gorgeous. The video began with a number of Link incarnations spanning the years before settling on the new Link. Falling between the super cartoony look of Wind Waker and the more realistic depiction found in Twilight Princess, new Link is accurately proportioned but remains bright and colorful.

The biggest revelation about Skyward Sword would have to be its use of Wii Motion-Plus. After taking stage with a clever video segment, Shigeru Miyamoto set forth demonstrating the new Zelda in action. Like Twilight Princess the Wiimote itself is used for sword play, but the main new difference is the Nunchuck’s new usage as your shield control. Miyamoto demoed Link’s ability to deflect enemy attacks and even send projectiles back where they came from. He then went on to show several items including a new whip and a beetle that Link can pilot to explore areas or retrieve objects with. There were a few technical issues when Miyamoto broke out the bow and arrow, but he assured the crowd when they got their hands on the demo they’d see it was a fluke. Overall the game looked very pretty and delivered on the trademark Zelda charm.

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Afterward Reggie returned to the stage to talk about sports games on the Wii. He noted a few franchises that have been on the hardware and their strides to make simulation gaming more accessible, while also mentioning the Wii-exclusive NBA Jam that falls on the other side of the spectrum. This was all leading up to the unveil of Mario Sports Mix, a new Wii Sports’esque offering that drops the Mario crew into four different sports including volleyball, hockey, basketball and perhaps most excitingly, dodgeball. Each of the sports looked to be a bit more fleshed out than either Wii Sports title, but the game was tagged for 2011 so it’ll be a while before we’ll know for sure.

Moving to another game that will likely appeal to many casual Wii owners, Wii Party looks exactly like the Mario Party games it so obviously follows. Mixing in several boards, over a dozen game types and Mii usage, Wii Party will no doubt find an audience this holiday season. Nintendo also confirmed Just Dance 2 – the sequel to the surprise dancing hit – will be launching this fall as well, with a handful of new songs and support for eight players.

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Shifting back to ‘core’ games and highlighting one of the only original DS game of the show, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn looked to be the sequel series veterans have been hoping for. Played from a top-down perspective, the video showed some simple dungeon based puzzle solving employing the stylus and some truly massive spell and summon effects during battle. Basically it was exactly what you would expect out of a new Golden Sun, which also lands this holiday.

Transitioning from one ‘Golden’ game to another, the just recently leaked GoldenEye 007 by Activision for Wii was shown in video form. It was unclear whether or not the game is a total remake of the Nintendo 64 classic – it looked like a remake – or simply a brand new game sharing the iconic namesake. The game will feature Daniel Craig as Bond over Pierce Brosnan and will ship with many of the characters found in the original and a slew of multiplayer modes people will recognize from the good old days.

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Keeping with the third party trend, legendary game designer Warren Spector was introduced to talk about Disney Epic Mickey. As Warren talks about the design philosophy behind Epic Mickey, one of the producers demoed the game, running around and using paint and paint thinner to dynamically change the ‘Quest Zone’ he was in. Using paint he was able to create objects in the world, while the paint thinner would erase things, even characters. Warren spoke of the many ‘Choices of Playstyle’ that will be the hallmark of Epic Mickey, which should come as no surprise from the mind behind Deus Ex. The demonstration concluded with a ‘Travel Zone’ level which was a whimsical sidescrolling black and white interpretation of the classic Steamboat Willie cartoons, and it was probably the most impressive part of the entire demo.

Moving from one iconic character reinvention to another, Reggie introduced the world to a brand new Kirby game for Wii known as Kirby’s Epic Yarn. In true series fashion, Epic Yarn sticks to its traditional sidescrolling roots but that’s probably where the comparisons end. This Kirby is delivered in a fascinating new art style that can only be described as a Kirby game rendered with pipe-cleaners. Everything is supposed to be made of yarn outlines but it all looks like something you might have created in an arts and crafts class as a child, which definitely works within Kirby’s world. New game mechanics were shown allowing Kirby to manipulate his surroundings, such as pull a platform closer, which caused the ‘fabric’ of the screen to scrunch up or literally un-zip a piece of the level. Most surprising might have been Kirby’s unexpected release window for this fall.

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Highlighting a couple of Nintendo’s big summer titles, Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies and Metroid: Other M were shown to remind the crowd they wouldn’t have to wait for fall to play some of Nintendo’s most anticipated new wares.

Despite the impressive Zelda unveiling, the hands-down game of the show was Nintendo’s next shocker, Donkey Kong Country Returns! Developed by Retro Studios (the Metroid Prime guys), Returns! looks in every way to be the perfect sequel to the old Super NES series. The game had beautiful, fluid 2.5D animation that easily puts Nintendo’s own work with New Super Mario Bros. to absolute shame. If we insist on 3D characters over sprites in this day in age, they have to look like this. Tons of old-school Donkey Kong tropes were shown including vine swinging, banana collecting, barrel busting and the much maligned mine cart levels’ return.

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This left Nintendo with their final big announcement, the one that everyone was truly expecting: the Nintendo 3DS. Sporting a 3.5 inch ‘wide’ screen upper display, touch screen below, an analogue ‘slide pad,’ two cameras to allow 3D photography and the ability to watch Hollywood quality 3D video, Nintendo appears to be serious about getting the 3DS into non-gamers hands as well. As reported the handheld doesn’t require glasses and has significantly improved graphics capabilities, which would be shown off with the reveal of last year’s teased Project Sora, which is now known as Kid Icarus: Uprising.

The new Icarus appears to be a hybrid 3D action/flight game that impressively debuts the new horsepower found in the 3DS. Visuals look on par with those found during the previous console generation, with the video showing tons of combat and some impressive special effects. Given the inability to accurately demonstrate the 3D effect to the crowd it still remains to be seen how it will actually look on the 3DS but Nintendo assured everyone they’d have a one on one chance to see it for themselves.

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After the video Satoru Iwata retook the stage to talk about the numerous third parties who are already working on software for the unreleased hardware. A brief montage was shown without any gameplay, but the obvious highlights were brand new Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid installments designed specifically by Keiji Inafune and Hideo Kojima respectively.

Following the flood of information, Reggie wrapped the show by bringing an army of models on stage that each had a single 3DS strapped to them. He invited the attendees to see and believe Nintendo’s glasses free 3DS in action. The spectacle was more than slightly comical, but also a certainly memorable way to wrap one of the more impressive E3 showings in recent memory.

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The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in April 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @_seankelley.

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