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Sound Off Vol. 9 – Nintendo Direct presentation reactions

E3 2013Nintendo

Welcome, to the ninth volume of our Sound Off feature. With E3 2013 now over, we’ve had roundtable discussions on what we thought. Here’s our reaction to the recent Nintendo Direct presentation.

Shane Ryan: With Nintendo taking a different approach as the two other console big hitters took the stage at E3, how did Nintendo’s presentation leave you feeling?

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Tarek Robertson: Without a proper Nintendo conference this year, E3 felt a little stunted, especially since the Nintendo Direct presentation they gave us was so brutally short. That said, they certainly managed to cram a lot into those forty-five minutes. Mario Kart 8 looks like business as usual–no bad thing of course–along with an interesting F-Zero twist in the track designs. Bayonetta 2 again, looks familiar in a good way, and Super Smash Bros. is always a safe bet. But if there was one problem with Nintendo’s showing it was that it was too safe. Genuine surprises were thin on the ground and without mention of a price cut it’s hard to feel that this was the boost the Wii U really needs. This was made particularly apparent by Super Mario 3D World, a great looking game, sure, but hardly anything new.

“Genuine surprises were thin on the ground”At this point it’s not even worth mentioning third party titles, but this show further cemented the fact that you can’t go wrong with Nintendo’s first party content. They certainly showed some of the most appealing games at E3 this year but the lack of new IP’s–or new takes on old ones–is disappointing. It remains to be seen whether Nintendo can make the Wii U a truly enticing product, but this E3 suggests it might not be long until that becomes the case.

Shane Ryan: If I’d bought a Wii U at launch this conference would have brought some welcome and overdue news – iconic IPs getting their entries on Nintendo’s latest technology. Trouble is, this wasn’t enough to convince me of a purchase.

The Wii U is the first Nintendo machine to lack that local multiplayer charm that is so fondly remembered from previous generations. Summer’s spent with the curtains drawn playing Goldeneye on the N64. Followed year’s later by the best versions of Timesplitters 2 and 3. Again, four good friends spending endless nights playing competitively, and, importantly, locally. Then, Wii Sports broke the entry barrier down and proved a walk-away success. This isn’t a commentary on Nintendo’s conference directly, but rather an underlying magic that feels amiss from their latest hardware.

Mario Kart will always be fun. The new Super Smash Bros. looks great. Both would be grand to play on someone else’s Wii U in 2014. But it won’t be happening in my home.

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Sean Kelley: Nintendo brought a slew of good-to-great looking Wii U software during their Nintendo Direct. But, as a long time Nintendo outsider, very little of it got me terribly excited.

We’ll start with Super Mario 3D World, which looked like a wonderful extension of the 3DS’ signature Mario game. It had 4 player co-op, unique abilities for each character a la Super Mario Bros. 2 and ‘Cat Mario’, who can climb walls and scratch enemies. And that was kind of it. Like most of Nintendo’s lineup it looked good, but following New Super Mario Bros. U, which was also a co-op Mario game, I think it’s fair to say people were expecting the sequel to Mario Galaxy, which this was clearly not.

In fact, the concepts of Mario Galaxy were more prevalent in Mario Kart 8, which looked as much like an F-Zero game as it did the famous mascot racer. Driving upside-down and on walls with anti-gravity wheels looked like a blast, and Mario Kart is always a safe bet, assuming the rubber banding is reasonably balanced.

“Nintendo brought the games” Nintendo also showed a new trailer for ‘X’, the new game from Xenoblade developer Monolithsoft. It looked just as amazing as it did in its initial reveal, but with no accompanying info or context it didn’t leave any lasting impression. A new sidescrolling Donkey Kong was shown, condemning Retro to another great but likely forgettable platformer. And finally there was Smash Bros., a franchise I enjoyed on the Nintendo 64 with friends and have never played since.

So yeah, Nintendo brought the games, and likely the games fans expected. Mario Kart 8 looked great; Wind Waker HD looked beautiful; and Platinum’s Wii U combo of Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 will both likely be superb. It all looked good, like Nintendo as usual. I guess that’s why I find myself so indifferent about it all.

Joseph Ford: Nintendo’s problem here may have arisen from showing their hand earlier in the year. Had they revealed the Wind Waker remake, the Link to the Past sequel, the new Super Smash Bros., X etc. for the first time yesterday, it would have been a stunning array of new (if somewhat predictable) stuff. The earlier Directs ruined the element of surprise, however, making it more of a reiteration and elaboration, rather than a reveal.

Looked at objectively, though, Nintendo have a good year or so coming up. Pikmin 3, Wonderful 101, Wind Waker HD and Mario 3D make for a strong lineup in the latter part of the year. 2014 isn’t looking half bad, either – X could prove to be the most exciting Nintendo-backed project in years.

On the subject of Super Mario 3D World, and it not being a main series game: Nintendo may be suffering from the same problem that they had following Mario 64. They hit gold with the Galaxy concept, but it does raise the question as to what they could do to top it. In the case of Mario 64, they followed it up with a side step (Sunshine). This time, they seem to be focusing on the auxiliary series. I’m sure the groundwork is being laid for a big, new, conceptually daring Mario game within Nintendo (or, at least, within Miyamoto’s synapses), but a look at the franchise’s history suggests that we may have some time to wait before it reaches the outside world.

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“An all-around dose of much-needed color” Calvin Kemph: Nintendo were in an unenviable position this year. The bulk of their lineup consisted only of Nintendo titles, suggesting they’re holding up both a console and portable single-handedly. This would’ve been a destructive event for anyone else but given Microsoft’s deep pockets and Sony’s newfound friendliness for consumers and indies, the competition averted a similar fate. Nintendo, however, had more in common with third parties, presenting a singular vision set apart from everyone else. It was a fair showing, with a lovely looking Mario Kart that smacks of F-Zero, a welcome attitude from Platinum Games, a 3D Sonic that looks better than 3D Mario, the most optimistic Japanese game of the Expo in Monolith Soft’s X, and an all-around dose of much-needed color.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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