E3 2013 – Nintendo – Triumph or Tribulations?

Nintendo never acts the way that people think they should for better or for worse. Surprising everyone, they decided that they weren’t going to have an E3 presentation this year. On the plus side, this prevents a horrible Wii Music demo repeat, but it also reinforces the increasingly common belief that Nintendo has no place in today’s market and cannot compete with the two bigger console developers. For whatever reason, it seems like Nintendo doesn’t care. They just do whatever they want. There is a certain charm to this approach, that Nintendo doesn’t care what you think, that they know what’s best and to hell with the market. It’s a little naive to be sure, but it is certainly different than how the other two of the Big Three have acted. While Sony and Microsoft fought tooth and nail to impress gamers, Nintendo stepped back and told us exactly what they were going to do without a care in the world in regards to the other two juggernauts. Of course, the real question is whether Nintendo’s strange behaviour paid off this E3, or if they seem completely out of touch.

What’s unfortunate is that everything Nintendo announced would have blow everyone away if it weren’t for the fact that they’d revealed everything through previous Nintendo Directs.

The Nintendo Direct that Nintendo replaced their E3 conference with was focused almost entirely on the Wii U and for good reason. The 3DS is doing extremely well, while Nintendo’s newest console has been struggling after a fairly impressive initial release. The reason for this has been a serious lack of software. Since the Wii U’s release, there have only been a couple of titles that have been worth picking up, notably Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. This is in comparison to the PS3 and 360, both of which have been getting two to five major releases a month. The 3DS, and pretty much every console ever, faced a similar problem in their first year, but the Wii U has been suffering ever so slightly more as it has yet to be able to pull itself out of its funk, and it might not be able to in 2013.

No, supplication isn’t going to help anyone.

What Nintendo showed us was good. Lots of fun games that few people would take issue with. The problem was that there was nothing jaw dropping about the Nintendo Direct. Is that a problem? Generally no, but this E3 was huge with tons of major moments from the two big conferences. People expected Nintendo to bring their A game and this didn’t happen. In reality, Nintendo gave a solid performance, but the widespread belief that they were really going to wow us led to some very disappointed fans. Going into E3 we were promise Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros, and a new Mario and that was exactly what we got. There was only one previously unannounced game that was made public this E3, meaning all of the people clamouring for a revival of Star Fox (for whatever reason), Metroid, or any number of other Nintendo franchises were out of luck.

I’ve never understood the appeal of this franchise.

Mario Kart was one of the bigger games shown off this year. Following the drearily uncreative naming practice of Mario Kart 7, this edition will be called Mario Kart 8. The game looks good, far more creative and interesting than I would have expected from the Mario Kart series. Truthfully, I’d rather play this racer than any of the many shown off at the other conferences because this one looks fun and isn’t just car masturbation, or some strange attempt to make a game version of Fast and the Furious. The new Mario game touted was not the highlight that it should have been. Super Mario 3D World is it’s name, and it seems to be a direct follow up of the 3DS game Super Mario 3D Land. Boasting four player co-op with characters who play differently and the ability to play as Princess Peach instead of a second faceless Toad, this game looks like a ton of fun. However, people were expecting a brand new 3D Mario as innovative as Super Mario Galaxy. Those people will have to wait longer. As I said, the game looks good, but I can’t help but feel like this game is being rushed out in order to make it for the holiday season in an attempt to revive interest in the flagging console. Interestingly enough, both of these games borrow from the 3DS, which makes sense considering it was the duo of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 that officially changed the 3DS’ fortunes. Unfortunately, Mario Kart 8 is coming out in 2014 and I wonder if 3D World is strong enough to carry on without it.

Then again: Catsuits…

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze was the only new game announced that people didn’t know was coming. Many gamers don’t really know how to feel about it’s existence and many have defaulted to angry. You see, Retro studios are the developers behind the much loved Metroid Prime series and they announced that they had a big game reveal. This led to the internet fantasizing about a new Metroid Prime game. Since Retro was also responsible for reviving the Donkey Kong Country series, many gamers thought that maybe they’d bring a new series back from the dead, which led to unchecked speculation. The fact that Donkey Kong Country Returns was a fantastic platformer and this one is set to be just as good if not better is not important to these people. What they see is an opportunity lost, which is a shame. What is undeniable about this announcement, however, is that Retro is playing it safe. Actually, all of Nintendo’s first parties are playing it far too safe and every Nintendo game shown feels a little too familiar.

You know what? We got Dixie back. That’s all I need.

Super Smash Bros was the biggest announcement this year for Nintendo, but I can’t help but feel that they screwed themselves over by telling everyone we’d see it this year. They could have surprised people. Instead we were all expecting it. There will be two versions: one for the 3DS and one for the Wii U. However, the games will not be identical. The 3DS version has gone for a cell shaded look and each game will have a different set of backgrounds. It isn’t enough to persuade many into buying two versions of the game, but it is nice to have a choice between the big home experience and the tiny portable one. I’m especially glad that the 3DS is the only version with the cell shaded look, as, frankly, I find it to be quite ugly. The big reveal here was that Mega Man would be joining the cast along with the Animal Crossing Villager and the Wii Fit Trainer. Mega Man has gotten tons of praise, but the other two characters as weird as they are look great too. Some people have complained about the Wii Fit Trainer taking up a spot that would otherwise go to a bigger name. This complaint seems to underscore the entire Direct, the complaint that Nintendo should have done something else even if what they’re doing is good.

There’s a lawsuit here somewhere…

Almost everyone from the big sites such as IGN, to the tiniest forum dweller seems far too wrapped up in these announcements to bother paying any attention to the new information we were given concerning Bayonetta 2, and Monolith Soft’s X. Truthfully, both of these games look better (not graphically) than almost every game at Microsoft’s or Sony’s conferences. I don’t know why people aren’t more excited for these games. Aside from Smash Bros, these two games really stole the show for me. Bayonetta 2 showed off some of its stellar gameplay, showcasing why its predecessor is widely thought of as one of, if not, the best action games of all time. X showed us a massive world on a scale that we simply haven’t seen this whole generation. If it is anything like Xenoblade Chronicles, expect it to really push the current gen hardware of the Wii U to its max.

Easily the best new IP we saw at E3. Nothing came even close, not that you’d know considering how little hype there is for this.

The problem Nintendo is facing is the holiday season. All of its biggest and best games are coming in 2014.  Mario Kart 8 is in the spring; Wii Fit U is coming in the winter; and Bayonetta and X are coming in 2014, as is the new Super Smash Bros. This leaves Nintendo with the following lineup this Christmas: The Wonderful 101 in August, Donkey Kong Country in November; Wind Waker HD in October; and Super Mario 3D World in December. This is pretty much a game a month aside from September, but this is against two new systems on top of the still-strong current gen systems. Truthfully, I don’t think any of these games have enough punch to bring the Wii U into a strong position this holiday season. At the same time, 2014 looks like it will be an incredibly strong year with some really excellent and, more importantly, highly anticipated games coming out.

Don’t get me wrong. The Wonderful 101 looks like good fun, but it isn’t going to sell systems.

In the whole, Nintendo played it safe. We weren’t surprised, but everything I saw looked good, except for Wii Party U. Nintendo’s biggest problem right now, however, is Sony. At $399, the PS4 is only a paltry $50 more than the Wii U. Nintendo is going to have to drop the console’s price by at least a hundred dollars or they won’t stand a chance. However, a price drop may be just what the doctor ordered, and a Super Mario 3D World bundle at a discount price may move a ton of systems this Christmas. Nintendo seems to always do its own thing. Sometimes this means wild innovation such as the Wiimote or the Gamepad, both of these innovations are being heavily copied by Sony and Microsoft with the Move/Kinect, and all of the smartphone integration. Other times, Nintendo doing what they want leads to some rather mundane periods. Unfortunately for Nintendo, this is one of those periods. Many have said that Nintendo should give up and become a software manufacturer. I disagree. Nintendo is in the perfect position to dominate as a secondary console to the other two. It is unique and will have a completely different set of games developed for it. The Wii U is everything that the Ouya wishes it could be, and all it needs is time enough to release some of its big games.

What is left to be seen is if Nintendo stays out of Gamescom and TGS, or if they decide that their novel approach to E3 wasn’t worth it.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer


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