E3 2014 is officially over and all three major consoles had a lot on display for consumers to look forward to. Going in to E3, we knew that Nintendo wasn’t going to have a strong presence in terms of a live presentation, but their Play Nintendo Digital Event stream, combined with their live Treehouse demos, provided a ton of insight on new IP, existing franchises, and the future of the Wii U.
For those of you who haven’t checked out Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event, here you go:
First, let’s address the major complaints against Nintendo’s current-gen console leading in to E3. Lack of games is a common concern, although that complaint is pretty nonsensical from a personal perspective. Even though consumers are pretty much relying on Nintendo themselves to deliver new titles, the console already has a strong library of games available such as Super Mario 3D World, DKC: Tropical Freeze, Mario Kart 8, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD and Pikmin 3. The problem is that new games have released at such a slow pace that it’s easy to overlook the Wii U in favor of the Xbox One and PS4.
One of the key selling points of the Wii U is its GamePad, although newer games like Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 failed to utilize its features outside of off-screen play. If Nintendo isn’t even promoting the GamePad, why should consumers care? Third party support is also pretty low in terms of retail releases, as a lot of major cross-platform titles opted to skip the Wii U overall — Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Grand Theft Auto V, and even the upcoming FIFA 15 will be releasing this Fall on the Wii, but not the Wii U. Batman: Arkham Knight and Assassin’s Creed: Unity will also be skipping the Wii U.
A major concern about the company as a whole is that Nintendo is just too comfortable relying on the familiar franchises of Mario, Zelda, Kirby, etc., and that they need to start breaking new ground and focusing on new IP. Aside from Nintendoland — which relies heavily on nostalgic trips down memory lane — we haven’t seen an interesting first-party title from Nintendo without a familiar face on the cover.
So did Nintendo address any of these concerns? Absolutely! We’ll still be heavily relying on Nintendo to deliver the goods in terms of games, as we were shown Mario Maker, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, The Legend of Zelda U, Hyrule Warriors and some leaked information on a new Star Fox title. Third party titles to keep an eye on also include Xenoblade Chronicles X, Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Bayonetta 2, which were both shown in great detail during the live Treehouse demo sessions. We also saw a trailer for Devil’s Third, a graphic hack-n-slash running on the Darksiders II engine and being developed by former Dead or Alive/Ninja Gaiden developer Tomonobu Itagaki.
But what about new IP? Nintendo introduced a new 4-on-4 multiplayer shooter titled Splatoon, which puts players in control of characters called Inklings. The objective of the game is to cover more of the map with ink than your opponents, blending Domination-style gameplay with exploration and platforming using your Inkling powers. Inklings have the ability to traverse the maps as humans, shooting ink to cover the field, or attacking other players. You can then use your own team’s ink to morph in to a squid and gain ground at much faster speeds.
Splatoon will also feature a variety of weapons that multiplayer shooter fans will instantly recognize, such as sniper rifles and automatic weapons. It’s almost like a multiplayer Mario Sunshine, and is being developed by the core Animal Crossing team, a developer from Star Fox 3D, and another director from NintendoLand. One thing that seems to be drawing a bit of ire is that its unknown at this time whether Splatoon will feature any form of voice chat through the Wii U. During the IGN stream they were asked about voice chat, but their response was something along the lines of “you can see everything going on through the GamePad map” but never confirmed voice chat as a thing.
Moving on to the lack of GamePad support, Nintendo confirmed that they will be introducing interactive data figurines called Amiibo alongside the release of Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. These figurines will work similar to Skylanders or Disney Infinity, as they’re placed on top of the GamePad and will send and receive specific data to be used in the game that you’re playing. Reggie Fils-Amie used Super Smash Bros. as an example, stating that you could save special move sets on to your Amiibo figurine and load them up at a friend’s house, or even load up your fighter’s data to your own game and battle against them. It’s still too early to tell how effective it’ll be, but seeing how popular Skylanders became and how we all like to throw money at neat action figures, I’m sure it’ll be a successful venture for Nintendo.
Other games showed off the future of the GamePad, such as Splatoon and Star Fox‘s assisted aiming, and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse‘s entire game being controlled on the small-screen, but none will make quite the impact as Mario Maker. Introduced by Nintendo during their E3 Direct stream, Mario Maker allows you to create your own Super Mario Bros. levels using any previous texture from the original game via the GamePad. You can also switch your graphics back and forth between the classic Super Mario Bros. on NES and New Super Mario Bros. U on Wii U, share your levels with friends and make all sorts of horrifically challenging scenarios for our favorite plumber to succumb to.
Although we have a lot of potentially great games to look forward to, Nintendo is still failing to improve in a few key areas; namely the combination of a lackluster friend system and lack of online party options, as well as its underwhelming Virtual Console offerings. The latter is starting to come together with the recent addition of GBA titles, but I know we all expected to see a lot more on there after a year and a half on store shelves.
Even though Nintendo has a few obvious areas to work on, they still seem very confident in the Wii U and are hard at work to provide us with a healthy amount of quality titles. I think they know that they’re their own selling point with the Wii U, so they’re working with smaller divisions to create new titles like Splatoon, or publishing third-party exclusives like Bayonetta 2. With the announcement of some tasty new games, a renewed support for the GamePad and finally delving in to a new IP, how do you feel about the Wii U now?
Bradley Keene is the Executive Editor here at What’s Your Tag?, generally handling news, reviews and a bit of our public relations communications. He’s an aspiring writer and Baltimore native that can usually be found watching terrible B-movies or knee-deep in an MMO. His favorite console is the Dreamcast, favorite game is the original Metroid and he could watch The Goonies for the rest of his life. Contact him by e-mail at the address above, or follow his insanity on Twitter.