Nintendo's E3 Press Conference: Familiar and Family-Friendly
Two new Mario games, peeks at Wii Fit Plus and Wii Sports Resort, a fleeting glimpse of a new "vitality" sensor peripheral, and a platform-style Metroid game--Nintendo's E3 press conference was about what you know and love, but just as importantly: why.
In a presentation that Executive Vice President Cammie Dunaway described in two words--"Create, surprise"--Nintendo highlighted as many previously announced products as new ones. But as usual with the company, the most intriguing elements were arguably tucked away behind familiar faces and franchises.
First up, New Super Mario Bros, a side-scroller that looked more or less like Old Super Mario Bros with new levels. The hook: Co-op play, allowing you to invite up to three friends to join. Next, Wii Fit Plus, an update to the bestselling original with new features, games, and much-improved customizability for more flexible exercise regimens.
The middle of the show seemed to sag a bit, as Nintendo trotted out stuff we'd seen in some depth already: The Wii Motion Plus, Wii Sports Resort, and a slew of Nintendo DS titles. Then they elicited a collective "Huh?" with the Wii Vitality Sensor, which looked like something you'd stick your finger in to check your pulse at the drugstore. Nintendo hinted at future games with physiological feedback parameters, but said little else.
The biggest reveals of the show? A sequel to Super Mario Galaxy, a new platformer-style Metroid game co-designed by Team Ninja (of Ninja Gaiden fame) and another social-networking coup: Facebook for the DSi.
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The Safe Surprise: New Super Mario Bros Wii
"If there's an icon for video games, it's Mario," said Nintendo. No arguments there. But if you think New Super Mario Bros for Wii looks like another rehash of this storied side-scroller, look again.
While you can play this one solo, it's built from the ground up for up to four players to interact cooperatively. Grab and carry other players or throw them at enemies (or, if you're feeling naughty, into pits). When people lose a life, they come back inside a bubble: If you're nice, you can let them out. If not, you can leave 'em trapped.
Gameplay first, in other words.
Available holiday 2009.
The Lifestyle Level-Up: Wii Fit Plus
Next up, Nintendo trotted out Wii Fit Plus, an update to the bestselling original with six new strength and yoga activities and the option to queue exercises in any order. Repeat the ones you find helpful, omit interludes between exercises, target specific body areas for strengthening or toning, keep track of the total calories you've burned--they're clearly emphasizing customization. New balance games, too, like juggling, skateboarding, and one called "Perfect 10" where you have to swing your hips in different directions to choose number combinations that add up to 10.
Said Nintendo: "Think of it as Brain Age for your backside."
Wii Fit Plus arrives this fall, bundled with the Wii Balance Board, or stand-alone for current board owners.
The Retread: Wii Motion Plus, Wii Sports Resort
We'd already seen the Wii Motion Plus precision-control add-on and heard plenty about Wii Sports Resort going in, and the demo started out a little lackluster. Then Nintendo ran a sequence in which over a dozen Miis jumped out of an airplane, Pilotwings-like, that had us paying attention.
You can turn and twist in the air, grab hold of other Wii skydivers, dive straight down to speed up your descent, then flatten out to grab your pals again. "As you can see, it's a lot of fun," said Fils-Aime, adding ironically that "Every mistake you make will be faithfully reflected in the game."
Wii Sports Resort launches on July 22nd in the U.S.
Mario and Luigi RPG: Bowser's Inside Story
In Bowser's Inside Story for the Nintendo DS, you'll run through two separate storylines: One featuring Bowser's attempts to thwart an arch-villain from taking over his castle, a second featuring microbe-sized versions of Mario and Luigi--inside Bowser--attempting to influence the fire-belching dragon-turtle-saurus without his knowledge.
For all you closet fashionistas, Style Savvy for the Nintendo DS "combines creativity and fashion with a collection of trendy clothes, chic accessories and stylish shoes." Think business game meets content-creation tool. As the owner of a clothing boutique, you have to manage your store's inventory, funds, and customer base.
Coolest ideas? Customize your shop, compete in runway contests, and shop in other players' boutiques.
Golden Sun DS
Not much to say about this one, other than it's the next in Camelot Software's critically acclaimed portable role-playing series. Oh, plus it'll be fully 3D.
Warioware DIY (Do-It-Yourself)
Already available in Japan, this one's my pick for most promising new DS title: A do-it-yourself "micro" game maker. Create your own visuals (with the touchpad) and musical themes (you can sing into the mic!), then use them to create all sorts of different game types, from flying to racing to logic puzzlers.
When you're finished: Upload them to your Wii to display on your television screen, or online to compete in design contests.
The Quirky Sneak Peek: Wii Vitality Sensor
We got only a glimpse, but the Wii Vitality Sensor sounds kinda-sorta intriguing. Think dime-store gimmicky stress-measuring tool, without the gimmicky bits (one would hope, that is). Insert your finger and it recognizes your pulse, which might facilitate other less obvious metrics.
According to Nintendo, it's more than a heartbeat gauge, it's a multi-physiological feedback tool. How nervous are you? How focused on the task at hand? And so on. Still, we're talking high concept here, nothing demonstrated, which makes me wonder why we saw it at all.
The One You Wanted: Super Mario Galaxy 2
We finally got a glimpse (but alas, just a glimpse) of a new "hardcore" Mario game, and it already looks like Mario Galaxy meets Mario 64. Think 64's more continuous (if delightfully surreal) realms intermixed with Galaxy's smaller, globe-like planetoids. The video displayed Mario running through garden levels, donning a bee suit, skidding across frozen lakes and dashing through snowy settings. The upside, it's a full-blown Mario game. The downside? It looks an awful lot like Mario's Greatest Hits.
The Other One You Wanted: Metroid--The Other M
For the finale, Fils-Aime played a video that began with a storm-tossed ocean, before pulling up above the clouds to reveal the Team Ninja + Nintendo logo. Ninja Gaiden 2 for Wii? Better. Next: Outer space, whirling asteroids, massive explosions, a full-body-armored female protagonist, and...it's Metroid--The Other M!
Think hybrid platformer with a third-person angle. Metroid Gaiden? Maybe, and wouldn't it be cool if they pulled it off? Coming 2010. Per Fils-Aime, it's "A Metroid game unlike any experienced before," that'll take us deeper into Samus's story and dishes new info about Nintendo's ever-expanding Metroid universe.