Nintendo Reveals 3DS Handheld Gaming System at E3

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Today is the official opening of the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, although Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft all held press events today (and Activision threw one heck of a party in lieu of a press conference). Today Nintendo and Sony get their chance to win the hearts and minds of gamers.

Nintendo was up first. The past few years, Nintendo has taken some heat for ignoring the so-called 'core gamer' and aiming its press conferences at the casual market. Not so this year.

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The conference began with a variety of games being shown off. Lots of classic franchises made a reappearance: there was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii (and using the Wii Motion Plus & Nunchuk to control sword and shield, respectively). Audience favorite Shigeru Miyamoto started talking about the game via video-screen. It seemed odd that the legendary designer wouldn't be present at E3 in-person, and sure enough, a few minutes later he stepped out of the screen and onto the stage, generating smiles and the start of a 'feel good' vibe that lasted throughout the event.

After Link (which is a 2011 title), we saw Mario Sports Mix, Wii Party and Just Dance 2, all casual-friendly titles for the Wii. Just when it looked like Nintendo was going to repeat the mistakes of the past few years, they changed gears and showed Golden Sun Dark Dawn, an RPG coming to the DS this holiday season, and announced a new Goldeneye 007 game for the Wii, coming this November from Activision Gamers have been wanting a new Goldeneye for years and they're finally getting one.

Next up was Disney Epic Mickey, a Wii exclusive from Warren Spector's Junction Point Studios and Disney Interactive. This game has you controlling Mickey Mouse through all kinds of lost/abandoned/forgotten Disney worlds. As Mickey you use paint, or paint thinner, to add to or subtract from the world as you explore. You'll jump in and out of old favorites from Mickey's history. One example showed the old Steamboat Willy cartoon used as a backdrop for a 2D platform game. Disney Epic Mickey looked like something that almost anyone can enjoy, from casual gamer to the hardcore.

Next came Kirby's Epic Yarn, a textile-themed game featuring characters and levels that all seemed to be constructed out of yarn and fabric. It looked very unique and it'll be out this fall.

Kirby was followed up by Dragon Quest IV (coming in July for the DS), Metroid Other M (coming August 31st for the Wii) and Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii, coming this holiday season).

And then it was time for the Nintendo 3DS presentation. The real hardware looks fairly similar to the mock-up that's been making the rounds. It has a 3.5" widescreen 3D display up top, and a 3:4 touch screen below. No glasses required for the 3D and you can control how much of a 3D effect you want (or even turn it off altogether). Graphics are improved over the DS but don't reach the 'near 360 quality' that has been rumored. The 3DS has a Slide Pad (which seems to be a kind of analog controller), motion sensor and gyroscope sensor. It was two outward facing camera lenses so you can take 3D photos, and one forward facing lens so you can photograph yourself.

In addition to games, Nintendo will offer 3D movies that you can watch on the 3DS. How To Train Your Dragon was one example mentioned. The 3DS also has a kind of passive multiplayer system built in. As you bring your 3DS near WiFi hotspots or other 3DS owners, you'll unlock various hidden content in your games, even if that game isn't running. Exactly how this will work is still a bit unclear.

Finally some 3DS-specific games were mentioned. The return of Kid Icarus in Kid Icarus: Uprising is sure to get old-school Nintendo fans excited. Also Miyamoto is working on a 3D version of Nintendogs...& Cats. Virtual pets are in this year, it seems.

All in all, the 3DS sounds very impressive on paper, but Nintendo acknowledges that it's impossible to convey the 3D experience on a video screen. To that end they deployed an army of PR people into the crowd, each with a 3DS tethered to his or herself. At the same time an array of Wii units rose out of the floor to show off the new Zelda. Very smart move on Nintendo's part, engaging the audience right on the spot.

The only bad news is that we didn't get a price or a launch date for the Nintendo 3DS, so it's back to the waiting game for that.

In all, a great press conference for Nintendo. We haven't been able to say that in a few years. Sony will have to really bring their A game if they're going to compete. Nintendo made Microsoft and its Kinect product look like an also-ran with this event.

This story, "Nintendo Reveals 3DS Handheld Gaming System at E3" was originally published by ITworld.

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