Standing around in the Nokia Center on the morning before a Nintendo Press Event is like a shared Christmas Eve, where you’re staring at your presents and your hopes and dreams are reflecting and magnifying off of each person around you. You hear crazy things (“GTA:V is CAFE EXCLUSIVE”), you hear some pessimism (“I’m going to trade in this stupid 3DS for a Vita as soon as I can”), and every once in a while, you hear something completely idiotic (“Wait, Metroid is a chick?”). It’s magical.
I’m sorry, Nintendork readers, that the whole world isn’t sent invites to this event, so you all can come to Los Angeles on a perfect spring morning and walk into a packed, nerdy concert venue where all you have to worry about is video games. It’s pretty great.
I attended this morning’s Nintendo Press Event, then, with high hopes. I was nervous. I sat four rows from the front, next to a delightful representative from eurogamer, and a dude who kept freaking out since his camera kept dying. It was nerd central. There were so many fedoras around me it was like an all-fat version of LA Noire, as sponsored by Threadless. There were a ton of 3DSes, and I saw multiple people gleefully watching as they accrued a massive number of streetpass requests. I saw my own little Mii on the eurogamer’s 3DS, and I leaned in, smiling.
“That’s me!” I said, in a totally not creepy way that probably ended up sounding pretty creepy. Around me, the room was just awash in crazy speculation. The studio, as usual, was just hopping (If you aren’t going to the studio for E3 press events, you are just plain dumb). I was ready.
The lights dimmed. The audience took in a breath. An orchestra rose before us.
Instead of rising Skyward-Sword-ready Wii’s, the orchestra pit at the Nokia Center contained an actual full orchestra, starting the press conference with a beautiful Zelda medley. Damn, we all thought. Zelda is pretty important.*
*On Sunday night, I met GriffinMcElroy of all people, who pulled up his left sleeve to reveal a triforce wrist tattoo. The Legend of Zelda means so much to so many.
The music swept through the crowded hall, ending with the new, powerful, haunting Skyward Sword theme, and out came Shigeru Miyamoto and eventual translator. This is how you start a Press Event. You don’t come out and apologize for getting hacked and losing a huge amount of your user’s personal data. You don’t come out with a demo of another funtime-military-murdersim. You come out with a reminder.
There are a lot of things that Nintendo is doing to celebrate Zelda. You can go and download Link’s Awakening for your 3DS right now. The Ocarina of Time 3D comes out in two weeks, and if you register your copy on Club Nintendo, you’ll get the soundtrack for free. Later this year an orchestra will tour playing Zelda music, and you’ll be able to buy a recording of this, as well. Four Swords will be a free DSi title in the coming months. Finally, Skyward Sword will be releasing this holiday season for the Wii. Maybe this doesn’t matter to you. That’s ok! Go and read something else. It made me pretty happy. Link’s Awakening was my first entry into the series, and I hold it very near to my heart. Four Swords was a game I wish I had found an opportunity to play more of. Skyward Sword just looks beautiful, and I hope that they push the series in interesting ways. The conference moved on to discuss 3DS titles, showing off a new Super Mario game, a Luigi’s Mansion Sequel, and a Mario Kart with tiny parasail wings that allow for gliding. Each game they showed was followed by a promise to bring it out before the end of the year. I’ve since read that Luigi’s Mansion 2 will potentially release in 2012, but otherwise, I think that this year holds a good group of 3DS games that I’m interested in, especially when you add in Kid Icarus Uprising and the Starfox 64 remake. Again, maybe you want more. Maybe you want it all cheaper. Maybe you just want a Vita, and Uncharted. Well, go get one! I am not going to stop you.
The true meat of the conference, though, was the announcement of the Nintendo WiiU. I joked on the pre-e3 podcast a few days ago that the system would be called the [Uuu](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roentgenium#Naming), and I wasn’t that far off. It’s an all right name, and while it hasn’t settled with me yet, I’m sure it will. The system does indeed have a massive controller, with a gorgeous, bright, 6.2″ touch screen spread out across it. The video that initially showcased the device evoked a great deal of gasps and cheers, as we saw that this touch screen interacted with your TV in incredible ways. This is a video that future cynics will point to as being all bogus, I am sure (just like the initial Wii dude-jumping-behind-a-couch-video), but for now, it was exciting. Drawing! Othello! Unnecessary Golf Ball View!
When Reggie came out and started rambling about a Lego GTA-like game, the audience started to grow uneasy, though. I am sure that this is where the studio became irate. Wait. We were promised hardcore games! That’s when Nintendo started to show off what the WiiU could do with a silly Japanese bird video. The audience started to turn. How fickle we all were! Where are my murder simulators? I don’t want to have to play a PS3 if I want to kill a man with a gun to the face! I WANT TO DO IT ON THE WiiU.
Nintendo showed a trailer that once again rallied spirits, demonstrating that “hardcore” games were indeed going to be playable on the system. Arkham Asylum. Darksiders II. Metro: Last Light. Tekken. Ninja Gaiden 3. Later, after the show, we would learn that these videos were actually running on Xbox 360s or PS3s, but Nintendo wanted to stress that the WiiU was powerful. Mostly, they wanted to make sure you realized the power of the interesting controller. It allows for a second screen to hold inventory items, or important stats, while you play a single player game. It cane be used for new gaming experiences, acting as a window in front of your own TV. You can pause games and start them up on the controller, freeing up the TV. (Guaranteeing I will never touch your WiiU controllers because you will have used them while sitting on a toilet.) The controller can be used in conjunction with Wii Remotes for interesting new multiplayer experiences, something done by Nintendo only rarely (Crystal Chronicles, Four Swords Adevntures, Pac Man Vs). The controller was the focus. The little console was only shown in the background, unassuming. White.
Therein lies the mystery of the conference that really confused people. I have some speculation about this console. I think that things will change between now and release next year. I think that the controller will stay largely the same, but the console itself was a placeholder. Nintendo wants people to stop implying that the only way to be successful is to have the BEST GRAPHICS. “Here, we’ll have a “next-gen” graphical system”, they say. “That’s not what’s important, though.”
What’s important is the way you interact with games. Nintendo keeps on changing the way we play games. And we have been able to see it all along, starting with their handhelds. The Wii sprang directly from experiments with Kirby’s Tilt N’ Tumble and Wario Ware: Twisted. With the WiiU, we need to see the rampant success of the DS to realize that a console DS is a natural idea.
Nintendo showed off some of their WiiU E3 demos, and again, they were mostly centered around controller functionality. The console doesn’t matter. Everyone who is freaking out about Battlefield 3 or what happens when the PS4 and the XBOX:Hypercube comes out needs to chill out. You’ll still have those systems if you want that. Nintendo is trying something out. I thought it was pretty thrilling to once again be in the room where they first let us in on their grand game. Yeah, the company wants to make money, but watching Shigeru, I never think that. I know he thinks the WiiU is super neat, and I want to find that joy, somewhere. I can run around and raid tombs or interview suspects, but I can’t really get at that stupid, carefree joy that got me into this whole mess except through Nintendo.
People keep trying to tell me that’s dumb. “I hope this fails.” they say. Well, I’m sorry you feel that way. I guess we’re just different.
Nintendo finished with their indie rock music and people walked out into the bright sunlight. I would go on to play a few of the upcoming 3DS games on systems once-again chained to Nintendo representatives, and then amble home, excited about the future.