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It's been well over a week since E3 2013 came to close. Now
that we've all had time to recover from the adrenaline-boasting spectacle of
the event, it's time to reflect on its biggest stories with calmer tempers and the
clarity of hindsight. After all, it's hard to judge history when you're right
jab in the midst of it.
But really, that's just me coming up with a lame excuse for
being late to the party. To be honest, I was planning on writing a few blog
posts about E3 much closer to the event itself. However, as it so often does, real
life and procrastination got in the way of my plans. Call me lazy all you want,
but better late than never is a motto I'm going to roll with here.
First off on
my backlog of things to post about are my thoughts on Nintendo's unconventional
Nintendo's decision to skip a traditional E3 press
conference this year left many scratching their heads. With sales of its Wii U console
sagging, the company desperately needed to take advantage of the event to drum
up excitement. Did its webcast presentation, and more importantly, the game's
it showed off, do enough to win over skeptical gamers? In a sense, the answer
is both a resounding yes and a hesitant no.
Games needed to be the forefront of Nintendo's focus at this
E3. Many have blamed the Wii U's sluggish growth on a lack of compelling software.
It's not that the system has been completely devoid of great titles. New Super
Mario Bros U would beg to differ. But for the most part, the system's meager
launch lineup has failed to reel in gamers. Nintendo's top brass have even
embraced this theory, promising to increase the output of new games for the Wii's
This was on full display during the E3 Nintendo Direct
Event, which showcased a number of exciting new first party titles. A new Mario Kart mixing
the best features of prior console and handheld entries, a gorgeous new Donkey
Kong Country from Retro Studios and the announcement of a new Smash Bros
rounded out a list of familiar mainstays finally appearing on the Wii U. The first
3D Mario platformer for the console was also brought to light in the form of
Super Mario 3D World. Featuring four-player multiplayer and a blending of 3D
and 2D gameplay styles, the game should offer enough innovation and familiarity
to please everybody. Also, Mario and his friends can turn into cats now to scamper
up vertical slopes. Hey, after he transformed into a bee in Super Mario Galaxy,
nothing should surprise us now.
Overall, Nintendo's exclusives
were as impressive as usual. This, however, is where the problem lies. There was nothing but standard fare on display. Most games were simply
new iterations of franchises gamers expect to appear on a Nintendo console. The
only variation was the sequel to the flamboyant Bayonette action game,
appearing exclusively on the Wii U. Nintendo must be hoping that Bayonette 2 will
draw its fan base into the Nintendo camp, and add some much needed mature
content to its lineup. Nonetheless, it currently stands out as the only beacon
of newness shining from Nintendo's court.
In fact, one of the most impressive games Nintendo had to
show this year wasn't a new game at all. Zelda fans finally got to see The
Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD in action after weeks of anticipation. Full
demos showed off the Game Cube title's updated visuals, highlighting its softer
textures, dynamic lighting and crisp shading. As stunning as it looks on the
Wii U, nothing changes the fact that Wind Waker is an old game with an HD
paint job. It could never pack the punch of a brand new game in the series.
Apparently Nintendo could have shown its new Zelda for the
Wii U at this year's show, but choose not to in order to avoid overshadowing
its other games. It's hard to not see this decision as a mistake. Even a sliver
of Wii U Zelda details could have stolen the show out from under Microsoft's
and Sony's legs, and it being omitted is a major disappointment. Without it Nintendo's Wii U roundup simply lacked the excitement it needed to be packing.
Nintendo made an effort this year to show off the Wii U's
third party chops. Such games as Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassins Creed, Deus
Ex: Human Revolution - Director's Cut, and Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag, were
all proudly displayed acquisitions. Although this list of games appears
impressive on the surface, and certainly blows the Wii's third party support
out of the water, it's hard to see it giving the Wii U an edge over the
competition. Great games have already been ported to Wii U to little fanfare. It
remains to be seen if Nintendo can keep outside developers interested in the
Wii U long enough for it to take root.
As strong as Nintendo's first party games are, the company
cannot afford to go in alone this time around. Countless people complained
about the scarcity of games to play on the Wii. If Nintendo wants to avoid this kind of situation,
the company needs to give gamers something to play besides Mario, Zelda and Metroid once
in a blue moon. Unfortunately, the Wii U's underpowered status compared to the
Xbox One and PS4 will inevitably lead to inferior ports appearing on the
Nintendo is caught in precarious situation. Though the Wii saw much success appealing to a casual audience, it burned a number of bridges to hardcore gamers, It is vital that Nintendo doesn't neglect them this time around. Although casual
gamers were what made the original Wii a sounding success, they are an inconsistent
demographic whose interests ebb and flow. If the Wii U is to be a success, it
needs to appeal to those invested in console gaming as well as everybody's
grandma. To do this Nintendo desperately needs to sell its tablet controlled
console to the masses. Providing new exciting games is simply the only way to do this.
With the Wii U in a precarious situation, Nintendo
thankfully didn't neglect the 3DS, which has become a welcome success story for
the company. Great games continue to come out on the system, creating a diverse
library that will soon include The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds,
Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Mario & Luigi: Dream Drop Distance and many
other compelling new titles. Even if the 3DS didn't make massive waves at this
E3, Nintendo did enough to keep its handheld healthy.
If there's anything to be learned from the past few console
generations, it's that people should never count Nintendo out. The company can
still do a lot to save the Wii U and resell its brand to hesitant gamers and the
casual crowd. This year's E3 was a good first step, but not the giant leap that
could have jolted Nintendo's lukewarm fortunes.
Email the author Parker Lemke, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.