E3: Nintendo Conference - Wii U, 3DS games, Luigi's Mansion 2, more Zelda, Super Mario

By Richard Pilot

Nintendo were the last on stage of the big three console manufacturers this E3, and we all waited with baited breath to see what they had on offer. They certainly have a lot in the pipeline with the recent launch of the 3DS and the announcement of a new console experience. As images of Zelda games past and a live orchestra began to play, the Nintendo Conference began!

With the recent launch of the 3DS, Nintendo really needed to show that there's plenty of effort being made for the new device. They certainly delivered today with a bunch of new games announced for the 3D handheld. Mario Kart was the first to be revealed which showed off tracks both familiar and new. More interesting was some of the new capabilities of the kart you’ll be driving, with some tracks sending you up into the air or under the ocean. Helping you on your way, the kart will automatically transform, becoming a glider when in the air and a propeller when under water. Next up was Starfox 64 3D, featuring gyroscopic controls and a multiplayer mode that lets you use your camera to taunt your opponents. Barrel rolls were confirmed! There was also some footage of Kid Icarus: Uprising, which was slightly spoilt by the dodgy voice acting. In a surprise reveal, the game would also make use of the 3DS’ augmented reality functionality, allowing you to battle your friends using special cards.

The previously teased Super Mario on the 3DS was also brought into the spotlight. It looks really good, definitely sporting a New Super Mario Bros vibe and we can’t wait to try out the racoon suit! The last game from Nintendo was a surprise reveal; Luigi’s Mansion 2 on the 3DS! The game looks to feature plenty of haunted house exploration, but with some exciting ghost busting action too.

Finally, a reel of third party games were shown with the highlights including Tetris, Cave Story 3D, Sonic and Mario at the London 2012 Olympics, Tekken 3D, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D.

Zelda fans also had plenty to keep them satisfied today, with a big focus on franchise which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. In order to celebrate this, Nintendo will be releasing a Zelda game on each of their current platforms. On the portable side, there is plenty on offer with The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening DX on the eShop (the downloadable store for the 3DS), which is being made available worldwide, today. Later this month, also on the 3DS, is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D which comes with both the original and "Master Quest" versions, as well as a new Boss Mode which lets you take on all the main bosses in the game, one after another. The last treat for DSi (and 3DS) owners will be a port of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords on DSiWare, which launches in September. The best news is that it will be free for everyone! Finally, for Wii owners, whilst not a concrete date, Nintendo did confirm that Skyward Sword will be made available this "holiday season".

We did mention there was an orchestra at this event, and this made a bit more sense when Miyamoto announced two Zelda CDs to come out this year. This first being a soundtrack to Ocarina of Time 3D and the second is a recording from a series of live concerts that will be hosted in various countries worldwide.

Whilst all this was pretty exciting, the thing that everyone really wanted to know about was "Project Cafe", the codename for Nintendo’s next console. This project was given an official title today, when Nintendo officially announced WiiU, whose name wasn’t the only curious thing about it. The WiiU is definitely a console, but the features a swanky new controller. The first thing you'll notice about this is that it has a large touchscreen display in the center of it. This not only allows you to have additional information on this device such as an inventory or alternative view, but it also allows you to play your games on the handheld itself. They were keen to stress that this does not make the WiiU portable; the video signal is actually streaming to the device from the console with "no latency". A brief montage of possible uses was showcased. It seems that interaction between the display on the handheld and the TV is key and that other Wii peripherals would also be used with the device. In one example, the handheld was placed on the floor, with an image of the ground and the golfball on it. Using the Wiimote, the player then enjoyed a round of golf, teeing off from this device. Aside from the touchscreen itself, the handheld side of the WiiU was packed with a lot of tech including 2 "Circle Pads", a camera, gyroscope and accelerometer. But with so much tech including a touch screen, we're understandably a little concerned over how much a single controller will cost.

Core gamers could also sigh in relief. Not only is the device capable of HD images but a large number of more darker toned games were shown off. Third party title Darksiders 2 would also be made available on launch. Other franchises including Assassin's Creed, Batman: Arkham City, Ghost Recon Online, Aliens Colonial Marines, Metro: Last Light and more were all showcased. On the show floor itself, Nintendo would be offering eight interactive experiences that show off many of the WiiU features. They were keen to stress, however, that these were interactive experiences and not game prototypes. This highlights our main concern with the WiiU. Many of the third party publishers are confirming games for the WiiU, but Nintendo first party games were noticeable in their absence, not even a Mario game. Could Nintendo be unsure over what experiences they want to offer? We’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, Nintendo continued the habit of focusing on their core franchises which is good news for fans of Mario and Zelda. This year being Zelda’s 25th Anniversary there’s a lot on offer from that franchise, with a surprising amount of content on the DSi and 3DS. The announcement of the WiiU not only makes us worried how many vowels they're going to use up, but also leaves a big question mark about the experience of games on offer. Whilst plenty of interesting core gaming experiences were hinted at, how they would interact with the new device is a mystery and no first party games being announced makes us worry that Nintendo aren’t sure either. The WiiU certainly has promise and we hope that Nintendo can focus down on exactly what sort of experience they want you to have. Either way, this was an exciting conference and we look forward to what Nintendo are showing on the show floor.

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