There doesn’t seem to be a clear reason as to why Nintendo opted out of the press-conference junket at E3. Did they not have enough material to fill the time, or were they just keeping their dignity by staying away from the testosterone-fuelled shin-kicking that Microsoft and Sony indulged in?
Well, after a slew of new video games dropped throughout the day it seems like the latter might be the case.
Nintendo were never going to be releasing the latest next-gen shooter with eye-splitting graphics and reactive fish, and so they’ve played the only way they can - sticking to their home turf and announcing the latest iterations of their best-beloved franchises.
There’s going to be a Mario Kart 8, a Super Mario 3D Land, a HD remake of Zelda: Wind Waker, the latest paired generations of Pokémon (X & Y), a new Super Smash Bros, and a new Donkey Kong. As Chris Welch put it in The Verge: these “timeless characters are the most powerful weapon in the company's arsenal”, and Nintendo have really come out gun’s blazing.
The disappointment is that many of the games will not be available to play until the end of 2013, and in some cases the end of 2014. If Nintendo were hoping to gain some momentum from these announcements, then they’ve misjudged how long consumers are willing to wait for their titles.
The Nintendo presentation (which took the form of a 40-minute video that can be seen here) began with Pokémon X and Y, which will come to the 3DS in October, and will include a new Pokémon type – Fairy.
This was followed by Super Mario 3D Land (out at the end of this year), which looks like one of the best new titles. It features four-person multiplayer with each characters giving their own tactical advantage (so Peach can use her dress to float whilst jumping and Toad can out-pace the competition).
The game-worlds don’t look as innovative or imaginative as those offered by Super Mario Galaxy, but the gameplay itself looks smooth and satisfying, with a new cat power-up allowing players to claw their way up walls and bounce off the furniture.
Mario Kart 8 was next, looking to offer an equally satisfying gaming experience. Although the Sony vs Microsoft battle has made it easy for us to hype the PS4 as the console for gaming, it’s good to remember the more stripped down fun of Nintendo’s wacky racer.
Although the new Mario Kart won’t be around till Spring 2014, the return of motorcycles and the addition of “anti-gravity” mean at least there’s something new to look forward to. Nintendo also showed off Wii Party U, which looks full of the great line of mini-games that Nintendo have always excelled at producing since Pokémon Stadium for the N64.
Third party games were also present, with Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch Dogs all making graphically toned-down appearances.
A HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is also in the works, with the new feature of a Tingle Bottle – items that you receive from the same paunchy, red-nosed fairy fan, and then throw into the ocean to send messages to other players’ games.
New franchises included The Wonderful 101, a fantastical looking action-adventure game where you command a mini-legion of superheroes (the eponymous Wonderful 101), arranging their powers to form composite weapons.
The look of the superheroes is reminiscent of Viewtiful Joe, but the action seems of (relatively) gentler pace: like stepping off into the back-streets of Pixar’s The Incredibles, with cartoonish streets suspiciously free of clutter and ready to do battle in.
Donkey Kong also gets a remake, and in one of the more surprising announcements, Bayonetta 2 will also be coming to the Wii U. Though it seems that the title’s notorious raunch factor might be toned down, with Nintendo chief executive Satoru Iwata promising a “makeover” for the titular character.
There’s no doubt that Nintendo are fielding a fantastic array of games which would have definitely been deserving of big release in any other year. But with Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles sopping up most of the media attention (and probably quite a bit of the pre-orders), it’s unclear whether the company has done enough to rejuvenate the Wii U’s fortunes.