We almost didn't come to the Nintendo E3 conference.
"We can stream it right here," Shawn said. "Why wait in line and sit in the theater?" He had a point. Instead of getting up at 6am to make it to the conference's 7:15 check-in, we could sleep in and watch from the comfort of Alex "Spaz" Martinez' plentiful WiFi. On the far side of Day Zero at E3 - a day of traveling to and exploring LA - the concept of extra sleep was a gem I wanted to possess.
We made the effort to be here, though. If I wanted to be comfortable, casually drink a coffee and stare intently at streaming video, I wouldn't have left Seattle. The E3 experience demands that we deny ourselves our personal creature comforts and join the throngs of attendees in the Nokia theater in watching Reggie, Siggy and Iwata run their presentation, hopefully wooing us with the next big Nintendo thing. It's our duty.
That's what I tell myself when our alarms go off. It sounds less impressive against the ringing and buzzing of an angry iPhone.
Getting to the Nokia Theater was pretty easy - Alex lives close and there's a Starbucks on the way. The helpful Nokia staff scanned our print outs, searched our bags and offered us more coffee. I accepted. The burnt bean makes me feel more at home.
Nintendo-themed trivia displays on the massive video screens inside the theater. They entertain for a few brief moments. Pretty soon Alex is on his DS, racing through a few Mario Kart tracks. Shawn plays an iPhone game, oblivious to the ample amounts of people-watching available. I check Twitter, but AT&T's data network fails me yet again.
Time passes. Generic-but-kinda-trendy music plays. A terrible cover of "Major Tom." Alex and Shawn don't understand why it bothers me.
Finally the lights dim and Reggie Fils-Aime walks out from backstage. The man is imposing, like a gangster who's dealing mostly in the business end but could have any of us offed at a moment's notice. He commands attention, as he should.
Surprise #1 of the press conference isn't a game or a system, or even an announcement. It's that there are multiple teleprompters. Knowing it's there is like peeking behind the curtain the Wizard of Oz is trying to hide. I could know what Nintendo's going to say a few seconds before they say it! I try to keep my gaze on the stage.
Zelda is neat, but runs into technical difficulties. Miyamoto's translator cracks a joke about wireless interference. Somehow the game still impresses. Shawn mentions later that the cable between the Wiimote and the Nunchuk makes the experience feel old-school in light of yesterday's Kinect demos, but I want to play more Zelda and Skyward Sword doesn't look as depressing as Twilight Princess.
Kirby's Epic Yarn impresses. Donkey Kong Country Returns seems weird to me from Retro, but sure. The more I watch, the more I marvel at Nintendo's first-party titles bringing 2D Platformers back.
Shawn squeals a little when Warren Spector comes out to show Epic Mickey. The demo doesn't seem impressive until the actions on the screen finally sync up with what Spector is saying about game design. Creating your own unique experience by adding or removing game elements? I can buy into that. The game looks much better than the screenshots had previously conveyed. Someone at Disney made a brilliant move bringing Spector on board.
Metroid: Other M didn't make an impression. The trailer tasted like popcorn. I'm hopeful for our demo later today, but cautious.
But the big impression comes from the Nintendo 3DS, and this is where going to the presentation made all the difference. We didn't get to see the screen in-person… our booth appointment will give us plenty of time for that. But feeling the excitement in the room, right there, made a huge impact. The Kid Icarus reveal was huge inside the theater, with people behind us dropping expletives without thought or care. And why? No one cares about Kid Icarus, right? It's been twenty years since an Icarus game came out.
That's the point, though. Nintendo hasn't milked this franchise dry. They're obviously confident in the game's ability to sell the system, too. When's the last time Nintendo launched a new console where the flagship title didn't feature Mario?
There's no way the system sells for less than $200, and we won't see it on store shelves until next Christmas at best, but I'm already sold on the promise of the 3DS and Nintendo's line up in general. As Kyle Orland tweeted half an hour ago, Nintendo focused on the Hardcore while its competition tried to grab the attention of the casual players. This could be the Nintendo we've been waiting to see for years.
That's worth getting up early for.