Thoughts on Nintendo's Freakin' Early Presentation

Photo via Shawn's iPhone.

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.

Comments

Nintendo surprised the hell out of me. I was expecting this conference to mimic Microsoft's: a few core games and an hour of people flailing about in front of a TV. I'm so glad this did not happen. I am very impressed with their lineup.

Woah, I was not expecting the return of Kid Icarus! That is awesome! Nor was I expecting to see DKC either; my wife will be very happy.

Other than a bit of curiosity about the 3DS... meh.

I can't wait to hear your impressions of actually getting to play with the 3DS on the podcast. But:

When's the last time Nintendo launched a new console where the flagship title didn't feature Mario?

2007...the Wii. Not too long ago.

Minarchist wrote:

I can't wait to hear your impressions of actually getting to play with the 3DS on the podcast. But:

When's the last time Nintendo launched a new console where the flagship title didn't feature Mario?

2007...the Wii. Not too long ago. :-)

And the GameCube before that. Cory needs more coffee!

I watched the conference on an intermittent stream. I liked it. While personally I'm more impressed with Microsoft's presentation from a tech standpoint, the amount of games catering to the hardcore in Nintendo's presentation made me real happy.

I might consider a 3DS in the not-so-near future. A Wii purchase is looking far more likely now, as well.

Gravey wrote:
Minarchist wrote:

I can't wait to hear your impressions of actually getting to play with the 3DS on the podcast. But:

When's the last time Nintendo launched a new console where the flagship title didn't feature Mario?

2007...the Wii. Not too long ago. :-)

And the GameCube before that. Cory needs more coffee!

Wow, right on both counts.

All three of us got some "hands-on" time with the 3DS. We're working on some impressions. Thanks for reading, guys!

Just got a chance to catch up on watching trailers and such. Well, I'm pretty disappointed with the look of Donkey Kong Country. I expected more polish and such from Retro, I guess. And of course, seeing Metroid in someone else's hands other than Retro makes me sad, especially at how lacking the detail and visual appeal of Samus' suit is. It's annoying not because it could be in HD and the Wii is not powerful, but because Retro did better on the Gamecube and Wii. Guess that's an old argument, though.

Kid Icarus looks quite nice and much better than I expected for Nintendo's new handheld.

Oh and guys, the Wii Launched in North America on November 19th, 2006.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

Just got a chance to catch up on watching trailers and such. Well, I'm pretty disappointed with the look of Donkey Kong Country.

Alex played it so I'll let him describe it, but it looks pretty good, honestly. Nintendo's doing their best to bring the 2D Platformer back and I'm all for it.

No Metroid yet, but it's on my list.

It's awesome they're bringing Donkey Kong back. When I saw it on the live stream, I immediately texted my wife bringing this awesome news. My wife used to be a big fun of Donkey Kong back in the day.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

Just got a chance to catch up on watching trailers and such. Well, I'm pretty disappointed with the look of Donkey Kong Country. I expected more polish and such from Retro, I guess.

Did we watch the same trailer? Looks like Nintendo quality to me. Fluid, tons of animations, dynamic backgrounds, shifting landscape, looks fun, and the art looks spot on.

Icarus surprise was nice, but my highlight was Kirby. I loved Canvas Curse and this looks like another great entry.

DK's art actually impressed me, though this could be because I was coming off of watching Certis play the new Zelda.

The graphics aren't super complex, and they're not trying to recapture the shiny CGI of the SNES-era DK series. They *are* super colorful and simplistic, which I think works pretty well for DK.

The extra plane of action really adds something to the whole experience, I think. There's just that extra pop of being able to interact with the playspace. I think kids will love it (though it's far from being a softball pre-k effort).

As for controls, it's Donkey Kong Country. There are some new additions (seed-slingshot for Diddy, air-puff for Donkey) that make the two mains even more distinct. The control scheme is a bit more complex, but it feels like a DK game (for better or worse).

DKCR looks like how DKC looks in my memory, as opposed to when you actually go play the SNES originals and see how muddy and pixelated they really were.

Yeah, that's an excellent point. I think they capture the "feel" of what a DK game should be.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a proper chance to see some of the bigger bosses and such. But I think it should carry over quite well.

The crowd's excitement must have been really contagious, because I really wanted to get excited about the new Icarus and Kong--and the trailers are leaving me flat.

wordsmythe wrote:

The crowd's excitement must have been really contagious, because I really wanted to get excited about the new Icarus and Kong--and the trailers are leaving me flat.

Having missed the SNES (I was a Genesis owner, myself), I had trouble seeing what was so exciting about the new Donkey Kong Country. Likewise, I didn't play Kid Icarus on the NES, so I had no idea what the fuss was all about.

However, the gameplay in Donkey Kong looks nice, and games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii have recently reminded me what I love about 2D platformers. I'm not completely onboard with it, yet, but I'm curious.