Considering the one hour time constraint on delivering as many new announcements as possible, it came as no surprise to anyone that Nintendo would spend the bulk of its press conference trying to woo the audience with its newest console, the Wii U. About halfway through the presentation, the 3DS logo popped onto all the stage screens, with heartwarming cheers and applause from the crowd. However, to their dismay, Scott Moffitt, Executive Vice President of Nintendo of America entered the stage to announce that he only had a few minutes to promote the portable. Instead, showing a strong support for all its products, Nintendo promised a special separate hour long showcase dedicated solely to the 3DS and its lineup for the rest of the year.
So last night via webcast on Nintendo's E3 website, I watched as a small auditorium filled up with 3DS-hungry journalists. The space was more intimate, but those in attendance kept their focus as Reggie Fils-Aime took the stage first with his usual huffing and puffing before turning it over to Mr. Moffitt in an interesting bit of back-and-forth verbal jabs (I doubt these two chat much outside of the boardroom.)
After a couple pleasantries and a cameo appearance from Non-Specific Action Figure, we went straight to the games, starting with Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate. Although the setting shares ties with the 2010 PS3 and Xbox 360 game titled Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, it is not a port. This entirely new story takes place twenty-five years after the original, and you will control Trevor Belmont. However, Simon Belmont and Dracula's son Alucard will also be playable characters, as well as an undisclosed fourth character. It's a 2.5D platformer, but many liberties are taken with the camera to provide cinematic finishing moves and grapples. The chain whip will be the primary weapon, but secondary weapons such as the boomerang will supplement your powers. The rich history of the series will permeate throughout the story, and you'll likely be just as engrossed with the characters as you are with the gameplay.
Following Castlevania, we took a glance at the lighter side of the supernatural world with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon. The original GameCube launch title was scorned at first, but eventually Luigi's ghostly adventure became a beloved favorite, with audiences always wondering when a sequel would arrive. Last year's E3 gave us that announcement, but this year we get the official name and a few more details. In Dark Moon, Luigi will not be confined to a single mansion and has many upgraded abilities, such a new strobe function on his flashlight to stun enemies and multicolored beams used to find various secrets throughout the levels. Like New Super Mario Bros. 2, Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon will be available as a digital download via the Nintendo eShop, as well as through retailers.
Next, we took a look at a newly announced title in the Epic Mickey saga, called Power of Illusion. It was stated very clearly that this new 3DS title takes a heap of inspiration of the 1990 Sega game, Castle of Illusion, and the gameplay footage seems spot on. Unlike the New Super Mario Bros. Series, which takes a modern approach to classic platforming, Power of Illusion truly looks old-school, with archaic sprites and nostalgic backdrops. The touchscreen will give some sense of contemporary gaming, with painting and thinning objects on the bottom screen molding the environments on the top. Controlling Mickey looks like a heavy experience and the simple design may end up being a little too outdated for today's audience, but I'll reserve that judgment for when I get my hands on it.
Finally it was Mario's turn to steal the spotlight, and we were treated to a nice-sized stage demo of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. Another beloved series with a strong following, this time our one-dimensional protagonist must scour the diorama-like Mushroom Kingdom for stickers, which are the essential tools for solving puzzles and attacking enemies. It's still an RPG at its core, but there is no experience gained in this adventure. Instead, resolving problems for residents and searching every inch of the world will grant you permanent boosts to attacks, health, and sticker album size. All the charm of the series looks intact, and with a strong focus on exploration, it will undoubtedly be an adventure that takes up many hours of our time.
It's hard to one-up Paper Mario, especially with the third-party blitz that followed, but Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance tried its best by kicking things off. In this newest Square Enix and Disney mash-up, Sora and Riku are both playable characters, with the help of the Disney elite, of course. The gameplay looks full of highly stylized attacks in the 3D environment, and some nice-looking visuals will undoubtedly push the handheld's graphical limits. StreetPass and augmented reality features have been confirmed, as well as a new Flowmotion control scheme for maneuvering and performing finishing moves.
Scribblenauts Unlimited was given some air time during the main press conference with its upcoming Wii U title, and the portable version had a few more minutes here. Surprisingly, the two versions look strikingly similar in quality, and though Maxwell may be solving the same problems in both games, what we really want to know (and I'm sure are hoping for) is whether the console and portable versions will have any cross platform compatibility, making it only the second (Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure was first) 3DS title to do so.
A brief sizzle reel followed with a few other third-party titles, including LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, Transformers Prime: The Game, Rabbids Rumble, and Heroes of Ruin. Aside from the last game mentioned, the rest may appeal to their specific fans, but the brief clips didn't deliver anything of notable quality.
Taking a respite from the game showcase, Moffitt then enlightened us with a few details about the non-game applications the 3DS has and will be promoting. The eShop was the biggest highlight, with some digital sales numbers for various downloadable tools such as Netflix, Swapnote, and the Nintendo Video app. New supplementary tools such as the Pokémon Dream Radar and Pokédex 3D Pro will add some exclusive incentives for 3DS owners to purchase the upcoming Nintendo DS titles Pokémon Black and White Version 2. Also, a video of an exclusive Nintendo Video series called Threediots was shown, but it disturbed me more than a little, so I will simply move on.
The finale was given back to Mario for some more details on the recently announced New Super Mario Bros. 2. In this version, amassing coins is the ultimate objective, as you work to reach the million coin milestone. Special golden power-ups will allow the precious currency to spew out of Mario's every orifice and turn everything from blocks to baddies into coin producing machines. Tallying your total will be most important in the game's new Coin Rush mode, where you're given one life to swiftly traverse three levels, building your sum to the highest number possible. This score can then be transferred to friends and strangers via StreetPass, challenging them to best your tally. The other major announcement regarding this game was that the full campaign (likely to save Princess Peach again) can be played cooperatively, although you are confined to one camera, so if not played with team spirit in mind, the slower of the two will end up trapped in a bubble and forced to watch the other race through the board.
The final screenshot of the presentation displayed the list of games once again, with the only two not previously mentioned being The Amazing Spider-Man and Rhythm Thief & The Emperor's Treasure. I was more than a little disheartened that not a whisper was uttered about Animal Crossing, but that will likely be the big gun for the 3DS at next year's E3. However, looking at the holiday lineup and pre-holiday releases, Nintendo is likely trying to replicate the late year sales boon of 2011. The trio of Mushroom Kingdom titles alone could easily make for another lucrative endeavor for the glasses-free 3D gaming system, with the other titles adding all the extra toppings to the ice cream.
Date: June 8, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*