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E3 2009: Nintendo Media Briefing

June 2, 2009

E3 2009: Nintendo Media Briefing
By Louis Bedigian

New Mario Games and Metroid Other M Headline Nintendo's Annual Press Event

The rumors turned out to be true: a new Super Mario game is on the way. Little did we know that the rumors failed to clarify that, for the first time ever, two 3D Mario games would be released on a single Nintendo console. That's right, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is in development for Wii. The release date? No one knows. But there is a new Mario game on the way this year for Wii, and it's called NEW Super Mario Wii. As the title suggests, it was heavily inspired by the "NEW" Mario for DS. However, it's more than another 2D iteration; similar to LittleBigPlanet, four players can jump in and play cooperatively. They can help each other in tricky situations or send them to their doom. Only two brief videos were shown, but the levels appear to have the look and feel of the DS version, but with widescreen support and of course the addition of more players. That addition required the camera to be pulled back a little further, so while each Mario is still a good size, it appears that you have a lot more room to work around.

During the presentation, we got a glimpse of the new propeller suit that allows Mario to fly like a helicopter. They also showed some underground areas with more bricks and coins than ever before (to meet the needs of four players, of course). There will be new hidden areas that can only be discovered by walking up and physically touching them (ex: walk into a wall, it disappears and reveals a small area to walk through). The gameplay looked fast and fun. We'll bring you hands-on coverage of the game later in the week, so stay with us.

You'll be able to play NEW Super Mario Bros. Wii by Christmas. And you'll be playing Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again on June 8. Developed exclusively for the DSi (download-only; the game won't be sold as a game card that can be played on other DS systems), Minis March Again is the first in the series that allows you to create your own levels using the Construction Zone. Every piece, obstacle and puzzle is made by the player.

Nintendo also announced that the long-awaited Mario and Luigi sequel, which is already available in Japan, would be coming to North America and Europe this fall as Mario and Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. In this case, his "inside story" is a play on words, since Mario and Luigi get sucked inside of his body and must find a way out. It sounds completely ridiculous, but that's exactly what will make it so hilarious. The Mario and Luigi series has been known for doing the most outrageous things of any Mario game, and this one is no exception.

Wii Fit and Then Some

Mario wasn't the only one rumored to be receiving a new game; Wii Fit was as well. That game, Wii Fit Plus, was confirmed this morning and will debut this fall as both a standalone game and as a disc/Balance Board combo. Noting that the original game was designed to have something for everyone, Cammie Dunaway, Executive VP of Sales and Marketing, says that Wii Fit Plus was designed to help find a workout that's right for each person. Six new Yoga and Strength activities will be included, and you can now omit the annoying interludes to allow for a continuous workout that lasts 20, 30 or 40 minutes.

Of course, Dunaway knows she's not speaking to an audience of fitness enthusiasts. She's speaking to game journalists, who will turn around and repeat her words to everyday gamers. Most of them don't care about Wii Fit, no matter how cool the Balance Board is. They might, however, be interested in the 15 new balance games being developed specifically for Wii Fit Plus. They include things like skateboarding, juggling, and a 3D running and jumping game that resembles Mario (but sadly does not star the famed plumber).

Going on Vacation

Last year, Wii Sports Resort was the star of Nintendo's E3 presentation. Though it can no longer hold that crown in 2009 with new Marios storming the scene, it's still a very promising game that will no doubt ensure millions of Wii owners obtain the Wii MotionPlus. Nintendo believes this motion-enhancing adaptor will be a key evolution in gaming. But "most people won't see the difference until they hit the power button," says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime.

To illustrate, he showed a video of what we can expect from the basketball, archery, kayaking, ping-pong and sword fighting aspects of Wii Sports Resort. The video was a mix of gameplay and real people performing the real-world actions the game is trying to simulate. Ex: As a samurai swings his sword downward, the camera cuts away and, when it returns, his sword is replaced with a Wii remote. "That's how it looks on video," Reggie noted. "But on video you can do almost anything."

The MotionPlus was designed to create the true 1:1 motion response players have been craving. For Wii Sports Resort (due July 26), this will give you greater control over every mini-game, including a new one revealed today: skydiving. While holding the Wii remote sideways (with a MotionPlus attached), you'll have complete control over your skydiving Mii as he or she soars through the air. Tilt or twist the remote and your Mii will respond realistically. Tilt it downward and you'll descend more quickly; straighten it to slow down. During this sport, you can latch onto other Miis (who are apparently computer-controlled, though the demo was not clear on this) and create various skydiving formations.

Nintendo gave us another taste of the MotionPlus with its archery mini-game, also a part of Wii Sports Resort. Hold the Wii remote vertically in your left hand (if you're right-handed; the opposite if your left-handed), just like you would a real bow, and pull back on the Nunchuk. Hold down the Z button and draw back your bowstring. The game reacts realistically to your actions, with added effects to make the game more interesting. As you pull back, the background begins to blur and the target zooms in and comes into focus; the further you pull back, the more this effect intensifies.

Reggie says that Wii Sports Resort is not about learning the controls, it's about doing what comes naturally to you. Basketball is another example that drives this point home. To shoot hoops, you merely push your Wii remote-holding hand down as if you were reaching to grab a ball. Now raise your hands as if you were about to throw the ball. Complete the throwing motion (without actually throwing the remote!) and the game takes care of the rest.

More Plus For Your Motion

Before making another announcement, Reggie reiterated details regarding the three MotionPlus-supported games headed to Wii very soon: Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis and Virtua Tennis 2009. "What this means is that every mistake you make in the real-world....will be faithfully reflected in the game," he says. Those games can be played with or without the MotionPlus. Meanwhile, Ubisoft is developing Red Steel 2 as a game that can only be played with the MotionPlus.

Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and a New Golden Sun

In addition to the new Marios and MotionPlus-supported games, Nintendo showed a trailer for Square Enix's next Final Fantasy game for Wii: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers. Few story details could be pulled from the video footage, but it appears that the game will incorporate action/RPG elements, a Chocobo chasing or racing (or perhaps escaping) mini-game of some kind, and a more involved storyline. The characters resemble the look Square Enix has taken with FFXII and XIII, but with more of a medieval touch.

DS owners have an RPG to look forward to as well: Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. It must be said that every part of this game looks gorgeous: the graphics, the characters, the 3D gameplay that appears to be very close to the PS2 versions. It's really quite incredible what Square Enix has been able to achieve with this game. If it plays as good as it looks, this will be a must-own release.

Last but not least, Nintendo revealed a short teaser for the long-awaited Golden Sun revival, simply titled Golden Sun DS. The effects mirror those of a PSone game. Three-dimensional backgrounds are mixed with 2D (sprite-based?) characters. An enormous monster was shown, though it was hard to tell if you'd be fighting it or summoning it. Similar to the Mario and Luigi games, Golden Sun DS will make heavy use of both screens.

Something For Everyone?

During the media briefing, Nintendo took a few minutes to promote Women's Murder Club for the DS, a murder-mystery game that combines text, still images and puzzles with the storytelling work of James Patterson.

After a brief trailer of gameplay (which is comprised entirely of still images, it seems), Nintendo moved onto Style Savvy, which is sort of a boutique sim targeted at girl gamers. Style Savvy lets you run a shop, customize it, try on different outfits and compete on the runway. You'll also be able to shop in other players' boutique, which hints at the game's wireless connectivity options.

Last but not least, we got a glimpse of a new GTA-inspired game called C.O.P.: The Recruit. Developed exclusively for the DS, this game sports PSone-quality graphics and offers a wide variety of gameplay types, including driving and third-person shooting. The footage appeared to be very early but showed a lot of promise.

Nintendo's Future

According to Satoru Iwata, Nintendo's Global President, the company has divided the population into three basic groups: those who actively play video games, those who say they will never play games, and those who say they might play games someday. "If the population of gamers is to grow further it must come from this group of maybes," he says. Based on Nintendo's research, Mr. Iwata says that there are more than 295 million active gamers in Japan, the United States and Europe. That's great, but there are apparently 149 million people who say they might be interested in playing but never have.

"For every two people now playing, there's one more just waiting to jump into the game," notes Mr. Iwata. "Imagine the opportunity if the market was 50% larger than it is now. We still have a long way to go in expanding the game population." But, he says, they have been able to erase the viewpoint that those who never played games in the past never will play them in the future.

"Our next goal is to create individual titles that can satisfy every kind of game player," even though the market, and thus the kind of gamers and skill levels, is much more varied. "Every one of us was a new player at one time. No one was born an experienced gamer."

How might Nintendo expand its market? With the strangest device ever made: Wii Vitality Sensor. It looks and sounds like an April Fools joke, but it's real. Strap it onto your index finger and the "game" will measure your pulse, how nervous you are, how focused you are on what you're doing, etc. Right now, the goal of Wii Vitality Sensor is not to create a groundbreaking game experience. Rather, Mr. Iwata hopes it will be used to relax people. How exactly he did not say. But he hopes it could one day lead to a game that will help people sleep better.

Yoshi Returns

It wasn't until the end of the briefing that we actually got to see Super Mario Galaxy 2, which at this point appears to be the direct sequel people anticipated. Assuming, of course, people actually thought this game would be made for the current Nintendo console. Judging by Reggie's emphasis on having two 3D Marios on the same machine, you can bet they didn't.

Along with the surprise announcement came glimpses of new ice and snow worlds (with the ability to turn a giant ball of water, which can be swam through, to ice so you can climb on top of it), more intense platform hopping (the platforms are smaller, move more sporadically, etc.), and the return of Bee Mario. We also got to see a new drill tool that allows Mario to plow through the environment. Best of all, Yoshi is being added to the adventure. His mechanics seem to mirror those of Mario Sunshine, though he also has the ability to inflate himself like a balloon, allowing him to float.

Metroid Other M

Though it may not be the biggest news of the show, the announcement of Metroid Other M -- a joint venture between Nintendo and Team Ninja (yes, you heard right) -- that promises to take the Metroid series in a whole other direction. Due in 2010, the early gameplay footage hinted at third-person hand-to-hand action and first-person Metroid Prime-style shooting.
 

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