Nintendo held its special ‘Digital Event’ for E3 2014 today – forgoing a traditional press conference again in favor of a pre-recorded video.
The segment was packed full of new video games, details and announcements, so if you happened to miss all the excitement – here’s a breakdown of everything the developer and console maker had to show its fans this year.
Super Smash Bros. (Wii U/3DS)
Nintendo started with an in-depth look at the next Super Smash Bros video game, headed to both the Wii U and its 3DS handhelds later this year. An opening skit showed Satoru Iwata (president and CEO of Nintendo) facing off against Reginald “Reggie” Fils-Aime (president and COO for Nintendo of America) in an over-the-top boxing match. It was light-hearted, hilarious and surprisingly well done – a refreshing way to kick off its presentation.
The comical bout – which featured some seriously supernatural moves – were designed to tease a brand new feature for Super Smash Bros. The next instalment will allow players to battle with their Mii, but in a dramatic twist, Iwata was able to turn the tide by placing a Mario figurine on the Wii U GamePad – referring to the company’s new NFC-enabled Amiibo platform.
More on that later though. Masahiro Sakurai from Sora Ltd. appeared with a deeper introduction to ‘Mii fighters’ – a new three-tier character system for Super Smash Bros. When players import their Mii, they’ll be able to play them with one of three classes –brawlers, swordfighters and gunners. Each of them will offer different play styles and special moves, broadening the game’s catalog of playable characters even further.
A secondary trailer went into the problems of associated with fine-tuning a fighting game for the 3DS. It was a weird explanation, but all became clear when Sakurai announced that the handheld version has been delayed until October 3. The Wii U title is still slated for the holiday season, however.
Amiibo (Wii U)
As promised, Nintendo is working on an NFC-enabled platform. The initiative is called Amiibo and, just like Activition’s Skylanders franchise or Disney Infinity, will allow Nintendo players to use physical figurines to change their games.
Fils-Amie described it as a “toys-to-life” category – each character will be embedded with a special chip that can be recognized by the Wii U. By placing them on the Wii U GamePad, they’ll be identified over NFC and then brought into the game. Amiibo also works both ways, so the figures will evolve and mature as you play with them.
“We can send information back to the figure,” Fils-Amie explained during the Digital Event. “So in other words, your figure’s data changes as you play, which opens the door for various new gameplay possibilities.” The platform will debut with Super Smash Bros. for Wii U this holiday. With an Amiibo character, players can use them as tag-team partners in the game, compete against them or have them fight against other figures.
Amiibo will be supported in other Nintendo Wii U games, including those that have already been announced, such as Mario Kart 8.
Yoshi’s Wooly World (Wii U)
Kirby’s Epic Yarn was a charming game filled with – you guessed it – fabric, cotton and wool. The aesthetic was memorable and fairly unique, solidifying the Good-Feel Company’s reputation as a top-tier Nintendo developer. The team is back with a spiritual successor called Yoshi’s Wooly World, which bears a similar art style and friendly, nostalgic charm.
Gameplay footage showed Yoshi removing parts of the level like an unravelling thread, before creating new ones with fresh yarn. It’s still a 2D platformer, although of course the game looks better on the more powerful Wii U hardware. “The big difference is that Mario games are about performing challenging tasks within a given time limit,” one developer said. “But with Yoshi games, they don’t have any time-limit, so you’re able to really explore the vast game world.”
As with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, it seems Yoshi’s Wooly World is geared towards younger audience. While “hardcore” fans might roll their eyes, it’s important to remember that there’s always a new generation of potential Nintendo fans coming through – appealing to their needs to is a wise strategy.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Wii U)
Toad is a beloved member of the Mario family, but until now he’s never (really) featured in a game of his own. Nintendo is looking to change that with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, a new title for the Nintendo Wii U.
It’s important that Nintendo is able to develop new ideas and franchises – even if they’re around some of its existing characters. This new game is clearly inspired by the Toad levels included in Super Mario 3D World – and that’s a wise move by Nintendo. Those stages were critically acclaimed and based on this early footage, that exceptionally high quality has been maintained across a full game.
The Legend of Zelda (Wii U)
When The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds debuted on the 3DS last year, it was clear Nintendo had begun to re-evaluate one of its most successful, ambitious and arguably modern franchises.
During its ‘Digital Event’ Nintendo showed considerable footage of a new game for the Wii U. The company wants to make a truly open-world game similar to the original 2D role-playing games, but said it’s been difficult to replicate that scale in the most recent 3D outings. “We had to define small, bounded areas with a clearly defined entrance and exit,” one developer said. “Putting them together made it feel like you were playing in a large world.”
The latest Zelda game for Wii U is vast and beautiful, with a huge world for players to explore. Grass shimmers underfoot and everything feels grander in scope. Nintendo says it wants to break its own conventions for the franchise and give players more options for how they tackle challenges and puzzles.
The presentation then kicked up a gear with an encounter between Link and a robotic creature capable of firing dangerous laser blasts. It eventually dived into a river and players were able to see an older Link taking aim with a new, magic infused bow and arrow. A final screen suggested the game will launch in 2015.
Pokemon Omega Ruby and Pokemon Alpha Sapphire (3DS)
To sell handheld consoles, Nintendo only needs to release one game. Pokemon. The juggernaut ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ franchise shows no sign of slowing, and so a remake of the classic Game Boy Advance titles Pokmeon Ruby and Sapphire was always on the cards, following similar remakes of their predecessors.
Remakes for the Nintendo 3DS – Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire – were already confirmed, but during its ‘Digital Event’ developer Game Freak showed new footage for both titles. The pair re-use the same game engine found in the Nintendo 3DS titles Pokemon X and Y, allowing for greatly enhanced character models, locales and battle animations.
Both games will be out on November 21, 2014.
Next: Splatoon, Mario Maker, Xenoblade Chronicles X and more…
Bayonetta 2 (Wii U)
Bayonetta 2 is one of the few third-party exclusives coming to the Nintendo Wii U. Developed by Platinum Games, the title is a departure from most of the content available on the platform. It’s dark and mature, dripping with fantasy violence and outlandish, creepy characters.
The titular characters look as provocative as ever; in a trailer the witch was shown facing off against huge mythical creatures capable of tremendous damage and destruction. Anyone that has played the Devil May Cry franchise will immediately recognize the series tropes – success will be dependent on understanding and mastering the game’s intricate combat systems.
Combos, insane weapons, jaw-dropping cinematics and multi-stage boss battles. This is Bayonetta 2, arriving in October this year.
Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
The Legend of Zelda is a beloved franchise, but Nintendo believes it can use the brand to greater effect by collaborating with other developers. Hyrule Warriors is a controversial attempt to place the series in a completely different gameplay genre – that of the hack-and-slash Dynasty Warriors franchise.
An interview with the development team was spliced with footage of Link slashing his way through a large number of monsters on-screen. The scale and combat style is completely different to the core Zelda franchise, and it’s unclear whether players will accept the new treatment.
Nintendo used its ‘Digital Event’ to show off new playable characters Princess Zelda, Impa and Midna, who appeared in the GameCube and Wii cross-over title Twilight Princess. Both play very different and, thanks to the Wii U’s GamePad controller, the game will also come with a co-operative two-player mode.
“If there’s a certain character you like in the series, this is the first game where you’ll be able to play as (them),” one developer explained. Hyrule Warriors is out on September 26 this year, the final screen revealed.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (Wii U)
Kirby has been in a lot of games recently, but Nintendo is keen to push the lovable pink blob to even greater heights. The character will be starring in a new game called ‘Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,’ which was demoed briefly today.
It’s a smaller effort that’s focused on the fairly low-resolution Wii U GamePad controller – players can create bridges and paths for Kirby with the stylus, allowing the pint-sized hero to collect items and vanquish bosses. Kirby is also able to take on a few powered-up forms, including a submarine and rocket.
The new video game will be out sometime in 2015 – I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a digital exclusive for the Nintendo eShop.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (Wii U)
Back in 2010, Xenoblade Chronicles was one of the best Japanese role-playing games on the Nintendo Wii. It wasn’t a massive game like Call of Duty, Battlefield or Madden, but it struck a chord with fans of classic franchises such as Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest.
Developer Monolith Soft confirmed it was working on a sequel called Xenoblade Chronicles X today. A CG trailer introduced the game with an intergalactic space battle, with dramatic dialogue and a colorful cast of characters. The visuals weren’t particularly impressive, but neither were they in the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Instead, this is a game that excels on its sheer scope, intricate systems and deep character development. If Monolith Soft can deliver on these fronts again, I suspect Wii U fans will be very happy.
Xenoblade Chronicles X will be available in 2015.
Mario Maker (Wii U)
What if players could build their own classic Mario stages? Well, that’s what Nintendo is hoping to find out with Mario Maker. The new game will give Wii U owners access to classic retro assets so they can build custom levels.
Using the stylus, gamers are able to drag various components – green pipes, springboards, Goombas and more – around the screen and adjust their height or position to create devilishly tricky stages. Better yet, players can switch between the classic Super Mario World aesthetic and the new art style found in New Super Mario Bros. U – a welcome feature for newcomers and purists alike.
It’ll be out in 2015.
Splatoon (Wii U)
Splatoon is a brand new franchise from Nintendo. In the past, the company has been criticised for relying too heavily on its existing library of games and characters, but that could soon change with this competitive mutiplayer shooter.
In Splatoon, two squads of four players compete online to cover a stage in brightly colored paint. Territory is claimed by firing globlets from their character’s weapon – the more of your paint is scattered across the arena, the greater your influence. When time runs out, the team with the most visible paint in the world is crowned victorious.
The characters look like humans, but they’re actually squids too. Players can easily switch between the two – you can only fire paint as a human, but as a squid you can travel faster through the paint and through previously insurmountable obstacles, such as grates and fences.
The Wii U GamePad can be used to gaze around the world – crucial for knowing where to shoot next – and also aim with your paint blaster. The tablet controller can also be used to look at an overview of the map, and check where paint is being splattered in real-time. Tapping character icons will also shoot your character in their direction, making sure you’re never too far away from the action. “This is just one more mechanic that adds a nice twist to the strategy,” one of the game’s directors said.
Head here to keep up with the rest of our E3 2014 coverage this week.
Featured image credit: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images