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For the Nintendo supporter, this morning’s Nintendo Direct came just in the nick of time. With the Wii U underperforming on sales charts, Pikmin 3, Game & Wario, and Wii Fit U collectively suffering another schedule slip to Q2, and next-gen console talk beginning in earnest from Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo finds itself in the unusual position of being backed into a corner. If there were ever a time for good news, now seemed to be it.
While there were definitely a few pieces of good news to be had, the tone of the presentation overall seemed to be apologetic when it came to talk of new games. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata seemed intent on focusing on selling the Wii U on its social media merits when he kicked off the show, giving viewers another, more intimate look at the various features of Miiverse (including a nice look at the high quality hand-drawn art that’s been popping up in its chat windows) and revealing plans for Miiverse accessibility through smartphones sometime soon.
This retread came with a promise of sizable system updates, one each quarter, to speed up the launch of software and ease the transitions between software and system menus. Plans for the Wii U’s iteration of the Virtual Console also came to light, namely that rebuilding the library found on the Wii’s version with newly optimized versions of the classic titles would take time. As a result of this only NES and SNES games will be available for purchase upon launch, but to ease the transition and to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom’s launch Nintendo will spotlight a series of games – one a month through July – available for purchase at 30 cents apiece (starting with Balloon Fight immediately after the presentation).
Once talk came around to new full titles for Wii U, the word of the day was “patience.” While a few known – or at least assumed – heavy hitters were confirmed as on-the-way or steadily into development there was little, if anything, to show of them. This took a lot of the punch out of confirmations of a new 3D action Mario title from the Galaxy/3D Land team and another Mario Kart and only furthered the tease of any news regarding the integrated 3DS/Wii U Super Smash Bros. project. All three of these titles were assured to have more substantial showings at this year’s E3.
The majority of third party material in today’s presentation centered around Platinum Games, namely concerning The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2. Iwata stated that Nintendo’s rekindled desire to win substantial third party support will result in closer-knit relationships with various studios like the one they’re forming with Platinum, yielding a new 101 trailer featuring alternating bits of story and gameplay and a behind-the-scenes peek at Bayonetta 2’s development. What Iwata caught us by surprise with, though, were the announcements that followed: a collaboration with Atlus (and yet another crossover title) in Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem and a prequel/spiritual sequel to Xenoblade from Monolithsoft simply referred to as “X.”
Iwata had a few more substantial tidbits to share concerning first-party Wii U titles, as well. Leading off with an unnamed new party game from the makers of Wii Party (featuring visible dice rolling and several cooperative input puzzles appearing to develop on a lot of Nintendo Land’s base concepts), we soon got a look at something from an established series with a handful of screens from the first new Yoshi game in nearly 15 years. This title is being developed by the people behind Kirby’s Epic Yarn, at from the arts and crafts-heavy aesthetic it shares with its predecessor it seems like the development team wants to adopt this as their trademark. We were also assured of a new Zelda title by series producer Eiji Aonuma, and though he had nothing to show from it he shared that the underlying philosophy regarding it would be to “rethink the conventions of Zelda,” with emphasis placed on the series’ usual linear nature and solo play. To tide fans over in the meantime, Aonuma revealed that The Wind Waker would see an overhaul and rerelease on Wii U by this fall, with new features ranging from HD graphics to tablet and Miiverse functionality.
The conference closed with Iwata delegating discussions on plans for the 3DS and further details on third-party plans for the Wii U to future Nintendo Directs. For now though, so long as it can weather the next month without any major releases, Nintendo appears to have assured some continued interest leading up to E3.