LOS ANGELES--Nintendo's annual Electronic Entertainment Expo press briefing can often feel more like a religious revival meeting than a media event. This year was no exception, with the crowd cheering wildly as the game giant revealed the Nintendo 3DS. However, perhaps the biggest response was to the company's unveiling of new installments in its signature series, including Starfox 64 and a new Kid Icarus for the 3DS, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword for the Wii.
The existence of the then-unnamed Skyward Sword was first made public last year at the annual Nintendo Developer Roundtable. The smaller event, held in a theater tucked away inside the Los Angeles Convention Center, offers a more intimate setting for Nintendo developers to present their plans and for the press to ask questions.
Last year, Shigeru Miyamoto, the legendary game designer who created Donkey Kong, Zelda, and the Wii, was on hand to answer questions. Since the game designer demonstrated Skyward Sword at this morning's event--entering in typically dramatic fashion by jumping through a screen--he is expected at tonight's smaller gathering as well.
[5:58] Unlike last year's spartan event, this year's roundtable saw the aisles of the venue lined with assistants holding Nintendo 3DS units. Each had a tech demo that saw the 1998 N64 game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time running on the new handheld.
[5:59] On a large screen on the front of the theater, video interviews with Miyamoto, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, and Zelda cocreator Eiji Aonuma play. English translations of their conversation have them talking about the concepts behind Ocarina of Time.
[6:05] Bill Trinnen, Miyamoto, Tim O'Leary, and Hideki Kondo take the stage.
[6:07] Miyamoto asks how many people played Ocarina of Time in the 6th grade. A bunch of hands go up.
[6:07] He then references a new game being shown on the show floor, called Steel Diver. He asks how many people have played it. No hands go up.
[6:08] He said development of the game is almost finished, since it's been in the works for six years.
[6:09] It was the submarine game that was first shown as a tech demo with the original DS. It lets players manipulate levers with the touch screen.
[6:09] "We took our time," jokes Miyamoto. The game was almost done for the original DS, but then Nintendo decided to take it to the 3DS.
[6:09] "It's like you have a submarine pet in your home."
[6:11] He mentions an R Wing that was shown briefly during this morning's presentation as part of the Starfox N64 announcement.
[6:12] He said as soon as he started work on the 3DS, he wanted to make a Starfox game, since the 3D screen offers depth perception for maneuvering.
[6:12] He said he wants to bring back many old games, but with enough new features to make them feel like a new experience.
[6:13] He said 2D visuals make it difficult to accurately gauge spatial relationship on the screen.
[6:15] He said "we have a lot of ideas" about bringing back old games and creating new games.
[6:15] He said that because every 3DS presents 3D in the same way, it offers developers a consistent standard, instead of having to worry about differing TVs.
[6:15] Hideki Kondo takes the mic, with O'Leary translating.
[6:15] Kondo is the overall hardware producer of the 3DS, but is also offering input on software development for the device.
[6:17] He was a software developer before this, though--the 3DS is his first hardware project, a fact that made him "very nervous."
[6:17] Now it's on to the new Nintendogs games, Nintendogs + Cats. (The plus is in the title.)
[6:19] Miyamoto said he mentioned he got a cat at last year's roundtable to fool the press into thinking he was working on Nintencats.
[6:19] Miyamoto jokes about experimenting on cats.
[6:21] "Cats are interesting. They're kind of like girls. When they come talk to you, it's great. When you go talk to them, it doesn't go so well."
[6:22] He said they skinned Nintendogs with cat models, but it was strange because they behaved like dogs--coming when called, tails wagging.
[6:22] He said the reason the new game will have dogs and cats is that it's interesting to watch dogs and cats interact.
[6:22] Kondo says that the 3DS will really bring out the animals' differing fur types.
[6:23] He said the sequel will also bring out the individual personality of the dogs.
[6:24] He said that the new game will have a larger range of different-sized dogs and will add a new form of communication between the player and their dog.
[6:24] He said the game will use the 3DS's inward-facing camera to recognize your face.
[6:25] If you put your face close enough to the screen, the dog will lick your face.
[6:26] The game will also feature facial recognition. So dogs will react differently to players it knows and players it doesn't know.
[6:26] The game will communicate with a visual medium, the 3DS's microphone, and the touch screen.
[6:28] Apparently the 3DS will address the bark mode problems of the original Nintendogs on the original DS.
[6:29] The bark mode will now be activated automatically.
[6:31] For those who don't know, bark mode is a setting where players close their DS while running Nintendogs. When passing other DS owners doing the same thing, the games will exchange dog information.
[6:32] Nintendo also set up a "bark mode relay station," where they set up kiosks where everyone who passed by exchanged dog information.
[6:32] He said the fun is when you open up your DS and find new dog information on it.
[6:35] Miyamoto suggests they move onto Skyward Sword. He jokes about his performance this morning and invites Eiji Aonuma to the podium.
[6:36] He apologizes that a glitch onstage this morning was wireless interference, and a majority of people in the audience who have played the game agree.
[6:36] A member of the Treehouse development team takes the stage for a demo.
[6:37] Nintendo of America has now apparently confirmed a full-fledged remake of Ocarina of Time for the 3DS, so those demos opening up the show are a taste of a real game.
[6:38] Miyamoto said that the goal of Skyward Sword is to get back to basics and focus on what makes them really fun.
[6:39] He said that there's often a big lag between when the graphics get done and the game is completed.
[6:40] He said the reason they showed only a piece of teaser art at last year's event was because of this lag.
[6:40] He said that gameplay on Skyward Sword is almost complete, and the graphics are being polished.
[6:40] He said they need to make a few more dungeons but it's mostly complete.
[6:41] However, since he couldn't guarantee it would arrive this year, he'd rather take his time and get it right.
[6:41] Eiji Aonuma talking now.
[6:41] He is going to talk about the game's story.
[6:43] He said the scene this morning showing Link diving off a cliff into a bank of clouds was meant to be "impactful" because it was an important event in the story.
[6:44] In this Zelda, Link is a little boy born into a land above the clouds called Skyloft.
[6:44] One day, he learns there is a land below the clouds ruled by evil forces.
[6:46] However, the revelation prompts a series of events that force him to go to the land beneath the clouds.
[6:46] The reason he goes down is in the title--it's the Skyward Sword.
[6:46] The sword possesses intelligence and will assume the semi-human form in the teaser poster shown last year.
[6:46] It's the "master sword."
[6:46] The Skyward Sword will become the Master Sword, apparently.
[6:46] The sky is also very important to the game, apparently.
[6:47] He said when you play the game, the cloud banks are "very impactful," and they wanted to make the art style highlight them.
[6:47] Apparently Miyamoto was such a fan of the art style that the approval process took one step.
[6:47] Miyamoto said he's a big fan of Impressionist art, so the new art style reflects that. He said Cezanne was a big influence.
[6:49] He said the Wii MotionPlus offers such precision that players have to pay close attention to the enemies. For instance, the demonstrator is fighting a scorpion and must hit its claws at specific angles.
[6:50] Aonuma said the new, exaggerated art style helps in this process. "If we had kept the Twilight Princess art style, we'd be done already!"
[6:52] He said they also want to change the typical structure of Zelda games with Skyward Sword.
[6:53] He asks how many people have played Ocarina of Time. All the hands go up.
[6:54] He apologizes for the long time it took to change out of iron boots going through the Water Temple.
[6:54] He says the 3DS version will make this process much easier.
[6:54] He said that Skyward Sword will make item management and changing clothes much easier and more streamlined.
[6:55] Miyamoto says the item selection process may be unfamiliar, but once players are used to it, it will feel comfortable.
[6:57] He said the pointing item system from Twilight Princess could be cumbersome because people often couldn't find the cursor onscreen.
[6:58] He said the Wii MotionPlus will have a new pointing system that will make the Wii Remote be used like a three-dimensional mouse.
[6:59] They run the trailer from this morning's presentation again. Wait--Link? In a Zelda game? I. Am. Shocked.
[7:00] The lights come up, and the session moves to Q&A.
[7:04] A Japanese reporter asks a question about the 3DS wireless capabilities in broken English. The panel doesn't understand, so he repeats it in Japanese. It's about the 3DS's push Wi-Fi capability, which the reporter thinks will be based to a wireless carrier.
[7:05] In a very Japanese way, they gently explain that the 3DS doesn't really work that way. They do say it will have "push" passive updating technology, much like the Wii does. The system can be updated without being turned on.
[7:06] Second questioner expresses concern that the HUD for Skyward Sword is too crowded and takes up too much real estate.
[7:07] Aonuma said that the demo at E3 will have the HUD up all the time, but they are still working on how to deal with it exactly.
[7:07] Third questioner asks whether or not Skyward Sword will have an original orchestral score or maybe even voice acting.
[7:08] Miyamoto says they have increased the number of music staff at Nintendo to write more songs.
[7:10] Next reporter says his intern is wondering where Pikmin 3 is, since he apparently mentioned it.
[7:10] He laughs off the question, saying he was misquoted by a British newspaper.
[7:10] Even though he apparently promised it at this very event three years ago.
[7:11] He then laughed and said he didn't want to bring Pikmin here because the other games would distract from it.
[7:11] "Rest assured, though, we are very hard at work on Pikmin."
[7:11] A tech reporter asks a question about the 3DS's battery life.
[7:12] Kondo says they are shooting to match the battery life length of the DSi.
[7:13] And then he says he'd rather answer questions about software and asks for the next question.
[7:14] Next questioner says he noticed that Link could drink potions while running in Zelda, whereas in the past he had to stop.
[7:14] Aonuma said that it was a decision to provide more seamless combat.
[7:15] Miyamoto says one of the goals of the game is to have gameplay be as seamless as possible.
[7:17] Next question talks about how he just beat Spirit Tracks on the plane and wants to know if the whip originated in Spirit Tracks or Skyward Sword. He gushes about the whip item at length.
[7:17] Aonuma said that the whip originated in Spirit Tracks and that the same person is handling the mechanic in Skyward Sword.
[7:17] Much of the staff of Spirit Tracks is working on Skyward Sword.
[7:18] "Once that's done, we'll finish Pikmin," jokes Miyamoto.
[7:18] The next questioner wonders if the developers worry that the swordfighting mechanic will tire out players.
[7:19] Miyamoto says he does get a bit tired playing it at the office.
[7:19] But he plays it a lot, apparently.
[7:20] Aonuma says that the pace will vary enough, with puzzle solving and exploring and whatnot, and that it shouldn't be a problem. But the demo on the show floor made it look like there is constant combat.
[7:20] Last question.
[7:21] He asked if the images of the evolution of the Zelda series in the trailer has to do with the story.
[7:21] Answer: No.
[7:21] And that's it!