After a Gray Day, Nintendo Brings the Color

Nintendo's lineup was a breath of fresh air after yesterday's slew of grim shooters and serious racing games.

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At yesterday's press conferences, Microsoft and Sony trotted out game after game with the intention of getting us excited about the next generation of consoles, and the new worlds and new experiences those consoles will make possible. But for all the talk of how the power of the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 will enable developers to create games unlike those we've experienced before, the range of ideas on display was exceptionally narrow.

To its credit, Sony gave a nod to true creativity by giving the zany Octodad: Dadliest Catch an instant in the spotlight, and by featuring an assortment of other colorful and creative games in fleeting moments throughout its conference. Microsoft also had one or two moments that broke through the monotony; Project Spark, for instance, looked like it could be a creation suite that allows for all kinds of imaginative worlds and gameplay styles. But despite these vibrant moments, the conferences were positively dominated by two types of games: racing games and shooters.

No doubt some of these games will be great entries in their genres, and even exhibit some innovative features; games like The Crew and Destiny appear to be doing some interesting things with multiplayer, for instance. But still, given the tremendous potential the new consoles ostensibly offer, it was disheartening to see so many games drawing from the same few wells: games in which you play as grim men who often shoot (or stab) other men (or aliens or monsters or robots), or games in which you customize and race realistic-looking cars in realistic-looking worlds. Surely, the games of the future have much more than these few types of experiences to offer.

Coming as it did after such an onslaught of monotony, the lineup of games Nintendo showed on its Nintendo Direct stream this morning, despite being rooted in tradition, felt positively refreshing. The bright color palettes of games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World were the antithesis to the muted hues of grim games like The Division and Titanfall. The silliness of speeding along walls, free from the constraints of gravity, is a welcome alternative to the rubber-on-asphalt racing we saw at each and every one of yesterday's conferences. Meanwhile, the bright and speedy group-based combat of The Wonderful 101 looks distinctly different from anything else, which isn't something you can say about any game in which you're constantly looking down the barrel of a gun.

It's ironic that the companies pushing the two more powerful consoles, the consoles you might expect would be leading the charge into a more diverse, more creative realm of gaming experiences, are putting an awful lot of emphasis on a collection of games that all look pretty similar. Of course, it's not surprising that Nintendo wound up displaying the most colorful collection of games here at E3 2013. But because Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, and EA spent so much time showcasing games with similar concepts and similarly serious tones rather than trying to demonstrate how their new, more powerful consoles actually can lead to more varied, more innovative games, Nintendo's lineup felt diverse and creative in comparison. Let's hope that by the time E3 2014 rolls around, Sony and Microsoft have more fully embraced the potential their new consoles contain, and that they come prepared to show us more games that break out of the molds that dominate what's on display this year.

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