New Metroid, Mario Galaxy, Wii Vitality Sensor headline Nintendo E3 event
E3 2009: The Big N returns to the LACC, showing off New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit Plus, Mario & Luigi RPG: Bowser's Inside Story, Golden Sun DS, and more.
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LOS ANGELES--The weeks leading up to the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo saw plenty of rumors and leaks about announcements from console makers Sony and Microsoft. However, Nintendo has been the subject of relatively few E3 rumors. A trademark filing for "Wii Fit Plus" raised eyebrows, as did an analyst prediction for new Zelda and Mario games, but the only widely held expectation is that the Wii maker will try harder to court the core gamer than it did in its 2008 E3 appearance.
Whatever the subjects covered in the conference, there have to be plenty of projects up the publisher's sleeve. On the Wii front, Nintendo has little in the publicly announced first-party pipeline aside from Metroid Prime Trilogy, Sin and Punishment 2, and Wii Sports Resort. Perhaps it's time for rotund puffball Kirby to finally make his proper debut on the system, originally announced by Nintendo months before the Wii actually launched in 2006.
As for the DS, Nintendo has a slate of Japanese titles begging for localization, including Mario & Luigi RPG 3!!!, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, and Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver. Then there's the matter of the DSi, the recently released and premium-priced iteration of the popular handheld hardware that could benefit greatly from a killer app.
[8:51] Attendees have been trickling into Club Nokia for the better part of an hour now, many clutching courtesy cups of coffee or caffeinated soda.
[8:51] Nintendo's pre-show entertainment consists of the usual assortment of pre-show music and an abundance of Nintendo trivia cycling through on a big-screen that serves as the centerpiece to the stage.
[8:52] Unlike typical movie theater trivia slides, there are a good number of questions here. They only repeat every 15 minutes or so. Did you know Mario Kart DS was the best selling DS game of 2008 in the US?
[8:52] Fun fact: Mario Kart DS was released in 2005.
[8:52] The slides cover a fair bit of third-party games as well, with Silent Hill and Resident Evil featured.
[8:52] The balcony of Club Nokia is filling up nicely, but the floor seats seem to be waiting for late arriving attendees.
[8:52] According to the Club Nokia Web site, Stryper will be playing a show in this very same venue later this year.
[8:53] If Nintendo's show rocks half as hard, the Mario maker should be in good shape.
[8:55] The din of the crowd has picked up considerably in the last couple minutes. Everyone's eager to see what Nintendo has up its sleeve, given how few rumors and leaks were released ahead of time.
[8:56] A voice asks everyone to turn off Bluetooth functions on their electronics lest they interfere with game demonstrations.
[8:56] In Ice Climbers, what color parka does Popo wear?
[8:57] The answer is blue.
[8:58] Even the rows of seats reserved for V.I.P.s are filling up now. The balcony is pretty packed.
[8:59] Which character in Super Mario 2 could jump the highest? Come on Nintendo, quit throwing softballs!
[9:03] And we're officially getting off to a late start.
[9:03] With many of the attendees here racing over to Sony's press conference immediately after, there's bound to be a mad dash for taxis afterward.
[9:04] The music quiets, and the show begins with a trailer touting slogans like "Every culture" and "Every connection."
[9:04] We're being bombarded with pictures of non-traditional gamers playing the Wii and DS, then Cammie Dunaway is introduced.
[9:05] There's one thing everyone in attendance has in common, she says. That's a professional connection to games.
[9:06] So we should be pleased that the industry is trending up, she says. And the reason for its success is that the industry is focusing on people beyond the old notion of gamers.
[9:07] Dunaway says the Nintendo goal is to create and to surprise. She talks about showing us the next leap forward in game control today, and surprises where we thought there weren't any left.
[9:07] On that note, she talks about a guy who's been in more than 200 different titles and seems like he's already done it all, Mario.
[9:08] A quick trailer recaps Mario's history before Dunaway comes back and admits that Nintendo hadn't figured out how to move him into a 4th dimension.
[9:08] And that number--4--is the key to the latest surprise.
[9:08] New Super Mario Bros. for Wii is announced.
[9:09] Bill Trinnen from Treehouse takes the stage.
[9:09] Trinnen explained the thought process behind the project, saying the big idea was more players.
[9:09] It's a four-player live demo with Mario, Luigi, Blue Toad, and Yellow Toad.
[9:10] Players can pick each other up, which can be used to work cooperatively or thwart friends.
[9:11] It's pretty chaotic, especially as the players fight to get all the coins in a hidden room.
[9:11] There's a propeller suit that looks like a Pikmin costume. It lets players jump up higher and float down slower.
[9:12] Even the flagpole at the end of the level is a multiplayer focus, with players having a few seconds after it's first touched to grab on and get bonus points.
[9:13] After the level, player scores are tallied and ranked.
[9:14] Dunaway says the game is on the show floor this week and will be available this holiday season.
[9:14] Now we're moving to the Wii Balance Board and Wii Fit.
[9:14] Dunaway says it's been the best-selling game around the world since it launched.
[9:14] With 15 million sold, Dunaway said the Balance Board has an installed base that ranks alongside other systems.
[9:15] Nintendo has been making Wii Fit Plus, which is supposed to make a workout routine more tailored to the user.
[9:16] There are 6 new strength and yoga activities, but the key is in matching and mixing the workouts. You can also omit the interludes between exercises so you get a continuous workout.
[9:16] "At the same time, this can't be entirely about fitness," Dunaway says.
[9:17] Nintendo is adding 15 new minigames for Wii Fit Plus, including a math-oriented game and a Mario-style obstacle course.
[9:17] Wii Fit Plus will arrive this fall with the Balance Board or without.
[9:18] Dunaway cues another trailer showcasing the entire Wii product line, then Reggie Fils-Aime takes the stage.
[9:18] Fils-Aime says the Wii is attacking the games market like no system before.
[9:18] The Wii philosophy has pushed the console beyond mainstream gaming and into mainstream culture, he says.
[9:19] The system's Wii Remote and Balance Board interfaces have been key to the system's success, he says, and today it's time for the next advance.
[9:19] It's the Wii Motion Plus, apparently.
[9:19] "What emerges is a new sense of realism in gameplay."
[9:21] Fils-Aime touts an unprecedented level of physical reality, and tosses to a trailer for the add-on.
[9:21] The trailer shows a woman playing ping-pong, and using the controller to put spin on the ball. Next it's a basketball player shooting a free throw, and a samurai swinging a sword.
[9:22] An archer, a golfer, a dude on a jet ski are also shown.
[9:23] As for gameplay, the trailer is pretty much just for Wii Sports Resort.
[9:23] It's time for a live demo of the Wii Motion Plus, with Trinnen coming back to the stage.
[9:24] Trinnen acknowledges that Wii Sports Resort was at last year's E3, but says he's come back out to better show off the precision of the controller.
[9:25] It starts with a Mii skydiving. The Wii Remote serves as a proxy for the Mii, with Trinnen using it to dive straight down and then grab arms with other skydiving Miis.
[9:25] The entire crew falls in formation according to his Wii Remote motions.
[9:26] That's apparently the introduction to Wii Sports Resort that all gamers will go through the first time they play.
[9:27] Now Trinnen is demonstrating the archery game. The game takes into account aim, wind, a moving target, and other factors.
[9:27] Trinnen says it's not about learning the controls; it's more about doing what comes naturally.
[9:28] He's going to show one more sport, this one with multiplayer action. It's a basketball three-pointer contest.
[9:28] Fils-Aime comes out and talks a little trash with Trinnen.
[9:29] Every basket that goes in sets off fireworks in the background.
[9:30] Reggie and Bill are apparently playing on two different Wiis.
[9:30] Fils-Aime wins the shootout and Trinnen abandons the stage in shame.
[9:32] Fils-Aime mentions that EA is putting Wii Motion Plus before Wii Sports Resort comes out, with the add-on bundled in Tiger Woods. Also, Grand Slam Tennis and Sega's Virtua Tennis will support the peripheral.
[9:32] Fils-Aime says it means all gamers' really bad habits when they play golf or tennis will be reflected in the games.
[9:33] Now it's time to talk RPGs.
[9:33] Square Enix is making an exclusive open-world adventure for Wii in the Final Fantasy franchise.
[9:34] It's the Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers game.
[9:35] Square is also bringing Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days to the DS on September 29. A short video shows off some of the game's plot points and an array of Disney characters.
[9:35] Now Fils-Aime is talking about Mario & Luigi RPG: Bowser's Inside Story.
[9:36] After the pair are shrunken, Bowser ingests them and the pair take their plumbing prowess to work on the villain's internal pipes, Fils-Aime says.
[9:38] One more RPG to talk about, as "a legendary RPG name is on its way back" to the DS.
[9:38] Golden Sun DS will arrive in 2010.
[9:39] The game will be in full 3D, but little else is shown in a brief trailer.
[9:39] Dunaway returns to the stage and talks about risky innovations, with three examples to come.
[9:40] She brings up mystery author James Patterson, and says his Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion will come out October 13.
[9:40] Chuckles are rippling through the crowd as a trailer plays. Players can play a reporter, a detective, or a doctor.
[9:40] Dunaway says Ubisoft has COP: The Recruit for fans of grittier, urban, open-world gaming.
[9:41] The game follows underground street racer Dan Miles, who gets caught and is given the choice of going to jail or going undercover for the cops.
[9:42] It's a mix of third-person shooting and driving in 3D.
[9:42] Dunaway brings up Style Savvy for tweens and 20-somethings.
[9:43] The game lets players run a fashion boutique with more than 10,000 fashions to choose from, customizing their shop and competing in runway competitions.
[9:43] Players can also shop in each other's boutiques. An ironic "Whoo!" from one audience member draws a few laughs.
[9:45] Now it's time to talk about the DSi, as a trailer comes up with "man on the street" testimonials using slogans and touting the system's features.
[9:45] Dunaway said the system should complement the DS Lite, with a different price point, features, and target audiences. So far, the DSi has sold more than 1 million units in the US.
[9:45] On top of that, the DS Lite has still managed to sell 400,000 systems in that same time frame.
[9:46] Dunaway said the goal with the DSi is to make players' portables feel unique and customized to them.
[9:46] One example is the Flipnote Studio movie maker, which will arrive this summer.
[9:46] More user-generated content is on the way with Mario vs. Donkey Kong.
[9:47] The Minis are back again, creating puzzles for players to negotiate.
[9:47] Minis March Again! is the subtitle, and will be playable on the show floor.
[9:48] It will only be available as a download for DSi, and it launches next Monday, June 8.
[9:48] WarioWare Myself is up next, with players being able to make their own microgames. Dunaway said it's as close to essential game design as any game has come.
[9:48] Players will also be able to share their completed games with other DSi owners.
[9:49] This summer, DSi owners will be able to upload photos taken with the system and uploaded to Facebook.
[9:49] Dunaway said it makes it even more fun to personalize and share photos on the social networking site.
[9:50] While user-generated content is hot, Dunaway promises Nintendo isn't getting carried away with it. For instance, the professionally developed Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is as anticipated as any DS title.
[9:50] Spirit Tracks will be playable on the show floor this week.
[9:51] "In our world, everyone's game," Dunaway says before leaving the stage for another trailer.
[9:51] She comes right back to introduce Satoru Iwata.
[9:52] The president of Nintendo talks about the nay-sayers that said the company couldn't expand the audience. Now people are saying the audience expansion trend is beginning to fade.
[9:54] Iwata said that if the population is going to keep growing, it has to come from people who right now think they might play games someday. That group consists of 149 million people in the US, Europe, and Japan.
[9:54] That's about half the size of the current gaming market, and Iwata says there's a long way to go in expanding the gaming population.
[9:54] The ability to appeal to new players will decide the fate of new platforms, Iwata says.
[9:55] Even though the range of skill level among gamers is wider than ever, Iwata said Nintendo is trying to create games that will appeal to all gamers. He acknowledges it's a major challenge, though.
[9:55] Iwata explains the struggle between including depth for experienced players and accessibility for new players.
[9:56] But everyone started somewhere. "No one was born an expert gamer," Iwata says.
[9:57] Last year, Nintendo started to address that problem with Mario Kart Wii and the Wii Wheel.
[9:57] New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit Plus, and Wii Sports Resort are all titles designed to appeal to veterans and new gamers alike, Iwata says.
[9:58] Iwata understands that solution might not be convincing, and notes that most titles are still coming in familiar genres. Now it's time for a sneak peek at "another entirely different way of thinking about games."
[9:58] Following in the steps of Brain Age and Wii Fit, there's the Wii Vitality Sensor.
[9:59] It's a finger-worn pulse reader.
[10:00] It's also a rare attachment using the Nunchuk port on the Wii Remote.
[10:00] The idea was to visualize something that was invisible.
[10:00] Iwata wants people to use the product to acheive greater relaxation. There's still no word on a gameplay example.
[10:00] Apparently we're not going to get such word today.
[10:01] Iwata leaves the stage and Dunaway returns to the stage. She says there's a little stimulation left to deliver.
[10:01] She recaps the show so far, with Mario on Wii, DS, and on DSi.
[10:02] "But if you think that's all the Mario news you can handle, you might want to think again."
[10:02] It's another 3D Mario for Wii.
[10:02] Yoshi's back in a Super Mario Galaxy-like game.
[10:02] Lots more round planatoids and star collecting antics.
[10:03] There's a snow level, underwater sections, the haunted castle, some interesting flower-laden worlds, and a lot of tricky platforming on display.
[10:03] Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the official name.
[10:04] Fils-Aime is out to tout the company's lineup again.
[10:05] He namechecks everything (including the Wii Vitality Sensor) before acknowledging that he reads "the blogs." He also wants more, with "more" being associated with third-party games.
[10:05] He starts off talking about The Conduit for Wii, from Sega and High Voltage.
[10:06] A trailer for the game shows off its sci-fi shooter chops.
[10:06] Capcom's Resident Evil is the next topic, as Fils-Aime introduces a trailer for Darkside Chronicles.
[10:08] He talks about seeing familiar characters in a new light, while the trailer shows off the lightgun-style gameplay.
[10:08] EA's Dead Space: Extraction completes the trifecta with another trailer.
[10:09] Like Darkside Chronicles, Extraction is a lightgun-style take on a popular survival horror game.
[10:09] Fils-Aime says third-party publishers are drawn to opportunity, and there's no more opportunity than on Nintendo platforms.
[10:09] But Nintendo also has something edgy.
[10:09] It's time for a fresh look at a storied franchise, he says.
[10:09] A trailer shows Team Ninja's latest.
[10:10] Project M presents…
[10:11] A woman in a sci-fi base of some sort. It's Samus.
[10:11] Metroid: Other M is the game.
[10:11] It's a 3D action adventure game that looks to have a big focus on the combat, with a dash of melee added to the formula.
[10:11] 2010 is the release date.
[10:11] The trailer gets the biggest applause yet.
[10:12] Fils-Aime said the historic collaboration will reveal a Metroid game unlike any other, taking players deeper into Samus' story.
[10:12] Fils-Aime said Nintendo's mission is to revitalize these familiar names.
[10:13] Fils-Aime thanks the crowd for attending, says Nintendo is committed to making "Everyone's Game," and that's the show.
[10:13] Be sure to check back throughout the week as GameSpot covers E3 2009 top to bottom.