Nintendo throws Wii Fit, parades new Pokemon in SF

New NOA marketing chief Cammie Dunaway announces Mario Super Slugger's US release, demos Wii Fit and new Pokemon Mystery Dungeon RPG at press event.

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SAN FRANCISCO--Today at a small presentation at the swank Clift Hotel off of Union Square, Nintendo of America gave a presentation to a small group of gaming journalists. The event was a coming-out party of sorts for Cammie Dunaway, NOA's recently installed executive vice president of sales and marketing, and successor to ex-exec George Harrison.

After going over her background with Frito-Lay and Yahoo!, Dunaway buttered up the reporters by talking up their love of gaming. "It's your job to bring the joy of the game experience to everyone," she said. She then praised the "enthusiasm" of Nintendo Inc. president Satoru Iwata and gave props to "passionate" NOA president Reggie Fils-Aime.

"We want those attending to experience that passion," she said, saying, "The games we're showing hopefully will excite the core and grow the total game market."

Given Nintendo's successful fishing of the "blue ocean" of nontraditional gamers with the Wii, Dunaway unsurprisingly touted the upcoming Wii Fit as "the next driver of the expanded audience." She also thinks that the game will provide "a new challenge for the core gamer," a pronouncement the less-than-fit members in the audience greeted with knowing grins.

Dunaway then said that Iwata considers the forthcoming Mario Kart Wii (due April 27) to be a "bridge" title, taking beginners from entry-level games such as Wii Sports and easing them into a deeper experience.

The executive then touched on WiiWare, which she said is "a democratic development environment that allows different voices to have a broader exposure." The development framework was founded so Wii developers could have the opportunity to "try something different and surprise the market" much like the DS has.

Mario Superstar Baseball finally gets a sequel.
Mario Superstar Baseball finally gets a sequel.

Dunaway then announced that the baseball game Mario Super Sluggers, which is set for a June release in Japan, is coming to North America. NOA localization guru Bill Trinen explained that "It takes the fun, active gameplay of Wii Sports, builds on that control, and builds a bigger experience around it." He said Nintendo is hoping that the game will put Mario and other characters "into an approachable experience for the broader Wii audience."

Trinen then ran down Mario Super Sluggers' control scheme, which is essentially a refined, expanded successor to the baseball section of Wii Sports. He pulled back his arm to pitch a ball and then released it once rings had formed around his onscreen character. Players can twist the Wii Remote while pitching to put spin on the ball, and shake it to have other characters run, field, and throw it. Also, hitting a button while shaking will make characters hit the dirt and dive to make a catch. Trinen also showed off a special Mario move that literally brings the heat, setting both the baseball and whoever catches it on fire.

A video game that makes you toned and limber?
A video game that makes you toned and limber?

Then it was on to the aforementioned groundbreaking game Wii Fit, at which point Trinen busted out its Balance Board peripheral. He demonstrated how players start off by measuring their Body Mass Index (BMI) and lock down their center of gravity on the board. After getting the results of their BMI test, players can set and track fitness goals with the Wii.

The Wii Fit setup process also has a brief questionnaire, which asks reasons why players might have gained weight. Then it brings up a weight-loss graph tied to players' goals sets, which will let players track their diet, activity, and even their posture.

After speaking of posture, Trinen then showed off Wii Fit's actual gameplay. First up was a Yoga demo, which gives a player constant feedback on how to improve his or her pose. Once the pose session is done, it offers feedback and a rating to aspiring yogis.

Then it was on to calisthenics, complete with a virtual whistle to tell you when to start and stop. After a brief tutorial, Trinen dropped and gave Dunaway 20, with the game again offering constant feedback on his form and performance. A fast and furious whirl of Wii Fit's hula-hoop game concluded the demo, with Trinen saying the game has made him more conscious of his health overall.

Don't ask me where to go!
Don't ask me where to go!

Next up was another NOA localization specialist, Seth McMahill, to demo Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Explorers of Space, due out on April 20. A dual-SKU sequel in the vein of Pokemon Diamond/Pearl, the game is a follow-up to the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon title, which hit the DS and Game Boy Advance in September 2006.

For a sequel arriving less than two years after the original, the game showed remarkable graphical improvement, and is also innovative in terms of story. Instead of the training-based play of countless other Pokemon games, Mystery Dungeon is a role-playing game that casts players as one of the titular creatures, exploring countrysides and caverns.

The game begins with players taking a personality test that will match them with one of the 16 Pokemon available in the game. After that, the player's Pokemon protagonist will wake up on an in-game beach with no memory. Then, it's up to it to fend for itself by joining guilds and finding work in a variety of vocations. McMahill showed off the criminal board, which lets players take gigs as an outlaw.

The presenter promised that Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Explorers of Space would have a more immersive and detailed story than its poorly reviewed predecessors. Its dungeons will also be entirely randomly generated for increased replayability, and will sport a hybrid turn-based system with ranged comments. Players will also be able to recruit other Pokemon upon emerging from a successful dungeon quest. Another innovative feature is a new rescue system in which players who are in trouble can summon help from a real-life friend by sending an e-mail via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.

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