At 6:00 am PST this morning, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata hosted another Nintendo Direct conference, this time focused on Wii U. In the past, Nintendo Direct videos have centered around games which were scheduled to release very soon after the announcement. Trying something a bit different this time, and in no doubt direct response to complaints from Wii U owners, Iwata outlined Nintendo’s plans with Wii U well into the future.
Nintendo did what it needed to do from the beginning of its console launch, that is to say it proved not only why its shiny white box was a must-own here and now, but also that its lifespan would see impressive games from Nintendo’s core franchises.
Amongst the announcements were details of some new (much needed) updates to the Wii U’s OS; one coming in Spring, the next in Summer, which will fix the long load-times gamers have been complaining about. It is unknown whether the updates will bring any other new features with them, but Nintendo is also, separately, updating Miiverse to make it more easy to use and feature-laden. For example, you will soon be able to create your own individualized communities, making Miiverse almost into something resembling forums. Verified accounts will also be added, meaning that Cameron Diaz could identify herself as the real Cameron Diaz and receive a green check mark next to her Mii, informing other users that it is not a fake account. Nintendo will test this by giving its game developers check marks. They can then post videos, contests, challenges, etc. for people to interact with. Iwata reminded the audience that because Miiverse is browser-based in its coding, Nintendo is able to provide updates very quickly, without any downloads from the users.
Further, Nintendo is in development of its first ever smartphone app, which might have previously been taboo for the big N. Haters need not fret though, as Mario and Zelda aren’t traveling to the mysterious land that is the app store just yet. Instead, the app will allow smartphone owners to check and update Miiverse on the go. The app will take some time to create though, and so to tide everyone over, there will be a web-based version in the meantime.
Finally, the Virtual Console is headed for Wii U, and with a host of new features. The new Virtual Console will, in the beginning, offer only NES and SNES titles, but will according to Iwata, “be expanded incrementally to introduce new platforms.” Nintendo cited the GameBoy Advance as an example. The GameBoy Advance has long been rumored to be an eventual VC platform on the 3DS eShop, with 10 titles already available for 3DS Ambassadors, but it seems for now Wii U will be the home for the Big N’s 32-bit handheld. To kick off the release of the Virtual Console, and also to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom in Japan, Nintendo will release one Famicom game (or NES game for we Americans) per month at an appropriate and amazing price of $0.30. The price will last for, hold on to your hats, 30 days. The games on the list include Super Metroid, F-Zero, Donkey Kong, and more. The first game of the bunch is Balloon Fight, and it is already available. After hands-0n time with Balloon Fight, it has become clear that Save States, in addition to reprogrammable buttons have been added. These new VC games can also be played on the Gamepad independently of the TV screen.
Owners of Wii Virtual Console games have been worried that they would have to repurchase all of their games, but it was announced today that this is only true in part. If you own Virtual Console games on the Wii and have transferred them over to the Wii U, you will be able to purchase the newly enhanced versions from the eShop at only $1.00. The standard pricing for the new VC will be $5-6 for NES games and $8-9 for SNES games.
Next up: the games. Nintendo announced several games this morning, and detailed even more already-announced games. Iwata began by apologizing for Nintendo’s lack of first-party releases during the months of January and February, stating that he feels quality over quantity is a trait Nintendo gamers are already accustomed to. On the heels of that though, he set Wii Fit U and Game & Wario to arrive shortly after March begins. Interestingly, only owners of Wii Fit U will be able to access its Miiverse community. Previously anyone could browse and post to any community, regardless of whether or not they owned the game. To chat about Wii Fit U however, you must input a code that comes with the game. It is unknown whether purchasers of used copies will have a way to redeem their own codes. Also, though it is hardly a new announcement, Nintendo has reassured us that Pikmin 3 and Lego City Undercover are still coming this Spring. Nintendo showed off some more footage of Pikmin 3 and it still looks beautiful. Anyone who had doubts about Miyamoto/Nintendo’s ability to develop gorgeous HD games need worry no longer.
As for summer titles, Wii U Party is on the way, and is developed by the same folks who did Wii Party a couple years ago. Wii U Party is a board game similar to Mario Party in that it features a lot of dice-rolling, and some admittedly fun looking party-style mini games. In addition, the long-rumored Yoshi’s Land made an appearance during Nintendo Direct, though without a firm title or firm release date. It has been speculated that the game will see release sometime before August based on Iwata’s wording. The game is being worked on by Takashi Tezuka, creator of the original Yoshi’s Island, as well as members of the team who did Kirby’s Epic Yarn. This is quite plain to see too, as the game’s art style is very similar to that of Kirby’s. Yoshi himself, as well as some enemies (Shy Guys) appear to be constructed of yarn, while the backgrounds look like cardboard and construction paper.
Next, while Nintendo would not give a firm release date for either of the two games it is publishing by Platinum Games, namely Bayonetta 2 and The Wonderful 101, it did show new footage off, which looked quite nice. Nintendo made it clear that making games cannot be as quick a process for them anymore, due to the extended development time required for Hi-Definition games. In order to amend this, the company is using a new strategy. The strategy was shown off by example, with the announcement of a new crossover title, Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. The game was barely discussed, but it is safe to assume it will be a strategy game, considering both of the source franchises are also strategy games.
As far as first party efforts are concerned, Nintendo paved the first few bricks of the road leading to E3. They announced that Super Smash Bros. is deep in development for Nintendo3DS and Wii U, and will be shown off at the expo in June. Also to be shown off at the show will be a new Mario Kart, which has historically seen one entry on each Nintendo console. The biggest Mario related news though, is the announcement of a new 3D Mario game by the studio behind the Galaxy series. No footage was shown of these, but Iwata promised playable forms of all three games will be at E3.
Zelda also made a strong show today, with the unveiling of not one, but two new Zelda games for Wii U. Eiji Aonuma, producer of the Legend of Zelda series, stated that his team is “rethinking the conventions of Zelda.” Nintendo is apparently going back to the drawing board, and throwing out all preconceived notions that the series must be single-player, or that each dungeon must be completed in a certain order for example. This has lead many to believe that the next core Zelda game will be more open-world. As for the art style, we are not getting the Twilight Princess-esque graphics shown off as a Wii U tech demo, but rather an all new style, which Aonuma believes to represent the franchise better than any other yet. To tide players over until this new game is shipped, will be an HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The game will be updated to be more fresh, though Nintendo did not elaborate on what exactly that meant. They did show several screenshots of our protagonist, Link, and an area from the game called Windfall Island, which GameCube veterans will surely recognize.
Finally Nintendo announced that one of its second-party studios, MonolithSoft, the creators of the highly-acclaimed Baten Kaitos and XenoSaga series, are working on a new RPG for Wii U. A trailer was shown, and the game looks absolutely beautiful, with an absolutely huge dinosaur-like monster craning its giant neck over to drink from the ocean, while a group of heroes approached it to do battle, which happened without interruption all within the hub world. After a closer look, it has become clear that the new game, simply titled ‘X‘ for now, will feature cooperative online play as part of its main experience. It reminds us heavily of Monster Hunter, and that is not a bad thing.