Nintendo: Playing With Power, Once Again

Nintendo Direct, an online presentation given by Nintendo, was held last week…and it was sort of a big deal. President Satoru Iwata went over many details regarding Nintendo's recently released console, the Wii U. Everything was discussed, from the console itself to the titles that are currently in development. Suffice it to say it is a lot to unpack, so let's get started.

For starters, Nintendo announced two major Wii U updates (the first to be released during the spring and the other during the summer) to fix all those nasty loading times that have been plaguing the new console. Nintendo also announced plenty of Miiverse features. In what appears to be Twitter for Nintendo gamers, Miiverse will soon allow you to post short messages and upload images and videos. You can even get your account verified if you happen to be a big-wig in the gaming industry…or any other industry for that matter. Nintendo also plans to implement multiple game communities for each game title within Miiverse, a feature that should go great when the mobile version of Miiverse is released so you can Ninten-tweet on the go. The new features are said to roll out in time with new releases such as Pikmin 3 and Wii Fit U. And that's all fine and dandy, Nintendo – really, it is. But about the Virtual Console?

Fortunately, VC is going to be available on the Wii U after its first of two major updates. Now before you get too excited, please be aware that it won't be a copy of the Wii's Virtual Console library as each VC title is being optimized for Nintendo's new hardware. Sounds a tad upsetting, yes, but this also means that these optimized ports will allow for players to backup their game progress, play the titles on just their GamePad, and use them as a means to interact with Miiverse. And furthermore, Wii U is going to proudly up the Virtual Console's game and offer Game Boy Advance titles for nostalgic Nintendo fans to download. So if you're like me, you happily get to buy Advance Wars and Fire Emblem all over again; hooray! And speaking of games you may already own, Nintendo will offer discounted prices on games you already purchased on your Virtual Console for the Wii. NES titles will be available to download for $1 and SNES titles will cost you $1.50. Again, that's all peaches and cream, but what about new releases? Well, Nintendo's got those too…just don't expect to see them anytime before March.

Understandably, Nintendo wants to ensure that its games are indeed ready when they launch and, naturally, doesn't want to rush any of its precious first-party titles out the door before necessary. And while it unfortunately means that things are going to be a bit scarce for now, there will be  steady stream of Nintendo titles from March until the end of the summer. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.  The soon-to-be-released titles include: Game & Wario, Wii Fit U, Pikmin 3, Lego City Undercover, and The Wonderful 101. All titles look absolutely great, but I couldn't help but feel a little extra excited for The Wonderful 101. The title got a lot of screen-time during the presentation and it is really starting to look like something extraordinary. Not to veer too much off topic, but the game has players controlling a massive group of super-powered heroes as they fight against aliens throughout various platforming, rail-shooting, and flying stages. All heroes have a variety of abilities at their disposal and it looks like a whole lot of fun. But that's not all, Nintendo fans; far from it in fact!

A new version of Wii Party (which I honestly didn't even know existed in the first place) is on it's way on the form of Wii U Party. Sort of like Mario Party but without all those licensed Nintendo characters, WUP is going to make use of the GamePad and Wiimotes in very creative ways. Many of the title's myriad of mini-games are going to consist of two players using a single GamePad. Other showcased games included a spin on Twister!, using both GamePad and Wiimotes together. Expect this party-themed romp to drop sometime this summer. But wait, there's more!

In what turned out to be the most exciting announcement for me was the reveal of a brand new Yoshi game. Do you know how long it’s been since Yoshi got his own title? Well, turns out you don't have to look that  factoid up because Iwata-san took us back to the year 1998, where a curious little title by the name of Yoshi's Story captured gamers hearts and imagination. Till this day I still fire up the ole' N64 to play my late-90's obsession (and it holds up quite well I might add). Developed by Good Feel and Hal Laboratory, the companies behind Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the latest Yoshi title is also being supervised by Yoshi’s Story producer Takashi Tezuka. With a similar style to Kirby's Epic Yarn, the presentation showed off a side-scrolling level as well as 3D ones. Yes, it was indeed as nice surprise from Nintendo to present us with a new Yoshi experience. It wasn't however the most unexpected announcement to come out of Nintendo Direct however…

Crossover titles are apparently all the rage these days and Nintendo is getting in on the action as well. An RPG collaboration featuring characters from both the Fire Emblem and the Shin Megami Tensei series was revealed known as Shin Megami Tensei X Fire Emblem. While not much was revealed save for the title's existence and a teaser trailer, the bigger part of the announcement was Nintendo's planned collaborations between itself and other studios and developers.  And not to be out-shined by what I think was the most unexpected announcement, Nintendo also threw  in a new title from developer Monolith Soft into the mix. From the studio behind Xenoblade Chronicles, a gorgeous reveal trailer for their latest project was presented. Is it a Xenoblade sequel? Or is it perhaps a new IP altogether? Only time will tell. Now, onto the main attraction.

The biggest announcement to come of Nintendo Direct was the status of  The Legend of Zelda Wii U. In a move that surprised no one as it's happened before, the latest LoZ title is taking longer than expected to complete. But this time Nintendo has a good reason; the new LoZ is apparently going to play unlike any other game in the series.

Nintendo’s goal is to “rethink the conventions of Zelda.” Remember how you had to tackle a series of dungeons in a set order in order to get to finish the game? Well, you can kiss that structure goodbye. The new LoZ Wii U is said to be a whole lot more open. But that isn't all that Nintendo is doing to the Zelda formula as the latest installment is also going to feature multiplayer elements. If Nintendo can truly deliver on these promises, an open-world, multiplayer LoZ title sounds like it would be an absolute blast. It could be like Dark Souls only way less punishing and a lot more colorful! Could you imagine taking on a multi-tiered, puzzle-based boss battle with a friend, or group of friends? Oh, the possibilities.

Now I know that the thought of a new Zelda game is great, but let's get realistic; it probably won't be released for a long, long time. To that end, Nintendo also revealed that Wind Waker HD will be coming to the Wii U to help quell those Hyrule urges.  The new HD graphics really are a thing of beauty and along with the promise of that gameplay fixes and Miiverse integration, Wind Waker HD is just the thing to hold gamers over.   Check out the footage here.

So that about does it for Nintendo Direct new…oh, and the fact that a new 3D Mario title, Mario Kart AND Smash Bros. title are set to make their debut at this year's E3 – and you thought I was done with news, weren't you?

From the looks of things Nintendo is clearly on the right track. It's not only providing the experience that it's oldest and most loyal fans are looking forward to the most, it's also reaching out to third-party developers for support and collaborations.  To think that the Wii U went from a console that many were starting to lose faith in to a must-have piece of gaming hardware is remarkable. Nintendo is playing off its strengths in a big way.

Written by Associate Staff Writer Robert Gannon.

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