E3 2014: Nintendo Excites With ‘The Legend of Zelda,’ ‘Splatoon,’ and ‘Super Smash Bros.’

By June 10, 2014
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With Microsoft and Sony having made their big announcements at their E3 media briefings yesterday, there was only one major player in the console market left to make a splash at the show. Nintendo revolutionized home video gaming with the release of the massively successful Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, but their dominance in recent years has waned quite a bit, with perhaps no greater sign of that reality being the relatively tepid sales of their latest console, the Wii U. Although sales have been relatively soft, many of the software releases on that platform have seen great critical acclaim. Games like New Super Mario Bros. UPikmin 3The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HDSuper Mario 3D World, and Mario Kart 8 are only some of the examples of highly-acclaimed games released on the system since its November 2012 launch. With signs showing that the release of Mario Kart was selling more systems and software since its launch at the end of May, Nintendo had a fair amount of momentum and fan excitement as we approached E3.

For the second year in a row, Nintendo opted to forego the traditional media briefing in front of a live audience, and instead focused on a fully-produced “digital event,” a 45-minute presentation with new game announcements, animation, and even skits from the creative team of Robot Chicken. The resulting flurry of announcements gave a lot of people some great reasons to get excited – not just Nintendo fans, but gamers in general who may have been skeptical about some of the Wii U’s game offerings.

After a leak at Time spilling that a new Star Fox game would be hitting Wii U, Nintendo’s Digital Event kicked off in earnest. Leading off Nintendo’s digital event was perhaps Nintendo’s most anticipated release of the year: Super Smash Bros., arriving both on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U later this year. While the first bit of info – that 3DS Smash is delayed until October – was a little disappointing, chief developer Masahiro Sakurai gave a tour of some of the new features that will be available in both games, including the ability to play as your personalized Mii character. Sakurai explained how it’s not a simple Mii implementation, but how it also includes different classes of characters.

After the Smash Bros. announcements, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime announced a new product initiative for Wii U called amiibo. Similar to the popular Skylanders series, amiibo uses physical figurines of Nintendo characters that have special chips inside that can actually interact uniquely with various Wii U console games. One of the implemented but not-yet-used technologies on the Wii U GamePad is a Near Field Communication, or NFC reader. Using the amiibo figurines and placing them on the GamePad will cause the NFC reader to pick them up. Data is transmitted from the NFC chip in the figure into the game, but also sees the game transmit data into the figure, augmenting future game experiences across multiple titles. Super Smash Bros. will be the first game to have amiibo support, with currently known figurines including Mario, Peach, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, Kirby, Pikachu, and the Villager from Animal Crossing. Nintendo also revealed that amiibo support would be coming to future games, such as Mario Kart 8, with further details to be announced later.

Then, the event started delving into the various developers working for Nintendo, and the current projects they’re working on for future release. The first highlighted game was Yoshi’s Wolly World, a spiritual sequel, of sorts, to Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Stylized as if the world and the characters are sewn together with fabric, Yoshi’s Wolly World is a pretty classic platformer with a Mario flavor, starring Yoshi and including some of the distinctive elements of the previous Kirby game. Yoshi can actually use his legendary tongue to “unspool” obstacles in front of him, and then use that yarn from the world offensively. It’s not yet clear if the game will be showing more from the floor of the Expo, but the game is slated to be released in 2015.

The next new game announcement is for the holiday season this year, and should excite anyone who was a fan of last year’s spectacular Super Mario 3D World. Some of the more well-received levels of that game were the stages featuring Captain Toad, a Toad character with an explorer’s backpack, a head-mounted flashlight, and some safari fatigues. The Captain couldn’t jump, but the levels instead revolved around using the Wii U GamePad to move the world and discover nooks and crannies so that you can find stars hidden in the map. Those levels are now being parlayed into their own game, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. The game looks to be building on the solid fundamentals of the SM3DW Captain Toad levels, and greatly expanding the environments to include new, creative uses of the GamePad for changes in perspective, giving a distinctive challenge, great-looking level design, and fun new mechanics. Treasure Tracker will be bowing exclusively on Wii U this holiday season.

At the beginning of the next segment, I could almost feel the collective intake of breath from Nintendo fans all over the world. Eiji Aonuma appeared on-screen with “#Zelda” appearing in the corner of the screen. Aonuma first started talking about the strength of the Legend of Zelda franchise, from the original NES game, on up through The Wind Waker, and how the concept of a world without boundaries is something that’s always appealed to him, and applying that to the lush and vibrant world of the Zelda franchise. With that gamers were given their very first look at The Legend of Zelda on Wii U. A subtitle hasn’t been released yet, but the game is scheduled for 2015 release, looks to be kind of a hybrid between the slightly more realistic design and the cel-shaded look of The Wind Waker, and promises a fully open-world without boundaries, also promising spontaneous events with massive bosses.

Whenever Nintendo releases a Zelda game, it always automatically becomes the most hyped and anticipated game of its generation. Games like A Link to the PastThe Ocarina of TimeThe Wind Waker, and Skyward Sword are all some of the most critically-acclaimed games of the last 25 years. That’s a lot of pressure for the franchise to live up to, but every single time it’s managed to deliver. We’ll see if history can repeat itself when The Legend of Zelda is released on Wii U next year. A sizzle trailer was also shown for new entries in the Pokémon series releasing this November on Nintendo 3DS: Pokémon: Omega Ruby and Pokémon: Alpha Sapphire.

An oft-promised game since the launch of Wii U was also confirmed for release this October: the highly-anticipated Bayonetta 2. Fans were at first frustrated by the notion of Wii U exclusivity for the sequel, but the developer tried to explain to the fans that the very existence of Bayonetta was partially owed to Nintendo. One nice surprise that was included with the release announcement for Bayonetta 2 was that the original game would be included with the physical copies of the game, while simultaneous release of the new game on the Nintendo eShop wouldn’t include the first game. It’s been a long time coming, but Bayonetta 2 will be released in October.

More Zelda news followed, but with a distinctly different flavor. This year, the creators of the acclaimed Dynasty Warriors are bringing that hack-and-slash action flavor to Zelda, with the release of Hyrule Warriors. Playing as Link and making your way through hordes of enemies with your sword and shield looks like very satisfying gameplay, and should be an interesting hold-over for Zelda fans as they wait for next year’s official entry in the series. Check out the trailer for some of the awesome looking combat that awaits this September 26th.

A new stylized platformer in the Kirby series is also going to be hitting the Wii U. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a direct sequel to 2005’s Kirby: Canvas Curse, which was released for Nintendo DS. Then, though, one of the more shocking announcements of the presentation came in the form of a new game in the Xenoblade series. Xenoblade Chronicles X looks to be a follow-up to the cult-hit Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii, which today is one of the absolute hardest games for Nintendo’s last console to find in the used game market. A Japanese role-playing game (or JRPG), the world of Xenoblade Chronicles is a well-realized sci-fi realm with immersive roleplaying gameplay and a compelling narrative. Xenoblade Chronicles X will release worldwide in 2015.

A new sandbox experience is also coming to Wii U in the form of Mario Maker, which will allow you to create your own Super Mario stages – from placing the ground, to warp pipes, Koopa Troopas, Goombas, obstacles, castles, and goal posts. Mario Maker allows players to get in-depth or simple in creating their own levels for Nintendo’s timeless plumber. Players can also actively switch between the 8-bit graphical style of the original Super Mario Bros. game, as well as the beautiful, high-definition 3D renderings of 2012’s New Super Mario Bros. UMario Maker hits the Wii U in 2015.

The final major announcement for Nintendo’s digital event focused on, of all things, a brand new action shooter game developed by Nintendo exclusively for Wii U. Perhaps most impressively, developers managed to create a core concept within the shooter genre that is both unique, and oddly non-violent. That game is Splatoon. Bowing in 2015, Splatoon is a multiplayer shooter capable of both online and local play that calls on players to use ink guns to splatter their team’s color all over the map. This is going to sound odd, but then the player can actually turn into a squid, and swim through their team’s color of ink. The main objective is to completely cover the entire map in your color, and defeat your enemies.

Yeah, it may sound a little weird, but it looks awesome. Check out the trailer below, and see what I mean.

All in all, Nintendo’s event was pretty impressive, delivering promises on many of the requests that a lot of fans have had from the company for the last several years. Fans have asked for sequels to beloved franchises, and a new Zelda is announced, along with new entries in Pokémon, and new iterations spinning out of Super Mario. People have also asked for new IPs, and with the introduction of Splatoon and new additions to the Nintendo lineup that will be offered through amiibo, the presentation they’ve given today is definitely one of the strongest at the show thus far. And an interesting part is that several higher-ups in the company say that the announcements aren’t over for the Expo.

Keep it tuned here to GeekNation for any big announcement made this week at E3, and catch the full digital event at Nintendo’s E3 website to see the hilarious Robot Chicken and Smash Bros. segments in the full show!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.