Opting not to have a big physical presentation for the last few years, this year at E3, Nintendo returned with another “Digital Event:” a series of announcements and details that are broadcast over the internet on sites like YouTube and Twitch, that serves the same purpose as a more traditional conference.
Last year, Nintendo’s presentation may have been considered the best of the bunch when compared to the presentations of both Sony and Microsoft. This year, while Nintendo’s show had its moments, it couldn’t deliver quite as much as last year’s packed show managed to.
The first major game that was discussed right out of the gate this year was the Wii U Star Fox title that legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto has been working on. Making its debut for the press at last year’s E3, the game has had a few images and concepts released in the year since, but for the most part the specifics were shrouded in mystery. That all changed when Miyamoto debuted the first trailer for Star Fox Zero, a game which seems to have a lot of importance to Miyamoto. Because the series was descended from many of the core reasons that the man got into making video games in the first place, Star Fox Zero looks like it received a lot of specific care and attention from the man who created Mario, and looks to be Nintendo’s most major release for 2015.
The game itself looks to be a new chapter that neither precedes or follows any of the previous chapters in the series’ history. Following upon the generally loose adherence to an established continuity as the previous games have, Star Fox Zero looks like it has many similar gameplay elements to both the original game from the Super NES, and the beloved Star Fox 64, which was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. The major difference here is that your Arwing can transform into a machine with legs, or your Landmaster tank can make other transformations as well. Some of these design ideas are being implemented from the now-legendary canceled Star Fox 2 for the Super NES. Star Fox Zero will arrive on Wii U this holiday season.
Another surprise announcement came when Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aime announced that at least two Nintendo characters — Bowser and Donkey Kong — would be making their debut in the popular Skylanders game series on Nintendo platforms. Perhaps more surprising than that, though, was the announcement that not only would DK and Bowser Skylanders figures be released, but that those figures could provide dual functionality as both Skylanders and as Nintendo’s Amiibos.
Nintendo also announced that a new Zelda game would be coming to Nintendo 3DS, likely to help fill the void by the absent Legend of Zelda for Wii U that has been delayed outside the bounds of 2015. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes is a new game that will feature multiplayer play for up to three players that own the game and their own Nintendo 3DS consoles, borrowing from the engine of the successful The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. While there’s not exactly a shortage of Zelda games for the 3DS (with several remakes from previous games a part of the handheld’s library), Zelda fans will likely find the concept interesting and lap it up when released.
There’s going to be even more from the franchise as well, as last year’s Wii U title Hyrule Warriors is getting a port to the 3DS in the form of Hyrule Warriors: Legends. Touted as the “definitive” version of the Wii U game, Hyrule Warriors: Legends will include all of the DLC elements of the console version along with the addition of new fighters to use taken from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. While some fans will likely find this release an interesting one, many will also question what exactly the point of this is, especially when the console version of the game is graphically superior and provides some more unique options for control. Still, if Zelda is your primary flavor, you actually got a bit more than was bargained for even without the new main installment getting any face time during this presentation.
Certainly an unexpected title, the oddly named Metroid Prime: Federation Force is the first game since 2007’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption to carry the name of the beloved series. Unlike the previous games, though — or any Metroid game for that matter — you don’t actually play as bounty hunter Samus Aran. Instead, you play as one of several different soldiers in the Galactic Federation as they take on a series of galactic threats.
As a massive Metroid fan, this announcement in particular proved to be very disappointing. One of the main attractions to playing any Metroid game is Samus herself, and the ways in which she deals with the nearly impossible odds stacked against her. In the original Metroid Prime games developed by Retro Studios, for instance, Samus had to brave some truly inhospitable conditions in order to be able to come out on top, and survive the crushing weight of stakes that push her to the absolute limits of her skill and precision as a bounty hunter — as well as a human being.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force only technically answers the prayers of fans who’ve wanted a new Metroid game, but it looks like such a massive departure from many of the mechanics they love so much. While it’ll be developed by solid Nintendo collaborator Next Level Games (Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Punch-Out!! for Wii), it’s hard not to feel a pang of disappointment here since Samus is nowhere to be found.
All in all, Nintendo’s presentation wasn’t as good as last year’s. It had its moments, but they’re going to have to do a lot better than this in order to get fans truly excited in the future. Time will tell what the big N has in store, because you know that there’s a lot they’re working on that they can’t exactly talk about yet.
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