Bright Eclipse: Nintendo’s Next Revolution

E3 2011 is OVER. The secrets are out (well, most of them anyway), and the results are in: Nintendo won. To some, not by much; and to others, by leaps and bounds – but the general consensus is that Nintendo won.

While they tried, Sony and Microsoft’s showing at E3 was a tad underwhelming, leaving it to Nintendo to satisfy the appetites of ravenous gamers. The Big N brought in a live orchestra to celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda, gave the 3DS something to live for, and proved that Project Cafe wasn’t a coffee maker.

But was Nintendo’s new bag of tricks enough to kickstart its next revolution? In this follow up to last weeks “Hopes & Dreams: Nintendo is About to Make History,” we’ll look into whether or not Nintendo’s latest offering is destined for the history books, or, something else.

As promised, Wii U made it’s E3 debut during Nintendo’s press conference, to seemingly mixed reactions. Naturally, fans cheered when Nintendo lifted the veil on Project Cafe, revealing its official name, but you couldn’t help but notice the tad lack of enthusiasm, likely due to those hoping Nintendo would push aside its Wii antics and move on to a more hardcore friendly name.

Of course, anyone with half a brain should know that simply doing away with the hugely successful Wii brand, at such an early stage, would be a bad business move on Nintendo’s part — because let’s face it – every major company’s main objective is to bring in revenue, and Wii delivered truckloads. Hence the cliche saying, “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it,” and if I might add, “build on it, and make it better.”

Console names are great, but they alone do not drive sales – for Nintendo, that area of expertise belongs to its games, and the way you control them. Enter Wii U’s controller.

As he did with the name, Reggie Fils-Aime introduced its controller, to better applause. As some rumors had suggested, the controller did in fact have a screen in it — a 6.2 inch LCD touch screen, to be exact. Additionally, Wii U features a d-pad, four face buttons, four shoulder triggers, two analog sliders, a power button and a camera.

In the first “Hopes & Dreams,” I proposed:

“How can Project Cafe avoid the shortcomings of Wii and GameCube, yet maintain or exceed all of their strong suits, while staying competitive with current-gen consoles, in addition to holding its own against whatever new systems Microsoft and Sony come up with next? The answer is actually quite simple…it has to do everything.”

So, is the system that we now know as Wii U capable of such abilities? Or, am I overshooting it just a bit? Similar to the system I used in part one, let’s connect the dots a bit, using mostly the info provided to us by Nintendo. And maybe, a wee bit of speculation.

High Definition: Wii U has been confirmed to output HD visuals at 720p and 1080p, and will support HDMI. IBM has confirmed that it will be providing Nintendo’s new system with its latest microprocessors – the very same processors used to power the highly advanced “Watson” supercomputer from Jeopardy – the very same supercomputer that totally destroyed made short work of Ken Jennings and Bruce Rutter, two of Jeopardy’s all time top earners. I firmly believe that there is more to Wii U’s power than Nintendo is letting on.

Robust Game Arsenal: Although there weren’t many Wii U games that were shown during (or after) Nintendo’s conference, there was a crap load of support from third party developers praising Wii U’s new capabilities, and Nintendo brought along a developers reel to prove it. Also, immediately following the conference, developers were quick to announce projects otherwise PS3 or 360 bound that would be making the jump to Wii U; some even came up with brand new ideas, right there on the spot.

It’s exciting, really, that games like Batman: Arkham City and Assassins Creed: Revelations will be coming to Wii U, if a bit later. Nintendo will now get a slice of Grand Theft Auto (it’s gonna happen), and definitely will no longer miss out on smash titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warware 2. If Nintendo doesn’t somehow screw up its third party support, in addition to continuing to crank out its own first party titles, then Wii U could end up a developers wet dream.

In addition to being backwards compatible with the entire Wii catalog, Nintendo could also roll out a Virtual Console highly superior than that of the Wii, even potentially bringing with it GameCube games, despite Nintendo’s denial of Wii U supporting GameCube games – for all we know, they could simply be saying, “Wii U doesn’t play GameCube disc.” From whenever Wii U is released, to whenever it’s discontinued, Nintendo would be foolish to not give its little purple box some shine.

Superior Online: Though details on this one are scarce, there are a few tidbits floating around out there regarding Wii U’s online functions. First off, it’s pretty much been confirmed: No more friend codes. That’s right, they’re gone. John Riccitiello, and more recently, Ubisoft, have both praised Wii U’s online capabilities; that’s coming from two companies who have a considerable amount of experience when it comes to creating online compatible games.

The “It” Factor: Wii U’s “It” factor cannot be disputed: It has it. It’s the most unique among its competitors, and is probably the most innovative console ever conceived – bar none. Whether it be the high definition touchscreen (let alone the screen itself), the six-axis motion controls, built-in sensor bar, camera (online video chat is a go), or the ability to stream entire games to the controller from the console – it has “it.” Forgive me if I’ve forgotten anything, but it does a lot of stuff – that’s not counting everything we don’t know.

But…What About The Name?: The Wii jokes pretty much write themselves, right? Well, guess what: Nintendo doesn’t care.

Wii U has been called many things, from Wii 2, Wii HD, Nintendo Stream (somebody, somewhere, knew something), Nintendo Feel, and even simply, “Nintendo.” As I stated in the beginning, the Wii brand is big business, and is to Nintendo what oil is to the world; basically, it prints money. The name “Wii” is synonymous with success, and it’s here to stay. Gamers can kick and scream all they want.

And then, there are those of us who don’t mind the name at all; We just really want to play games, thank you.

So, does “It” do everything?: Whether or not Wii U does everything is up in the air, but doing everything may have different meaning for different people. Of course, my everything may not be yours, and vice versa.

For me, the fact that Wii U will grant me a fresh, innovative way to play new games from some of my favorite characters such as Mario, Link, and Samus (in high definition, I might add), in addition to established franchises I’ve missed out on like Assassins Creed and BioShock, and finally being able to engage in the online gaming revolution – well, that about sums up everything for me. The cherries on top would be the online video chat, the new Virtual Console (it’ll surely have one, and I want it bad), web browsing, and the entire Wii catalog.

One thing is for sure: The Big N’s new console will do a lot of cool stuff.

But what about its counterpart?

If the slew of new games is anything to go by, then what was once the little engine that could, now looks to be the little engine that will. Nobody expected the Nintendo 3DS to come out the underdog. It’s predecessor sold an astounding 146 million units worldwide (all models combined), so it’s a natural fit for Nintendo or anyone to think that 3DS systems would fly off the shelves – even if there were no must have titles to support it.

Granted, the 3DS did take well at launch (supposedly first day sales were the largest of any Nintendo handheld in history, Nintendo’s words), but its consistency was short-lived. It turns out that Nintendogs + Cats and Pilotwings Resort weren’t enough to keep the system a hot seller, and even the spectacular Super Street Fighter IV couldn’t carry the system. The problem was this: The gang was missing.

That’s right. What’s a Nintendo party/celebration/LAUNCH without Mario, Link, or even Samus? The original DS launched in North America with Super Mario 64 DS, and for a limited time, the demo for Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt. In addition to a brand new, innovative system, consumers had Mario and Samus along for their first foray into uncharted gaming territory – which made the journey significantly more enjoyable. The 3DS on the other hand, lacked a showpiece.

Enter E3 2011.

Even before Wii U was revealed, Nintendo got straight to business, addressing the 3DS’s main issue: the games. Super Mario 3DS, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Mario Kart 3DS, Star Fox 64 3D, and Luigi’s Mansion 2 all kick started a spectacular showcase of 3DS titles, giving fans renewed hope that their $250 handhelds wouldn’t be left behind much longer. I’d like to highlight 5 key titles that’ll change the 3DS forever:

Built from the ground up for the 3DS, this new Mario title is sure to attract mega attention. In Super Mario 3D, Mario suits back up in the Tanooki Suit, a fan favorite from Super Mario Bros. 3. Super Leaf’s are back, along with the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Starman, which will work wonders for holding on to those powers, as Mario can now lose an outfit or shrink to small Mario if he is hit.

Though Miyamoto states that this new title is a cross between Mario 64 and Galaxy, which can be seen in the screenshots, most of the nods seem to come from Super Mario Bros. 3 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. There are probably many more secrets to be revealed about Mario’s new adventure, so it’s possible that Mario 3DS will combine the best elements from all 4 said titles. For the 3DS, this is Nintendo’s Ace.

Yes! More Mario. Probably the most anticipated Mario game on this list, Mario Kart 3DS is another powerhouse title that’ll surely help drag the 3DS out of its slump. New additions are hang-gliding, underwater races, and deeper customization options, such as the adjustment of tires. The 3D effect makes judging distance a lot easier, giving the game a new sense of depth. Also, the game runs at 60 frames per second. Sweet.

Can’t stop drooling over the visuals? Well, in addition to Nintendo, you can thank Retro Studios – yes, it’s been revealed that the Metroid Prime creators lent a hand in crafting some of the game’s graphics. Double sweet.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” Classic. It’s hard to not compare this game to The Legend of Zelda series, if only for the way it riles people up. Pit was revealed to thunderous cheers at E3 2010 – proof that fans really were waiting, even if they didn’t know it (like me). Pit is back, and he’s here to teach Medusa – and gamers – a lesson.

Uprising combines both air and ground combat, and promises to be “incredibly deep,” with fast-paced and action-packed gameplay. Stunning 3D effects, huge bosses, and a dynamic range of weapons definitely make this game one to keep an eye on.

Lets be honest. One thing that’s hard to evoke in a handheld game is fear. As far as I’m concerned, its never been done. Personally, I’ve experienced every type of emotion playing various handheld games – but never fear; the scary kind of fear. The “oh my, that just scared the crap out of me,” fear. Yes, Resident Evil: Revelations promises to be that game, and as a huge RE fan, I couldn’t be more excited.

According to developers, this installment is a true return to its survival horror roots. There will be limited ammunition, and more exploration and puzzle solving. Set in between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5, the game revolves around Jill Valentine and Chris Redfield (who both starred in the original RE). Chris has gone missing, and it’s up to Jill to locate his whereabouts.

There’s still very little known about Revelations. Other than some basic story elements, we know that the game is coming sometime in 2012. It already looks stunning, so chances are it’ll look and play even better when it’s finally released.

Anyone remember the 2002 GameCube remake of the first RE? To me, that one takes the cake for scariest game of all time. Revelations is the first RE game that reminds me of that remake.

Often considered the Holy Grail of video games, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D will no doubt single handedly propel 3DS interest, and it has the honor of being the first to do so. Ocarina will now look better, play better, yet will retain its original essence – everything that made the original a masterpiece is still here, and the simple, but effective upgrades will allow for even greater appreciation. This game needs no further explanation.

Ocarina of Time 3D releases in North America on June 19, so be sure to grab what is surely the definitive version of one of the finest titles in gaming history. I envy anyone who hasn’t yet played this game, and get to experience it for the first time on the 3DS.

Lest we forget!

The 3DS eShop is Nintendo’s one-stop shop for reliving those classic moments from the glory days of the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Nintendo has also set out to remaster some of its 8-bit catalog in 3D, starting with Excitebike. Game Gear and Turbo Grafx 16 games are also on the way. Need a reason to visit the shop, right now? How about this: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX is now available. Grab it now.

Also made possible through the eShop is 3D movie and video playback. Yes, Nintendo has made deals with Warner Bros, Disney, and DreamWorks to bring 3DS players full 3D movies and trailers. DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon, Warner Bros’ Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, and Disney’s film Tangled were all shown at last years E3. Netflix is also coming to the system, as is a “short-form” video service/channel that will provide a variety of video content, from comedy to music – all curated by Nintendo.

So what does all of this mean? It means that Nintendo is stepping its game up – literally. Content is king for Nintendo, and the 3DS promises to bring a huge amount of it. Though little is known about the Wii U, I imagine there will be no shortage of content on that system either. The 3DS is a stepping stone. And a damn good one.

Nintendo’s next revolution has begun…but not without one last hurrah from its last one…

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is special for a lot of reasons, but I’d like to point one out right now: it’s the very first Zelda title for Wii built from the ground up, or rather, built to take full advantage of Wii’s hardware. Twilight Princess was fantastic for what it was, but it didn’t make the greatest use of Wii’s motion controls, leaving some divided between getting the GameCube version (which was originally its only destination), or the Wii version. Well, Skyward Sword won’t have any of those problems, as its the true Zelda Wii game fans have been waiting for.

Using Wii MotionPlus, players will now do battle using one-to-one swordplay, allowing for a more natural feel when engaging in combat. Rather than timing attacks, players now have to approach enemies in a more strategical way; waggling your wii-mote will no longer do the trick, as every enemy now requires a specific way in which it must be hit in order to be destroyed. Skyward Sword’s impressionistic art style will aid in this, allowing for more exaggerated enemy designs, which emphasize their attacks and weaknesses.

Skyward Sword is a prequel to Ocarina of Time, which would place it the first game in the Zelda timeline. Link’s incarnation in this game was born and raised on a group of islands floating above the clouds named Skyloft. Leading an ordinary life there, Link one day discovers the Skyward Sword, which eventually leads him on an adventure to an unknown land beneath that is ruled by evil forces. Link uses the sword to travel back and forth between sky and land, as the mystery of why the two lands were separated are gradually revealed to him.

Of course, one of the best parts about any Zelda game are the humble beginnings. Whether it be getting familiar with the town’s people, exploring the town’s nooks and crannies, the learning of legendary lore or engaging in some sort of fetch quest – the moments before starting your grand adventure is always a blast. And who can forget the music? I’ll often visit Links hometown just to hear its signature tune. By the way, Skyward Sword will be fully orchestrated. Super Mario Galaxy composer Mahito Yokota will helm the games music, and if Galaxy is anything to go by, it’ll be EPIC.

And yes, Link will fly. Epona is replaced by a beautiful giant red bird native to Skyloft, and Link, along with some of his friends, will take to the skies.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword will finally release this Holiday season. Though the wait has been a long one, according to Miyamoto, it’ll be worth the wait. The legendary developer warned his team: “Either this is the best Zelda ever made or there will be no more Zeldas.” Yeah right, Miyamoto – but that may have been exactly what the team needed to hear in order to make it happen.

The Revolution will not be televised – it’ll be played

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About Donavan Tucker