NINTENDO DIRECT E3 MEDIA BRIEFING
Nintendo has problems. Despite ushering in the new console generation unopposed, the Wii U has had a tepid reception, selling only 57,000 units in its initial launch window (about 17 percent of what the last generation’s Wii sold over the same two month period). Nintendo has weathered disappointing console sales in the past, thanks largely to its long-standing dominance in the handheld market, but that was before tablets and smartphones began competing for your portable gaming dollar. The Nintendo 3DS dropped its price by a whopping 32 percent less than six months after launch. And now, the house that Mario built has the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to contend with. In an act of pragmatism or defeat (depending on who you’re asking), Nintendo didn’t even bother competing for attention with Sony and Microsoft at this year’s E3, opting to forego its traditional press conference for an online-only media briefing.
Not surprising, Nintendo spent the 38-minute presentation emphasizing its greatest strength: its stable of iconic characters from thirty years of gaming. Mario was represented in a new 4-player 3D platformer, Donkey Kong appeared in a sidescrolling sequel to “Donkey Kong Country Returns,” and even Capcom’s Mega Man was revealed to be the new combatant in the latest iteration of “Smash Bros.,” in which he utilizes a series of classic power-ups guaranteed to evoke nostalgia in anyone old enough to have played the original “Mega Man” games on NES. But as undoubtedly fun as an eighth version of “Mario Kart” may be, Nintendo’s over-reliance on the familiar leaves the impression that they’re trapped in the past. When one of your most exciting new game announcements is an HD re-release of a decade-old “Zelda” game (“Wind Waker”), you’re in desperate need of some new intellectual properties. The Wii U still has one big advantage: even without a rumored price drop, it’s still $100 less than its cheapest competitor. That might be enough to give the ailing console the boost it sorely needs. If not, Mario and company might soon be appearing on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. In the ’90s, no one would’ve believed Sega’s blue hedgehog would ever appear on a Nintendo console, and “Sonic Lost World” will be coming to Wii U this holiday season.
“SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD”
With the debatable exception of “Super Mario Sunshine,” 3D platformers featuring Nintendo’s mascot have never disappointed. Combining the hybrid 2D sidescrolling/3D platforming mechanics of “Super Mario 3D Land,” the simultaneous four-player action of “New Super Mario Bros. U” and the character-specific traits of “Super Mario Bros. 2,” this latest venture into the Mushroom Kingdom is a grab bag of tried-and-true features from some of Nintendo’s strongest games. Plus, Mario dons a cat suit to claw his way up walls. What’s not to love?
The Wii U has seen waning support from third-party publishers, which makes this coveted exclusive from Platinum Games quite the coup (especially considering the original wasn’t released on Nintendo consoles). Featuring dizzying action and risqué humor, this sequel to the sleeper hit promises to be even more insane than its predecessor. Even without her signature brunette locks (an unexpectedly formidable weapon in the first game), the titular witch will manage to pummel skyscraper-sized beasts with stylish and devastating combos. CV
Matthew Scott Hunter studied video games extensively while attending the University of Nevada Reno and Vancouver Film School (despite the fact that video games were not part of either school’s curriculum). He has been writing Sore Thumbs since 2004.