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E3 08: Nintendo Press Conference

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As we did with Microsoft, we jotted all this down as it happened.

Nintendo's big day, where they'll allegedly announce their biggest games for the rest of the year, began with a Shaun White Snowboarding reveal. As expected, it's all about the Balance Board, leaning and tucking to race down a rocky mountainside or pull off tricks in a halfpipe. Based on what we saw, Mr. White himself didn't do much other than simply lean to execute moves. Hope there's a clear way to do all these tricks and they're not semi-automatic events that the game handles for you.

Satoru Iwata took the stage next, further professing the Nintendo mission statement of "fun for everyone." Grandparents play, girls play, yeah we get it. Second year in a row we've had to hear, from Nintendo, how successful Nintendo is. They'll "destroy the psychological barrier" between gamers and non-gamers. Even pointed out that the Wii version of Guitar Hero III has outsold all others. Fine.

And then Katsuya Eguchi, the mastermind behind Animal Crossing, appeared in video to announce Animal Crossing: City Folk. No goals, do things your own way, make shirts, chop trees, follow the game's internal, realtime clock, same stuff that made the others so successful. But this version also has a city that contains an auction site for items, Gracie's fashion store, the beauty salon that changes you into a Mii and the post office that now lets you send messages and actually talk with other players via WiiSpeak, a bundled microphone attachment. It looks basically like the GameCube game, but uses the globe view of Wild World, not the grid as in the original. Coming this fall, naturally.

Reggie Fils-Aime came up next, again touting the company's continued success and financial position. After about 10 minutes of graphs, Reggie said three key third party games would be the show's focus for a bit. The first being Clone Wars with lightsaber duels, Rayman Raving Rabbids TV party with Balance Board support and Call of Duty: World at War with same screen co-op. Then came even more graphs that yet again illustrate the growing audience for Wii and DS games.

Next came the rather sudden announcement of Guiter Hero: On Tour Decades, now with song-sharing capabilities. The first one sold 300,000 units in its first week so uh, why not immediately pump out another one? Spore Creatures then appeared via video, mentioned as the only handled version of the game. Oh and a new Pokemon as well, a Ranger sequel.

Then they announced Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Custom engine, new characters, modern day setting. Gigantic "whoa!" erupts from the audience. Count us among the intensely interested. This massive news was followed by more practical uses for the DS, like checking airline baggage claims, searching for restaurants and instructions for cooking. Sounds plausible, that the DS could become a common device. Wonder if it'll replace, um, cell phones?

Finally they arrived at WiiMotionPlus, the new accessory claming to make the Wii motion tech more realistic and "intense." Looks like it comes bundled with WiiSports Resort - you'll also get an expanded remote glove. The demo showed the seemingly 1 to 1 motion control with Frisbee tossing and sword dueling. Fair to say that everyone then thought "um, lightsaber game soon?" Hope the WiiMotion add-on doesn't split the market into haves and have-nots. Both launch next spring. Our take - it makes the Wii Remote as sensitive as it should have been two years ago.

Reggie said the next game would assuredly generate "a lot of smiles." Lights cut out, smoke fills the room and boom, a virtual Wii drum set fills the screen as an expert percussionist goes friggin ape shit with the remote and Balance Board. Looks like Wii doesn't need its own set of plastic drums, as the remote can tell where your hands are, able to strike any of the drums or cymbals and use the Board as a foot pedal. WiiMusic it is, coming this fall. Miyamoto appeared soon after playing a virtual sax, backed up by the drummer.

WiiMusic won't require players to follow prompts and colored notes; instead you simply hold the remote, push buttons and move around with 50 different instruments. Hm, the drumming looked impressive, but the rest, violin, piano and guitar seemed extremely basic. Almost more like toys, no skill involved at all. Good thing the drum mode comes with a lesson mode that teaches anyone how to play the drums. That's a nice alternative to loud plastic sets that wake neighbors from two floors away.

Miyamoto next said you could record separate parts of a song and play them back as a video. Four Nintendo peeps took the stage with bass, marimba, guitar and more. They then played the Mario theme. Honestly, it looks borderline ridiculous watching that many people move around with no prompting or reason like an ancient tribal dance. The same could be said of Rock Band, but uh, at least it keeps score. Yet again the drummer sounded damn good, so it's possible there's a bit more to WiiMusic than aimlessly pushing buttons.

Reggie then promised something else, a new advantage we'd "feel" later this week. We're going to a special Nintendo appointment tomorrow, so maybe there's something else on the way. As core gamers... we certinaly hope so. Other than Crossing and possibly GTA and the drums from WiiMusic, there wasn't much for the longtime gamer announced from Nintendo itself.

Jul 15, 2008

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