After a string of mediocre E3 showings, expectations for Nintendo's presentation this year was tepid. But in a year dominated by motion control, fitness and dancing games, Nintendo has managed to come out with the most gold for hardcore gamers. After opening up strong with the new Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Nintendo revealed new games for Kirby, Donkey Kong, and Kid Icarus in addition to officially revealing the 3DS.
• Wii Zelda is finally more than a single piece of concept art. We've got a title (The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword) and a vague release date (2011), but more importantly, we saw a ton of gameplay. Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto burst through a screen on stage, then grabbed the Wii controls to demonstrate how Skyward Sword takes full advantage of motion-sensitivity.
The remote is now your sword and the Nunchuk is now your shield. Or, with a button press, your bow and arrow. Or several other things, like rolling bombs and flying beetles. The controls follow your movements "1:1" according to Nintendo, but the live demo revealed a few hiccups that have us slightly worried. Oh, and the graphics? Somewhere between the realism of Twilight Princess and the cel-shading of Wind Waker.
• Everyone expected a new Zelda, but a new Donkey Kong Country, too?! The current title is pretty straightforward – "Donkey Kong Country Returns " – and the gameplay footage appeared as close to the original SNES games as any fan could hope. This isn't some 3D rework, but a classic 2D side-scroller with modern 3D depth. For example, an octopus boss in the background layer had tentacles that were attacking Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong in the middle layer, with battle effects and more tentacles stretching into the foreground layer. And the music, at least in the conference trailer, was heart-achingly familiar.
• A new Zelda, a new Donkey Kong Country… and a new Kirby?! Releasing this fall, Kirby's Epic Yarn could be the cutest thing we've ever seen, and quite possibly one of the best-looking games we'll see at this year's E3. Our puffy pink friend is now more of an outlined shape than a full sprite, and his entire world appears ripped straight off the page of a colorful children's book… or your mom's scrapbooking box. Kirby swings yarn out of his body like a whip, grabbing items, flinging enemies and swinging across levels. And he can re-form his loose thread shape into all sorts of fun-looking vehicles – we saw a car, a spaceship, a surfboard, a dolphin and a giant, screen-filling tank.
• A new Zelda, a new Donkey Kong Country, a new Kirby… and a new GoldenEye?!? Well, actually, this surprise had already been rumored to death, but Nintendo showed a full trailer of GoldenEye 007 at the conference, with scenes of Bond (now Daniel Craig instead of Pierce Brosnan) sniping, riding shotgun in a jeep, throwing dudes off cliffs and surprising one unlucky enemy in a toilet stall. The multiplayer's what matters, though, right? There'll be split-screen and online, eight classic character models such as Jaws and Oddball and 16 "special" game modes, including Paintball. The new GoldenEye is exclusively for Wii and arrives on shelves "This Holiday."
• Other Wii titles announced and/or discussed during the Nintendo E3 conference: Disney Epic Mickey (with improved graphics and 2D side-scrolling sections that recreate cartoons like Steamboat Willie), Mario Sports Mix (coming in 2011 and just what you'd expect, now with volleyball, hockey and dodgeball), Just Dance 2 (eight-player Dance Crew face-offs!!!) and, last but definitely least, Wii Party (13 party game modes and 70 minigames, like "Board Game Island," "Balance Boat" and something involving donkeys and chickens... we really don't care to know.)