Nintendo, I distinctly recall saying last year “Never do that. Ever,” in regards to filling 50 minutes of conference time with content we’ve already seen. The change to pre-recorded “conferences” for E3 in the form of Nintendo Direct videos is a double-edged sword that you’ve clumsily used to cut out the legs from beneath yourself. (They’ll also be referred to as “Direct Conferences” from here on out.) Last years was so good because it was absolutely chockers with reveals and demos of new games, stuff that Nintendo fans had been waiting to get their hands on forever. It’s a year later, and there are still a few of the games shown and demoed from last year that have yet to be released. Hell, Australia only just got Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. I was expecting big things from you this year, Nintendo, and you’ve let me down.
The presentation quality of the Direct Conference wasn’t lacking at all, quite the contrary in fact. Like last years Robot Chicken motif, Iwata, Shiggy, and Reggie were (appropriately) transformed into Muppets, which then also transformed into Starfox Muppets. This theme of transformation was deliberate, they said, and one which would be present throughout the Direct Conference. They weren’t wrong, and the few new reveals, as well as some already known about titles, ran along those lines. With Yoshi being made of wool, Mario and Paper Mario crossing over, and an Arwing that looks like a 3-in-1 Lego Creator kit, there’s some interesting experimentation going on with their designs. The whole Direct Conference was clear, amusing and on-par with Nintendo’s reputation for presentation, but the lack of a live audience and the human element hurt this low-key affair.
Let’s start, as they did, with Star Fox Zero. Let me tell you, they must have had a lot of misplaced confidence in the rest of their content to drop this one at the start. The game looks great, that isn’t in question; in fact, they’re clearly pulling out all the stops to make this the best game in the series. As confirmed by Shiggy in the developer interview after the trailer, they’re using a lot of the designs from the unreleased Starfox 2. The trailer shows off the walker that would have appeared in that title and if you catch it, what looks like a totally revamped level from the same game. Also revealed was the new control scheme, which allows greater maneuverability with the control sticks and leaves the buttons free for transforming into different Arwing forms.
As a fan of the Starfox series, this reveal has me pretty psyched, and I’ll guarantee there are many others in the community just as stoked, for its impending release. It wasn’t that exciting though; while no one knew exact details about the game, we all knew it was coming. We’ve been able to pre-order it for months, and its existence was teased at the end of last year’s conference, robbing this year of the surprise factor. Unfortunately, this was also the biggest reveal Nintendo had in store and it happened right at the beginning of the Direct Conference. It set my expectations high and then dashed them quite expertly.
Something that I did enjoy, scattered across the Direct Conference, were the developer interviews that followed some of the major trailers though they were sometimes a little flat. Listening to Shiggy talk about his inspirations for the Starfox series, as well as the details of the upcoming game, made me feel reminiscent of my time with the very first Starfox. Emi Watanabe’s recount of how she created the first plush Wooly Yoshi that would end up becoming the prototype for the Amiibo made me feel all fuzzy inside, as well. This sort of thing puts a personal touch on these kinds of presentations, giving insight into the overall design and development process, cluing gamers into the behind-the-scenes of it all. It’s something that Nintendo do well, and it was a welcome part of an otherwise dull Direct Conference.
Of the thirteen trailers that were shown, only seven of them were titles that hadn’t already been announced. (Unless you count Hyrule Warriors 3DS, which I really, really don’t.) Some of these trailers received additional focus and air time, such as the developer interviews though not nearly as much as I would have liked. It essentially amounted to an extended teaser promo for many of these titles, as opposed to official reveals. The Direct Conference was also a little infuriating in what wasn’t mentioned, coming across as though Nintendo were holding back. That would be stuff like the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a new 4-player co-op 3DS title based in the Metroid Universe that sadly isn’t Metroid Wii U. Or the very brief mention of the new hardware, code-named NX, “which we’ll tell you more about in 2016.” This is all to say nothing of Zelda Wii U because Nintendo certainly didn’t.
All of this might have been helped if it had been done in front of a live audience because that’s half of the magic and fun of E3 – the crowd reaction. When Bethesda announced the release date of Fallout 4 everyone in the audience totally lost it, and even now when I go back and watch it I still feel incredibly hyped at that moment. It was a feeling that Nintendo had captured with their last Direct Conference because there were so many big announcements coming one after the other. When you’re relying on already announced content to carry your conference, however, you need fans there to help generate the hype or it just feels as though we’re all watching a big online ad.
The biggest example of this total lack of substance was the way they handled the Mario 30th Anniversary. Mario is more than just their mascot; he’s an icon within the gaming industry and 30 years is a big milestone. If they’re bringing something like that out for an event like E3, you’d expect the announcement of the next big Mario game – Galaxy 3, or maybe even something original! Instead, we were all treated to Mario Maker being renamed to Super Mario Maker and am I the only one who’s sick of hearing about this game? It looks neat and I’m looking forward to playing it, but there’s really nothing more to see about it until we finally get to play the damn thing. Why is this being pulled out for the Mario 30th E3 showing? If you want this pre-recorded malarkey to fly, Nintendo, then you need to stop holding back.
“Miyamoto-sama, this is very disappointing. As punishment, your homework for this year is to localise Mother 3 and then get to work on some original IP. Or Metroid Wii U, whatever.”