We’re just a weekend away from E3, so it’s time to wrap up the “PrE-3” predictions with none other than “The Big N.” Nintendo, though, has curiously opted out of a big E3 presentation this year. I say curiously because the entire world is well aware of Nintendo’s current failings while trying to keep the Wii U relevant. Struggling hardware sales in response to poor software support have left the “next-gen” console lost without a paddle. In a year where third-party support was harder to find than a Turbo Man toy at Christmas, the house that Mario built will have to rely on just that, strong first-party games, if Nintendo wants people to invest in a secondary next-gen console. (Because let’s be honest, very few people are going to choose a Wii U over a PS4 or Xbox One.) Luckily, history has proven that the second year of any Nintendo console’s life is arguably the best of the entire cycle; and Nintendo is already positioning themselves to deliver all of the content loyal fans expect. The real question is whether or not the games people want will make it to store shelves before 2014, a decision that will potentially make or break Nintendo’s second year Wii U sales.
While they won’t take the stage during a major press event, Nintendo is still giving fans the chance to feel a part of the E3 experience via both a special edition of Nintendo Direct, as well as offering a select number of playable demoes for upcoming games at participating Best Buy locations. Here’s a look at what Miyamoto and crew have in store for the ever-loyal Nintendo enthusiasts at next week’s Expo. (spoiler: fans are about to have their faith rewarded.)
What to expect: Obviously, one of Nintendo’s primary concerns is making the Wii U look appealing to core gamers. Nintendo needs folks to take a leap of faith and invest in the console in order to convince third-parties that the system is worth developing for. In order to do that, they have to blow the doors off E3 and rush in guns blazing, or rather, fire flowers blazing. Strong in-house IP is the reason most gamers care about Nintendo anyway, so the first-party support needs to be above and beyond previous console generations. That said, Nintendo is absolutely coming prepared with announcements for their biggest franchises. The Big N has already confirmed in recent Nintendo Direct streams that we should expect reveals for a new 3D Mario (presumably a finale to the Mario Galaxy saga,) a new HD Zelda (in addition to the Windwaker HD remake,) and the fourth entry in the mega-popular Super Smash Bros. series. That trinity alone is all the assurance most Nintendo fans need to be convinced the Wii U is a worthwhile investment. Again, the real announcement here will be whether or not these games are ready to launch by this holiday season. If Nintendo can ship both a new 3D Mario title and the next Super Smash Bros. this year, with Windwaker HD tiding fans over until the next Zelda is finished, they will be in a position to compete headed into the next generation of consoles.
Of course, the Wii U also has a number of other high-profile titles in the works. Nintendo is hard at work putting the finishing touches on Pikmin 3 and Game and Wario, but key third-parties are also shacking up with The Big N that will add to the Wii U’s strong second-year content. Chief among them is SEGA, whose recent three-game exclusivity deal gives Nintendo total dominion over Sonic the Hedgehog’s short-term future. Two games have already been announced: Both Sonic: Lost World and the next installment of Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics are in the works, but look for Nintendo to announce their third exclusive Sonic game during the Expo. I wager it will likely be a 3DS title along the lines of a new Sonic Rush-esque adventure. Another game on everyone’s mind is Platinum Games’ latest project The Wonderful 101. This “mass-hero action” game has elusively dodged divulging any crucial details up to this point, so E3 should provide a real sense of exactly how this project is going to work. Of course, Platinum Games also has one more trick up their sleeve this year: Everyone’s favorite umbra witch Bayonetta will return to sensually slay her enemies on the Wii U sometime soon in Bayonetta 2. Nintendo should provide a firm (no pun intended. Well, now that I think about it…) release date as well as any specifics for new gameplay features, such as Gamepad functionality.
It’s crazy to think that, even with all of that software, we haven’t even talked about the 3Ds lineup yet. Nintendo is supporting the 3DS more than ever with new entries in enduring franchises such as: Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Mario Golf: World Tour, and Pokemon X/Y. These titles will be accompanied by more news and gameplay footing for A Link to the Past 2, or whatever Nintendo ends up naming the direct successor to the original LttP. Nintendo also announced in a special 3DS-edition of Nintendo Direct that we should expect news about a brand new Yoshi’s Island title coming in the near future, so E3 will provide more information about the newly-revived series. In terms of strong third-party 3DS showings, Capcom will be around to show off the latest Ace Attorney 5: Dual Destinies trailer. In addition, we’ll get more details about Monster Hunter 4, which should take full advantage of the 3DS’s online capabilities. Other notable third-party titles include Level-5’s Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, and Square Enix’s localized version of Bravely Default.
As far as the show floor, which is the bulk of Nintendo’s E3 presence this year, a number of previously-announced and newly released games will be available to demo. This includes Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Mario vs. DK: Minis on the Move, and Shin Megami Tensei IV on the 3Ds side. The Wii U display will have demos for New Super Luigi U, Nintendo’s major DLC (which can also be purchased as a standalone experience) for New Super Mario Bros. U that celebrates Mario’s oft overshadowed brother during 2013’s “Year of Luigi,” as well as Pikmin 3 and Game & Wario among others.
It’s also fair to expect announcements for a new Mario Party and Mario Kart. Nintendo has said that the 3DS will have a new Mario Party announcement this year, but I suspect a Wii U version isn’t far behind. I wholeheartedly expect whatever new Mario Kart gets announced will support some sort of cross-play functionality between the 3DS and Wii U. Finally, the last thing we should expect at E3 out of Nintendo is a specific release date for Earthbound on the Virtual Console. Honestly, America has waited long enough, so The Big N just has to throw the States a bone and tell folks which day they can expect to take off work to relive the glory days with Ness and co. Hopefully, they make the announcement during their live-streaming E3-edition of Nintendo Direct, happening on June 11 at 10:00 AM EST.
Wish list: Call me bland or uninspired, but my wish list for Nintendo this year isn’t too unexpected. First things first, I’m hoping to see Star Fox debut on the Wii U with a brand new adventure. (Not a remake, a new adventure. With a new story. NEW Nintendo, clear?) Considering the way Nintendo has been using the Gamepad to offer a second screen experience, a Star Fox adventure seems tailor-made to provide the optimal, authentic McCloud space romp on Wii U. I don’t even remember the last time I thoroughly enjoyed a new Star Fox title; and that Adventures thing on the Gamecube was not a Star Fox game, I don’t care what anybody says. It’s time Slippy, Falco, and Fox got back to rocketing around the galaxy doing what they do best. Make it happen, Nintendo.
The second thing I’m wishing for is a new Metroid Prime-esque trilogy. I was blown away by how well the series transitioned into a first-person 3D adventure, and frankly I want more. I don’t hate Other M as much as pure-bred loyalists do, I mean the story was trash but the combat wasn’t really all that bad, yet it still left me wishing the Prime series could continue on in some way. Call it a spiritual successor or a direct sequel, I don’t care; so long as Samus is back scanning bosses and exploring worlds from a first-person perspective, it’s exactly what I’m looking for. Heck, I’d even take a third-person action adventure, so long as the concepts presented in Prime are faithfully represented. If Nintendo went ahead and confirmed a new 3D Metroid game at this year’s E3, I’d immediately walk out of whatever previous engagement I had and purchase a Wii U on the spot.
Finally, and this should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been around since the SNES days, but I want Nintendo to announce a completely original IP. I love Mario, Link, DK and Samus as much as possible, probably to an unhealthy degree, but it’s well past time Nintendo introduced a new member to the family. Since the N64 generation, Nintendo has introduced Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, and Animal Crossing; all quality, yet very niche products. I want one last, great idea out of Miyamoto before he throws in the towel. One final swan song to prove he’s every bit the genius we all know he is. One new, original franchise that will make everyone stare bewildered into the mirror as they wonder how the heck they could’ve ever even considered the possibility that Nintendo didn’t belong in the console race. Nintendo carried, dragged in fact, this industry out of the mud and nearly single-handedly turned video gaming into the most profitable entertainment industry in the world, bar none. But they’ve become complacent in recent years; content to rest on both their laurels and nostalgia to prove they deserve a spot at the table. It’s time they earned their keep, if for just one final time. My ultimate wish for this year’s E3 is to walk away silently chanting “Miyamoto, Miyamoto, Miyamoto” with dozens of fellow gamers in response to a mind-blowing new announcement.
People might be yelling “the end is nigh” out in the streets, but there’s no reason for Nintendo fans to panic just yet. The company has a proven track record of delivering the goods during a console’s second year, and this E3 will be proof enough of that. You can never truly count out Nintendo, but even if you had your doubts, E3 should serve to reward those who’ve defended The Big N’s latest console offering up to this point. With an impressive software lineup spread across both the Wii U and 3Ds, there should be something for everyone.
Are you folks looking forward to seeing what Nintendo brings to E3? Which new project are you most exited about? If you had to choose, would you rather Nintendo announce the revival of a classic franchise, or take a chance on a new IP? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like IGXPro on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or give us the ‘ol +1 on Google+. And if you can’t get enough of my shenanigans, (who could blame you?) you can check me out @GamingsNirvana, or add +VinnyParisi to your circles.