Nintendo E3 – It’s all about yoU with WiiU

June 7, 2011

Nintendo always have a good showing at E3 and whilst Sony showcased a new handheld (and apologised continuously over PSN Gate) and Microsoft added new Kinect features (and YouTube… yep that’s new for 360 apparently), it was always going to be Nintendo that revealed something truly different. And they certainly did.

An all new console is on the way in 2012 and it’s called the WiiU. That’s right, Nintendo have just tacked the letter U on the end and claims that that refers to making the experience more about you… But luckily that’s where the laziness ends and the innovation begins.

The WiiU, like it’s predecessor, is all about the controller and I have a feeling that Nintendo have been watching the iPad quite closely. It is effectively a tablet computer with buttons on either side. I was initially very skeptical about this – I don’t want to hold a giant touchscreen when playing games – but Nintendo pressed on with their promo video and it made a little more sense.

The controller can be used in a variety of ways. You can stream your full-res games from the console straight onto the controller, giving you a truly HD handheld experience like no other. Alternatively, there  are mini games designed specifically for the controller for you to play anywhere. But the truly innovative developers will use the controller’s screen and the TV in conjunction for brand new experiences. Examples shown at the conference included swiping ninja-disc from the touch screen to the TV, playing baseball and targeting enemies (or should that me eneMii’s?!) in an FPS.

The new device was also shown as a great way of including more people in the WiiU experience. Examples were shown of people sharing things they found on the internet (no dirty minds please) from their controller, straight onto the screen.

Interestingly, the original Wii Remotes will still be compatible with the WiiU meaning you could enter games with some playing with Wii Remotes and some with the touchscreen layout. An example being shown at E3, is a game where the player with the touchscreen has to hide in a maze (which they see top down on their controller) and then the other players with Wii Remotes hunt them down with a third-person view on the TV screen. It certainly could lead to interesting and original concepts.

I should point out that the new controller does have traditional analogue sticks and control buttons. Nintendo made it quite clear that it wanted to bring the hardcore gamers back into their party (after many felt alienated with the more casual aimed Wii) and they’re doing this by bringing back something they know. It will be a welcome return to traditional controls on the Nintendo flagship console.

But I do foresee a bit of a problem with this whole system though. I have a couple of Wiimotes, two Wii wheels, a Wii Zapper, two Wii Motion Plus, a classic controller, a Wavebird controller and two nunchucks which I use with my Wii console and I consider that to be too many controllers. With this new controller joining the family, it’s only going to cause yet more clutter in my controller collection. And with a touch screen, that thing isn’t going to come cheap!

You may have noticed I mentioned HD earlier, because at last Nintendo will be bringing HD graphics with the WiiU. But this was pretty much all we learnt about the new console. It’s likely to be quite unchanged from the Wii in that department, with all the emphasis on the controller, but if it drives costs down, that’s probably a good thing.

There isn’t much in the way of games being announced. Some exciting third party titles were announced such as Assassins Creed, Tekken and… wait for it ‘Lego City!’. Lots of third party developers seemed hyped about it, most notably EA who traditionally don’t gel so well with Nintendo. There was also talk of a Smash Bros game for WiiU and 3DS which is enough for me to buy a console as it is, but the main titles will come at a later date, maybe November time this year…

And that brings me nicely onto the 3DS. Despite being a lifelong Nintendo fan, I still don’t have one of these because I don’t see the point. I love the 3D, I love the online, but there just aren’t enough games on it yet. Reggie Fils-Aime proudly stood in font of the E3 crown and revealed 5 new games that look like they could turn this around.

MarioKart is great on any console, it is one game that is always done brilliantly and so I think this could be the game to convince me to get the 3DS. Not much looked new in it although there do seems to be new gliding abilities and the option to customise your Kart (that should please plenty).

StarFox returns with a new focus on online and real-time video which looks cool whereas Kid Icarus should finally get released this year with a rather nice looking storyline. An interesting move was the return of Luigi’s Mansion. The oft-forgotten Gamecube platformer will return on 3DS for a sequel.

Most anticipated will be Super Mario 3D, the first ever 3D Mario to be built from the ground up for a handheld console. The plumber in red has never let us down before  and I would expect this to be no exception.

I’m still not quite convinced to part with my cash for a 3DS, but I’m getting closer. The games are slowly coming for it and with more free downloadable content announced, this could be a must-have in a few months time.

I feel similarly towards the WiiU. It’s new, fresh and innovative as you would expect from Nintendo, but I’m unconvinced as to it’s overall benefits as yet. They’ve got a year before this goes on sale, I’m pretty certain by then we’ll all be wanting one and then wondering how we coped without a massive tablet device to control our games before… oh Apple, what have you done!

For more coverage visit Nintendo’s E3 hub

Advertisements

Nintendo 3DS – The games console from the future!

January 20, 2011

We’ve known about Nintendo’s latest handheld wonder for a while now, but it wasn’t until yesterday (19th January) that the shroud was lifted and we finally got concrete details on what this system is, the games it will have and the release date.

And the Big N didn’t disappoint. The 3DS looks easily to be their most planned and slick piece of hardware to date. It keeps everything that made it’s predecessor great (except perhaps GameBoy support) and adds more bells and whistles than available at a bell and whistle merchants!

So what’s new, well the big thing is undoubtedly the 3D without glasses available on the 3DS top screen. This is an innovation I have longed for ever since I first saw 3D images in magazines in the nineties. Back then the boffins said it would be possible one day and now it’s finally here. Personally, I love the idea of 3D, not the images popping out so much, but the amazing sense of depth you can get behind the screen. From all hands on reviews I have seen, the 3DS handles this superbly. I can’t wait to get my hands on it and see. Oh, and for those of you that hate 3D, you can always reduce the effect or even turn it off all together, sorted!

But there’s much more than 3D to this little handheld. Nintendo have changed the button layout, opting for a circle pad instead of the traditional + sign for the first time in one of their handhelds. This should offer much better precision, but in case you enjoyed the little + pad, theres an additional one underneath.

The 3DS also offers not one, but three cameras to take photos facing forward, backward or even in 3D. This is pretty impressive when you consider 3D cameras available on the market are quite expensive just as stand-alones. Mind you, we haven’t got to the price yet…

The hardware now has SD card support built in and the software allows you to browse the internet straight from a Wi-Fi point without any extra installation. This is great news for those who suffered with the fiddly and extremely slow NDS browser that was previously released.

The software also includes a Mii creator (no surprises there, although this one can generate Miis from a photo), a built in camera game and access to the Nintendo online store. This, to me, is looking very similar to Apple’s app store from the icons used, right up to the info bar at the top of the screen. But this is of course no bad thing. The Nintendo store will give you access to virtual console games from the GameBoy and GameBoy Color as well as new content being released. It’s all very similar to what was already offered with DSi, but once again, it’s been very well refined.

One of the things I’m most excited is the augmented reality now being used on the 3DS. You may have seen my article in October where I mentioned my love for this technology. On the 3DS, you will be given paper cards which when looked at with the 3DS camera, become something else. A Mario block could appear for example and when you burst it, you enter a whole new game played partially in the real world. I adore these clever ideas and with three cameras, I think the 3DS could be the first console to make augmented reality really work.

The 3DS also boasts new wireless tech whereby the machine can go into a ‘sleep’ mode, but continue to transmit data with other 3DS users or the internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot, meaning you never know what you might find on your console when you next open it up.

All in all, the 3DS hardware is a very beautiful and well polished piece of work. It looks the part and does some very clever things. But it’s no good having this great machine, if the games are no good and here is perhaps why I’m still not excited.

The launch lineup includes Street Fighter, Nitendogs, PES, StarFox and Zelda, all have been very popular franchises. But none of them seem to be focusing on anything other than the 3D. The Street Fighter, StarFox and Zelda titles are all remakes or ‘greatest hits’ of games which have already existed on other consoles. And this is my major gripe with the 3DS and 3D in general. I don’t like the idea of studios being less creative, just because they can make it 3D. The visuals can be amazing, but at the end of the day, it is and always will be the gameplay that we crave. This is perhaps one of the reasons people have

And that’s why I wont be buying a 3DS on it’s UK launch of March 25th. Even with it’s incredible tech advances and relatively good price (pre-order for £220.00 at Play.com), there’s just not enough launch games that interest me.

However I can see me owning one of these things in the future. The games will come, they always do and they should play pretty aweseome on this new hardware. In a world where everyone thought Apple and Android were taking over the mobile gaming space, Nintendo have shone again and outdone themselves in a spectacular way. I fully expect the 3DS to be as successful if not more that it’s 2D predecessor.


Nintendo, make some proper games!

July 14, 2010

I’ve been wondering for a while why I’m not playing video games so much anymore. Then Nintendo came to the rescue and explained it in terms I could understand. Here’s the e-mail they’ve just sent me.

Are you faced with the daunting prospect of preparing a meal for your mother-in-law? Or do you wish to treat the special person in your life? If the idea of cooking a three-course meal or even a light dinner after a long day at work leaves you seeking food inspiration, then help is at hand with 1000 Cooking Recipes from ELLE à table. Find delicious recipes for every dining occasion and impress friends and family with your cooking skills and creativity. It’s your all-in-one culinary companion!

Oh…. Nintendo are pushing ANOTHER cooking game!

Please, please please will you make some proper games again big N? I want Mario, Zelda, Smash Bros… even Kirby, but NOT cooking, cleaning, looking after horses, training my brain, body, sight and soul.

Much as I love Nintendo and their innovative devices (and yes I do LOVE the look of the 3DS) I do think they need to concentrate on the core game again.

Luckily it does look like my prayers have been answered, this years E3 was stunning from Nintendo. I have Metroid, Zelda, Kirby’s Yarn and Epic Mickey all on the horizon and it looks great.

But it needs to come sooner than late, Nintendo are losing their key audience in a quest for ‘lifestyle’ rubbish. We all thought Wii Fit was clever.. but lets move on now!

Rant over.


Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars – Fantastic, Fair Or Flop?

August 14, 2009

fffThe Grand Theft Auto series has been here since the beginning of gaming… well since 1994 anyway. But only now has a new version of the game debuted on a Nintendo console, namely the DS. ‘Chinatown Wars’ was released in March and hasn’t been doing too well in the charts, but how does it play? Is is fantastic, fair or flop?

Now I have something to admit, this is actually my first ever Grand Theft Auto game. I’ve played parts of others, but this is the first that I’ve gone out a brought (I couldn’t resist for a tenner!). In the past I’ve found the game to be an ok affair, but have never really seen why it is so highly rated.

I think I may have now found it’s appeal.

And that for me really is the freedom. GTA games give you missions to carry out, which are great fun, but that’schinatownscreenshot1not the whole game. Rockstar have created a whole world for you to go out and explore. And it really is massive. I’m truly gobsmacked at how big a world they have managed to fit onto a little DS cartridge. There’s several different districts, faire stations, an airport, a port… the list goes on, it really is massive!

So onto the actual gameplay. Regulars to the GTA series will know that the main aim of the game is to complete missions such as saving a gang leader, blowing up a rivals base etc. You do this generally by stealing cars as transport and committing many various crimes, the whole time trying to avoid the police. By playing through the missions you progress through the story of wars going on within Liberty City. You can also progress the story i your own way by visiting the contacts you want to complete missions for.

Or alternatively you can forget all that and just explore the map. There’s loads of hidden features on there including a tank which is hillarious fun! Sometimes its actually a lot more fun just to get the police chasing you around the city than actually playing the game and that I think is the beauty of GTA that I’ve never had teh chance to see before. You really can do anything!

Something which really please me is that this game is not just a port from another console, it was built from the

grand-theft-auto-chinatown-wars-20081218030046376_640w

ground up purposely for the DS. This means that they’ve made great use of the touch screen. Most of the time it’s used for your GPS and map planning, but it’s also used in missions. You can say, throw a grenade with it, or a petrol bomb. If your playing firefighter you can use it to aim the direction of your water. When you steal a car, it’s used to deactivate the alarm system. It’s really pleasing to see a game designed for the DS and not just with rubbish extra touch controls tacked on.

The graphics are also a joy to behold. Unlike the more modern versions of the series, GTA Chinatown Wars has shunned realism for an almost cel-shaded look. This works very well and makes the most of the DS’s lower graphical capabilities. The frame rate is also excellent with no noticeable slow down at all, it’s all very very impressive for a DS game. It’s clear that this game has had an awful lot of work put into it unlike some of the rubbish available for DS these days.

Score Breakdown

Graphics: Fantastic , some of the best I have seen on the DS, a real credit to Rockstar’s development team

Sound: Fair , there’s nothing wrong with it, for the DS it’s quite good, but if anything is, then this is the games weak point.

Presentation: Fantastic , easy to understand and navigate around and presented in the style of a GPS system, similar to how the DSi’s menu looks.

Lifetime: Fantastic , There are plenty of missions to keep you going and after that it’ll take you ages to find and complete everything the game has!

Gameplay: Fantastic , simple controls, great fun to play, I now finally realise why this game has such a big following.

Overall Score:

Fantastic

Final Thoughts: I really think it’s criminal that this games not selling. Maybe it’s because it’s too similar to previous GTA’s, but I fear not. For only £10  at certain retailers it’s an absolute steal and a must-own game!


Wii Sports Resort: Fantastic, Fair Or Flop?

August 7, 2009

fffIt’s possibly the most anticipated game of 2009 for the Wii, certainly from those crazy Japanese folks at Nintendo. It introduces not just a sequel to the Wii’s bestselling game (although being packaged with the console helps!), but also the brand new Wii Motion Plus, set to rival Sony and Microsoft’s new motion sensor tech. But does the game support the new technology?

Nintendo have certainly spent a lot more time on this game than it’s predecessor. Resort sports 12 different sports as opposed to the original’s 5. 10 of these are brand new, with Bowling and Golf returning with new motion plus controls. Each sport on the game is really like a separate game, so it’s only fair I review it as so. I’ll go through them in the order they appear in game.

Swordplay

This is my favourite new sport. Since the Wii was announced, people have wanted proper accurate sword control and with the motion plus attachment, the 1:1 control we’ve all craved is finally here!  It’s great to actually feel like you a wielding a sword with the onscreen character perfectly copying your every move.

resort1There are three modes to swordplay, the first is duel which is quite simply a duel pitting you against another Mii character. You both fight until one of you fall into the water ‘Total Wipeout’ style! The second is speed slice where players are asked to slice different objects at different angles as fast as possible. This really puts the motion plus to the test showing it’s accuracy with every movement. The final mode is my favourite: Showdown. This challenges you to defeat many opponents along a chosen path which gets more difficult as you progress.

The control in swordplay is excellent and really shows what can be done with the new add-on. It all just feels so natural!

Wakeboading

Wakeboarding is a much simpler affair and feels much more like a mini-game than a fully fledged sport. Players simply move from left to right to gain big air over the ‘wake’ in the water. There is more skill to this, good timing allows players to perform tricks and score extra points. However, I do feel like this game could have been done without motion plus and it does get old quickly. Still a nice addition, but nothing special.

Frisbee

After living with a housemate whose obsessed with ‘Ultimate Frisbee’, I was looking forward to finding out what all the fuss was about. Sadly, Ultimate doesn’t appear on Resort, but you do have a choice of Frisbee Dog or Golf. Both games are fairly similar and involve you throwing the frisbee (and not the remote people!) into certain sections which are marked out on the screen.

This is easier said than done. It’s taken me quite a while to get used to the control system (which to be fair is because it is EXTREMELY accurate), but when you do and stop swearing at discs that have flown way off screen, you’ll find there is a quite fun element to this game and even a charm to that little Mii-fied dog!

Archery

This is another masterpiece as far as actual control is concerned. You hold the wii-mote up in front of you as if its the bow. Then pull back with the nunchuck to simulate pulling to arrow back. Moving the wii-mote gently you can aim for your target and then let go of the ‘Z’ button to fire. It’s a pretty impressive representation of actual archeryresort2 and once again showcases the Wii’s awesome controls.

However there are problems with this mode, that being the end result. I haven’t worked out yet why sometimes when I aim, I can aim identically twice, yet one will hit the bullseye and one go far wide. It does seem to be a little random to me, which is a shame considering the very impressive control setup, it marrs an otherwise very well thought out sport.

Basketball

I saw this sport get a pretty mutual knocking by the bigger games sites and so wasn’t expecting much from it. But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this sport. You have the option of either shooting hoops or a 3-on-3 game.

Shooting hoops is fairly simple but fun to play. It is also a bit easy once you’ve perfected the flick that the motion plus demands you perform. Much more interesting is the 3 on 3 game. It’s not really a proper game of basketball, but not bad for a mini-game on a console. I fully enjoyed the tactical elements of passing, dribbling and shooting the hoops. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I did find it quite fun!

Table Tennis

This is another section where the game shines. In the same way that Tennis was synonymous with Wii Sports, this game is quite definitive for Resort and the motion plus device. And unlike the original, in Resort you can play backhand and forehand… what’s more, you really can aim shots where you want them.

Having said that, I did find it a bit hard to get used to. I was still very used to the control setup of Wii Sports and it’s ‘timing’ method if aiming. Although the new system is more accurate and overall better, it dies take a bit of time to understand fully.

Golf

This is a massive improvement over the original. There are now 18 holes as opposed to the original 9. When you swing, it now takes into account the tilt that you put on the swing. And most importantly, the motion pluses 1:1 technology means that you can actually putt as you would in real golf.

The main mechanics are the same as the original, but the accuracy now included really shows how the motion plus has the capability to improve all future releases for the console.

Bowling

resort3There’s not much to say about bowling. It is pretty much the same game. The controls however do have a slight difference which I’m yet to figure out. Basically I have a very good tactic for getting a strike which works on Wii Sports and not Resort, I’ll get back to you when I figure out why!

Power Cruising

This is probably the weakest sport on the game. There’s not really a problem with the mechanics, it works, it’s just a bit boring. I’m sure if Nintendo were to resurrect the Waverace series and make a Wii version with these controls, it would be very good. But with only a few very basic slalom course to entertain, it gets dull quite quickly.

Canoeing

Similar to power cruising, this works, but I don’t find it really that challenging or interesting. In 1P mode you are pitted against the clock to get as far as you can, but this loses it’s appeal quickly. On the plus side I did find the control system to work fairly well.

Cycling

Now this I found a bit strange and a little difficult. You start off getting momentum by doing a peddling action with the Wii-mote and nunchuk. Then you hold both controllers like holding handle bars to steer (very reminiscent of a micro-game in WarioWare Smooth Moves).

The problem this game suffers with is really keeping in control. The game seems to get confused between when you’re peddling and when you are steering. I found it quite difficult to stay on the road, let alone move up positions in the race. You’ll get there, but it isn’t really a fun experience. This is really the games only flop in my opinion.

Air Sports

I really like the addition of air-sports as it adds something a little bit different to the mix. Firstly there’s skydiving which allows you to move your character around and link up with other divers to score points. It’s a very basicresort4game, but it does demonstrate the motion pluses ability.

The second game available is island flyover. Do you remember way back at E3 ’06, we saw a tech demo of a plane flying around the skies. Well here it finally is. Once again a very basic game, but made better by the easter eggs Nintendo has hidden around the island for you to find. It’s the simplest game on the package, but is very well made and once again demonstrates the great control now available. This game is even better in multiplayer where you are able to have a dogfight with other players.

There’s all 12 sports, a bit of a mixed bag, but very fun to play overall. I should also mention that due to the lack of 2 motion plus devices (the game only comes with 1), I haven’t been able to play the game in 2 player yet. I really feel with this added on, the game will have an excellently long life, as mush as it’s predecessor.

And that sums up wii sports resort. Before I finish off I’d just like to mention the motion plus once more. It really is a brilliant piece of kit (and should have been built into the wii-mote as standard). It brings the games up to a new level of possibilities and I think will push the quality of wii games to the next level, so well done Ninty on that!

Score Breakdown

Graphics: Fair, they’re very colourful and show off the Mii’s well, but it is Mii graphics and they’re never anywhere near as detailed as the console can produce.

Sound: Fair, there’s nothing wrong with it and I think I prefer it to the original, but it’s not going to win any awards.

Presentation: Fantastic, very well presented, slick menus, Tv style presentation and it all comes together nicely.

Lifetime: Fantastic, it’s great for showing off the motion plus control and get some more attachments and the fun will never end!

Gameplay: Fantastic, just for swordplay it wins that, Nintendo have worked long and hard on this and it is pretty fun to play!

Overall Score

Fantastic!

That’s also the end of my first review with my new ‘Fantastic, Fair or Flop review system, comment on what you thought below…


Nintendo E3 Conference: Better than last year, but was it good enough?

June 4, 2009

Last year Nintendo left us all a bit disappointed with their E3 conference with the most exciting development being Wii Motion Plus. They seemed to ignore their hardcore audience, instead opting to show titles such as Wii Music.

nintendo

I’m pleased to say that this year was different. Nintendo came out in full force with new titles in their ever popular franchises.

Mario in particular had an excellent outing with 2 new titles on Wii. Firstly Nintendo will be bringing New Super Mario Bros. to the console. It had a successful debut on DS and now the big N hope to improve on this by adding 4 player support on Wii.

Mario’s other outing was the shock announcement of Super Mario Galaxy 2. It’s a sequel to the fantastic platformer released in 2007. It’s also the first time that a console has received two 3D Mario adventures. The game does look good, including new features such as Yoshi’s return to platforming. It also boasts much bigger worlds than the original. Anyone who played the original will realise that this will be a fantastic addition to the Wii library.

2009_06_02_e32009_073500x375

Other games announced included an all new Metroid which looked interesting, Zelda for DS and a new Wii Zelda (though sadly we didn’t see any of that).

My only real gripe with all this is that we’ve seen it all before. I have absolutely no doubt at Mario, Zelda and Metroid will deliver, as they always do, some fantastic gameplay, but it seems a bit hollow that Nintendo, the great innovators, are simply recycling franchises. It’s always these three, where was the F-Zero, where was the StarFox, where was PIKMIN 3???!

As with all Nintendo conferences, Mr. Iwata had to reveal a new peripheral of some kind. The Wii vitality sensor measures your pulse by having your finger in some kind of box… riiiiiight. Not your best idea Iwata!

wii-vitality-sensor

All in all it was a good show for Nintendo this year, there’s solid releases on the horizon and it’s clear the Wii is here to stay. But for the second year in a row, Sony and Microsoft stole the show.


Sony and Microsoft Jump On The Bandwagon!

June 3, 2009

I remember not long ago that both Sony and Microsoft were having a right jolly laugh at Nintendo and their ridiculous gimmick of motion sensing. Now a few years later, the electronic giants have U-turned and introduced their own motion sensing devices.

Over the last couple of days the two companies have revealed their controllers at their E3 conferences. Sony have a yet untitled motion sensing device using their ‘eye’ camera and Microsoft have an all new method called project Natal.

Sony’s is the most traditional device. They’ve learnt their lesson from the rather poor ‘sixaxis’ controller and have opted for a wii remote style device in a form of a baton. In their E3 tech demo, Sony showed how well this works with the ‘eye’ allowing the user to see themselves onscreen at the same time as playing the game, very similar to the eyetoy. They also demonstrated how well this feature can work in 3D space.

The demo did look very impressive (and if you didn’t see it, you can have a look below), but it does seem to be nothing more than a slightly more accurate wii remote.

Microsoft however have come up with the true innovation, for the first time in gaming history. Project Natal combines a camera and a sensor bar which you place at the front of your TV set. And that’s it, there is no controller because YOU are the controller.

Now obviously this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this as Sony created the eyetoy several years ago. However, Natal is far more advanced, it can actually recognise you, recognise your body parts, recognise all of your actions and replicate all of this on screen. It can react to your every movement. It’s also been demoed with a variety of games from skating to driving, even to a socialising tech demo.

The only problem I have with Natal is the lack of force-feedback, no rumble etc. I can’t help feeling that this would feel extremely alien to all gamers and even people who haven’t played before.

So where does this leave Nintendo and Wii? Well it certainly isn’t game over for the big N yet. Wii Motion plus is just around the corner and will put the Wii’s motion not far off the quality of Sony’s new device. However it does look like the motion sensitive console may loose its crown to it’s more traditional rivals. But don’t forget, these devices aren’t available yet and could take over a year to release.

There’s also the small matter of developing for them. Developers know and like the Wii, they can make games for it quickly, whereas with Sony and Microsoft’s new toys they will have to learn how they work, which will take time.

But hats off to both companies for these shock revelations, they both look very entertaining, although for me, project Natal looks far more groundbreaking!

I’ll be watching E3 over the coming days and expect me to properly review Nintendo’s offering very soon!