I watched all three press conferences (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft respectively), so I feel justified to say Nintendo’s turned out the best. Seriously, though, Sony’s shows are boring as hell. At least the Xbox team had some energy backing them up. But even Microsoft’s show lacked something necessary: magic. All the great stuff Microsoft is doing couldn’t parallel that special touch which only Nintendo can create. Right from the start, Shigeru Miyamoto conducted a digital orchestra! How can anyone not watch that and smile? It was also fun to see Iwata, the president of Nintendo, actually jump in and play a round of Wii Sports. That says a lot about Nintendo as a business.
The peak, however, was reached when Nintendo debuted their new Wii trailer. The old trailer only showed what people looked like when they played with the remote. This time, we actually got to see some game footage mixed in with real people. When I saw Super Mario Galaxy, I almost cried. This was what I wanted! And I was surprised to see a lot of new franchises from Nintendo, things like Project HAMMER and Disaster. Clearly, Nintendo still wants to appeal to the “hardcore gamer,” but WarioWare: Smooth Moves looks like the kind of game anybody would love. Anybody.
I said, “Wow.”
Iwata had made the promise that when we saw the Wii’s (then named Revolution’s) graphics, we would say wow. During the Red Steel demo, I said it. I quote, “Wow, that looks pretty good, actually.” Red Steel had some cool special effects, the FMVs in Disaster were gorgeous, and Super Mario Galaxy looked really slick and polished. I won’t lie to you, though. The games both Sony and Microsoft showcased were far superior in terms of graphics. Gears of War featured some absolutely stunning levels. But for as much as Nintendo downplayed Wii’s power, it’s apparent this console will still get the job done. Besides, this is “first-generation” material. It’ll only get better.
Graphics don’t matter, though… right?
Now I had serious doubts Nintendo’s Wii remote would work. Believe me, I wanted it to work. I was scared it wouldn’t. I think my fears have been relieved. That controller looks like a lot of fun. It looks like so much fun, I suddenly can’t sleep. I am seriously excited. I have always loved rhythm games for their physical interaction, and the Wii remote takes this into everyday gaming. Its use in Twilight Princess, however, looked too complicated and intimidating. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I think Wii’s greatest assets will be the games that only use the remote, games like WarioWare and Wii Sports. They are easy to pick up and look ridiculously fun. I can honestly see my entire family playing those together, and my parents are allergic to video games.
It was also revealed that the remote comes with a built-in speaker. A lesser-known fact is that speakers can act as microphones– albeit not very good ones. In any case, that speaker can be a valuable tool for rhythm games. Imagine a karaoke game where the character on screen stands according to where you are holding the remote– which is acting as your mic. This speaker is also a clever way to create simple surround-sound without investing in surround sound equipment.
During Sony’s press conference, they unveiled a new secret about their controller which has set message boards into a flame war not seen since the Resident Evil 4 debate. Sony’s controller is tilt-sensitive. They were even running a demo of a flight game with this functionality, so it’s here to stay. Did Sony steal this directly from Nintendo? Maybe. But there’s no need to worry. After seeing the demonstrations at Nintendo’s press conference, it is apparent the two experiences are entirely different. A game like Red Steel, for instance, is simply not possible with the PS3′s new configuration. Sony could pull off a WarioWare Twisted clone, or even something similar to Excite Truck, but I think that’s as far as this gimmick will go.
Still not reassured? Developers who build PS3 games with this tilt functionality in mind can easily port those games over to the Wii. A lot of people were afraid Nintendo was disconnecting themselves too much from multi-platform releases, but this could actually work to their advantage. This is further strengthened by the fact that Nintendo’s controller shell for Wii has a very similar button layout to Sony’s consistent controller design. That stupid controller is an industry standard now, so Nintendo adopting its likeness may bring in some new content and old fans.
The console that never sleeps
When Iwata took the stage, a lot of what he said was lost in his accent. That’s a shame, because he said something very important: the Wii never turns off. His reasoning behind this was to cut down on load/startup times. However, when Wii is in standby mode, it is still looking for downloadable content. It would be like the extra missions available for download in Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land, but instead of you finding the downloads, the downloads find you. Theoretically, when you come home after school every day, there could be new levels, characters, and items waiting for you. Animal Crossing will finally get the community it deserves!
Not surprisingly, Nintendo refrained from telling us the exact launch date and price. Perhaps they suspected Sony wouldn’t reveal the PS3 price, either. But after a disheartening $600 announcement from Sony, anything Nintendo said would have sold me. I really don’t expect Wii to cost any more than $200, though. It can’t. That’s cutting too close to the Xbox 360′s core system deal. I also think Nintendo needs to package a game with Wii. This console is all about Nintendo’s past (a la the Virtual Console), and what better way to embrace the past than to embrace the old custom of including a game with the system? Super Mario Galaxy is an obvious choice, but it would be smarter for Nintendo to stick in Wii Sports. Why? Wii Sports won’t sell on its own. It looks like a crappy Nintendo 64 game! But it would effectively demonstrate the usability of the Wii controller. Why risk the consumer picking up Sponge Bob Square Pants as his/her first game and basing his/her impressions of the remote on that?! No, no, no…
As for the launch date, all the information we have is it will be available in the fourth quarter. Sony is planning to release the PS3 in November. I suspect Nintendo will try to do the same, which is a huge mistake. All Nintendo needs to do to ensure a spot in this Christmas’s limelight is release the Wii in October. It’s that simple. A one month advantage over the PS3 doesn’t sound like much, but it will get the Wii name out there before Sony’s behemoth destroys everything. Besides, I imagine not too many people will be very happy when they walk into Gamestop intent to buy a new PS3 only to find the “special bundle” is priced at $1,000. That’s when the Wii–which has been sitting on the shelf for a month now–will start to look a little more appealing.