Nintendo Plunders the Classics, Pleases the Crowd

By  |  Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

For a while yesterday, I thought Nintendo would have a weak presence at E3. It’s a silly thought to have about the top-selling console maker of this generation, but the Wii and Nintendo DS were almost invisible during Monday’s press events for Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Activision. But at its own press conference, Nintendo came out firing.

Few classic Nintendo franchises or characters will be left alone over the next year or so. Mario and pals will return in Mario Sports Mix, an arcade-style take on hockey, volleyball, dodgeball and basketball. Kirby, the cute little pink puffball known for sucking up his foes, will return in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a 2D platformer set in a world of thread, where all fabric can be manipulated. Nintendo’s also going back to 2D in Donkey Kong Country Returns, a spin on the Super Nintendo classic. The company also showed a bit more of Metroid Other M for the Wii while announcing an August 31 release date.

Perhaps the most anticipated revival, however, will be Activision’s Goldeneye 007, a Wii-exclusive remake of the Nintendo 64’s industry-changing shooter, due out this holiday season. It’ll have split-screen multiplayer, just like the old days, along with online play.

Technical difficulties — the old wireless interference problem — marred a demo of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but Nintendo had enough other heavy hitters in the line up that no one in the audience seemed to mind.

Beyond the vault of old Nintendo franchises, I was impressed with Epic Mickey, a game that gives Mickey Mouse the power to create and destroy the world around him with magical paintbrush. Maybe that sounds lame, but as a Disney fan I’m intrigued by the prospect old and rejected characters and rides populating the game, and on stage, industry veteran Warren Spector said some smart stuff merging the sacred nature of Mickey with Disney’s tradition of innovation.

Of course, the Nintendo press conference’s big news was the 3DS, a handheld console with glasses-free 3D. I’ll have more to say about it later, but I got a very brief hands-on and was pleased with how it looked.

True to form, Nintendo didn’t use much flash in showing its wares, but the company has figured out that the people who strayed away from gaming and then came back to the Wii are the same ones who played all those classic games from the NES era. This year, Nintendo’s giving those people what they want.

One final thought: Nintendo said nothing about the Wii Vitality Sensor, which they introduced at least year’s E3 press conference. Vaporware after all?

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