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Nintendo Wii at E3 2006

Event: Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)
Official Site: http://www.e3expo.com/
Author: James Barlow (Malis)

The dust has settled after an E3 packed full of news. Many of this news concerns Nintendo, who finally unveiled their new console, the Wii, in playable form on the public and press. Nintendo have always been uncompromising in their creation of games, placing the emphasis firmly on fun and quality. The Wii looks set to continue this grand tradition, and in many ways, the console's fresh outlook on gaming helped Nintendo steal the show at E3 2006.

The Conference

The Nintendo conference was polished, the presenters were cool and calm as they presented their future of gaming. After an introduction from Shigeru Miyamoto conducting the Zelda theme using the Wii remote, senior Nintendo Executive Reggie Fils-Aime walked on proclaiming; "If all you want is next generation, you're in the wrong place. What you'll see from Nintendo is not just next, instead it's what's absolutely new. What we're unveiling is the next leap in gaming...what you see is not always what you get. The next leap is about playing, because playing is believing."

Rayman Raving Rabbids
Rayman Raving Rabbids

Although no prices were revealed, the audience was told they would be playing better games for less (at a later date a Vice President of marketing for Sega would go on to tip the Wii to be under $200 on release). Wii is on track for a Q4 2006 release, strongly supported by the 27 playable games on show at E3. Nothing relating to tech-specs was talked about, instead Nintendo kept hammering home that Wii would be about playing, not graphics. Having said that the games looked by no means shabby, Sonic Wild Fire and Super Mario Galaxy in particular looked quite fluid and beautiful in motion.

Wii Controller 2
Second Wii controller

Nintendo's aim is to get everyone who has never played games before, to finally become gamers, through their intuitive controller. No longer wanting to just draw in the same gaming crowd, Nintendo wants the Wii to become a true mass media device, something anyone can watch, then pick up and play. Games such as Wii Sports and Excite Truck really hit home just how playable Wii will be. To play tennis you simply hold the controller like a tennis racket, and swing. To control a truck, you just turn the control pad like a steering wheel. Various Nintendo heads, and one lucky contest winner also played a doubles match of Wii Sports Tennis live to the entire audience, which looked like great fun, at the cost of some energy.

Of course claims such as 'playing is believing' rely on the pedigree of games, and those, displayed during the conference certainly seemed to back up Nintendo's claim. Glimpses were given of a number of titles in the Wii trailer film, including Wii Sports, Excite Truck, a Table Tennis game, WarioWare: Smooth Moves, Project H.A.M.M.E.R., Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers, Fire Emblem, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and many more. The format of the Wii trailer was generally footage of the game, followed by trendy model types playing the game in IKEA-style living rooms. Whilst it looked impressive, it was important to keep in mind that these models were not actually playing the footage shown, it was just edited to look this way.

Wii controller
Wii controller

However, extended coverage was then given to two games: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, and Red Steel, both confirmed as launch games. In the displays of these games, they were shown off live to the audience by developers playing on a massive screen, laying to rest anyone doubting the Nintendo trailer. The new Zelda (confirmed as having a Gamecube version and a Wii version), looked beautiful, and the control system drew gasps and cheers from the crowd, with the wii remote being used for everything from firing your bow to fly fishing. It was here that Nintendo revealed that that the 'Nunchuk' left-hand controller includes a motion sensor, and the Wii remote itself features an inbuilt speaker. The speaker looks set to increase depth of sound and immerse gamers even further into their games. Red Steel was as impressive, a lovely looking FPS featuring heavily destructible environments, sword-fighting via the Wii remote, and the ability to hold your gun at any angle, determined by the angle you hold the remote at.

The Show Floor

Nintendo displayed 27 Wii titles on the show floor, all of them playable. Reports from the press were immediately promising, as the Wii controller appeared to live up to everything Nintendo claimed it would be. The queue for the Wii stand was the longest in E3 history, clearly a lot of people are intrigued by the gaming possibilities of the console. Most remarked how natural and intuitive the controller felt after a few minutes getting used to it. Highlights of the show floor were varied, Super Mario Galaxy was very well-received, as was Sonic Wild Fire, which looks to be a return to old-school style Sonic play. A surprise trailer of Super Smash Bros. Brawl was also doing the rounds, already looking promising (and featuring Solid Snake as a playable character).

Shown off at the Wii booth was the console itself and some extra peripherals. The Wii Virtual Console was being shown off, a feature that will allow gamers to download most of Nintendo's back catalogue from systems past, as well as a selection of classic Sega games. Nintendo confirmed that some N64 games will have upgraded Wii controller support. There will be a classic-style controller available, most likely for use with these old games too. A 'gun-cradle' will also be sold, a cradle which you slot your Wii remote into, allowing you to use it as a light gun style device. An updated Duck-Hunt was also playable. Different coloured versions of the Wii remote were on display behind glass, most likely indicating that the console will be available in a range of colours other than the pearl-white ones on display.

Third party support for the Wii is looking strong. The N64 and Gamecube both suffered from a lack of quality third-party titles and slow release of top-class in-house games. Wii looks set to change this. Some of the many third party games on display were:

  • Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam (Activision)
  • Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Activision)
  • Call of Duty 3 (Activision)
  • Sonic Wild Fire (Sega)
  • Super Monkey Ball (Sega)
  • Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (Square Enix)
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Crystal Bearers (Square Enix)
  • Madden NFL (Electronic Arts)
  • Rayman Raving Rabbids (Ubisoft)
  • Red Steel (Ubisoft)

With The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess a launch game, and Super Mario Galaxy promised within the first six months of launch, the line-up for Wii looks very strong at the moment. The buzz was definitely with Nintendo during the show, with most people impressed by the games Nintendo had on display. Whilst none of them were as graphically breath-taking as anything the 360 or PS3 can produce, many felt the Wii was simply more fresh and fun. With a low price promise and a 2006 release, Nintendo look to be in a very strong position indeed.