When Nintendo commenced its pre-E3 Media Briefing yesterday, the company had a real chance to capitalise on the not so great word of mouth surrounding the Sony conference. Set in the huge Kodak Theatre (the home of the Academy Awards) the 'fanboy' feeling that's usually present in Nintendo's conferences wasn't quite as evident, but Nintendo didn't fail to put on a show.
While Sony demoed a lot of games on Monday, Nintendo really went to town on showing games for the Wii and the Nintendo DS. The Wii was clearly the focus of the show though, and this was highlighted by Shigeru Miyamoto kicking everything off by supposedly conducting a virtual orchestra. The hero of many gamers across the world then proceeded to dance around on stage while a number of other Wii games were shown in video form.
As expected, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princes turned up in demo form for the Wii, and it was announced that two versions would ship: one for the Wii and one for the Nintendo GameCube. As well as new Wii control features, the Wii version certainly seemed to boast slightly better visuals than what we assume the GameCube to be capable of. The other big demo saw a competition winner take to the stage alongside Miyamoto, Reggie and Iwata, to play Wii Sports, and in particular the tennis game included in the package. This certainly won't win any awards visually, but the game seems to include the multiplayer gameplay and ease of use that Nintendo is keen to emphasise as the Wii's strongpoint.
What didn't go down quite as well was Ubisoft's demo of Red Steel for the Wii. The first-person shooter/slasher showed potential, but it was hard to look past the current-gen visuals and lack of blood - a must have feature for a game that lets you fight with a sword. The destructible environments and advanced AI were talked about as key features, but the demo shown on stage didn't really live up to the developer's claims.
A few other big Wii games were shown, but in video form only. Super Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption were two games in particular that we expected to see on-stage demos for. These are both hugely important titles for Nintendo, but their presence during the conference was rather brief. Many other Wii games shown didn't show the same level of polish, with a lot of them really looking quite ropey visually. Nintendo will need to show how the unique gameplay seen in these games is enough to make up for their weak visuals, but comparisons to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games are still going to be made, however unfairly.
On Monday, Sony basically ignored the PSP, but Nintendo did no such thing with the Nintendo DS. While there were no on-stage demos of key DS titles, a lot of games were shown and talked about. The games to receive the biggest reaction from the excited crowd included Diddy Kong Racing, Star Fox DS, Yoshi's Island 2 and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Whether or not Nintendo's handheld showing, when compared to Sony's, reflects a difference in commitment to their respective platforms is hard to tell, but the PSP came out of the conferences way back in second place.
There was much discussion leading into E3 over what the Wii's big secret would be. Nintendo had made it quite clear that they weren't telling us everything, and while the announcements at the conference were interesting, they weren't as earth shattering as we expected. The news of a speaker being included in the Wii wand controller is actually a great move by Nintendo. The combination of sound and rumble when using it should really help to create the illusion of being inside the game. The other big news was that the Wii will stay connected to the internet even when powered down. This low-power standby mode will apparently let publishers push new content at you even when you aren't using the console, but it's another feature that will have to prove its worth once we get our hands on the console.
In many ways Nintendo has got itself into a tricky position. The Wii certainly looks like it will bring some innovative games to the market, but early indications suggest that games will look at least a generation behind what the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 can produce. It's almost as if Nintendo itself is worried about this as Reggie hammered home the point about the key being in the gameplay in every other sentence he spoke. With no price point or firm release date announced, big name games still to be seen, and the Nintendo Virtual Console kept pretty much under wraps, perhaps the company is still to play its biggest cards.
The DS on the other hand seems to be in a great position. Many of the games shown at the conference were games fans really wanted to see, and it can only mean good things for Nintendo's handheld. It was evident that there were far fewer gimmick-based games on show than at last year's pre-e3 conference, and this is bound to increase the appeal of the system to people who had been on the fence until now.