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Nintendo at E3 – A retrospective (Part 2)

Posted on July 10, 2010 by (@NE_Brian) in Features

Just in case you missed it, part 1 covered the first eight years of E3 from 1995 to 2002. If you haven’t read it yet and want to feel older than you really are, take a look at it. For everyone else, let’s jump straight into 2003.


Just like 2002, 2003 at E3 was all about announcing new games rather than launching new consoles. CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata took the stage at Nintendo’s 2003 press conference to acknowledge that sales of Gamecube hardware and games had been lower than expected. This was hopefully going to change (it didn’t) with the announcement of a bunch of new Gamecube titles such as Mario Kart: Double Dash, Pikmin 2 and F-Zero GX. As usual, third party support for the Gamecube was very thin compared to the other consoles of that generation, but there were a few third party Gamecube games shown such as Konami’s remake of the original Metal Gear Solid — The Twin Snakes — and Sega’s Billy Hatcher. A more traditional looking Resident Evil 4 was also shown, leading a pack of Capcom titles that would be exclusive to the Gamecube.

Not that they stayed exclusive.

Resident Evil 4, Killer7 and Viewtiful Joe all eventually made the jump to the Playstation 2, with only the mediocre P.N.03 remaining as a Gamecube exclusive. The Game Boy Advance also received its fair share of new games with titles like Wario Ware Inc., Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire and Advance Wars 2 shown at E3 2003. Nintendo was really pushing connectivity between the Gamecube and the Game Boy Advance, but it never really took off despite games like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, Pac-Man Vs and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles being shown.


2004 introduced us to the then Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Nintendo of America, Reggie Fils-Aime, who assured us he was all about “kickin’ ass and takin’ names.” In an attempt to appeal to the hardcore, “veteran” variety of gamers, Star Fox Assault, Metroid Prime 2 and a redesigned Resident Evil 4 were shown, but by far the most popular announcement of Nintendo’s press conference was that Link would return in a darker, less cartoony game — Twilight Princess.

To say people were excited is an understatement.

Shigeru Miyamoto taking the stage wielding the Master Sword and Hylian Shield probably helped ramp up the excitement. For once, seeing a grown man swing around replicas of Link’s weapons wasn’t the strangest thing to come out of Nintendo’s showing at E3 2004, though. Bizarre strategy/pinball game, Odama, was shown, as well as Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat, a platformer controlled by bongo drums. The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and a bunch of old Pokemon episodes were being shown off on the Game Boy Advance, but any news about the GBA was overshadowed due to Nintendo revealing a new handheld console, the Nintendo DS. Despite a few interesting demos of games like Super Mario 64 DS and Metroid Prime Hunters, many people overlooked the Nintendo DS at E3 in favour of the more powerful PSP, though the DS would go on to do a lot better in the long run. Iwata also gave some vague details on their upcoming home console, the Revolution. With statements like “It won’t simply be new, it won’t simply be including new technologies,” and “They must offer something no other machine has delivered,” I can’t believe no-one saw motion controls coming. Iwata’s declaration, “I won’t give you a look at out technical specs for one simple reason, they don’t really matter,” was met with cheers from the audience. They might not have been cheering four years down the track.


By 2005 it was clear that a new generation of games consoles was impending. The Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Revolution were all shown in some form or another but the Revolution’s motion controls were still unknown at this point. Once again, most of the information came from vague quotes from Satoru Iwata, like “when you turn on Revolution and see the graphics, you will say ‘wow!’” Wow, it’s not much of an improvement over the Gamecube? The only thing people really knew about the Revolution was that it had a “virtual console” planned for it that would give the console backwards compatibility with games all the way back to the NES. Iwata claimed that the virtual console would feature the ability to download classic games like Excitebike, Punch-Out and Earthbound.

Iwata, you liar.

The online capabilities of the Nintendo DS were talked up, with games like Mario Kart DS and Animal Crossing: Wild World being showcased. It had been a slow start for the console with only a few games released, but Nintendo’s 2005 line up for the DS looked promising. Nintendogs, Kirby Canvas Curse, Advance Wars: Dual Strike and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney would all release in the US by the end of the year. Oddly, the Game Boy Advance also received a big push at Nintendo’s press conference, with the reveal of the tiny, customisable Game Boy Micro. It was clear Nintendo were trying to squeeze the last bit of life out of the long running Game Boy series, so a few new games like Pokemon Emerald and Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones were also shown on the dying console. Battalion Wars, Pokemon XD and Super Mario Strikers were all shown for the Gamecube, as well as a new Twilight Princess trailer — this time with wolf Link!


E3 2006 was the first time the Wii was shown and it’s fairly safe to say that it stole the show. This isn’t my inner Nintendo fanboy gloating; the system had five hour long queues to play it and even caused a stampede of people wanting to get their hands on it.


So yes, the Wii was the most significant thing to come out of Nintendo’s E3 2006 press conference. Among the games announced for it were Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Wii Sports (of course). Not all the games announced at this press conference were released immediately — we only just got Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers and Project H.A.M.M.E.R. is still missing in action — but the games that were available at launch looked promising (until people actually played Red Steel). The DS Lite was also given a US release date as well as a number of new games announced for it like The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Yoshi’s Island DS and Star Fox Command. Even in the last stages of their lifespan, the Gamecube and Game Boy Advance saw a few upcoming titles such as remakes of Final Fantasy V and VI, Baten Kaitos Origins, Super Paper Mario and DK Bongo Blast (although the last two would end up released on the Wii instead). Overall, it was a great E3 showing from Nintendo, without a Giant Enemy Crab in sight. But would they be able to match it next year?


E3 was “downsized” for 2007’s show; with a mere 10,000 attendees compared to the 60,000 present the year before. Just as the show itself had shrunk in size, so too had Nintendo’s E3 showing. After the Wii and DS had proved to be a hit with an expanded audience, Nintendo’s focus seemed to be on promoting more casual, self-improvement games. Following on the success of Brain Age, there was Flash Focus, Brain Age 2 and Picross DS on the Nintendo DS. E3 2007 was also home to the first showing off Wii Fit and its unique Balance Board controller.

Like it or not, Wii Fit was here to stay.

Wii Fit wasn’t the only new peripheral shown, though. The Wii Wheel was a steering wheel shaped cover that would be bundled with the recently announced Mario Kart Wii, and the Zapper was — like the original NES peripheral — designed for light-gun games. Despite all the “casual” games shown, Nintendo representatives claimed at the conference that they hadn’t lost track of the hardcore gamer. On top of more details on Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Nintendo also showed off Contra 4, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and Medal of Honor Heroes 2. Even with a smaller than usual showing, Nintendo did seem to be catering to both casual and hardcore audiences. Besides, Nintendo’s showing at E3 2007 was amazing when compared to the bleak, miserable year that was…2008.


Where to begin? From Cammie Dunaway, fresh from taking Reggie’s position, recounting her snowboarding experiences to the reveal that Nintendo’s big game for the holiday season would be… Animal Crossing, Nintendo’s 2008 press conference was widely regarded as one of, if not their worst — at least by “hardcore” gamers. Sure, the 1:1 movement ration of the Wii Motion Plus add-on looked promising and Shaun White demonstrating his snowboarding game did make the run-of-the-mill title look somewhat interesting, but where were all the core franchises? Asides from a Pokemon Ranger sequel (oh boy…), none of the usual games were revisited. And the big reveal at the end of the conference turned out to be this:

Nothing personal, Ravi, it’s just we saw the same demo back in 2006.

Wii Music closed out the conference, and it was far from a spectacular end. The drumming and conducting had already been shown back in 2006 and playing an invisible saxophone didn’t exactly look enjoyable, even if it was Shigeru Miyamoto himself doing it. Well, at least we got Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars out of it. That game went on to be well loved and incredibly successful sales-wise, right? Right?


Thankfully, Nintendo were back on track in 2009 with a showing that seemed to appeal to just about every demographic. For those who wanted something “old-school,” there was New Super Mario Bros. Wii. For those who wanted something new(ish), there was Super Mario Galaxy 2. For those who couldn’t care about Mario in the slightest, there was The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks and Golden Sun DS. For the casual, oddly fitness-obsessed gamer, there was Wii Fit Plus and the Wii Vitality Sensor.

And it was never seen again (hopefully).

Lastly, in an attempt to woo even the most cynical, most “hardcore” gamer, Nintendo revealed that Team Ninja, makers of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden were making a new Metroid game — Metroid Other M. Was Other M any good? Who can say yet? Either way, Other M showed Nintendo at least trying to appeal to the fans that had carried them through the Gamecube years. 2009 also saw Sony and Microsoft introducing their own motion controllers. Given that Move and Kinect aren’t out yet I can’t exactly say how they compare, but the Wii Motion Plus enabled games shown by Nintendo at E3 2009 such as Virtua Tennis 2009 and Red Steel 2 were still impressive, despite the lack of high definition visuals. Overall, 2009 wasn’t a fantastic year for Nintendo at E3 (where did all the third parties go?), but it was still miles better than the year before.


Do I really need to go into much detail about E3 2010? I’m sure everyone reading this has heard enough of Nintendo’s announcements repeated over the last few weeks. Anyway, the big thing to come out of Nintendo’s press conference was the Nintendo 3DS. It displays 3D visuals without the need for glasses (so I hear) and boasts an impressive line-up of titles that hopefully turn out to be more than just tech demos. You know, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Nintendogs + Cats, Metal Gear Solid 3D: Snake Eater – The Naked Sample, a 3D version of Ocarina of Time — the kind of things that might cause a stampede.

It’s the Wii all over again.

And then there was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Goldeneye, Dragon Quest IX, NBA Jam, Mario Sports Mix, Wii Party (I guess…), and the list goes on.

I’d personally say it was one of the best E3 showings Nintendo’s ever had, but I’ll let you be the judge of that. I’ve shown you all the E3’s of the last 16 years; now I want to know which one you thought was the best.

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