Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Nintendo post-E3 event impressions (including 3DS hands-on)

Yesterday I attended a post-E3 event at Nintendo of Europe and caught up with the line-up presented at the Los Angeles trade show. Here are my impressions.


Obviously, I played around with the 3DS for quite a bit. And I have to share the comments from people who tried it out before me. It really is most impressive. The effect is simply stunning and it is almost obvious that this device will become a megaseller and the new must-have gadget.

The quality of the hardware seems below that of the DSi, though, perhaps somewhere between the original DS and DSi. The shell feels “plasticy” and does not have the same quality finish of the later DS models. These were prototypes, though. So let us hope that this will be touched up.

The most impressive trailers were undoubtedly ´Metal Gear Solid 3D´ and ´Resident Evil: Revelations´. Both proved how much more powerful the 3DS is, albeit generating two separate images. It really is Wii and PSP quality, if not better. In ´Kid Icarus: Uprising´, you can see every bit of detail on Pit. The most impressive game was ´Nintendogs & Cats´. The animals came to life so much more in 3D, I am totally motivated to play this title silly like I did the DS games.

´PilotWings Resort´ did not work for me. I lost the 3D effect quite often, perhaps because there is so much depth. The leeway the device allows in terms of sideways movement appears to vary greatly from title to title. And here I was trying to navigate the plane while adjusting the 3D depth. Not a pleasant experience, but presumably something you will only have to do at the very beginning.

What got me excited again, though, was the movie trailer for ´Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole´. It looked brilliant and I can quite imagine watching entire movies on the device. Finally, playing around with the camera was great fun. To look through a digital camera and get a 3D image in the viewfinder was a revelation. While Nintendo is settling once again for a mere 0,3 megapixel, the quality seemed sufficient on screen.

´ Metroid Other M´ (Wii)

This game has a very high production value, as could have been expected. The cutscenes are cinema quality, the in-game graphics also amazing. It is essentially a 3D game with a level design that, at times, makes it feel like a 2D side scroller. There is a large degree of auto-aim. But you never feel that you are playing “only” in 3D. Combat is made easier by features such as missiles replenishing automatically. But the bosses seem quite tough. The transition between isometric and third-person perspective works very well and you will manage them easily within boss fights. This will become a must-have title.

´Zelda: Skyward Sword´ (Wii)

Unfortunately, this seemed to be the most underwhelming title there. Having played through ´Twilight Princess´ (and quite a few other Zeldas), this game seemed a step back in terms of visual quality. The world just seemed simpler and less rich than the one in its predecessor, without it oozing style like ´Wind Waker´. I played for a while and defeated two level bosses. And, for sure, the combat is much more complex. With Motion Plus, you need to slice those piranha plants in half the right way, depending on which way they open. But the game failed to capture my imagination and I heard similar comments from other game journalists at the event.

´Donkey Kong Country Returns´ (Wii)

This certainly was the surprise hit in my books. I did not expect ´Metroid Prime´ developer Retro to instantly get the Jump ´n Run genre right, but they sure did. In fact, I do not remember playing such a game with so many fresh ideas. The visuals, of course, were equally satisfying. Undoubtedly a must-buy for the console.

´Kirby: Epic Yarn´ (Wii)

This game is one of the most stylish and original games I have seen in a long time. I played through three levels and was blown away by the originality in the visual style and how that ties in with the gameplay. You might not be a Kirby fan, but you should definitely check this one out.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Wii successor 3D-compatible, Nintendo to shift towards hardcore gamers

The successor to the Wii home console will be 3D compatible. Also, Nintendo wants to strengthen its ties with third party developers and shift towards hardcore games, company president Satoru Iwata told Japanese newspaper Nikkei (via Gamespot).

Iwata is quoted as saying that he is keen to "expand into elaborate games targeting serious gamers", which appears to be the strategy both for the next home console, as well as for the next handheld, the 3DS.

Iwata went on to suggest that the current DS and its software only caters to those who do not play games; something that he hoped to rectify with the 3DS in terms of advances in graphics and gameplay. Recognising this shift in focus from first-party to third-party development, Iwata told Nikkei that Nintendo went to great lengths to incorporate software developers' requests when making the 3DS and called on these developers to make games for the new system.

"These partnerships are good for both Nintendo and the software developers," Iwata said.

Iwata also announced Nintendo's plans to make the successor to the Wii 3D compatible, telling Nikkei that "a full-scale entry into this field will take some time because 3D televisions will not catch on right away."

Nintendo appears keen to occupy the 3D space of videogaming, which has remained largely untapped until now. Sony has only just launched the first 3D games for its PlayStation3. Microsoft has ruled out 3D for the short term. The 3DS will undobtedly become a huge success, if only Nintendo can offer a clever solution to bring 3D movies and other content to consumers, as well as games.

And the games may be a departure from the current DS offering, too. A shift towards more hardcore games would be all too welcome. Not too long ago, the ´Resident Evil´ franchise was exclusive to Nintendo platforms. So, will we see such collaborations again and, more importantly, will we see them last?

As odd as that may sound, Nintendo's big problem is the huge success of the Wii console. Its successor is doomed to become at least as successful or it may be seen as a failure. Motion control has now been copied by both competitors. Cloud gaming services like Gaikai and OnLive are threatening the traditional console business model. Technologywise, the only way Nintendo can go is 3D. I am most intrigued, though, which technology the company will choose. I do not see them investing in traditional solutions with polarised or shutter glasses and Iwata pretty much said so himself. So, will the Wii's successor also incorporate some autostereoscopic solution, much as we suspected right on this blog five years ago?

EDIT Iwata has commented on the Wii's successor and 3D before. EDGE quotes him in an interview with a Japanese newspaper, speaking about the Wii's 3D potential.

If you display a 3D image, the image quality becomes extremely bad, so we'd probably do it with the next system. We're thinking that the timing should be once the 3D television adoption rate crosses the 30% mark. We're looking at the adoption trends.

In a lengthy interview with Venture Beat, Iwata dismissed the idea that the 3DS' parallax barrier technology could also be applied to big screens.

With this parallax barrier technology, the LCD must be a certain distance away from the screen. It also needs a certain viewing angle. We think it is not a great match for the home TV set. As one of the engineers, I can anticipate that someone will invent a 3D TV that does not require you to wear 3D glasses. As far as today is concerned I do not think they can do it well. We need an invention to make it happen. If you ask me when, I have no idea.

This statement is rather surprising, since there are a number of autostereoscopic technologies out there that are far developed and practically mass market ready.

Source: Nikkei (via Gamespot), Electronista, Gamasutra, EDGE, Venture Beat
Thanks to: Fook