Friday, March 27, 2009

Nintendo at GDC – Max’s Take

As the resident Nintendo goon here at The Driver I.D., J rightly assumed I’d have stuff to say about the recent developments and announcements coming out of the GDC keynote from Nintendo. Here’s a rundown of the various topics and my thoughts on them.

Miyamoto: It’s not surprising that Iwata took time to praise Miyamoto and his techniques of game development. Apparently he said Miyamoto is on a 24/7 Non-Disclosure Agreement because even his hobbies become games (gardening = Pikmin, getting a puppy = Nintendogs, exercising = Wii Fit). I really like the idea that Miyamoto kidnaps junior employees to get them to playtest games and try to get them to figure them out on their own. Also the picture of “bandit Miyamoto” is priceless.

Wii and DS Success: The Wii has apparently sold over 50 million units worldwide, making it the fastest selling video game console ever, as it has already beaten the Sony PlayStation 2, which took longer to sell 50 million. Big news to be sure, but it’s hardly surprising. Then again, Iwata reported that 20% of people buying a Wii had no other video game system in their homes and 27% of Wii owners were female. That’s pretty impressive; Nintendo is really delivering on its promise to expand the market. Iwata also claimed that third party software is doing well on Wii, but why is he the only guy saying that?

The DSi meanwhile has sold over 2 million in Japan and Amazon reports it is the most pre-ordered system ever. I don’t know, I’ve said before I’m not too interested in it and I can’t see the overwhelming appeal. However, it is a great system for the (few) people who already don’t have a DS/DS Lite and are looking to get one. Plus, they are developing several apps for the handheld, so it might turn out to be a pretty big deal in the long run. Maybe the idea of using the DS like a pocket organizer/palm pilot is finally in the works as we speak. Let’s hope the DSi helps prevent the iPhone from becoming a major gaming force, as J was telling me the people making those games aren’t so big on quality control.

Final Fantasy games – Two new Final Fantasy WiiWare games is great news, especially Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, as my wife Maureen loves FFIV and looks forward to playing this. Getting all(?) the original Final Fantasy games on Virtual Console is great news too, though I’m sure they’ll be priced higher than usual, plus I’ve already shelled out for most of these on the GBA & DS. Still, it’s nice they’re doing it.

Rock N’ Roll Climbing – All I can say here is that it’s a complete missed opportunity to make a perfectly awesome Ice Climbers sequel. Dammit. Or would that be too predictable? Nonetheless, this looks kind of fun.

Zelda Spirit Tracks – Link on a train?!? I never would have imagined it, but I like the idea a lot. Link in a conductor’s outfit looks a little weird, but still kinda cute. The “Celda” graphics and tapping play mechanics from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass have returned. I still haven’t played Phantom Hourglass yet—it’s on the list of backlogged games I don’t yet own—but I may have to pick it up before Spirit Tracks hits. It looks like some new ideas are at play here, such as manipulating a statue and getting it to fight for you. Also it looks like you may be able to pick routes on the train tracks, I’m guessing with the stylus. Here’s the trailer for those of you who missed it:

Storage Solution: I haven’t messed around with it yet, but I plan to test it out in full later today and will post impressions after I do. I forgot about GDC going on until logging into the blog last night and seeing J post about Nintendo’s stuff, but I had logged onto my Wii and downloaded the new Wii Menu 4.0 with the ability to load WiiWare and VC games off of an SD Card. “At last!” I thought, but it was kinda surprising out of context. I have many Virtual Console games I’ve had to delete due to space limitations, and with Super Punch-Out!! coming to Virtual Console next week, I’ll definitely be taking advantage of the new storage system!

Virtual Console Arcade: It’s about time! I always wanted arcade games for Virtual Console, and though we’re starting out with a couple good games and a couple stinkers (I mean, c’mon! Mappy?!?), there’s potential for great games to be released. Games like Magic Sword and other classic Capcom games; 2D fighting games; light gun shooters; more of Sega’s back catalog (it’d be cool to see the Sonic the Hedgehog arcade game, which has never been on a console), and other great arcade games of yore. Maybe Nintendo will even get into the act and release the Punch-Out!! arcade game, F-Zero AX or the Mario Kart arcade game. Who says all the arcade releases have to be old ones?

WarioWare: Snapped: So Nintendo finally does something EyeToy like. I like the WarioWare series a lot, and this looks like another installment where you’ll be looking stupid playing the game. You gotta love how the WarioWare games keep evolving to suit Nintendo’s latest hardware.

Other things: Outside Nintendo’s keynote, it was announced that the second Professor Layton game, Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, is being translated for North American and European release, hopefully within the next six months. Level 5 President and CEO, Akihiro Hino said that he’d like all six Professor Layton games translated for the U.S. and Europe eventually. Excellent news indeed!

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