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Nintendo mixes surprise and familiarity with WiiU


Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime officially announced the WiiU at Nintendo's E3 press conference. The WiiU is due for release in 2012.

At Nintendo's E3 press conference, Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime took turns showering the crowd with new Nintendo 3DS content and the announcement of Project Café's official name: the Nintendo Wii U.

Nintendo began with a tribute to The Legend of Zelda franchise, now in its 25th year, complete with orchestra and choir. Unfortunately, no new gameplay from the upcoming Nintendo Wii title The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was revealed (although some brand-new cutscenes showed up in the background). Even so, Nintendo announced that Skyward Sword was coming to the Wii this holiday season. The 3DS took a backseat to the WiiU, but Nintendo's newest handheld console still had its share of surprises, revealing further details about Kid Icarus: Uprising and the Star Fox 64 remake. Uprising, among other things, will feature full voice acting and 3-on-3 competitive multiplayer, while Star Fox 64 3D will support analog and tilt-based controls, as well as using the 3DS’ facial recognition system in competitive multiplayer to add a new dimension to voice chat. The 3DS is also getting a proper sequel to Luigi's Mansion (imaginatively named Luigi's Mansion 2). Perhaps most impressive is the much-rumoured Super Mario 3D: a full, 3D Mario game, separate from the Super Mario Galaxy series, made exclusively for Nintendo's handheld, and wetted the nostalgia whistle with footage of the Raccoon Suit from Super Mario Bros. 3 in action.

While Wii U's name looks like it has yet to impress Nintendo's infamously finicky fanbase, its lineup certainly has. After teasing the audience with an overview of the new tablet controller (the screen can serve as a separate monitor if a roommate or annoying brother wants to watch a baseball game while you would rather be busy with Mario) and showing off some Wii Sports-like gameplay, the tone suddenly shifted.

A tech demo featuring a bird flying over a lake and Shinto temple, rendered in immaculate detail, set the stage for the one truly shocking announcement of the morning: Nintendo was having it both ways. It became clear that Wii U was going to bump up the graphical power while keeping the control innovations of its predecessor: a true third option. The crowd reached a fever pitch when Iwata announced that a new Super Smash Brothers game was being made for the Wii U and the 3DS (although it is unclear whether the two versions are meant to be cross-compatible).

And then, out of nowhere, Nintendo showed off just how strong its third-party support for WiiU would be: announcing Darksiders II as a Wii U launch title; unveiling new Lego, Tekken and Assassin's Creed games; and confirming WiiU versions of Ninja Gaiden 3 and (much to the crowd's delight) Batman: Arkham City. The announcement of so much third-party content was definitely a boon for Nintendo, whose tales of alienating outside companies are well-known to most gamers. Seeing Ken Levine of all people wax poetic about the Wii U's controller was an understandably huge deal.

While it may not have inspired the same level of fever-pitch fanboyish delirium as last year, Nintendo still made an extremely strong showing this year, with the slow but carefully-paced unveiling of just what all the fuss was about the Wii U. By establishing well-defined camps in both the casual and hardcore markets, Nintendo is once again poised to be extremely profitable during this upcoming eighth console generation.

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