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Making the grade: Nintendo's E3 presentation

Jared Rea

Where would Nintendo be if not for controversy? Lounging in a gold plated mansion built a top an enormous mountain of platinum bars, no doubt. Their rise to power no longer a question but an inevitability, all eyes were on the potential market leader Wednesday morning to see what sort of stunt they would pull. In our previous E3 feature, the guessing game, we said that Nintendo potentially had the most to lose coming out of this conference as a lack of content could easily derail the hype train. As it turns out, we were half right.

In part two of making the grade, we look back on a conference that was at times inspiring and at others down right frightening.

The Games
Of the games that were actually games, Nintendo didn't have much of anything to show outside of what we've already seen before. The usual suspects from the Revolution era were there and in full effect, though at this point we're getting pretty sick of seeing them paraded around. Naturally, we'd prefer them to just be in our grasps. Aside from a brief demo or two, we were regaled with clips of titles we've been seeing for months.

Notorious for their lack of 3rd parties (though never quite in need of them), Nintendo did it again with their presentation, offering little, if anything new to offer. And despite boasting about their 5.6 million downloads, the Virtual Console was completely ignored. In the end we got Super Mario Kart for the Wii, but that isn't exactly new, per se.

The Tone
In a word: defensive. Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Amis was constantly on the draw with comments like, "we know what you're thinking, but --" and he had every right to be so. For the first time in E3 history, Nintendo was seemingly in enemy territory. Their dominance of the casual market is staggering and through peripheral announcements and non-game presentations, the ramifications of that success was clearly on display.

Before their presentation even began we looked up to the monitors on stage beaming footage of too-white people enjoying their Nintendo products. One blogger joked that they looked nothing like us and that comment was more on point than they could have imagined. The truth is that these days, Nintendo is more likely to found on the cover of AARP Magazine than that of Electronic Gaming Monthly.

The truth is that Shigeru Miyamoto would have looked more comfortable announcing WiiFit in front of a Wal-Mart than center stage at E3. And for the one true icon in this industry, that is something to be defensive about.

The Announcements
Thankfully, we received what little we had hoped for in releases dates for both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Bros Brawl. Outside of these two appreciated announcements, Nintendo was without much of anything new. The Wii Zapper was something we originally saw last E3 and while it was ... interesting to see in action, we found it hypocritical that their $20 hunk of plastic that would revolutionize the first-person shooter genre would not be utilized with "the best" first-person shooter this Fall, Metroid Prime 3.

Then came a good-cop, bad-cop routine that starred Super Mario Kart for the Nintendo Wii. Just prior to the WiiFit presentation, it felt like a consolation prize to the "hardcore gamers." While we're happy to know it's on the way, the inclusion of a needless steering wheel attachment -- one that we saw at launch with GT Pro Series by Ubisoft -- again reminded us that we're not exactly their primary demographic.

Now we're not about to write off WiiFit. The technology and the idea behind it is truly fascinating and we're looking forward to exploring the software as well as the Wii Balancing Board that the game introduces. However, when you have games -- no, programs included in your software that would typically be described as mini-game's being referred to as "game-like activities," we have some serious issues.

The bottom line is that even compared to other "non-games" on the market, WiiFit makes Brain Age look like Ninja Gaiden. Exercise games are nothing new and Nintendo has already done this before with Dance Aerobics on the NES. The difference between then and now is that back in 1989, Nintendo didn't think being your own optometrist was a video game.

The Presentation
We've grown accustomed to watching our favorite Nintendo executives flail about the stage in a fit of Wii gaming, but this year was decidedly toned down. The WiiFit presentation was slightly creepy, but other than that this was a much tamer Nintendo than we're used to. Like Microsoft, we would have appreciated more live sessions of the games in action but in this case, we really would have appreciated some more live sessions. Even their typical montage set to pop music was suspiciously missing, replaced only with Reggie's robotic drone. What a drag.

The Fluff
We think the above image speaks for itself. Ouch. Hey, Reggie. Here's an advertising pitch. Start an exercise blog starring you and WiiFit. That isn't even a snarky, blogger suggestion. We're really interested in seeing how this all plays out.

The Grade
This years E3 presentations will be graded using our brand-new, highly scientific, Mega Man Rating System, in which all three are given titles based upon their performance. Nintendo's final grade is ...

Everyone saw this coming from a mile
away, but now that it's here we wish you'd
just go back to your old self. What happened?
We used to understand each other so well!

[Update - The copy/paste gremlin snuck up on us at the wee hours, so we removed that strange "Microsoft" mention at the end. When E3 is over, we're sleeping for weeks]

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