Feature: The Big Wii U Direct Summary
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
All of the details in one place
Wii U Direct may have only been 35 minutes long, but it sure packed a lot into a short space of time, with a few extra details following in the press releases that followed. We certainly did our level best to cover everything revealed by Iwata-san in the broadcast, as well as information from Nintendo's regional teams, and that's testified by the sheer volume of articles on the subject that flowed within the space of a few hours.
One way to capture the buzz of these mini-E3s — as we're regarding Nintendo Direct broadcasts with this much blockbuster material — is to soak up all of the details as they come out, but just in case some of you missed snippets among the range of articles posted, we thought we'd summarise what happened and provide links to all of the original stories from the immediate aftermath, conveniently in one all-you-can-eat information buffet. So, let's tuck in.
System updates will speed up the Wii U in Spring and Summer — Satoru Iwata acknowledged the curse of slow menu transitions and loading times on Wii U, issuing an apology and promising that system updates on the way — one in Spring and the other during Summer — will improve the overall experience. These updates will also lay the groundwork for another big arrival...
The Wii U Virtual Console is confirmed and detailed — It had already been spotted in source code, with the rumour making its merry way around the web ahead of the broadcast, but it was still pleasing to see the service officially announced. Arriving after the Spring system update, games will be released gradually as retro titles from systems such as NES, SNES and Game Boy Advance are retro-fitted with Wii U GamePad support, save states and Miiverse integration. The usual prices will apply, though those who've previously owned a game on the Wii Virtual Console will have a chance to buy at heavily reduced prices — $1 for NES and $1.50 for SNES games.
Wii U Virtual Console Trial Campaign and schedule unveiled — In addition to the arrival of the Virtual Console, it was revealed that a 30th Anniversary celebration for the release of the Famicon in Japan would take the form of some tempting, low price retro games. Launching right away with Balloon Fight, a new classic title from the NES or SNES will be released every month until July, available for 30 days at the rather tempting price of just 30 cents/30 pence. An early and cheap opportunity to sample the Virtual Console delights of the new system.
Games, games and more games
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is being remade for a Fall release on Wii U — Wind Waker HD had been a familiar cry from a number of Nintendo gamers before almost every Nintendo Direct, joined by requests for GameCube games on the Virtual Console. The latter still eludes us, but the iconic Zelda GameCube title is being re-mastered for release on Wii U this year; some gorgeous screenshots emphasize how good it'll look in HD, along with promises of GamePad optimisation and gameplay tweaks and improvements. A knock-out announcement.
The Legend of Zelda on Wii U aims to shake up the series — We knew that Nintendo was developing a Zelda game for Wii U, how could it not be, so the approach was to talk about the development approach being taken. Time is needed for it to come together — which explains Wind Waker HD — but Eiji Aonuma spoke about rethinking Zelda conventions of linear dungeon progression or playing alone in order to craft a new experience. In his own words, to "get back to basics and create a newborn Zelda game so that the players today can best enjoy the real essence of the franchise."
A new 3D Super Mario platformer is being produced by the Mario Galaxy team, and should be playable at E3 — The Nintendo EAD Tokyo Software Development team is working on a new 3D Mario platformer, no real surprise but a relief considering its exceptional work on the two Super Mario Galaxy titles. No solid details were given, but if it's playable at E3, as is planned, then that bodes well for a potential release in late 2013.
Mario Kart U under development, also set to be playable at E3 — Announced alongside the new Super Mario title was a Wii U entry in the Mario Kart series, which is likewise pegged to be playable at E3. If this isn't a Holiday 2013 release we'll be very surprised.
Yarn Yoshi looks set to pick up where Kirby left off — If anyone was concerned that Yoshi had reached his maximum level of cuteness, then they underestimated the combined powers of Nintendo and developer Good Feel. The team behind Kirby's Epic Yarn is revisiting the theme with the cute green mascot, while Takashi Tezuka — who was behind Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story — is "pulling the strings"; it promises to be too adorable for the world to handle.
Monolith Soft makes a grand entrance onto the Wii U — An experienced Japanese development studio that's come to greater prominence due to the exceptional Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii had a major part to play; the unveiling of Monolith Soft's Wii U project was a highlight. An impressive trailer showed plenty of gorgeous footage, which looked to be capturing the grand scale of the Wii title. The appearance of a figure resembling Xenoblade Chronicles' protagonist Shulk, along with an X at the end, suggests a possible relation to the memorable JRPG. Whether it is related or not, the footage shown has certainly increased anticipation and eagerness to learn more.
Fire Emblem and Shin-Megami Tensei join forces — A surprise announcement was this collaboration between Nintendo and Atlus, with an RPG cross-over to feature the Fire Emblem and Shin-Megami Tensei franchises. No gameplay footage was shown, but this is likely to be a big boost for Atlus, and Satoru Iwata explained that with modern development challenges we can expect to see more cross-overs and collaborations in the future.
The Wii Party franchise set to get it started again on Wii U — While Wii Party may not be on many "Best Wii Games" lists, it was clearly a big enough success to prompt Nintendo to continue the new franchise on its new system. Due to arrive this Summer, it'll combine the GamePad with Wii Remotes, as well as use the controller's screen for some fun-looking "table-top" style mini-games.
And now for the rest
Platinum Games brings new footage of The Wonderful 101 and goes behind the scenes of Bayonetta 2 — Platinum Games is becoming an increasingly familiar name to Wii U owners, as the developer of surprise exclusive Bayonetta 2 and the delightfully chaotic The Wonderful 101. The latter is still due in the first half of the year, while Bayonetta 2 is TBC, and new footage for both games won't have dulled any enthusiasm for these releases.
Pikmin 3 will give you the chance to see the world from a different perspective — Still due out in the first half of the year, Pikmin 3 had a new feature announced, with a camera mode that lets you view the world from your minion's perspective. Miiverse sharing will of course be possible, so quite a few intimate screens of the world are sure to appear in the game's community.
Wii Fit U to encourage healthy living and weight loss with communities — Wii Fit U is due soon, though a formal release date is yet to be given, and is part of Nintendo's plans to coax more Wii owners towards the new system. It was confirmed that the Miiverse integration will have an extra edge for this release, with players able to create their own user communities from within the game; all the easier to encourage those that miss their punishing targets...
So there you go, a summary of the stories to come out of this week's Wii U Direct. It was a big effort from Nintendo that combined distant releases with those that may be here in the coming year, with enough variety to please almost anyone. We expect more Nintendo Directs to follow, with Satoru Iwata stating that 3DS will get its own share of coverage. What on earth could come next?