News Article

First Impressions: Throwing Down in Shigeru Miyamoto's Mech Maker, Project Giant Robot

Posted by Morgan Sleeper

A robot riot

At the very end of Nintendo’s Digital Event at this year’s E3, Shigeru Miyamoto made a brief appearance to announce that he’s been hard at work creating new games that use the Wii U’s dual-screen setup in innovative ways. One of these works-in-progress was Project Giant Robot, an experimental venture that lets players build their own skyscraper-sized robot and pilot it against a series of enemies in city-spanning, sumo-style combat. We were able to take an early demo for a test drive on the show floor, and loved what we played; Project Giant Robot is a fun, simple concept presented with charm, creativity, and a fantastically physical control scheme that feels like nothing else.

Our demo began in the Robot Lab, where we were able to assemble our ‘bot from an array of potential parts. There were several different shapes and styles to choose from for each piece — head, torso, arms, legs, hands, and feet — from Lost in Space sci-fi to retro-toy tin, classy woodgrain to modern mecha. We were able to adjust the length, width, and depth of each individual component, as well as use any piece for any part of the robot — we were free to use legs as hands and torsos as arms, for example. We ended up making a wood-bodied ‘bot with a matryoshka head, human-style hands, and the large, flat feet recommended by our Nintendo rep for balance.

We took our newly minted masterpiece through four ‘Missions’, and each one matched us up against other giant robots — all of which could be made in the in-game editor, we were told — in a fight to stay upright. Power lines cordoned off an urban arena of sorts, and we were free to stomp around and cause as much property damage as we liked while trying to topple our opponents — any robot that hit the ground would fall apart on impact, and our objective was simply to be the last one standing.

True to Miyamoto-san’s vision, the two screens in Project Giant Robot serve very different purposes, and successfully piloting our robot required making good use of both of them. The TV displays a third-person, chopper’s-eye view of the situation — complete with a “LIVE” broadcast watermark in the top-right corner — while the GamePad shows the view from inside the cockpit, with a Metroid Prime-style curved-glass effect, gridded overlay, and handy HUD cheat sheet for the controls.

Though the control scheme feels unusual at first, we came away with the distinct impression that the GamePad is the perfect way to pilot an enormous robot. Instead of moving with the left stick or a twin-stick system, you use the shoulder buttons to shuffle your robot’s feet forward or back — ‘R’ for forward, ‘L’ for back — and the GamePad’s gyroscope to tilt and twist its torso. Moving the GamePad also lets you look around with the cockpit view, aim the head-mounted lasers — fired with ‘A’ — and pull off one of the most important moves in any giant robot’s arsenal: the punch.

The left and right sticks control the left and right arms of your robot, respectively, but simply sticking your limbs out on their own isn’t very effective. To really land a punch, you have to throw the full force of your robot’s twenty-story frame behind it, by leaning into it with the GamePad and twisting the torso as you extend the arm. It’s slow, (un)steady, and delightfully analogue; with no ‘attack button’ to speak of, every successful hit becomes a visceral thrill rather than the result of a simple button press, and triumphing over our automaton adversaries felt more like winning a physical contest than beating a level in a video game.

In two of the stages we played, laser-firing enemy spheres zipped around and provided an extra challenge, as well as an excellent demonstration of the benefits of the two-screen setup. While the other giant robots were easy enough to see in our GamePad’s sights, these smaller foes swarmed in and out of view on the smaller screen; we found ourselves looking at the TV to get an idea of where they were before swinging back to the GamePad to take them out with our laser-eyes, and using both screens felt natural and easy to manage. The second screen also proved useful in targeting specific parts of our opponents. When we were in particularly close quarters with one particularly well-balanced robot, we used the GamePad’s first-person view to aim our outstretched arm into one side of its wide wooden torso, and eventually pushed it over — a triumph of precision targeting over a low centre of gravity.

What we played of Project Giant Robot was undeniably simple, but it was also incredibly appealing. Part of the fun came from getting to grips with the unique controls; our robot felt a bit unwieldy when we first picked up the GamePad, but it didn’t take long to click, and by the end of the first stage we felt like we were really piloting the mech. It’s intuitive in a way that sets it apart from alternative, otherwise-excellent giant robot games like Virtual On, and the slow, deliberate pace makes movement manageable and comical at the same time — we couldn’t help but smile while watching our robot waddle its way to victory.

We also loved the toybox aesthetic, and with vintage robots clomping around a bright, compact, near-past Japanese town, mountains in the distance and clouds drifting slowly overhead, it felt a bit like getting an up-close look at the kaijū battles from Attack of the Friday Monsters: A Tokyo Tale. The graphics were technically sound as well, and we were particularly impressed with the lighting effects — sun shone off of panels, buildings, and ‘bots beautifully, and watching the light bounce around from different angles on the GamePad and the TV simultaneously was uniquely captivating.

Finally, a big part of what made stomping around the arenas so enjoyable was, of course, the fact that we built our robot ourselves. While waiting our turn in line, we watched several players create several vastly different robots, from lithe and long-armed machines to tightly-packed powerhouses, and one memorable Brahmā-esque ‘bot made entirely out of different heads. Since every part of the customization factors into your robot’s unique physics, each one played differently as well; our sure-footed and relatively subdued creation was easy to keep upright, for example, but we really had to lean into our punches to knock anyone over with our modestly-sized arms. The player before us, however, had built a giant-handed goliath, and relied on a strategy of flailing their robot’s limbs around and hoping to hit the enemy before being brought down by the weight of their own massive mitts. Another attendee hit on an equally creative technique, assembling a short, squat, supremely stable robot, and ramming into opponents at the kneecaps to bring them tumbling down. The variety in builds and play-styles was impressive, and made for a popular spectating experience as well — each time we passed Project Giant Robot screen at E3, there were two groups of people gathered around the kiosk: one line waiting eagerly for their chance to play, and another group just happy to watch the robot parade.

We still know very little about Nintendo’s future plans for Project Giant Robot — whether it will be expanded into a full game, released as an eShop title, or integrated into another game entirely — but however it eventually reaches our Wii U systems, we’ll definitely be excited to build another ‘bot and jump back in. This demo we played was an excellent showcase for the GamePad’s concept and capabilities, but more importantly it was also loads of fun to play; we loved the customization, creative controls, and simple, enjoyable, sumo-inspired action. There’s plenty of potential in Miyamoto-san’s latest creation, along with a timely reminder of the way Nintendo makes games: Project Giant Robot’s primary directive is to amuse and delight, and it certainly succeeds in its mission.

Be sure to check out our other hands on features from E3 and the post-E3 event in London:

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User Comments (73)



SetupDisk said:

If this was made into a full game(which it could be easy) it would be fanfreakingtastic!



Shiryu said:

I see tons of potential in this. I wouldn't even be surprised it this ends up a part of the Star Fox Wii U game.



Octane said:

I know it was just a demo, but I'm not going to pretend that Miyamoto can turn everything into a decent game. I don't see much potential in this project..



unrandomsam said:

@Octane Can you think of an example where he has released something recently when it hasn't been good enough (I cannot).



Ralek85 said:

Well, honestly, I think Miyamoto is trying to hard. Seems to me, he is trying to hard to come up with his next great idea, all the while somehow making it up around the gamepad.
Might be a fun mini-game though, who knows ... Splatoon looks a lot more likely to really pan out as a fun and fresh idea, going beyond an entertaining distraction.
Maybe he should be even more concerend with guiding the next generation of Nintendo talent than with creating the next generation of Nintendo content ... just saying.



HollowGrapeJ said:

Ok, I gotta admit, this isn't exactly the kind of IP I was expecting. I'll try it out anyway. But hey, at least he's finally giving us Starfox, right?



yuwarite said:

I think this looks fun. It's something you could give a kid to play, and they'd have a great time with it.



mushroomer said:

part of me feels like some of these PROJECTS.. will fall into the PROJECT HAMMER bucket... and never see the day of light..
Project Giant Robot
Project S.T.E.A.M.
any thoughts?



rjejr said:

OK first I need to get the - Nintendo needs to release a 2nd Gamepad for 2-player support - out of the way. Done.

Now, as for the game itself. similar giant robot battles have been done numerous times before.

Most recently I feel like I already played this in W101.
Skylanders Giants has some giant fighting mech levels.
Godzilla games, War of the Monsters, Eat Them, and lets not forget Rampage (though thats mostly 2D.)

Point being, we can always use more giant robot games. And no matter how bad this was, it has to be extremely way better than Tank, Tank, Tank. Seriously, how did that game turn out so bad? My kids don't even want to play it for free.

If the casuals are done w/ Wii Sports, maybe fighting as giant robots can help bring them back? And if the mechanic works why stop at giant robots? Why not have tiny robots fighting insects, or even tinier inside people (W101 again)? Or use it in space (I'm guessing movement in space is awkward from watching all those space flights) or underwater or inside a volcano. I'ld rather have this than Morpheous, I don't like things on my head or playing strictly 1st person view. I like this compromise of 1st and 3rd.

The idea of making your own giant robots means my kids would want this regardless of how the actual battle mechanic turns out. But we need a 2nd Gamepad, I'm not having them fight over the 1.



Phantom_R said:

"Another attendee hit on an equally creative technique, assembling a short, squat, supremely stable robot, and ramming into opponents at the kneecaps to bring them tumbling down."


I do hope this becomes a commercial game. I don't get the hate for it. Maybe if it had plumbers and fairies...



Gerbwmu said:

@mushroomer - Project S.T.E.A.M. is being released on 3DS and seems to be well into development. This one however might never see the light of day. Although it seems like if it is far enough along to have a demo then doing a cheap release on eShop would be better then canceling it.



arnoldlayne83 said:

I guess is the kind of game you don't get any idea till you try it...

But still, at the E3 treehouse, could they have put some proper demonstrator instead of someone who had no clue how to correctly move the thing? Live it looked very akward and crappy.... good to know that is not like that...

Still, I wonder how this concept could evolve into a complete game...



geozeldadude said:

this write-up has sparked my interest more than the video clips i've seen. could be interesting/fun.



Octane said:

@unrandomsam Star Fox Adventures; Paper Mario: Sticker Star; Wii Music; he suggested the ''blow'' mechanic in DKCR (great game, but that was he only thing I personally disliked). He even suggested Kirby to be yellow, and was against the colour pink. He's a great developer, with amazing ideas, I won't deny that, but Miyamoto is just a person, and he will make mistakes every now and then.



raith said:

Even though the game does look a bit rough, I have faith it'll turn into something very fun. With all the robot part customization, it has lots of potential. Maybe they could change the art style and robot mechanics similar to something like Pacific Rim. It would be awesome if Nintendo had it's own Kaiju/Jaeger type game.



Link506 said:

I don't know if I would pick this up if it was a full price game, but I would definitely buy it if it was on the eshop.



BakaKnight said:

This game sounds very simple and fun, still from the description seems like it also have some deep silly creativity-required aspects in it.

Can't wait to hear more about it, from pure gameplay to its destination as game project



Nin98 said:

@Ralek85 I don't think he's trying hard, it's Miyamotos job to show the full potential of the system's gamepad. Plus, I believe if anyone is to show the potential of the gamepad, it's him.



Ralek85 said:

@Nin98 I thought his job was to make sure the WiiU got entertaining games. I don't know if it is really the best approach to modell your game around a piece of hardware like the gamepad. Either it is a natural fit, or it is not.
I'm just saying all this seems quite forced to me. I don't even know if there is any really meaningful potential in the gamepad in the first place.
I thougt there were good applications of motion gaming, of stereoscopic 3D ... but they were few and far between, and really just enhancements on more traditional products.
I don't think Nintendo should be overly concerned with a kind of proof-of-concept for the gamepad. Wii Sports was great, but this is a new generation, things can be different. Also, by now, who still cares if they can come up with something that really makes the Gamepad a necessity? By now, it feels more like a foible, maybe an endearing one, a foible no less.

Just make good games, Miyamoto-san. You don't have to prove anything. Don't get bogged down in conceptual bs either. In the end you gotta deliver on the promise of fun, nothing else.



audiobrainiac said:

@Ralek85 Well, they are PAYING Miyamoto to come up with ideas like this. He's just doing his job, not trying to "prove" anything. This is just what he's revealed so far, and could have plenty else up his sleeve. Everyone whined saying "make games that justify the gamepad and therefore a Wii U purchase", so Nintendo is trying to show us they actually listened to both their consumers AND investors, and putting their best guy on the job is how they reacted. We asked for it. Maybe we didn't know what we were really asking for.... Personally i'm not super excited about giant slow robots either, but these controls and mechanics could be well implemented in to other projects. I'll get this game, however, the gamepad suited me just fine before the gamepad whining started. You just can't please everyone.



Williaint said:

The first demonstration wasn't very good, but after I watched the Treehouse video about the game, I was really excited. it's almost like a "Robo-SPORE".



Dankykong said:

I'm sure it'll pan out, it looks fun just a little rough. I bet it'll be an eShop game over a retail game, unless there will be more to it, it doesn't look like it's going to be a big $59 game



DreamOn said:

Wonky and unappealing. Good for those people who like curious and unusual game mechanics, not for me though.

The "miyamotos new ip" hype did not deliver



maceng said:

For every game that you have to access inventory, a map or a secondary screen, there's gamepad potential. Think Dead Space (where accessing the inventory is quite unobtrusive), Bioshock (for the iventory as well as for the minigames), Borderlands, almost every rpg that you can think off, etc.

I don't see the potential in action games or in sports related ones, but the potential exists.



maceng said:

Maybe this game can become a monster fighting one, like Godzilla or a Pacific Rim game. Drop the silly aesthetics and let us tinker to our hearts desire, Miyamoto!!



maceng said:

Tank, Tank, tank is not a such bad game. My kid and his friends love to fire it up once in a while.I guess to each its own!!



unrandomsam said:

@Octane Don't think it is the same as any of those. At the time it came out I quite liked Star Fox Adventures. Other people have liked the rest. Just seen a deal for Sticker Star and about 50% of the people seem to genuinely think it is pretty good. If this ships like it is I cannot see anybody liking it which is a totally different thing.



Nin98 said:

@Ralek85 I totally respect your position, but I think the gamepad has more potential and Miyamoto is the right person to demonstrate it to the public. It maybe a improvement to older tech, but it doesn't mean that developers can't still inovate.



sinalefa said:

I won't be one to complain about this. It is an early demo, mostly an experiment at this stage. Plus Miyamoto has done so much for this media that the least I can give him is the benefit of the doubt.



KingMike said:

Wasn't there another Project once, about a Hammer? What happened to that one?



Ralek85 said:

@audiobrainiac "make games that justify the gamepad and therefore a Wii U purchase" Not for nothing, but you could have wrote "make games that [prove] the gamepad and therefore a Wii U purchase [were justified]". So maybe "not trying to "prove" anything" is not entirely accurate." since the relevance of the gamepad is supposed to be proven by such games as this.
But that's not what I want to address really, why the gamepad? That is what is vexing me. Is it really about the gamepad? I hope not, that is what I meant, by trying to hard. Nintendo should be focused on good games, not on games that make good use of the gamepad ...



kingston589 said:

We believe miyamoto! Well, atleast i belive and im enjoying what i see so far. His last projects have all been great except sticker star, which was still ok.



Ralek85 said:

@maceng Sure I can see that, a very limited potential really, since you have to take your eyes of the screen thereby resulting in a "break" from the actual gameplay, though this break is more natural than opening up a menu! But this potential has already been tapped, also it only addresses the gamepad as a "second screen" device. Not really what this project is all about.



Ralek85 said:

@Nin98 I didn't mean to say that it has no potential or that there was no more room for innovation. I was just questioning the level of priority this task should have.
I don't know what the development process for Splatoon looked liked, but to me it seems like a basic rather universal premise, expanded upon by enhancements made possible by the gamepad, which were a natural fit, and thus made that game possible in the unique way, we all were so impressed by.

Maybe I'm wrong but I don't get the vibe, that the game was crafted around the idea of using the gamepad as a map and the gyro for shooting assistance .. and then turned into a full-fledged game.
This is the vibe I'm getting from project giant robot though, it seems like it was born from a forced effort to implement some control and design ideas that were inspired by the gamepad. If this philosphy works out the way we all hope it does, I'm all for it. My impression though, and that goes way back to the Wii and motion gaming in general, is that this 2nd approach is not the most fruitful. More often than not we end up with games that feel like they were maded for example so we could go ahead an wiggle the wiimot around or aim at someting or whatever. The game behind never feels fully realized and the vision at large somewhat incoherent.



Ichiban said:

This looks like rubbish to me, like Wii Music with robots lol
Dare i say that this and that project guard look like something better suited to an ipad?



luke88 said:

@zipmon great write-up! It's made me more excited for the game, whatever it turns into, than anything else I've seen or read of it.

All the customisation options make me feel like it could be great to play online, hope that gets implemented.



luke88 said:

@maceng I think there's loads of, currently undeveloped, potential for the gamepad in sports games, as well as a host of other genres. Imagine a cricket game, though perhaps you don't like cricket, with asynchronous multiplayer; the batting player would have literally no idea what kind of ball they're facing, the fielder could set up field placements on the gamepad etc. I would love that, done well. Or an American football game in which the plays are called on the gamepad - don't really know anything about American football but imagine loads could be done with the gamepad for that. Football, golf - as we've seen in Wii sports, baseball; all are perfect for the gamepad. Wonderful 101 demonstrated pretty clearly that action games can use the gamepad in wonderful ways.



Jmaster said:

I think we all need to remember that these aren't demos of full games, they're IDEAS. They might make a collection of robot-themed minigames, or put them as missions in Starfox (like the Landmaster in SF64/Lylat Wars). Who knows?



EverEndingStory said:

I am so incredibly excited for this game. More than Splatoon, this is the new IP I am most excited for. It reminds me of Minecraft, in its rudimetary nature but amazing potential for creativity.

I think, if this game is released, we will see an incredible metagame bloom forth, as people work within the constraints of the physics of the game, the creation tools, and the arguably unintuitive (or, rather, less automative in comparison with most modern games) but incredibly dynamic and flexible control system to create some really great Mechs and movements.

Most modern games have such automative controls. I push one button in Batman/Assassin's Creed/Uncharted and my character has suddenly turned around moved 2 feet and blocked an attack. Press another single button and he has thrown the enemy over his back and stomped on his stomach, and with one more he's crossed another 7 feet of space and knocked another enemy in the head.

This is so against the grain, but its wonderful. No, you can't just press a button to attack. You have full control of his arm and have to make him punch. But you can't just use the arm. Anyone whose thrown a punch in real life knows thats its weak unless you throw the body into it, pivoting on the shoulders and hips. So, in this game, you have to do that too.

It's difficult, It's not-automative like we are so used to. It's unwieldy. But its dynamic and flexible. How my Mech punches isn't controlled by a series of programmed animations tied to one or two buttons. I could potentially have my Mech hit in anyway I want, without any limit. The only limit is my own ability. My ability to design a Mech with the proportions and body and weight to move how I want, and then to be able to actualize that desired movements.

This is like Minecraft design and play philosophy represented in an action game. Flat out. The only other action game that has offered anywhere close to as much potential in freedom and combat is Godhand.



sr388survivor said:

@Octane Those aren't really mistakes, they're just not things you like. I actually did like the blowing mechanic in DKCR and enjoyed Star Fox Adventures and Sticker Star. I'm not saying everything he does is amazing and while this looks neat I was fairly underwhelmed by this too, but who knows, I imagine the first time people saw Pikmin it probably looked weird too lol.



MadAdam81 said:

@luke88 FIFA 13 had manager mode as an option for the gamepad. Imagine if a Football Manager game, or any tactical sports (or military) game that let's you use the game pad to set up the tactics for your players (or soldiers)...
So far the best is the LEGO games where you can use the screen to switch between all of your available characters, view a map or see the game, as well as dual screen multiplayer- things that make it painful for me to now play LEGO games on other consoles



Heiki said:

Why force the use ot the GamePad like that? Why not let us choose how we want to play? Nintendo should stop with the gimmicks, really.



Sampras said:

You gotta love Shigs! He comes up with the most creative and fun ideas!

You can't say the same for the endless number of 1st person shooters out there.



luke88 said:

@MadAdam81 I hear you! So, so much untapped potential. Was really hoping to see some RTS games on wii u.

There's endless cool ways the gamepad could be used. An L.A noir style game where the gamepad is your notebook could be cool.

I've got my eye on 'affordable space adventure' check it out if you're not already familiar. : )



ikki5 said:

@mushroomer The Robot game... seems like it will be a disaster, Project S.T.E.A.M doesn't look too bad, I feel it has quite a bit of potential and could be a very good strategy tactics game.



MeloMan said:

I wonder if Shiggy is thinking about bringing back the Custom Robo series?



Mickey said:

I am so gonna love this game. It's like, I'll either be able to make a Megazord from Power Rangers, or pretend it's a Megazord from Power Rangers. Either way, I'm gonna have lots of fun with this game. XD




It looks frustratingly stupid. All of Miyamoto games looked stupid. Even Star Fox.

You're telling me after waiting all these years, all they could do was confirm with a really early tech demo that they're doing it?


Well I'm sorry, but I think Miyamoto is beat. He keeps saying he wants to do something different from everyone else, and insists that he can make "that" game when referring to popular western games, but I don't think he can.



IronMan28 said:

It'll be interesting to see what this materializes into, especially considering early feedback for this game seems pretty positive. I really hope it turns out well!



zipmon said:

@luke88 Thanks! =D I agree, online would be a blast in this game! I also think it'd be great if they could let players swap robot designs, with QR-codes or Miiverse - I'd love to try out other people's creations!



grimbldoo said:

@WiiULoveSquid #35
I'd hate to be in your shoes, always being disappointing when nothing ever lives up to it's hype. Here's my advise, grow up a bit and realize that the masses love to exaggerate.



Sceptic said:

I can't believe the sheer volume of words generated for something so shallow and superficial.

What I have seen and heard of this 'game' is embarrassingly bad. I mean if any other company or person dared step out with something this shallow and call it a game concept they'd be laughed off the stage. It's basically a glorified control scheme.

It's not so much what it is now (or isn't, rather) but the fact that Nintendo and Miyamoto don't seem to realize that and think a little gamepad waddling is exciting news in itself.



Sean_Aaron said:

This sounds like a brilliant idea to me: building your own robot and the spectacle of trying to walk it around - what kid isn't going to want to have a go at that. Seems like a likely eShop title, but who knows how they could develop it further?



DreamOn said:

"always being disappointing when nothing ever lives up to it's hype"

Here's my advise, grow up a bit and realize that the masses love to make generalizations



Ryu_Niiyama said:

I'm hoping that parts of this control scheme get integrated into the next punch out. Curious about the completed project though.



Action51 said:

I'm not wowed by an early tech demo seen played on a monitor captured on video.


FFS people, FFS...

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