Nintendo had an impressive E3 in 2014, winning plaudits not just for its reveals but also its approach to the show, with the Super Smash Bros. Invitational and Treehouse live streams keeping fans entertained. There were a number of notable reveals, too, yet it was Star Fox for Wii U that intrigued and baffled in equal measure; it was a peculiar announcement that gave a whole new definition to 'teaser'.
Notoriously, TIME hit the button too early - with a little irony considering the publication's name - and revealed the title before Nintendo's 'Digital Event', prompting an internet meltdown in the process. Along with a few publications the outlet had been shown the game by Shigeru Miyamoto, in essense a simple demo that was tied in with demonstrations of Project Guard and Project Giant Robot. The TIME leak led to hype that it'd be the finale of the Digital Event, which it was - sort of. Shigeru Miyamoto appeared in front of a blurred out screen that seemed to have the same simple environment as the few formally approved E3 images of the title, and then it ended. Likewise, in the following Miyamoto-san showcase video we got to watch someone play it for a few seconds, with no real footage to absorb.
Before we consider the mysteries with this game, what do we actually know? Miyamoto-san has spoken of how the title will be a showcase for dual-screen gaming through the TV and GamePad. We can expect a cinematic aspect, with the TV set to show the dramatic action and the GamePad screen providing a cockpit view, and the goal appears to be for both views to be important, with exits and targets only visible by utilising the motion controls of the pad.
There's also been talk of the new Star Fox taking an approach rather like a TV series, with playful references to multiple vehicle and stage types, and suggestions that games like Project Guard could actually be part of it in some way. Co-op has also been cited as a likely inclusion, with one player piloting the ship, mech or relevant vehicle while another player acts as a gunner on the GamePad. The story is apparently likely to be more of the same, but we're promised an entirely fresh gameplay experience.
That all sounds rather exciting on paper, yet as we now enter February we're in the peculiar position that the actual game is still such a mystery. We've had nods, winks and occasional interview soundbites, but we have little idea of how the final product will shape up beyond these allusions. Oddly, the last substantial update was in the December showcase of The Legend of Zelda for Wii U in the Game Awards 2014, when the adventure title was confirmed to still be on target for 2015, and Miyamoto-san assured us that Star Fox would come before that anticipated release.
It may be coming earlier than Legend of Zelda, but the latter has at least been seen in action, and looked very promising indeed; on top of footage for the adventure title we've also been given a sense of the design sensibilities behind it. It's in the equivalent absence of Star Fox that we're left wondering, and it's easy to let pessimism take hold and to fear the worst.
We're excited by the ideas being cited by Miyamoto-san, but a little concerned about the scale of the project; in summary, we hope that Star Fox isn't a glorified tech-demo. This is a franchise that, at its best in past generations, has delivered a wow factor in its set-pieces, visuals and action-oriented approach, and we'd have certainly hoped to have seen a hype trailer or demonstration video to show that off. Yet the talk's been of gameplay concepts, and those fuzzy screens don't scream of exciting set-pieces and bombastic moments. With respect to Project Guard and Project Giant Robot, both of which we've tried, they come across as less-than-stellar tech demos that do little to inspire or push boundaries; we hope they're not an indication of what's to come, with talk of potential cross-overs mooted by Miyamoto-san.
Until we're shown otherwise, then, there's a nagging fear that Star Fox on Wii U is a concept experiment, in which Shigeru Miyamoto puts the GamePad through its paces. Miyamoto-san can be at his best when he experiments in that way, but as fans of the Star Fox franchise we want it to return with a bang, to establish itself as a success-story again to ensure that more games will follow - back to where it once was, in other words.
Star Fox for Wii U may deliver that and more besides with its intriguing dual-screen concept, but we hope we're forgiven for our concern at this stage. All other games shown at E3 have been released, given release dates or shown off fairly extensively - even The Legend of Zelda. Star Fox, however, remains behind closed doors.
We don't anticipate another Nintendo Direct until after 13th February and the triple Western release of New Nintendo 3DS, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D and Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate. Considering the fact Star Fox is coming this year, before Legend of Zelda, we hope it'll be shown off soon and given a chance to reassure us that this is going to be an exciting release. Even if it's a similar length to the classic Star Fox 64, which can be cleared in under two hours but has multiple paths and extra stages, that would be somewhat reassuring. We also have the promise that it'll be playable at E3 this year, yet as we've mentioned Project Guard and Giant Robot were playable but of a questionable level of polish.
Miyamoto-san so often delights fans and rarely lets us down, so there's reason to be excited about Star Fox on Wii U. It's been oddly hidden since E3, unlike other major titles revealed, so we can only hope it's shaping up as a top-notch Nintendo experience.
Unfortunately at the moment it's too much hope, and too many ifs and maybes, for our liking.