2002 was the Nintendo Difference; 2004 is the Nintendo Revolution. Or so they say. At today's pre-E3 press conference, Nintendo wiped the floor with the competition by not only showing improved sales figures over Microsoft, reconfirming their near-100% market share of the handheld industry, and restating their ambitions in the realm of innovation, but also by bringing more or less each of gamers' popular wet Nintendo dreams of the past five years to the table.
The company intends to take things very seriously starting later this year with the unveiling of the Nintendo DS and assorted first party titles that will introduce the full force of Nintendo branding to the game industry once again.
As a console, Nintendo DS ("Developer's System") was known to feature two screens with rumours of something more. That "something more" aspect has now been confirmed as the inclusion of twin processors that can handle 3d graphics of N64-esque quality (albeit looking sharper since it's on a smaller display), touch screens with stylus or finger control, voice activation using a built-in microphone, local wireless gaming with a range of 100 feet and auto-wake mode for the system when it detects another DS unit in the area, and online wireless gaming using more traditional wi-fi. Nintendo is finally going online, and what's more, you can share your game with up to 16 players using only one cartridge.
DS will be released in Japan and North America later this year, with a European window scheduled for early 2005. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was pertinent about focusing more on software library than technical specs, and while it mentioned development of the next generation "revolutionary" console is underway, it remained tight-lipped about any technical information regarding that system, stating simply that such data "do not matter".
Nintendo also plans to push the DS with a robust game library, something it believes can make or break the system's success. Alongside the announced Square Enix titles, the company will naturally be presenting its own host of support from its wide range of brands - Metroid Prime: Hunters, Animal Crossing DS, and a new 2d Super Mario Bros. title among the most important and interesting of those on the list.
But besides the introduction of a new console that should bring new gameplay innovations to the industry, Nintendo's main point this year was to satisfy gamers. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes looks as stunning as you could want it to, while Star Fox 2 puts the series back to its roots as a sci-fi shooter on air and land. Advance Wars is also coming to the Gamecube as well as Fire Emblem and the new Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat that uses the Donkey Konga bongos as controllers.
Perhaps the greatest announcement of the presentation, and possibly the funniest, was the new Gamecube Zelda game, that, against all expectations, is based on the 2000 Spaceworld demo of a mature Link and Ganon duking it out in elaborate gothic atmosphere. While currently untitled, the game looks absolutely stunning and certainly promises to fulfill gamers' imaginations more so than last year's quirky Wind Waker installation. All this hype came together in the appearance of Shigeru Miyamoto on stage bearing Link's sword and shield and supported by cheesy sound effects and his classic grin with Engrish to go.
All in all, it could be said that Nintendo took home the prizes this year. But E3 hasn't started yet, so stay tuned as we look at what's coming later on; more importantly, what Square Enix will be bringing us to work with.1