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Gaming Evolution

E3 2011: Nintendo Press Conference

June 12, 2011 - The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary - Nintendo started the show with a celebration of all things Zelda, announcing a wave of Zelda-related content to be released over the course of the iconic series' 25th anniversary, something Zelda for "every (Nintendo) platfornm."

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening - The first title for the 3DS' GameBoy/GameBoy Color Virtual Console.

The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time 3D - The newfangled 3D remasterization of one of the series' most beloved entries is hitting store shelves next week; 3D, improved graphics, smoother framerate, touch controls, and an easier water temple on offer from the remake.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords - Coming this September for the DSi. Thatís about all they said on that.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - We didn't see much new in the way of the new Zelda game, but that's not going to matter pretty soon, as we can expect to see it this holiday season.

Zelda Soundtracks and symphony tour - Nintendo is celebrating the 25th anniversary of Zelda by celebrating its music. We got a taste of a live orchestra at the conference, but Nintendo is preparing to release two Zelda soundtracks -- an Ocarina of Time soundtrack as a Club Nintendo goodie for registering OoT 3DS, and a fully-orchestrated album to come out alongside SkyWard Sword. Oh, and let's not forget the live symphony concert, set to be touring the U.S., Europe and Japan this fall.

Moar?! - Nintendo finished off their celebration of Zelda by promising even more content to be announced in coming months. So Zelda fans should keep their ear close to the ground outside Nintendo HQ.

Nintendo 3DS Software

Mario Kart 3DS - I know there are a lot of haters out there, but my fellow fans of Nintendo's seminal kart racer should take notice. The Mario Kart 3DS trailer showed off vehicle customization, allowing players to select from different chassis/wheel combinations, as well as special gadgets, like a hang glider used to extend those long jumps. It's coming this holiday season, but I got to take a good look at the game, so expect my impressions soon!

Star Fox 64 3DS - A 3D remastering of Star Fox 64 that features improved visuals, optional tilt control for flying the Arwing, and a multiplayer mode that records your face as you play, displaying your reactions for all your opponents to read. Hope you've practiced that poker face.

Mario 3DS - This should come as no surprise: a brand new Mario game built from the ground up for the 3DS. But maybe this will come as a surprise: the return of the Tanooki Suit! The trailer also gave glimpses of a Koopa Kid return and what looked like an on-the-move fight against Bowser traversing a level? Hmm... I guess we'll find out more when Mario 3DS is released later this year.

Kid Icaris: Uprising - Kid Icarus got the spotlight next, with Nintendo showing off the game's new multiplayer. It's a three-on-three battle to "destroy the opposing team's angel," whatever that means. Some kind of card battle functionality was shown off, but not many details given. Peculiar....

Luigi's Mansion 2 - A brand new sequel to Luigi's Mansion, built just for the 3DS. I never played the original, but I know it has its fans, and the second entry in the now-series looks promising. Nintendo promises multiple mansions to explore and it looked like Luigi was able to chain his ghost-catching for big points/coins/propers?

Third-Party Support - Nintendo wasn't shy about reminding everyone of how many third party developers are on board with the 3DS, as we got glimpses of Resident Evil: Mercenaries, Resident Evil: Revelations, Metal Gear Solid 3, Mario and Sonic at the London 2012 Olympics, Tekken, Cave Story, Driver: Renegade, and new Pac-Man, Galaga and Testris iterations.

Excitebike 3D - a 3D upgrade to the classic Excitbike is being released for free on the 3DS eStore, 'cause why not?

Pokedex 3D - Promises to take your heroin-like Pokemon addiction into "real life." Pokedex 3D is a full version of the familiar in-game Pokemon encyclopedia, but it's also a game in itself -- one of these "augmented reality" things all the platform holders seem to be going bananas for. The Pokedex comes with only 16 Pokemon unlocked, and itís up to players to unlock more by trading and finding "AR Points" (whatever that means). Basically, it's a Pokedex fueled by Street Pass.

The New Home Console... Wii U?

This is the big one, isn't it? The much-talked-about Wii 2/Wii HD/Project Cafe was officially unveiled today, and boy, is there a lot to go over.

The control rumors were pretty much spot-on; a fully-featured controller with dual analog sticks, shoulder buttons and triggers, a gyroscope for motion control, a camera, a microphone and built-in speakers. Oh yeah, and it has that built-in touch screen.

That screen is really what the Wii U is all about: you can transfer the display of games between the TV screen and controller screen (basically streaming your game from the Wii U to the controller) and play Wii U games using the screen and TV (we saw it used as a tee for Wii Golf, a zoom for seeing more detail, in addition to having its own mini-games).

One of the most interesting uses of the screen was in a demo that showed off a throwing-star game; targets appeared on the TV, the throwing stars appeared on the controller screen, and the player essentially "flings" the stars from the controller screen to the TV. Pretty wild stuff. We also saw this feature used to "fling" photo and video content from the controllerís built-in web browser to the TV. Basically, the Wii U enables continuous playing and streaming of content. Impressive tech, to say the least. Oh yeah and the controller can make video calls (so long to iPhone Face Time for the four of you who actually use it).

The Wii & Wii U Working Together

Did I mention that the Wii U and controller are backward-compatible with all Wii games and peripherals? ĎCause it is.

Nintendo was clear that the Wii U controller is not a portable console; it is tied to the Wii U itself, but no word on the range for streaming content from the console to the controller. Reports from the demo indiciate that the weighty-looking controller is actually pretty light, even with its gyroscope and 6.2-inch screen.

Oh yeah, and all the hype was true: Itís HD and itís gorgeous, as demonstrated by a lovely graphics demo.

Nintendo then launched into a video of third party developers positively gushing over how awesome the Wii U is (their words, paraphrased), and even announcing some games. So here it is, third party games coming to the Wii U: Darksiders 2, Ghost Recon Online, Aliens: Colonial Marine, Dirt, Tekken, Ninja Gaiden 3. Done. What.

EAís John Ricitiello then took the stage to throw EAís weight behind the Wii U in a big, big way. No official game announcements were made, but Ricitiello had a lot of praise to lap over Nintendoís new console. Madden and Battlefield were strongly hinted at. If the Wii U can run Battlefield 3, I think weíll all be bowled over.

Also announced was a new Smash Bros. game is coming for the Wii U and 3DS, but no word on any of kind of connectivity between the two versions.

Phew. That was a mouthful.

Takeaway: Nintendo came to win, plain and simple, but who are they competing against? There was a lot of talk about maintaining their new casual audience while retaking the hardcore market, and bridging the gap between the two, but the Wii U as a device seems more poised to compete with Apple than with Sony or Microsoft -- that controller is practically a tablet in and off itself.

But the games are what really matter here, and based on Nintendoís staggering line-up of first party and third party games, it looks like gamers are going to be the real winners in the next generation console war.

Check back soon for some impressions of the new 3DS titles we got to go hands-on with.

Written By: Christian Higley

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