Nintendo posted a new Nintendo Direct video this morning, covering a veritable smorgasbord of future releases and features for the Wii U and the 3DS. Although quite a few Wii U items were covered, the most exciting information from the company continues to center on the 3DS, which is enjoying a great deal more popularity than its struggling console cousin.
Wii U Games
This morning's video touched on four upcoming 2013 Wii U games: Sonic Lost World, Rayman Legends, Pokemon Rumble U, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Super Mario 3D World.
Sonic Lost World is the first connected game we've seen for the Wii U and 3DS. Players will be able to connect the two versions together using local wireless, creating radio-controlled gadgets in the 3DS game that can then be used in co-op mode on the Wii U. The game will be available for both systems on October 22. Unlike with Sony's Cross Play system, it appears that the two versions of Sonic Lost World will need to be purchased separately in order for connected gameplay to occur.
Although it's no longer a Wii U exclusive, Nintendo reminded us that Rayman Legends has asymmetric multiplayer gameplay (otherwise known as Murfy Mode) using the Wii U GamePad. It's also, unsurprisingly, the only version that includes Mario and Luigi costumes for Rayman and Globox. The game has expanded with its extra development time, and players will be able to unlock forty remastered Rayman Origins stages as they progress. Rayman Legends launches on September 3.
The Pokemon Rumble games aren't the most popular Pokemon spin-offs, but they're doing well enough that we're getting another entry in Pokemon Rumble U for the 3DS. This downloadable game arrives on August 29 and allows players to have coliseum battles using all 649 current Pokemon. It supports co-op with up to four players, and GameStop will be selling collectable figurines that can be scanned into the game using the Wii U's NFC feature.
Nintendo didn't have much to say about its major first-party games. Mr. Iwata reminded us that The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD includes gameplay improvements over its GameCube version. In particular, the lengthy treasure hunt near the end of the game has been re-tuned in order to keep players from getting bored and shelving the game. Finally, in a shock to absolutely nobody, Luigi was confirmed as a playable character in 2014's Smash Bros. game.
If the Wii U announcements failed to offer excitement, that's because Nintendo saved its surprises for the 3DS. First, the company reminded us that Mario & Luigi: Dream Team arrives on store shelves on August 11. It's an RPG with a hybrid action, turn-based combat system that appeals beyond the hardcore role-playing crowd.
Next, we learned what's coming up for the 3DS Virtual Console in the near future. The original Donkey Kong appears on August 15, Wario Land 3 farts onto the scene August 29, the challenging Famicom shoot ‘em up Summer Carnival ’92: RECCA is coming soon, and Tecmo Bowl arrives in the fall. Super Mario Bros. 3 is coming to both the Wii U and 3DS virtual consoles later this year, as well.
After showing a trailer for Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy, which releases on the 3DS next year, Nintendo made an unexpected announcement. The much-desired crossover game Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is being released in the West on the 3DS next year. Fans who had given up hope of seeing that game come out in English are very happy today.
Finally, we were able to see some new footage from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Although the game contains familiar locations from A Link to the Past, it's a completely new game. Iwata noted that A Link Between Worlds takes place hundreds of years after A Link to the Past and stars a different Link.
As has been noted by many critics, Nintendo's online community is quite different from that offered by competing console makers. On the 3DS front, Nintendo Zone StreetPassing has just gone live. People who pass through a Nintendo Zone location at various retailers will be able to StreetPass with the last person who passed through. This helps North Americans gain StreetPasses. Unfortunately, Starbucks is changing its service provider from AT&T to Google soon, and thus will no longer be a Nintendo Zone location. That leaves mostly McDonald's and Best Buy (assuming a particular location has properly set up its Nintendo Zone, which isn't a given) for this new system.
On the Wii U, Nintendo is expanding the capabilities of the Miiverse. It is releasing a set of tools from its upcoming Wii U Art Academy game that are specifically designed to help people create full-color artwork and post it to the Miiverse. This Art Academy Sketchpad will be downloadable on August 9.
Nintendo is also opening an Animal Crossing community on Miiverse and releasing a special plaza on the Wii U for Animal Crossing friends. Players will be able to chat with Animal Crossing characters, use special Miiverse threads to talk about their favorite characters, and exchange pattern QR codes on the Wii U. It's unfortunate that Nintendo hasn't completed Miiverse functionality for the 3DS yet, because this new plaza would be far more useful if it could be accessed directly from the system on which Animal Crossing: New Leaf is being played.
This particular Nintendo Direct was obviously aimed at existing Wii U and 3DS owners, as it didn't contain much information to entice new buyers to the systems. The 3DS doesn't need too much help; it continues to be a thriving platform for an excellent variety of games. Even so, today's 3DS announcements, especially the Virtual Console lineup and surprise Layton vs. Phoenix Wright reveal, were more exciting than the information given on upcoming Wii U releases.
While the long dry spell for the Wii U is finally ending, Nintendo has a lot of work to do in order to build up the home-console's base. This Nintendo Direct was hardly even a baby step in that direction. Nintendo needs to seriously step up its marketing if the Wii U is going to survive this holiday season.
Senior Contributing Writer