E3 '09: Nintendo Keynote Presentation [UPDATED w/ Hands On]

UPDATED with Hands-on with New Super Mario Bros Wii and Wii Sports Resort (below):

Nintendo had a lot to live up to after Microsoft’s solid opening keynote at E3 Expo 2009. To accommodate the high number of people wanting to attend the Nintendo conference, two theaters and one remote location were filled, mostly to capacity. Nintendo trivia, pop music, and gigantic Nintendo logos assaulted the theaters full of people as the countdown began.

The show kicked off with a compilation video showing off some of the more successful Wii games, and focusing on the fact that the Wii and DS have both been ubiquitous, reaching out to more than the standard gamer. “Everyone’s Game” is the big key phrase for the show.

VP of Sales and Marketing Cammie Dunaway took the stage to start with some stats. “NPD says video games were just as big as home video, just as big as toys” last year. The reason, according to her, is because of the way Nintendo is reaching out to more than the already installed game userbase. “Today we will bring you both innovation and surprises.”

Mario took focus first, with his history showcased on the multiple big screens across the theater. Bill Trinen, senior manager of product managing came out to talk about the newest Super Mario Bros. for the Wii.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is 1-4 players, and item boxes often produce more than one item. You can play cooperatively or competitively, with people trying to get coins for themselves. It’s a classic 2D Mario game, with Warp Pipes and new powerups, like the Propeller Suit, which allows for a high jump and slow drift back down. Players can throw each other, or pick each other up to find bonuses or secret areas. The game is on the show floor this week, and coming out worldwide Holiday 2009.

Wii Fit has been such a strong seller (15 million sold worldwide) that it’s almost another gaming platform. Wii Fit Plus is looking to find a workout routine specific to each gamer. Six new strength and yoga activities are included, and freedom of choice is the focus, to try to make it a more natural workout. 15 new balance games, including one that lets you “run a mile in Mario’s shoes,” platforming and dodging obstacles. It will come bundled with the balance board or standalone Fall 2009.

Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo America was next up. He talked extensively about the Wii Motion Plus, which was shown off in-game with Red Steel 2 during yesterday’s Ubisoft presentation. The attachment plugs into the bottom of the Wiimote to allow a much higher level of precision in aiming and motion response. Basketball, sword fighting, waterskiing, and ping pong were all shown as examples of the more precise controller, amongst other uses. All these will be in the already announced Wii Sports Resort, coming soon bundled with the device. A live demonstration by Trinen followed, showing off the close to 1:1 control. Archery offered tight aiming, but compensating for wind and distance is necessary. Fils-Aime rejoined Trinen for some awkward comedic conversation before facing off in a 3 point contest, which includes reaching down for your virtual ball, throwing up your hands and releasing at the right moment. While this game may spell disaster for lamps and TVs everywhere, it did look fun and had impressive control level.

Fils-Aime continued, announcing the American release date of July 26th for the game. He then went to EA Sports’ Tiger Woods 10 and Grand Slam, as well as Sega’s Virtual Tennis. He offered a “selling point” that if you’re bad at golf or tennis in real life, you’ll see that reflected in the games. Red Steel 2 got a shout-out as well, also being bundled with the device.

Third Party development continued as the focus, with a spotlight being put on RPGs. Square Enix’s open-world adventure, Final Fantasy: The Crystal Bearers looked incredibly cool, with higher-end, more realistic graphics than the previous Nintendo versions. Kingdom Hearts is coming to the DS with the same graphic and sound levels, if not slightly improved, from the original games with 358/2 Days.

Mario and Luigi, Bowser’s Inside Story has the brothers shrunk to the size of microbes and ingested by Bowser for the RPG. After a trailer, the NA and European release time of Fall 2009 was announced.

Golden Sun DS was the big surprise announcement in the RPG group, marking a revitalization of the 6 years-dead franchise to much applause. Spring 2010 brings the title to fans.

On October 13, 2009, James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion is coming to the DSi for mystery novel fans. Interrogation, mini-games (including Mahjong? Huh?) are how detective work is done in this one.

C.O.P.: The Recruit features a comic-book look for an open world adventure featuring an undercover NYC officer. Featuring third person shooting and driving, this looks to continue opening up the GTA style genre on the DS.

Style Savvy is aimed at young teen girls, with designing clothes and competing in Runway Contests being man features. You can also share your designs with other players.

The DSi got a spotlight video next, featuring gamers spewing sound bites about the system. The system has surpassed 1 million in sales in 2 months, while still maintaining 400,000 units of the DS Lite.

Flipmode Studio, an animation program, will be available to NA DSi gamers this summer.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Minis March Again allows user-created levels that can be shared over the internet, and is available on Monday vs. DSi Ware.

WarioWare DIY allows gamers to go the next step, making their own microgames, which also can be shared from system to system locally or online.

Auto-upload of photos from the DSi to facebook is coming this summer, expanding facebook’s penetration into the gaming world.

The press conference continued to be an advertisement for the Nintendo show floor Booth with Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks being talked about but not shown at all.

President Satoru Iwata took the stage next. After again talking about the expansion of games out into the world, he broke it down into three categories: Active gameplayers, people who say they’ll never play, and “maybes.” Worldwide, according to Nintendo’s research, 295 million people are “Actives.” 149 million people are in the “maybe” category. “For every two people playing, there’s 1 more waiting to jump into the game,” Iwata said. After talking more about game expansion, he introduced the Wii Vitality Sensor. It’s a device that takes your pulse. The crowd is speechless.

Dunaway came back on stage promising more “stimulation” with Mario. A second full 3D Mario title is coming to the Wii! The game features Yoshi, and marks the first time more than one 3D Mario game has arrived on one Nintendo console. Super Mario Galaxy 2 showed off a great trailer with familiar and brand new gameplay.

Fils-Aime came to wrap up the press conference. “I read the blogs too,” he said, and knows longtime gamers might want “more.” Three Wii exclusives for 2009 were shown off next. The Conduit from Sega was shown with a trailer focusing on the FPS’s higher-than-usual graphics. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles from Capcom was shown next, featuring lots of blood, zombies, and headshots using an aiming reticle controlled by the Wiimote. Dead Space: Extraction was last to be featured, showing EA’s all-new game from the series that launched just last year. “Could a new, edgier game also be coming from us? Absolutely.”

The big surprise of the event came. Team Ninja and Nintendo are making a new Metroid: Other M. The first trailer looked absolutely incredible, with FPS, 3rdPS, and 3rd Person Action gameplay all shown, complete with new suits and possibly some competition for Samus Aran.

Hands-on with New Super Mario Bros Wii and Wii Sports Resort

Newsarama got one of the very first hands-on demos with two of Nintendo’s anticipated new games directly after the Press Conference at E3 this morning. The Motion Plus was featured with the sword fighting portion of Wii Sports Resort, and crazy co-op gameplay in New Super Mario Bros. Wii was available to play as well.

Wii Sports Resort is one of the first games to offer Wii Motion Plus controls for greater accuracy. The sword fighting mini-game offers up hope for Star Wars fans, as it proves that finally, a 1:1 motion control sword (or saber) fight is possible. The game encourages users to use both hands, holding the Wiimote like a real sword. The only button press necessary is the B button under the controller when you want to block, but the proper blocking motion is necessary as well. Every subtle movement, swing, parry, stab, and slash is reflected nearly perfectly on screen. It was truly a marvelous difference from any motion-controlled sword experience from ever before. The game is a simple one on one circular arena fight. Those who fight with calculated strikes and blocks will absolutely do better than hack and slashers, offering surprising depth to such a simple looking game. It was an absolute blast, and easy to get better at after just a few rounds. This game absolutely whets the appetite for a real “light saber” game, and if LucasArts is smart, they’re working on it now. Luckily, until then, we’ll also have sword fighting in Ubisoft’s Red Steel 2.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii is set to offer an old-school 2D platformer with some new elements. I played as Mario alongside a Luigi, and we took on a level very reminiscent of the classics so many grew up with. A nice surprise not seen in the trailer was the presence of Yoshi in the game, with multi-colored Yoshis seen, presumably each with different power ups and moves. The co-op aspect was hilariously entertaining to play with. We threw each other around, used Yoshi to eat and spit Luigi at enemies, and got huge jump boosts by jumping off the top of one another’s heads. It was a great experience, feeling both nostalgic and brand new at the same time. Early on, with the already hectic nature of just two players, it feels like 4 might be a little too crazy, but I’ll reserve judgment until I get to play more of it on the show floor later this week.

While some of Nintendo’s Press Conference was a bit of a snoozer (a pulse taker? Hmmm), their new games off first party IPs are clearly still where Nintendo excels, and there are plenty of those on the way.

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