Nintendo Pulls Back the Curtain on Further Wii U Plans for 2013

In the above video embed, you will find the latest Wii U-focused Nintendo Direct, which was broadcast from Nintendo’s website this morning. In case you’re unable to view it, or would just like further details and screen shots, then read on. Regarding more third-party and Nintendo 3DS releases, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said that these would be addressed separately at a future date.

Two new The Legend of Zelda games are on their way to the platform. As it took almost the entirety of the Wii’s lifespan for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword to be released following the system’s launch with Twilight Princess, it’s difficult to tell when their next new installment will hit. Producer Eiji Aonuma did offer some insight into what they are aiming for in their development, however.

In particular, he notes that they are “rethinking the conventions for the new Zelda, which includes “completing dungeons in a certain order” and “playing by yourself.” I found the first point rather amusing, as it’s effectively how the series began, and lasted through the first several installments. Regardless, as one might imagine, I am thrilled to hear they are trying to do this, and I really hope they succeed in bringing back that spirit of exploration and doing things your own way to the series.

As for “playing by yourself,” that is a tougher nut to decipher. Could he mean multiplayer like Four Swords? Something more MMO or community-driven, as recent Dragon Quest games have aspired to? Heck, will we have options to play as characters other than Link? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, Aonuma also announced a Wii U version of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. In addition to high definition graphics (which seem to have more depth to their appearance, similar to Toon Link in Super Smash Bros. Brawl; see the screens in the gallery below), this version will also be playable on the Wii U GamePad and feature Miiverse integration.

They also say they’re going to “tune up the overall gameplay experience,” though what that means is anyone’s guess right now. Personally, I’m hoping they’ll have both traditional controls (which they must, if it’s playable on the GamePad) and motion controls in a similar vein to Twilight Princess on the Wii– for aiming/targeting, if nothing else.

E3 will bring several new but not entirely unexpected surprises, including our first look at the fourth Super Smash Bros. game on the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. A new Mario Kart is on the way for Wii U, as is a new 3D Mario adventure from Nintendo EAD Tokyo Software Development, the group behind the Super Mario Galaxy series and Super Mario 3D Land.

New features revealed for previously-announced games include the ability to take photos in Pikmin 3 and share them in the Miiverse, while Wii Fit U will be one of the first games to allow users to create their own personal communities on Miiverse.

New game announcements include an unnamed Yoshi title (seen in the gallery below) from the creators of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and supervised by Takashi Tezuka, who produced a number of Mario, Yoshi, and Zelda games with Shigeru Miyamoto. A new Wii Party is on the way, as is a mashup of the Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei franchises by Atlus and a new, unnamed game from Xenoblade Chronicles developer Monolith Soft.

Elsewhere in the video, a behind-the-scenes teaser for Bayonetta 2 was shown, whole Game & Wario and The Wonderful 101 were once again confirmed for a release during the first half of 2013. While a specific date was not given, Iwata did apologize for the fact that no Wii U games from Nintendo themselves will be released in January or February, so we can rule those out.

Other news revealed that two system updates will be rolled out during the Spring and Summer this year, designed to “introduce a wide range of functionality,” as well as hasten the time it takes to launch software or return to the menu screen. If you read my thoughts on the hardware, you might remember that was one issue I had with the system, so it’s good to see that it is being addressed.

On top of that, Nintendo is bringing the Miiverse to smart phones. This will first take place through the phone’s browser, but will eventually be updated to a dedicated app.

Finally, the last big piece of news from Nintendo Direct is that the Wii U Virtual Console will officially arrive following the Spring system update. The service will begin by offering newly-upgraded NES and Super NES titles, as well as introducing Game Boy Advance to the service (previously offered with only limited functionality and selection through the Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Program). This new version allows for the use of Restore/Save States, the ability to play on the Wii U GamePad screen, and even dedicated Miiverse communities for the titles.

The prices will remain the same as on the Wii version of the service, but if you already have a title from that on your Wii U, then you’ll only have a reduced rate to pay for the upgrade to each game: $1.00 for NES titles, and $1.50 for Super NES titles. Admittedly, this makes me wonder what sort of fee they’ll charge for Nintendo 64 titles when and if they should come. That said, the new versions will once more be released gradually, so I’m in no hurry to transfer my titles just yet– I want to keep my N64 titles where I can use a GameCube controller on them.

While the new Virtual Console won’t technically be available until the Spring update arrives, Nintendo is giving everyone a chance to dive in early as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of the Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System here) in Japan with the Wii U Virtual Console Trial Campaign. This celebration includes releasing an NES or Super NES title to the Wii U eShop from now through July (the launch period of the Famicom), and each one will be available for just 30 cents for 30 days.

They kicked the campaign off today with one of my all-time favorites, Balloon Fight, and will follow with F-Zero in February, Punch-Out!! featuring Mr. Dream in March, Kirby’s Adventure in April, Super Metroid in May, Yoshi in June, and Donkey Kong in July. No word on whether that last one will be the more arcade-accurate (but still imperfect) port released as a promotion for the Nintendo 3DS last year, or if it will be the original. All in all, though, not a bad selection.

I’ll try to have a review for Balloon Fight up soon, but I did grab it earlier (after fighting with the system, which wouldn’t accept my Visa info despite having money on the account), and all of the aforementioned new functionality has been added. You can even play with the Pro Controller, though you cannot use the Wii U GamePad for multiplayer– a most regretful oversight.

With all of that said, it looks like there will be plenty to look forward to on the Wii U over the coming year and beyond.

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David Oxford

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