Nintendo Announcements at GDC


Earlier today, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata took the stage at the Game Developer Conference to talk about what the company has in store for 2009.

Nintendo DSi

As I stated in an earlier post, the Nintendo DSi is set to hit American shelves on Sunday April 5th. Having already sold over 2 million units in Japan since the systems release in November of last year.

Today Iwata announced that anyone who buys a DSi within the first six months of its American launch will receive 1000 DSi points. This is a marketing strategy to get consumers to check out the new DSi Shop which will feature games for download. As of now they will be in increments of free (always the best price), 200 points, 500 points and 800+ points. Nintendo has made it no secret however that they are courting developers to create not only games for the shop, but applications in line with the iPhone apps store. After burning through the initial free points, you can either purchase more with your credit card or, starting April 5th, at certain retailers. Still no sign of Nintendo merging Wii points and DSi points into interchangeable currency. Boo.

Two DSi exclusive games were also shown to conference attendees. WarioWare: Snapped will utilize the system’s two cameras for a unique gaming experience and a game until the developmental title of  Moving Memo will allow gamers to create their own animated flip-books. There were also several DSi Shop mini games available on the floor for short demos.

Nintendo DS

Don’t despair if you decided not to upgrade to the new DSi model. Iwata also unveiled today the first peek at a new Zelda game for the DS. The new title will use the same touch controls found in the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks utilizes a steam locomotive to travel around the world, switching between Phantom and Link to explore the dungeons, and solve puzzles using new and classic items.

Nintendo Wii

Both Excitebots: Trick Racing and the upcoming rehash of Punch-Out!! were available for conference attendees to play. The former is set to release on April 20th and the latter on May 18th.

Also announced was the increased capacity for storage on the Wii. Sort of. As of today, Wii owners can save all of their Virtual Console games, Channels and WiiWare onto high capacity SD cards in addition to regular SD cards. Woo hoo? I suppose it’s a good thing and really the best and cheapest option for Nintendo. After all, issuing a  hard drive would be counter productive to profit margins. According to the press release:  To play games that have been saved to SD cards, consumers will be able to select and launch them from an SD Menu icon on the Wii Menu. (Note that when launching games or channels from an SD card, an equivalent amount of internal Wii memory is required. To clear space from the internal memory, users can transfer games or channels from the Wii Menu to the SD card). This feature is included in the latest version of the Wii System Menu Update, which owners will receive immediately after performing a system update today. So my guess is as good as yours as to whether this update actually does anything.

But Nintendo was just using this as a jumping off point for their next bit of news. Starting today as well, the Virtual Console is being expanded to include third party arcade classics. These include STARFORCE by Tecmo Ltd., and Mappy, Gaplus and Tower of Druaga by Namco Bandai Games Inc.

Oh! And the Wii is expected to surpass 50 million units sold this month. No big, right guys? >.>

So other than the new Zelda game for DS, Nintendo failed to impress me at the GDC. No officially announcement on a new Mario game, a new Metroid game. No nothing. They couldn’t even throw a bone to some of the more neglected mascots since the Wii launch. No Kirby, no StarFox. Not even a Donkey Kong. As much as I keep digging for that glimmer of hope that Nintendo hasn’t forgotten its roots, it’s getting harder to keep believing.

Bookmark and Share


Valentine’s Day Massacre

In honor of Valentine’s Day (yes it’s super early but the newspaper I work for wanted the article by the 15th so nyah), my article today was going to focus on the romantic relationships of classic video game couples. Mario and Peach. Link and Zelda. You get the idea. But as my research spiraled out of control thanks to Google search, I realized something. These girls are kind of sad. At least in their original forays into the lexicon of classic gaming. Women who not only were incapable of defending themselves, but also suffered from some sort of amnesia that kept them from beefing up security to stave off these frequent kidnapping attempts. So instead of a happy frolic through fuzzy romance, this month I’m looking at ten female characters kick butt and kill mindless minions with the best of the boys. Warning, there may be things that one could consider spoilers below.

  1. Mrs. Pac-Man: Sure she started off as an unauthorized sequel to the drug like addiction that was Pac-Man. But she was also the first female character to achieve massive celebrity. Premiering in 1981, people around the world fed quarter upon quarter into the local arcade. The levels were addicting, and killing blue ghosts was just as fun as ever. But surprisingly people were also interested in her plot, thin as it may be. Only a few small scenes; from meeting Pac-Man to their eventual stork delivery but it was enough to catapult the game to legendary status and open the door for future female protagonists.
  2. Samus Aran: The original butt kicking girl. For anyone that came of age in the late eighties, the discovery that the power suit wearing, alien killing, acrobatic cyborg that saved the galaxy from certain doom was actually a hot chick in a bikini left you staring at your television in disbelief. How could this be? Even the manual referred to the main character as a “he”. Up is down, black is white. The world no longer made sense. In one moment, an entire generation of pre-teen boys was emasculated. They’d been tricked into playing a girl. Once the shock wore off though, Samus became beloved by all and a model for future female characters.
  3. Chun Li: No list of girls that rocked would be complete without Chun Li. Debuting in 1991 in Street Fighter II, it was the first time quarter-toting kids could play as a female in a one-on-one fighting game. With thunder thighs and an infuriating giggle when she beat you into the ground, Chun Li showed that a woman could look fantastic even while curb stomping your face. With the immense popularity that followed her premiere, scantily clad ladies soon found their way into all fighting games and today are a genre staple.
  4. Princess Peach: What? Didn’t I just completely ridicule her at the beginning of this article? Yes, yes I did. But even though Peach was mostly useless for the sake of the plot she has had two instances where the mold was broken and she indeed kicked butt. Her first attempt was in Super Mario Bros. 2, released in 1988. As a playable character with the ability to float, playing as the lightweight princess was considered the best way to play the game…even topping Mario. That certainly is an achievement on its own. Her ability to hover made precision kills of enemies and bosses almost laughably easy. Then, as recently as 2006, Peach finally got her own game on the Nintendo DS. In Super Princess Peach the tides are turned as she must rescue Mario from the clutches of Bowser. About time, I’d say.
  5. Zelda: Again yes, I did ridicule her for her inability to not get kidnapped but she gets kudos for eventually figuring it out. By 1998 and the release of Ocarina of Time, Zelda had learned to defend herself. Playing an important role as the ninja-tastic Sheik, she helped Link save the world in a more direct manner than usual. Having cut her teeth at being a fully functioning member of society, Zelda went on to become a sassy, back-talking pirate captain in Wind Waker. She’s also reprised her role as Sheik in the popular Super Smash Bros. series where she is considered to be one of the best characters in the one-on-one fighting game.
  6. Lara Croft: The first female protagonist of a new generation, Ms. Croft made her debut to the video game world in 1996. Tomb Raider was a sensation. And while several valid points were made about her being hyper-sexualized it did little to stop her momentum. If she wanted to wear hot pants while solving puzzles, escaping traps, pumping bad guys full of lead and participating in high speed chases, no one was going to stop her. Not to mention that accent. She’s James Bond and Indiana Jones rolled into one and given rockin’ curves.
  7. The Women of Resident Evil: I couldn’t pick just one. Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield and Ada Wong have all taken turns at killing zombies and taking names. In a genre usually known, at least in movie form, for victimizing women, Resident Evil gave them a gun. Or five. And a chip on their shoulder. Throughout the series, these ladies have shown that standing up against the legions of the undead is not just for the boys. And with the exception of a very slinky red dress, they’ve managed to stay fully clothed too. A miraculous event in cinema or gaming.
  8. American McGee’s Alice: Released in 2000, the world got to see a new side of Alice. Having been institutionalized after the Red Queen burned down her house and killed her family, Alice begins the game by attacking the orderlies that spent their free time tormenting her in her catatonic state. This certainly isn’t Disney. With sadistic and psychedelic undertones to the world she enters, Alice embarks on a bloody journey to free Wonderland from the despotic rule of the Red Queen. With a razor sharp blade and wit to match, she is one of the most deliciously dark female characters to grace the gaming industry.
  9. Alexandra Rovis: Chances are, you’ve never heard of her. Alexandra starred in the first M rated game released by Nintendo; Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube. Trapped in a possessed house and determined to save herself and solve her grandfather’s murder, she is faced with one of the most psychologically frightening games to date. Alexandra witnesses herself commit suicide, loses her sanity multiple times and still manages to get it together to learn a forgotten magic, how to wield a sword and destroy the evil necropolis beneath the family mansion.
  10. Chell: The main character of Valve’s Portal has it rough. She’s most likely a clone, designed to die. She’s trapped in a labyrinth with a crazy computer that alternately tries to kill her or offer her cake. But does she cry about it and wait for rescue? Nope. She uses her powers of analytical thinking and the space bending powers of the Portal gun to kill her computerized overseer and escape. Take that genetic engineering. Not only that, but she’s got some cool leg gear to boot.

So there you have it. Ten video game chicks that kick bad guy butt in their respective ways. But these are just my picks. Surely there are more. I can think of plenty off the top of my head that didn’t make the list. Feel free to prove me wrong in my choices or merely add your own opinion below. Don’t be shy!