Nintendo spent Wednesday afternoon fouling up our meticulously planned Wednesday evenings here in Los Angeles by keeping us tied up in an hour-long press conference to unveil Super Smash Bros. Brawl, as you may already have read about. Still, it was their own party in West Hollywood they were forcing us to miss, so perhaps there's no harm done.
In any event, you'll probably feel it was worth it for the unusual opportunity to hear Shigeru Miyamoto and Masahiro Sakurai, formerly of HAL Labs and currently employed by Nintendo to develop Smash Bros., answering a number of questions Nintendo had collected during the day from heavily embargoed journalists.
Miyamoto began the evening session by smilingly getting everyone in the audience to say "Wii" together, which we duly did. He went on to reiterate Nintendo's three-pronged strategy to attract new gamers, reinvigorate old ones, and keep the core happy at the same time, arguing that Nintendo was no longer in competition with Sony and Microsoft but with other forms of entertainment entirely - and that in taking these on it would expand the gaming audience.
He pointed out that the complexity of controls is overcome by Wii; that in Zelda, you no longer wonder about the inversion of the aiming controls because you just point. He also joked about how poor he was at playing Zelda left-handed. Wii games are almost better for complete newcomers; "We've hit the reset button to play control," he asserted, before launching into the reason for our being there: a slick computer-generated trailer for Super Smash Bros. Brawl, subsequently confirmed as being due out on Wii next year.
Brawl will feature a wide range of characters; those in the trailer were Mario, Kirby, Link, Samus, Pit from Kid Icarus, the Metaknight, Pikachu, Zero Suit Samus, Wario and even a Nintendog. But the biggest cheer was for the next bit - a Metal Gear Solid style codec sequence during which Solid Snake was asked to join in. "Hrmph," he complained to Colonel Campbell, only to reveal that he was actually hiding in the background of a fight, in a cardboard box.
With the game out in the open, Masahiro Sakurai came on stage and talked about his role - how he'd formed a development team with Nintendo employees after Satoru Iwata asked him to develop the game. Sakurai had previously become independent from HAL Labs, where he made Kirby, and worked on the likes of Meteos with Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment. And from there, with a couple of hundred journalists watching and (in worryingly quite a few cases) struggling to contain their delight and mirth, the pair went on to accept questions from the Nintendo compere. What follows is the transcript. Straight from my fingers to your face.
Nintendo: Now that the Wii is a reality, does it inspire you to revisit some of the old Nintendo franchises that fans have been asking for?
Shigeru Miyamoto: I think it opens up a lot of different possibilities. Obviously one of those was with Kid Icarus and you can see we've come back and recreated Pit in full 3D now. Even if I'm just taking a past game like Starfox and just replacing the control system with the Wii controller opens up a lot of different opportunities and new ideas that we could implement into past franchises and past games, but unfortunately right now I've got so many other brand new ideas that I'd like to bring to fruition first, that I don't think I plan to put my hands on those yet but maybe at some point in the future.
And of course now with the Wii remote you can point directly at the screen and interact with it in that sense, it might be possible that Virtual Console can offer games that could take advantage of that functionality and just change the feel of the game.
Nintendo: What are some of your ideas for the Wii that you haven't shared?
Shigeru Miyamoto: There's not really any new ideas that I'm prepared to talk about here today, but one thing I can talk about is Super Mario Galaxy, which is playable on the Wii right now on the show floor. And one thing I always wanted to do with a Mario game, for many years, is have one player play as Mario and for other players to join in and play, and help out and that sort of thing. And with the way the Wii remote works, given that we can have up to four remotes using the player functionality simultaneously, one thing we're looking at doing for Super Mario Galaxy is allowing for multiplayer that would allow for one player to control Mario with the second, third and fourth players using the Wii remote to help him out, perhaps get in his way - and so we're looking at different ideas with how to work with that. And that sort of functionality implemented into past games could make for some very exciting changes.
Nintendo: How will Super Smash Bros. on the Wii take advantage of the controller?
Masahiro Sakurai: Well I almost feel a little uncomfortable getting this question directly after Mr Miyamoto, but we've actually been working with some different ideas and we've found that trying to implement too much of the pointing device or the motion sensing stuff gets a little bit in the way of the gameplay so rather than just trying to implement too much of that in the game we're trying to keep the control simple as it has been and allow people to play in that sense. Of course you all probably know that the Wii hardware has sockets for the GameCube controller as well so I'll just say now that you may not want to throw away your GameCube controllers just yet.
Mr Miyamoto and Nintendo have encouraged developers to really take advantage of the Wii functionality with the remote and the nun-chuck and the motion-sensing and asked people to really make it an objective to implement that into their games, and so I really look at my role as being to offer something different to what people have offered. In that sense, I'm going in a different direction and trying to come up with something that's more of a standard type of control feature that a lot of you have come to expect. And I think that by having this kind of broadened line-up of functionality, you can appeal to a broad base of users.
Nintendo: [At this point, the Nintendo PR guy on the podium receives a text message. It is very funny, he tells us. It says:] Will Wario have a fart move?
Masahiro Sakurai: Yes he will.
Nintendo: Will the game's roster be expanded to include more Nintendo characters than what we've seen?
Masahiro Sakurai: Of course there are plenty of other characters we're thinking about in particular, none of which happens to be shown today. Actually I almost want to ask everyone here what characters they'd like to see. [Laughter. Someone yells "Sonic", someone yells "Olimar". Someone yells "Master Chief". "Reggie". More laughter. It's a total love-in at this point. We've stopped trying to shield the dictaphone from the whooping laughs of those around us.]
Nintendo: Will the game take advantage of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, or can you explain if the game will be online?
Masahiro Sakurai: My plan is to include Wi-Fi Connection compatibility and online functionality. Actually one of the primary reasons the Super Smash Bros. game was created was that Nintendo staff both in the United States and in America [we assume he meant the US and Japan - Ed] said that when taking the home console online, the best title to do so would be Super Smash Bros.
But, at the same time, I think it may be a lot of work for us to try to come up with a system that will allow four players to play simultaneously and try to find out who's number one. We're mainly focusing more along the lines of bringing lots of people in together to play simultaneously in perhaps some new and different ways.
Nintendo: It's great to see Zelda now displayed in 16:9. 480p. Will most Wii titles be displayed like that, or will some appear in higher resolutions?
Shigeru Miyamoto: First of all, our standard is going to be 480p, but if you put that on a very nice television it's going to look very nice.
As for the widescreen, you know obviously the Wii is capable of displaying the widescreen. Zelda is a game that displays the widescreen because it makes the game a lot better when you can see more of the world, so in that sense obviously with Zelda we're going to display in widescreen. I think it's really up to the developers in terms of whether they want to use widescreen or not. Because we implemented this fully in the Wii, we at Nintendo tend to take advantage of it as much as we can.
In addition to that, obviously the Wii is much more powerful so when it displays in widescreen... so with a game like Zelda it runs much better in widescreen than it would in three-by-four. So you can expect great things out of that.
Nintendo: What is your current favourite Wii game so far and why?
Shigeru Miyamoto: Actually right now I'm having a lot of fun with tennis. I've been playing it a lot and part of that's because everybody picks the controller up and immediately they know what they're doing and they know how to play and they're all at the same level, but also the gameplay is actually surprisingly deep in terms of what you're able to do with your swing. And so I'd have to say I really enjoy tennis.
Masahiro Sakurai: Actually I've only just played Zelda and Mario today for the very first time, but I did like the plane demo; I thought that was very fun.