E3 2008: Nintendo

For more Nintendo E3 2008 coverage, check out our press conference summary!

Trying to make the most of every meeting in just under an hour isn't easy, and even less when you only have 30 minutes. Time sure goes by fast when you are having fun, so our 30 minute demo time for Nintendo titles stretched out to 45, and we got to see much more than we expected with our host J.C. Rodrigo, a member of Nintendo Treehouse. We got to see Wii Music, Animal Crossing: City Folk, Mystery Case Files, Cooking Guide and Rhythm Heaven.


Wii Music (Wii)

As silly as it may look, I really wanted to try this out. Wii Music is one of those games that requires no skill and is aimed at all ages. In fact, it's not really a game since there are no goals, except for having fun. The "game" is based on creativity and self-expression to make your own unique sound.

There are 60 tunes and different modes in Wii Music. You can play as your Mii or import any other from the Mii Plaza. Each song has six parts, two percussion and four melodies, with different instruments for each. There is saxophone, drums, rhythm box, turntable, violin, guitar, chinese drum, maracas and more. You can even just clap if you don't want an instrument. For the drums, you can use the Wii Balance Board as your left and right foot pedals.

You can change how it sounds by pressing the A or B buttons, and if you "play" lots of notes in a short time, you will hear them go up and down quickly to fit the tune. There is a rhythm indicator on the screen while you play, and you will see the Miis do the movements as you do them. You can even do a special pose, spin or jump while you play.

Basically, you play by doing the movements as if you had the real instrument in your hands (no, no dirty joke intended here). So for the violin, you would use the Wii-mote as the arc while the Nunchuk stays still. For the guitar, strum with the Wii-mote. For the saxophone, just press buttons. I picked the marimba, a big xylophone. So with J.C. on the sax and someone else on the drums, there I was, moving my Wii-mote and Nunchuck as if striking the keys, pretending I was actually playing one. And we didn't sound half as bad as the rest of the demo groups that we could hear on the other side of the partitions!

There is also a video recording and editing function that lets you record parts of the song, put them together and edit them, so you can share them with friends.

Wii Music isn't the next Rock Band nor an imitation of it. It's a simple make-believe musical game that will make for some fun time between kids and parents or friends, sometime in the Holiday 2009 season.


Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)

I have never played Animal Crossing before, but I did enjoy what I saw from this one. It all starts by setting the date and time, because everything will revolve around that. Every hour someting changes. Characters are aware of time and will remember when they talked to you last, even what you were wearing at the time.

The game is aware of real time, so it will know when it's summer or winter. The world changes accordingly, as do the collectibles available during each season (for example, you can only find certain bugs in the summer).

Since everything is affected by the calendar, you'll be sure to find furniture and clothes on sale at the end of the season.

Communication is a big feature in Animal Crossing. There is a message board in the Town Hall, you can send letters and mail to friends, you can send them items as gifts. You can mail items to animals now, and they will mail you back something too.

But communication goes to a new level on the Wii with the newly announced Wii Speak will allow for instant communication (not to send voice messages like on XBL). Wii Speak can pick up sound from a pretty good distance and it's a fairly sensitive microphone that can stand above or below your TV (like the sensor bar) and it will pretty much pick up other sounds in the room. Granted, a headset would have been a better idea, but you can turn Wii Speak on or off in game.

Customization is a big portion of the game as well. You can design shirts, choose wallpaper and gfloor for your house, rearrange the furniture. A shoeshiner will shine your shoes to match the color of your shirt. You can go to a hairdresser and change your hair style by answering a few questions. You can even wear your Mii mask. And if you own Animal Crossing for the DS, your character and catalog of items can be imported on to the Wii.

Animal Crossing: City Folk is expected this Holiday.


Mystery Case Files: Million Heir (DS)

Mystery Case Files became a very popular object finding casual game, and it will soon be available on the DS with Million Heir.

The story revolves around the disappearance of millionaire Phil T. Rich, who is now presumed dead. You come in as a hired detective to investigate the disappearance and find the rightful heir to his fortune.

The core of the game is the same as the PC versions. Point and click, find the hidden items blending in with the several environments. There is an indicator on the top screen with how many more objects you need to find on a particular scene, and how many hints you have left to use.

But the game makes use of the Nintendo DS's capabilities and adds a few twists to the gameplay. For example, tools to help you search for items. There's a flashlight that you use to light up dark areas, an X-ray gun to look behind other items, a magnifying glass to zoom in on a small area.

There are some mini-games as well, such as logic puzzles, jigsaw and slider puzzles and spot the differences. With 12 heirs to investigate and 30 scenes to comb for over 1,000 hidden objects, plus a DS download play option for multiplayer co-op object finding, this portable edition of Mystery Case Files will keep fans on the genre entertained come September.


Cooking Guide (DS)

Cooking Guide isn't a game, it really is a recipe book and shopping list in one, turning your DS into a tool to have in the kitchen or while at the grocery store.

Cooking Guide (the title is still a work in progress) has 245 recipes from all over the world. For each recipe you get a short story about the dish and a description, the preparation time, calories per portion, tips and advice, plus step by step illustrated instructions telling you exactly what to do.

Each recipe has a shopping list. If you miss ingredients for a particular dish, you can check the respective boxes. You can then consult your shopping list while you're out to see what you need to buy. While on the list, each ingredient shows what recipe you are getting it for, and if you press "Make This", it takes you back to the recipe and respective steps. If you're worried about getting your hands dirty and not being able to input commands on the DS, don't worry! The guide responds to voice commands to turn the page on the preparation steps. Just say "go back" or "continue" and it will flip the page for you and voice the instructions!

If you're out of inspiration for dinner, you can pick an ingredient and the guide will tell you which recipes are available that use that specific ingredient. Are you in the mood for chicken? Pick that and see what the guide advises.

Recipes are separated by categories: salad, soup, noodles/rice/bread, meat, fish, vegetarian, side dishes and desserts. You can also navigate the world map and select recipes by country. I was happy to find a couple of delicious Portuguese delicacies, pasteis de nata (custard tarts in flaky pastry) and arroz de marisco (seafood rice). I love them both, and don't really know how to make either, so I'm already looking forward for this piece of software come this Holiday season.


Rhythm Heaven (DS)

We were well overdue on our time, but a quick couple of minutes was enough to get the hang on Rhythm Heaven.

This is a very simple rhythm game that anyone can easily pick up and play. You hold the DS sideways and watch the left screen, while synchronizing movements with the stylus on the touch screen. The game even tells you how to play, just do the indicated movement (tap, drag, flick) when the tune reaches a particular note.

The demo had a very upbeat tune with five notes to pay attention to: do, re, mi, fa, so. To do the task indicated on the screen (slide a bar through the holes in two squares as they pass by each other), you flick the stylus when the notes reach so. The trick is, every now and again they will speed up and then slow back down.

The music was pretty catchy (to the point where I was shaking my head with it), and the game was extremely simple. There isn't a release date for Rhythm Heaven yet, but rhythm-game enthusiasts should get their kicks out of this one.