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June 7, 2011 at 8:32 AM

E3: Nintendo unveils new Wii U — the Wii Pad?

LOS ANGELES — Nintendo’s press conference has started with a full orchestra performing the “Zelda” music while a video showing the evolution of the game plays on a big screen here in the Nokia theater in Los Angeles.

This was a prelude to the announcement of “The Legend of Zelda 25th Anniversary” by creator Shigeru Miyamoto, senior managing director of Nintendo. Versions will be available for each of the company’s game systems.

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“Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening” is available today for download from Nintendo’s online store. Next weekend, “Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time 3D” for 3DS will be released, and in September, a four-player, downloadable, cooperative sword game for the DSi will be released for free.

“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” will be out this holiday season for the Wii. It will use the Motion Plus controller, and a special gold version will be released with the game.

Simultaneously, Nintendo is going to hold a series of concerts performing the Zelda music around the world and the company’s releasing CDs with the music.

Over 200 people internally at Nintendo have worked on the Zelda series, Miyamoto said, before calling several team members onto the stage for applause.

“But what’s most important in all of this are the fans who have played ‘Legend of Zelda’ over the years,” he said, thanking them and bowing on the stage.

Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, came on stage next, setting up the Wii replacement.

“The boundary that once divided players …. are starting to be erased, but mental boundaries still exist in how game systems are defined…. Some are seen as appropriate for only the most passionate players. Others like Wii seem to attract a large number of casual gamers. As an industry, what we haven’t achieved yet is a game platform that’s equally satisfying for all players. This is exactly what we intend to create with our new home platform.”

“For Nintendo the goal of innovation is to serve every player, even though each brings to video games an individual appetite, a personal passion and a distinct gaming history,” he continued.

Iwata said the new console won’t come until 2012, and details of the hardware won’t come until later in the press conference.

“This year, there are bold new experiences coming to Nintendo 3DS and several of the franchises you know so well are moving into 3-D,” he said.

After a few game clips, Reggie Fils-Aime came on stage below the 3DS logo.

“You want comfortable and you want surprise, contradictions, no problem, they come with the territory. But is it fair to ask and is it even possible to deliver something for everyone? Well, as Mr. Iwata suggested, with our new home console, this is exactly what we’re aiming for with Nintendo 3DS.”

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Fils-Aime said Nintendo’s releasing five key new titles for the $250 3D handheld. They include a “tricked out version” of “Mario Kart” that will go on sale in the holiday season.

Another is “Starfox 64 3D,” a new version of a classic Nintendo flying game that will be controllable with motion controls of the 3DS, and will display the faces of your competitors as captured by the cameras on their devices. It’s going on sale in September.

Nintendo also built a new 3-D version of “Super Mario” for the handheld that will be released by the end of the year.

Fantasy action game “Kid Icarus Uprising” is going on sale later this year, with three-on-three multiplayer capability, the ability to customize weapons and augmented reality playing cards that launch battles.

Also coming soon is “Luigi’s Mansion 2,” with multiple mansions for the character to explore.

Fils-Aime announced that Nintendo’s new “eShop” online store and browser have now launched. A system update coming to handhelds this week will also enable the systems to receive downloadable trailers later this year. The system update also is going to provide a free “Pokedex” for Pokemon Black. The company’s also giving away a free copy of 3-D Classic Excitebike, a 27-year-old game remade for the 3DS.

Finally, he revealed the new Wii — which is called the Wii U — and its controller. The controller is a book-sized device with a 6.2-inch touchscreen flanked by game controls that are designed to be used in the house in conjunction with a new, curvier version of the Wii console going on sale next year.

The controller can be thought of as a gaming pad that can be played with on the couch while someone else is using the TV, similar to the way people use the iPad to browse or play casual games while others are watching a show or movie.

Games can be played entirely on the controller, including board games when it’s set on a table, or it can be used as a traditional controller with games played on a TV set. As a controller, it can be used to aim pitches on baseball games, or set on the floor to work as a golf tee. The device can also be used to make video calls and as a drawing tablet, when used with a stylus.

“Up until now home console games had to occupy the TV screen to be played,” Iwata said. “You won’t need to give up your game play when someone else comes into the room and wants to watch a TV program. Of course it’s backward compatible so all Wii games, Wii controllers and accessories such as Wii Balance Board can be used.”

It is not designed to be a portable game player, though, even though it shares design characteristics with them. It connects to the console wirelessly without latency, he said.

Among the game previews is a “Mario Mii” game in which your avatar plays along with Mario.

A video was shown with a series of game publishers talking about the new system and highlighting hardcore, action games being developed for the system including “Ghost Recon Online,” “Tekken” and “Batman Arkham Asylum”

EA’s John Riccitiello came on stage and called the Wii U a “stunning breakthrough in game technology” and showed games such as “Battlefield 3” on the system.

Fils-Aime described it as the latest in revolutions, following the Wii’s motion controller and the glasses-free 3-D play on the 3DS. He said people will discover how with Wii U, “a second window opens to your game world.”

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