Nintendo Revolution @ 8 November 2005 07:28 PM
Nintendo have a reputation for being a very secretive company, and for good reason: most of their innovations have become standard features in rival consoles. D-pads, Shoulder Buttons, Standardised Analogue sticks, even the DSís dual screen output is featured in Sonyís PS3. So itís been no surprise that the Kyoto giant has been particularly cagey about their forthcoming console Ė the Nintendo Revolution.

The Revolution & Controller 'Remote'

Since it was first unveiled at Nintendoís Pre-E3 press conference websites and forums across the internet have been buzzing with speculation about what made the console so Revolutionary. True to form, Nintendo gave away very little at E3 itself, no games were playable or even shown in video form (Metroid Prime 3 was shown but later revealed to be running off GCN hardware) but President Satoru Iwata did let some choice nuggets get through the net. Nintendo would finally be using standardised media storage for its games and would even be able to play DVDs, a feature that was sadly missing from itís GameCube console. Iwata-San also announced the console would feature backwards compatibility, not just with GameCube but Nintendoís entire library of games.

It was possibly the best news Nintendo fans could have hoped for Ė every game on all previous consoles could be available to download from a special online service. It means the Revolution would have a potential starting line-up of hundreds of classic titles and has already proven to be a popular feature according to several Japanese surveys. Its unclear at present whether the games will be charged for, although several Nintendo figureheads have hinted some could be given away in a promotional capacity. Whatís also unknown is whether available titles will be constricted to the same region lock-outs as on their respective formats. It would be a shame if they were, considering some of the great games that never made it to the UK like Earthbound, Mario RPG and Sin & Punishment.

Technically it shouldnít be a problem as the Revolution would be, effectively, emulating each console and homebrew programs have never had much of a problem running games from different regions. Third party publishers have also welcomed this feature Ė after all it would be great for creating extra revenue from charging a small amount per game. And, bizarrely, even Yuji Naka, creator of Sonic, has expressed an interest in allowing his old games to be downloaded. Quite how that would work seeing as they were all on Sega consoles isnít clear but if it was possible the Revolution could become a retro gamers first choice console.

Iwata also revealed that the Revolution would be capable of wi-fi gaming right out of the box. With updates to the Mario Kart, Smash Bros and Pokemon series already confirmed, this feature cannot be underestimated. Judging by the recent DS Wi-Fi service announcements it seems Nintendo is not only taking Online gaming seriously, itís making sure it gets everything right first time. If they could combine backwards compatibility and online then I think Revolution could find itís way into the majority of gamers houses, especially looking back at titles like the original Mario Kart and the Mario Party games.

After E3, Nintendo went quiet on the subject of itís next console. Vague suggestions that more would be revealed by the end of the year werenít enough to satisfy Nintendoís long-suffering fans. As more and more Publishers announced their support (although very few actual titles were confirmed) their hopes were raised further when the organisers of the Tokyo Game Show announced that Satoru Iwata would be making a keynote speech. Rumours were rife that Nintendo would finally reveal the as yet unseen controller, which according to officials provided the real gaming revolution. Iwata-San promised that gamers would be pleasantly surprised when they could finally see it and he re-iterated Nintendoís commitment to stretching the boundaries of play possibilities as well expanding the potential market. Iwata was right Ė we were definitely surprised!

Iím sure anyone who either saw the conference live or read about it in magazines or on the web will have gone through the same set of emotions. First, sheer open-mouthed shock that, sitting before them, was what looked like a TV remote. Then, near-suicidal panic that this meant the end for Nintendo and gaming as we know it. Next came the sudden realisation that actually, this wasnít such a bad idea and that the possibilities for new gameplay were tremendous. Finally, left with a mixture of hope (that other publishers will support the idea), excitement (at the many possibilities for expanding tired genres) and impatience (wanting to play it now!).

So what are the possibilities? And when are we likely to get our hands on one? Well, once again Nintendo have been reluctant to give out any firmer details. NOA have confirmed that it will hit America towards the end of 2006, leaving Europe with a likely release in March 2007. So far nothing suggests that Nintendo will rush Revolution to hit the market before PlayStation 3 (something that could help gain early sales), and so far no games have been seen running on the hardware, which itself is still unknown. So are companies working on Revolution games right now? Itís possible, seeing as Nintendo recently revealed the infrastructure will be similar to GameCube, meaning eager developers can start fleshing out their ideas now.

As we wait for new details to trickle out of the Nintendo HQ (An event is still planned towards the end of the year, possibly revealing final hardware and some games) all we can do is speculate as to what games they have in development and how they are going to play. If developers can let their imaginations fly free Iím sure itíll be worth the wait.
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