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Nintendo Holds Hour-Long Press Conference to Announce Monster Hunter 4

Nintendo keeps the focus on Japan, worshipping at the altar of Monster Hunter. Also, that circle pad add-on will (probably) cost you $20.

Between Monster Hunter Tri 3G and Monster Hunter 4, Nintendo's made some key moves in Japan.
Between Monster Hunter Tri 3G and Monster Hunter 4, Nintendo's made some key moves in Japan.

Tonight's press conference in Japan didn't really need Shigeru Miyamoto or Satoru Iwata, as it basically amounted to a slide show of game logos and release dates, mixed in with some video clips. If there was a theme around the conference, it was Iwata informing the world that games (specifically, sequels) are on the way.

Despite (legitimate) fears, Nintendo did not throw the original 3DS design under the bus...yet.
Despite (legitimate) fears, Nintendo did not throw the original 3DS design under the bus...yet.

The biggest announcement came at the very end, following the proper unveiling of Monster Hunter Tri 3G, a 3DS-enhanced port of Monster Hunter Tri for the Wii with new content. The trailer showed a Monster Hunter game with larger, more open environments and even some...platforming? Wait, what?

There's a reason it's looking so different: it's Monster Hunter 4, a huge grab for Nintendo.

Sony may be getting a Monster Hunter for Vita, but so far, if you want the next major evolution in Japan's ongoing phenomenon, you'll have to have a 3DS. It's hard to understand how big that announcement is outside of Japan, where Monster Hunter hasn't resonated on the same scale, but Monster Hunter saved the PSP--period. If Monster Hunter becomes mostly a Nintendo joint, that's a huge blow against Sony.

Monster Hunter Tri 3G was dated for December 10. It's expected Sony will announce a December release date for Vita in Japan later this week at Tokyo Game Show, but has Nintendo already stolen Sony's holiday thunder? Much of Vita's lineup remains to be seen, but some big guns will have to come out at TGS. Dedicated handhelds may be on decline, but Sony and Nintendo are slugging it out. Can you imagine if Sony announces a December 10 date for Vita?

The craziest omission? The controversial second analog stick. It wasn't shown, mentioned, discussed, dated, priced--anything. I previously argued Nintendo's poor rollout of the accessory is what prompted all the doomsday talk, and besides Iwata not pulling a re-designed 3DS out of his pocket, the company did nothing to shush that talk. We still have no idea what the plan is, but perhaps Nintendo's lack of commentary says all we need to know: this is a Monster Hunter thing, chill out.

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Then, after the conference, Nintendo spilled the details on its website. The accessory arrives alongside Monster Hunter Tri 3G on December 10 for 1,500 yen (roughly $20). While it may seem obvious, Nintendo made it clear games will need to specifically add support for the additional circle pad. Monster Hunter Tri 3G, Resident Evil: Revelations, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Ace Combat 3D, Dynasty Warriors, and Kingdom Hearts 3: Dream Drop Distance will be the first to support it.

Weirdly, it also comes with more battery support. Sort of. The accessory requires a AAA battery. Basically, expect this to be part of the revision. This is a clumsy, short-term solution to the problem.

Nintendo catered to its Japanese audience. There was a reason foreign media wasn't invited, despite a number of writers being in Japan for TGS. Most of the games weren't aimed at a Western audience, such as a new Tomodatchi Collection, featuring some famous Japanese comedians, or yet another Dynasty Warriors game or SD Gundam G Generation 3D or one featuring singer Miku.

Paper Mario, aka the game with visuals that were born to exist on 3DS, is still alive and kicking.
Paper Mario, aka the game with visuals that were born to exist on 3DS, is still alive and kicking.

We did see more of Paper Mario, so that game's still alive, and Nintendo confirmed a new Fire Emblem game featuring a 2D map but 3D battles. Animal Crossing is moving along and looks like how a new Animal Crossing would look if Nintendo decided to take zero risks with a new Animal Crossing. Kid Icarus: Uprising was briefly featured, but only to announce a delay to early next year. Mario Tennis is also coming to 3DS.

Oh, and Square Enix announced an RPG called Bravely Default: Flying Fairy. No, I'm not kidding. A pink 3DS is also coming.

I'd expect Nintendo will hold an event for press sometime this fall. The response to today's conference will be a combination of relief--"No new system, even though we all know it's coming but it's nice to pretend otherwise for a while!"--and disappointment--"Where are the games for everyone else?"--sure to come out of an event that appeared specifically designed to entice the Monster Hunter crowd to 3DS.

Nintendo of America's Twitter mentioned some of the announcements at the conference but not all--like the add-on. The account did confirm a firmware update in November with new Street Pass items and the ability to record 3D videos.

I could use more hats.

Nintendo does not participate at TGS, so Nintendo announcements are off the table for now, though we're sure to hear about some more third-party games over the course of the week.

Patrick Klepek on Google+