Leave it to Nintendo to take technology as old as dirt and tease it into a brand new "groundbreaking" peripheral. Put the hammer down and step away from the furnace: It's called the "Wii Speak," and it's -- wait for it -- a microphone for your Wii! Surprise from Nintendo's E3 2008 press conference! And cool in that kind of I-shouldn't-care-but-I'm-compelled-to-in-spite-of-myself way. Oh, and not a headset, but something that claps onto your TV set, so you can get more than one person in on the conversation (whether you want to or not, I guess).
The Wii Speak is going to be doubly intriguing if you're an Animal Crossing fan, because Nintendo just revealed it's bringing that storied franchise to the Wii this year courtesy Animal Crossing: City Folk. Sit around, do whatever you like, and talk 'n stuff. Visualize a bunch of unruly Miis fishing and goofing around and, you know, laying it on like the kids on South Park. What, you think a bunch of unsupervised kids are going to just gab about roses and flowers and puppy dog tails? I guess the "no privacy" TV-mounted angle for the microphone is supposed to cover Nintendo's safety-first angle.
So Animal Crossing: City Folk, i.e. World-of-Animal-Crossing-Craft without the grinding and emphasis instead on the goofing around. Alternatively known as PlayStation Home, aka The Sims PlayStation, aka Third or Fourth Life. Sheesh. Keeping up with all the overlap these days is as hard as remembering whether Deep Impact or Armageddon came first.
You've got your new Zelda and Mario titles on the way, because that's really a surprise. No word on the who, what, when, where, and since this is the Wii we're talking about, how. Any bets on whether we'll see a MarioZelda crossover that's not Super Smash Brothers Free-For-All?
Nintendo's Reggie Fils-Aime says the DS is kicking butt and taking names, which of course it is. The company expects sales to surpass 100 million, something I've been saying for over a year now (and again I say, is anyone surprised?). Now if they'd just fix those cheap plastic hinges on the Lite and figure out how keep human finger-dirt from browning up the buttons. Same problem on my wife's white plastic Macbook, incidentally.
You read about the Wii MotionPlus, right?
The finger-sweat's hardly cooled on Guitar Hero: On Tour's multi-color note-nubs and already Nintendo's announcing Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades, which inexplicably lets you share songs over the network. Huh? Oh, and with that 100 million sales number looming, it's a no-brainer to see Rockstar finally showing some DS love with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars. Rockstar's claiming the game "brings a new level of interactivity to [the series'] sprawling open envirionments." Sprawling? Open? On the DS? Now this I have to see.
Most unsurprising surprise? Nintendo's own version of GuitarRockHeroBand, called Wii Music, which lets you combine the Wii remote (and optionally, the Wii Balance Board) to play along with various songs and try to hit the correct notes. Think sax, piano, guitar, violin, drums, and more.
All in all, a trifle underwhelming in that I'm-overwhelmed-in-spite-of-myself-because-it's-Nintendo kind of way.