Thanks to the generous people at Invision Gaming Community and Nintendo PR, on the 25th of this month I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Nintendo Post E3 Gameplay Event in London exclusively for press. Before we start discussing the games there I’d feel terrible if I didn’t give a little thanks to everyone who was working there on the day – everyone there was very kind and informative. Lovely conversations were had which really added to the whole experience, thanks very much to everyone working there!
Now, onto the real reason we were all at that event, the nostalgia and excitement inducing Nintendo games. Featured at the event were a whole host of games, some coming out very soon (next month even!) and some coming next year. If you are unsure of buying a 3DS or a Wii U then this host of games may just tip you over the edge of temptation and persuade you to grab for your wallet. Let’s explore the variety of lovelies Nintendo are presenting us with over the next 18 months.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds (Released late 2013)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds will be coming later this year for the 3DS which will have many fans very excited as it’s the first original Zelda game to be on the 3DS. It is the spiritual sequel to A Link to the Past (originally released on the SNES, then again on the Gameboy Advance and Virtual Console) which was very evident in the demo available to play. The demo allowed visitors to explore two separate environments – a field area and a dungeon. The regular enemies make their appearance throughout both areas, though that’s just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to homages and throwbacks to the original LttP. The field and dungeon areas are very similar/the same as the old maps but with extra on top, for example the dungeon was several floors taller than the original dungeon. However the most obvious and striking throwback to the previous Zelda games is the aesthetic style of A Link Between Two Worlds. The game and character models look absolutely gorgeous, capturing the style of the original Legend of Zelda art whilst bringing something new and charming with 3D graphics. Though the demo was limited the use of 3D was very impressive with Nintendo finding ways to get the most out of it, for example, in the dungeon the player had to navigate Link onto platforms which launched him into the air/towards the player. The play on height demonstrated how 3D can be used to improve experience and make a video game more immersive/fun.
The combat in the game is pretty much what you would expect from a top down Zelda game, assign a weapon to button and attack, there’s not much to say about it as you’ll know the deal if you have played a Zelda game before. It works smoothly and the controls are very responsive which is just what you need. The bottom screen of the 3DS is used to display your inventory and buttons resulting in swapping items been an easy task.
The main aspect of A Link Between Two Worlds which I’m sure everyone is intrigued by is the whole turning into a drawing on the wall. Honestly, this didn’t particularly excite me when I saw it in the trailer, in fact the general consensus seems to be that it didn’t look like anything special at all. The trailer does not do this feature justice at all, which again, was a very popular opinion at the event. The new mechanic allows the player to merge into the wall at any time, allowing them to reach places that they wouldn’t have been able to whilst they were 3D, for example, caged windows, getting onto the side of a platform in order to reach a higher platform etc. Just from the demo A Link Between Two Worlds gave several examples of how this new mechanic has given the developers a chance to create new and unique puzzles and situations for players to sink their teeth into. Overall The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Two Worlds is looking to be a very fun and welcome addition to the Zelda series, definitely one of the new releases to keep an eye on if you’re looking to spend some of your hard-earned cash.
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team (July 12th 2013)
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team – the newest addition to the Mario & Luigi handheld games will be released next month, and damn are fans in for a treat. The demo available for Dream Team was a generous one, allowing visitors to explore several different parts of the game. First there was the ‘regular’ world, the world which we are used to seeing in the Mario & Luigi games, a top down view of the brothers walking together exploring some area that has enemies walking about for you to battle. The battle system is still the same, of course the famous jump and hammer attacks have got to be there or it just wouldn’t be the same. Press A/B at a certain point in order to achieve bonus damage. In all exactly what you would expect from a Mario & Luigi game – good controls, fun enemies and a good battle system. All good there. The second aspects players could try out was a regular boss battle. The boss battle worked exactly the same as a regular battle, hammer/jump with good timing to attack enemies and avoid/counter their attacks.
The third part that players could explore during the demo was Dream World, a world that is taking place inside Luigi’s head as he dreams (you can see Luigi sleeping on the bottom of the screen). This world is a 2D platforming world where it’s Luigi who is top dog, not Mario. He is no longer simply the shadow of his older brother, every time Mario attacks a tonne of Luigi’s come out and attack instead of Mario. There are areas in the Dream World that require Luigi to merge with the brother’s surroundings, for example Luigi’s face merges with a pillar and the player must move Luigi’s moustache on the bottom screen with the stylus in order to grab Mario with Luigi’s moustache in the Dream World. In addition to this there is a fun part of the game where you must control a giant ball of Luigi’s with the 3DS by moving and tilting it in front of you. This part, as you can imagine, was pretty fun and a nice break from just using the standard controls.
The third and most interesting aspect that players could try was the Giant Boss Battles. Giant Boss Battles are basically that, Luigi is fighting a giant boss in his dreams and in order to defeat the him Luigi turns giant. This requires the player to turn the 3DS on sideways as if they were a book as both the enemy and Luigi take up the entire screen vertically. During this battle the standard rules apply – you can jump on the enemy or hit it with a hammer, and if you have good timing you can get bonus damage. However you do not press A/B to do this, you must swipe the touchscreen with good time in order to attack (jump vertically and hammer horizontally) the giant boss. The player can also counter attacks whilst in the giant form, for example in the demo giant Luigi was able to hit back the giant boss’ tornado with his hammer in order to deliver counter damage. So as you can tell, Nintendo have really tried hard to bring in new elements by taking advantage of the capabilities of the 3DS, as was the case with Link Between Two Worlds. It’s great to see the 3DS getting closer to its potential via innovative software. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team is sure to be a fan-favourite, with both new and old Nintendo-goes. That was just a review of the demo, merely the tip of the ice berg, the full version is definitely something to look forward to.
Yoshi’s New Island (2014)
Yoshi’s New Island. Out of the three 3DS games available to play at the event, YNI was definitely the most lacklustre. The original Yoshi’s Island, entitled Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, graced the world with its presence all the way back in 1995 when it was released for the SNES (in addition to been available on the GBA and Virtual Console years later). The original Yoshi’s Island was one of those games (the others been the Donkey Kong Country games) that really stood out on the SNES due to the art style. It was Paper Mario before Paper Mario, absolutely filled to the brim with lovely primary colours with a simple ‘coloured in’ look as if a child had just picked up some crayons and gone absolutely nuts with creativity. This is part of the problem for Yoshi’s New Island, it doesn’t seem to have the same charm simply due to the style. It’s very washed out in comparison to it’s older sibling which reviewers will no doubt look back to for a reference. Style, of course, is all about personal preference but as far as first impressions go, Yoshi’s New Island does not look like it means business.
Gameplay on the other hand means business. The old concept is still there – carry Baby Mario on your back, catch him before the time runs out of you hit an enemy, throw eggs at enemies. This still plays as well as the original and there are no obvious faults. The demo didn’t reveal whether Baby Bowser was the main enemy of the game, however due to the fact that at the end of levels the evil Magikoopa Kamek appears to transform a regular enemy into a giant one as was the case with the original game, it looks promising that Baby Bowser may make an appearance again.
The demo of New Yoshi’s Island was rather short but even so it demonstrated two aspects never seen before in a Yoshi’s Island game. One – giant eggs and two – binoculars. The giant eggs are controlled just as normal eggs, but when they are thrown they don’t just kill enemies, they destroy pipes allowing the player to create new pathways and get through obstacles. Obviously a giant egg would take up most of the 3DS screen and you don’t want to be walking around with a giant egg in order to find out where to throw it. That’s where the binoculars come in. The bionoculars allow the player look at their surroundings – near and far – without having to walk about. This means you can look at exactly where you need to aim your giant egg (as well as look for other hidden things within the level) before you throw it, allowing you to play your root without the hassle of walking back and forth.
Whilst this small first impressions review of Yoshi’s New Island may sound a bit negative, I still have high hopes for the game. The demo was very short and the game isn’t going to be released properly until 2014 – definitely one to keep an eye on for any fans of the green guy!
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (Late 2013)
‘This is but one of the legends of which people speak…’
Did you play the original Wind Waker when it was first released on the Gamecube in 2003? Can you remember being a bit unsure about the new art style, then it completely grew on you? Can you remember how amazed you were when you went under the ocean and discovered…well, no spoilers for those who haven’t played it, but when you first saw that building? Yeah…Wind Waker HD. If you loved the original, you will want to buy the HD version for the Wii U. You will be living the same game twice, yes, but almost through completely new eyes. There are lots of HD remixes out there which just don’t really add to their non-HD version of the game. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is not one of those games, the HD makes the game look very different. Smoother, much more detailed, far richer than the Gamecube version. It’s absolutely beautiful. A lot of effort was put into this HD version which is very admirable; it is, after wall, quite a big and epic game/quest, even for a Zelda game. At the event there were two Wind Waker HD demos set up right next to the original Gamecube version, just for contrast, and what a contrast it was. Outstanding is the only way to describe it. You’ve seen the screen shots, they are lovely, but nothing compared to what the game looks like in person. Put your pre-orders in now for October, it will blow you away.
Outside of the obvious HD different, Nintendo have integrated other features into the game. For example, there is of course the replacement for the Tingle Tuner item (since GBA and Wii U’s aren’t compatible) called the Tingle Bottle. The Tingle Bottle is used by players to write messages, put the messages in bottle and then send them out into the ocean. The bottle then winds up in someone else’s ocean so they can read other player’s messages. This has been done not only to replace the Tingle Tuner, but to add a miiverse element to the game. Whilst this is just a small addition to the game, it’s quite a nice one as it brings a small sense of community and interactivity to an otherwise very single-player focused game.
Furthermore Nintendo have added a ‘Fast Sailing’ option for players to use when sailing which does what it says on the tin – players can now travel through the ocean either at a slow, regular, or very fast pace. The sailing was both a great and annoying piece of the Wind Waker puzzle, simply because it was very slow. This was one of the few main complaints the majority of players had about the game – well, all these years later Nintendo have listened. If that’s not dedication to their fanbase I don’t know what is. Using the technology available to them from the Wii U the developers also added the option of controlling Link’s instrument via the Wii U touch pad. I found this a little difficult at first but I’m sure with time it becomes second nature.
Outside of gameplay and new features, Nintendo have also added a few nice little details, little touches, to the HD version. Throughout the demo noticeable new details were the addition of seagulls painted onto Link’s telescope and players can now actually see the Hylian language written on objects such as the signs with hints/information that are often dotted around Zelda games. This means, if you really wanted to, you could grab your copy of Hyrule Historia and refer to the Hylian Language to see what it says. Or you could just read it in English in-game, but the gesture is still there! It’s these little details and efforts that really add to the immersion of the game to make this unbelievable world believable to a player. Wind Waker HD, one of the main reasons to buy a Wii U. Coming this October.
Mario Kart 8 (2014)
Good old Mario Kart, the series has become a staple for all Nintendo consoles be they home or handheld ever since the original was released on the SNES. Yet somehow with each one there is always something fresh and new, despite been released on every console it has never become stale. Judging from the demo it’s safe to say that Mario Kart 8 will be no exception.
A familiar roster of characters was available during the demo –Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Yoshi, Toad, Toadette, Wario, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Koopa Troopa and Waluigi – all had their own type of karts/bikes available in the demo. Personally I chose Daisy because she had a pretty nice monster truck which, despite been bulky, was easily controlled thanks to the Wii U gamepad. Players will have the option to play Mario Kart 8 with either the Wii U pad or the Nintendo Wii controller and nunchucks. Both can be used either as a standard controller, using the thumb stick to move, or they can be used as a steering wheel just as the Wii steering wheel was used in Mario Kart Wii. Generally with Mario Kart Wii players seemed to favour using the Wii controller/nunchuck combo as using the wheel was rather difficult, it was quite small and awkward to use. The great news is that this isn’t the case at all with the Wii U gamepad, it makes for a fantastic steering wheel due to its ergonomic design and extra weight which the Wii wheel/controller lacked. However it is much more challenging than just using the thumb stick which just makes it all the more satisfying when you do succeed when using it.
The screen on the Wii U gamepad is used for Mario Kart 8 in simple but useful ways – if you wish to switch between using the wheel setting or the thumbstick setting you can with ease thanks to a simple touch button at the top right of the screen. Very quick, simple and easy to reach if you find yourself wanting to switch mid-game. The race track map and character’s position within the race are also displayed on the screen making it easy for players to have a quick glance to see who they need to watch out for.
Of course the two big main changes in this addition to the Mario Kart series are the anit-gravity feature and the game been in HD. Firstly the game been HD – Mario Kart 8 is the first HD game in the series and players will notice the difference instantly. A Mario Kart game has never looked so bright and beautiful. Secondly, the anti-gravity feature, how does it work? Well, for example, in one of the tracks available in the demo players were driving along a stone corridor on the ground when the path turned slightly, the players suddenly found themselves driving up along the wall of a castle with spooky dining table/chairs scene on the floor next to them. It’s rather difficult to describe, so do please watch some videos, but the anti-gravity added a sense of exploration to the Mario games, allowing players to view the world from a different perspective. This feature will no doubt be taken advantage of throughout the entire game and will be paired with the land/air/water vehicle change feature.
Sadly we will have to wait until 2014 to experience the full game, but judging from the demo it will be worth the wait.
Super Mario 3D World (December 2013)
Firstly I must point out that I only played the Super Mario 3D World demo as a multiplayer game, I didn’t play single player so I can’t comment on it. That been said the multiplayer was great fun, there was a bit of a competitive element in the game like in the Wii Mario World due to pick-ups like coins and general items. There was also a strong element of team work in multiplayer, for example having to work together to beat a boss or both players having to control their characters in sync when controlling a swimming dinosaur.
The playable characters in Super Mario 3D World are Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad. Each character has their own stats or abilities. Mario is a general all-rounder, Luigi can jump high, Princess Peach can float for a short period of time and Toad is faster than the other characters. It’s great to see Peach been a playable character in this game to add a bit of variety, her floating ability is very useful for controlled landings/difficult jumps. As well as the addition of Peach another new feature that everyone saw through Nintendo Direct is the cat suit. The cat costume allows players to run on all fours making them a bit faster and giving them the ability to climb up the side of walls in order to gain access to new places. The cat suit also delivers some fresh and adorable ways of attacking enemies – rolling and pouncing. Pouncing can also double as a technique to hump longer distances.
The demo definitely displayed how the cat suit will be used to its full potential in the game as levels, due to been 3D instead of 2D, were a lot more focused on vertical paths rather than just traveling in the same direction all the time. Mario 3D World is definitely not the next installment of the game fans may have been expecting, it certainly isn’t just a clone of Mario World for the Wii/DS/3DS, but Mario has traded in his tried and tested sidescrolling ways to make way for more multiplayer fun in a more lively and interactive world that Mario fans are sure to love.
Pikmin 3 (July 26th 2013)
The eagerly awaited third instalment of Pikmin will be arriving on shelves shortly, finally settling the hunger of fans who have been waiting an entire console generation for the next Pikmin. Pikmin has always had a certain life to it that’s hard to define, it has drawn people in for years, becoming even more popular as Olimar starred in Smash Bros. Brawl. Who’d have thought that been a tiny little man instructing tiny little plants to collect and kill stuff would be so much fun?
The not-so-bloody murder and collecting is still good fun in the Pikmin 3. The great news is there is now some lovely co-op multiplayer! The multiplayer demo was seven minutes long which presented a lovely taste of what’s to come. The aim was to get as many points as possible together by collecting/destroying items, this sounds very simple but as you progress each time you play it you will find new ways to get to certain areas faster, learn about the different pikmin’s skills and use them to your advantage. One thing that’s just a small aspect but a lovely touch is the way items/buildings are constructed/deconstructed in Pikmin 3. Watching Pikmin build a bridge piece by piece was a surprisingly entertaining experience.
Pikmin 3 introduces two new additions to the Pikmin family – Rock Pikmin and Winged Pikmin. Rock Pikmin are blue and of course made out of rock with a graphite texture to them. Like all Pikmin they have strengths and setbacks due to their unique abilities. Rock Pikmin are immune to blunt forces (for example, crushing) and are stronger than the other Pikmin meaning they can easily destroy materials like ice and glass, as well as being able to penetrate armour of tough enemies. Winged Pikmin are very different to the Rock Pikmin. They are not particularly strong however they are of course capable of flight, meaning they can carry items above the ground.
The controls for Pikmin 3 are very simple on both the Wii U and Wii controllers, though players may find themselves getting frustrated when having to concentrate on ordering large groups of Pikmin – the controls definitely come under the ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ category.
The Wonderful 101 (August 23rd 2013)
Platinum Games certainly have been busy these past few years. They have gifted the gaming industry with gem after gem with Bayonetta, MadWorld , Vanquish, and now Platinum Games are gifting us with The Wonderful 101 for the Wii U (and Bayonetta 2!).
The Wonderful 101 was certainly one of the more unique games that stood out at the Nintendo Event. The premise of the game is that you are a superhero who is finding and allying other superheroes around the city in order to fight off an alien invasion. A humble and simple concept, but it’s the games style and combat that really sells it.
In order to fight off the aliens you must first gather up superheroes which the play can do by simply walking over and ‘collecting’ them. With some superheroes, when you collect them an ID card will appear on the Wii U gamepad screen giving you little bits of information about them which is a nice touch. Once you have collected your group of superheroes you can take part in combat together by combining the group into different forms called ‘unites’. The four unites are a whip, gun, sword and fist which can be used as both weapons and abilities to help the players advance in a level. For example, the whip can be used to attack enemies that have particularly strong armour that needs to be broken, whereas the fist can be used to attack regular enemies or to grab hold of handles in the level which need turning/activating.
In order to use these unite abilities players must input certain lines either via the thumbstick or the gamepad, for example, in order to use the sword players must draw a straight line on the gamepad. This may sound simple enough, but during the heat of battle it can be difficult to remember what shape results in what unite, however with practice this will no doubt become second nature to players of the game. It will certainly become easier with practice as the combat in the demo was good fun albeit a little difficult.
Aesthetically The Wonderful 101 is a breath of fresh air – an interesting blend of Pikmin and Viewtiful Joe. It’s certainly promising to be a fun and unique game for the Wii U. The Wonderful 101 will be released on the 23rd of August this year so keep an eye out for the reviews for a full verdict!
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (November 2013)
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is the latest installation of everyone’s favourite side-scrolling, platforming ape based game coming this November for the Wii U. This time Donkey Kong and Diddy King are joined by Dixie Kong, who first made her appearance on the SNES. Nintendo has stated that there will probably be a fourth playable character*, though there was nothing about that in the demo so that will be left to speculation until a fourth monkey is officially released.
Tropical Freeze will be playable with both the Wii U and Wii controllers (though if you play multiplayer you –must- play with the Wii controllers) however I can’t comment on the Wii controls as I didn’t use them at the demo, but If they’re anything like the Wii U controls then they will be fantastic. The Wii U controls were very responsive and incredibly smooth – just what players will need for what’s promising to be a fast paced platformer like Tropical Freeze. The implementation of a more 3D world changes the platforming quite significantly as players will be expected to adapt and respond to quick changes of perspective. This was particularly apparent during the mine kart level available in the demo – players will have their reflexes tested almost to the point of it been as challenging as the SNES Donkey Kong Country.
One of the fun things about Tropical Freeze is its double-screen feature. Players will be able to play tropical Freeze on both the TV and the Wii U gamepad screen. Like to sit in front of your TV after a day of hard work and play some Donkey Kong? Go for it. Would you prefer to play a few levels at a time whilst you’re cooking dinner, maybe you need to keep an eye on something boiling away from the living room? Maybe you just prefer hand-held gaming? Yep, you can do that too! Whatever your preference, if you like platformers or are a fan of the series than Tropical Freeze offers the same old-fashioned fun plus new challenging aspects.
Ducktales Remastered (2013)
Ducktales Remastered is been developed by the well trusted WayForward Technology who have developed a plethora of games since the year 2000. Their long history and experience shows in Ducktales Remastered – a complete remake of the 1989 NES game. Remastered is a 2.5D game hosting lovely hand drawn sprites which make their way through 3D levels and environments on both your TV and your Wii U gamepad, as is the case with Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze you may play it as a handheld.
Ducktales Remastered is both great and annoying. Why? Because it’s so difficult! That of course is not a criticism, difficulty never equates to bad, impossibility equates to bad. Players will certainly get their time and money’s worth with Remastered – wonderfully drawn sprites of childhood favourite characters, great voice acting, full and functional worlds, and a difficulty that’s likely to remind you of the ‘Nintendo hard’ days. All of this and a catchy rendition of the Ducktales theme ‘WOO OOO!’ will be coming to Wii U owners later this year. If you enjoy platforming, challenging games or just sarcastic rich ducks then Ducktales Remastered is for you.