Once a year the fine people at Nintendo Canada are nice enough to invite us into their “home” and preview some of the titles that were showcased at the year’s E3 in a more private setting, with a lot more access (which is fantastic, because the show floor of E3 is generally not the most ideal environment to get a proper feel for a new title).
This year, being no exception, JJ and headed down to check out the latest and greatest titles from Nintendo. Each of us had our eyes set on some person favorites that we were just itching to spend more time with (or in some cases, get our hands on for the first time). Personally, I made a b-line to play the updated demo of The Wonderful 101, with intentions on following it up with The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.
JJ, on the other hand, seemed to gravitate towards Super Mario 3D World, and Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and the HD remake of The Windwaker.
Of course there was also plenty of cross-over, considering the fine folks at Nintendo were gracious enough to stay open a little later than normal this year to allow us more time with the games, and get an extended look at all the games available. So, without any further introduction, let’s jump into a couple of the games that caught our attentions (individually and combined):
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
I’ll start us off because, well this is my article, and I was the first to play it.
Link to the Past is still, to this day, my all-time favorite Zelda title. While Wind Waker and Ocarina were getting revamped for the new consoles, I couldn’t help but be a little upset that Nintendo was (in my eyes) overlooking the best part of that franchise.
Now that they’ve addressed my complaints however, I suppose I have nothing to gripe about… But was the game something that is loyal to the original game, and is it something that has been modernized in an intelligent way?
Yes and yes.
Link Between Worlds just makes sense. Within fifteen seconds of putting the game in my hands I already knew I was going to sink ridiculous amounts of hours into this game. It feels right. It brings back the nostalgia of my favorite chapter in the series, while modernizing the gameplay in ways that make sense (for the most part). The development team have done a great job at keeping the original map in place, and making sure that small things, like screen transitions, are still there to keep it true to the heart of the original game. The controls are intelligently laid out for the new medium (each of the buttons A,B,X,Y controlling an individual item). Filling your hearts charges your sword for blasts. The game takes place from a top-down perspective. Really the only thing that has changed (dramatically) in terms of this, the second chapter in the Link to the Past series, is the fact that now you have the ability to slap yourself onto walls as a 2D character to navigate the world in a different way, and of course the graphics have gotten a massive overhaul.
After a few minutes of just exploring the world and getting into random battles with the enemies around Link’s home, I immediately pulled JJ off his station to drop what he was doing and play Zelda instead.
That’s what Zelda: Link Between Worlds will be. It is a game that we will all enjoy and share. Nostalgic and new comers are going to love this title, and it’s going to be one of those hot-topic games that you just NEED to tell your friends about.
JJ also confirmed this by going hands on (when I made him) and reaffirming all the same intricacies of the gameplay that I had immediately fallen in love with. JJ and I are like-minded when it comes to Zelda titles, we’re a rare breed that has been putting Phantom Hourglass on our top three list over the last few years… and both loved Link to the Past more than anything.
So double-confirmed, this is one to keep an eye on.
Super Mario World 3D World
This is a title that both JJ and I got a chance to experience solo and multiplayer. The game is very much in the vein of its predecessor, Super Mario 3D Land, but takes a few more queues for the 3D platformer titles in Mario’s history (namely Super Mario 64).
Honestly, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re expecting from Mario these days. It’s fun, it’s easy to get into, and if you can gather a group together (up to four players) then you’ll probably get a kick out of dicking each other around on the way to the flagpole at the end of each level.
The levels themselves are solid; of course, level design has never been a problem with the Mario games in my opinion. My only real gripe is with the introduction of the new Cat Suit.
Fans of 3D Land probably remember the Tanooki suit being a little broken (allowing you to game a lot of the jumps by floating/flying and not working so much about the accuracy of your jump)… which is fair, I mean, these are intended for children I suppose, and we want to make things easy on them… these days… I guess?
Seriously, I don’t understand why we keep dumbing down platformers, and the worst is the Cat Suit in 3D World. It allows you all manner of attacks (meaning don’t worry about having to land on people, just claw ‘em). It allows you to run straight up alongside walls (rendering platform segments moot, as long as there’s a wall don’t worry about having to zig-zag up those rotating platforms anymore). And, possibly worst of all, the Cat Suit allows you to run up the pole at the end of each level. No longer is it a feat to land that perfect jump off the top of whatever run-up Nintendo deemed for the particular level to get that coveted “1up” simply have a cat suit on hand and run up the base of that fucker.
Super Mario 3D World is probably not for me. It really is unfortunate because 3D Land was one of my favorite hand-held titles in forever, and the idea of blending that game with Super Mario 64 gave me all kinds of nerd wood… but removing the challenge from Mario just kills it again.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
DK has always been one of the better platformers around. As I was losing interest in Mario, DK showed up and proved that platformers could be challenging and interesting and not revolve around a plumber. In that vein, it’s why I wanted to talk about DK next in this preview series.
Has DK just become the old-school platformer game that we want out of Nintendo while Mario keeps getting watered down over and over and over again until it’s basically a movie? Seriously, Mario almost plays itself these days, but DK seems to be keeping the challenge factor (at least for now).
One of my favorite quotes of the day was one of the PR reps saying “It’s DK, everyone dies.” A phrase that is completely legitimate, and accurate to the game’s representation. DK will allow you to die, in fact, it’s going to happen on occasion and that’s the appeal to me personally. It takes skill, or at least effort, in order to progress through the DK games, even in the modern world of easy-mode gaming. So DK, of the platformers that Nintendo is touting currently, is definitely the one to keep an eye on in my books.
Beyond that, the co-op is solid and JJ and I both had a lot of fun working through the levels that were available and trying to seek out the bonus objectives in each level (like spelling KONG, or collecting the puzzle pieces). It is old-school platforming melded with the gamer’s need to collect things melded perfectly, and then offers some penguins. What more could you ask for really?
The Wonderful 101
This game excites me. While it might not be the most heavy-handed attempt to get me to use a Wii U controller, it is an example of taking something basic (like item selection) and giving it a unique spin for the new hardware.
Wonderful 101 is a funny, simple, straight-forward action platformer that relies on you building up a massive team of NPC characters which then can all chain together to create all kinds of items (Lego-style) to either attack or defend.
In example: Draw a bent line on the Wii U touch-pad, get a gun. Draw a line, get a sword. Draw a circle, get a fist, and at some point one of the guys playing managed to create a hand-glider (which no one else could figure out).
The combat is simple and straight forward, but rewarding in the sense that it becomes kind of a massive paper-rock-scissors game. You want to make sure you’re using the right attacks on the right enemies, and eventually even combo’ing the attacks for maximum effect.
For example, there were UFOs in the demo that you can use your gun to ground. After they are on the ground, you could of course continue to shoot them, but a better solution is actually to switch over to the sword and start hacking away at them while they are vulnerable.
Wonderful 101 is one of those games that are just so simple in concept, and so satisfying to play. It’s something I’ve been following along with since it was first shown, and will continue to follow along with until it releases and I can finally play through in its entirety.
Admittedly, this article is starting to read a little like everything Nintendo is working on currently is awesome or at minimum going to be fun to play, even if it is on the easy side.
To be fair, I spent the event playing the games I wanted to play. There were other games on display, Pikmin (which I love, but was the same demo we’d played last year), Wii U Party (which I’ve no interest in), Windwaker HD (which is Windwaker… but prettier, and I still don’t care), and a sprinkling of other titles that held little interest for JJ and personally (no, Kart and Smash weren’t there).
So Nintendo continues by being itself: Producing that the consumers are asking for with one half of their time and effort, and supplying what they think the consumers will want next with their