Normally you're not allowed to peak at your presents before Christmas, but that's not the case with Nintendo. They invited us down to their Vancouver offices to give us a hands-on demo of their upcoming holiday and lineup. They even let us walk away with some rare Star Fox promotional gifts for YOU as an early stocking stuffer. Read on to find out what we thought of Nintendo's upcoming games and how to get your hands on some swag!
MARIO KART 7
Scheduled for release on December 4th in North America, Mario Kart shrinks down and lands on the 3DS. After kicking the tires on this pint-sized version, it's safe to say Mario Kart fans are in for a treat. On top of everything we've come to love about Mario Kart new features, along with polished graphics, have been introduced to the mix.
Playing on a demonstration build, I was dropped into the character select screen. On it, the usual Mario Kart suspects were in attendance. When pressed for details on future characters, we were told there will be unlockable characters that have not yet been announced. When asked about DLC, they could neither confirm nor deny if any was going to be put into production, and made it very clear they “weren't saying no, but not yes.” Interpret that as you like.
Despite not getting any solid confirmations on new characters, they did make sure to point out that 3DS users will be able to create and import their Mii avatars into Mario Kart 7. Unfortunately, that feature wasn't usable at the time so I had to take their word for it and settled with Yoshi. However, unlike past Mario Kart games, the character options didn’t end there. I also got to customize my whip!
They didn't have a huge number of options unlocked, but it did give us a glimpse at the kinds of things you'll be able to edit. You can change you cars’ body, wheels, and choose a hang glider style for use in the new "gliding" areas. Since the selection was limited, and I was racing against what appeared to be an easy CPU, it was hard to notice any major benefits or changes in performance that resulted in me changing my vehicle up. Apparently, this will be a strategic part of the game upon release.
They dropped me into a pre-loaded circuit, which showcased the two new modes: gliding and underwater. Both are incredibly fun, my favourite was by far the new gliding sections where a hang-glider sprouts from your kart. Not having played a Mario Kart game in some time, my first two laps had me stuck in 6th place. After a few creative uses of shells, I was able to use a three-mushroom boost mid-air to blast into first place and win the race. It was pretty clear that strategic use of flight will become an important, game changing, part of heated multi-player battles.
The underwater segments were a little less exciting, but still a welcome addition. Basically your steering gets really heavy, you have slightly limited visibility, some environmental water hazards, things are blue and you drive a little slower. It will become a strategic part of any track for sure, but I didn't find it to be as big of a game changer in my short play through; especially when compared to how awesome hang-gliding was.
If you're a big fan of Mario Kart, this is going to be a must-buy for you 3DS owners this holiday season. Also, if you are looking for something that takes advantage of the 3D effects of your 3DS, you can usually bet on first-party Nintendo games. Mario Kart 7 is no exception. With smart uses of 3D, polished graphics and the usual simple, fast paced gameplay you've come to love, Mario Kart 7 is worth checking out.
SUPER MARIO 3D LAND
I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about Super Mario 3D land simply because we're going to serve you with a full review in just a few days. But as a mini-teaser, I will say that if I had to describe it, it would be Mario 64 done correctly. Don't get me wrong, I played the crap out of Mario 64, but it was the first time our favourite mustachioed plumber made his way into 3D. It was clunky and had camera mechanics that were so bad; they became an in-game obstacle. Super Mario 3D Land takes everything awesome about Mario 64, polishes it up, and shrinks it down onto your 3DS.
Being a first-party Nintendo title, once again the use of the 3DS "glasses-less" 3D is done wonderfully. For example, there are new black Piranha Plant enemies. Instead of snapping at you, these new baddies will spit black ink onto the screen. If you have the depth slider cranked, the effect is pretty neat looking and definitely adds an interesting challenge to intense platforming sections.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD
We also got to try our hands on the final release of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Again, we have a full review releasing in just a few days, but I'll give you my quick thoughts on it.
First off, I will openly admit I don't personally care for the Nintendo Wii. I don't really like the motion controls as I have always found them frustratingly un-responsive to the point where I want to cry and I beg the gaming gods to just give me some god-damn buttons to press. I begrudgingly played Zelda. I love the franchise, and I had to try it, even if I was going to hate it and verbally assault the Wii in front of Nintendo staff, in their house.
Turns out it's pretty good. And by pretty good I mean I wanted to just keep playing it but apparently our good friends at Nintendo had families to go home to and wanted "food" etc. So I gracefully cut myself short knowing we just got the full game back at Shogun headquarters fresh from the post that day.
Long story short, the sword motions feel awesome. You can swipe on an eight-way axis now, rather than just vertical and horizontal, and stab. You can also hold your Wii Remote over your head (He-Man style!) and charge up your blade. The menu and inventory wheel system took some getting used to but, after 10 or so minutes, it was great. Hot-swapping items is very easy with the new menu system.
While I can't tell from my short play through alone if the whole game is fantastic, I can say that it definitely had incredibly smart and fresh puzzle elements that we have all come to love, and expect, from any Zelda title.
Despite the fact I'm sad that a Zelda game is being wasted on the cruddy looking 480p graphics of the Wii, they pulled it off and managed to milk every bit of visual sexiness you possibly could out of that system. Even as a jaded Wii-hater, I have to say it was fun to look at. Stay tuned for our full review to see what we thought of the full game.
Do you like Monopoly? Have you ever said "Man I wish Monopoly had Nintendo and Dragon Quest characters in it?" GOOD NEWS! There's a game for that now, and it's called Fortune Street.
Now to be fair, I'm totally ribbing on Nintendo right now but it's hard not to; especially when the game was introduced to me as "Welcome to Fortune Street, and no it's not Monopoly." Yeah… it kind of is. But I will go ahead and say, it is a lot more deep and complex than straight old Monopoly.
I'm not going to spend a great deal of time on all of the differences but some of the key differences are that you can invest in other peoples properties, the "Board" can take many different shapes and sizes, with multiple "paths" (instead of a perfect square), and in some modes random events can shift and re-order the whole board. You can also level-up shops, and even your character (a promotion), which helps you earn more cash.
Honestly, I know I'll never personally spend a lot of time playing a game like this regularly, but as a local party or online multi-player game, this could be a hit with families. It even boasts that it might teach kiddies a thing or two about basic property and stock investment and money while you're playing. For what it was, I had fun playing a few rounds of the game, and I am interested to see how it’s received when it releases on December 5th.
NINTENDO SWAG - STAR FOX 64 3DS
Christmas has come a little early thanks to Nintendo, and they've given us some limited edition Star Fox 64 3D metal dog tags to hand out. Each custom printed box contains four metal dog tags, one for each character. All you need to do is leave a comment below with your favourite Nintendo game of all time, new or old. We'll pick winners and announce mid-day this Sunday (November 13th).