Nintendo Holiday 2012 Preview Event Report

Recently, Nintendo of Canada held their Holiday 2012 preview event to allow members of the press to become a little more familiar with the variety of product offerings which Nintendo and their third-parties will be offering this holiday season for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS.

While I did spend a little time with the latter, most of my focus was on the upcoming Wii U. That said, I can say that Crashmo is looking like a great sequel to the already-stellar Pushmo, and Fluidity: Spin Cycle is looking like a great follow-up to the original WiiWare title.

Crosswords Plus was fun with lots of content, and I didn’t get to spend as much time with Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Style Savvy: Trendsetters, Art Academy: Lessons for Everyone, or Freakyforms Deluxe. With any luck, I’ll be fortunate enough to have the opportunity to explore more of these at length, as I already have with NightSky and Kirby’s Dream Collection: Special Edition for Wii, which were also there.

For now, though, here is what I thought of my Wii U experiences.

The first game I saw going in was New Super Mario Bros. U, which would provide an amusing moment later as the victory theme played when I washed my hands in a nearby washroom. I’m a big fan of Mario, of course, and this is one I’m particularly looking forward to.

Unfortunately, one of the aspects I was hoping to see– that wide-open world map– was not on display. Instead, the only available option was the Boost Rush Mode for up to five players. Some stages in the various “packs” were new while others were played on the E3 demo, but the difference-maker this time is that the stages auto-scroll and speed up periodically for every 20 coins which are collected.

This was hectic and a fun challenge, especially when other players were involved. The player using the GamePad would create blocks and affect the enemies and environment along the way, both to the benefit and detriment of the other players. Of course, some enemies– including giant Thwomps and the Koopalings– were too strong to be affected by the GamePad player’s touch.

If there was any downside to this, it would have to be the life-pooling system. All the players share from a pool of about 20 lives (if memory serves), which is fine. However, it’s possible for other players to essentially kind of ruin things for the rest by dying too much– even if you’re still alive and well, someone else using the last remaining life ends the whole thing for everyone. It’s kind of a downer when you’re doing well.

In addition, I learned that when you’re playing solo with the GamePad, you have the option of using the shoulder buttons to make Mario perform a spin/spin-jump (you can also shake it if you choose, just as with the Wii Remote). This honestly felt preferable in some instances, and leaves me hoping that the Wii U Pro Controller will be an option for the game, since only one GamePad can be used at a time, and not even to control a character in multiplayer.

Another kiosk set up featured the sequel to 2010’s Wii release of Epic Mickey, fittingly called Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two. The guys running the set-up reiterated the game’s premise to me, and had a good sense of humor when I asked if Hannah Montana now qualified to show up amidst the Wasteland’s forgotten Disney characters.

For the most part, this game feels very much like the original, though a single player can only use the GamePad. As a result, the second analog stick has to be used to aim your paint and thinner.

Unfortunately, you don’t get to use the Wii Remote nor Oswald the Lucky Rabbit except as an optional second player. Without a second person, Oswald follows Mickey around in a fashion not unlike Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog, or a second character in one of the many licensed LEGO video games. A second player can drop in or out at any time, changing the action to a split-screen view.

I didn’t get to spend much time as Oswald, but he has his own bag of tricks this time, including the ability to spin his ears like a propeller to float for short distances, a remote to take control of electronics (such as the roaming animatronic characters), and even throw his own arm at enemies. Mickey also has a move to toss Oswald into the air before grabbing a hold of his feet and going along for the ride.

Also different this time is that the game is fully voiced. As the folks from Disney were keen to point out to me, this is the first time ever for Oswald to get a voice (Wikipedia apparently disputes this [minus citations], though Disney Wiki confirms it).

The voice is being provided by none other than voice acting legend Frank Welker (Megatron, Soundwave, Rumble, Frenzy, and more in Transformers; Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget; Fred in Scooby-Doo, and many, many more). And you can tell it’s him, too; the voice sounds very much like a cross between his Rumble/Frenzy voice and that of Fred, which aren’t too dissimilar in the first place. “Nobody calls the Professor ‘uncrassimatic’!”

Between this and the release of Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for Nintendo 3DS (which was sadly not at the showing), fans of the original game– and Mickey Mouse in general– have plenty to look forward to in November.

Scribblenauts Unlimited is the third installment of the Scribblenauts series, and it seems to take everything which made its predecessors great, and piles more on.

Sadly, the version I played didn’t have the Wii U-exclusive Nintendo character additions, and even if it did, my idea to use a Metroid to solve a dispute between a lumberjack and an environmentalist wouldn’t have worked anyway– Mario and Zelda characters only.

That said, I was a little disappointed that my plan to give the lumberjack lots of other trees to chop down so he wouldn’t need to chop down the one with the bird’s nest failed. But when the dragons came, it didn’t matter anyway.

I only got to see one stage of the game, a forest, but that was plenty to shed light on the newer aspects of this title. In the above scenario, I could choose to earn a Starite by helping either party. What’s more, there were several people all over the stage with their own problems that I could choose to help as well, adding a lot more depth to each environment than previously seen.

Creating your own items offers more freedom than before as well. I remember asking about a robot who turns into a car, but while that wasn’t quite doable, the producer did show off a sort of robot-dragon-car with skull wheels and fireball blasts. Close enough for me!

The next game I tried out was Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge. Not having played the original (when asked, I told the kiosk attendant that the last time I seriously played Ninja Gaiden was when Ryu was dressed in blue and being knocked into pits by birds), I can’t speak too well to the differences.

However, I can say that Ayane is playable this time, and both her and Ryu seem to have plenty of weapons to choose from (the latter point being one of contention with the original, as I recall). I only got to try them out in these small areas which seemed to have a never-ending supply of enemies, and was eventually worn down.

While I’d love to play the game at further length, what really attracted me to this kiosk was that it was the one which had the Wii U Pro Controller in action. It is very much like the Xbox 360’s controller, but lighter, and it feels better-contoured to one’s hands. Word is that it gets 80 hours to a single charge in its rechargeable battery, a further plus. The downside is that it seems incompatible with Wii games.

Now we come to the big one: Nintendo Land. As the pack-in title for the Wii U’s $349.99 Deluxe Set, this is essentially the premiere title that everyone is going to own… at least ideally, given the added memory and other factors as well. And with 12 different “attractions” to play and a room full of other people wanting a shot, it was impossible to try them all (though some, such as the Game & Watch “Octopus Dance,” were regretfully unavailable anyway), nor did we get to see the theme park hub, which was instead replaced by a menu.

“Mario Chase,” which I previewed at last year’s E3 as “Chase Mii,” is very much the same, but with the higher degree of polish and flair an extra year and some change will bring. The GamePad player controls a Mii dressed as Mario and runs around with the aid of an on-screen map, while Wii Remote-controlled Toad Miis must communicate while playing on a split television screen to tackle and catch him.

Catching the Mario Mii was tricky, but one of the others managed to pull it out at the last second, and quite literally at that. Congratulations rained down on the mighty Toad Mii who managed to thwart Mario Mii’s plan to run us ragged.

Another familiar attraction, and one I hoped would be included when the game was announced and shown last year as “Battle Mii,” was “Metroid Blast.” Like “Mario Chase,” and perhaps even more so, “Metroid Blast” looked even more polished and detailed than I remembered.

This one had some new modes as well, including a cooperative mode where I and another Mii dressed in Samus’s Power Suit received air support from the Mii in Samus’s gunship to help take down a legion of classic Metroid enemies (such as Zoomers) with targets on them. The movement and aiming felt very smooth and precise, and we had eliminated our foes in no time.

The other mode more closely mimicked what I played at E3, with the two of us taking on the gunship above. Using the buildings for cover, we saw to it that our fellow Mii landed in a smoking wreck.

A new one, to me at least, was The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest. Two other Miis took up sword and shield with the Wii Remotes to embark on an on-rails tour of Nintendo Land’s recreation of Hyrule. Meanwhile, I got to use the GamePad, which meant I had the benefit of ranged combat with a bow and arrows.

Aiming the bow could be performed with either the left analog stick or by simply moving the GamePad around to look for enemies. Firing the bow was as easy as pulling back on the right analog stick and releasing, while reloading required lowering the controller towards the floor and raising it back up. It worked pretty well, but unfortunately, you cannot move while the bowstring is drawn, and this caused me to lag behind a bit.

Another attraction that I tried (and don’t have a picture for) is Animal Crossing: Sweet Day. One or more players using the Wii Remote control animals who are working together to scoop up as much candy as possible; meanwhile, the GamePad player uses the Wii U GamePad to control two guards at once, each with one analog stick to move and shoulder button to tackle.

It takes some getting used to, but is fun when you get the hang of it. You get a wider view of the map as well, allowing you to employ some tactics like pincer maneuvers with two guards on one animal. Of course, the animals can gain more speed to outrun you, but only by discarding some of their precious candy.

Finally, we come to my favorite: Balloon Fight‘s “Balloon Trip Breeze.” Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of Balloon Fight, and if you don’t, then maybe you don’t know me that well. This is actually the first game I tried out of the lot, but I wanted to save it for last.

Rather than the competitive mode of Balloon Fight, this solo attraction is based– as the name implies– on the game’s Balloon Trip mode. I’m actually not as good at Balloon Trip as I am the regular mode, but I took to this like I was born to do it.

In fact, that’s the most incredible thing about this particular attraction: It feels the most like its source material of everything I’ve played in Nintendo Land. It’s practically a sequel to Balloon Fight and its own sequel, Balloon Kid. And this is despite the fact that it is controlled entirely via touchscreen.

While the game notes to look at the GamePad screen to deal with certain obstacles (such as breaking Mario-eseque brick blocks), it’s not at all necessary to control for the most part– just broad sweeps in the direction you want your Balloon Fighter to go will move them as necessary. It feels amazingly like the original, while slightly evolved as well.

You have a Mii in a Balloon Fighter uniform who is held up by two balloons, moving across a background which feels sort of like a play, going from morning to afternoon, evening, and night on each “day”/level as you attempt to get as far as you can. Along the way, you attempt to pop as many balloons as you can while dealing with such classic Balloon Fight challenges as the Birdmen, giant man-eating fish, and floating spiked mines in the air, as well as new ones including rain, strong winds, more ferocious Birdmen, and even the optional delivery of a package to the end of the stage.

The kiosk attendant informed me that due to this being an incomplete version, we weren’t allowed to go past the morning of the third day, or perhaps even get into the third day at all. She wasn’t quite sure, but up to that point, it had been a moot point, as no one had gotten that far. Using my Balloon Fight experience, though, I easily got to the third day, and we discovered that the reason for the warning was because it makes the demo crash and requires the kiosk to be reset.

If I may say so, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever broken a Nintendo game, and it’s a moment I’m rather proud of– especially since it was based on Balloon Fight. I can tell that I’m going to be spending a lot of time on this one when it comes out.

——

One other game I would have liked to try out was ZombiU. I’m sick to death of zombies, but to this game’s credit, they’re at least doing something new, fresh, and interesting with it. And to their credit, they must be doing something right! That kiosk was busy the entire night– at least until they packed it in and left.

And that’s my report for the Nintendo Holiday 2012 preview event! If you have any questions about one of these games, ask in the comments and I’ll try to answer you to the best of my ability.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.