Hands-on with Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Wii Party U

WiiU_MarioSonic_scrn05_E3So, this has been a slight disaster. I was supposed to celebrate Mario’s Hat’s first anniversary with a number of hands-on previews for upcoming games, and at least I did pull it off for two of the biggest titles, Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Then I got sidetracked and sick, and next thing I know, it’s a month later and some of these games are already coming out, like Pikmin 3— I might as well save that one for the review now.

With Mario & Luigi: Dream Team already on the horizon, I’ve decided that rather than let any more time slip by, I’m going to try to give you the quick ‘n rough, down ‘n dirty impressions I took away from Nintendo’s post-E3 showing for the media here in Toronto. Sadly, I didn’t get my hands on The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD or The Wonderful 101 at the event, but from what I saw, both are looking prime.

Also: No Mario Kart 8— I blew my chance at Best Buy when I forgot these preview events only cover this year’s releases, and Mario Kart 8 is slated for 2014. Curses!

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Wii Party U, while Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds still got enough out of me to warrant their own separate previews.

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

I just want to get this one out of the way first. I’ve enjoyed previous installments in the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series, usually the portable versions for their Adventure Mode. Granted, the stories are fluff, but just having the crews from Mobius and the Mushroom Kingdom interact was always plenty for me, even if the story wasn’t especially deep. In the London version, the cutscenes and characterization were especially delightful.

But for Sochi? Very little is known; by now, I think we’d usually have a release date, and there has been no mention of a portable version, only the Wii U. And for that, there has been no mention of the inclusion of an Adventure Mode, which overall just makes me feel a little cast out by this new installment.

I played a couple of events, including a downhill skiing event and another Dream Event which featured vehicles which changed at designated points. It played well and felt as good as the previous installment, whether I was using the Wii Remote and Nunchuk or the Wii U GamePad.

On the downside? It looked awful. Compared to all the other games around me, Mario & Sonic was the worst on a visual level– not necessarily bad, but you expect a certain jump from a standard definition-based console like the Wii to high definition on the Wii U, and that was just not apparent here.

The audience looked like the same flat texture as in the previous games, only worse– perhaps magnified by the HDTV– while Mario and company all had “jaggies” up and down their models which are not at all apparent in the screens below. Relatively speaking, it looked terrible.

I’m hoping someone didn’t hook something up right, or that this was some sort of prototype proof-of-concept without the new renders in yet, or something. Otherwise, this could cement the series as being the semi-annual cash-in that some people already seem to see it as. I seriously hope it doesn’t come to that.

Wii Party U

I didn’t wind up spending too long with Wii Party U, but I got to try a couple of things. One which was neat didn’t use the television at all; instead, it was a game of Foosball I and the rep played together on a single Wii U GamePad. Each of us controlled a team of players as we used the analog sticks to slide them back and forth across the table, attempting to kick the ball into our respective goals. Overall, a fun and intriguing use of the GamePad.

The other portion I played was a single-player game in which you’re a martial artist in a dojo, facing off against several foes at a time. What determines whether they get a hit in on you or not is how well you perform against them in mini-games, such as properly identifying a car which drives by quickly from several similar cars.

There isn’t too much I can say about this one yet, other than that it seems to follow well in the tradition of Wii Party and Mario Party 9. While the single-player activities were fun, multiplayer is where it really shines. Either way, I’m looking forward to spending more time with this one– ideally with some friends– when it comes out in October.

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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.