Nintendo of Canada’s Post-E3 Showing: Impressions

The future is now.

Nintendo recently (well, sort of– long story) held an event for local Canadian outlets to try out some of the new and upcoming games which were shown off earlier this summer at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. As always, Mario’s Hat was there, and while I didn’t get to try out everything on offer, I did get to sample some of the juicier bits enough to provide some impressions.

Wii U

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Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Naturally, this was the big one for people to gravitate to, with two dedicated stations for playing it (the next-closest thing was three stations on which a number of demos were loaded). Better still, this opportunity presented an option not available at Best Buy: GameCube controllers, courtesy of the recently-announced adapter. The controllers themselves had seen better days, but they still did the job, as they felt more natural than my previous effort with the Wii U GamePad.

Also beneficial was the opportunity to go more than one round. The game feels closer to a midway point between Super Smash Bros. Melee and Brawl in terms of speed and competitiveness, and Mega Man is definitely going to take some getting used to. Despite the feeling that he’d fit me like a glove after watching him in videos, it’s proving to be a tight glove; he fits, but I still need more time to break him in, as some of his moves feel a bit more nuanced than I was expecting, mostly as a matter of timing.

Having heard how well he performed at the San Diego Comic-Con’s tournament, I gave Bowser a try next, and he seemed very, very slow to me; not as much in his basic movements, but more in his ability to perform special moves. But then, I’ve never been a big Bowser player, so that probably doesn’t help matters much.

I also tried Little Mac, but much like Mega Man, I think I’m going to need to spend more time with him before I really feel comfortable using him. I’m not sure if it’s me, or just a pattern among new challengers.

Finally, I went to my mainstay: Mario. Aside from having to deal with F.L.U.D.D. again (I’m eager to see what customization can do for me there), it was like coming home again. Much as I was eager to try new characters, I should probably have gone straight to Mario in order to form an opinion. Once we clicked again, things went a bit better for us. I didn’t always win, but I did feel like things were where they needed to be, and they felt good.

Some of the stages were pretty good, too. My favorite so far has to be the Punch-Out!! stage, though Dr. Wily’s castle, the Battlefield, the Fire Emblem arena, and others have felt pretty solid.

With a game containing as much content as this one, and with as little as what was available to us here, it’s hard to form a very complete opinion overall. Still, I have a very good feeling about this one. I don’t know if it will please the hardcore Melee fans, but whereas the Best Buy experience left me uncertain, I now fully and eagerly anticipate good times ahead.

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Hyrule Warriors

Have you ever played a game from The Legend of Zelda series, gotten a brand-new powered-up sword, and just wanted swathes of enemies to come after you all at once so you could simply tear them down with one mighty, enormous sword swing? It’s a feeling I’ve had all too often, and one that often feels like it goes unfulfilled.

Not so in Hyrule Warriors. Though no new sword power-up was required, it nonetheless provided that most desired sensation as I tore through huge platoons of enemy Bokoblins, sending them flying and falling left and right.

The demo gave a good sense of what to expect from the gameplay, offering three playable characters to choose from (Link, Zelda, and Midna), and one battlefield to run around on. Several objectives come up on the field, as you try to secure keeps and obtain items, such as the bombs which are hidden in a nearby cave (and which anyone seems to be able to use, throwing a volley with each press of the button). I only got to use Link and Midna, and while Link is great for cutting through enemies, Midna just manages to plow through them in the most joyful of ways. The end result is by and large the same, but the joys of getting there tend to differ.

It’s no secret that the ever-increasing focus on puzzles in Zelda have left me weary, and that I much prefer the action-oriented aspects of the series. Fortunately, Hyrule Warriors looks to be delivering on that in a big way (while still retaining some exploration and discovery elements) when it comes out at the end of September. At the moment, I think it’s the game on this list I’m most looking forward to– at least, that isn’t named “Super Smash Bros.,” and even that’s iffy at the moment.

All this, and I’ve yet to even touch the multiplayer.

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Bayonetta 1 and 2

I’ve never played Bayonetta. Not for any particular reason (not outside of “time” and “money,” anyway), it just never happened. So when I got to the carefully-positioned kiosk set away from all the others to have a look-see, I was presented with the question: “Bayonetta 1 or 2?”

I asked the difference, and was informed that the first game had a greater emphasis on exploration, whereas the sequel focused more on action. Well heck, I was on a loosely-defined sense of a schedule, so I decided to go for quick-n-satisfying action and leave exploration for when I could sit down with it.

That said, Bayonetta 2 is just so crazy and off the wall… I loved it. I can’t even begin to describe all the craziness here, though one recurring moment that sticks out in my mind is when I’d fight a foe, a meat grinder (or something) would pop up out of the ground, and as they tried to resist the pull of its conveyor belt, I’d kick them in– blood and bits strewn everywhere, though I’m not sure I’d describe it as exceptionally detailed gore, either.

Not for kids or the faint of heart, but very over the top, fluid, and fun. My kind of game, and it kind of reminds me of some of my favorite elements from Mortal Kombat, too.

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Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Aside from how any slight movement of the Wii U GamePad would adjust the camera, the Captain Toad levels in Super Mario 3D World were some of my favorite parts of the game, providing a fun mini-game-esque diversion from the main quest which still benefited you greatly if you were to succeed. The big question, however, is “can this work as a full-price retail game?”

The jury is still out on that one, though from what I could tell, the camera didn’t seem as sensitive to movement here, so that’s a plus. In any case, the puzzles herein seemed to have a greater level of depth as opposed to those seen in the full 3D Mario adventure. The more I see of it, though, and having played it in person, I’m really looking forward to the final game. It feels like at the right price, it might not win “Game of the Year,” but could nonetheless be a potential sleeper hit for Nintendo.

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Yoshi’s Woolly World

While Yoshi’s New Island was not by any means a poor game, it did feel a bit lacking– particularly as a fan of the original Yoshi’s Island, which the New installment did excruciatingly little to break away from. Simply put, it was like Yoshi’s Island‘s equivalent of Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels in terms of series progression (though clearly not in difficulty).

But from what I got to play, the spark I felt was lacking in Yoshi’s New Island felt like it was present in Yoshi’s Wooly World. It’s too soon to say for sure, but adding some of the ideas and aesthetic appeal from Kirby’s Epic Yarn to Yoshi’s world felt like it was the right progression for both. Included in that is the option for two-player action, which I engaged in with my wife, and which we both enjoyed.

Yoshi’s Story aside, it seems like follow-ups have tried to be like the original, and it’s worked to their detriment. Yoshi’s Wooly World, on the other hand, seems to break away from Yoshi’s Island‘s most iconic feature– the visual style and aesthetic– and grows from there. Hopefully it will end up proving to be the true sequel we’ve waited so long for.

Oh, and there’s no Baby Mario– that’s a big plus right there.

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Mario Maker

Below, you’re going to notice that I didn’t get to play several games at the event for different reasons, mostly being a matter of priority versus time, but also because some of them didn’t quite feel right to me in the hustle-n-bustle environment they were in.

I thought Mario Maker would be one of those games I’d rather just sit down with and just play around with until I hit my stride, but to my surprise, just watching others play it made me want to play it. Seeing how others were setting up blocks, enemies, and obstacles got the wheels turning in my own head, formulating my own ideas I just had to try myself.

That’s a surprising part of the appeal of Mario Maker, it turns out– it can draw a bit of a crowd, and spectators are all likely to have their own ideas of what should be in the game, or will wonder just what cockamamie design you’re trying to implement. And doing so is fun, too, be it as a spectator or as you’re designing the level yourself. The interface is rather simple, and you can perform on-the-fly testing as often as you need before turning your creation loose.

It’s like art meets game design, and just feels a lot more fun than your run-of-the-mill level editors that you find in other games. Level editors have been in Nintendo games for years, dating back to the likes of Excitebike and Wrecking Crew, but I can’t remember a time when they’ve felt as fun as this. Heck, one would think a Mega Man fan such as myself would leap at the opportunity to create my own levels in Capcom’s 2006 game Mega Man Powered Up for the PlayStation Portable, but I don’t think I ever got around to designing a single board. But I can’t wait to get more time with Mario Maker.

By the sound of things, we’ve only seen the tip of what the full game will offer in terms of design options, too. Early 2015 can’t get here quickly enough.

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Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

Much to my regret, chagrin, and other words indicating displeasure, I never got to play the highly-regarded Nintendo DS title Kirby’s Canvas Curse, one of the earlier, more innovative, and apparently best titles in the system’s early days. Fortunately, luck has smiled upon me as a sequel has been announced for the Wii U.

From what I can gather, this title plays much the same as its predecessor, though it trades out the earlier game’s paint-like aesthetic for one made to resemble colored clay. Using the stylus, you control Kirby (who is stuck in a ball form) and draw ropes, ramps, loops, and more for him to follow to reach new places and get past his foes.

Playing it, I can see where the reputation of the original came from, and I look forward to playing more in 2015.

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Mario vs. Donkey Kong

I didn’t get to play this one due to a lack of time/the overall busyness of the event. That said, it’s yet another in the Lemmings-style of Mario vs. Donkey Kong, rather than my preference, the Donkey Kong ’94-style that launched the series. That said, it certainly looked really nice on a high-definition television, and watching some people play did make me want to snatch the GamePad away and say “no, like this!”, so maybe I should give it another go when it comes out.

Project Guard & Project Giant Robot

Unfortunately, though these two were there, I didn’t have time to try them out. Admittedly, they were kind of low on my list, perhaps due to the hints that they’re both part of the upcoming new Star Fox title that are not yet fully formed. Still, people seemed to be enjoying them, and I do wish I’d gotten to try them. Alas, it was not to be… this time.

Art Academy

Another game that was on hand, but I didn’t really get to try, as the environment didn’t really feel right for it (some games feel more like something I’d rather sit down with for a while, rather than form impressions in a really busy environment). Also, no time– maybe if there was more. Still, I’d love to give it a go when it comes out on October 24th, 2014.

Nintendo 3DS

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Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS

Okay, I’m going to be up front about this: I don’t like this one as much as the Wii U version. In fact, so far, I don’t think anyone I know has.

That isn’t to say it’s bad, however; I did enjoy my second time with the game since playing it at Best Buy back in June, and I even got to play a regular match this time. Really, I believe it all comes down to one simple thing that could very well make or break this experience.

Control customization.

In a game like this, a certain sense of immersion is key. You can’t stop to think about how you’re going to do what you need to do, you have to be able to do it instinctively, reflexively at a moment’s notice. I simply was not feeling that here.

It’s a very simple thing, one which can make or break a game, but one not afforded in the demo version that I was able to tell. The way the face buttons are mapped in this demo was counter-intuitive to me, or at least to my familiarity with the GameCube controls. I was able to adjust to them somewhat, but it took a more concentrated effort, and in the heat of a battle, it’s easy enough to lose yourself as well, which can wreck things.

I can’t say for certain, but if the final version allows me to remap the buttons, I think I’ll like the game a whole lot more. As it is, I saw the game again at a separate, more recent event, and ultimately passed it over for the Wii U version (and for Hyrule Warriors).

Fortunately, director Masahiro Sakurai is one of the best in the business– especially at Nintendo– for allowing various options and customization in his games, including Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Heck, that we’re even getting the option to use GameCube controllers in the Wii U version feels like a testament to that. So I do have confidence (and fingers crossed) that he will allow us to choose what feels right for us and go from there.

Until that point, though, I have a certain reluctance about this one. I’m sure it will be good, but will it be great?

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Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

I skipped on this one for two main reasons: 1) The frantic environment of the event isn’t really the type I like to play such games in, and 2) It was coming out so soon, anyway, that I figured it would be better to focus on other things at the show while I had time. In fact, I have my review copy now, so there you go.

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Fantasy Life

I didn’t really get a chance to give this a go, but it looks interesting. Another title I’d rather sit down with and get to know more personally, rather than meet-and-greet amidst talking to people and such.

Pokémon Art Academy

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t in the mood to do this there, but the Nintendo 3DS unit housing this demo was open while I was waiting for a shot at Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS. I gave it a shot, though I didn’t draw any Pokemon— instead, I drew a Goomba, to the amusement of some others around. Not bad, but I’d need to spend more time with it, even though the primary function seems to be teaching one how to draw Pokemon.

—–

During the event, I had the opportunity to speak with Matt Ryan of Nintendo of Canada, who noted that Super Smash Bros. “will be our biggest launch this holiday,” including the October 3rd release of the Nintendo 3DS game, and that the amiibo figures would be arriving day-and-date with the as-yet unspecified release date of the Wii U version. He also pointed out that another title that was absent from the show, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Pokémon Alpha Saphire, is also expected to do quite well in November, especially with the “more serious” Pokémon fan.

On a more personal level, Ryan notes that he is really looking forward to Hyrule Warriors. “Ever since I first saw that game, the graphics looked amazing. The gameplay and the physics of it all play really well.”

“While I haven’t played a lot of Dynasty Warriors, I have played, and it’s fun and I love that over-the-top action, like taking out the hordes of enemies. Splicing in The Legend of Zelda‘s look and feel, and the realm of Hyrule and the characters like Link and Zelda– it’s awesome. It’s one of the best-looking games I’ve seen on the Wii U.”

—–

Though I didn’t get to play everything, I came away with an overall positive feeling about (and from) the games Nintendo showed off at their post-E3 event. Some I need to spend more time with, and Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS does give me pause, but it’s an overall strong lineup going into the holidays and beyond, and I can’t wait to experience more of it.

A huge thanks to the folks at Nintendo of Canada for having us to the event, and for taking the time to speak with us!

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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.