Impressions from the Nintendo Summer Celebration and Media Showcase

Like a small E3 for the people who couldn’t make it to E3.

The day before we left for Otakon, Nintendo held their “Summer Celebration and Media Showcase” for 2015. Those who have been following the site for a whole know that this is basically their smaller-scale Electronic Entertainment Expo showing for Canadian journalists who weren’t able to make it out to the big show in Los Angeles earlier in the summer.

Naturally, you couldn’t keep me away from an event like this. Writing about it until now, maybe (things have come up since; don’t ask), but I’ve been champing at the bit to go over what I got to play. Plus, I got to speak for a bit with Nintendo of Canada’s newest public relations representative, Andrew Collins, who you can meet in our video interview at the end of the column.

Now, without further ado…

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash

This was admittedly not the first one I had my eye on, but it was the one with the shortest line when we got there, so I figured it was as good a place to start as any.

At this point, there’s admittedly not too much to say about it. The tennis graphics and Mario characters look great in high definition, and it plays well with traditional controls (I don’t know yet if the “New Play Control” style from Mario Power Tennis for Wii will be incorporated, but we can hope). However, the game seems really early on in development, or at least minimal in what it was showing, polished as it was. Only four characters were available — Mario, Bowser, Peach, and Toad — and only one power-up is available: the growth spurt-inducing Mega Mushroom, which allows you to cover a much greater portion of the court.

That said, this small peek is giving me hope that we’ll see a tennis game that has a bit more “Mario” to it than Mario Tennis Open did. While a fine game, it felt too much like tennis featuring Mario characters, rather than a true blending of the two. The incorporation of the Mega Mushroom here gives me hope, however.

Metroid Prime: Blast Ball

Here we come to what might be the most controversial title in Nintendo’s entire E3 lineup. Up front, I’ll say that I really don’t have any ill will towards this game: I remember Metroid Prime Pinball and have heard nothing but good about it, and I also remember going eight years between Super Metroid and the double-whammy of Metroid Prime and Metroid Fusion. This doesn’t worry me at all.

That said, I was really hoping that the four-player cooperative game from Metroid Prime: Federation Force would be available, but all we got was Blast Ball. That said, it was kind of fun. Sort of like a futuristic American Gladiator-styled version of hockey or soccer, wherein teams of three use their weapons (rather than hockey sticks or their feet) to knock the big glowing ball into the opposing goal. Plus, there’s room for some roughhousing against the opposing team.

Overall, it was fun, but left me wanting to take part in the main course.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash

Another confession: I’ve never really gotten to play Chibi Robo before. I actually have the Nintendo DS game around here somewhere, picked up at Toys R Us for a song, but never had the chance to dig in.

That said, this is my kind of thing: a platform game with a focus on using a wire of some kind as your main way of getting around. That said, it’s not quite like Bionic Commando Rearmed or Super Castlevania IV in that regard, but feels unique unto itself. Certain common elements come into play, as you use Chibi-Robo’s power cord to pull on blocks and climb over obstacles, but again, it’s not quite the same. Not in a bad way, just a different way.

I look forward to playing more when it comes out. It doesn’t seem like it’ll be too challenging, but just fun to go through — sort of like Kirby Triple Deluxe. I adored that game, so if this is anywhere near as much fun, then we’ll be in for a treat.

Yoshi’s Wooly World

Nadia and I gave this later build of Yoshi’s Woolly World another go, this time with me taking up Player 2 as the red Yoshi (my preference — still hoping for a red Yarn Yoshi amiibo).

From what we got to play, not too much was different from last year, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The combination of new tricks and skills involving the yarn aesthetic with the gameplay of Yoshi’s Island — minus the crying baby, of course, has me feeling like this may just be the first truly worthwhile sequel to Yoshi’s Island. Of course, I’ve thought that before, though in those cases the games ended up trying less to be a successor to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System classic than just trying to be Yoshi’s Island — and typically coming up a bit short.

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – Ryu

Only in a world where Super Smash Bros. is already a thing is it so easy to get to play as this was. The game has already been out the better part of the year, but Super Smash Bros. for Wii U was on display with everyone available to play. Already familiar with most of the roster and returning characters anyway, I immediately went for the most curious new addition: Ryu from Street Fighter.

What I played of him was… interesting. He really feels like a combination of his Street Fighter self with the Smash Bros. style, and takes a bit of getting used to — more than one match can sufficiently provide, I’m sure. Still, my familiarity with him in his home series helped ensure that I wasn’t easily disposed of, but nor did I win the match — I just avoided getting completely throttled.

Call me intrigued. I definitely want to play as him more, and play against him as well. For the moment, I’ve been holding back as I try to determine what the best option for my budget is with all this new content — buying it piecemeal as I go along, or just saving up and buying the bundles. Decisions, decisions…

Of course, seeing as I like Ken a lot more than Ryu, I’d have gotten him Day 1 had he been an option.

Super Mario Maker

I came back to this one a few times, though unlike last year, I didn’t bother trying to make a level. Oh no, there will be time for that… time I fully intend to take advantage of to craft a masterpiece.

Ahem. That said, I did play a few of the built-in levels included in the demo. One which particularly fascinated me was a stage I had seen someone else try — and fail — to complete. It’s basically simply running straight for the goal and avoiding enemies with only just enough time to succeed. If you’re off by the slightest margin, you die.

I gave it a shot… and failed. This level was a Super Mario World-styled creation, complete with the moving “H” finish line tape at the end. However, unlike the original game, merely crossing the finish line isn’t good enough; you must break the tape, which is a little trickier to pull off.

I stuck to it, and by Goomba, I did it. Took me a couple of tries, but I was apparently the first one to succeed at it that day. Having to repeat the performance, I was able to do it again… eventually. I had more hits than misses, but at least I was still able to pull it off for the small crowd who wanted to see it done.

If I’m not mistaken, Super Mario Maker is the first game on this list to be released, with September 11th marked on the calendar. I, for one, cannot wait.

Star Fox Zero

As eager as I am for Super Mario Maker, there’s no denying which game was the Star of the show. The line was long, and the demo wasn’t any shorter, but the time came to stick it out and ensure that at least one barrel roll would be done at my hands before leaving that day.

And it wasn’t as easy as that! Well, the barrel roll might have been, but Star Fox fans, take note: this is not the Star Fox you grew up with, at least from a control standpoint. The basics are all there, but just about the entire controller shy of the directional stick has been remapped. I think the R trigger is your gun, and A converts your Arwing to robot mode (fun, that). But a lot of functions, such as turning and somersaulting and boosting and slowing down, are now mapped to the right analog stick. It’s not bad once you get used to it, but going in blind can leave you a little disoriented.

In fact, after flying through what was basically a thematic remake of the first level of Star Fox 64, I was still figuring things out. I ended up losing at the final boss of the area when — in all the hype surrounding the game — I’d forgotten one of the new features: using the GamePad screen to aim. Whoops.

All told, it was a blast, and I wish I could have played more (there was a neat space station stage to play as well). It wasn’t especially difficult, at least thanks to my veteran Star Fox experience, but I think they may be toughening things up this time around as well. For instance (and my memory may be off here), but previous installments would allow you to glide along the surface of the planet with no problems, whereas here I seemed to take damage. Maybe that’s just a mechanic to help differentiate the walker mode, but either way, it’s one more reason that this is not just the same old Star Fox.

The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes

It’s The Legend of Zelda, and you know what? It really is rad.

I wasn’t expecting too much here that I hadn’t experienced before with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition and Four Swords Adventures (solo, that one), but I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with it. I always enjoyed those previous four-player games, though I didn’t really get to play them with any more than one other player, so the loss of one count here didn’t really phase me. My wife, Nadia, took up a second Nintendo 3DS while Ian Flynn hopped on a third, and we chose unique outfits and got down to business.

Besides the stat-boosting outfits, the big difference maker is the whole totem pole mechanic. It doesn’t look like much in the videos, but in practice, it’s fun as you all have to work together — and occasionally swallow your pride if you end up stuck in the middle during a fight that requires a three-Link stack. Plus, you’re all sharing the same set of hearts this time, so watching out for one-another is more essential than ever.

Thankfully, with the wireless capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS (and freakin’ online), maybe I’ll finally get to experience one of these games the way they were meant to be experienced.

Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

Sadly, my time here was all too brief.

Well, not too brief, I suppose. I got to partake in the Toad hunt which teaches you different tricks that Mario, Luigi, and Paper Mario can do, and I got to engage in a boss battle against Peter Piranha as well. Fun stuff, but fairly typical for Mario & Luigi fare — which is of course already excellent.

Where I had to put things down was during the most unique part, the Papercraft Mario segment. Here, you have to tap the screen to a beat to charge up your army of Toads who will carry your folded Mariozord around the battlefield, charging into other foes and squashing them. Unfortunately, a leaky faucet has more rhythm than I do, so I never got past the charging stage. I’m certain I can do it in time, but time is not a luxury I had at that moment as I tried to squeeze in what I could between interviewing Mr. Collins and being shooed out the door.

On the bright side? At least the mechanics seem more solid than Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and it looks like the fun and personality may be back, too! With the team behind Mario & Luigi at the helm, I’m sure the Paper Mario crew are in good hands.

Yo Kai Watch

This was the one game I didn’t get to play. Well, this and Splatoon, but since I’ve already played and reviewed the latter, it was a deliberate choice.

Chat with Andrew Collins

Towards the end of the event, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Andrew Collins, who is now serving the role previously filled by Mr. Matt Ryan at Nintendo of Canada. We talked about a variety of things, most of which involve the games which were on display at the event. Even though things were wrapping up, there was still a lot of noise pollution going on, so my apologies if everything doesn’t come through clearly. With that in mind, here are some highlights:

  • One needs to Metroid Prime: Blast Ball to truly appreciate it.
  • Adds that just because Metroid Prime: Federation Force is coming out next year, that doesn’t mean it’s the only version of Metroid they’re working on; likens it to the different branches of the Mario franchise, which had three very different games available on the show floor.
  • With The Legend of Zelda for Wii U delayed, rather than fill its void with another big heavy-hitter title, they’re focusing on releasing more of a variety of other titles.
  • The Yarn Yoshi amiibo bundle for Yoshi’s Woolly World is coming out in North America.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes will feature a single-player mode (involving the “rental” of two paper doll characters), but they’re keeping hush on most of the details for now.
  • Yo Kai Watch is a phenomenon in Japan; explains its concept of spirits found in everyday life. “Nice and family-oriented.”
  • The Yo Kai Watch TV show is coming over as well; details of Canadian airing are yet to be revealed.

And that’s it for this year’s event! Overall, I came away quite pleased with what was on display, and look forward to trying more of each of these titles in the future.

There will no doubt be more information and events to come as we progress through the year and into the holiday season, and I’ll bring you the latest News from the North as it happens!

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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.