Recently, Nintendo of Canada invited We Got This Covered to demo its upcoming 3DS and Wii U games at a casual event in Toronto, Ontario. I attended on behalf of our website, and took advantage of the time by playing copious amounts of some of E3 2013′s biggest games. Now, I’m here to pass my in-depth thoughts on to you.
To start, it’s important to note that this year is all about the games for the Big N. While last year required a hardware first mentality, this one does not, and the company realizes it needs to step up and provide a steady stream of big titles that gamers want. As a result, its release calendar is said to offer something notable on a per month basis going forward. Of course, the hope on both sides is that each of the referenced games will either live up to, or exceed folks’ expectations, and based on my demo sessions, I’m optimistic that most will achieve at least one of those incredibly positive results.
Now, for the games…
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Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Upon entering the redesigned office space that housed the informal get-together, my eyes were immediately drawn to a demo station featuring Donkey Kong’s apish mug. I’ve always been a fan of the Donkey Kong brand, and that’s especially true of the Donkey Kong Country franchise, which took almost as much of my childhood gaming time as EA Sports’ NHL series. For that reason, the announcement of a brand new iteration during Nintendo’s E3 2013 livestream got me excited, and had me looking forward to going hands on with its barrel-filled action.
Utilizing a WiiMote-based control scheme that Donkey Kong Country Returns veterans will be accustomed to, Retro Studios’ latest gift (as Nintendo calls it) didn’t fail to impress from the start of its first demo stage to the time where I figured I would stop playing it and try other things. First off, it’s beautiful-looking in high-definition, with a great shine and excellent amounts of colour and detail. The character models look the best they ever have, the stages are gorgeous and fully animated in front and back, and the gameplay is a treat to watch. What’s also great is that it plays just about as well as it looks, though I would’ve preferred the option to have used the GamePad for controlling DK than said WiiMote scheme. However, I guess you can’t get everything you want.
Everything I did, from jumping from platform to platform, to solving puzzles by using the ape’s mammoth hands, was expectedly tight and easy to grasp. Sure, the motion controls weren’t ideal to someone who prefers standard controls over anything else, but they worked well and I cannot complain at all. Plus, even when I did get hit by something, the repercussions weren’t as bad as what the game’s predecessor presented. That’s because DK and company all have three hearts this time around, and it seems as if possessing two characters at one time doubles the player’s available hit points from three to six, letting the secondary character take damage until his (or her) meter expires.
Although I know it’s going to end up being a masochist’s dream, and may have me wanting to pull my hair out at times, I’m eagerly looking forward to the day when Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze swings into high-definition on Nintendo’s Wii U. I only got a chance to play it for a bit, choosing to try traditional stages and one basic but engaging boss battle, but what I played was very impressive.
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Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games
It’s time to switch gears and talk about the only true sports game that was on offer, with that being the next iteration of the Mario & Sonic the Hedgehog versus the Olympics franchise. Though, before we start, I must admit something. That is the fact that, until this summer I’d never spent any time with the franchise. As such, this described demo stands as my first attempt at winning gold in Nintendo’s incredibly popular tie-in world.
Going in, I was excited about playing another Mario sports title, because they’re almost always fun. Having grown up with Mario Golf and Mario Tennis, I’ve put more than my fair share of hours into the plumber’s sporting activities, with dabbles into baseball and other sports in-between. Other than the two mentioned series, the one that hooked me the most was GameCube’s Mario Strikers, which is a personal favourite and slots in as one of the best interactive sports games ever made. Yes, it’s that good, and its sequel is up there as well. However, there’s something about the magic of the first game that made it more entertaining.
Made available to us in a limited session, thank you for playing type of design, were three different activities: snowboarding, bobsleigh and a multiplayer battle. Each one controlled a bit differently, but the gist was the same: In order to succeed, it was pivotal that I made good use of my motion-controlling skills. Aiming the WiiMote downward would speed things up, while pulling the reigns back would, of course, slow my avatar down. The basics related to the dawn of motion gaming, and a lot of the titles that graced the Wii console. However, there were subtleties, many of which I did not perfect, including pulling up while going over jumps and evening out one’s board to make sure that the landing was perfect, allowing for speed boosts.
Although the controls were simplified and accessible, they were never great. I’ll never admit to being a big fan of motion, because that would be a boldfaced lie, but I felt that my performance was hindered by some of the floaty physics at play in Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games. At times, things felt great, but there were just as many, if not more, moments where I felt like I didn’t have a great handle on what was going on on-screen. That became especially noticeable during the multiplayer battle that I finished off with, because it required too much precision.
Simply put, the multiplayer mode, which allows several players to compete against each other, is a battle royale. It’s you against the others, in an attempt to be the first one to get down a mountain and cross a designated finish line. Simple stuff, really, but challenging nonetheless. That’s because the terrain is varied, and so are the vehicles. There’s ice for skates and bobsleds, and snow for boards and whatnot. Think of it as being like Motorstorm, where a variety of vehicles (or devices, if you will) converge on one course, and each one has an optimal line that suits its individual strengths.
The good news is that what you start with isn’t necessarily what you’ll finish with. Gates present themselves at intervals, allowing players to go through and receive a randomized athletic tool from the aforementioned list. If a player goes through one before you, then you can see what it will offer, adding strategy to the mix. However, it’s sometimes hard to pick and choose what you’ll be using, and the bobsleigh that I got saddled with always seemed to put me far behind my competition, despite its tracks’ speed boost pads. A lot of that had to do with control, though, because I had issues making the metallic behemoth do what I wanted it to. It was much easier to control a skiing Mario, or even a boarding Mario, than it was to sit in one of those digitized things.
Hopefully the aforementioned control issues will be rectified, or at least improved before Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games hits store shelves. It has potential, and is somewhat fun, but still needs a lot of fine-tuning. With that being said, though, it looks pretty good, despite a bit of stuttering during speedy downhills.
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Wii Party U
This is, admittedly, another demo that I went into without any prior experience. Not only that, but it was something I figured wouldn’t interest me much. That was an incorrect assumption, however.
Wii Party U is a collection of minigames and other relatively short-burst activities, and is aimed at gamers and non-gamers of all ages. There’s only a slight learning curve, meaning that anyone can play and have fun. It’s a great selling point, but it’s one that has been used to death over the last decade or so.
Is this one different from the rest? It seems to be, but my limited time with it didn’t allow for too much experimentation, or much research. I watched a couple of people play a neat-looking foosball game, which seemingly used the GamePad for two-player action, and they were having a ton of fun. However, when it came to my time to play, those who joined me wanted to play minigames. As such, my ten to fifteen minutes with Wii Party U were spent playing variations of standard party game experiences, like avoiding a giant fist or trying to take out a large tank before it hit my smaller tank. Yes, they were fun, but they weren’t revolutionary.
Control-wise, it’s tough to complain about this one. Most of my experience was with the WiiMote as the GamePad was in use, so I can’t comment on that much. However, I can say that there wasn’t a lack of polish in the modes we demoed. Everything played well and looked good, without any hiccups.
This is one I’ll need more time with before I can truly comment on how good I think it is, but I’m cautiously optimistic that it will avoid the party game curse.
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Super Mario 3D World
Getting back to the more traditional gaming experiences that dotted Nintendo’s Toronto PR office, it’s time to touch upon Super Mario 3D World, which is another one of the company’s most anticipated new announcements, and for good reason. Not only is it beautiful to behold (especially to someone who has spent over twenty years playing Mario games), but it’s also a heck of a lot of impeccably designed fun.
If you’ve been hoping for a new, high-definition title that plays similarly to Super Mario 64, then you’re in luck here, because Super Mario 3D World takes a lot of influence from that years old gem. It doesn’t do so by including paintings or a large castle over world (that I know of, at least), but by offering 3D stages that employ the same type of look and feel as those from yesteryear. I only got to play about four of the five or six on offer, but each one was a blast, to put it simply.
The first stage I jumped into through drop-in and drop-out co-op, was a platform-based level that was set in the sky. It tasked us with exploring intertwined clear pipes (which allowed for direction changes and housed standard items, plus progression items), and also had us moving up a ginormous wall using directional pads and smarts. All of that was fun, but I wouldn’t say that it was the best stage I played. In fact, some of the others were more fun, but I did get to start those from their respective beginnings, which made things easier.
Note: This is evidently a great co-op game, and its bubble system has been refined to the point where it’s certainly better than what came before it. On top of that, its newly-introduced cat suit makes climbing up tall walls and platforms a breeze.
Unsurprisingly, the most difficult level on offer was a team-based minigame scenario, wherein up to several players had to work together to get from one point to another safely. Sure, that may sound easy, but it’s not, because perfect communication is required. Why? Well, all of the characters are sitting atop a beast, which moves in the way that it’s told to through directional inputs. However, each player’s input is taken into account, meaning that the direction you’re pushing won’t always be the way in which you travel. That’s why talking is important, and why Nintendo stresses couch co-op with this one.
We never beat that level, but it’s something I plan to do in the future with friends. That way, it’ll be easier to communicate, as I’ll know the people I’m playing with well, and will be able to navigate the chasm-filled course in an easier fashion. The problem that presented itself at the event was that we weren’t talking enough and, while one or two players were going for secrets, another was trying to survive the course through basic means.
Needless to say, I cannot wait for Super Mario 3D World either. It’s sure to be a fantastic game, and will probably end up being a major system seller for the Big N.
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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
I’d previously played through a large portion of the original game, but only got a bit of time in with this high-definition remake. That’s because, not only was time running short, but I couldn’t find a way to quit the island demo I’d entered. There were two available, one of which allowed players to try the beginning of the game, wherein Link must get his sword and whatnot after losing his sister to evildoers, and another which focused on what I remember as being the first boss battle. Though I never got to play the latter one, as mentioned above, I did watch someone else battle the winged beast, and came away very impressed.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I think the island looks great, and has a good personality, but it’s not an ideal demo spot. That is, for me at least.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD is a beautiful-looking port that will blow people away with its shine and visual upgrades. The GameCube version was a sight to behold when it first launched, but this one takes things further. On top of that, it controls really well using the GamePad, and gives adventurers the option of using the touchscreen for maps, inventory usage and message-leaving. Yes, there’s a social element, which some will like and others will hate. It allows you to leave Tingle bottles, which can be picked up, read and responded to (in a like/dislike type of way), bringing to mind the S.O.S. bottle technique.
When Wind Waker returns to prominence, it will surely take a lot of time out of my gaming schedule. I really need to beat it this time around. What I played of the GameCube original was fantastic, and this HD upgrade is a beauty.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Last, but certainly not least, is The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the brand new 3DS title that is set in the same world as one of gaming’s biggest triumphs: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. As a huge fan of the mentioned Super Nintendo title, this E3 reveal turned me into a bit of a giddy school girl. As such, I couldn’t wait to demo it, though I went in understanding one thing: Zelda games and those like them are hard to demo. It’s not because they’re bad, or anything close, but because I really need to sit down with an RPG and get into it before I can truly say how I feel. You can’t just jump into this type of thing and expect to really know what you’re doing or get a great feel for the game, unless you start at the beginning and play for a while.
With that being said, I was quite impressed with what I played of this handheld behemoth. It’s neat and very good looking, with a unique cartoon look, and thankfully plays just as well. The new mechanic that allows one to become 2D and walk along walls, platforms and more, in order to solve puzzles, get to new areas and collect secrets, will certainly take some time to get used to, though. It’s neat and works with ease, but is just a little weird.
As with Wind Waker HD, Nintendo offered us two demos for this one. The first was simply a walk through the fields of Hyrule, while the other was a new dungeon. Both showed the potential for greatness, and both were interesting, though I must admit that walking around the over world was more fun for me. The dungeon was unique, requiring 2D flattening and proper use of pegs that could be flattened, sat upon and then used for a vertical boost, but I needed more time with it to truly get a good lay of the land per se.
This is another release that will surely deliver quality in spades, and will most-likely sell a lot of systems. It has a ton of promise, not to mention some tight and well-designed mechanics.
Well, that’s it, folks: Approximately two hours’ worth of demoing condensed into a lengthy preview article for your reading pleasure. Hopefully I’ve answered some of the questions you’ve had about certain Nintendo titles, and have left you interested in what’s to come from gaming’s most talked-about company. I enjoyed my time up in Toronto at this event, and feel lucky to have been able to try so many great games. However, due to timing constraints, I did not get to try The Wonderful 101 or Pikmin 3, though I did play an impressive early demo of the latter game over a year ago. Both look to be quality titles in their own right, and should definitely be given a good chance, much like the rest of the interactive experiences referenced in this preview article.Previous