Saturday, July 6, 2013

By: Jamaal Ryan

Writers Note: The following impressions are based solely on visual observation as I didn’t get a chance to go hands on with the Best Buy featured games.
Nintendo opened with their dry load (which also happens to be my most anticipated handheld title of this year) with Pokemon X Y. The added new Fairy type, believe it or not, is an exciting addition to Pokemon’s elaborate rock-paper-scissors system; and though as much as I would be tempted to write off Tamagotchi-like interactions with your Pokemon, this could easily sneak up on me as a care-taking pastime.
However I still can’t get over the 3D graphics of the game. While many of us previous or longtime fans have waited for a 3D console version of Pokemon (neither Gamecube versions lived up to our expectations), there still hangs a cloud of disbelief that Game Freak finally broke away from their near 20 year sprite art direction, and above all else, remains the primary reason why I’m looking forward to their releases.
About Pokemon X Y
The artists over at Game Freak have taken every opportunity to work the 3DS hardware to render full 3D models of each Pokemon. To capture this in battle, the game even features moving camera angles that will pan around the dueling monsters. In this jump to a new dimension, Game Freak has based the land off of France, an interesting inspiration to complement its new visual style.
Along with the game’s new 3D model presentation, Game Freak is bringing a number of new features to the Pokemon franchise. Some of the new features include team battles. Occasionally, players will encounter five team battles, in which your roster will battle against 5 Pokemon. Players can also look forward to air battles, where floating and winged Pokemon can take to the skies and duke it out.
There have also been work on the game’s connectivity where those that you meet up with online move from Passerbys to Acquaintances to Friends where you’ll be able to battle with them more frequently.
Pokemon X & Y will be launched in October 12th 2013
That was the sound of millions of deflating smiles.
Predictions were abound as to what the new Mario title would end up being at this year’s E3, Mario Galaxy 3 (not an actual 3rd Galaxy game, but you get the idea) being the capital amongst all of them. When the trailer ran for Super Mario 3D World, viewers such as myself waited, and waited, and waited until the final minute of Nintendo’s E3 Direct passed and there was no other Mario game, no BIGGER Mario game.
It was disappointing to say the least that Nintendo opted out of looking at the next big step for the proper Mario franchise along the lines of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxies 1 and 2. Ostensibly, Mario 3D World is a consolized version of the stellar 3DS title, much like New Super Mario Bros. U was New Super Mario Bros. 2’s console big brother, and the Wii and DS pair before it.

Every single one of the previously released games are fun, just as Super Mario 3D World will undoubtedly be. And new elements like 4 players in a 3D space and the Cat Suit will bring an unexpected change to the franchise. But  with this handheld-console, handheld-console dance that we’ve seen for a few years, and expecting a “new Mario title” to be aiming higher than the stars in Galaxy, to see yet another iteration of a Mario sub series that too started on the handheld is, ultimately, a pleasant disappointment.
About Super Mario 3D World
Multiplayer platformers aren’t common, especially platformers that are in 3D. Nintendo showed us how impactful an ostensibly simple change such as adding three additional players changes the game dynamics drastically in Wii and Wii U’s New Super Mario Bros. titles. With Super Mario 3D World, a literal all new dimensional approach has been taken.
Just as multiplayer did in the New Super Mario games, playing with four of your friends brings both a cooperative and competitive element to the game. Things like being able to transfer your star power to another player and picking up and throwing your friend are challenging design concepts to tackle.
Knee-jerk naysayers such as myself will be glad to know that 3D World takes more inspiration from the Galaxy series than initially thought. Nintendo Entertainment Analysis and Development (EAD) Planner and Project Leader Koichi Hayashida stated that they’ve combined ideas from both the 3D Land handheld and Galaxy 2, one of them being collecting star medals (3D Land) and the green stars from Galaxy 2. In a Nintendo Direct about 3D World, Nintendo insists that there are many more Galaxy inspirations.
We can expect a whole lot of new ideas, such as challenges that include running around with a potted plant that eats a line of other Piranha Plants in a sprint, and mazing through transparent pipes while changing directions to avoid hazards.
It’s difficult to point out the number of “Galaxy-esque” influences in the viewings of Super Mario 3D World, granted I never got the chance to go hands on with the game. Visually, the gameplay looks like a blown up 3D Land with multiplayer implemented design, not to belittle the significance of both aspects.
We shall see if 3D World is the Mario game we’re looking forward to, or just a mere pacifier before Mario’s next revolution Holiday this year.
Mario Kart 8 brings another handheld inspired element in Nintendo’s E3 direct, but in a far less disappointing way than Super Mario 3D World did. Gliders and underwater racing are back from Mario Kart 7 which added new but not entirely significant changes to the Mario Kart formula. What this game brings is the new kart and bike anti-gravity transformations which allow players to ride along walls and upside down, very much akin to the F-Zero series. Outside of the inclusion of driving styles, the trailer failed to show new items, which is arguably the last essential third of the Mario Kart experience.
Though there have been many claims emphasizing Galaxy’s influence on Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8 shares the visual aesthetic best with the edgier, and of course, gravity defying tracks.
Mario Kart 8 is a very Mario Kart looking game, and there isn’t much more than what we expected, but we can finally see the benefits to what HD has done to a Mario game, which inches to be the best looking Mario themed title (Smash Bros. included) on Wii U.
About Mario Kart 8
There didn’t seem to be much new reveals of Mario Kart 8 outside of what was shown in the Direct trailer. As we’ve all seen, antigravity mode is the new stand out game changer for Mario Kart 8 thus far, offering alternate routes to the standard course.
The electromagnets that grip your Kart or bike to the pavement don’t bring much of a difference when it comes to control, however drivers will have to be extra careful as running into another racer will cause both of you to spin out (though it won’t be as detrimental as running over a Banana Peel), and hitting anything else will knock your speed. With such risks for riding walls and ceilings, it’s safe to assume that shortcuts will unfold if you defy gravity.
Nintendo was tight-lipped about online features, but they stated that they’ll be similar to (and hopefully built upon) Mario Kart 7’s for the 3DS, supporting 12 player online races. They did add however, that players will be able to share clips of their races over Miiverse via Mario Kart TV.
Mario Kart 8 will release in Spring 2014.
Image source: Gamereactor
Between their major game announcements, Nintendo revealed Wii Party U, an expected installment after the game’s huge success on the Wii. In addition, Nintendo demonstrated a response to their community with Art Academy, an application that grants players a robust set of tools to draw, paint and color some fantastic artwork after the overwhelming presence of Miiverse drawings on Nintendo’s social network.
Finally, they rolled out their sizzle reel of third party titles including:
Assassins Creed Black Flag
Batman Arkham Origins
Dues Ex HR
Disney Infinity
Just Dance 2014
Rayman Legends
Scribblenauts Unmasked: A DC Comics Adventure
Splinter Cell Blacklist
Sonic Lost World
Watch Dogs
Cloudberry Kingdom
Duck Tales
D&D: Chronicles of Mystara
Mutant Mudds Deluxe
So as a late adopter of the Zelda franchise, The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker is my favorite Zelda of all time (mind you, I said LATE adopter). The announcement of an HD remake coupled with gorgeous water-color screenshots had my interest, and the idea of new dungeons had me excited.
And somehow that was missing from the Direct.
The interesting thing about the Windwaker for Wii U is that the game is more of an “as you remember it” than a re-imagination. The stills released earlier this year did the game more justice than the footage shown. For me, it had fallen victim to an unfortunate trick of the HD era with footage vs. stills.
I played Windwaker in a vacuum several years after its release, so the Tingle Tuner inspired Tingle Bottle was completely new to me in concept, though no more interesting in execution for this specific title. Other than that, no new content was shown like many had hoped.
For those who haven’t played Windwaker, I’d say there’s no reason to pass up this re-release this Fall as it’s one of the best Zeldas in the franchise, regardless how many or which of them you’ve played. But for the rest of us, we could do better with a new Zelda title that we thought was going to be announced at this year’s E3.
About The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD
The lacking of new content in the Direct was indicative of what will be in the actual product: The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD will feature no new content (not even the much talked about missing dungeons) in the game. Zelda series director Eiji Aonuma stated that the changes that will come to the Windwaker HD will be refinement on the game’s mechanics and mission design.
Some of the basic changes to the HD version will include faster sailing and a more streamlined Triforce quest that many lamented about. But obviously the biggest change is the Tingle Message Bottles. Here players can leave messages that’ll wash up on other players’ shores via Miiverse ala Demon and Dark Souls. While even if I were to play this game, I would hardly grace myself over these bottles, the thought of this being implemented in future titles excites me.
Zelda games are heavily puzzle based, an aspect that has always stunted me, forcing me to turn to strategy guides and video walkthroughs. In addition to being a Nintendo title full of secrets, hosting a player messaging system could potentially richen the player experience, allowing adventurers to discover content in neat ways and contribute to the community at large.
The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD will release this October.
Wonderful 101 is one of the most enjoyable games to watch. It’s like watching Pikmin on a concoction of narcotics, seeing dozens of super citizens jumping around in a collective group, Unite Morphing into insanely large weapons with no avail, and striking even larger enemies to protect their city.
In addition to the title change last year, 101’s controls have integrated proper Gamepad support since its first unveiling at last year’s E3. It makes more sense for precision, but since I’ve yet to go hands on with the screens support, I wonder how it’ll align with the speed of the game.
Looking at 101’s multiplayer is dizzying madness, with up to five players (likely Gamepad and four Wiimote controlled) can take on city terrorizing baddies at once. But something tells me that this game will be local co-op only.
About The Wonderful 101
In this short, but sweet Platinum Games joint, Wonderful 101 neatly balances tablet tracing mechanics and chaotic combat.
The visual style, after first being debuted at E3 last year, gave the impression that this was a split gen title like Twilight Princess. The textures and polygonal details are basic and flat, however 101 makes up for this technical shortcoming with an aggressive assortment of bright bold colors. Coupled with the speed of the game, and 101 exists in its own realm of visually memorizing appeal.
Throughout the periled city, players will accrue power-ups, super-citizens, and purchase upgrades between levels to build their Vultron-uniting entourage. One neat feature is that while in the loading screen, players will be able to practice their skills.
There were at least four Unit Morphs shown at E3 (the weaponized forms that your group takes): a hand, sword, gun and whip. Morphs such as the gun will last longer the longer you draw it. The forms are assumed to have different purposes in battle, such as the whip’s ability to rip off the shielding of a giant armored robot, and the hand and the sword used for solving different puzzles.
The game has kept the analog stick controls seen since the game’s debut. There have been reports of input errors on the Gamepad screen, so players may be able to fall back on the sticks for more consistent control.
The Wonderful 101 will add to your collective minion fix after Pikmin 3 on September 13th.
What’s Retro been working on?
That’s the question many a gamer had for over two years after Donkey Kong Country Returns. I absolutely adored DK:CR, as my personal favorite Wii title because it genuinely shocked me by its superior level design (though not to Galaxies 1 & 2), and ball crushing difficulty.
Speculations of a new Metroid title and a new IP ran rampant, both in which were fair predictions as no one expected Retro to Return to Donkey Kong Country.
Tropical Freezes announcement was bitter sweet. I, like many viewers and hands on demo-ers, was a bit underwhelmed when learning that Retro was developing another Donkey Kong title, as the studio is highly capable of a very different and equally impressive type of game. With the disappointment of the Wii U’s limited technical capabilities, many looked to Retro as the crown jewel developer to push the platform’s hardware to its fullest. Tropical Freeze isn’t that game.
At the same time, I didn’t grant Country Returns a perfect score for nothing. It’s not only one of the very best platformers on Wii, but one of the very best this generation and among the Donkey Kong franchise as a whole.
The Metroid Prime series and now the new Donkey Kong Country titles, being among the best in their class and platforms, goes to show how versatile Retro’s talents are.
About Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Not a whole lot of new features have been shown at E3 for Tropical Freeze. However there were little touches that have been added to Retro’s second go at the Donkey Kong Country series.
In Country Returns, Donkey Kong was able to interact with the environment in different ways, such as ground pounding and blowing. These were essential if players wanted to uncover the different secrets of each level. Now, he can now pluck handles from the ground and even throw enemies in interactive puzzles; both in which give new layers of interaction, and more methods that players need to be aware of in combing through each stage.
Diddy Kong is back with his jetpack boosting abilities, but Nintendo also announced the return of Dixy Kong, who hasn’t been seen in a Country game in over a decade. But along with blond pig-tailed monkey, Nintendo also announced that there will be one other playable character. The guessing game down the list of Kongs begin.
And though not much was shown in terms of new gameplay features, the idea of new characters is enticing. Nintendo hinted at the possibility of different characters having their own special access to secrets in some of the levels. This existed in some fashion in Country Returns with Diddy’s jetpack and mountable animals, but with the addition of two new characters, the level designs are bound to be more dynamic, welcoming multiple playthroughs for completionists.
Donkey Kong will return in Tropical Freeze this November.
Bayonetta 2’s showing at Nintendo’s E3 Direct was the most un-Nintendo thing I’ve ever seen at any of their press conferences and Directs, kicking off with the camera aimed right in between Bayonetta’s wide open legs.
It’s nauseatingly over the top action gameplay undoubtedly raised goose bumps (and other thingies). I can’t say much on the behalf of Bayonetta 2 as I’ve yet to play it. After IGN alum’s Ryan Clements called the original Bayonetta "The best action game I've ever played”, it would be criminal to pass up Nintendo’s exclusive sequel.
And again, don’t forget to thank Nintendo for granting the release of this second installment.
About Bayonetta 2
Bayonetta is no stranger to stylish extravagance, with her new look having ear cut length hair, and elegantly brutal attacks with boot attached whips and dual wielding swords kicking angelic foes into instantly conjured torture summons. Looking the part while being lethal has always been her style.
Among many other things, Bayonetta was known for its difficulty. And while its challenging gameplay makes it to Nintendo’s console, it didn’t do so without thinking of accommodating a wider audience. Bayonetta 2 will feature touch controls – tap to attack, swipe to jump – to welcome gamers with less experience. Hopefully those players will be wielding rubber or soft tipped styluses; otherwise they’ll be looking at a rough, tattered up touch screen.
Returning from the original Bayonetta, Jeanne will fight alongside the ebony clad protagonist, assisting her in a variety of ways. It has been announced that Bayonetta 2 will feature a two-player mode. And while details have yet to be revealed, one can easily assume that Jeanne will play a role in some capacity.
Bayonetta 2 looks to be the unrelenting action sequel that fans of the original can expect. Look for Bayonetta 2 sometime in 2014.
I can’t discuss Nintendo’s E3 Direct without at least mentioning X. What appears to be a spiritual follow up to another criminally missed title on my behalf, Xenoblade, X was the most captivating showing from Nintendo’s E3 Direct.
The trailer featured vast open environments players can explore on foot or in mech – both in legged stride or in full vehicle mode -- in which they can engage combat on the ground or take it freely to the skies.
Xenoblade was one of the most artistically impressive games on Wii; many marveled at the possibility that after seeing their maximized potential demonstrated on Wii, how the team at Monolithsoft would handle more powerful hardware. Clearly in the trailer, it seems to be quite a lot, with massive vistas and towering enemies that capture a Monster Hunter like scope, but in environments with far more detail than the frequently barren lands of Monster Hunter. X looks to be a gorgeous game, even by current and next gen standards.
Unlike Bayonetta, I won’t be heading up on Xenoblade, an RPG which I can safely assume has an investment of up to over 50 hours. But X is the most interesting and exciting looking JRPG shown at E3 next to Final Fantasy XV.
Look forward to this exciting new game from Monolithsoft in 2014.
It’s not surprising that SSB was shown, but the extent in which the gameplay on both 3DS and Wii U was shown was shocking. The unveiling of SSB showed off full battles between Nintendo’s favorites including the Villager from Animal Crossing. And since Capcom is in development for SSB, the expected Megaman was revealed, coming with a full suite of his boss acquired powers.
Until my final edit of this E3 review, I was completely indifferent to the idea of playing SSB on the 3DS. However, with the franchise featuring online support more and more, we’re not playing without neighborhood friends or high school buddies anymore, we’re playing SSB on a global scale. And if you want to stay on top of your game, being that the move set for each character on both the 3DS and the Wii U are identical, brushing up on your Smash Bros. skills on the go is the best way to do it.
About Super Smash Bros.
For those who didn’t like Brawl after years consuming Melee (and those who didn’t have the privilege of downloading the Project M mod), there were a few key points that Masahiro Sakurai explains.
The speed of the next SSB has been increased, not quite to the speed of Melee like many veteran players have been accustomed to, but it will exist in a middle ground between Melee and Brawl. Senseless gimmicks such as random trips will not exist in the final game, and for anyone worried that the Wii U version will use the Gamepad touch screen for special moves, Sakurai is specifically avoiding that as such gimmicks could offset the game’s balance.
In further explaining the parity between the Wii U version and the 3DS version, Sakurai explained that while there will be no cross play between the two versions as there are items, stages and other assets that cannot be accomplished on the 3DS from what will be in the Wii U version, there will be some form of interconnectivity.
Though in a game much like other popular titles such as Call of Duty where the single player is secondary, Sakurai does have plans to change the campaign from Subspace Emissary.
After the Nintendo Direct, the Wii Fit Trainer was announced as another playable character to the new SSB. Sakurai discussed that they have no current plans for DLC in the form of stages and characters. As much as many stick behind Nintendo’s stiff, yet wavering, philosophy of shipping complete games without the support of DLC, Super Smash Bros. may be a game that will succeed with post content support. 

The unlocking of new stages and characters are easily the most popular incentives to put hours upon hours in the SSB games. And while DLC might take that incentive away, it’s hard to imagine that it’ll take away from the consumer acquisition of new content. “No plans” means subject to change; and while I indeed hope they change their mind, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Nintendo Direct Overall
Let me start by saying this, Nintendo’s E3 direct was that best E3 showing for Nintendo in years. Having said that, I’d be lying if I were to say that it overwhelmed me with excitement. With the bombastic showcasing of next gen systems after brief stage times of their current gen counter parts, the PS4 and Xbox One outshines the Wii U spotlight several fold. Nintendo ultimately made the right decision in retreating to Directs while reaching out to the public via more direct (not intended) means such as Best Buy E3 demos.
Knee jerk reactions showed bitterness towards their unmet expectations to what was mostly a safe Nintendo showing. A non-Galaxy like Mario title, a very familiar Mario Kart, a decade plus old Zelda remake, another Donkey Kong Retro game, and a very similar looking Super Smash Bros., all of these expected games exist in an event with show stopping titles such as Titanfall, The Division, Destiny, Infamous Second Son, and The Witcher 3; Nintendo just didn’t have that “of-show” star power.
But there’s something to keep in mind here, E3 is a show filled with vertical slices and scripted demos displaying the best looking games in the best light. What Nintendo has that virtually no other company can promise is quality guarantee. Each and every single one of Nintendo’s titles shown WILL be good. George Zimmer from The Men’s Warehouse guarantees it.  It’s an established trust that Nintendo has had with their consumers for decades. The Wii U’s software reboot begins with Pikmin 3 on August 4th followed by a line of important releases well into the holiday.
Nintendo is finally bringing the proper first party software with their “follow up” gen platform. Now let’s see what Nintendo can do with the rest of Wii U’s catalog.


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