Last Thursday, Becky Cunningham, Scott Wachter, and I had the opportunity to try out some of Nintendo's upcoming releases for 3DS and Wii U. We were fortunate enough to have some hands on experiences with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. We hope you enjoy our impressions of what's to come from Nintendo.
Becky: I'm a big fan of the Mario & Luigi series, particularly for its addictive hybrid battle system and goofy humour. I didn't get to see a ton of the humour during the game's demo, but I was quite impressed with the graphics and gameplay. First I went on a tour through the game's "regular" areas, in which the Bros run around a 3D world and solve puzzles together. This segment controlled like previous games, but with new puzzles and sexy new models for the Bros. Regular battles were like getting back on a bike, as jumping and hammering works exactly as you'd remember.
The big selling point of this series entry is the Dream World, in which Mario enters Luigi's dreams. The Dream world is a 2D side-scrolling affair, making it easier to solve puzzles with the touchscreen. Battles here are trippy, as Mario must fight large groups of enemies with the help of a horde of imaginary Luigis. The general battle system hasn't changed much, it's just that the scenarios that the player encounters have been run through the bizarro-machine a few times. Then of course there are the various items that Luigi's imagination can possess, allowing the player to prod at the green man's sleeping face in order to change the environment.
This one is looking to uphold the legacy of the series quite nicely. The action is good, the animations are full of character as always, and I left the demo wanting more. Of course, the Mario RPG legacy also includes NPCs who go on way, way, way too long when they talk and tutorials that really enjoy belaboring the point. From what I saw, that hasn't changed either. Consider it an extra quirk to endure in an otherwise excellent series.
Scott: The BEST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) (insert inside joke here)
Sam: During the event, I was fortunate enough to have a fair amount of hands-on time with Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. I had never played a Mario & Luigi title (and according to some, I've never lived because of it), so for me, the experience felt very new and fresh.
First, I played around in the Dream World demo, which is displayed as a 2D sidescroller, wherein Mario and Luigi can jump about and manipulate the world around them. At one point I came in contact with a smiling pillar and was told that I needed to manipulate the sleeping Luigi's face on the bottom screen. By stretching, pulling and flinging Luigi's mustache about, I was able to get the Bros. to their humble destination. I really loved the amount of manipulation and creativity within the Dream World sections — it was a lot of fun to poke, push and pull the environment in order to clear objectives. Combat also has Mario fighting alone, and he can summon the help of Dream Luigis to lend him a helping hand. Sadly, I wish I had fought more battles during this section of the demo because it was hard to get a feel for just how destructive those Dream Luigis can be.
In the Real World demo, the environment is completely in 3D, with fewer restrictions placed on where the Bros. can wander about. According to those I talked to at the event, many of them considered the Real World demo to be exactly what's come to be expected from the Mario & Luigi games, right down to its turn-based combat system. I enjoyed what I was able to play of the combat, as I loved its simplicity with its quick reflexive twist. Want enemies to take more damage? Make sure you time your button presses just right!
Sadly, I did not get the chance to play the last demo mode because felt like I was hogging the 3DS station and wanted to ensure others had a turn. What I can tell you is that for those who love the Mario & Luigi games: you will not be disappointed in the slightest. The game continues to show its great sense of humor, the combat is wonderfully fun, and there's a lot to explore. You can expect to see Mario & Luigi: Dream Team hitting store shelves on August 11.
Becky: Having started the Zelda series with Ocarina of Time and utterly failing to play any of the pre-DS handheld titles, this was my first time out with the top-down style of Zelda game. I had a good time! As I controlled Link through the demo game's dungeon (actually a tall tower), Sam and I worked together to solve the puzzles. We got to see quite a bit before a drop to open up a chest left me with no choice but to plummet back to the first floor afterwards.
There was a lot of verticality in this dungeon, with smiley-face platforms allowing Link to spring up to higher platforms. The 3D feature really shines here, helping the player understand Link's location through improved depth of field. There was also an area outside the tower that involved traversing a series of moving platforms. You may have seen it in one of the trailers, in fact. The action in this segment felt very intuitive, as Link had to pop in and out of the walls in order to get around obstacles. In general, the puzzles felt logical and satisfying to solve, which is a good omen for the final game to come.
Scott: I opted for the overworld demo option at the start screen, and immediately received a facepunch of nostalgia. This looks and feels like a modern take on A Link to the Past, and I felt like I had gone back to the Hyrule I knew when I was eight years old. Roaming about the land and smacking baddies is a fun and engaging process. The new hammer weapon feels great to play around with as dudes fall stunned to the ground before its glorious might. The new merging to wall mechanic doesn't play much of a role in open spaces save for dodging a few baddies and traveling to obtain a few hidden treasure chests. The chest contained only rupees, and I'm not sure what those could be spent on as the game has replaced ammunition and mana meters with a single rebounding energy bar in the corner of the screen. While the demo was short, I appreciated the nostalgia and changes that I saw, making A Link Between Worlds the game I am most excited for.
Sam: I've openly admitted on numerous occasions that I am not a Zelda fan. Call me every name in the book but the series has generally done nothing to entice me as a gamer. Confession time: there's actually one Zelda title I absolutely adored and even completed, and that was A Link to the Past on SNES. It's the only Zelda title I've played that kept me engaged from start to finish, and I have a feeling A Link Between Worlds will do the same.
Maneuvering around the field is exactly the same as it is in A Link to the Past. You can tell Nintendo truly went out of its way to provide A Link Between Worlds the same nostalgic feeling of its predecessor. I adored the fact that weapons like the hammer had a recharge gauge and that the weapons were mapped to the face buttons for quick switching. The wall merging technique, though not highly used in the open field demo, has many uses for item collecting, dodging enemies, and of course, puzzle solving. I also loved how silhouette Link waddles across the walls; it's adorable!
In the dungeon demo, Becky and I had to use the hammer to smash down happy face buttons. The problem was if you smashed the buttons, other ones would pop up. Using the wall-merging technique, however, made it so much easier to move through the area and smash the buttons needed to progress in the dungeon. Upon finding a larger button, Becky and I were launched higher and higher into the dungeon, where the demo ended because we had collected the monster-sized treasure chest. Needless to say, I had a ton of fun playing A Link Between Worlds, and I am eagerly awaiting its release this November.
Scott: First and foremost, this is the best looking game on the Wii U I have ever seen. The colours pop off the screen, the lighting is absolutely amazing, and the environments are a joy to explore. At the start of the demo, I was presented with the option to either explore Outset Island or enter a boss battle with a giant crow monster. I opted to do battle with my new avian nemesis. Wind Waker HD controls very well, and I quickly fell into a comfortable zone of running around and dodging the incoming blows. The first change to gameplay is that the hookshot and bow and arrow have been moved off of the Z targeting system to the Wii U's tilt-a-tablet technology. Mercifully, the crosshairs are displayed on the television screen like a number of other games have done.
After a pitched battle, the bird killed me. I returned in shame to Outset Island where I played around with the new touchscreen menus and the Miiverse-based gimmick (sending messages in bottles) that replaces the original GBA connectivity gimmick (the Tingle Tuner). Then I chased a pig for a while in an attempt to best the Electric Playground crew's record in pig chasing. After falling in between the host and cameraman's pig grabbing skills, I experimented with game's new 'go faster' sails, which are indeed, quite quick.
Sam: Unsurprisingly, the Wind Waker demo was packed with people wanting to get their nostalgia on, so I didn't get the chance to play it. I did, however, heckle Scott Wachter during his experiences, though honestly he seemed to be having a ball. Graphically, Wind Waker HD is gorgeous and colorful. It was amazing to see how much work went into the lighting. Everything seemed crisper, right down to Link's pixie-like smirk.
Remember how the biggest complaint about the origional Wind Waker was the boat was horrendously slow? Now the boat does indeed go faster! Some other changes I noticed was that way information is displayed between the Wii U tablet and television screen was quite responsive, and it made it so much easier to know what one's objectives were and how to do things. Did you know the game is going to be supporting off-tv play? Well, now you don’t have to worry about your spouse complaining about how slow sailing the boat truly is. Nintendo has not given an official release date yet for Wind Waker HD, but has stated that October will mostly likely be when it hits.
While we spent the majority of the event checking out Nintendo's RPG offerings, we also had the chance to try out some non-RPG titles at the show including Super Mario World 3D, The Wonderful 101, Pikmin 3, and a whole slew of other titles. Here's everyone's favourite non-RPG title from the event!
Becky: The Wonderful 101 — I went into this demo nearly blind, as I've seen the trailers for The Wonderful 101, but hadn't paid close enough attention to have much idea what the game would play like. Some people have compared it to Pikmin, but it doesn't play like Pikmin at all. It's really more of an action brawler in which you happen to be running around with a bunch of buddies. I threw myself into the deep end with The Wonderful 101, foolishly hitting "continue" after a previous player had died in the middle of a boss fight. Despite that fact, I had a blast with the game. It's fast-paced and completely insane in that wonderful Platinum Games way.
My cadre of heroes included several of The Wonderful 101, who persist between levels, and a whole bunch of Redshirts (yes, they literally have red shirts) who tag along for a single adventure only and whose clothes pop off when they're hit, leaving them sprawling in their undies until you rush over to rescue them. At the demonstrator's instruction, I attempted to draw an L with my finger on the GamePad in order to bring out the gun hero while being fired upon by giant bosses. I failed utterly and received a whip instead, which turned out to be a good choice for me. This medium-range weapon was perfect for strafing in circles around the bug/tank bosses, whipping them into shape without being hit too often. I emerged victorious and then got to watch Sam play the game from the beginning like a non-insane person. I can't wait to get my hands on this one, as my short time with it was just plain giddy fun.
Scott: The Wonderful 101. I want it, like, now. All of what Becky said. All of it.
Sam: Super Mario World 3D — We called it a team building exercise, and then failed at being a team. Honestly though, I can't remember the last time I felt so giddy playing a co-op Mario title. I also loved The Wonderful 101, though Becky and Scott beat me to the punch so I felt the need to be different!
We hope you enjoyed our impressions, and you can look forward to these titles when they release on the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U respectively.