Earlier this week I stopped by Nintendo's PR firm in downtown Los Angeles for an hour and a half appointment to preview their holiday releases. They had literally every game ready to show off including recent releases like The Legend of Zelda Wind Waker HD and future releases like Super Mario 3D World.
Sonic Lost World (Wii U) Release Date: October 29, 2013
Starting the appointment we jumped into Sonic Lost World for the Wii U. I got to push through a couple of levels of a near final version of the game. Unlike many of the past 3D Sonic experiences this was one that felt fluid. There is a very nice cohesiveness to the experience that is reminiscent of the very roots of the franchise. This is a 3D Sonic game and each level has multiple paths you can take to reach the end, with some similarities to the level design to what we saw in Super Mario Galaxy. Each level has multiple paths with a three dimensional axis that rotates as you run through the level which takes a little while to get used to, but half way through my first level it felt like second nature.
The representative from SEGA stated that the developers focus was on ensuring a constant fluidity to the experience. When I personally think back to playing the first couple of Sonic games and the sense of satisfaction I got when keeping a run going I was glad to hear that their attention was on such an important element in this game. Even for someone like me who isn't very good at keeping a run going, I was able to be mildly successful. I played the game using the Wii U Gamepad and outside of using power ups there weren't any other interesting use cases for it. Lost World seems like it has the potential to have a strong showing this year if the experiences continue to evolve past the core mechanics I saw in this demo.
Super Mario 3D World Release Date: November 22, 2013 (I know something else comes out that day)
I spent far more time with Super Mario 3D World than any other game and I'm glad I did. This is a very high quality and unique 3D Mario experience. I played four different levels with a member of Nintendo joining me and guiding me through. All the levels I played were in the first two worlds of the game. The first thing that anyone who sits down to play Super Mario 3D World is going to notice is that it’s gorgeous. There are incredible lighting effects, crisp HD visuals, and a familiar Mario feel that makes you feel right at home.
One of the big new features in this game is the cat suit which allows you to run up walls. This can shorten levels by quite a bit skipping a lot of the platforming. The cat suit does have a limit on how high you can climb but most of the early levels that I played didn’t have many areas that you couldn’t climb right up. I also played a cherry level which every time you hit a cherry you got a clone of yourself. Controlling multiples of your own character is done the same way as going solo - so you have to be careful on how you platform so as not to leave your clones behind.
Super Mario 3D World stole my heart in the first few minutes. It probably won’t sell systems, but for those who own a Wii U this might be the big staple of your holiday 2013 lineup.
Wii Fit U Release Date: November 1, 2013
The first thing I noticed when I walked into the conference room was the Wii Fit balance board. I remember thinking, “they aren’t going to want me to stand up and play this are they?” Oh they did, and as the respectable journalist I am, I couldn’t decline. Before we jumped into the game I got to see the new $20 Fit Meter that will be released to retail which will include a free copy of Wii Fit U. The Fit Meter will sync up with your Wii U using the IR ports. I got to see a sample of the data/graphs and it looked good. The Fit Meter are slightly larger than a half dollar and seemed well built.
The demo level I played was a new game in which you lunge to spray water at oncoming enemies. You use the Wii U Gamepad to aim the water and your legs control the water pressure. It’s a super simple activity and one that feels like a perfect fit for the Wii Fit universe. From my brief time surfing through the menus it seems like a lot of the activities were carried over from the Wii game and given a new coat of paint.
The game will be available first for download for free in a 30 day trial. You can also get the full game by purchasing the Fit Meter.
Shovel Knight Release Date: Winter 2013-14
The only indie game I got to check out during this meeting was Shovel Knight by Southern California developers Yacht Club Games. Earlier in the year the game had a successful Kickstarter, and according to the Nintendo representative the game will be released this winter. Within a few seconds you can see throwback to the 8-bit era and I immediately was drawn in. I got to play one level of the game and have to say I’m sold. The game is a very familiar action platformer but it has this genuine love for the genre that was infectious.
Nintendo 2DS Release Date: October 12, 2013
At this point we were down to the last half hour of our appointment so we made a quick transition to the 3DS and yes even the 2DS. This is the first time I’d actually seen a 2DS in person and it was a pleasant surprise. It doesn’t have the same finished polish as its bigger brother the 3DS, but it’s a solid entry. Buttons felt firm, the analog stick felt familiar, and the device itself felt sturdy. For a device that is obviously made for the younger audience there is far less chance of breaking this then the 3DS. For the price it seems like a solid device.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds Release Date: November 22, 2013
From the 2DS I was given a 3DS XL to check out the latest build of The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. I was able to check out some of the open world and even go into one of the dungeons. Instantly you can see that there is a heavy emphasis on the new ability to morph into the wall and traverse environments that way. Right away the first few puzzles I encountered were ones which required me to blend into the wall and move around the environment.
The game itself is visually stunning, especially for a top down experience. The camera is a lot closer than past top-down Zelda experiences. The fifteen minutes or so that I got to put into the game were impressive and it looks like it’s shaping up to be quite the experience this holiday.
Pokémon X & Y Release Date: October 12, 2013
The last game at my appointment was Pokémon X & Y for the 3DS. This of course is the first 3DS Pokémon game and visually it’s a major upgrade from what the past few have looked like on the DS. The demo I got to play was maybe ten minutes in length and allowed me to do a couple of random battles with Pikachu and then experience both the new Fairy Pokémon and the Mega Pokémon. Not being a Pokémon aficionado I can’t say how the new class impacts the experience but the Mega Pokémon just brings yet another level to push your Pokémon to. The game seems to be familiar enough for even casual fans like myself to pick it up and play even if it’s been a while.
After my time with Pokémon we discussed a little bit of the outlook for both Wii U and 3DS and I made my way out of Downtown Los Angeles and back home. A special thanks to Nintendo for the invite, and make sure to check back here for reviews of all the games discussed today and of course much more!
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