Gamescom 2014: Nintendo Roundup
Choice offerings from Nintendo's stand.
Today’s roundup comes from Nintendo, who by someway had the smallest of the three platform holders’ booths. What this also meant was that it was also the busiest as every man, woman, and child seemed to be trying to cram themselves into the cramped space to Street Pass and watch the Smash Bros championship unfold on the big screen.
There were even a crazy few who were willing to queue to play Mario Kart 8.
Captain Toad: Treasure TrackerThe biggest surprise for me on the Nintendo stand was definitely Captain Toad. Extracted from Super Mario 3D World, the pint-sized mushroom has his own adventure yet unlike that 3D World it’s one not of reactions and dexterity but thought and observation. Lacking Mario’s agility Toad must time his waddling movement to avoid enemies and needs to seek out ladders and passage ways to negotiate the level. It’s a great change of pace for Nintendo’s flagship world.
The first level was roughly cubed-in shape and contained a river with towers on either side. Rotating the camera around the level it was clear there were switches and bridges that Toad could access and grab some coins but also hidden away were coveted diamonds. These were either tucked away in awkward camera angles or hidden down secret passages only noticeable to those with keen vision. For the final diamond I was spinning the level this way and that, desperately searching for a passage to it.
A further level showed how Toad copes with boss battles, too. Finding himself in a lava filled cave and disturbing a fire-breathing dragon, our little friend had to time scuttles between rocks and up ladders to avoid being burned. There’s were no flashing weak spots or bouts of heroism, we just needed to get him out of there in one piece.
What I love about Treasure Tracker is that it’s a high class puzzle game wrapped in a Mario-inspired skin. With any luck it will make more use of the gamepad as the puzzles progress but even as it stands it’s a refreshing release that is something new for both for the Wii U and for Nintendo.
Anticipation rating: take my money!
Mario MakerPresented with some colourful graph paper and a selection of Mario tiles I set about prodding and poking my way to create that most predictable of things, Mario 1-1. Editing down items within Mario Maker blocks is super simple. Tap any of the icons along the top of the screen to select an element and after that every tap on the graph paper will see it appear under your stylus. Large items such as hills and pipes can be stretched to grow them, and levels take shape extremely quickly.
Press play and you’ll leap into the middle of your creation, putting it to the test. For fine tuning there’s even a plotted path of your movement when you leap back into the editor, perfect for fine tuning tricky jumps. The ease at switching back and forth is seamless, as it toggling between new and old Mario skins.
Disappointingly though it’s only possible to create levels three screen widths’ wide. All too soon the flagpoles appears from the right signalling that Nintendo have missed a golden opportunity. Rather than embrace creativity into their ecosystem they’ve clamped down fearing that toofully featured a product would mean they’d never sell a 2D Mario again. A world away from the philosophy behind Project Spark and Little Big Planet.
I was hoping for far more from Mario Maker but after dabbling with it first-hand I’ve already mentally demoted it from “game” to “curio”.
Anticipation rating: we'll wait and see.
SplatoonProbably my game of the show if purely based on the number of times I queued to play it. The E3 presentation intrigued me but getting to grips with it it’s clear that Nintendo have built a shooter for everyone and not just kids. This isn’t sanitising the shooter genre, this is building it up from first principles.
It’s simple but clever. Shoot the ground to earn your team territory, shoot over the opponent’s paint to take theirs. You can shoot the opponents too but there are more than enough reasons given to you to encourage focus on territory rather than kills. You move faster on your own paint, you reload when submerged in it, you earn weapon upgrades by capturing territory, all reinforces the game mode and not the kills.
Of course you can get kills, they haven’t been as foolish to remove danger completely, but the game’s very nature means direct conflict is secondary. It only really kicks off where the two teams clash, fighting to push the other back. At this point grenades and hurricanes of gloop are sent flying, the landscape a blotchy mess as the paint flies. It’s a visual treat to be in the heart of one of these areas of flux.
My only complaint is the insistence that the rotational sensors in your gamepad are your primary aiming mechanic, meaning you spin around like a loon if dragged into a close quarter’s shootout. Hopefully someone will be sane enough to put this option on to a stick.
Anticipation rating: Take my money!
Super Smash Bros.Hands up, I haven’t played a Super Smash Bros seriously since the N64 but the simplistic approach Nintendo continue to take with their famous face fighter eased me back in. The single-button-single-stick combat is still there, as is the Royal Rumble style victory system meaning that it’s those who fall off least tend to win.
On the Wii U it looks stunning and the return of the GameCube pad is a welcome one. Its sturdy frame in my grip I fought through the flurry of explosions and particle effects that always accompanies a four-player game. Though easy to play you can understand the skill that’s need to become truly good at this game, and only come the end of a handful of bouts was I really getting to understand what Animal Crossing’s villager could do.
The portable version is surprisingly good, too. Most of the UI clutter has been moved down onto the second screen and characters are outlined in bold black to help pick them out from the colourful backgrounds. In both you get to fight in levels based around Super Mario World, Animal Crossing, Star Fox, and a host of others just adding further gloss to this rambunctious trip down memory lane.
Anticipation rating: watching with interest.
Hyrule WarriorsI know the fusion of Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors has irked certain corners of the Internet but I’ve a soft spot for games like this. Mindless hacking can be just what you need at times and seeing waves of enemies crumple under your force is always satisfying, combine that with the Master Sword and personally I’m good to go.
The demo featured Hyrule Field being overrun with Moblins. Hundreds of them. The map in the corner showed the various areas of the field as well with coloured heat maps of how the fight was going. Rapidly mixing X and Y I slaughtered huge numbers with elaborate spins and combos, pushing back their generals and reclaiming the field. The key word is still mindless though as never did I feel under any threat as I carved through their ranks.
The culmination was the appearance of King Dodongo. Reprising his role from Ocarina of Time, he tears around the battlefield before opening his mouth for you to toss bombs in to slow his progress. It was good to have a true test to focus on and I was assured that the final version would have many more like it. Throw in the dynamic battlefield objectives that run parallel to your main goals and it could prove an interesting departure for Link.
Anticipation rating: watching with interest.
Yoshi's Woolly WorldThere’s no getting away from it, Woolly world was probably the cutest thing in the entirety of Cologne last week. The wee dino in his new woollen form stole many hearts and it’s this aesthetic that complements his traditional platforming fare.
Devoured enemies no longer turn into eggs but balls of wool. These can be fired at further enemies to send them bursting into fragments of yarn or thrown at incomplete platforms and blocks so they may be knitted into something Yoshi could use. Elsewhere loose strands can be tugged to reveal secret areas and spongey looking blocks can be knocked out the way with further thrown wool. It seems one of Yoshi’s greatest strengths is the sheer number secrets it has tucked away and finding them all takes a lot of poking around. This takes the foundations that were built with Kirby’s Epic Yarn and carries on exploiting the interesting medium of fabric games.
Co-op takes a page out of New Super Mario Bros. as on screen the two players can jostle, knock, and even eat the other. Balls of wool with regularly bounce off each other’s heads as friend “co-opetition” sets in when collecting the gems scattered about.
Anticipation rating: watching with interest.
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