I mentioned a few weeks ago that while at PAX I spent a lot of time over at Nintendo’s booth and said that eventually I’d give a rundown of their holiday 2011 lineup. Well hey! Guess what I’m doing today! I’m still enamored with the Big N, so here is a brief preview of a bunch of upcoming holiday 2011 Nintendo titles.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword:
The biggest title Nintendo had showcased and the one that I’m most excited for is Skyward Sword, the next Zelda title, currently scheduled for the Wii this November (specifically the 20th). I saw this a while back at E3 where it was touted as the first Zelda title to really be made from the ground up as a Wii exclusive, complete with Wii Motion Plus controls (for better or worse).
Getting to play with the demo a few times, I’m happy to report that while the new controls will take a lot of getting used to, the game itself is exhilarating. Probably the greatest addition to the controls is the most insignificant to many players, but when I discovered that Link can now sprint when the A button is held, I was ecstatic. The only real downside to the controls is that the learning curve will look far different than most Zelda games as, just like you used to do when you were a kid, half of the difficulty will be in learning to play the game. Actually, scratch that, that’s not a downside whatsoever. Excited!
The graphics also shine far more in person than I expected. I was hesitant when I first saw trailers, but now that I’ve seen the game in motion, everything fits wonderfully. It’s simply a gorgeous game, pure and simple. And while visually it shares a lot of colorfulness with titles such as The Wind Waker, the tone still has some rather adult themes to it. A boss encounter with the Big Bad of the game was surprisingly sexual in a very subtle way. My full recommendation goes out to Skyward Sword at this point.
Mario Kart 7:
Another title I’m now more than pleased with, Mario Kart 7 has a lot riding on its shoulders. Mario Kart DS was the first title I bought for the DS and remains my favorite Mario Kart game, but now that I’ve played a few races of Mario Kart 7, there’s a chance that grand spot may be usurped.
It all comes down to hang gliders. Adding hang gliders and submarines to the series sounded rather strange, but they integrate seamlessly. When going off of jumps and such, gliders will instantly pop out of your kart, allowing you to fly a short distance back to the track and possibly zoom ahead of the competition. The same is true for the submarine propeller which appears whenever underwater. Both just feel like they’ve always been part of the series, or at least always should have been. This one is a definite Day One purchase for me.
Super Mario 3D Land:
Sure, this is a strange name, but the gameplay is perfectly in line with the Mario franchise. The level I played reminded me of a nice combination between parts of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and parts of New Super Mario Bros Wii. I made sure I picked a demo stage that featured the Tanooki Suit, and thankfully it’s a welcome return, even if it is sans full-flight. Just being able to flick the tail and lengthen your jumps is a great homecoming.
I did notice that the game felt incredibly slow, as in Mario’s running speed. He just never feels like he’s in a great hurry to get anywhere, evedespite there being a stage timer again. Even so, the platforming works great and the 3D is subtle enough that it works, making for another Day One purchase on my end.
Kirby’s Return to Dreamland (full preview via The Escapist):
I didn’t really expect Kirby’s Return to Dreamland to appear at PAX, but thankfully it was off in its own little area, just waiting to be tried out by anyone in reach. Myself, my wife, and Kyle and his soon-to-be wife all hopped into a game and started playing. Immediately things feel smooth and like a real return to Dreamland, as Kirby has his inhale/copy ability back at long last. Also, no artistic gimmick, for better or worse. Just straight Kirby action like we grew up with all those years ago.
However, the twist here is the four-player simultaneous play, much like New Super Mario Bros Wii. Except here since everyone is capable of infinite flight, you don’t really have the risk of causing other players to simply fall to their death. Unfortunately, with four players the game also becomes faceroll easy. We were able to just rush through the stage mashing the attack button as fast as we pleased and nothing stood in our way, though it was only the first level, so who knows how hard the rest of the game will actually be.
Fortune Street (full preview via Destructoid):
The biggest surprise from Nintendo’s playable demos was Fortune Street, a title that’s apparently number 7 in a long line of games native to Japan. Square Enix and Nintendo are taking the chance and giving the US a taste of the series, which feels like a perfect mixture of Mario, Dragon Quest, and Monopoly. Most people walking by thought it was a new Mario Party title, actually getting kind of mad for no good reason, but it certainly isn’t a Mario Party game as there are no minigames to speak of.
Instead, the goal is to go around elaborate game boards and collect properties, then improve them in order to increase your assets and overall money, ultimately gaining enough to be determined the winner of the match. It’s incredibly simple despite the finer points (which are more complex, such as dealing with the stock market and making deals with players), and oddly enough my wife and I found ourselves addicted to the game’s charm. Somehow it tapped right into a nerve that made both of us want to dump money into properties we owned on the chance that the other would randomly land on that space and give up a ton of cash. Oh that’s sweet when it happens.
I really hope Fortune Street does well here in the US. It’s not going to be a big seller, partly because it’s just a strange game and partly because I doubt anyone’s heard about it (I’m a devoted Nintendo fan and I didn’t know it existed until I saw it with my very own eyes). Still, I wish it the best and want a copy for Christmas.
And that’s everything I sampled personally at Nintendo’s booths. I didn’t get to spend much time with Star Fox 64 3D (though it’s basically Star Fox 64 with better graphics), and Kid Icarus: Uprising got lost in the hustle and bustle of the show floor, so I can’t really comment much on either of those, nor can I say anything about Kirby Mass Attack on the DS other than they were giving out cotton candy when you played the title, so the line was too long to bother with.
The bottom line for Nintendo is that this upcoming holiday season is going to be great. I’ve still got my Wii primed and ready for the Christmas titles and my 3DS is trained up and expecting a glut of new titles every month, so I am about as happy as one can really be. But these are just my interests. What about you? What are you looking forward to from Nintendo? Or what are you disappointed or skeptical about? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I need to go freeze myself in a glacier until November. See you in a few months!