I wasn’t able to go to E3 which is a drag, but I was able to check out some of Nintendo’s heavy hitters displayed at this past E3 thanks to a four day event at the Nintendo World Store. By the time I arrived my position in the queue was an hour out. Since I had some time to kill I decided to walk around the store and see what new wares they had to offer. Nintendo’s announcement of Zelda Tri Force Hereoes and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam didn’t interest me. I think the idea of melding the Paper Mario and Super Mario 3D worlds is novel and I’ll probably pick it up because, it’s a Mario game. But the Tri Force Heroes game gave me a “meh” feeling. On the one hand a multiplayer cooperative Zelda game sounds like fun, but on the other hand it goes against just about every other Zelda game as they’re mostly single player affairs. With my wait an hour or so out a couple friends and I headed to the thankfully vacant 3DS table. There we met a nice informative Nintendo rep who walked us through the gist of the gameplay for Tri Force Heroes.
Zelda: Tri Force Heroes
Triforce Heroes is played either solo or multiplayer with two friends. If you choose the solo route you control the other two NPC’s via touch (I’m not exactly sure how this works) but I can already tell you that playing with friends is definitely the way to go. To start we each picked up a 3DS and checked out all the costumes available, each with their buffs like more arrows or bombs that can really help your team during puzzles and especially battles. After we all selected our loadout we chose to play the dungeon level. It. Was. A. Blast. There were expletives shouted. There were shots fired. There were high fives and smiles all around. You really need to work as a team because everyone shares the same health bar. If one person slips up another has to pick up the slack. Once we got in the rhythm and started communication to each other the gameplay really shined and we all realized—a multiplayer Zelda game is fucking brilliant. From a presentation standpoint the game looks great, even with the 3D maxed out. Perhaps most important the game played flawlessly without any lag or stuttering. It was buttery smooth! It is worth pointing out that we were playing over local co-op over wifi so I can\’t tell you how the game will play online when it releases. I wouldn’t worry about online play since both Mario Kart 8 and Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS play great. Surprisingly we each walked away agreeing that Tri Force Heroes will be a guaranteed day one purchase, which is saying a lot because beforehand none of us were interested in it.
Super Mario Maker
After playing some Zelda it was time for me to hop in line. Since I forgot my 3DS (dumbass) I decided to watch other people play the games I wouldn’t be able to. If you noticed in the title above the name changed from Mario Maker to Super Mario Maker, and with good reason. The game I witnessed people playing is far more robust than what’s been shown off in the past. Nintendo has really taken the ways you can mix and match enemies and environments and ran with it. You can place winged Koopas in water for example and see how they swim around. You can also stack enemies on top of each other to make some crazy towering new combinations. I watched a woman mess around building a level and explore how different elements react through trial and error. It was exciting to watch. In the even something doesn’t work quite like you’d like it looks very easy to erase and re-tweak. Perhaps the best part was how instant switching between editing and testing is. Nintendo took what the fine folks at Media Molecule have done with the Little Big Planet series and distilled it into its simplest form. The creation tools look highly accessible to newcomers who want to jump in and build new levels. You may be worried that the online selection of user created levels will be overwhelming and/or full of broken levels with poor design, but rest assured Nintendo has already thought of that. They really have been clever in the way level submissions work. Each player is capped at ten to start and before you can submit a level you need to beat it to ensure there won\’t be any impossible levels filling the online portal. Once you\’ve uploaded a level it gets rated by players as easy, normal, or difficult and then they award you stars. The more stars you are awarded by the community the more levels you\’ll be able to submit. It really is smart and helps to promote quality over quantity and while I’m really happy this game exists, I can’t help but long for a 3DS version.
Star Fox Zero
The biggest surprise for me was Star Fox Zero. Not because it blew me away or anything, but because it felt so familiar and safe. After waiting around two hours to get my hands on the demo I stepped up to a very big TV. The Nintendo rep was smiling and courteous which is commendable because when I asked he had told me he’s seen the demo numerous times throughout the week. Kudos for keeping my experience fresh man. He handed me the Wii U gamepad and explained the controls and then advised that I get a hold of flying the Arwing before tackling aiming via the cockpit view on the gamepad. While it sounded simple the controls for the E3 demo were inverted without the option for non inverted controls…..so that took some getting used to. After a few minutes he eased me into looking at both screens, and that’s where everything fell apart. At least during my play through I found it too distracting and disorienting. The distance your eyes have to travel from the gamepad’s display to the TV is just too great. Or maybe I’m simply not used to it yet and once the game is released I’ll adapt after an hour or so. I also found myself recalibrating the reticle quite often during gameplay. This may be due to the fact that I was standing, but for a game that asks you to switch between displays and use motion aiming I found having to constantly reset my crosshairs to the center annoying. If that wasn’t bad enough when I was able to morph and take control of the Walker my brain kept constantly fighting with me. When in Walker mode the left joystick is used to control your walking which is typical in third person games. What kept throwing me off was the right joystick because it is used for strafing and not aiming. And even though I knew aiming is done via motion control from the gamepad I was having an extraordinarily difficult to adjusting. Years of playing numerous third person games that utilize the right joystick for aiming is a hard habit to break. It’s worth mentioning it has been confirmed that you can opt out of using motion controls and use the typical dual joystick setup.. With all that said I did have playing Star Fox Zero even if it is familiar. It feels like with Zelda not making it’s target 2015 release winded Nintendo and Platinum Games are scrambling to get this out the door for the holiday season because they don’t have any other big games. (not saying Super Mario Maker isn’t a big game)
All in all it was a great time. I look forward to playing Star Foe Zero but wanted more. Maybe on the NX? The real winner for me was Zelda Tri Force Heroes. My other takeaway from Nintendo’s E3 lineup is that they’re winding down Wii U game development in preparation for the NX. Everything I saw pertaining to the Wii U was announced a year or in some cases years ago. I love my PlayStation 4 and Xbox One but Nintendo’s next E3 showing is what i’m most interested in.