As I'm sure you all remember, Nintendo held their latest Nintendo Direct conference on June 11th where it was reveled that a number of games were in development and on course for release this autumn, winter and, early next year. As part of Nintendo's unique E3 showcase, Best Buy stores across the US and parts of Canada played host to demos of four of the games Nintendo revealed during its latest Nintendo Direct. Of the games announced and shown off, only four were available to demo at today's (and this coming Saturday's, 6-15) event: Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and, Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. Since this is more of a first impressions than anything, I'm just going to go through and summarize each game based on what I was able to see and play. Luckily the store I went to didn't have too many people show up so I was able to get my hands on all four demos.
This was the last demo I was able to play so it's the freshest in my memory at time of writing. The demo presented offers one of two scenarios. The first scenario setting Link at Outset Island in a point that would be early in the game. While you're wearing the green tunic and hat, in-game this would actually still be when you are dressed as a villager. For this section you must speak to your sister and do some sword training. There is also an opportunity to try out some sailing with the King of Red Lions and a new sailcloth that makes KoRL travel much faster. This portion of the demo is on an automatic 10-minute timer but the demo can also end if you complete your sword training and make it to the forest atop the mountain on Onset Island.
The secondary scenario tosses you right into the action by having you fight The Helmarock King. You begin this section at the bottom of a tower and must climb to the top which is simply done for the most part. You are equipped with the Hook-claw, bow & 30 arrows, Skull Hammer and, 5 hearts. Once you reach the top of the tower and bop Helmarock King on the head, you find yourself in an enclosed arena and begin the boss-fight proper. After konking the bird a couple more times it's protective face-mask breaks leaving it vulnerable to all manner of attacks to finish it off. You collect your heart, continue up the newly opened path and are thanked for your time with the game. It's unclear if this part is also timed but I would assume it isn't given how quick the encounter can be.
I played through the boss-fight section of the demo. By the time I was able to play Wind Waker, the event was winding down to the point that only one other person was going to be able to play so I chose the quicker of the two scenarios out of necessity more than anything. I don't remember if this was the case with the Gamecube version but Link is still able to move around while targeting with the hook-claw or, bow and arrow. Moving the left stick will move the first-person Link and the right stick makes him look around/aim the item he has to hand. Other than that hiccup, controlling the game came very naturally to me though this could be because I've only recently (ie; within the past 6 months) beaten Wind Waker on the Gamecube.
Visually the game is beautiful. It seems like a new life has been breathed into the old game and that's really saying something when you consider that there are people today who say the original Wind Waker's graphics hold up after all these years. I couldn't tell if the frame-rate was any higher than 30FPS either (for any of the four games) but personally, I don't really care too much about frame-rate but some of the other
nerds nice people waiting in line were talking about that kind of thing. As for sound quality it definitely seemed as though there was some polish added to the older effects and music: Link still yips and, shouts as often and as hilariously as ever though.
Since I'm awesome and people allowed me to piggy-back onto their turns, I was able to play this one more than any of the other three titles. The Mario Kart 8 demo offers up three tracks and, up to twelve playable racers (each racer can use a motorcycle or kart it seems). The three tracks are all new and show off the new anti-gravity features. The first is a new variation on Peach's Castle, the second seems to be a variation on Delphino Island (or some other sort of plaza) and the third is a Boo House which was my favorite of the three tracks.
Like I mentioned the big new feature (or gimmick) of Mario Kart 8 are anti-gravity tracks and, anti-gravity sections within tracks. On courses like The Mushroom Kingdom and not-Delphino Plaza you only really notice the anti-gravity by your wheels changing their orientation and the background suddenly looking as though they've suddenly gone topsy, turvy or, just upside-down. Like with the glider in Mario Kart 7, gravity shifts are automatic and caused by driving over a glowing, blue stripe. The most noticeable times you're going to use Gravity Shifting (in the demo at least) is when you find the AG-stripes at the bases of some of the buildings surrounding the not-delphino-plaza course or, Boo house (and this is assuming other racers don't join you on that particular wall you've decided to drive on).
Controlling the game is simple enough though most people who played using the Gamepad asked the same question: "How do I turn off motion controls?" If you're using a Wii-mote controlling Mario Kart 8 is virtually the same as controlling Mario Kart Wii so naturally the players using the Wii-mote didn't seem to be as successful as those using the Gamepad and controls which don't utilize motion controls. Nothing seemed to have been changed up since Mario Kart 7 or Wii so anyone familiar with those games should feel right at home with Mario Kart 8. I don't remember if this feature was in Mario Kart 7 though but for 8 players using the Gamepad can find a circular symbol emblazoned with each character's identifying logo. Pressing this button makes them use a horn which their kart is equipped with and I'm not at all shamed in admitting that once I found out about the horn, I pressed it repeatedly to make the awesome squeaking noise.
Since twelve characters were playable on the demo, this suggests that the overall character roaster is going to be extensive. I was only able to play as Toad, Luigi and a Koopa who would likely be in the light, medium and, light weight classes. They all felt similar though except maybe Luigi who seemed to have an easier time drifting. There wasn't any new items on display in the demo in fact, this was probably the most balanced game of Mario Kart I had ever played since the power-ups were limited to green shells, red shells, banana peels and, speed-shrooms. There's no word on whether or not you'll be able to turn off or change item-drops in the final product but it's an addition the series would benefit from in my opinion. Talking to the Nintendo representative at the event I got the distinct impression that Rainbow Road in this Mario Kart could be the most insane in the franchise history.
Retro Studios is greatly loved by Nintendo fans but there was a definite sense of minor disappointment when it was announced they were working on a new Donkey Kong instead of a new Metroid or something similar. Either way, what they were able to show us quickly got many excited, myself included. The Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze demo features 3 levels and one boss stage. The levels seems lengthier than those found in the Wii/3DS title with new elements such as an oxygen meter while you're under water and more ways to interact with each stage, such as pulling on roots to make platforms appear. Puzzle pieces make a return and as just as numerous and difficult to find as before, just like the K-O-N-G letters.
Unfortunately, none of the levels or the boss stage offered in the demo allows you to play as Dixie Kong. Rumors has it a fourth character will be introduced but the Nintendo representative had nothing new to say as to who or if a fourth character would be. Since Dixie Kong is confirmed though the popular theory is that Kiddy Kong will make his return...and I really hope that isn't the case since like many other people, I didn't care for Kiddy. I miss that the Kremlings and King K. Rool is no longer a part of the series but the new enemies, these vikings from the North, seem varied and interesting foes. One of them, a large seal, is one of the bosses available to confront in the demo and a very enjoyable fight as well!
Tropical Freeze is going to use the Gamepad once it's finalized but for the demo, players going solo and, players playing with DK and Diddy Kong must use a Wii-mote and Nunchuck as the only playing option. It took a minute or two to get use to this format and I would have much rather used the gamepad but it wasn't the worst way to play a Donkey Kong title. Shaking the Wii-mote and, Nunchuck simultaneously functions as the ground-pound (or peanut pop-gun as Diddy) while stationary or, a roll while on the move. Dropping out of the game as Diddy or, griefing the second player as DK is easily done by hitting either the Z or C button (I can't remember which but feel like it was C).
Out of the four games on display, I felt like this was the one I needed more details and info on. From what I saw and, experienced it feels extremely similar to Donkey Kong Country Returns but in HD. The boss fight I hinted at earlier is probably the most different from past incarnations: in the past you would bop a boss on the head three times and be finished. The boss stage in the demo however is different in that the Seal you fight has far more hit-points. The object of the fight is to bounce on the bosses back as it slides past and after each hit the thing tosses fish and, urchins at you. I really liked this change since boss fights in Donkey Kong Country games have always been a highlight on the series but I've always felt they were over with a bit too quickly. On the whole the demo got me really excited not only for this new installment but to finish off Country Returns on the Wii which I still have yet to complete.
Super Mario 3D World was what I was really excited about playing and the first of the four games I was able to get my hands on. I'm not the biggest fan of 3D Mario games but this one seems more palatable to me. This installment seems to greatly emulate the 3D Mario Land which was released to the 3DS in 2011. Unlike the 3DS installment however, this game seems to have been build from the ground up as a multiplayer game, the Nintendo Rep calling the title "competitive-cooperative". At the end of each stage, the overall score is broken down and each of the four player's contribution to the final score is shown up as a ranking. Four full levels are on display in the demo and a fifth stage which is the boss level. If you watched the Nintendo Direct event than you know what to expect (the same can be said for everything else I've talked about above).
Like in Super Mario Bros 2 USA, you can play as either Mario, Luigi, Peach or, Toad. Each of the four has a special attribute such as Peach being able to float, Luigi being able to flutter-jump and, toad having the fastest running speed (Mario's special ability is selling consoles and game software). The power-ups on display for the demo include the fire flower, super mushroom (you begin each stage as Super Mario, Luigi, Toad, Peach) and the brand new Cat Bell. Collecting an additional power-up while already powered up adds that item to a sort of storage box that is displayed on the lower-left corner of the screen so if you lose a power-up, anyone in your party can hit "-" and regain that power-up.
A new feature for this installment are clear pipes instead of the standard green. This introduces new opportunities for puzzles and challenges. While in the pipes, you move at a constant, high speed so even if you share a pipe with a line of fuzzies, they can't really catch up to you. Additionally, there are no more star coins to collect...now each stage (excluding boss stages) offer up three stars to find and collect. It's quite difficult to find all three in the demo levels so unlike the last few games it looks like 100% completion of the game is going to be a lot more difficult. It also looks as though players will be able to complete stages by taking multiple routes since, as I played and watched other people play, more and, more paths seemed to have been discovered. There were also elements of the game not shown off in the Nintendo Direct that players discovered through playing that I don't want to spoil here but are new kinds of fun!
Out of the four games on display, Super Mario 3D World was the most unique and the one I'm most excited to get my hands on again. There were quite a few unanswered questions about the game though that I'd really like to know about such as if there is a hub world, what happened to Bowser (whose emblem is shown if you die during a level) and, if Peach being the victim of home invasion or, kidnap isn't the over-arching plot that what is? Most importantly though is how many more new or, unique power-ups are going to be used in this installment of the franchise (slightly off-topic: Toad + Fire Flower makes his head look like a Mega Mushroom). It's also unclear what, or if, Mario's unique ability is going to be. Even more pressing though is the name of the new dinosaurs in-game! One of the levels you can demo has the player-characters riding on the back of a large flesh-colored Dinosaur down a stream to some classic Mario Party music and it was one of my favorite levels!
One of the coolest new elements in the series...and it doesn't have a name yet
None of the four games demoed on the 12th and, 15th have a solid release date but we do have approximations: Wind Waker HD in October, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze in November, Super Mario 3D World in December and, Mario Kart 8 at some point hopefully within the first month or two of 2014. If you live in the United States or Canada and are free between 1pm and 5pm then you still have an opportunity to try one or more of these demos yourself. This is a list of the locations hosting the Nintendo event and if you are able to make it in early there are free things being given away such as Luigi hats, checkered flags, lanyards and, even a Year of Luigi promotional coin. I do plan on going again on Saturday to try getting more hands-on time with Donkey Kong and Mario 3D World personally and hope my other Escapists can make it to their local events.