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Nintendo Showcase July 2010


13:1631/07/2010Posted by Simeon PaskellNo Comments

Nintendo put on an excellent show at E3 2010, announcing a swathe of titles that fans have long been hoping for as well as unveiling the tantalising prospect that is the Nintendo 3DS; this was Nintendo firing on all cylinders. To help keep the momentum going, on the 27th and 28th July 2010 Nintendo UK set up stall in London to showcase the company’s offerings for the coming eight months and we went along to get some hands-on time with the line up.

The highlight of the showcase was unquestionably (and unsurprisingly) the Nintendo 3DS – with multiple units on the floor featuring a range of non-interactive videos, interactive demos and a few fully playable games, it was an excellent opportunity to spend some time with Nintendo’s next evolutionary step in hand-held gaming. For our impressions of the system itself and the range of titles on offer, make sure you read our hands-on report.

For those that were able to tear their eyes away from the beguiling charms of the 3DS, there were a ton of other titles to enjoy on the Wii and DS. From the knitted beauty of Kirby’s Epic Yarn to the retro charms of GoldenEye and Donkey Kong Country Returns to the family friendly fun of Wii Party, the breadth of titles on show was impressive, and we came we away genuinely excited about games that had previously barely registered on our radar.

Here are a few of our highlights from the event.

Wii Party (Nintendo, Wii)

One of the biggest surprises of the event was Wii Party, which looks destined to mirror the success of Wii Sports and Wii Play and become one of the definitive Wii experiences. Clearly based on the Mario Party series, Wii Party discards the moustachioed plumber and shuffles the ever-lovable Miis onto centre stage, a move that makes absolute sense and that meshes perfectly with the Wii’s family focus. Over 70 mini-games are promised, all of which are tied to a range of play modes. In the two modes of play that we were able to try – a ship-balancing themed co-operative mode and a more traditional game board – the mini-games included everything from shooting balloons with a pop gun while riding a rollercoaster, riding a dinghy down some rapids (much like Kinect Adventures, funnily enough…), hurdling logs and bouncing fruit into baskets. So, it was all predictably off the wall then, but the game was consistently enjoyable and exuded Nintendo magic.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Nintendo, Wii)

Our hands-on time with Kirby’s Epic Yarn was breezily enjoyable, with the quirky visual style – everything is stitched and sewn from material –impressing with its attention to detail. Though he’s lost his trademark enemy-sucking super powers Kirby himself is as flexible as ever, with a range of wool-based transformations and whipping skills at his command. Whether pulling buttons to tug and fold the material-themed world, snagging enemies and unravelling them or yanking the tongue out of a giant woollen dragon, everything ran incredibly smoothly, bringing back fond memories of the wonderful Super Paper Mario with the consistency of design on show. Our only gripe is that it felt a little on the easy side and we’ll be interested to see if HAL Laboratories ramp up the difficulty as the game progresses.

Donkey Kong Country Returns (Nintendo, Wii)

Treading similar platforming ground as Kirby was Donkey Kong Country Returns, which stays true to the template laid down by the original series on the Super Nintendo while mixing in a hint of Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat from the Gamecube. While surprises were fairly thin on the ground, the game’s presentation was crisp, and gameplay made good use of the Wiimote and nunchuck, with Donkey and Diddy Kong hammering the ground when the controllers are shaken. The two-player mode places emphasis on co-operation rather than competition, and works well; puzzles are best overcome with co-ordination and Diddy and Donkey can literally join forces (with the former leaping on the latter’s back and blasting away with peanut-handguns). Donkey Kong Country Returns is unlikely to shatter any expectations, but those who enjoyed the original will feel right at home, and for newcomers, it’s looking likely to be a slick introduction to the Kongs’ platforming escapades.

GoldenEye 007 (Activision, Wii)

Continuing the retro-vibe, Activision’s re-imagining of the N64 classic GoldenEye is something of an oddity. In the grand scale of first person shooters currently available, it definitely looks like a blast from the past, and those expecting a drastic visual re-vamp may be left somewhat disappointed; the multiplayer level we played retained the same ambience of the original, with a slight lick of paint and sharpening of textures. Despite this, it seems to perfectly capture the joy of split-screen warfare as experienced on the N64. We played a number of three player contests on one map, and from the character selection screen (where players will inevitably tussle to play as their old favourite or the hat-throwing Oddjob) onwards, we could feel our competitive heckles rising. Add online play into the mix, and GoldenEye is certainly looking capable of claiming the Wii’s FPS crown.

Particularly noteworthy was the implementation of Wiimote targeting controls; while the game also supports the classic controller, the motion controls proved to be responsive, easy to pick up and (most importantly) accurate. GoldenEye is looking to be a confident and enjoyable trip down memory lane that does justice to the much loved original.

Metroid: Other M (Nintendo, Wii)

While we only played a fairly short section of the game (skipping the lengthy introduction in order to get to the meat of the gameplay), Team Ninja’s take on the Metroid franchise is certainly different. Visually, the game retains the classic Metroid-trappings (all sci-fi industrial corridors, flickering vid-screens and neon lighting), but gameplay-wise it’s quite a departure. Gone is Metroid Prime’s first person perspective, which has been replaced with a third person experience that feels not a million miles away from Capcom’s Devil May Cry or Ninja Gaiden; given Team Ninja’s heritage this is hardly surprising. Importantly, Other M still feels like a Metroid title, and the inclusion of a first person viewpoint (accessed by pointing the Wiimote at the screen) and d-pad based controls look likely to make an intriguing whole. While we did miss the analogue stick a little bit, the d-pad controls seemed to work perfectly well, so we can’t really complain too much.

Other M also has a greater emphasis on narrative, and while the first time you hear Samus Aran speak is slightly jarring, this looks to be panning out well with even our short time with the game leaving us intrigued as to how the plot will develop. Overall, the Metroid franchise appears to be in safe hands, with Team Ninja creating a title that has the potential to be both unique within the series and within the gaming landscape as a whole.

NBA Jam (EA Sports, Wii)

In what is actually something of a theme for the showcase as a whole, NBA Jam is yet another ‘blast from the past’; and a title that no doubt brings back fond memories for many gamers lucky enough to be around in the 16-bit era. For the uninitiated, NBA Jam can best be described as super-charged two-on-two basketball. Played with Wiimote and nunchuck, NBA Jam is all about instant, arcade gratification, and the OTT basket ball action proved to be as entertaining as it was when we played the original 17 years ago.

Visually, the game is a little rough around the edges, but the photographically rendered characters have a slightly cartoony edge that works quite well, and certainly fits with the craziness of the whole experience. The action itself is fast-paced but with plenty of room for tactics, with players capable of all manner of aerobatic slams and ground based tricks. As with the original, the game’s USP is the players’ ability to leap to ridiculous heights before slamming the ball home, and while it may be a fairly shallow element in terms of gameplay, it nevertheless helps to create an experience tailor made for sofa-based rivalries. This latest version is also embellished with Wiimote-based motion controls reminiscent of the basketball game featured in Wii Sports Resorts. Whether the game will have the desired longevity in single player remains to be seen…but we’re looking forward to finding out.

Ōkamiden: Chiisaki Taiyō (Capcom, DS)

Each version of Okami has seen the integral Celestial Brush mechanic – the ability to draw onto the game world – take steps forward in terms of implementation. The Playstation 2’s acceptable analogue sticks gave way to the Wii’s excellent use of motion-control, but it’s this DS version which inevitably makes the most sense – drawing onto the screen with the DS’s stylus is as direct and pleasing as you’d hope. There are shades of the DS Zelda games in both the use of the touch screen and the cuter aesthetic (ÅŒkamiden is a direct sequel to the first game, in which you play as a baby wolf), and based on the brief demo presented here – in which we had to fill in a missing bridge, as well as briefly abandon our new partner, the young boy Nushi, while we solved a switch puzzle – we’re confident that Okamiden: Chiisaki Taiyō will be just as involving and delightful as both Phantom Hourglass and Spirit Tracks. (Zoheir Beig)

Upon finally leaving the showcase (which, to be honest, wasn’t easy when there was a bank of 3DSs sitting there…begging to be played…), our heads full of the experiences we’d had during the day, one thing became clear: Nintendo remains in a very strong position. Despite the hardware inside the Wii and DS being now somewhat dated, a vast majority of the titles on show reconfirmed the importance of strong game design; from the instantaneous arcade thrills of NBA Jam to the riotous multiplayer of Wii Party to Team Ninja’s reinvigoration of the Metroid series, Nintendo fans should rest happy in the knowledge that there is plenty heading there way that will in all likelihood deserve a place on their collections.

Let us know below which up coming Nintendo titles will have you reaching for your wallet.

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