Nintendo Post-E3 Funtimes
Yeah, we didn’t get tickets to E3. We’re not bitter or anything. Polygon can keep their hands-on of Sunset Overdrive to themselves. Thank Mario, then, that Nintendo generously invited UK press to a post-E3 event, bringing every game mentioned in their wonderful video to our clammy, sweaty palms. Apologies to whoever picked up the Bayonetta 2 demo after us! So, without further ado, the games:
She’s back and nothing’s changed, barring her haircut. Usually that would be cause for concern but with Platinum’s saucy sequel it bodes well. Witch Time – that twitchy dodge that slows combat down for a moment if performed at just the right point – is present and correct, with no change to the window of opportunity in which it can be triggered. Bayonetta herself is still a voluptuous pastiche of hyper-sexualised female characters but that belies the bonkers charm that washes over you as soon as the setpieces start. There’s almost no point in trying to describe the snippet of plot we played – it involved fighting on the back of a train speeding across a collapsing bridge, fighting a dragon climbing a skyscraper and more. It’s as bizarre as the first game (generously included at no extra cost) but that’s the whole point. Slowdown, our one concern with such a fluid game running on Nintendo’s already archaic hardware, was non-existent. If this game performs as well as it did in the slice we played then Bayonetta 2 will be a mature-rated must-have when it arrives later this year.
An unknown quantity, this mix of Dynasty Warriors’ hack-and-slash histrionics with the beloved characters and environments of the Zelda series had alarm bells ringing. Were Nintendo selling out? Is the Zelda series really appropriate for a game revolving around nothing but combat? Amazingly, Hyrule Warriors holds a great deal of promise from what we played. Hyrule Field transposed as a Dynasty Warriors’ map does mean a lot of adjoining enclosed areas filled with low-level enemies, but with the Hyrule Field Theme blasting out behind the action you can’t help but smile. With a heavy attack, standard attack as well as special equipment (arrows, bombs), your chosen character enacts all those tasks typical from Dynasty Warriors. You’ll have to kill some enemies, save another character from being overwhelmed, kill more enemies, defeat larger enemies, kill more enemies and, did we mention, kill enemies? The demo we played had a choice between Link and Zelda as playable characters and was very easy to pick up and play. Waves of moblins were soon flying through the air courtesy of some delightfully pretty special attacks. Following a gameplay template some would argue as being stale, Hyrule Warriors was unexpectedly solid, amassing a huge amount of goodwill thanks to its franchise heritage. What we’ve seen so far lacks the depth of your usual Zelda RPG fare but it’s not the unmitigated disaster it initially looked to be. The end-of-level boss – a huge Dodongo – was both surprising and familiar, given its weakness was exactly the same as in all previous games (bombs to the throat). If Hyrule Warriors can maintain this mix of pure action and Zelda lore, it may well silence the doubters.
Super Smash Bros.
OK, confession – I’ve never played any Smash Bros. game before this. Still, I know what feels right in terms of gameplay and boy, does the Wii U version of Smash Bros. feel awesome. From the silky smooth framerate, impressively detailed environments and that usual blend of Nintendo’s finest, everything about this game screams rivalries between friends. Mario Kart 8 has shown that Nintendo games still have the power to triumph over sofa-based multiplayer and this follows suit. Playing on a Gamecube controller (adapter available separately) felt entirely natural and even spectating on four-player bouts was great, given the sheer inventiveness of the arenas and attacks. New characters include the Wii Fit instructor (surprisingly powerful, given her downward attacks cause damage in both directions), as well as Mega Man, Animal Crossing chap and more. This already looks like a must have – potentially on both Wii U and 3DS, given exclusive modes and characters on each.
A surprise for everyone at E3, Splatoon is a manic mix of paintball, FPS and family-friendly aesthetic that looks occasionally underwhelming but is actually great fun. Two teams of four must cover as much of the arena in their colour paint – the winner based on percentage of the field covered as opposed to prioritising ‘kills’. Your character can transform into a squid – technically making that ‘paint’ something more like ‘ink’ – and swim through any of your own colour, even up walls and through chain link fences. Hit your opponents’ colour, however, and your movement will be slowed considerably. Perhaps the only thing that felt off with Splatoon was the aiming – largely left to the gyroscopic function of the Wii U pad. It worked, but didn’t feel especially instinctive. Despite this, Splatoon is more than just a wacky concept – there was a surprising level of strategy, balancing your own attempts to douse the area in paint while fending off enemies at the same time. As Nintendo’s answer to the lure of Call of Duty, however, this is a much better proposition, especially for the younger generation.
Although only there for a short while, we also managed to sneak glimpses of a fair few other Nintendo titles. Captain Toad looks like a mix between Mario and Luigi’s Mansion mechanics, all rendered beautifully using the Wii U’s extra oomph. The Amiibo characters also looked fantastic (albeit behind Perspex and with photography not allowed). These are far more than Happy Meal quality toys – the Link figure alone was wallet-threateningly enticing, even for a grown man with no kids to use as an excuse. If there’s anything to be taken from Nintendo’s E3 showing it’s that it isn’t resting on its laurels; in fact it’s potentially outdoing its competitors in terms of pushing the boundaries. Add in the still hands-off Zelda – perhaps the best-looking Wii U game – and now looks as good a time as any to grab a Wii U. If anything, with the strongest Christmas lineup Nintendo are almost guaranteed the strongest sales of the console to date. Sony and Microsoft may have a few shiny exclusives but you can always rely on Nintendo to remind you how gaming can be great.