Preview: Nintendo’s 2013 Lineup

For some reason, I was invited to check out a Nintendo preview event featuring games expected to release later this year. I say “for some reason” because while such invites used to be commonplace back when I was on TV talking about video games, they have predictably dropped off the map ever since I decided to take a different job in the company in an effort to give me more time to work on LFoPD.

Anyway, I was left on one of the lists, apparently, and why not take advantage of the probable error to have the opportunity to spend an afternoon playing some unreleased games and then relay my experience to the glorified readers of I could not think of a reason, so here goes.

Honestly, I got gamer chills.
I cannot tell you guys how good this looks in person.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD

Let us leave the best for first. It is a little amazing and a little sad that – hands down – the best-looking Wii U game is an HD version of a GameCube game (yes, including Pikmin 3). It was the first game I went to, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. In motion and in person, the game is glorious to behold. It looks fantastic. I roamed around Outset Island and the vibrant colours painted the entire village with perfect draw distance. It gave me the sort of gamer excitement I have not had in quite some time. Insofar as the demo, some people’s reservations about the look of the character models is unwarranted, the game simply looks like a widescreen HD version of the charming GameCube title.

Gamers use the gamepad to control Link (thank goodness), and Link’s inventory is available intuitively on the touch screen display. It was an encouraging look into what a brand new Zelda title for the Wii U might feel like. Also, while I did get to try out the new, faster version of the sailing, it was restricted to a small area and therefore I really had no way of knowing how much faster it really was. But then again, I never minded the sailing too much, so the option is just a bonus to me, not a necessity.

So fun.
So cute.

Super Mario 3D World

This is exactly what it appeared to be from its reveal at E3. It is a console version of the delightful 3DS title of a similar name. Therefore it appears to be a lot of fun, well-designed, and otherwise completely expected – much like most of the lineup present at the event. The addition of multiplayer feels very similar to Super Mario 3D World‘s 2D counterpart. It is chaotic and the level of fun is highly dependent on the quality of people playing. Players can be helpful or useless or annoying or complete assholes. For example, one stranger I was playing with was playing as Toad, the fastest character. He decided to grab the new (super-awesome, super-cute) Cat Suit which gave him extra speed, and then blasted forward in the level which effectively “bubbled” the rest of us into spectatorhood. That was annoying. Although probably very funny for him.

I played as Peach the whole time so as not to disappoint my readers’ expectations, and it was great to have the different characters control so uniquely. Peach is slow, but floats, Toad is fast as shit, Mario has the classic feel and Luigi controls like he always has, with higher jumps and lower friction. There were no surprises with this game, but it looks to be a blast.

Hopefully it's as challenging as Link to the Past.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds

I have never beaten Link to the Past, LusiMoblins. I have tried, but I have yet to do it. Even with that embarrassing fact, Link Between Worlds felt instantly nostalgic. It looks great – a pleasant mix between modern and retro – and it became instantly apparent that the game truly is interested in remaining in the beloved SNES world. Everything from the sound effects to Link’s shooting sword at full health to items like the wand to Link’s character design confirmed that Nintendo is really trying to make a worthy sequel with this game.

While Link’s new turn-into-a-2D-character ability was cool, what I really enjoyed was the fact that every item and ability appeared to use magic. Even bombs did not have a stockpile, but were instead infinite and used the magic bar. To offset its presumably heavy usage, the bar now auto-regenerates after a short time of not being used. From my short time with the game, the function left a very positive first impression.

After the decent Phantom Hourglass and the delightful Spirit Tracks, the conceit was starting to run dry, so I think Link Between Worlds is the right move for the 3DS. The system is powerful enough to make console-style Zelda games, but going that route is dangerous. Better to make stylistically different entries in the series on the handheld. Plus, while I did not mind the DS touch controls, it definitely is nice to leave the menus to the touch screen and to control Link with a control stick and buttons.

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze

The thing is, guys, I am sure that Tropical Freeze will be filled with clever, challenging levels just like the Wii title. But the demo aggressively underwhelmed me. As mentioned earlier, despite being built ground up from the Wii U and coming from a capable studio like Retro, it looks closer to an upscaled Wii game especially when compared to the beautiful-looking Wind Waker HD. Also, gameplay was not available with the gamepad at the event. Hopefully it is in game, because shaking the Wiimote for half of Donkey Kong’s moveset does not interest me. It already made me nervous that one of the main selling points for this title is “dynamic camera angles”. Come on. Retro should be doing more with their talent.

God, I'm excited.
Basically Shakespeare.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team

I love this series, and it appears to be thankfully unchanged. I was worried after Paper Mario got gimped on the 3DS that the Mario & Luigi series would get the same treatment. It has not. It has a visual facelift in the form of mimicking the Super Nintendo’s Super Mario RPG, but otherwise it appears to have the charming style, addicting battle system, and actual RPG mechanics that the series has always boasted. The brothers’ special moves are still gimmicky use of the system’s capabilities, but they were easily ignored in previous editions and this title appears to be no different. I am very excited although it will be hard to top the hilarious Bowser’s Inside Story, the best and most recent entry in the series. Bring it on.

Pikmin 3

Yup. It sure is Pikmin alright. What is taking it so long to come out? It is going to be great, to be sure, and it is probably the only Wii U game that I would actually prefer to be using the Wiimote/nunchuck combo over the gamepad, but seriously, what is taking it so long? Also, it looks pretty, but not as pretty as Wind Waker HD. Release this game already.

Aaand, that is it! Those are all the games I played. For your safety, I ignored Wii Party U. Also, Wonderful 101 was there, but it was the same demo I played a year ago. Still, it was awesome then, so it should still be awesome now.


  1. As nice as it is to see the 2013 lineup loaded with familiar faces, my first thought for each of these titles is “I’ve played this shit before”.

  2. I don’t mind that so much. I mean, if Nintendo was the only player in the game, I would mind, but “more levels of tight gameplay and clever level design” isn’t a bad thing to me. Because I’ve played it before, yes, and it was fun, and I’d like to play more.

    Still, and I’ve mentioned this before, it’s confusing and disconcerting to see Nintendo play it so safe at a time when they really need to be taking risks to get back in the game. Or maybe I’m wrong and falling back on safe and recognizable franchises is the only thing that will keep them afloat.

    Even a combination would be welcome. That’s why I was disappointed that the Mario Galaxy team was working on Super Mario 3D World. That game will be a blast, but Galaxy (and especially Galaxy 2) took a familiar name and concept and did something really creative with it. Strange that they’re not trying to use a name like Mario to try and sell the concept of the gamepad. Anyway. Yes. Lots of sequels. Wonderful 101 was the only new IP there out of 8 titles.

  3. A lot of the Wii U games look fun, really fun, but they also look utterly unremarkable. There is nothing there [save for perhaps X] that is likely to surprise anyone.

    Most of this stuff we can already play on the 3DS.

    The Wii U needed another creative interpretation like Galaxy, because right now Nintendo just look to be re-purposing handheld titles.

  4. Nintendo’s console viability is often discussed, usually in the negative. And from what I can see, I tend to agree. When was Nintendo ever really a successful console force? Over seventeen years ago with the NES and SNES? When theirs was the de facto standard? The Wii was an anomaly propped up by casual grandmas, the exact kind of people who won’t upgrade their hardware. And, shock, they didn’t.

    Nintendo needs to figure out what it’s trying to realistically offer in the console space. A smattering of Nintendo standouts with some offbeat third party ports and exclusives? It can ride out another N64/Gamecube, maybe another two. But this can’t go on forever, even with the success of the handheld market. And baring a dramatic shift in their company practices or another casual-gadget-magnet like the Wii, then I don’t see how they’ll break out of third rank or how they can keep justifying their performance.

  5. What a backwards company. So many ways to make money, so many easy ways to sell consoles, so many innovative and unique approaches–and instead they make 3DS games that you can play on your television, and new HD versions of Gamecube titles.

    The Wii U is being squandered, and it is a sadness to behold.

  6. @Ethos: The problem with having games that incite the “I’ve played this before” reaction is that it doesn’t drive console sales. The Wii U is in dire need of sales and suddenly Nintendo has forgotten how to make a system appeal to the non-fanboy audience. As good as these games may end up being, I will stick to their SNES counterparts and save myself the money of buying a Wii U.

  7. @Mel: The N64 and GC were both profitable for Nintendo. The only way they’re going under is if something calamitous happens to their handheld division.

  8. Maybe Nintendo really were resigned from the outset to treat Wii U as an afterthought – they certainly seem to be putting first class effort into creating desirable 3DS software.

  9. @Gyme – Oh, in that capacity we’re in absolute agreement. Same with SN’s earlier comment. Reiterates why I was not only disappointed, but surprised that the “3D Mario project” was Super Mario 3D World.

  10. There are a few games that sound fun but how many more will there be in the future that are worth buying? If I have Windwaker HD, the next new Zelda they release will have to be insane for me to want to play it. They’ve got Monolith which is totally appealing on the RPG front, though.

  11. @Jafar – That appears to be the common sentiment, and it makes sense to me. But for me, I’m too impressed with Zelda from even a developer standpoint to not be excited for the new release in (probably) 3-4 years time. I’m replaying Skyward Sword and, unlike Twilight Princess which sours with multiple playthroughs, it is impressing me all over again. From a business standpoint, Nintendo is baffling and frustrating, but their software developers have rarely been stronger on their flagship franchises.

    That being said, I entirely understand people having no interest in a new title in all of Nintendo’s franchises because they are so intensely familiar. In fact, if Caileigh didn’t already own a Wii U, I really do think it would take either the new Zelda or a Galaxy-esque title for me to buy one. Or a great deal like the one Lusipurr came across.

  12. @SN: Yes they were, but does that necessarily mean this course is viable? Will it be enough going forward? I guess if they can find a way to squeak out a margin then they can go on for a long while. They’ve proven pretty good at that.

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