Friday, 5 August 2011

Nintendo showcase

What a difference 12 months can make. In 2010, with the Wii’s position as this generation’s biggest-selling hardware already sealed, all the talk turned to how the 3DS would inevitably dominate the handheld landscape in much the same way. However there currently hangs over the gaming behemoth an undeniable air of uncertainty. Sales of the 3DS are sluggish, as the software library struggles to gain momentum. The Wii, all but dead as a going concern, has just one last hurrah on the horizon. And reception to its successor, the Wii U, has been more of confusion than outright excitement. Are things really so bad in Camp Mario?

Well, as more details about the Wii U trickle out the more it sounds like a genuinely radical new take on hardware (one publication has already called it the most “flexible” console platform ever). That “one last hurrah” for the Wii? Well, it’s only the small matter of Skyward Sword, the first Zelda title designed specifically for Nintendo’s ageing game-changer. And the 3DS? As Nintendo’s recent showcase set out to prove, the fortunes of the handheld could be about to change very quickly.

Kirby Wii

You wait ages for a new Kirby game, and then two turn up at once (or three if you count Kirby Mass Attack on DS)! Following the excellent Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the minimally titled Kirby Wii, developed by series creator HAL, plays like a cross between New Super Mario Bros. Wii – it’s a 2D side-scroller that allows for up to four players to play simultaneously, though only one can be Kirby – and Super Smash Bros Brawl – there are regular bursts of bizarre ultraviolence and flashy pyrotechnics. The essence of Kirby is intact, both in terms of the ability-absorbing strength of the main character, and in the game’s accessibility and skewed cuteness; not only is it extremely difficult to die, but the riotous level we played featured a large tree as it’s boss, a lone tear falling from its eyes as we defeated it, with Kirby wielding (and we’re not joking here), a meat cleaver almost as big as the screen. Chaotic and yet so compelling.

Luigi’s Mansion 2

Luigi’s Mansion 2 received an ecstatic response when it was unveiled at E3, and it’s easy to see why. This sequel to the semi-forgotten Gamecube classic makes excellent use of 3D, with one scene in a corridor, eerily stretching out to a closed door in the distance, particularly effective. The atmosphere, a blend of theme park theatrics and subtle ambience, is delightful, as are the vibrant visuals (the lighting deserves a special mention). From our brief hands-on, it appears that gameplay mechanics remain largely the same, with Luigi tasked with busting ghosts using his special backpack vacuum cleaner thing. The developers have seemingly created a world that demands constant engagement, with many inquisitive pursuits reaping rewards, be they an important key or, more likely, a troublesome ghost. Nevermind the headline-grabbing Karts and Super Marios, Luigi’s Mansion 2 could be the 3DS’s surprise trump card.

Starfox 64 3D

Lylat Wars may not have been an era-defining event on the scale of Ocarina Of Time, but after just a few minutes in the company of Starfox 64 3D it’s clear that, in terms of emotionally resonant reminders of a gaming youth, it’s still on a par with galloping across Hyrule Field. Simply put, Starfox 64 3D is a superb conversion of one of the Nintendo 64’s very best games. Controls have translated well, while the use of the 3DS’s gyroscope function feels natural to the swooping and ducking gameplay (though it doesn’t quite feel as integral to the experience in the same way that, say, the Rumble Pak bundled with the original game did). Having not played Lylat Wars since its original release we’re looking forward to taking the peak of Fox McCloud’s adventures through its paces again. Those unfamiliar with the 64-bit original will be merely left with the chance to experience one of gaming’s most exhilarating galactic action space-operas for the first time.

- Originally published on D+PAD Magazine.

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