Nintendo post-E3 event and game reviews
|REVIEWS - VIDEOGAME REVIEWS|
Rob's thoughts on the post-E3 Nintendo event and upcoming games...
At the post-E3 Nintendo event in London, Shadowlocked's own Rob Meiklejohn got to try out some of the new games, and test the new hardware coming out for the Nintendo gaming systems. The red Nintendo 3DS (pictured above) will be released on September 9. Even with an $80 reduction in price, and executive's public acceptance of pay decreases, the company continues to lag behind the competition in the marketplace. Nintendo is putting on a brave face and promoting the heck out of its new titles. But do they measure up? Will Nintendo gain market share for handheld gaming devices, or will they continue to be outfoxed by iPhones, iPads, and other portables?
With all the fuss about the Ocarina of Time 3D refit, it can be easy to forget that Starfox is perhaps the 64 title best suited to a 3D retrofit. The forward-scrolling nature of the game play and endless supply of asteroids and enemies barreling towards the screen really shows off stereoscopic 3D at its best. Using the internal gyroscope to control your ship by tilting the unit around is also very cool - but irritatingly incompatible with keeping your head in the 3D sweet spot.
The game looks great and play is identical to the original. Slippy’s still an irritating little green moron who shouldn’t be flying any kind of plane and Hare will still frequently tell you to do a barrel roll for no discernable reason. I probably enjoyed Starfox the most of the 3DS games I played; though I suspect my main motivation was nostalgia and I would have enjoyed it just as much if I’d simply fired up an old 64 console.
The control system of Kid Icarus was perhaps the most interesting on display,.Despite a fairly well-conceived feel to the flying sections, the on-foot sections transform Kid Icarus into a third person shooter where you look around using the stylus. Squirreled away on this stand was the only Nintendo PR-bot I encountered who actually had a solid gaming knowledge and he enthused at length about the hardcore shooter hidden beneath the Nintendo’s mandatory child-friendly cartoon sheen. Certainly the on-the-ground sections were quite unlike anything I’ve played on a handheld before; and reminded me (bizarrely) of an old Serious Sam title with huge ancient ruins and a variety of enemies barrelling towards you at a frantic rate. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a hardcore FPS in sheep’s clothing but still it is a game with more depth than I initially thought.
Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii)
The only Wii game I played at the event (no amount of free beer gets me near a dance-by-numbers rhythm title) Zelda: Skyward Sword proved to be as charming, well designed and very-much-about-a-guy-called-Link as you might expect. For now, I’ll resist the temptation to critique Nintendo’s unapologetic repackaging of the Zelda story (more notable here than in any other title) and instead focus on the gameplay. And what excellent gameplay! The Wii motion-plus controls allow the console to finally live up to its initial promise of mirroring the exact direction and strength of your sword stroke and the effect is very satisfying. In the other sections of the game I was able to test-drive the new flying metal bug thingy (a clever, if hardly ground-breaking way of adding some new puzzles) and a flying section (which may improve with practice, but still felt awkward and fell short of saddling up with Epona in Ocarina/Twilight Princess). The new sword fighting controls are very good; but Skyward Sword ultimately proved to be another new title which was engaging, pretty and well designed - without ever being truly thrilling.
Luigi’s Mansion 3DS
Having wandered over mainly to look at the cool Victorian-séance-themed area Nintendo set up I was collared, plonked in a high-backed leather chair by a flickering (fake) gas lantern and went on to experience something of a surprise package. Luigi's Mansion 2, perhaps the most un-demanded sequel of all time, is a charming little title which, despite clearly being aimed at younger audience, was handled with maturity and showed a huge amount of graphical dexterity. Gameplay is simplistic but very enjoyable and the 3D was used to create surprisingly sophisticated halos and flare effects. Fun puzzles, solid gameplay and an endearing protagonist make this a surprisingly pleasant little package.
Resident Evil Revelations
With such a paucity of third-party games on show at the event Resident Evil provided a welcome change from the familiar Nintendo stable, as well as a chance to finally see what a third-party graphics engine could achieve on the 3DS hardware. The results were impressive: rich textures coupled with good lighting effects created a suitably atmospheric setting which (combined with solid use of the 3D tech) made for the best-looking game on display. Unfortunately that’s where the praise stops; the control scheme was clunky, the camera angles were often awkward; and - 3D or no 3D - the small screen struggles to generate the requisite level of immersion for Resident Evil’s ‘shock’ moments to land with any great effect. These frustrating factors combined meant the game didn’t play anywhere close to as good as it looked in the short section I tried. Nonetheless, I’m reluctant to be too harsh on this title as it’s not out until 2012 and I would hope that the control scheme and camera will be polished by then. Such improvements would make it a title to watch closely.
Mario Kart 3DS
Finally, we come to the last game I played. While a perfectly serviceable and fun entry into the Mario Kart canon it was still probably the biggest disappointment of the night. The new hang-glider jumps and underwater racing were a nice but far from essential addition to what is becoming an overly-familiar format. Also disappointing was the fact that, after completing the majority of the first race, I realized that the previous user had in fact
turned off the 3D, and I hadn’t noticed until the final lap. It was at this point I finally realised that the 3DS’ headline feature wasn’t perhaps as exciting and vital as it at first seemed - a disappointment accentuated by the now steadily growing headache I was experiencing after just over an hour’s play. Still, Mario Kart 3DS was as well made as any title Mario Kart title to date and, like its older brothers, is almost certainly a title which is at its best during multiplayer sessions.
This event was a heavily 3DS-oriented affair so my final thoughts were mainly on my experience with that device and the games soon to be launched on it. The thing which has so far stopped me from buying a 3DS was the cripplingly short 3hr battery life - I thought I’d grab the more power-effective (and probably cheaper/slimmer) second iteration. Indeed, since the event we’ve already seen the DS take a heavy price cut. However, now I can safely say that a paltry battery life would be the least of my 3DS ownership problems. After only ninety minutes at the event (including a twenty-minute Wii break) I left with a pounding headache that had nothing to do with a few visits to the free bar and everything to do with the strenuous ocular gymnastics needed to experience the 3DS’ eponymous killer feature. I’m sure everyone is affected differently by the system’s 3D effect (and as mentioned, it still looks great with it turned off). However, there’s no escaping the fact that even as someone not usually disposed to headaches I spent the remainder of my evening avoiding bright lights and necking paracetamol. The fact that I still enjoy playing games on the 3DS is a testament to Nintendo’s always rock-solid gameplay, brilliant reimagining of their greatest hits and occasional strong new entries from established franchises. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right at the heart of this company. Nintendo’s recent hardware innovations have significant shortcomings; but worse, its software line up (well made and fun-enough though it may be) seems simply to have no innovation at all. The endless cavalcade of repetition left me to wonder where this Nintendo generation’s “Goldenye moment” will come from.
It’s truly remarkable that Nintendo still provides a fun experience in spite of this, but they do leave me wistfully thinking about how much more vital their output would be if they could match their illustrious past and existing stable of great franchises with product innovation and new IP worthy of their name. It’s still early times for the 3DS, but Nintendo needs to step up and give me something that makes me want to purchase the platform and play games on it; splitting headaches or not.
IF YOU ENJOYED THIS ARTICLE, PLEASE HELP SUPPORT OUR SITE, AT NO COST WITH ONE CLICK ON THE FACEBOOK 'LIKE' BUTTON BELOW:
If you're interested in writing for Shadowlocked (disc and screening reviews, etc, or just getting some extra coverage for your extraordinary writing talent, get in touch with us.