E3 2013: Nintendo
Posted on Friday June 14, 2013, 15:58 by Matt Kamen in Infinite Lives
Nintendo may not have had a showy press conference at this year’s E3 but that didn’t mean the much-loved publisher had no presence at all. In fact, a sizable chunk of the convention’s West Hall was taken over by a gargantuan Nintendo stand, with hands on opportunities for its upcoming games on Wii U and 3DS, and was constantly swamped by fans.
Bayonetta 2 (pictured above) proved most interesting, in part because of its almost paradoxical exclusivity to the Wii U. Despite the company’s family-friendly image, Nintendo hardware is no stranger to mature titles, be it the psychological horror of Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube or the extreme violence of MadWorld on the Wii. Still, the overtly sexual Bayonetta appearing here is almost blush-inducing.
Plot details are scarce but it’s clear the title character’s been through some changes since the 2010 original game. She’s had a haircut for one, which might be unimportant but for the fact her locks are the source of her magical powers. She’s also picked up a flaxen-haired sidekick along the way, Jeanne – her rival in the first game. Still decked out in tight red leather (easy, tiger) Jeanne shows up towards the end of the final playable stage to assist in battle against the area boss.
Elaborate enemy designs and quasi-religious iconography remain a part of the game as much as its brand of rapid, style-driven combat. New weapons for each character provide slightly different powers but the core gameplay is unchanged, challenging you to dispatch angels and demons with as much grace and flair as possible.
Off-screen play on the Wii U gamepad works well, though trying to use the touch controls when playing on a TV proved distracting. Hugely impressive special moves require hammering at an on-pad prompts for maximum results, but the switch in focus broke the flow. Hopefully something that will be tweaked before launch, as Bayonetta 2 is otherwise a worthy successor to the cult-hit original game.
The Wonderful 101
We also took our first hands on with The Wonderful 101. Coming from the same studio as Bayonetta 2, the Osaka-based Platinum Games, the two couldn’t be more different. The Wonderful 101 is the kind of quirky, innovative game Nintendo consoles have excelled at delivering since time immemorial (or the 1980s, whichever).
Commanding an entire squadron of colourful superheroes, the closest possible comparison would be some kind of high-powered take on Lemmings, though that far from does it justice. Progressing through stages requires gathering your squadron together and overcoming obstacles and enemies, but instead of having to protect vulnerable characters, passing close to civilians turns them into temporary heroes and recruits them into your team. Rather than sending individual characters into battle, you use the Wii U gamepad to draw the horde into different shapes, causing them to combine into giant weapons. A simple line creates a sword, an L-shape a gun, a circle a fist and a squiggle a large pink whip. Each tool has their uses, both in combat and navigational puzzle solving, and the more heroes you have, the bigger and more powerful your doodle weapons become.
Quite honestly, it was fiddly to begin with – the control system doesn’t feel intuitive at all. Then, something clicks. You suddenly ‘get’ it, and you’ll be grinning like a loon as you forge a 100-strong team of weirdo capes into a spikey pink death whip, rip the armour plating off a colossal enemy robot, then re-shape the squadron into a massive cannon to blow it to pieces. There’s really nothing else quite like it. Both Bayonetta and The Wonderful 101 should prove to be fantastic – and desperately needed – additions to the Wii U library.
Nintendo’s own offerings favoured more familiar fare. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD brings the brilliant Gamecube title up to modern visual standards, with widescreen support and high-definition looks. While the game mostly maintains the fantastic cel-shaded look of the original release, new lighting effects make the characters seem a bit more rounded and three-dimensional. Opinion on the change will be a matter of personal taste and while we’d have preferred Nintendo maintained the flattened look, there’s no denying the new version still looks beautiful – it’s just a slightly different kind of beautiful.
Other improvements include off-screen support on the gamepad, quick access and interactive item menus on the pad when playing the game on your main TV and, most importantly, a wind spell to speed up your boat journeys, cutting down time on the seas considerably. Players who missed out on the game originally will want to check out this definitive version of the greatest Zelda game (deal with it, Ocarina of Time fans).
Mario Kart 8
Lastly, we tried Mario Kart 8, the racer’s return to home consoles following 2011’s 3DS-only seventh entry. It’s hard to find fault with Mario Kart games – they’re almost always remarkably polished efforts, and even the arguably average Double Dash has its fans. The only part that was even close to being an issue for us was the sudden switch, when switching terrain, to hang glider versions of vehicles. They don’t control like anything else in the game, and suddenly having to switch from pushing forward to pulling up can be jarring.
Aside from that, Mario Kart 8 feels like a solid entry for the series. There are a couple of new characters to choose from, including a female Koopa, while the introduction of hovercrafts and anti-gravity stretches keeps players on their toes. Track designs are inspired creations, bristling with the charm, weirdness and creativity that has earned Nintendo such loyalty from its fans.
With Super Mario 3D World and a new Donkey Kong Country game, Tropical Freeze, on show, there are signs Nintendo could be emerging from a period of few releases that has left the Wii U barren of software. The line-up still overwhelmingly consists of staple, in-house characters, but if the gameplay experiences are great – and so far, they are – then players should consider giving the new console a chance.