With games featuring Mario, Kirby and Link, Nintendo — which, let’s face it, needs a boost — is doing the smart thing and tapping into the nostalgic hearts of gamers who still remember exactly how to blow on an NES cartridge to get it to work.
I had the chance to see seven of Nintendo’s upcoming games in person not too long ago — here are my first impressions.
Kirby Wii: I’ve been a fan of this marshmallowy dude ever since my days of playing Dreamland on my clear GameBoy. Kirby Wii, due out this fall, kicks up the puffball’s intensity level a few notches. As with previous Kirby games, he can gain copy abilities by swallowing certain enemies, including a those that enable you to wield some serious swords. This multiplayer title lets Kirby cooperate with King Dedede, Meta Knight and Waddle Dee to huff and puff your way through levels. The couple of levels I walked through were a blast, though the controls did involve a lot of Wiimote shaking — so be sure to keep that wrist-strap fastened. The game is set to release by the end of the year, and it likely to have a new name at launch. Siliconera reported that the name could be “Kirby Returns to Dreamland,” after hearing a Nintendo rep refer to the game by that name.
Kirby Mass Attack: There’s another Kirby game coming as well, this time aimed at younger gamers for the DS. A 2D game, Kirby Mass Attack is ... well, kind of a weird game. Players fling Kirby around with the stylus, hitting him through obstacles, and slowly gaining clones that help you solve puzzles throughout the levels. Despite being strange, it’s also weirdly addictive and likely perfect for keeping kids amused for long stretches. Kirby Mass Attack will hit stores Sept. 19.
Starfox 64 3D: Starfox 64 is due out for the 3DS this September. And as obvious an observation as this sounds, playing it now feels exactly like playing it on the Nintendo 64 — except in 3D. The port to three dimensions is really noticeable when the background actually seems to zoom past you. Other than that, it's the same Starfox 64 you remember, letting you do a barrel roll right into the heart of nostalgia. The game supports multiplayer up to four players and is expected September 9.
MarioKart 7: Another nostalgic title for me — those tricky bananas! — MarioKart 7 benefits from 3D in the same way Starfox does, which is to say that the effect goes a long way to suggest movement. The game will let you soup up your ride by offering players the chance to customize their wheels and other accessories to optimize your go-kart for the terrain. In the demo I played, not all the options were available yet, but I did get to try out some huge, monster-truck tires. The game will support multiplayer as well making it a snap to duke it out with your friends. Mariokart 7 is expected to hit shelves by December.
Super Mario 3D Land: To be honest, I often play 3DS games with the 3D turned down, because I don’t usually get that much out of the added depth. But I’d be missing out on a lot if I did that in this game. An update of a much-beloved title, Super Mario 3D Land also makes really good use of the 3D by incorporating the third dimension into puzzle designs and the landscape of the level itself. The game also brings back the Tanooki tail for Mario (you know, the flying raccoon transformation) that now lets you hover jump and, of course, dispatch enemies with a mouthful of tail to the face. Nintendo has said that Super Mario 3D land will hit shelves in November.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword: This is the Nintendo title I was probably most looking forward to headed into E3 coverage in June. And the gameplay in the demos I ran through with the Nintendo rep did not disappoint. Moving away from the simple hack-and-slash fun of other games, this Wii title requires some nuance and analysis to play successfully. Link, who stars again in this title, not only requires some rest every now and then to keep moving, but his weapons also responds one-to-one with every movement of your wrist. The enemies are smarter too, with vulnerabilities that require you to think about the angle, turn and timing of your attacks. I didn’t get a chance to see the bird-riding, unfortunately, but I can say that the gameplay and puzzles integrated into the game’s world make this a more sophisticated Zelda title. The game is expected in time for the holidays.