There are tons of new games for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U on the horizon including Mario, Zelda and Pikmin titles.
We test out Bayonetta 2, Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Pikmin 3, Sonic Lost World, Yoshi's New Island and Duck Tales at a recent Nintendo event and offer our brief thoughts on each game in this preview.
Super Mario 3D World
December 2013, Wii U
We haven't played a Mario game this enjoyable since Galaxy. The title reminds us of Super Mario 64 with its open yet somewhat linear levels, typical Mario styling, quality level design and layout. It's like a giant playground - and you can bring your friends.
New additions like the Mario cat suit let your character crawl up walls and scamper around, while the traditional jumping on heads, going down pipes into extra areas and collecting coins are of course still present. At first we thought the game would be a walk in the park, but beware, it has a fiendish side; it will punish you if you try to run before you can walk. The puzzles are just taxing enough to make you think about your next move, while multiplayer is also great fun. Other than Pokemon X and Y (which unfortunately wasn't at the event after all), this is the one to watch from Nintendo this year.
2014, Wii U
After playing the original Bayonetta half to death in early 2010, with its ass-kicking, combo-making and demon-summoning witch, we were admittedly most eager to play this title at the event. It was good fun, of course, but we couldn't help feeling a little disappointed.
The demo level was easy - it was possible to button bash your way through without thinking too much. Moves felt very similar to the original, which is no bad thing, but after ten minutes of play we were left a little uninspired. The same enemies return and - despite a climatic boss battle taking place with Bayonetta thrashing at it in mid-air - it all just felt very... average. Perhaps it was the difficulty setting (though you would expect Normal to be a little challenging) or the Wii U controller that made it feel odd (you can swipe the screen to pull off combos). Still, it's a Wii U exclusive and a hack and slash that will probably be worth waiting for, but wait for the review scores first.
Mario Kart 8
Spring 2014, Wii U
We didn't want to play Mario Kart at this event. We've played it a million times before. But you know what - there's a reason for that, and Nintendo surprised us here. The game is brilliant.
Playing Mario Kart in HD for the first time is a visual feast. The vehicles, characters, backdrops - everything looks beautiful. The world seems larger - the track feels more roomier and the other characters have a better presence on the track. You really feel like you've achieved something going up to pole position for the first time, too. Like Sonic All-Stars Racing, your vehicle transforms slightly when the track changes, so it'll shift to hovercraft mode over water or a glider will come out of the top of your kart if you launch high into the air.
The drift technique is awkward to pull off using a wireless wheel controller (like it was on Wii Mario Kart) but it feels great controlling the game using the tablet controller. And multiplayer is as fun as ever. Standard.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
November 2013, 3DS
Our opinion over this title was mixed. We grew up on Legend of Zelda games, and the first we played - the original A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo - holds a special place in our hearts. As the spiritual successor, A Link Between Worlds takes with one hand and gives with the other.
First - the downsides. The magic bar auto-refills when not in use, making puzzle solving and enemy slaying easier than ever before. So you won't have to conserve magic or wait for the opportune moment to strike anymore - you can just keep on casting spells until you've achieved the desired effect. Secondly, those cacti enemies that electrocuted you when you swiped at them with your sword in the original now take damage with melee attacks, hinting that combat will also be more painless.
However, it's one of the more colourful Zelda games we've played and has a touch of Wind Waker about it. You can even switch to a 2D mode in certain sections - Paper Mario Style - to get to out-of-reach ledges and traverse across narrow walls. Like Super Mario 3D World, you'll still have to think to solve puzzles (thank God).
July 26th 2013, Wii U
We've never been huge Pikmin fans. The games are alright - gather ant-like creatures, tell them to collect fruit, kill bugs and build bridges before moving on to the next zone. This is more of the same, with split-screen multiplayer, HD graphics and Wii U tablet controller compatibility. You can look at the tablet's screen to check the map before throwing more ants and collecting... Zzzz.
Sorry - not for us. Kids might like it and fans of the original. The two-player coop mode encourages teamwork and working to the best of your abilities in a strict time limit.
Sonic Lost World
2013, Wii U and 3DS
Sonic the Hedgehog hasn't really found himself in this console generation. The classic 2D Mega Drive games will always be favoured by some over the newer, faster but ever linear levels. We felt Sonic Adventure was more of a move in the right direction for Sonic but we guess we're in the minority.
Anyway, Sonic Lost World again blends 2D sections with faster 3D-type areas to try and provide a thrilling-yet-classic Sonic experience. The Green Hill-style level we tried wasn't the best designed but it did have some hidden sections so it seems the game will have some lastability. Fans and kids will buy into it anyway, but the couple of levels we tried were largely forgettable.
Yoshi's New Island
This game doesn't know if it's SNES classic Yoshi's Island or the Nintendo 64's arty farty Yoshi's Story. Unfortunately, it tries to be a bit of both and it doesn't really work. Levels seem boringly basic and the art style doesn't lend itself well to the tech wizardry of the 3DS and its lovely 3D screen.
Yoshi carries Mario around on his back like he did in the SNES original and can eat enemies before turning them into eggs and firing them around. You can also turn into a giant Yoshi and crash through the level, New Super Mario Bros-style. But gameplay is sluggish and staid. As it stands, this game doesn't yet have that magic Nintendo sparkle. Let's hope it gets some oomph injected into its gameplay before it arrives next year.
Summer 2013, Wii U and PC and 360 and PS3
Duck Tales has had more than its fair share of "we're not worthy" gushing since the remake was announced earlier this year. A lot of this came from 20 and 30-something gamers who played the Nintendo NES original back in the late '80s/early '90s. But take those tatty rose-tinted glasses off and honestly, this is an average 2D platformer.
It was a great game 20-odd years ago. Scrooge was an ideal game character with his bouncing pogo stick, there were lots of treasure to collect, the levels were nicely designed and it felt as close to a cartoon as you could get back then. Today, the gameplay is the same (although fans may like this), visuals are of course vastly improved and... the cut-scenes are too long. You run around doing the same stuff you done 20 years ago. It'll be cheap and worth buying - just not worth getting carried away with.
Oh - it has a 'hard pogo' setting, where you have to hold down and then press a button in mid-air to attack (see image), like you had to in the original, rather than just jumping and holding a button to pull it off (the new default). Kids today have got it so easy...