Sunday, June 21, 2015

E3 2015 Coverage (Part 1: Nintendo Games)

Video Playlist - Additional Pictures
Hey readers! For the first time, I was able to secure a pass to E3. It was three straight days of hype, standing in lines, and, of course, playing upcoming video games. I played a lot of games, so here's where I'm putting all of my impressions for everything I tried. Keep on reading, or CTRL+F for whatever you're most interested in.

Overall impressions? Nintendo's showing was the most underwhelming I can remember them having, although their games were still consistently fun. In general, every company's showings tended to be sequels in popular series which played like upgraded and tweaked versions of previously great games. There's nothing wrong with that, but it was hard for me to get excited about them personally since you pretty much know what to expect already. I'm a fan of retro games as much as new games, after all, and when you get down to it, games haven't changed much since 3D graphics got big. Many of the big announcements (The Last Guardian, Shenmue 3, and others) didn't have playable demos, so that was a bit of a bummer. But, while the games were slightly better versions of what we've been playing for years, there was one thing that stood out in my mind as amazing: Virtual Reality. I'll get to that later though...

Table of Contents:
Part 1: Nintendo Games - You are here.
Part 2: More Games
Part 3: Virtual & Augmented Reality


Star Fox Zero (Wii U)

The new controls take a little getting used to, but seem like they'll be better in the long run thanks to being able to aim independently from your ship movement. It almost seems overpowered that you can shoot completely sideways or directly below or above your arwing, but the level design appears to be made with this in mind and encourages you do use this method. For example, the Corneria mission features enemies crawling on the ground with weak points on top of them which would be hard to hit without using the gyro controls. Another handy feature is the ability to hold ZL to swing the camera around to your point of interest. This makes it a lot easier to find your enemy or other important location than it was by using the minimap. The graphics are pretty alright at a glance, but up close and in comparison to other modern games, they're lacking. The terrain especially has noticeably mediocre textures and decorative objects are a bit sparse. There are only two levels (and a training stage) on the demo, but they seem to play more like Star Fox 64 than Assault or Command. The Corneria stage demonstrated the traditional on-rails mode, followed by all-range mode for a dogfight and boss battle. Interestingly, the boss battle could be won in two different ways, with one method making use of the walker transformation. The other demo stage was exclusively in all-range mode and had you fighting against enemy ships and Pigma. It remains to be seen whether the game will have amiibo compatibility, branching paths, and medals for getting high scores on each level, but those things do seem likely. Also worth noting is that the hidden medals from Star Fox Assault are back and hidden throughout the stages.

Zelda: Tri Force Heroes (3DS)

Tri Force Heroes obviously uses a modified version of the engine from A Link Between Worlds, and that's just fine. It plays as well as you'd expect, but sharing a life bar can make it challenging if someone on your team is bad or a troll. Also, since you're dealing with other players, it can be hard to predict what they'll do, so it's easy to accidentally knock them into an abyss. New to the series, notifications about your teammates periodically scroll across the screen NicoNico Video style to let you know when someone gets hurt, finds rupees, or picks up a heart. The notifications are handy somewhat, but I don't think anyone really needs to know every time someone picks up five rupees. Overall though, it's a really fun game and manages to capture the fun of Four Swords Adventures while making it more cooperative and puzzle-based. It'll definitely be a blast to play if you can find the friends to join you.

Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (3DS)

This one is a fairly standard platformer, but it has the gameplay mechanic of hitting things with your cord and grappling onto stuff. It doesn't stand out all that much, but it seems to be a good platforming game if you like those (I do). Hopefully the actual game isn't broken up quite so much by unnecessary dialogue like the demo was. I have a feeling this game will go under everyone's radar since there have been so many 2D platformers lately, but fans of the genre should definitely keep a lookout for this one. Also, amiibo collectors will want the Chibi-Robo amiibo that comes packaged with the game; it's very nice looking.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (Wii U)

I'm not super familiar with the Mario Tennis series, but this one definitely looked and played well. There were a lot of different hits you could do, including an apparently new jump shot which was achieved by pressing A twice or B twice. Also new to the series, mega mushrooms periodically appeared to make you giant and have a wider range to hit the ball as well as more power. While going mega did look cool, it ended up feeling more like a delay of game since it's nearly impossible to miss while mega. Furthermore, getting a mega mushroom seems to be just an eventuality since they just appear after playing for a while, regardless of anything you do. Finally, this might've been in previous Mario Tennis games too, but there are circles that appear which allow you to do powered up shots if you press the button that corresponds to the circle's color while standing inside the circle. Or, if you're bad, you can just mash X and it'll do a special shot. Although not officially revealed, the different characters did seem to have varying movement speed and power. Overall, this game seems like it'll be fun for casual players and offer a lot of depth for those who wish to master it as well. Here's hoping it has more to do than the 3DS version did.

Metroid Prime Federation Force (Blast Ball) (3DS)

This game looks simple, but I actually really enjoyed it and am interested in seeing how strategies will develop for it. Basically, you have two teams of three players and the goal is to shoot the giant ball into the other team's goal. This is made more complex because you're able to either charge your shot or shoot rapidly, but either way your gun has a cooldown so you have to be strategic with how you use it. You can lock onto the ball to strafe around it (or dash with B like in Metroid Prime), but you can also hold R to use gyro controls for more precise aiming. This allows you to aim at specific parts of the ball to influence its movement and spin it to the side or chip it into the air. For each goal that is scored, the goal gets smaller and harder to score on too. Also, getting hit by the ball damages your mech which can eventually be temporarily disabled. Then, there are items that periodically appear which can force the opposing team to eject from their mechs, give you a temporary shield, or increase your speed temporarily. A final twist is that on rare occasion (maybe one in five matches), the ball will drop with different qualities. The two I saw made it molten lava (presumably doing more damage if you touched it) and rubber, which affected its bounce physics. Without some arena variations, I could see this game getting old after not too long, but for being just a side minigame as a part of Metroid Prime Federation Force, it's pretty darn fun.

Super Mario Maker (Wii U)

Via the E3 2015 Trailer
You can probably tell what this game entails by watching a few videos, so I don't feel the need to go into it too much here. It plays just like SMB1, SMB3, SMW, and NSMBU (you have the option to change which game your custom level is based on), but there's a whole lot of really cool design stuff you can do in it. There are a lot of new assets that were created for it, like wearable helmets, stackable enemies, rideable Bowser clown car, and enemies, objects, and music which normally wouldn't exist in certain games. It'll definitely be a blast to play everyone's custom levels. Also, a cool thing to note is that you can see each level's clear rate and feel good about how much better you are than everyone else.

Yoshi's Wooly World (Wii U)
For this game as well, I don't feel like I have to explain too much since it's already out in Japan. Essentially it plays like Yoshi's Island, but with a health meter rather than Baby Mario. The yarn-styled graphics are absolutely adorable, but more importantly, the level design is fun and challenging. It can be played in two player co-op, and in this mode it seems that you have unlimited lives as long as both players don't die at the same time. Similarly, using a Yarn Yoshi amiibo will create a second Yoshi on-screen which is controlled at the same time as your regular Yoshi. Just like in co-op, if one of the Yoshis falls, it will reappear for you, so you can focus on one Yoshi at a time without worry.

Yo-kai Watch (3DS)
Via the E3 2015 trailer
I didn't get much time to try Yo-Kai Watch, but since it's been out in Japan for a while and is hugely popular there, you can probably find everything about it elsewhere. What I did see though, is that it looks very nice graphically and seems fun and fluid to play (the run speed is delicious). Even though the Yo-kai I captured were scripted events, it was still satisfying to capture them. I can definitely see this catching on outside Japan in the same way that Pokemon has. It's probably good that they left the word "Yo-kai" as it is rather than scaring parents with some translation of negative spiritual/ghostly connotations in English.

Return to PopoloCrois: A Story of Seasons Fairy Tale (3DS)
This game was lonely and had nobody playing it, but from what I saw it definitely deserves to be on the radar of those who enjoy RPGs and games like Rune Factory and Harvest Moon. Apparently, this game has you living in a town and trying to heal the land by farming, talking to and doing quests for the locals, and fighting monsters. The battle system is turn based like good old classic RPGs, but it also has a grid-based system of movement which has you moving each character on their turn into strategic positions. Your position in battle not only gets you in range to attack or hit more enemies with an AoE spell, but apparently positioning has other benefits as well (attacking from behind for higher damage, for example). The demo had yet to be fully translated, but I was told that the American release would feature English voice acting, though they still hadn't decided on whether dual audio would be available.

Bonus: Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam (I didn't play it, but I took a video. It looks more like a Mario & Luigi game than a Paper Mario game, but whatever.)

Next up: 
Part 2 (More Non-Nintendo Games)
Part 3 (Virtual & Augmented Reality)
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