Though this year’s E3 may have come to an end, the fun continues at Nintendo UK’s Windsor showroom as we were invited to check out the upcoming Super Mario Maker 2, as well as the games shown off in California. After a long trip to the south of England and a short wait outside two large red doors, my day of Nintendo goodness finally began!
Ever-eager to kick things off with a bang, we sat around a large table and jumped straight into Mario Maker 2. Being given a review code on the day, everyone attending set their Switches off downloading the game as we were walked through its most interesting new features by an excitable rep. If you’ve kept up to date on the Mario Maker Directs and announcements, there’s little said here that should come as a surprise. You have slopes, swinging claws, angry suns, new backgrounds, a new 3D World style, and so so much more. Games downloaded and features shown off, we each went onto pull four pieces of paper out of a number of hats. The first would dictate a game style, with the following three made of new course parts. With only 30 minutes available, we had to take what we were given and try to throw together something fun to play, and wow was this fun. It almost felt like being in school again, with our lovely rep collecting Switches at the end and playing through each of our creations. With the Mario World style, as well as On/Off Switches, Swinging Claws, and Fire Clown Cars required for me, you can check out my level below.
Sure it isn’t perfect, but given the time I think I made something pretty cool! On a more general note of Mario Maker 2, I can say the game feels fantastic to play with a number of quirks, both positive and negative. Creation surprised me. I went in expecting something incredibly imprecise and frustrating and, well, it wasn’t. It’s not to say I didn’t face any kind of difficulties, but they were soon overcome as I found my feet. It’s definitely not as instantly intuitive as its Wii U predecessor, but it does a good job of utilising what it has to work with in the Switch’s capacitive touch screen.
Of the new elements, I think my favourite would be the sideways Thwomps. I’m especially fond of how they function in the 3D World style with the player able to ride on top of them through lava or poisonous waters. The more I play the game, the more I notice quirky combinations and come up with ideas for weird and wonderful levels. The spirit of the first game is here in full force, and I really can’t wait to see what people come up with on launch day. We’ll have a full review up next week, so look forward to that if you’re still on the fence.
With Mario Maker 2 wrapping up, we moved onto the highlight of the day: lunch. Sure I was impressed by the new stuff in Mario Maker, and yeah the E3 stuff that came after was neat, but holy toast in a blender there was just so much food. I don’t know what kind of army they were hoping to feed, but I definitely had my fill.
Onto the demos, we had a fantastic lineup to try. Starting with Pokemon Sword and Shield, we went onto play Luigi’s Mansion 3, the Link’s Awakening remake, the new Marvel Ultimate Alliance game, Mario and Sonic 2020, and a host of other indie games coming out soon.
For the Pokemon demo, we got a hands on with the water gym, working through a short puzzle and fighting Nessa, the gym leader of recent popularity. I’m really not sure what to say, it’s Pokemon, it’s on the Switch, it really was just about everything I expected. Only being able to walk through a small area and battle trainers, I didn’t have a chance to experience the world or the more interesting Wild Area. The game looked great and felt nice to move in, but there just wasn’t enough to see for my taste. One thing I did however get to experience is Dynamax. I know a lot of people aren’t particularly fond of this as a feature, but I have to say I really like it. To me, it seems like the natural progression of both Mega Evolution and Z-Moves, granting huge power to be utilised strategically. You have the same accessibility of Z-Moves, and with it, a sense that any Pokemon can have some semblance of viability. When Dynamaxed, your Pokemon grows to what feels like a scene from a Godzilla movie, and their attacks are scaled to match. Where Z-Moves tended to be a single explosive attack, Dynamax moves pack that same punch with a little extra. Grass attacks for example provide grassy terrain, with water attacks bringing the rain with them. With the ability to use three of these moves before shrinking back down, I’m quite looking forward to seeing how people utilise it when the game launches. It has the potential for both setting up at the start and cleaning up at the end, with the added flexibility of not requiring the held item slot as Z Crystals did previously. Even without the complete National Dex available, I’m still wholeheartedly looking forward to these new releases.
The lights dimming for atmosphere, Luigi’s Mansion 3 was next to grace our screens, and all I can say is wow. After being disappointed by the second game I really wasn’t holding much hope. I was wrong, and I’m so happy to admit it. The demo taking you through a spooky medieval-themed floor, Luigi and squishy counterpart Gooigi bust ghosts and track down hidden treasure. It is an absolutely wonderful experience. Even in the limited rooms and corridors available to explore, there were secrets hidden in every crevice and behind every other wall. It was there for those who took the time to look a little closer as a reward whilst not feeling detrimental to the overall experience by simply walking past. It feels like the kind of game that can be enjoyed by any number of people, whether they just want to fight ghosts or look deeper for the fullest experience possible. I cannot wait for this to launch next year, and I really hope we get to see or play something more before the full game drops.
From an unexpected high to an unexpected low; Zelda disappointed me. To start with the positive, the game is stunning. To say it’s the best-looking game on the Switch would not be an understatement for me, every part of it comes together in such a way I struggle to describe, but apparently these effects come at a cost. With an inconsistent framerate and quite frankly putrid controls, I find myself at a crossroad. I want to love this game—I have a map of Koholint Island on my wall for crying out loud, but if these issues aren’t addressed by September, I simply cannot recommend it when a currently-superior Game Boy Color version is so widely available. To me, there is no justification for eight-directional controls within a 3D environment. What the game needs is the same fluidity presented by A Link Between Worlds, or at the very least to allow you to use the D-Pad if such a dated control scheme is insisted on. To those who have been following the game, or even to those who have had a chance to try it, I’d be interested to hear if my thoughts are shared.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 was up next, and this was my first real look at anything to do with it, and it came as a surprise to find it was a Team Ninja game. Playing through a level with three other people, we were introduced to a diverse cast of familiar faces and a system of progression that’s surprisingly in-depth and flexible when stacked up against Team Ninja’s Warriors titles. While it to me lacked the larger sense of refinement and responsivity I’ve come to appreciate from them, I can at least appreciate the potential on show. It’s a fun time best enjoyed by a group of four that likes Marvel characters and wants a good time. If you can get a party together, I have no doubt it’ll be a great game.
The last of the big titles on show, Mario and Sonic’s return to the Olympics was in every way as gimmicky and motion-controlled as you might expect, and I adore it for these traits. Pairing up for this game, we played through each of the five sports on offer: 100m Hurdles, Skateboarding, Surfing, Karate, and Archery. Each sport was brilliant in its own way; from the awkward running and almost punching the Nintendo rep behind me for the hurdles, to the incoherent swinging of the Joy Con for surfing, and everything in between. It was glorious fun that I’m incredibly sad I didn’t get filmed. Of course, if you aren’t up for some motion-controlled action, you can always play with buttons, but where’s the fun in that? I dragged my partner through each of these games motion controls and all, and that is the Mario and Sonic I know and love. I’d compare these games to Just Dance; you know what you’re buying, and you already know whether you’ll like it—one or two extra sports isn’t going to change that. If you can get on board with the madness and ever-beautiful chaos of the games, you’ll be in for a treat when it launches. If not, you can go appreciate the pictures of Eggman’s feet the game has blessed us with.
Before the day came to a close, there was one more major title to be shown: Astral Chain. Though we weren’t allowed to play for ourselves, or even take pictures, we got a pretty in-depth show of what the game had to offer. If I had to find a single word to describe the game, I could put it no simpler than “Platinum”. It is a game rich with their experiences and passions, blended with the unique chain mechanic and some detective work that felt reminiscent of Phoenix Wright himself. It was really cool to see the captured chimeras being used not only for combat, but for puzzle solving, for interacting with the environment, and even for listening in on conversations since normal people can’t see them! The creativity on show paired with the unique ideas and brilliant minds at PlatinumGames has me greatly looking forward to this, and knowing its release is so soon almost makes me weep for my wallet. If you’re on the edge with this one, I encourage you to check out the Treehouse Live recordings here and here to see the game’s director showing his skills.
Though the main event was over, we still had a little time left over to explore a few titles at our own leisure. Of the games on offer, it was the new Hollow Knight game that really captured my interest. It’s somewhat difficult for me to discuss this as a new game. Having not played the original, everything here felt fresh; everything felt fluid and fair. The game is fantastically fast paced pitting you against an assortment of enemies and platforming challenges to overcome, giving the same sense of learning and reward I feel from the Dark Souls series. Your moveset is limited to moving, jumping, dashing, attacking in each direction, and a divekick-type attack from midair. The controls were intuitive and introduced well, giving me time to get to grips with them before pitting me against more difficult foes. The bosses in particular stood out for their challenge and the satisfaction that comes with both losing to them and overcoming them. If nothing else I can say for certain I will be picking up the first game for the Switch in the near future, and I really encourage anybody reading to do the same in anticipation of what is to follow.
With this great day behind me, I’d like to thank Nintendo UK for their hospitality and for letting me get hands on with such fantastic titles. Are you looking forward to any of the games played? Any hot questions you want answering? Be sure to comment and I’ll try my best to help!