Events
Hands-On with Nintendo’s E3 Line Ups
Part 1

By Seán O'Sullivan - August 17th, 2014

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This past E3 saw each of the “big three” firing on all six cylinders to impress upon gamers that the best is yet to come; but Nintendo’s showing was particularly successful at changing the Wii U’s prognosis from more cynical gamers (enough that a poll of IGN’s readers showed the majority rated Nintendo as “winning E3″).

Nintendo recently invited Toronto Thumbs and other Canadian outlets to a post-E3 demo session, where multiple kiosks were available to showcase the big hitters coming this holiday season and beyond for Wii U and 3DS.

Super Smash Bros. for 3DS

Release Date: October 3 2014

Smash Bros. seems an unusual fit for 3DS, so I wasn’t sure what to expect; would it “feel” like Smash? Would I be able to follow the action? Would I miss a conventional controller? I’m happy to report that those basic questions were addressed within seconds of jumping into a 4-way battle against 3 computer-controlled opponents.

My muscle-memory from the GameCube and Wii versions returned instantly, and I had no trouble following my character throughout the chaos as I used power-ups, blocked against attacks, and threw items at my competitors with pixel-accuracy. I didn’t turn on the stereoscopic 3D, but I was pleased to notice that the action was speeding along at 60fps, which is certainly a hallmark of Smash Bros’ tight controls and instant feedback.

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KONG!

I took a spin on the 3DS exclusive “Smash Run” mode – which drops your character into a vast labyrinth and sets a 5 minute timer, and you’re free to explore in any direction, battling NPCs from a vast collection of Nintendo games and collecting the stat buffs that they drop. Stat progress is indicated on the bottom screen, and single-use items are available to get you out of a tight spot if you bite off more than you can chew – restoring health, causing screen-clearing beams of energy, or bestowing temporary invulnerability. This mode didn’t immediately click with me, since I wandered around aimlessly, but as the stats that carry into the bout that follows (which is available for up to 4 players) materially affect the flow of combat, I could see it being a tense, strategic affair between a group of players who know one another’s styles and attempt to maximize their pre-battle runs to gain advantages in combat.

Whatever about the new garnish that’s being added, the fact is that a console-quality Smash Bros. game is on its way to 3DS, and I can see it being an absolute monster at gaming conventions for the next few years, as attendees challenge one another to impromptu throw-downs.

Project Giant Robot

Release Date: N/A: Tech Demo

When a booth attendant asks you if you’d “like to play the new game from Mr Miyamoto?”, it’s an offer you can’t refuse. The man who influenced videogames more than any other person alive has made it his mission to justify the Wii U GamePad’s existence, so Project Giant Robot is a rare, early look at him exploring ideas.

This game casts the player as the pilot of a skyscraper-sized automaton, and the demo begins with a quick creation screen customizing the height, weight and depth of component pieces of the eponymous machine, all of which have a bearing on the in-game physics. The graphics are pleasingly colourful and chunky, and the game world and its components wouldn’t look out of place in a child’s toybox.

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An awkward -yet funny- face-off.

The controls in this game are unlike any that I’ve ever played. The TV shows the third-person view, and the GamePad acts as the cockpit view. L and R trigger the robot to walk backwards and forwards, respectively, the A button shoots frickin’ lazer beams (aimed by moving the GamePad in 3D space), the left and right analogue sticks extend the robot’s arms, and its torso is mapped to the GamePad’s gyro sensor. Brilliantly, this means that throwing a punch calls for rolling out the analogue stick while throwing your elbow to shunt the Gamepad and robot’s torso forward.

Depending on how you distributed the weight of the robot’s parts, just locomoting in a straight line can be a gratifying challenge. My first few sessions resulted in face-plants and pratfalls, often after agonizing attempts to right my creation as it began to lurch. The demo plays through five scenarios, from training on a stationary target, to fighting off multiple opponents. The way the controls, physics, and game-play conspire to make the gamer contort themselves is hilarious to player and spectator alike. Think of a game like Octodad, or Surgeon Simulator, that has a layer of absurd inelegance in the controls, but now involves the player’s entire body, and change the game=-play scenario to drunks fighting in slow motion.

It may be a novelty that wears off, but it’s a wacky, whimsical crowd-pleaser that no other system can offer, and I would happily buy it in its current form as a downloadable game if Nintendo doesn’t see fit to expand it into a full retail package.

Project Guard

Release: TBA 2015

Another proof of concept for the GamePad, this one casts the player as the security guard of a space station under siege from swarms of hostile robots. The TV displays a grid of camera viewpoints, and the GamePad is used to switch between them, granting access to the laser cannon mounted in the center.

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Project Guard.

It’s a game of frantic multitasking and twitch-reflexes, not to mention a great spectator sport, as extra pairs of eyes are invaluable for a game that requires this level of plate-spinning. Playing on normal difficulty, I initially found the pace a little pedestrian, but as the enemy variety and quantity increased, I began to see how this could have legs as an addictive tower-defense/high-score arcade hybrid.

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