E3 impressions: 3DS bonanza

So Nintendo’s big E3 attraction is, of course, the Wii U. But that’s no excuse to avoid a little quality time with their upcoming efforts for their already-released hotness: the 3DS. The Big N had more than a couple games on their show floor, so here are some impressions of some of their first-party outings on display.

Super Mario

So far the title says it all. It’s Mario doing his thing: running, jumping on Bowser’s minions, platforming, going down pipes, and all that other whimsical plumber fantasy stuff. Fans of the old school will be pleased to know that the Tanuki suit is making a return, giving you the chance to slow your falls and thwack goombas with your raccoon tail. In fact, old school fans will be pleased to know that almost everything is as it ever was. All but one thing: the camera angles are a little different. I noticed a lot of bird’s eye viewpoints in the level I played, and I can only guess it’s to make the 3D pop out a little more, but it could be more than that. One room revealed hidden coins once I reached a certain block that was higher up than all the others. It leads me to think that maybe this camera angle will lead to some interesting level design that the 3D will just make into something absolutely wild. I’m imagining M.C. Escher-influenced Mario action.

Star Fox 64 3D

Star Fox is known for two things: great shooting action from a space vessel, and “Do a barrel roll!” Both are in solid working order in this remake of an N64 classic. For anyone who hasn’t played a game in the series, you pilot what’s called an Arwing and protect the galaxy from an evil scientist named Andross. You shoot lasers, have squad mates, and yes, do barrel rolls. It’s all good fun, and now it’s in 3D. To boot, you’re able to steer your ship with the gyroscopic sensors in the 3DS. It actually proves fun, but after a while I went right back to the analog stick for familiarity and added precision.

This game will also sport a multiplayer mode that uses the camera, showing off the facial expressions of your opponents as they kill you, get killed, or even when they start to chase someone. A little personal embarrassment always adds some color to a multiplayer match.

Mario Kart

Again, you know the drill. All the characters from the Mario franchise butt heads in some of the most extreme and intense matches of go kart racing you ever did see. Gain power ups like red turtle shells to home in on a leading opponent and hamper their progress, drop a banana to keep stragglers in the back, etc. Not much new to report with this game, but there are some new developments on the carts themselves. They can now ride underwater, and pop out hang gliders to keep the midair jumps going a little longer. Oh, and it’s in 3D. From my brief time, it looks like another solid throwback to solid gameplay.

Kid Icarus Multiplayer

Nintendo has a long tradition of unusual multiplayer gaming. From some minigame silliness in Mario Party to some odd buddy combat in Mario Kart Double Dash, it can never be… regular. With Kid Icarus, they’re now doing a take on deathmatch. As such, this one will take a little longer to explain.

The game plays from third-person, over the shoulder. At the start you choose from a set of weapons including a sword, a bow, a canon, and others in between. Each have their pros and cons. I wanted to cause massive mayhem, and thus went with the canon. It was indeed big, but it also slow. More nimble players worked me over thoroughly with a STAFF. Sure, I had a big gun and I could take someone out fast, but the slow to fire, bouncy canon balls were just a bit too unwieldy for my tastes.. And for someone just learning the controls it was probably a bad choice.

Those controls actually work a lot like, believe it or not, an iPhone. To turn, you flick with the stylus in the direction you want your angel avatar to turn, and he’ll act accordingly, gradually slowing down until stopping completely. Another tap can stop the turn short, and holding the stylus down gets you aiming. L button fires, and the analog stick moves. Choosing between aiming and turning with the stylus is a little weird, but it doesn’t slow the action down.

The matches are 3 on 3 affairs where the first team to kill the main angel, who is also the most powerful and hardest to bring down, wins. Like any deathmatch game, the action is frantic and nonstop. The map was basically an open arena save for one valley and a couple pillars that could be used for cover. There was rarely a moment where I wasn’t trying to dodge SOMETHING or shoot SOMEONE. This is overall good, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed trying to figure everything out.

It would take more time than I was given to get a fair opinion of the game, but what I played had lots of potential, and certainly a few laughs among friends.

Takeaway

I used the word “solid” a lot in my impressions, and that seems to be the route Nintendo is taking with these first-party entries. They’re solid, play-it-safe retreads, if not straight remakes, that will sell well and show us all a good time or two. Obviously, Kid Icarus is an exception since it’s been two decades since the original released. I admit I’m more curious about that game since we’re seeing Nintendo do something new, but that doesn’t mean I have qualms about playing a new Mario game, either. ┬áNot. At. All.

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