E3 2015: Nintendo Press Conference Impressions

This E3, Nintendo remained committed to a pre-taped exhibition of its upcoming releases. I admit the arrangement suits Nintendo's quirky presentation style – this year featuring Satoru Iwata, Reggie Fils-Aime, and Shigeru Miyamoto puppets – and it avoids dead air should something go awry (take Uncharted 4's shaky gameplay start at Sony's conference for example).

The event began in command of Star Fox Zero for the Wii U. The prolonged demo projected air and ground warfare, including various Arwing forms. Morphing into a walker, tank, and hovercopter should help Fox defeat the myriad bosses, and a cockpit view on the GamePad’s screen will help when dialing in precision shots. Even so, Nintendo would be foolish to limit the Arwing’s targeting to the motion controls. I want to control Fox with decent analog sticks, man...

I would also prefer having Super Mario Maker in my hands sooner than later. Reggie reminded viewers we can share custom levels between friends, and incorporating every 2D generation of graphics into the editor tools always blows minds. Sadly content to postpone details for later, Reggie moved on to innovative amiibo news.

The fresh Bowser and Donkey Kong amiibos cross over into Skylanders SuperChargers this holiday, and all players need to do is rotate each figure’s base to switch their functions. Donkey Kong still throws barrels and Bowser orders around his koopas, but the latter, for example, can transform into Magma Bowser and breathe hot torrents of flames on the Skylanders’ enemies. Collectors should probably anticipate a shortage.

I suspect many people lack the friendship requirements to experience The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes to the fullest, too. Three 3DS owners (only one copy of the game is required, at least) can stack Links to form mobile totems and obtain items beyond reach. Middle Link gets the shaft as a result, since bottom Link moves about and the top Link throws or fires weapons. Outfits do factor into puzzle solving and boss fights, and some flaunt obvious advantages. A big bomb outfit generates explosives to clear bulkier obstacles. The loungewear is … cozier?

Moving on, I’ve heard of porting games to equally or more powerful platforms. Many remastered editions remain ports in essence. Going the opposite route, though? Hyrule Warriors Legends bundles all the DLC characters and core content from Hyrule Warriors on the Wii U, as well as forthcoming Wind Waker levels, then crams them onto a tiny 3DS cart. A great deal, yes, if you can stomach battles analogous to Dynasty Warriors.

Likewise, you need to be absurdly farsighted to look past Metroid Prime: Federation Force’s miserable visuals. I understand the 3DS is not a handheld powerhouse, but we have seen better graphics from Nintendo’s original DS, not to mention every Metroid Prime game. That glaring shortcoming aside, the four-player co-op engagements sound fun, should the developers not forget the cannon fodder and bosses essential to the Prime universe. Competitors with stable Internet access can partake in Metroid Prime: Blast Ball’s 3-on-3 minigame mode, which fuses soccer and other sports with a sci-fi theme. Pass.

Fire Emblem If unveiled its name, now called Fire Emblem: Fates, for North America. A trailer primarily consisted of in-game cinematics, where intricately dressed champions powered up and screamed while a blue-haired heroine walked into a lake and accepted death at the hooves of a flying deer beast. This Fire Emblem embraces weird, guys.

Somehow, Fates comes across as less freaky than Nintendo’s next game. Fire Emblem Shin Megami Tensei (yes, a team-up of the popular franchises) went thoroughly bonkers with a video of the game’s leading characters. The preview promoted a wealth of J-pop vocaloid singing and the protagonists dueling alongside their implied demons/personas/partners. Costumes suitable for combat and day-to-day activities appeared abundant as well. Although unclear how much the game borrows from Fire Emblem or Shin Megami Tensei, Wii U owners can find out in 2016.

Lunacy notwithstanding, Nintendo sustained a strong RPG presence. Xenoblade Chronicles X gradually layers on the narrative. The Earth is gone, obliterated by war. Humanity’s remnants board interstellar ships and leave their world behind, but one of the vessels maroons itself on a foreign planet. While the montage offered clips of stupidly large locales, indigenous animals, and the mechs the heroes pilot to bring monsters down, I cannot wrap my mind around the creature designs. Did I see spiked turtles on elephant legs, or a Brontosaurus adorned by the face of a hammerhead shark? There’s “crazy,” then there’s “JRPG crazy.”

Animal Crossing types of crazy exist, too. Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer makes you subservient to Tom Nook again, forced to fill the shoes of an architect and interior designer to manage Nook’s demanding clientele. Players construct, landscape, and furnish houses for the town’s residents, day in, day out, without respite, before eventually drowning themselves in the river behind Carrie the kangaroo’s shack. Okay, maybe the story setup is not that grim.

If you really want to draw blood, you blend Animal Crossing and Mario Party. Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival cashes in on the hot board game craze, though you need amiibos like Mabel or K.K. Slider to begin, not just a copy of the game. After purchasing whatever characters are not sold out online, players use their figures to travel around uneventful maps and happen upon events that award or subtract money, judging by the world premiere trailer. I noticed a lack of minigames, too, and unless Nintendo permits me to rob my challengers blind, I hesitate to say Amiibo Festival is a true Mario Party knockoff.

Nintendo strung together a segment for Yoshi’s Woolly World next. The developers evidently designed Yoshi and his surroundings to be as cute as possible. When Yoshi hovers in mid-air, his feet convert to a propeller. When he sprints, his legs become wheels. When Yoshi devours the scenery or his enemies, he slurps them up like spaghetti noodles. Should you activate an amiibo during play, say Mario or Samus, the game stitches Mario’s mustache or Samus’ visor to Yoshi’s giant snoz. Nintendo already hit high on the adorable scale following Kirby’s Epic Yarn, though I plead Yoshi’s Woolly World boasts the secrets to match.

Now for a game outside my wheelhouse, Level-5 presented a longer glimpse at the first localized Yo-kai Watch to touch North American shores. I hear Yo-kai Watch and Pokémon share similar traits, such as catching innumerable creatures and using them to fight. Although that’d leave me less impaired than people reviewing Yo-kai Watch raw, consider my curiosity quelled if all Yo-kai speak in grating tones.

I am inclined to check out Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam instead. Based on Paper Luigi’s absence in the gameplay mishmash shown, the plot likely involves rescuing him, and the combined powers of Paper Mario, 3D Mario, and 3D Luigi must do so. Worlds collide here, whether that means hammering the crap out of Koopa Troopas with Paper Mario’s mallet or blasting hulking 2D Goombas while riding a papercraft Mario. Although Paper Jam’s debut depicted a heavier influence from Paper Mario than traditional Super Mario Bros., I foresee more than mere platforming by the three-dimensional plumbers.

Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash failed to convey if it possesses additional gimmicks. Mario and Peach grew larger during the match, fueling power shots that sent their rivals reeling. Is that it? Is Nintendo shipping the same back-and-forth tennis tournaments already available on previous hardware? Vibrant visuals only hold fans over for so long.

At least Nintendo’s masterminds exposed the brilliance behind Super Mario Maker. Miyamoto specified the archaic methods he and the developers applied when shaping Super Mario Bros., like sketching each level’s layout on graph paper. Super Mario Maker streamlines originality. It allows for split-second feedback – the pros and cons of riding clouds while hurling fireballs at a stack of Goombas, for instance. You can edit on the fly, altering the art, enemy composition, or power-up placements, rather than restarting the creative process from scratch. Builders may then let their inventions loose on the world, inspiring or challenging random strangers to best their handiwork. This September, Mario’s past and future is in the player’s hands.

Near-universal praise for Super Mario Maker would not shock me going forward, whereas Nintendo’s digital event suggested another polarizing E3. I witnessed a lot to hate or love, too. I have been keeping tabs on Xenoblade Chronicles X and Fire Emblem: Fates for months, given my fondness for RPGs. I care not for the Mario nostalgia that super fans cherish, and yet I will become the guy that makes unwinnable Super Mario Maker maps. If I got amped about Animal Crossing or The Legend of Zelda, Nintendo’s production may have ranked higher, not at a crossroads where it currently resides.  

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