Nintendo for the Ho-Ho-Holidays
Pokémon, Mario Party, Yo-kai Watch, and Paper Mario—these are just some of the beloved Nintendo series making their way to Nintendo 3DS and Wii U this holiday season. At Nintendo’s annual media preview event in Toronto (this year called “A Very Nintendo Holiday Celebration”), I had the opportunity to go hands-on with many of the company’s hottest games releasing this fall, and enjoy fun, festival Nintendo-themed snacks, too (yum!) Mario himself even showed up for the festivities, and of course I couldn’t resist posing for a photo with my favourite Italian plumber!
For more than 30 years, Nintendo has been celebrating the holidays with a fantastic lineup of fun, family-friendly video games to enjoy with those we love. This year is no exception with big name titles like Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun, Mario Party Star Rush, Paper Mario Color Splash, and more all releasing before the holidays. There’s nothing like kicking back and relaxing during the break with your favourite Nintendo games, whether that’s discovering new Yo-kai in Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits or Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls, or creating your own personalized Mario levels in Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS. During the Nintendo holiday media preview event, I had the chance to play all of these games, and walked away extremely impressed with what Nintendo has in store for gamers this year. Let’s take a closer look!
Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun
The first games I dashed over to play were Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun, two titles I’ve been excited to try out ever since they were announced via a Nintendo Direct video on February 26th. The demo I played was the same “Special Demo Version” available now for download in the Nintendo eShop, which I didn’t mind at all since I’ve been too immersed in other Nintendo-published games the last few weeks (hint: Yo-kai Watch 2 and Dragon Quest VII) to give it a go. The great news is this demo is available to everyone, so if you want to see what the new Pokémon games are all about, this is your chance!
In this roughly 45-minute demo, you play as a young character named Sun who has just moved to Hau’oli City in the Alola region, an all-new archipelago area introduced in Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun. Immediately I noticed the beautiful, colourful, and vibrant scenery of Hau’oli City, which looks quite a bit more detailed than in previous games. This gorgeous esthetic extends to the interior of buildings as well, where you’ll find many more smaller touches from a variety of colourful posters on the walls, to small trinkets decorating tables and desks. The cutscenes are extremely well done too, easily rivaling the quality of Pokémon anime, and the charming, orchestral score is as wonderful as it’s ever been.
Over the course of the demo, I had the chance to use a couple of Pokémon (specifically, Greninja and Pikachu) in battle, and check out some of the cool new battle mechanics like Z-Moves and Battle Bond. Z-Moves are special, extremely powerful attacks that can be used only once per battle, and the one I had Pikachu unleash—Gigavolt Havoc—sent a massive lightning bolt that obliterated my opponent in one fell swoop. Battle Bond was an ability Greninja possessed, and this turns him into the more powerful Ash-Greninja with higher stats and a stronger Water Shuriken attack. Transformation seems like a huge theme in Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun, as the demo also introduced me to a Totem Pokémon boss (Totem Hakamo-o), which are larger versions of Pokémon surrounded by a special aura.
Overall, I had a blast with the Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun demo, and I can’t wait to sink in much, much more time into the final games.
Mario Party Star Rush
I love Mario Party, but after playing a dozen or so entries offering only slight variations on the classic turn-based formula, this franchise was in need of change. Mario Party Star Rush does just that, forgoing the turn system all together and now it’s always your time to move. The mode I tried was called “Toad Scramble,” and allows up to four players to roll a die (concurrently) and simultaneously move along the game board. Levels contain ? Blocks that reward you with power-ups to give you an advantage, or hinder your opponents, and you can also collect individual coins placed on squares. Bosses will appear, one at a time around the game board, offering up valuable Stars needed for victory. At the end of each game, every 10 coins you collect will be converted to 1 Star, and whoever has the most Stars wins.
The change to making it always your turn certainly quickens the pace and it feels more strategic since you have to anticipate other players’ moves every round. I also really liked how you can team up with multiple characters—like Daisy, Waluigi, Yoshi, and Mario—who will add their die roll to yours (thereby allowing you to move farther), and they also help you out during the all-crucial boss battles. Mario Party Star Rush offers Local Wireless multiplayer (each person has their own 3DS and copy of the game), and Download Play (everyone must have a 3DS, but only one game copy is required), giving you two different multiplayer options. In addition to Toad Scramble, the final game will include additional game modes to play. Look for a full review soon on the blog!
Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS
Last year, I gave Super Mario Maker for Wii U a 95%, praising the game for its intuitive creation tools that gives you incredible freedom to design your very own dream Super Mario levels. At the holiday event, I had the opportunity to test out Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS, a portable version that appears just as robust as its console counterpart. Levels can be created using a variety of themes, ranging from classic 8-bit Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Bros. 3 styles, to a 16-bit Super Mario World presentation, and a modern New Super Mario Bros. U esthetic. Nearly all the editing tools from the Wii U version are present as well, as are most of the course elements, including Pipes, ? Blocks, Goombas, Koopa Troopas, Coins, Super Mushrooms, Super Stars, and dozens more.
The 3DS version is perhaps even more intuitive than it predecessor thanks to the dual screen that enables you to edit on the lower screen and immediately see the changes on the upper screen. The Wii U version used two screens (your Wii U GamePad and your TV screen), but that combination has never been as user-friendly as the 3DS setup where both screens can be viewed at exactly the same time. I was happy to learn that Super Mario Maker for 3DS will contain 100 built-in courses designed by Nintendo, and you’ll also be able to download select Super Mario Maker courses already created for the Wii U version.
Considering how slick the Super Mario Maker demo was, and that the Wii U version is one of my favourite games ever released on the console, I have high hopes that the 3DS version is going to knock it out of the park.
Paper Mario Color Splash
The last demo I tried was Paper Mario Color Splash for Wii U, the latest entry in the series developed by Intelligent Systems. Continuing the trend set by 2012’s Paper Mario: Sticker Star for 3DS, Color Splash moves further away from its RPG roots with more platforming and action-oriented gameplay than ever before. In the 15-minute demo, I spent a lot of my time using Mario’s new Paint Hammer to restore areas on Prism Island drained of their colour (amusing sucked away by mischievous Shy Guys using straws.) Painting these black and white spots will reward you with coins and Battle Cards used in combat.
Like Paper Mario: Sticker Star, coming in contact with enemies will initiate a battle, and to gain the first-hit advantage, you can bop the enemy on the head prior to combat. The turn-based battles take place on a separate battle screen, and here you’ll select from various cards in your deck, including Shoes that cause Paper Mario to repeatedly bounce on enemies heads dealing damage, and a Hammer where Paper Mario will draw back and unleash a big thwack on the enemy’s noggin. You can also “colour” your cards to power them up using your paint reserve, which will result in the attack dishing out greater damage.
While it may not be the old-school Paper Mario RPG adventure some fans have been yearning for, personally I had a lot of fun with this action-focused demo and it definitely made me want to see what else the game has to offer. The graphics were very crisp and colourful, the characters and dialogue were as charming as ever, and the Battle Card system holds a lot of promise. Stay tuned for a full of review of Paper Mario Color Splash on the blog soon!
Nintendo holiday event – in summary
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding Nintendo’s upcoming Switch console, but as this holiday preview event proved: Nintendo still has a lot in store for current fans of Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. Other games at the event included Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Yo-kai Watch 2: Fleshy Souls, Style Savvy: Fashion Forward, Minecraft Wii U Edition, Just Dance 2017, and Nintendo eShop downloadable games Axiom Verge and Fast Racing Neo (two older, but excellent, not-to-miss eShop games.) Pokémon Moon and Pokémon Sun are virtually guaranteed to be smash hits, given the series’ enormous fan base and how promising these two new games are (not to mention how much Pokémon Go has ignited even more interest), however there are plenty of other great titles Nintendo has in the pipeline.
Whether you’re a Nintendo 3DS fan, Wii U fan, or both, a lot of great experiences await you this holiday season!