For decades, Nintendo has strived to create games - and its consoles - on its own terms. In the face of competition from Sony and Microsoft, it has never really played Ďfollow the leaderí. That attitude won it some victories with the Nintendo DS and Wii, but also proved to be problematic in the case of the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube.
Today, following astonishing success with the DS and Wii, it seems to be a trend to knock Nintendo for comparatively slump sales of 3DS and Wii U. The age-old mantra, ĎNever count Nintendo outí seems to have been lost on many, and calls for the company to leave the hardware business are being countered by a rather impressive turnaround of its stereoscopic handheld system.
The 3DS has gone from pricey curiosity to a handheld device no gamer can be without. Now all eyes are on Nintendoís tablet-heavy Wii U system, which will soon face intense pressure against Sonyís PlayStation 4 and Microsoftís Xbox One. Surely the house of Mario
canít perform the same revival on its home console as it just did with its portable?
Well, the key with the 3DSí turnaround was a renewed focus on quality games. Understanding this, Nintendo is priming the Wii U with a number of must-have titles - inferior graphical quality be damned - that are set to launch between Christmas and mid-2014.
At a post-E3 press event last week, I played some of the most exciting titles - including Wonderful 101
(2012 preview here
), Pikmin 3
(2012 preview here
) and Super Mario 3D World
) - and came out with the impression that Nintendo is going to come out swinging in Q4. As the old saying indeed goes, 'Donít count Nintendo out'.
The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD - October 2013
There arenít many games that I would happily play all over again in high definition. But Gamecube classic The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
was a title that was screaming for a remaster - the incredibly cute and enchanting art style of the original was arguably muted on early 2000s CRT televisions.
Although Nintendo has experienced a bit of turbulence when it comes to HD development, itís safe to say that its hard work getting to grips with higher resolutions is paying off. This is an example of a remaster done right - Wind Waker HD
looks absolutely stunning, with all the charm and character of the world (as well as Linkís cartoon expressions) all intact.
On the GamePad, it plays exceptionally well. I was able to roam around Linkís village island for a spell, before tackling the gameís first boss - both segments felt like I was experiencing the game for the first time. The touch screen is used to directly access maps and items, and the Tingle Tuner has been replaced with Bottles, which is essentially a version of Miiverse thatís baked into the game.
Best of all, you can press the Minus button on the GamePad at any time to seamlessly transition to off-TV mode, in case you want to take the game to bed or something, with touch-screen features accessible by pressing the Plus button. That one-button off-TV functionality is certainly a feature that should be implemented system-wide.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze - November 2013
Retro Studios did an amazing job of reviving the Donkey Kong Country
platform series for Wii a few years back, so naturally that opened the doors to a sequel on the Wii U. This was one of the surprises Nintendo announced at its E3 Direct broadcast, and although it crosses very familiar territory more Donkey Kong
is certainly not unwelcome.
Expect the same polygon-perfect platforming action across a number of brand new levels in Tropical Freeze
. As well as DK and Diddy, players will get the chance to control Dixie Kong once again too. The new dynamic camera adds some pizazz to the traditional barrel-hopping and mine-cart-leaping stages I played, and the ice stages look set to offer seasoned fans of the series with even more challenges. You can also tackle levels with a buddy now in a two-player co-op mode, which ended up being more fun than I imagined.
DuckTales: Remastered - Summer 2013
Capcom is bringing its WayForward-developed remake of the NES classic to PS3 and Xbox 360 too, but on a Nintendo platform it feels an awful lot like Scrooge McDuck is coming home. I played the Amazon and Transylvania stages of the game, and as a fan of the original game was pretty blown away at how faithful this HD update is.
While some elements have been removed or changed around - and a map screen allows players to better navigate the stages, which proves especially useful when trying to find coins in the Amazon - it is by and large identical to the NES game. Scrooge can cross perilous gaps by hopping on his cane, rocks can be thwacked to knock down levitating treasure chests, and you still have to find the right mirror to get to Cruella de Spell in Transylvania.
Although to can choose to skip them if you wish, the update comes with a bunch of exposition-spewing cutscenes. Normally, this would put off the core gamer wanting to get their thumbs stuck into the action, but with all the original DuckTales
cartoon voice actors on board itís absolutely impossible to complain. Itís charming and wonderful, and itíll be on Wii U consoles this Summer.
Sonic Lost World - Holiday 2013
on the Wii was the game that turned the blue blurís fortunes around, so it makes sense to see SEGAís mascot platformer appear as a Nintendo exclusive this time around. Seen as something of a Ďreinventioní of the Sonic franchise, Lost World
offers some new controls and play mechanics that mostly impress.
The biggest change is that you can now control Sonicís speed. You can run around at a brisk pace with the analogue stick, but with the LZ trigger you can charge up a Spin Dash. By holding the ZR trigger, Sonic dashes around in Super Peel Out mode.
This not only ensures you donít run off cliffs too quickly, but also offers the ability to maintain a playerís momentum if they just want to zip along stages as quickly as possible. If youíre holding the ZR trigger and come to a wall or a dead stop (like a tree), Sonic will perform parkour moves such as wall runs and tree climbs.
Itís not just the new moves that offer interesting new ways to play - levels have been redesigned in a way thatís reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy
. One stage takes the form of a long tube, with Sonic able to run around its circumference, gravity be damned. Depending on what side of the level you explore, you can access alternate routes and secret bonuses. Sonic Lost World
seems to be a promising addition to the Wii U when it lands this Autumn.
Mario Kart 8 - Spring 2014
A number of major Nintendo franchises will be supporting the Wii U in early 2014, and one of them is the long-awaited home console successor to Mario Kart 7
. In Mario Kart 8
, you can use the GamePad or a number of Wii Remote configurations to play, with either gyro or traditional controls.
The big draw here is in the gameís anti-gravity features. Youíre not just racing on a flat track anymore - courses can split into different directions, with some routes going on walls and ceilings. Getting to learn the track will allow you to understand which routes result in quicker lap times, and youíll have lots of fun exploring each avenue to see where they go.
Whatís most impressive is that it seems that Nintendo is finally taking Mario Kart seriously, from a visual perspective. These games have always been fun, but not necessarily very easy on the eye - trading visual fidelity for a focus on cartoon aesthetics. With Mario Kart 8
, it looks like Nintendoís realised that it can adopt that cartoon art style and make the game appear impressive at the same time.
Bayonetta 2 - 2014
Wow. If you thought that Platinum Games would have dialed back the crazy when making Bayonetta 2
a Wii U exclusive, think again. The charismatic witch has a new haircut, new set of guns and a new horde of demonic monsters to stylishly slam into the ground.
The short demonstration I played could only be described as Ďmanicí. Waves of pegasus-like enemies surround you, each with different attack patterns and stances, while colossal beasts give chase and rain multiple projectiles on the fighter jet that you seem to be fighting on. And yet, whilst playing, if youíre careful enough, you can just about get into a flow of attack, expertly dodging incoming blows to launch Witch Time (a mode that allows you to deal heavy counterattacks in slow motion) and activating gruelling QTE finishers.
This is the smoothest Iíve ever seen Bayonetta, and thatís a very good thing. After seeing your airborne ride get mangled up by an absolutely massive dragon-like hellhound (bent on tearing a nearby city apart), taking this stupidly-large beast head-on and feeling like an absolute boss while doing it, itís clear that Platinum has made itself right at home on Nintendo hardware.
Never mind what you think it might look like on PS4 or Xbox One - gameplay is king, and this brief demo shows that Bayonetta 2
on Wii U will be delivering this in buckets.