It is the Nintendo handheld's turn
Tue, 31 May 2005
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Iâve been reading the press releases, checking info on the web, staring at the screenshots and downloading the video, all in the name of giving my opinion regarding some of the games of E3, despite the fact that I wasnât even there!
Anyway, part one was the games for Sonyâs PSP and part 2 was about the titles for Gamecube. This third instalment covers the software for both of Nintendoâs handheld systems. The first half is about the DS games and below that youâll find info on the Game Boy Advance/Micro games.
I think it is fair to say that the launch titles for DS, while not bad, were a little underwhelming. Mario 64 was the only truly excellent one amongst them and that game, despite all the cool additions, is essentially a remake. I believe that situation will be well and truly amended once some of these games from E3 start hitting the shelves. The system looks ready to really come into its own, if these babies are any indication.
New Super Mario Bros. (working title):
You have no idea how much I am looking forward to this game. A brand new 2D Mario platform game! Just typing that sentence is enough to put a stupid (even stupider than usual) grin on my kisser. I have literally been waiting years for just such a game. There were only a couple of levels playable at E3, so obviously the game has a bit of a way to go before it is ready for release. But already it is clear that this game is travelling steadily along the path to greatness.
The graphics of New Super Mario Bros. are absolutely fantastic, especially when you see it moving. It has a great mix of the look of the old and new Mario adventures. The game is not strictly 2D, since the graphics are mostly constructed in 3D polygonal form, but this is mainly used to give the world a more âsolidâ appearance, for the most part it still strongly resembles the âclassicâ Mario visuals. There are areas reminiscent of pretty much every Mario platform game ever made and they all look extremely sharp, colourful and stylish.
The gameplay uses the traditional 2D left to right (or vice versa if you want to explore) run and jump, goomba squashing action. All the things that help make a Mario platformer tick look to be included: Warp pipes, platforms constructed of toadstools, that pesky cloud riding son of a bitch Lakitu and power-up blocks galore. Mario hasnât forgotten any of his newer moves either; heâll be able to punch and kick some koopa troopa arse, back flip and wall jump to his Italian heartâs content.
There will be plenty of brand new things included in the game as well. The screenshots and footage indicate that Luigi will be featured in a big way. The two brothers are often on-screen at the same time and theyâll be required to work together to overcome various obstacles. This aspect is reminiscent of the awesome game Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. There are some very cool new power-ups too. One of them is a mushroom that grows larger when you jump under it, effectively âpumping it upâ. The bigger the âshroom gets the bigger Mazza will become when he consumes it. At âfully pumpedâ size the mushroom will make Mario almost full screen in height! While heâs in his giant form he can easily dispose of smaller enemies, crash straight through virtually anything in his path and take on some of the more imposing villains on much more even terms. Donât get too cocky though; the bad guys are now able to use the power-ups too!
The dual screens of the DS will be used in a few ways. Firstly, while the action is taking place on the top screen you can store up to four power-ups which will be displayed on the bottom. Just touch the item on the touch screen and bingo! Itâll pop up to the top ready for use. Another way the two screens are used is the pipes you can enter, which put you into underground levels and switch to a lower screen display.
New Super Mario Bros. (or whatever the game is called when it comes out) looks like it is going to be amazing. Iâd go as far as saying that this is the first real âmust haveâ DS game. I just canât wait to get my hands on this one!
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga 2:
Developer: Alpha Dream
I just mentioned how Superstar Saga on the GBA was a great game, so it is good to know that thereâs another one on the way, this time on the DS. Thereâs practically no info available on this one yet. It looks much like the last game, only the graphics have obviously improved on the more powerful hardware. It seems that the dual screens will be a big feature of the game too, with the action often taking place on them both at once. If I knew more about it Iâd be happy to tell you, but thatâs about all I have to go on at this stage. I think it is quite reasonable to assume it will be another brilliant game though. Nintendo hasnât released a bad Mario RPG yet and it is highly unlikely theyâd start now.
Developer: Sonic Team
Raise your hand if you love Sonic. Okay, anyone who didnât put their hand up can f*ck off. Just kidding, you can stick aroundâŚheathen. In my opinion, Sonic canât quite match up to Mario (in fact Link and Samus are about the only characters that can manage that) but he still rocks. If Sonic Rush lives up to its full potential it could well be one of the spiky blue speed demonâs best games ever.
For all intents and purposes Sonic Rush is pretty much just like any of the other 2D platformers that have come before. What makes this one a little more fresh and interesting is the fact that the gameplay implements both of the DS screens at once. This should add plenty of depth (or maybe I should say height) to the action and allow for some fun twists and clever level design.
Thereâs a new character included called Blaze the Cat. Thatâs right; a joint toking jazz musician. Nah, Blaze is a female feline and she will have separate levels of her own in the game. Apparently those levels were not playable at E3 though.
Graphically, Sonic Rush is shaping up very nicely. Very crisp and boldly coloured, the game looks much like a fully playable Sonic cartoon. I am glad to see Sonic looking so good on the DS and starring in a game with some novel new elements to it.
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow:
Why do these Castlevania games always have titles that sound like something from a poem written by a 13 year old goth kid? Well, I guess it doesnât matter what theyâre called if the games are really goodâŚand they often are. Dawn of Sorrow looks like it will be a good one too.
Thereâs going to be plenty of touching going on with this one. You have to draw mystical symbols to open doors and help destroy the level bosses and stuff like that. It doesnât sound all that thrilling to me, but weâll just wait and see. It will probably be more interesting in practise and making some use of the touch screen certainly wonât hurt the game. The top screen is used to display a map, which should be quite handy in some of the more complex areas.
The graphics are 2D and it looks like the GBA Castlevania games, onlyâŚumm, better. Those games already looked pretty sweet (when you could actually see them at least) so that just goes to show how nice the appearance of Dawn of Sorrow is. It is a very stylish looking game indeed, the character animation has been taken up a notch or two and some of the creatively designed enemies look highly impressive.
If you have played any Castlevania titles, especially the GBA ones, you should have a good idea what this game is going to be like. With the improved graphics and some new touch-related shenanigans, Dawn of Sorrow looks very promising so far.
Ever wanted a dog that remained both permanently a puppy and encased in a box? If so, youâre kind of a sick freak. But youâre also in luck, because Nintendo is making your wish come true. Nintendogs is a virtual pet game, you get yourself a puppy, feed and play games with it using the touch screen, talk to it and give it commands using the DS microphone and ummâŚthatâs about it really. Well, there is a bit more to it than that and thereâs no doubting it uses the unique features of the DS in some imaginative ways (the buttons are not used at all), but essentially Nintendogs is just a more advanced version of the old âTamagotchiâ virtual pets that were all the rage several years back.
I believe the game has already been released in Japan. It comes in three volumes, kind of like the Pokemon games; theyâre all identical except that you have different breeds of dogs available from the start in each version (you have to unlock, or trade to access the others). The graphics are very good, for what they are, as the little pooches look and move in a highly realistic and believable manner. So, despite them being no more ârealâ than the breasts in a porn movie, it would be quite easy to get rather attached to them. However, unlike those Tamagotchi things, if you forget to feed the dog or whatever in this game it will not die. So no idiots will have to commit suicide out of the despair brought on by âkillingâ a thing that was never alive in the first place. I remember reading stories of people offing themselves over their Tamagotchi games and, if it is true, that is very sad and also incredibly stupid.
You can teach your dog tricks via voice command and have him (or her) play with other DS ownerâs mutts using the DS wireless connectivity. It all sounds quite charming and cute. If you want to be serious about it, you could say that it is all a colossally silly waste of time. But then again, some people would tell you the same about any video-game. What Nintendogs has going in its favour is the possibility that it will be appealing to ânon-gamersâ. So if youâre trying to enjoy a game either on your own or with your mates and you have a non-gaming âsignificant otherâ who complains that he/she is bored, just hand âem a DS with a copy of Nintendogs. Hopefully theyâll get sucked in enough to leave you alone.
Of course, having said all of that, I will probably play this thing and end up getting totally hooked on it myself. Oh well, Iâm a sucker for animals, even digital ones. But if the game expects me to clean up digital pooâŚIâll know Nintendo just wanted to make a fool out of everyone.
Viewtiful Joe DS (working title):
Its all too ViewtifulâŚRight on. I love the Joe and his DS adventure is looking exceptional. Graphically the game is nearly as impressive and funky as the PS2/Gamecube versions and the gameplay has some twists to it that are unique to the DS format. Thatâs right kids; Joe is set to do some touching.
VJ DS is the same kind of fast paced, action packed 2D beat-âem-up/platformer as his previous titles, only this one has added the use of both DS screens and a variety of interactive environments. You can use the touch screen to do stuff like sucking things up with a vacuum and spraying things with water. It all looks quite seamless as to how it has been integrated into the game too. So, rather than distract from the fighting and jumping aspects of the game, it should just add some depth and variety to the proceedings.
Viewtiful Joe fans will definitely want to keep an eye on this one; with those extra features Capcom has planned, which can only be done on Nintendoâs two screened handheld, the DS game might end up being the best instalment in the series.
Mario Kart DS:
You might have heard of this one. Every time I see Mario Kart DS it has improved in some way. The game just keeps looking better and better, so I suspect it will be an absolute beauty when it finally hits the shelves. I said New Super Mario Bros. was the first real âmust haveâ DS title, but I believe that, unless something goes horribly wrong between now and release (which is very unlikely), Mario Kart will belong in that category as well.
Iâm not entirely sure exactly what use is made of the DS touch screen, but I imagine youâll have the option of steering either with a stylus or the directional pad. I do know that Mario Kart DS shows a real time 3D map of the track on the bottom screen during a race. This should be handy for knowing where your opponents are at all timesâŚ if you can find the chance to take your eyes off the âroadâ that is.
While probably not quite up to the standard of Double Dash on the Gamecube, Mario Kart DS has excellent visuals. The graphics are beyond both the N64 and GBA Mario Kart games (and I consider the visual designs, of the GBA game in particular, to be excellent). There are plenty of things, such as the details packed into the backgrounds and the numerous animations of the drivers themselves, that help bring it all to life in the way gamers expect from the series. It never gets too cluttered though; everything remains clear and easy to see at all times. Also of utmost importance is that the frame rate is consistently rock solid and the sense of speed is not at all lacking.
Of course the main thing is the game should be fun to play. Mario Kart DS doesnât look as though it will disappoint in the slightest in that department. It has the usual cast of characters, with their individual strengths and weaknesses, so you can find which driver best suits your style (Iâve always been a Wario guy myself). The track designs look as original and amusing as ever. All the weapons and items will be included and probably some new ones will be added into the mix. The handling looks to be a great balance between all the slightly different styles the different games in the series have used. Just in case you were wondering, the interchangeable âtwo drivers in the one kartâ aspect from Double Dash will not be used in this instalment.
The feature of the game that Nintendo has been pushing the most is the multi-player component. Supposedly the game will have full Wi-Fi support so that you can play it against human opponents all around the world over the internet. On top of that you can play against your mates, without the need for link cables, even if they donât have a copy of the cartridge of their own. They can just download the game from your copy onto their DS and join in on the action. This all sounds pretty damn sweet if you ask me.
I love the Mario Kart games and Iâve seen nothing to lead me to believe Iâm not going to love the DS version. A guy with a mushroom for a head driving a go-kart, pulling off an insane powerslide after shooting a gorilla in the arse with a turtle shell; thatâs what gaming is all about! Keep on bringing us the fun Nintendo and I will keep on playing them.
Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime Pinball:
Most every DS owner has played the demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, as it came packed in with the system. That little demo wasnât really much; it was a case of âat least it is better than nothingâ. Rest assured true believers, the game has WAY more to it than that demo showed. It also already looks much better too, the graphics have been improved to the point that it now looks amazingly close to the beautiful Gamecube versions.
As with Mario Kart DS, Nintendo were really pushing the multi-player side of the game at E3. One thing that I found interesting is that thereâll be a variety of bounty hunters to play as, so weâll have to wait and see if they are tied into the Metroid universe in any way in the single player mode. Perhaps because of how the multi-player side of Hunters was Nintendoâs main focus at the show, there arenât really many new details about the single player adventure. But expect a pretty strong plot to the game and gameplay similar to the Gamecube titles, using the touch screen to look around, as you would a mouse in a PC FPS.
Samus fans should also be interested to know that there is another Metroid game headed to the DS, only this one is a little (actually a lot) different. It is called Metroid Prime Pinball and it is a pinball game (I know, the title is a dead give away) with Samus, mostly in her morph-ball form, bouncing about all over the shop. It looks very nice too and should be really good fun. Pinball games often work really well on handhelds and this one has excellent graphics, good control, dual screen display and a bunch of cool little additions to the genre.
Both the DS Metroid games seem to be right on target and I wonât be at all shocked if they end up being highly successful. The more Metroid the merrier I say.
Some of the other Nintendo DS games from E3: Ultimate Spider-Man, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, GoldenEye: Rogue Agent, Animal Crossing DS, Advance Wars: Dual Strike and a whole heap of others.
The DS is in great shape. The system has already sold very well indeed and, with the games that are on the way for it, should continue to sell and hold its own even against the might of Sony and their PSP. I actually thought the line-up of games for the DS was slightly more impressive than what was being shown for the PSP (and believe me, there are a bunch of games for that system that impressed me greatly too). The DS games are just that bit more refreshing and unusual. Even though I listed mostly first party Nintendo games here, there was still plenty of support for the system from 3rd party publishers. It is just that Nintendo was really making the most of the capabilities of the DS andâŚwell, Nintendo just have a habit of making really great games.
|Judge me by my size do you? |
GBA/Micro: The big N hasnât forgotten their other handheld system either. The GBA is still alive and well, especially with the announcement of a new tiny model called Micro and, of course the fact that the DS can also play GBA software. Letâs take a look at some of the titles E3 had on offer for the little bugger.
Are you one of those âmatureâ gamers? You know the ones who would never think of playing a âkiddieâ game that has bright colours and cute characters? If you are, you will probably want no part of this one. But, Iâll tell you now that youâll be missing out on heaps of fun and alsoâŚsorry to break it to you, but youâre probably a bit of a wanker. Not playing a game because kids might also be able to enjoy it, or your mates at school (many of these types are actually pretty young themselves, which makes the âmatureâ part even funnier to me) say it isnât cool, does not make you mature, it makes you insecure or narrow minded. I like violence, swearing and titties as much as the next bloke, but I donât think they are essential components necessary to make a game worth playing. Now that Iâve gotten that mini-rant about one of my pet peeves over with, letâs get back to discussing the game!
Since he first appeared in Super Mario World, Yoshi has starred in some wonderful games, most notably the classic Yoshiâs Island. Therefore I will always have a soft spot for the little dinosaur and take interest in any title he is featured in. Topsy-Turvy uses a tilt-sensor that is built into the cartridge, first seen in (to the best of my knowledge) Kirby Tilt ânâ Tumble on the Game Boy Color. The device was also used in the latest WarioWare GBA game which is called WarioWare: Twisted; I havenât played it yet but Iâm told it is a beauty. Anyway, what the tilt-sensor does is, when you move your GBA (or DS), the sensor responds accordingly and you can literally control the action by tilting back and forth and in different directions.
The graphics look terrific, great use of colour, all done in that unmistakable Nintendo style. Yoshi Topsy Turvy seems to be a bit of mixture of a traditional platform game with some puzzle game elements. The tilting aspect should help this one stand out and Iâm looking forward to seeing the different ways it gets used throughout the game.
Turbo Turtle Adventure:
Publisher: Majesco Games
Developer: Iridion Interactive
I watched a short demo movie of this game in action and it appears to be another tilt-sensor game in a similar vein to the one above. Aside from that, I donât really know anything about it all. I just wanted to mention it, because right away, just the fact that it is called Turbo Turtle Adventure means it gets a few points from me.
Gumby vs. the Astrobots:
Developer: Namco America
Okay, I will let you label this one a âkiddie gameâ without getting on my high horse and calling you names, because that really is exactly what it is and what Namco America intended it to be. I just like Gumby because heâs made of clay and he slides around and stuff. UmmâŚyeah.
This is a fairly nice looking little platform game, with all the Gumby crew included. If you have kids or younger siblings this game would likely be an ideal way to keep them amused for a while. Then you can have a go at it yourself, when theyâre sleeping or something and probably have a reasonable bit of fun. It isnât going to be any kind of mind-blowing experience of course, but it looks quite good for what it is.
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Developer: SNK Playmore
This one is for Mugwai (and any other Metal Slug fans too of course). The GBA has already played host to Metal Slug Advance, which was an original Metal Slug game made especially for the system. Now thereâs an arcade perfect (or as close to that as is possible on the hardware) port of the original Neo Geo Metal Slug on the way.
For those unfamiliar with the Metal Slug series, think of it as being pretty close to the old-school Contra games. If you donât know the Contra gamesâŚI give up. Nah, Iâll explain further. Theyâre basically 2D hardcore shooters except rather than being in some kind of spaceship you control a little soldier (I don't mean that as some kind of penis reference) and you run along collecting all sorts of whacky power ups while firing constantly at the literally thousands of enemies that fill the screen. Thereâs some platforming aspects to the games as well as you need to run and jump quite often to negotiate the levels. You also get to take control of various vehicles throughout the game, such as tanks, which boast stronger fire power than the regular guns. The games use a very distinctive graphical presentation which is very cartoonish and exaggerated. Theyâre also well known (to fans at least) for their silly sense of humour, with things such as your character getting fat and slow if you eat too much of the health replenishing food and some rather bizarre enemies and power-ups. Oh yeah, they are also REALLY freaking hard and unless you have Jedi powers you will be dying an awful lot when you play them. Constant frantic action, all kinds of wackiness, a stupidly high level of challenge and a large dose of fun; that about sums it up.
These kinds of games are pretty well suited to portable gaming, except that sometimes it can be hard to keep track of all the action on a smaller screen. But the nature of the gameplay is ideal for relatively short bursts of playing time. It hasnât been announced yet whether or not the game will include two-player link support, but everything else from the arcade game seems to be here and looking good. There will be plenty of great shooting action here for those who enjoy that kind of thing. I do like that kind of thing and (as I mentioned) so does Mugwai, so that might just be two copies of this game sold already. Donât bust out the champagne bottles just yet SNK, but at least thatâs a start!
Gunstar Super Heroes:
Treasureâs Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis/Megadrive is a legendary âclassicâ game that many hardcore game geeks rave about constantly. Unfortunately I have never played it, so I canât tell you if it lives up to the hype. However, now that there is a sequel on the way for the Game Boy Advance I should finally get a chance to see just what all the fuss is about.
As far as I can tell this game sticks pretty close to the formula of the original but, if that game is even half as good as many people claim it is, that should work out just fine. The gameplay looks to be pretty similar to the Metal Slug games I was just talking about actually. Though the platform aspect seems a bit more prominent in Gunstar, so maybe it more closely resembles Capcomâs Mega Man games. Basically you run, jump and shoot things. But the game supposedly is more varied than that description would lead you to believe and from all reports the gameplay is extremely fun and addictive.
The screenshots Iâve seen show that the game has an impressive look, it has a fairly âclassic 16 Bit styleâ going on, but at the same time there are some more âmodernâ effects included too. The levels shown in the screens indicate plenty of visual variety and some of the enemies look very creative.
For all those crazy hardcore fans I mentioned, Gunstar Super Heroes has a lot to live up to. I am really keen to find out why the game is so fondly admired. If you do purchase this one Iâd suggest holding onto it (and if you have the original you should definitely hold onto that!). You see, I remember reading that despite not being a particularly rare cartridge (there were plenty of copies published apparently), the Megadrive game goes for some ridiculously high prices on EBay. So play this one and you should have a great time with it, and then keep it in mint condition, just in case! Mind you, Iâm sure many people will think the same way, so thatâll probably make it less likely to become as sought after as the first one.
Mega Man Zero 4:
Iâm not going to go into detail about this game, because it is more or less the same style of game as the last two I talked about. On top of that, if you donât know what a Mega Man game is like by now, you are obviously just not interested. I will say though that this one looks excellent, the graphics are just extremely sharp and cool. So, if you like Mega Man, thereâs a good chance youâll want this one.
Mario Tennis Advance:
Again there isnât much I can say about this that you donât already know. It is another tennis game with the Mario crew and it has some whacky power-ups and moves you can do to help make the action much crazier than the real sport ever gets.
What stood out the most about it for me is that Mario Tennis Advance is one of the best looking GBA games Iâve seen. Probably because of the relative simplicity of the tennis courts themselves, the programmers have been able to make the characters very detailed and exceptionally well animated. Some of those zany power-ups and âspecial shotsâ look fantastic too. Looks like another really fun game from Nintendo. I hope they are planning a DS version too.
Some of the other GBA/Micro games from E3: Fantastic Four, Kirby & the Amazing Mirror, King Kong, DK King of Swing, Donkey Kong Country 3, Shrek Superslam, Top Spin 2, Madden NFL â06 and plenty of others.
The release schedule for the GBA is not as packed as it once was, as youâd expect since the DS and PSP came along. However, the DS/GBA compatibility combined with the Micro announcement and huge existing user base has helped to ensure that the last bastion of 2D gaming is still far from dead. There were many movie licence games at the show, but we all know how crappy most of them end up. The best games for the system were, again, from Nintendo themselves, but there were still some decent games from other publishers too.
That has all the current Nintendo systems covered. The next instalment of my E3 coverage will be for the huge black console from the company with the even huger bank account; Microsoftâs Xbox. So keep a lookout and check that out when it gets posted Xbox fans!
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