Spending all my waking hours on the show floor at E3 2015, I’ve been out of the loop for the most part when it comes to the actual fan reactions from the announcements earlier this week. After Sony and Microsoft blew the doors off their respective venues, I assumed that Nintendo fans would be chomping at the bit for some huge revelations.
What they got instead was a blocky Metroid spinoff, a three-player Zelda game, an Animal Crossing board game and an English translation of an RPG that came out 25 years ago. Needless to say, Nintendo fans were unhappy.
Don’t get me wrong — as a Nintendo fan myself, I was incredibly disappointed not to see a new 3D Mario title, an update on the new Legend of Zelda for Wii U or any indication at all that the company hadn’t already invested most of its resources into the next-gen NX console, but here’s the thing: the games Nintendo did announce are really, really fun to play.
Super Mario Maker
Of all the games I was interested in trying at Nintendo’s booth, Super Mario Maker ranked near the bottom of the list. I’ve never been one to build my own levels in games like LittleBigPlanet or ScreamRide, but the great thing about Nintendo’s new game is its simplicity and the incredibly solid base it builds on.
Mario games are some of the most consistently fun and well-designed games in the industry. Give those tools to creative gamers, and the results are even better than you might have guessed. In one level, I was tasked with following a P Switch as it made its way through a Rube Goldberg machine of sorts. At the end, it finally fell out, allowing me to stomp it and complete the level.
Another level, appropriately titled “Not Scary if You Keep Running,” I simply had to hold down the run button and start moving from left to right. Without ever letting off the control stick, I watched as Mario careened through the level, jumping through a row of cannonballs and barely dodging fire bars.
I can’t wait to see what people create in Super Mario Maker, and for the first time, I might give it a shot myself.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
You wouldn’t typically use both cute and challenging to describe the same game, but Yoshi’s Woolly World defies expectations. This was my first chance to get my hands on the upcoming platformer, and despite the adorable visuals, I had to put on my game face to make it through the second level in one piece.
Where Woolly World separates itself from Kirby’s Epic Yarn is (much like with Super Mario Maker) in its DNA. Yoshi’s Island is just a more skillful game than Kirby’s countless adventures, and it comes across in the cutesy world of the new Wii U title. My time with it was relatively limited, but I can’t wait to see what the game has in store for later levels.
Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash
I don’t have much to say about Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash, but much like Mario Strikers Charged and Mario Golf: World Tour before it, Nintendo has distilled a sport into its component parts and thrown in some ridiculous video game logic to spruce it up.
It’s not going to surprise anyone who has played a Mario Tennis title in the past, but it is an incredibly fun multiplayer experience. Plus, it’s coming out this year, and Wii U owners are going to need something more than Splatoon and Star Fox Zero to tide them over for the rest of 2015.
Star Fox Zero
Speaking of Star Fox Zero, this might have been the biggest disappointment at the booth. It’s not that it looks like Star Fox Zero is shaping up to be a bad game, it’s just that Nintendo feels the need to inject its Wii U GamePad into the control scheme, which completely destroys the momentum of the fast-paced space battles.
In order to aim, you have to look down at the GamePad screen and use gyroscope controls to target enemies. This isn’t so terrible in the on-rails section of the first level, but once the Arwing goes into All-Range Mode during the boss fight, I started crashing into walls and other ships at a much faster rate.
Get rid of the gimmicks and there’s a solid first-party game here. Transforming into a walking robot on the fly is as fun as it looks in the trailer, and the classic feel of the franchise is more palpable than in any other Star Fox game in recent history. They just need to scrap the GamePad nonsense and give us Pro Controllers.
Those are my impressions of Nintendo’s first-party Wii U lineup. It’s not perfect, and I’m still not confident that Nintendo is investing any more time into the Wii U than is absolutely necessary, but Nintendo fans are going to have some solid games to look forward to in 2015.
For more coverage of E3, be sure to visit our E3 2015 event hub! We’ll have previews and more going live on the site all week long.