Mario, Zelda & Yoshi: was Nintendo’s E3 enough to save the Wii U?

Monday, 16 June 2014 11:58 GMT By Catherine Cai

We go hands on with Mario Maker, Splatoon, Hyrule Warriors, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Captain Toad and Bayonetta 2. Do they make a strong enough case for the return of the Wii U?

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Nintendo was finally ready at E3 2014 to deliver tangible proof of why its console was worth a spot in a gamer’s living room. The company unveiled the obvious, usual heavy-hitters like Super Smash Bros. Wii U and Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, but it also showed off Amiibo and Splatoon. Nintendo’s attempting to push the company in new directions, a response to accusations that the company’s strategy was to stay sitting duck on proven, popular franchises.

I had a chance to get some brief playing time on some of Nintendo’s releases on the show floor. Here were my thoughts:

Mario Maker

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“From an audience perspective, Mario Maker is brilliant. It caters to both players who are too good or dismally terrible at the game at once.”

From an audience perspective, Mario Maker is brilliant. It caters to both players who are too good or dismally terrible at the game at once. Giving the players the chance at a Super Mario Bros. level editor is the best way to attract players to the Wii U, while keeping the current install base occupied as the heavy-hitting titles come into play.

I was given the option of editing three different sample levels that were already provided, or creating my own. Naturally, I went with creating my own level from scratch.

The level layout provided was the one from World 1-1. It’s absolutely blank. I’m free to add goombas, koopa troopas, mushroom blocks, and just about anything else that’s present in Super Mario Bros.

It turns out that level designing for Super Mario Bros. takes some work. I think the killer feature in Mario Maker is the ability to seamlessly transition from level editing to playing. If I’m to die in the middle of a run, I can freeze everything and swap over to the level editor and make real time changes. I can then reset Mario back to a new spawn point, and play from that point forward.

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Oh, and did I mention that I can easily swap from classic mode to the new Super Mario Bros. Wii U aesthetic in the touch of a button? Amazing.

Though Mario Maker is both extremely powerful and simple at the same time, the demo did have its limitations. The only layout available so far is World 1-1. The timer is fixed to ten minutes, according to a Nintendo representative. I wonder whether or not Nintendo will offer up the ability to choose different background levels. Though currently I’m able to lay down pipes in the level editor, I’m unable to interact with them in the same way as in the games. Hopefully, being able to connect pipes will be a feature coming with the full release.

Regardless, I had a great time creating levels. Mario Maker is something I absolutely would look forward to as a Wii U owner, if not to create my own levels, but to see what brilliance comes out of the Mario Maker community.

Splatoon

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“Splatoon is Nintendo’s G-rated, non-violent version of Team Fortress 2.”

Ahh… brand new, untested IP from Nintendo. How refreshing. And it’s multiplayer-only, no less. Call it Nintendo’s G-rated, non-violent version of Team Fortress 2, if you will.

Splatoon is like most Nintendo games: simple in premise and gameplay. The E3 demo only contained a 4 versus 4, objective-based mode, where players control girls wielding paint guns. The goal is splatter as much of your team’s paint color all over the floor of the level. The team with the highest percentage of paint splatter on a level wins all. Players can take advantage of the paint guns or paint grenades in order to paint over the floor, or over the other team’s paint.

Players are able to morph back and forth between human and squid form. As a squid, players are locked out of the ability to fight, but are able to recover their paint (which is depleted through shooting and grenade use) levels and swim quickly through their team’s paint. As a squid, players are much more mobile and able to quickly scale walls to make a quick getaway.

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Paint guns and paint grenades are deadly to the enemy team. Wading through the enemy team’s paint will reduce mobility and being hit by the other team’s paint will result in death. Death isn’t meant to be a punishment in Splatoon and respawns are instantaneous. The entire design of Splatoon is teamwork-oriented, as players can easily track down their team members’ locations on the Wii U gamepad, transform into a squid, and “jump” to their location with a quick tap. Working together as a team means being better able to cover ground in paint and take down any enemies. The quick jumps to team members mean being able to push quickly and efficiently as a team.

Splatoon was an absolute blast to play. However, I was able to experience the game alongside my fellow team and enemy team. Keep in mind that Splatoon requires Wii U gamepad functionality to play, and as the Wii U is limited in the number of gamepads, local co-op will not exist for the game. Currently, there’s no in-game chat functionality, or any way to communicate with team members. This was probably intentional on some level, as creating a chat function opens up infinite possibilities for a toxic, Internet community (which is the opposite of what family-friendly-fun-loving Nintendo wants.) Regardless, creating a team-based game means being able to communicate with fellow team members, and it’s a shame that Splatoon is lacking this functionality.

I also found the aiming in Splatoon to be a little clumsy. It relies on the Wii U gamepad’s motion control to work. Though it can be turned off, I wish the developers had added some sensitivity/acceleration options, so that the shooting aspect can be tuned to a player’s preference. Still, this is a rather minute complaint, especially when Splatoon is in no way meant to be a competitive shooter.

Next page: Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2 and Yoshi’s Wooly World.

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