E3 2014 Impressions Part 1

Nintendo showed off a plethora of new titles during E3 2014.  Some we knew were coming, such as Hyrule Warriors, Super Smash Bros. and Yoshi's Woolly World, but there were some genuine surprises in the form of Splatoon, Mario Maker and Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker.  We had a chance to play many of these titles recently, and below you will find the first of our impressions roundups.  Stay tuned to N-Europe for more in the coming days!

Hyrule Warriors
Hyrule WarrirosDescribed by the designers as a tribute to the entire Zelda series, it's readily apparent. Characters and locations are pulled from all over (focusing onTwilight Princess and Skyward Sword in the demo).

Even though the combat system is based on a Dynasty Warrior series, there's still a light coating of classic Zelda cues. The demo put me up against a Dodongo with a handful of bombs. What I needed to do was almost second-nature.

I love that there are so many badass playable ladies here! Playing as Zelda here is a very different experience to Link, with faster fencing-style close range attacks and slower, wider ranged skill. I can't wait to play as Midna and Impa.

Project Guard & Project Robot
I can definitely respect the drive to make games that use the Wii U to its full potential, and Project Guard and Project Robot are interesting tech toys to show off the GamePad.

Project Guard focuses on touch screen functionality - controlling a set of security cameras with guns, you snipe invading robots using the array of views on the top screen and switch cameras on the bottom screen. Unfortunately, the controls are awkward. The camera control doesn't have the kind of weight you'd get in a proper FPS and aimed with the left-stick only, so as someone who's left handed, playing was a real stretch.

Project Robot focuses on motion controls - piloting for a giant mech, the GamePad's gyroscope acts as both the camera and the robot's balance. Pad buttons operate separate limbs and you're given a set of Wario Ware-style challenges to wrestle your way through. A lot of people who played didn't clock that the gyroscope was important to keeping your robot balanced, and left the demo looking frustrated. It's hard to blame them.

Shovel Knight
Yacht Club, a spin-off team of WayForward, made Shovel Knight with a very specific aesthetic in mind. Like most of WayForward's titles, Shovel Knight is a 2D action platformer with a really solid core.

Early in the development of the game, they said they took some design aspects from Dark Souls in Shovel Knight's production (which seems to be a common idea these days). It definitely shows; several enemies will block or corner you. On top of that, when you die you lose a percentage of your collected gold. But instead of just vanishing, they linger on the screen where you died, daring you to pick them back up.

Pixel art graphics have started to wear on me in this era of Child of Light and Muramasa: The Demon Blade, but at least the animations are superb – and the soundtrack is better still. Jake Kaufman is an incredible composer, and the soundtrack is available for free on his Bandcamp.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
Kirby Rainbow CurseKirby's Power Paintbrush (or Canvas Curse, if you're American) was one of my favourite games on the DS; one of the few games I've 100% completed.

This Wii U sequel takes the simple and effective base game of Canvas Curse and adds some high resolution graphical goodness. Not content with being made of yarn previously, Rainbow Curse is drawn in a claymation style (think The Trap Door).

Everything looks adorably tactile (though sadly the scenery doesn't respond to your stylus taps). The biggest mechanical addition is a special meter charged that, when filled, gives Kirby supercharged abilities. Kirby has always been a harbinger of destruction.

The DS game had different levels represented with varying art styles. Who knows if Rainbow Curse will follow suit, but I already feel like this will be another game I'll fully complete.

Sonic Boom
It's hard to make a Sonic game that's widely liked. It could be argued that a fresh pair of eyes could help design but... I don't think that's the case here.

The 3DS game (subtitled Shattered Crystal) reminds me heavily of the 3DS Castlevania game Mirror of Fate - produced by Western developers and resembling the franchise only superficially.

There's no sense of speed - the camera is zoomed in so close, you can't tell how much distance you're covering. You play as 4 characters at once - Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and new character Sticks (who is a badger, apparently). They all have one signature trait that will prompt you to switch, but there's little to encourage a preference.

The Wii U game (subtitled Rise of Lyric) is a more robust affair. There's definitely more speed, with roller-coaster sections from scene to scene, but they're mostly there to justify the use of Sonic as a character.

Other areas of the game remind me of Jak and Daxter (Or maybe Ratchet and Clank without firearms). Localised jumping puzzles, rooms of enemies to kill, and an energy lasso ability that can be used as a grappling hook. Co-op is available at all times, saving characters from being useless outside of their unique ability.

Captain Toad's Treasure Tracker
Captain Toad Most came away from playing Super Mario 3D World with fond memories of the Captain Toad bonus stages. While retaining the endless optimism of a Mario game, they had a calmer, more curious air to them that contrasted well with frantic dashing in a cat costume.

Even on its own, the idea still holds up wonderfully. Game progress is split into short 3-5 minute stages that function as both puzzles to be solved and obstacle courses to be speed-run.

In Treasure Tracker's version of a boss stage, a goofy-looking lava dragon spitting waves of fire, I took to the stage at full pelt. Even when you're not stopping to smell the roses, the stage's moving parts are designed to allow you to move seamlessly from section to section, automatically moving the camera to keep important things in frame.

Other stages featured using the GamePad's gyroscope to hurl turnips at targets, and using the touch screen to shift around level furniture. Treasure Tracker has the potential to be very very clever.

Be sure to check back for more E3 impressions coming soon!

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