E3 2019 Hands On
Posted 23 Jun 2019 at 10:02 by Ashley Jones
We recently got a chance to check out some of the titles Nintendo showcased during E3 2019. With a range of games from beloved franchises such as Zelda and Pokémon to some unique indie titles such as Hollow Knight: Silksong and New Super Lucky's Tale Nintendo has something for everyone coming up in the near future.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
I don't think any sites award 'Cutest Game of E3' so we're going to start a trend and make The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is our first recipient.
The visual style is instantly endearing and Nintendo has once again imbued a unique style with little touches that bring it to life; the way Link lifts his head up and watches the owl as it flies away, the movements of the Moblins and the rich characters that are full of life. Even if you've played this game a hundred times before there is something so enchanting about the design that you'll want to do it all over again. It even opens strong, with the wonderfully animated opening movie setting the stage.
Anyone that has played the original (or DX) will feel right at home. Nintendo has tweaked some aspects to account for an updated console (more buttons means less item switching!) and brought some elements inline with more recent Zelda titles; enemy attacks have been updated and certain items are now automatically worn once obtained, rather than having to switch them in and out.
We didn't get a chance to try out the new Chamber Dungeon feature that allows you to mix and match dungeon rooms to create your own, nor the 2-player mini-games, but what we did play made us instantly fall in love with the title. The only bad thing is it's coming out in September when it feels like something you want to get for Christmas and hide under the covers playing.
Luigi’s Mansion 3
It is weird to think in 18 years this is only the third Luigi’s Mansion game, but the fact sequels aren't churned out quickly has enabled the franchise to stay fresh and make each new release more enjoyable.
The third in the series harnesses the Switch’s power to push the visuals, atmosphere and animation. We talk about cinematic gaming often but it’s normally for big emotional stories; Shenmue was praised for its narrative, Call of Duty tries for big dramatic set pieces - whether it works or not is up to you - and occasionally a game like Final Fantasy VII will make you cry. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is one of Nintendo’s most cinematic games, but not in the way we’ve become used to when it comes to videogames.
It’s atmospheric but we the audience are not (normally) scared. We’re invited to laugh at Luigi’s timid nature and how easily frightened he is and this is heightened by the small touches Nintendo has included; the way he walks nervously, how rattled he is when he is trying to capture a ghost and his ability to wearily call out his brother’s name in the hope of help. It's a game built around cinematic set pieces but rooted in comedy.
The underlying gameplay has not changed a huge amount from previous games but why fix something that’s not broken? We only got to experience a brief part of the game but we're sure that Nintendo has a few tricks up its vacuum that will make this game a must buy when it comes out later this year. If you enjoyed the other titles then this will be a must buy and even if you've never played the others it is still worth keeping an eye on this title.
Pokémon Sword & Shield
The demo version we played takes place in Nessa’s gym and anyone that has ever played a game in the franchise before will not be surprised by how it plays out; you have a small puzzle to figure out and battle trainers along the way before making your way to the gym leader.
Primarily the demo was intended to show off the new Pokémon; giving you all the starters, Corviknight, Yamper and the internet’s new star Wooloo. The trainers faced had a variety of Pokémon (ones we were told would not be used by the trainers in the actual game) that showed off some of the other new ones as well as well known ones from previous generations.
This was all a warmup to the main event - the battle with Nessa to show off the new Dynamax functionality that turn your Pokémon into gigantic versions of themselves. You can use this once per battle for three rounds and as well as increasing the size of your Pokémon it also changes their moveset and weather conditions. It is essentially a way that mixes things up mid-battle and it remains to be seen how it plays in the long run, but it was a fun change of pace.
Aside from this there was a little in the demo that gave away much about what to expect from the game; no free exploration, no catching and no new Pokémon that haven’t been shown before. This is of course not a big surprise, but it does mean that we barely scratched the surface of a game that is bound to be huge.
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
The series that nobody expected to stick around is back and in the real world home of both Mario & Sonic for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics!
That particular quirk aside this game plays as the others in the series have; some returning events, some new events and a combination of control methods depending on the event (single Joy-Con motion control, dual Joy-Con motion control or face buttons - some allowing you to choose from those options, some only offering one).
The four new events on offer this time around are Skateboarding, Karate, Surfing and Sport Climbing. The latter wasn't available in the demo, but the others were. Skateboarding played like a stripped down Tony Hawk as you moved around a skate park and tried to perform the most amount of tricks in order to earn points. Surfing was similar but you had to account for the changing wave. Karate felt like a classic fighting game as you had to combine defence with attack as the first player to take enough hits lost the round.
The title is never going to be on top of everyone's wishlist but it's a fine little mini-game collection and who knows, maybe they'll lean into the Tokyo-based nature with some meta moments.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
Hollow Knight was a surprise hit when it released in 2017; combining action, platforming and a great deal of challenges. The follow up, Hollow Knight: Silksong, offers much of the same but the new protagonist mixes things up considerably.
Hornet is quicker and more dynamic than Hollow Knight was but like her predecessor she's drawn and animated beautifully and gives off a real kinetic energy when playing the game.
As before you must explore an area while performing difficult jumps and attacking enemies. As the game progresses you'll gain new skills you can put to use. When we played we were treated to an early area and then a later one, with the latter being considerably more difficult. You need to execute well-timed jumps and attack persistent enemies in a dance-like fashion as you jump and strike your way to the end -- hopefully. The title is challenging but it has that wonderful 'just one more go!' appeal.
MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order
All your favourite Marvel characters are together without those pesky rights issues that keep some of them separate on the big (and small) screen in this Switch exclusive title.
This title relies a lot on its franchise to sell itself because other than that, based on what we played, it is a pretty standard - but fine - action adventure title. You and up to three friends make your way through one location defeating enemies as you go.
You can choose from a range of characters from the Marvel comic universe (with the costumes based on the comics, not the films) meaning you can mix up Miles Morales, Wolverine, Star Lord, Deadpool and more. During the action you have occasional opportunities to change characters if you want to try out new ones and the game offers bonuses depending on the combination; certain characters can unleash special team up attacks, other times you'll be rewarded for combining characters in certain ways, for example an all-female combination.
The heroes all have their own move sets but largely you'll be bashing the two main attack buttons. You can also perform special attacks and each character has their own, with the ability to learn more and power up their own moves in an RPG-lite way, but really it's a case of blasting your way through hordes of enemies.
MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order will obviously appeal primarily to fans of the Marvel universe and it seems like it will be a fun multiplayer title, but it doesn't seem to be offering anything extraordinarily new.
We were treated to a demonstration of this game but were not able to play it ourselves so all the impressions are based on the demonstration of two areas; one early on in the game and one a bit later.
Platinum has got its own style that by this point is well known; you attack enemies furiously in the hope you can get that much desired S+ rating. However, Astral Chain does things a little bit differently. There are of course still battles, but there’s also a J-drama-esque story underlying it that plays out throughout the game. In fact, there is a mode that really eases back on the fighting if you want to focus on the story.
That story sees you and your twin sibling (you get to pick between being the male or female, with the computer handling the other) join a secret police force called Neuron designed to capture and use mysterious Chimera. Oh and of course, your father is in charge of it and does not approve of you and your sibling joining so there's some tension there. There’s some hackey dialogue at times but it looks like they could actually pull off an interesting story.
The combat at first seems kind of convoluted, but we're sure once you get used to it there's nothing to worry about. As you progress you gain more Legion (which is what captured Chimera are called) that have their own unique abilities. The ones we were shown are a sword Legion and a bow Legion but the full game promises more. As well as unique abilities in battle, these Legion also offer unique abilities when used in the field for investigating meaning there is a slight RPG element to the game as you must make the best use of your Legions.
Once in combat you can attack and your Legion can also join in the fight, either automatically or you can tell it to perform certain moves. You can also use the eponymous astral chain that binds you together (or more accurately, imprisons the Legion) to stop an enemy in its tracks and attack it. Think of the AT-AT Walker and you've got a good idea of what it does.
As is typical in Platinum games there is a lot going on; the investigation gameplay elements, Legion management, an over the top story, fighting and much more. Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to try it out ourselves to say how this all fits together, but it certainly seems like a refreshing Platinum title that tries to do something a bit different.
New Super Lucky's Tale
A Microsoft-exclusive platformer coming to the Nintendo Switch is an odd thing to be saying, but there we are. New Super Lucky's Tale is part of the wave of early 3D platform titles nostalgia that recently catapulted Yooka-Laylee into existence.
First released on the Xbox One back in 2017 (under the title Super Lucky's Tale) it received generally positive reviews but faced criticism for its camera and controls, something that plagued early 3D platformers as well. This new version aims to change that with a fully controllable camera, tighter movement (including Lucky now running on two legs rather than four) and a host of other tweaks to UI, lighting, dialogue and more to improve the experience. In addition to all that there's also new levels and the old ones have been tweaked, so anyone that has played Super Lucky's Tale will still find new challenges.
It plays as you would expect and while our experience was relatively brief it was charming enough. It has what you'd expect from a title such as this; the cute mascot, the weird but wonderful side characters, the collectathon aspect. If you like 3D platformers it seems like it would be perfect, whether it can find wider appeal remains to be seen.