We were privileged this year at rAge in Johannesburg to have Nintendo’s upcoming console on hand to play. I say privileged because just six weeks before at Gamescom it wasn’t available to play, and, as far as I know, was only publicly available in Europe a week before rAge at Eurogamer Expo.
Nintendo’s stand was permanently packed with people all wanting to get a chance to play on the Wii U. I managed to pick a time late on Sunday to try to play what I could, and got some hands-on time with Nintendoland, New Super Mario Bros U and Rayman Legends.
I got to play four different Nintendoland mini-games. All of them were previously available, but here are my thoughts on them:
Donkey Kong’s Crash Course – This is an obstacle course game clearly inspired by old Donkey Kong games. You guide a little cart through a girder infested course and just try to keep alive by not flipping the cart. This proved to be really hard, the game requires really fine control over the tilting of the gamepad to control speed, as well as co-ordination between the tilting controls and shoulder buttons to control lifts and rotate girders. It’s a really fun singleplayer experience, which I hope has lots of levels.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day – This is a multiplayer game where four players with Wii Remotes run around a town collecting sweets that fall from trees. Some trees require more than one player to stand under them to get their sweets to fall, and as you eat sweets your head gets bigger and you run slower. Meanwhile the player with the GamePad controls two chaser characters and tries to catch all the players. This was fun, but it seemed almost impossible for the players to win, or, at least, it requires a lot of teamwork for the players to win.
Takamaru’s Ninja Castle – This one is a lot like Balloon Shoot in Wii Play, except it seems to be singleplayer only. You hold the GamePad horizontally and length-ways towards the screen, and then flick your hand over it to shoot a ninja star at the screen in the direction you’re pointing. I loved the way the movement of the star followed from the way you shot it – move your hand slowly and the star will travel slower. I also liked the gravity effect on the stars, it made them feel weighty. This is really a high-score-type game – if you keep your combo going by only getting hits you can score massive numbers compared to players who just shoot thousands of stars. Of course, it can be enjoyed in either style.
Luigi’s Ghost Mansion – This is another game where teamwork is absolutely key, and where in the trial games I played (where I was never the chaser) the players with Wii Remotes always lost. The player with the GamePad is the ghost, and the other players have torches and try to shine them on the ghost while the ghost tries to avoid the light and catch the players.
The four games I played were really solid. I particularly enjoyed the singleplayer games at rAge, but I think with friends or family who will quickly get familiar with the multiplayer games these will be a lot of fun. There is a lot more creativity in Nintendoland than Nintendo’s last similar game, Wii Play Motion, so I think it will be a great choice for local multiplayer.
Having played and enjoyed Rayman Origins a lot I was looking forward to trying out Legends, and I wasn’t disappointed. I played with the GamePad, which meant I wasn’t controlling a character but was instead interacting with elements on the screen to help Rayman out. The demo was quite short, but it gave me a taste and made me want more. I especially enjoyed the ‘rhythm’ stage, where it feels like you’re really playing along with the music. As the ‘helper’ it’s up to you to hit drums on the GamePad at the right time (just before Rayman reaches
them) if you want to reach the target number of Lums.
Despite being such a great multiplayer game most of my time spent on Rayman Origins was in singleplayer, so I still have to see how the game plays as a singleplayer, but Legends is looking like a lot of fun in multiplayer.
New Super Mario Bros U
This was the game I was most impressed with. I love New Super Mario Bros 2 on the 3DS but I feel it falls slightly short of the ingenuity and creativity of the other 2D Mario games, so I was worried about the Wii U version. Playing it allayed these fears, mainly because it feels so different. The art style retains that Mario feel, but it is significantly different to the last 3 2D Mario games so it feels really fresh, and the HD graphics enable a lot more detail in the design of character animation and backdrops.
The flying squirrel suit is also a lot of fun. The levels felt like they were well designed for both singleplayer and more players, and it was clear that even more effort is being made to ensure that you can traverse stages at different levels, adding to the variety.
These are the three games I intend to get at Wii U launch and between them I expect to have a lot of fun with friends, family and on my own.
Thanks to Nintendo South Africa for bringing out pre-release consoles for us to try out – the general feeling was very positive around their booth, which bodes well for the console’s prospects in South Africa.