LOS ANGELES -- With its flagship console struggling to stay afloat, Nintendo has come out full force with a significant software effort designed to breathe new life into Wii U.
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is clearly the company's most compelling and immediate title, and its Wii U debut will include the ability to design three classes of custom Mii characters which can be used in-game. Players can choose between four specials and a total of 36 moves for unique customization of their character. Smash Bros. also marks the debut for of the amiibo toy-to-life system, which will debut in November with 10 physical toys.
I got to sit down with the 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. and played through the platform's exclusive "smash run" mode that let me level up my character in preparation for battle. The game plays surprisingly smoothly on the handheld, though I didn't love the circle pad's control right out of the gate.
But back to the Wii U, Nintendo has laid the way for a handful of exclusive titles for the console. Yoshi's Woolly World will give players control of a Yoshi made of yarn. He can interact with the knitted world around him in interesting ways. The action-platformer has a very distinct style, with a really sharp sense of depth in the world. Woolly World also features a two-player mode and will hit in 2015.
Toad is finally getting his own game this holiday season in Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Players control Toad in a 3D world filled with new and classic Nintendo iconography. The game's diorama visual style is similar to Super Mario 3D World aesthetically, though the control scheme seems brand new.
Nintendo claims that the Wii U will give developers their first chance at making a true open-world Zelda game in the next installment of The Legend of Zelda. While there's no confirmed title or date set yet, we finally got a glimpse, albeit briefly, of Link horseback riding through an open field and battling a monster of some sort. It was all a prerendered cinematic, but Nintendo says to look for the next Zelda game in 2015.
Classic Nintendo franchises are well represented in the Wii U's roadmap. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse seems to be a claymation-influenced rendering of the DS' great Canvas Curse game where players use the stylus to draw a path for Kirby. Nintendo also teased Mario Maker, a toolset for players to design their own old-school 8-bit Mario levels or bring them into HD graphics as well. The playfield timeline looks like it will exist in a gridded space, making it easy to arrange blocks, enemies, power-ups and more. How players can share and play other levels made online isn't known just yet. Both of these titles will hit Wii U in 2015.
Bayonetta 2 finally has a release date. The mature-rated action slasher from developer Platinum Games hits the Wii U exclusively in October 2014. Also hitting this year is Hyrule Warriors, a game from the Dynasty Warriors team that has Link battling an army. The title boasts a two-player GamePad-and-TV tandem mode as well. Xenoblade Chronicles X will also be coming to Wii U in 2015. Finally, Mario Party 10 will see its Wii U debut in 2015 as well.
Sonic will have two new titles out this year as well. Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric for Wii and Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal for 3DS will both debut this November. Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate lands on 3DS in early 2015.
The last game I got to check out for myself was a brand new franchise. Splatoon is a four-on-four online multiplayer action game, where two teams battle in a closed map. The idea is to cover the ground in your team's paint color, which each player can spray through a paint gun and tank attached to his or her back.
I played through several rounds of local multiplayer and really enjoyed the overall mechanics of the game. The real brilliance in Splatoon is how players can morph into squids that are able to swim through areas covered in their team's paint. It's a very dynamic mechanic that has a number of interest uses, most of them I'm sure I didn't even get to explore. When you try to walk through enemy paint, it reacts like quicksand.
Players are equipped with paint grenades and access to other weapons like a paint bazooka. The feel is definitely cartoony, opening up the game to a wider audience than a conventional shooter would.
More details on Splatoon were a bit light. We don't know if team players can communicate with any kind of voice chat, and the fact that there are no reticles on screen for aiming is a little odd. Controlling aiming by using the GamePad's gyroscope felt awkward to start, so I immediately switched over to analog control. It wasn't ideal, but I'm optimistic they'll work those kinks out.
So that does it for the initial Nintendo game announcements. I'm told there are more titles yet to be announced at E3 2014, including a 3DS title kept under very strict secrecy and four unique gameplay experiences designed by Shigeru Miyamoto. I'll be sure to update this roundup as the announcements hit.
Other notable titles hitting the 3DS and Wii U include:
- Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition (Wii U eShop, Summer)
- Art Academy (Wii U, 2014)
- Skylanders Trap Team (3DS, October 5)
- Just Dance 2015 (Wii U, October)
- Mario vs. Donkey Kong (Wii U, 2015)