E3: Nintendo Breakdown

Nintendo’s exhibit was my first stop at E3. It was also the largest, and most elaborate set-up there. As it would be, that grandeur would tarnish all my future booth visits — no one else compared, and I was disappointed to find that out, as my expectations started from such a high point. Regardless, no matter how outlandish your display is, if you don’t have the games to back it up, no one will care. Nintendo definitely had the games to back it up.

Metroid Prime

Without hesitation, I passed by everything on my way to see Metroid Prime first. Like many people, I was very weary of Metroid‘s move into the first-person shooter genre. Let me tell you, I’m no longer worried about it. It’s hard to judge the game based on the introductory level, but all the small details that make Metroid what it is were all there. The atmosphere, the ball morph (and ball jump using bombs), the freeze beam, even the detonation timer after beating the first boss is there (as in Super Metroid, and the end of the original Metroid).

Samus getting ready to take on the Parasite Queen.

One of Metroid Prime‘s greatest features is this sense that you are playing in the role of Samus. You’re looking through her visor and out, and when there’s a large blast of light near by, you can actually see Samus’ own face reflecting on the visor. It’s a minor detail, but it really startles you the first time you see it. It’s those small details that will make Metroid Prime an awesome game.

Legend of Zelda

The other major game at Nintendo’s exhibit was The Legend of Zelda (it still lacks an official title.) Zelda was another title facing a lot of scepticism over the last year, as many deemed the new look “too cartoony.” I liked it from the start because, in my opinion, Zelda has always been cartoony (remember the actual cartoon?) Seeing Zelda in action, you can’t help but be amazed. The cel-shaded, anime-like look is consistent throughout, and is extremely well done. Link’s movements and actions are very smooth, and each one of them gives him a unique facial expression. For example, while slowly crossing a tight ledge, Link looks devilishly in the direction he’s going; or, when opening a treasure chest, Link looks in curiously and, upon finding the treasure, raises it with an emphatic smile.

Link standing still.
Big eyed Link looks good.

As I have not actually played the two N64 titles (blasphemy, I know), I can’t compare the control scheme. All I know is that, in the short time that I did play it, it felt intuitive and not very complex. For the most part, the A and B buttons were all you ever needed, with the occasional Y or X to switch items, or the R to do more involved movements. It was a very easy game to get into, which bodes well for it. The only question is: when the hell are we going to see it released? Last I heard, it’s been delayed until Q1 2003. That would be tragic, as this is a perfect holiday title, and Nintendo would be missing out on a lot of sales if they wait til’ 2003.

Super Mario Sunshine

While not the most visually impressive title in Nintendo’s line-up, Super Mario Sunshine promises to be yet another classic Mario game. The basic premise behind Sunshine revolves around Mario’s back-loaded water cannon. It does everything from cleaning graffiti, causing seeds to bloom (causing the ground near it to swell up and launch anything that was too close to it into the air), removing oil slicks, to propulsion (if you aim the cannon at Mario’s feet, it acts as a mini-jet pack raising him off the ground). Refilling the water canon is as simple as finding a body of water, and, like a super soaker, you can’t fire a continous stream because the longer you fire, the less water pressure there is propelling the liquid.

“It’s a me, Mario.”

While the textures, and the models aren’t too elaborate, what does stand out is the colourful terrain and the long drawing distance. The environment is richly peppered with obstacles, pipes, enemies and NPCs. The water effects are nice, and the way that the water cannon cleans off oil spills looks very authentic. I never got to play Mario, as it was generally attracting large crowds, so I can’t comment on the controls.

Star Fox Adventures

It’s essentially what you’d expect it to be. Star Fox in a Zelda like setting. It was interesting, and some details like Fox’s furry tail stood out, but it wasn’t anything ground breaking. However, there was one Arwing level on display, and it played very similar to the classic SNES Star Fox game — and that’s a definite plus. Unfortunately, in the demo they had on display, you get the sense that those Arwing levels are nothing more than mini-games or, at the very least, minor elements in a grander “adventure” styled game. Too bad.

Mario Party 4

There were plenty of Mario Party tournaments going on, where the prize was the WaveBird controller (scroll down a bit). It looked ok. More of the same thing you’ve come to expect from one of these party games. If I had more friends to party with, maybe I’d be more excited about it… but alas, I’ll stick with the single player games that I know all too well.

Wario World

It was fun running around as a small, pudgy Wario, and punching skeletal dinosaurs (or whatever they were) around. The game played well and looked decent, but from what I saw, it was nothing special.

Metroid Fusion

If Metroid Prime‘s first-person perspective is too anti-Metroidian for your tastes, then be sure to grab a GameBoy Advance and this title. Fusion looks and plays very much like Super Metroid, and, thusly, has that more classic feel to it. The environments are rich and textured, and the platform jumping, exploration elements seem to be all there. I couldn’t see if there were any new and original moves in Samus’ arsenal, but from the sounds of it, there probably will be.

Metroid Fusion
Foggy, atmospheric area.
Other Gameboy Advance Titles

Amongst a whole load of licensee remakes on show, there were two Nintendo rehashes: Zelda, and Super Mario Advance 3. Super Mario Advance 3 is not a remake of Super Mario 3 for the NES; it is a remake of the often ignored Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi’s Island was an impressive game in it’s day, and it definitely deserves a revisit — hopefully the GBA will allow those that missed it the first time aroud a chance to see it again. The Zelda title is a remake of the, arguably, best title in the series: Zelda 3 for the SNES. Many nights have been spent exploring that game, and I’m sure there are more to come. One of the interesting features about the Zelda game is that it also comes with an extra mini-game: Zelda: The Four Swords, a multiplayer Zelda game (!?) Basically, four links explore a map in search of the most rupees. You can fight against each other by pushing the other players off the cliff, but to succeed in rupee hunting, everyone needs to work together (there are mutiple two person switches, and blocks only two or three Links can push, etc…). It’s hard to describe, but it was immensely fun to play.

Zelda for the GBA
Two Links for the price of one.

Firstly, there was the Official GameCube LCD monitor. Similar in concept to the PS1’s monitor, the GC monitor is very portable, and it easily attaches to the Gamecube. It might be useful for that situation where you are tv-less, but I can’t justify getting such a monitor. It’s rather small, too. The Triforce, the joint Nintendo-Sega-Namco (there’s an arcade all-star team!) was getting a lot of attention, despite the fact that the only thing shown was a short demo movie of F-Zero — a movie in which no actual gameplay was visible. What is interesting, though, is that a GameCube F-Zero title is being built at the same time, and it will be linkable to the arcade version through the GC memory card (there was a similar feature long ago on the Neo Geo systems).

GameCube LCD screen
The image was small, but quite sharp.
The Triforce arcade board
Click for a more detailed view.
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