The world’s largest consumer electronics show, E3, will be upon us in less than a week, and the biggest games publishers and developers will be eagerly showcasing their wares in an attempt to build up anticipation, excitement and a shed load of hype for the biggest releases set to appear over the next twelve months. I’ve already outlined my three most eagerly anticipated first-party offerings from Sony; today, it’s Nintendo’s turn. With a new console to show off and a handheld still in its infancy, a lot of eyes will be on Nintendo at E3 this year. Below are my three most highly anticipated Nintendo games that will hopefully be shown off at the expo this year. Get set for old school platforming.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
Developer(s): Nintendo EAD
ETA: TBA August 2012
The platformer has been enjoying something of a renaissance over the past few years. Not since the mid- or late-Nineties has running around and clobbering and/or jumping on the heads of colourful, adorable enemies been so popular. Not only that, but the 3D platformers that were so prolific fifteen years ago have been usurped by the very 2D affairs that preceded them. Nintendo themselves have been a major contributing factor to this, having brought out in the last four years – on the Wii alone – New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Kirby’s Return to Dreamland/Adventure Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns. Third-parties have been in on the side-scrolling action as well; UbiSoft’s utterly sublime, nigh-on perfect Rayman Origins representing the very pinnacle of the genre.
And it looks like 2D platformers are indeed here to stay, not only on home consoles, but on the 3DS as well. New Super Mario Bros. 2 is the direct sequel to New Super Mario Bros., which released on the DS back in 2006, mixing the side-scrolling platform action of earlier Mario games with more up-to-date visuals and modern sensibilities, such as wall jumping and that old favourite, the butt stomp.
As with Super Mario 3D Land, Nintendo looks to be borrowing heavily from Super Mario Bros. 3 in terms of aesthetics and item pick-ups in New Super Mario Bros. 2. The Super Leaf returns once again, only this time – unlike in SM3DL — it appears that it will merely bestow raccoon tail and ears unto Mario and Luigi, rather than having them don a full Tanooki Suit, and they’ll be able to fly freely through the air as opposed to just gaining the ability to hover.
Other than these tantalising little titbits, Nintendo have revealed precious little information about New Super Mario Bros. 2; how will it make use of the 3DS’ StreetPass and SpotPass functionality? Will there be multiplayer in any way, shape or form? These queries and many more will hopefully be laid to rest next week, when Nintendo shows the game off ahead of it’s August 2012 release (which will prove a real treat for Nintendo fans in a time of the year that is traditionally devoid of any major games releases).
Speaking of which, one thing we do know about New Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it will launch simultaneously on store shelves and on the 3DS eShop, being the first new full retail release to ever be made available on the service. Hopefully this won’t be a one off and Nintendo will continue to release its retail software in this way, as well as allowing third-party developers to do so.
Luigi’s Mansion 2
Developer(s): Next Level Games
ETA: TBA 2012
The original Luigi’s Mansion launched alongside the GameCube in 2002, carrying with it the distinction of being not only a rare occasion in which Mario’s cowardly brother strikes out on his own (and allowing Luigi to hog the spotlight while we waited for the release of Super Mario Sunshine), but also eschewing the traditional platforming mechanics the portly plumbers are usually associated with in favour of something will a little more innovation and, dare we say it, character.
You see, when it launches on 3DS later this year, Luigi’s Mansion will be unlike anything else on the handheld; indeed, it’ll be unlike anything else to have been released since the original Luigi’s Mansion came out ten years ago. This will make controlling Luigi as he attempts to rid various mansions – as opposed to the single building from the first game – of a myriad of ghouls, ghosts and other assorted nasties by using his trusty flashlight to blind the unsavoury things haunting each mansion before sucking them up with Professor E. Gadd’s “Poltergust 5000”.
Capturing ghosts will reward the player with keys, which grants Luigi access to further parts of each mansion. If all this ghostbusting in the Mushroom Kingdom sounds like it might become repetitive (rather than making you feel good; y’know, like Ray Parker Jr.), fear not; Shigeru Miyamoto has stated that Luigi’s Mansion 2 will be far more puzzle focused than the original, so the mansions should not only present a lot of variety both aesthetically and in terms of puzzle types, but we might even end up with a game that resembles something along the lines of Resident Evil: Luigi Edition. With hidden treasures to be found throughout and the original game’s focus on chasing high scores also likely to make a comeback, Luigi’s Mansion 2 looks like it’ll provide a refreshing change to pretty much everything else on the market.
Paper Mario 3DS (working title)
Developer(s): Intelligent Systems
ETA: TBA 2012
If, like myself, you’re a fan of both Mario and RPG’s, the Mario & Luigi franchise makes you all warm and fuzzy inside. However, given the depressing lack of any news regarding a sequel to Superstar Saga, Partners in Time and Bowser’s Inside Story, the next best thing is the promise of a new entry in the Paper Mario series, which is heading to 3DS this year.
With flat character models and items which contrast beautifully with the environment, Paper Mario is without question the most visually striking interpretation of Nintendo’s portly Italian mascot, his friends and enemies and the world they inhabit. But this art style not only serves to make the series visually unique, but also gives the developers free rein to concoct all manner of devious puzzles to keep players on their toes, as well as to go to town with bestowing outlandish abilities unto Mario; past games have seen Mario fold himself up into a paper plane and use air currents to traverse large gaps, for example.
Precious little info has been revealed on Paper Mario 3DS, other than it will feature less of the platforming elements that were the main gameplay element of 2007’s Super Paper Mario, and instead bring Paper Mario and Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door’s exploration and turn-based battles back as the main focus. The 3DS’ stereoscopic 3D is also set to feature heavily, lavishing the entire game with a new sense of depth that will make its unique visual style all the more striking. Other than that, we’re pretty much completely in the dark when it comes to concrete details, such as the storyline, or what weird new paper based powers Mario will find himself using in this new instalment. Whatever happens though, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that Paper Mario 3DS will continue the series’ penchant for mind-bending puzzles and intense turn-based battles and at the very least provide me with a decent stopgap until the fourth Mario & Luigi game (hint hint!).
WiiU and 3DS blow-out, please!
By now you’ve probably noticed how all three of the games featured above have been 3DS titles. Well, there’s actually an extremely good reason for why that is: Nintendo has let absolutely naff all out of the bag when it comes to what games are set to be released on the WiiU when it releases at the tail end of this year. Nintendo will show off the final hardware specifications and form of its latest home console next week, but to be frank, I couldn’t give a flying toss.
Show me the games, Nintendo! Pikmin 3 making an appearance is practically a done deal, but what else have you got in store for us? Because, let’s be honest, a console is only as good as its games, and Pikmin 3 alone isn’t going to wash, not by a long shot. If Nintendo wants the WiiU to perform even half as well as its predecessor, it’ll need to drum up some serious interest at E3 and show off what games it’s been slaving away on in the past year while it’s been letting Wii units the world over collect dust. And what of that tablet controller? How is it going to be integrated into games? Hopefully it’ll be in more ways than, “ooh, look, we’ve moved the game’s map and HUD down to this second screen,” because frankly, that’d be one hell of a cop out. Show us that you’re still the masters of innovation within the games industry, Nintendo. Show us things that will make Sony and Microsoft green with envy as they struggle and play catch-up for the next five years trying to copy it and make it better and failing miserably.
Speaking of games, the 3DS might have built up more momentum recently as Nintendo released a steady flow of quality first-party titles, but to keep that momentum going, Nintendo needs to make a decent number of announcements regarding new games for the handheld. Things have slowed down again since Kid Icarus: Uprising are in danger to potentially undoing all the hard work Nintendo put into promoting the 3DS and shifting units since its rocky first six or seven months.
So give us a good old fashioned 3DS extravaganza, Nintendo! And announce, announce, announce! Give us stuff to get excited about and show off some new entries in the franchises that never fail to make your portable consoles shine. New Kirby! New Mario & Luigi! new Pokémon! New eShop games! New, new, new! Because it’s safe to say that when I buy a new Nintendo console, I do it for the new Nintendo games. Don’t disappoint me.
Games that didn’t quite make the list:
Animal Crossing 3DS (working title) (3DS, Nintendo EAD, Q3 2012)
Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS, Intelligent Systems, TBA 2012)
Pokémon: Black Version 2/White Version 2 (DS, Game Freak, Q3 2012)
Pokémon Conquest (DS, Tecmo Koei, June 2012)