All posts by Gaz Plant

Hands-Off: amiibos

While it’s well documented that Nintendo turned down an exclusivity deal on the first Skylanders game, it’s clear that of all the console makers, Nintendo are the company that could make best use of the figurine model that series introduced. After all, Nintendo are considered the Disney of the games industry, and as much as every Nintendo fan would hate to admit it, we would all throw money at a series of collectible figurines. So as if hearing the sound of bank accounts emptying worldwide, Nintendo are introducing amiibos.


A collectible series of figures which promise to tie-in with various releases, amiibos are Nintendo’s first foray into the collectible figurine world, and judging by the quality on display already, it will be a hugely successful, and more importantly, profitable one.

Located behind a glass cabinet with the words “NO PICTURES” printed underneath them, it’s clear that Nintendo still consider amiibos to be a work in progress. On display during my visit to Nintendo’s post-E3 showcase were a handful of Super Smash Bros amiibos, including Mario, Samus, Fox and Link.

Based upon their portraits from Super Smash Bros, the figures look fantastic, and are very well painted and detailed. Set atop a sturdy Super Smash Bros logo base, the figures look superb and are very reminiscent of the opening of Melee on GameCube. It goes without saying that the electronics and NFC chip is stored in the base, and with a sensible size, amiibos should scan comfortably on the Wii U GamePad. Continue reading Hands-Off: amiibos

Hands-On: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Captain ToadBrought into the public spotlight by being playable not once, but twice, in New Super Mario Bros Wii, Toad has had something of a resurgence lately. Thanks largely to Captain Toad and his brigade being introduced in Super Mario Galaxy, the days when Toads were merely background characters have passed. While this intrepid band of Mushroom Kingdomers played very much second fiddle to the Mario Bros, their appearance in Galaxy moved Toad up the roster, and in last year’s Super Mario 3D World, we finally got a chance to experience what Captain Toad gets up to while Mario is off saving the Princess. And now, those adventures have become their own game.

While the demo is completely out of context, it’s very easy to imagine Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker being framed as the untold story to a Mario game. Taking the puzzle box elements seen throughout Super Mario 3D World, Treasure Tracker is yet another good example of Nintendo seeing an idea, and simply running with it. The result is an intriguing mix of platforming and puzzle-solving; just without the ability to jump.

Captain ToadFor those of you who didn’t play 3D World, the Captain Toad levels are standalone puzzle boxes; in a very literal sense, the levels are floating cubes with a stage built on top. Simply find your way around the stage, collect the star, and it’s done. Puzzle solving in its simplest form, set in a Mario world with the lovable Captain Toad as the headline act.

Very little has changed from 3D World, with Toad still reliant on moving slightly faster than Goombas to get away. Without a jump ability, enemies must be tackled in creative ways. In one of the demo stages, making your way to the top of the house after positioning a stack of Goombas meant that you could defeat them all by leaping from the top floor. Continue reading Hands-On: Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker

Hands-On: Mario Maker

Mario MakerIt’s something that every Mario fan has thought about at least once – wouldn’t it be great to design your own levels? I mean, how hard can it be? In a year where Nintendo have finally given their mascot a break from a new tentpole release, this year’s Mario presence comes in the form of Mario Maker; the game that will finally answer the question as to how much work goes into creating a Mario game.

And to help you in answering that question, Nintendo have created the simplest and most effective toolset to create the levels of your dreams. Using the Wii U GamePad and more than a handful of nods to the SNES Mario Paint interface, Mario Maker presents you with a series of tiles, each offering an element from the original NES classic. Simply drag them onto the stage, and you can dive straight into a test environment. It’s an incredibly intuitive system, which has the added benefit of giving you the chance to test and fine tune levels as you go.

The demo I played gave me free reign as to the design of the stage – the only limit, as the old cliché goes, was my imagination. Naturally I opted to add the ever popular Hammer Bros in first, then another one on top. And another. And then wings to the bottom one so the whole pile of Hammer Bros started flying as they approached.

Diving straight into the action by the simple tap of a button instantly showed up a problem – it was physically impossible to get past them. Back to the drawing board, Mario Makerand few modifications later, it was very playable, albeit a simple case of dodging a few stray hammers and making a break for the flag.

After 10 minutes I’d taken out the floor of the stage, added in pipes, rising platforms, piranha plants, mushrooms and an almost impossible leap of faith that took a lot of skill to achieve. The result was a challenging level of my own creation, born from just a few Hammer Bros jumping up and down. Continue reading Hands-On: Mario Maker

Hands-On: Splatoon

SplatoonWhile the rest of the world seems obsessed with the shooter genre, Nintendo has constantly stuck by its family-friendly image – something of a relief to many of us. But with children being exposed to violent games at such a young age, it falls to Nintendo to offer them something comparable on the Wii U. The answer? An ink-based shooter starring squid people. Welcome to Splatoon.

The biggest surprise from Nintendo’s E3 ensemble, and one of the biggest hits on the show floor, Splatoon is Nintendo’s answer to the shooter genre. An 8-player online, team-based shooter that doesn’t promote gritty realistic violence. And it is absolutely brilliant.

Controlled with the GamePad, Splatoon is instantly accessible, and instantly entirely new. While the standard analogue controls remain, with triggers being used for shooting and grenades, the fine tuning of your aim is taken away from the right trigger, and replaced by motion controls. While many shooter fans may cry foul, the option to turn off these motion controls is available, but one I would not recommend. Splatoon is very much a rapid, reaction based shooter, and the ability to aim using your controller adds a huge amount of precision.

The aim of the game is to douse the map in as much of your team’s ink as possible, while stopping the opposition from doing likewise. This causes a huge change in how you approach the game. While points are scored for kills, it is far more beneficial to get ouSplatoont of danger and start inking the opposition’s colour away, rather than getting into a drawn out battle. And this is where Splatoon’s master stroke comes in – squidding.

Each of the Inklings (the squid characters you play as) have the ability to transform into a squid, and with it, hide in your team’s ink. It is this mechanic that transforms Splatoon from a simple inky shooter, into a tactical game of skill. With the ability to hide in your ink, battles can changed, with once invisible enemies popping out of the opposition’s ink at a moment’s notice. It makes for a hugely challenging mechanic, and one, as the demo progressed, that I began to see the ingenuity of. Continue reading Hands-On: Splatoon

Hands-On: Yoshi’s Woolly World

Yoshi's Woolly WorldThere’s one word that can summarise Yoshi’s Woolly World – adorable. Created from a mixture of wool, fabric, and all sorts of arts and crafts materials, Yoshi’s latest adventure feels like a game you could create physically given you had enough time. Strip away the brightly coloured worlds and fluffy exterior though, and Woolly World reveals itself to be largely the same as previous Yoshi games – run, jump, eat and throw things all in the name of collecting smiling flowers. It’s a tried and tested concept, and one that has become Yoshi’s staple over the years, but off the back of the indifferently received Yoshi’s New Island, it’s a concept that is in danger of becoming stale. But if you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, what do you do? A new lick of paint is the answer.

Mechanics aside, it is hard to not instantly fall in love with Yoshi’s Woolly World. Partnering with Good Feel Inc. and borrowing the woollen themes of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s latest adventure oozes charm. It’s no mean feat creating an entire world out of fabric and upholstery, but it’s a challenge that the design team have completed in what appears to be relative ease. Every world is created top to bottom with stitched and knitted elements – Yoshi's Woolly Worldbe it the woollen Koopa Troopas and Shy Guys, to the balls of wool that stand in for Yoshi’s eggs, everything feels like it is fresh out of a knitting box.

Presented in HD, the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and the art style also allows for a bit of a remix on some traditional Yoshi themes. Woollen balls replace Yoshi’s eggs, while elements of the landscape can be unravelled to unlock secret areas; alternatively, ledges can be knitted to provide an alternate route. The woollen theme also allows for some cute animations for Yoshi himself, with his nose squishing up against heavy objects, and his knitted legs turning into wheels when he runs fast.

During my demo, I tackled three levels – two set in what appears to be the opening world, with another set in the sky. While the first two levels felt the most like ‘classic’ Yoshi’s Island with added woollen challenges, the level in the sky offered the first of Yoshi’s Woolly World’s new mechanics – cotton wool birds. Yet another riff on the crafts theme, these birds replace wool balls for the level; when thrown, they leave a path of cotton wool, which is fortunate as the level is largely comprised of empty space. Perhaps more importantly, despite its look, Woolly World offers up a decent challenge, especially when compared to Yoshi’s recent games.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldWhile there’s still plenty of time until Yoshi’s Woolly World hits stores, my playtime with it left me with the feeling that this is going to be the best Yoshi game since the original on the SNES. Aside from its adorable presentation, the developers have taken the woollen theme to heart, and created inventive, and fun, puzzles around the knitted world they have created. With 2-player co-op and amiibo support included, this will surely be another platforming hit for Nintendo.

Hands-On: Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule WarriorsLike many of you, I’m a huge Zelda fan, but having never played a Dynasty Warriors game, the idea of a crossover had me worried. We’ve seen first hand the problems with overexposing a brand with the recent influx of Mario titles, and with The Legend of Zelda attaining almost mystical status due to its infrequent release schedule, the idea of a spin-off based on another franchise was seen as a bad idea to many.

Thankfully, my fears were put to rest as soon as I picked up the game. Say what you will about the gameplay depth of Dynasty Warriors games, but one thing is clear right from the start of Hyrule Warriors – there is a deep love and affection for the franchise in this game.

Be it the NES Zelda-styled loading screen, or the wealth of characters from different time periods available to play as, there’s a real knowledge of the franchise in here, and while Aonuma has decreed Hyrule Warriors non-canon, this feels like the team-up crossover we’ve been waiting for. Hyrule Warriors is The Legend of Zelda universe’s Avengers.

But no amount of fan service will make up for poor gameplay, and this is where personal taste will come into play. While Hyrule Warriors looks like a Zelda game on the surface, the gameplay is anything but. Based around a given battlefield, the aim is to cut your way through swathes of enemies (and we’re talking thousands here) as you make it to areas, known as Keeps, that bolster your defences (think Star Wars Battlefront but with thousands of battle droids). Beating the boss of that keep, a giant Moblin or aHyrule Warriors Lizalfos for example, earns your side reinforcements. And that’s the extent of the gameplay.

Of course, the battlefield exists while you are in it, so there will be times you are called from your path of destruction for a more focussed task. In my demo, set outside Hyrule Castle from Twilight Princess, I was called away to protect Impa, collect bombs to clear a pathway, and ultimately take down the stage’s big bad, King Dodongo.

There’s also an element of skill in the battle itself, albeit against a mindless army that seems less interested in attacking you than watching you kill their friends. Special attacks, and charge attacks, are built up using a magic meter, and items can be found and equipped on the battlefield (which can also be charged, resulting in a giant bomb for example).

While the roster continues to grow, my demo only included time playing as Link and Zelda, with a sword and rapier respectively. While both control similarly, there’s a distinct difference in their abilities. Link is far more of a brawler, with his sword unsurprisingly being most effective at close range, requiring you to really get in amongst enemies. Zelda however, had a much larger range with the rapier, and special moves such as light arrows allowed for a more tactical approach to battle.

Hyrule WarriorsThe demo I played was just a snippet of the finished thing, and while this section did seem more about the spectacle than the tactics, there are definite hints at a more in-depth game beneath the surface. For Dynasty Warriors fans, it’s the same gameplay but with the classic Zelda touch. For Zelda fans, it’s a love letter to the franchise and a way to celebrate everything about it in a new format. And that seems like as good a reason as any to give it a go.

Thank You and Goodbye

Notes from the Mushroom Kingdom

In October 2010 I started writing for Nintendo Okie, and now, almost two years later, my time here is at an end. It has been an amazing couple of years for me to work with everyone here and to have been part of such a wonderful community, but as of today my articles are returning to this side of the Atlantic as I will be joining Nintendo Life.

And I could not have achieved this without Nintendo Okie. When I first got in contact with Tony in the Summer of 2010, I had recently shut down my own personal Nintendo site after three failed re-launches and was looking for a way to hone my writing and reach out to a wider audience. Tony’s ad for writers across the world caught my eye, and we eventually settled on the idea of two articles a week – these would ultimately become the weekly Euro News Round-Up and my editorial piece, Notes from the Mushroom Kingdom. Continue reading Thank You and Goodbye