The Player

Nintendo pins its E3 hopes on 'Mario Maker' and new 'Star Fox'

Nintendo's 'Star Fox Zero' is being developed in conjunction with Platinum Games and due this holiday season.

Last year Nintendo came to the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) with a major surprise: The company was developing "Splatoon," a shooter, albeit one that focused on paint and squids, that starred none of the company's famous mascots.

Nintendo today in a digital press conference focused more on short-term goals than long-term plans. While Nintendo's Wii U successor received a shout-out, "Codename NX" was tabled for discussion in 2016.

Instead, this year at E3, Nintendo will rely heavily on familiar faces. It is, after all, the year Nintendo is celebrating the 30th anniversary of "Super Mario Bros.," and to honor the title Nintendo showcased its "Super Mario Maker," a user creation game that will allow players to dream up their own levels for Nintendo's famous plumber and his brother. 

The game will come with a handy 100-page book, helping players through the possibly overwhelming task of mimicking a Nintendo designer master such as Shigeru Miyamoto. Look for the game, which will cover the look and feel of Mario through the ages, to simplify creation tools by utilizing the Wii U's touch-screen-like GamePad.

"Mario Maker" is due Sept. 11, and coinciding with the launch Nintendo will release retro-styled Mario amiibo figurines for unlocking unique abilities and powerups.

But with the big anniversary out of the way, it's safe to say Nintendo this E3 is going all-in on its "Star Fox Zero," which brings the space combat critter to the Wii U. Nintendo is developing the title with Platinum Games, the team behind the popular "Bayonetta" franchise, and it is slated to launch during this year's holiday season. 

After playing through about 45 minutes of "Star Fox Zero" at a pre-E3 event, it's not an exaggeration to say there is no other Wii U game like it. The game utilizes -- and requires that the player become accustomed to -- two different viewpoints, a first-person angle via the GamePad and a broader, more third-person perspective on the television screen.

Though a title can't be judged in an hour in a controlled setting, it appears difficult to advance through the game without heavily relying on the GamePad and the television. Star Fox's ship could zero around a target, but would have to utilize the GamePad's cockpit to drop a bomb or fire on enemies from above. Likewise, when lowering an extension of the ship to unlock doors and carry bombs, the TV is used to get the ship into place, and the GamePad is needed for more pinpoint control.

Acclimating to this took time. It reminded me a bit of the sensation of getting used to 3-D. Though there's no glasses here, the GamePad allows for nearly a full 360 view, and what Star Fox is seeing from the cockpit can be vastly different from the view on the television screen.

Scenes in which an enemy needed to taken down with specific shots on spinning, glowing orbs took some time, as I would need to line up the ship and then center the cockpit. The two screens are constantly playing with one's perception.

Miyamoto was on hand to briefly introduce the game on Sunday, and he noted that this approach allows for the player to always be in control of the view from the cockpit. If there's an in-game cinematic scene happening, Star Fox can still look around and fire by using the first-person view. It also seems to ensure that mastering "Star Fox Zero" will be no easy feat.

Far more cute will be "Yoshi's Wooly World," starring a yarn-like version of the green dinosaur-like figure from the "Super Mario Bros." series. Due Oct. 16, the Wii U game has a lovely hand-crafted look, and the hope is that the player will be constantly surprised by the transformations Yoshi can undertake. Pull on string, and maybe he becomes a motorcycle, or an airplane, all attempting to create a side-scrolling world that can be explored from multiple different takes via the same character. 

Also detailed for the Wii U was a party game entitled "Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival" and updated take on "Mario Tennis," both due this year, as well as an as-yet-untitled role-playing-game that's set in present day Tokyo but features elements from the fantasy series "Fire Emblem." It looks to be more of a battle about coming-of-age, as players will struggle between the "worlds of glamor and darkness," according to a Nintendo release.

On the hand-held side, Nintendo showcased "The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes" for its 3DS system. Though the Wii U's upcoming "Zelda" game is absent from this year's E3," "Tri Force Heroes" will do its best to tide fans over, as it is set to launch this fall and allows for three players to team up and take on challenges. Solve puzzles by staking the three characters, or just go down in an all-out brawl against foes.

Also on the competitive tip is "Metroid Prime: Federation Forces," a first-person co-op in which four players can connect locally or online to take on missions in the "Metroid Prime" universe, The game is coming in 2016, and will also include a three-on-three mode dubbed "Metro Prime: Blast Ball," a sort of intergalactic version of soccer. 

A previously announced new "Fire Emblem" game received a title ("Fire Emblem Fates") and is still on target to launch in 2016. Also coming next year is "Mario & Luigi Paper Jam," a new entry in the light role-playing game franchise, this one involving the help of Paper Mario, and a 3DS take on "Hyrule Warriors Legends."

Nintendo gave its "Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer" a Sept. 25 release date. The game, a spin-off of the "Animal Crossing" series, will center on interior design for animal characters. It sounds easier than it is, as the creatures are quite demanding.

Also on the horizon is a North American localization of the popular Japanese title "Yo-Kai Watch," a wacky game in which likable, big-eyed Yo-Kai must be befriended to battle more dangerous Yo-Kai.

The bottom line take-away from Nintendo's Tuesday morning conference? Nintendo has high hopes for "Mario Maker" and "Star Fox, but the Wii U's "Legend of Zelda" game remains largely a mystery. Also, some bad news: Cat Mario does not have a full game yet.

But there was one surprise: Nintendo will be coming to the forthcoming "Skylanders SuperChargers."

Nintendo characters Donkey Kong and Bowser will be given the "Skylanders" figure treatment and be compatible with the toys-to-life game. Each will also have its own custom vehicle toys, and will be available exclusively in the Nintendo starter packs for the game, with retail prices set at $74.99 for the Wii U and $64.99 for the 3DS. The game is due Sept. 30.

E3 officially opens Tuesday at noon at the Los Angeles Convention Center and will run through Thursday. The industry-only event is largely designed to hype 2015 and 2016 video games. Sony and Microsoft showcased their slates Monday.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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