Mario, Sonic highlight Wii U games this holiday season
I recently played several upcoming Wii U titles when the Nintendo Airstream stopped by in Dearborn, Mich. Recent releases like "Pikmin 3," "The Wonderful 101" and "The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD" have kicked off a much-needed steady flow of games for the struggling console, and after getting a hands-on look at some major releases coming soon, I can safely say the constant waiting is finally over.
The biggest of these releases comes Nov. 22 with "Super Mario 3D World," the follow-up to the successful "Super Mario 3D Land" on the 3DS. I was a bit skeptical of it at first glance since it reminded me a little too much like the handheld game, but that changed after playing a couple levels with three other people.
This is the first multiplayer 3D Mario platform game, and Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach and Toad have their special abilities like in "Super Mario Bros. 2" from the NES days. While Mario is an all-around type, Peach can float in mid-air while Luigi has a super long jump and Toad is a speedster. The Cat power-up is the new hyped-up ability, allowing the player to climb up walls to secrets, claw at enemies, smack baseballs around, and conveniently climb up the classic flag pole to nab an easy extra life. Other power-ups include cherries to duplicate characters.
One level we played featured clear pipes to zoom through, some with enemies to dodge and multiple exits. Like the New Super Mario Bros games on the Wii and Wii U, it's hectic fun to play with others. Unlike the 2D side-scrollers where accidently (or purposely) bumping others into bottomless pits and enemies happens quite frequently, there's much more room to maneuver around on the 3D playing fields.
Releasing sooner on Oct. 29 is Sega's "Sonic Lost World," exclusive to the Wii U and 3DS platforms. Playing it gives off a "Super Mario Galaxy" vibe where Sonic runs around a variety of spherical worlds, collecting rings and kicking enemies while advancing through stages.
The new control system allows for more fluid movement, especially during running, which, of course, is what Sonic is known for. Past games would halt the hedgehog if he ran into a wall or other obstacles, ruining the flow. Now, holding down a trigger button lets Sonic run up walls and trees, and it works very well. A mix of 2D and 3D levels keeps things interesting as well.
The Mario & Sonic Olympic video games sell in the millions, and with the Sochi games happening in February comes the latest in series. "Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games" releases Nov. 15 and offers online play for events like Ski Cross and Short Track Speed Skating. A unique feature involves the player winning points for his/her home country that are viewed through online rankings.
I tackled the Bobsledding event, where I steered it using the GamePad while my partners lined up behind me with Wiimotes to help shift the weight around. It was quite an experience to say the least, but we didn't exactly break records since I missed a few speed boosts. We ended up winning the bronze medal.
I also played "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze," which was expected to release this holiday but now will launch in February 2014. I was disappointed in that news since this was my favorite Wii U game I demoed. Even though it plays pretty much like "Donkey Kong Country Returns" on the Wii, it looks amazing on HD. It's filled with color and detail, the music is catchy and it's just plain fun.
"Wii Party U" releases Oct. 25, the sequel to "Wii Party." One of its mini-games is called Water Runners, where players scoop water from a stream displayed on the GamePad and must carry it to a pitcher on the TV. The physical version of the game comes with a Wii Remote Plus controller and a horizontal stand for the GamePad for easier use of certain games like Tabletop Baseball.
October is filled with third-party titles as well. These include "Just Dance 2014," which released Oct. 8, and "Skylanders SWAP Force" on Oct. 13, "Lego Marvel Super Heroes" on Oct. 22, "Batman: Arkham Origins" on Oct. 25 and "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag" on Oct. 29.
"The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds"
Prior to my Wii U experience I sat down with a 3DS to try out this next Zelda game releasing Nov. 22. It immediately brought me back to the days of "A Link to the Past" on the Super Nintendo, which is what the game is designed around. Link's new ability to move along the walls really opens up gameplay possibilities, like being able to clear certain gaps to nab treasure or Pieces of Hearts, and getting past obstacles on moving platforms. Using the hammer to smack pegs into the ground and launch Link upward looks really neat with the 3D effect on.
The game also features Ravio, a new character who lets players rent or buy items before heading into another dungeon. This allows them to explore dungeons in any order they want.
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