Post E3 Hands On With Pokémon Sword & Shield, Link’s Awakening, Luigi’s Mansion 3, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, and Mario & Sonic at The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Nintendo Switch)


Look, I won’t keep you on the intro. E3 happened recently and Nintendo presented some strong contenders- I had the privilege of experiencing many of these titles first hand, and I’m excited to share my thoughts on them with you.

One quick disclaimer before I dive in; many of these demos were not final builds of the games in question, and are of course subject to change in their public releases.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

It is an absolute treat to wake in Koholint Island again, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening originally released on Game Boy over 25 years ago, and Link’s Awakening on Switch is shaping up to be fantastic. Powerfully self-confident in how it blends both old and modern Zelda, handheld and larger than life, it’s such a raw, retro experience yet delivered so familiarly as if we never parted.
Link’s Awakening is lush and dangerous; the clay doll charm and strong colors complement the rapid and unfamiliar nature of the gameplay. Enemies waste little time trying to harm you and narrow windows to dodge or deflect sets you on your toes from the get-go, with many other hazards fighting for their turn at you. While quieter imagery is still bold in its own regard- trinkets like crystals, items, and treasure shine even brighter by comparison. The familiar buoyancy of A Link Between Worlds is present too, a cartoony movement style complimenting the new clay diorama style looks. Shortly into the demo there were some notable frame drops, and it sometimes feels as if Link is moving on a different, more limited axis than other entities and the world he exists in, a problem that ailed Tri Force Heroes. Gone are the days of hitting the screen edge to progress, with the camera now smoothly following you around allowing for greater preparation, but less panic escapes. User interfaces are beautiful, text boxes are decorated in a way that helps carve a unique identity for the game, a map unfolds and paints itself beautifully as you delve into the world, and assistance, such as revisiting previous information within the menu, is known as “recalling” a memory; a simple but clever way to enhance the feel of the adventure. There’s more polish and fluidity in equipping and viewing items, and overall the game just felt excellent to experience. It felt strange to keep reminding myself I was playing this demo on the Switch, everything felt like the wonderful bitesized adventures found on 3DS, which is likely a sign Link’s Awakening will feel fantastic in both portable and docked modes. Finally, while this entry feels much sillier than some previous games, it’s not out of place- rather a callback to how many portable Zelda games used to be, and it doesn’t behave this way at the expense of a great experience.

 

MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order

I’m unfamiliar with most comic book related games, and this demo didn’t particularly interest me in changing that. MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order feels like if Hyrule Warriors was set in urban America and acted out with superheroes. I’ll start with my biggest issue, something that seems like a huge oversight, player 1 is outlined in the same red as the enemies. In a game that involves moving around and into other clusters of red outlines, ones you’re meant to attack, this feels like a ridiculous oversight. Amongst the flashy animations, rapid repositioning, and broadly zoomed out camera, it’s stupidly easy for players to get lost and confused, wasting their time attacking the wrong thing, or attempting to find their avatar amongst the action. On the plus side the game looked smooth and well stylized, made to look like an interactive comic book as you play. Designs of the superheroes are closer to what we see currently in the movies, minus the faces. This can be a bit jarring if your mental image of a character matches the movies, but in gameplay itself it is barely noticeable. Each character has a wealth of diverse attacks that can be spammed and interchanged to make the player feel like they’re kicking ass. Alongside a multitude of moves, there are various powerups found within missions that can be used to upgrade abilities of your team, providing some variety within the gameplay. With over 30 playable superheroes, and a variety of ways to fight, MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: The Black Order is easy for most players to pick up and feel like they’re kicking butt.

 

Pokémon Sword & Pokémon Shield

Back in the day, myself and the rest of the Gen 1 babies could only dream of playing a Pokémon game that reflected the broader, freer, and more immersive world the cartoon had to offer. My short time with this demo ramped up my feelings of wanting Sword and Shield fairly passively to actively counting down the days until we can play it fully. Instantly the visuals impressed; vivid palettes captured by smoother edges, and sleek movements conveying powerful action. The framerate feels smoother than usual and at times it soared- combined with some subtle camera positioning and detailed backgrounds, Pokémon Sword and Shield felt beautifully cinematic at no expense of the gameplay. NPCs feel more alive than previous entries, not only in the extra detail that’s gone into bringing them to life, but with how much sharper they feel in terms of interacting with you.
My biggest gripe thus far has been the user interface, feeling a bit too much like a minimal iOS update, as if the final touch is missing. This is mostly present on the main battle screens, and delving further into the menus shows a more complete looking design. Menus themselves are fantastically informative, delivering the information you need concisely, and are very responsive. Lastly, for the big one- Dynamaxing. Dynamaxing is when your Pokémon partner supersizes, drastically increasing its power. Like Mega Evolutions before it this mode definitely unbalances things heavily in favor of whoever activated the ability. Players can choose not to Dynamax their Pokémon, however enemy trainers will sometimes use the ability, meaning there might be times you’re forced to activate it to give yourself a chance at winning.
Overall Pokémon Sword & Shield is a strong contender for the best game I played at the post E3 event, a vibrant, open adventure packed with life, capturing the dream of braving the dangerous wilderness to become a Pokémon Master.

 

 

Mario & Sonic at The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Packed with a huge variety of modes, and looking damn clean while doing so, Mario & Sonic at The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is the latest instalment in the series. Unleash your inner skater, MMA fighter, archer, surfer, and much, much more, as some of the main characters in the Mario and Sonic series. Each mode contains various obstacles and challenges which help liven up the competition, making for a good party experience and adding overall depth to the challenge. The models and environments feel clean and polished, sporting custom outfits, accessories, and animations to take on each mode with. Accessibility be damned however, if one player chooses to use a certain control scheme then the others must follow suit, needlessly locking this game into a specific experience that at best can completely suck the fun out, and at worse, leave some competitors completely unable to play. Even basic movements had my joints instantly grinding, and the muddy-feeling motion controls meant I had to choose once again between ongoing damage to myself, or actually being able to perform a function the game pointlessly demanded of me. Overall, Mario & Sonic at The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has gone from something I wasn’t too interested in but held no contempt for, to something I actively feel disgust towards for such needless exclusions. Though I can’t decide what’s worse- ignoring Espio again, or making me see Eggman in those outfits.

 

 

Luigi’s Mansion 3

When poor Luigi isn’t being second choice or forgotten, he’s off chasing ghouls in a haunted house. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is wacky and creative, a friendly horror experience with puzzle solving, adventuring, exploring, and a goopy twin to help you- all of which is paced in a simply fascinating way. Don a weaponised vacuum-cleaner-backpack and suck & blow your way through this eccentric world as the green Mario brother, calling an even greener version to your aid. Nintendo have done a wonderful job creating a dark, dank, and clearly harrowing atmosphere- without it actually being too scary. Tremble through a twisted mansion, chilly cellars, winding stairwells, and secret areas. Brave spike traps and creaky elevators, crumbled hideaways and abandoned chambers, all rendered beautifully on the Switch. The deep mix of dark tones contrast well with the greens of Luigi and other ominous glows you’re doomed to encounter along your journey. There were some stutters with the frames, but those were minimal. More stutters did exist however in the input and there were many times I felt unfairly held back by small bursts of lag, delays, or clunky design. Luigi has a broad range of movement and abilities but the controls felt archaic, and much slower than how my enemies operated. The Poltergust G-00 can vacuum, blow, launch a Suction Shot, and Slam your foes. Each ability is also heavily used in puzzle solving and interacting with the environment, creating a solid interactive experience. Similarly, Gooigi can be used in combat or to help solve puzzles, and despite only having to use him a few times I’m already anticipating a fantastic range of ways to utilise him throughout the game. There’s tremendous diversity in the interactions; every ability interacts distinctively with a wide array of items and entities, boasting diverse details that help make each playstyle unique. My time with the demo has certainly got me intrigued with Luigi’s Mansion 3, I’m just hoping the controls won’t hold me back too much.

 

 

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