Ironically, since starting serious work on Lusipurr’s Fountain of Perpetual Disappointment, I have played fewer games, but also had fewer opportunities to check out pre-release events. This pattern was broken somewhat last week when I was invited to check out Nintendo’s Holiday lineup for this year.
The featured games ranged from the recently released to the not-quite-yet-released, so I tried to focus on the latter. I gave three games in particular some extra attention.
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
I rushed to the 3DS units first. Out of all the games at the event, I was most curious – and apprehensive – about Sticker Star. While I prefer the Mario & Luigi series for Nintendo RPGs, I have always been a fan of Paper Mario as well, particularly The Thousand-Year Door. Therefore the changes to the RPG mechanics had me skeptical going in. Thankfully, the demo was able to relieve some of my worries.
Most importantly, the sticker system proved itself to be effective and addicting even in the setting of a limited demo. Combined with the fact that Paper Mario‘s RPG leveling mechanics were always on the side of “RPG lite”, the loss of leveling up is not as big of a deal as I expected. Especially because of the way stickers are handled.
Mario’s inventory appears to be comprised only of stickers. I was only able to collect stickers for battle in the demo, but it was obvious that some would also be used as potions or items. In the demo, Mario’s sticker suitcase of sorts was two pages big, but not every sticker took up one slot. More powerful stickers were larger. This sort of inventory management is not new, but I think it is a good mechanic and I am excited to explore it further within the context of the game. There was no confirmation either way if the suitcase would grow larger as the game progressed, but my guess is that it is. My other assumption is that Mario’s HP will find a way to grow larger despite the lack of traditional levels.
Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
The original Epic Mickey was a great idea combined with an awesome art style and a truly broken camera. The lack of a second analog stick did not help, but games like Mario Galaxy 2 and Skyward Sword were able to overcome the challenge with minimal problems. It was truly sad to see such a great game squandered by a single technical issue. It was like seeing a chest full of gold behind a clear wall. The gold is obviously there. It is visible. But there is no way to get to it.
Anyway, it might be obvious that my attentions were placed firmly on the operation of the camera when I got a chance to try out the sequel for the Wii U. I am extremely pleased to say that the camera is fixed. And not just because of the second analog stick. It is tighter and more intuitive. Mickey runs around with Oswald now, which seems fairly inconsequential. A second player can control Oswald, but the game was designed – thankfully – as a single player experience, so “the power of two” is really still just the power of one with a few more moves.
The build I played was over a month old, I was told, and it was unfortunately easy to tell. The game controlled well, but there were a few moves that felt loose. Mickey has the ability to grab onto Oswald’s feet and perform a glide move similar to what occurs in the Ratchet & Clank series. However, the move seemed a little touchy. Something that should only take one try never took only one try. Speaking of Ratchet & Clank, I have been playing the original in HD on the PS3 and the controls are incredibly tight. If a new IP got it right ten years ago, I should think Epic Mickey could get it right on their second go-around.
Of course, the earlier build could be to blame, also the absolutely terrible framerate could be to blame. The representative brought up the issue before I had a chance to mention it, but although it is something they are working on and will likely be better for the release in a few weeks time, I cannot imagine that it will be anything more than competent for the final product. And that is if they work miracles. My guess is that the framerate is going to go from “practically unplayable” to “noticeably not great” in time for launch. Of course, this could also be an issue localized to the Wii U version.
The good news, however, is the addition of better persistence. Now if time is spent trying to re-paint or un-paint a section, it will stay that way forever until the player changes it. This lines up a lot more with Warren Spector’s “playstyle matters” motto. I believe this little change will add a lot to immersion. Let us just hope the PS3 version runs well.
New Super Mario Bros U
What to say? It is more side-scrolling Mario. Lots of fun. The addition of the gamepad to play God in multiplayer is more of a hindrance than “bubbling” was in the original. Granted, the bubbling mechanic seems to be fixed, allowing players to “unbubble” themselves. But still, the gamepad player can create temporary platforms using the touch screen on the gamepad which shows the same action on screen. The mechanic makes the game too easy at best and an unhelpful frustration at worst.
Honestly, the only good use I can think for it other than helping really bad players is for somebody to intentionally try to slow the player down in order to create an extra challenge.
I am now excited for Sticker Star when I was not before, but nothing at the event inspired anything but continued apathy for Nintendo’s new system. I am looking forward to playing the new Mario Bros because those are always well designed, but I can do that at other people’s houses.