Thanks, Mario. Now please step aside Hyp­ing ‘Star Fox’

Nintendo show­cases ‘Su­per Mario Maker,’ then goes all in for ‘Star Fox Zero.’

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Todd Martens

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.

This year at E3, Nintendo is re­ly­ing 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 that Nintendo is go­ing all-in this E3 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 view­points, a first­per­son 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 Sun­day to brief ly in­tro­duce the game, 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-yetun­ti­tled 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 glam­our 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” uni- verse, 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 re- ceived a ti­tle (“Fire Em­blem Fates”) and re­mains 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 take­away 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.

Allen J. Schaben Los An­ge­les Times

CHARLES MAR­TINET, who has voiced Mario in Nintendo’s f lag­ship video game, speaks at E3.

Allen J. Schaben Los An­ge­les Times

RAFAEL BROWN plays Nintendo’s new “Star Fox Zero” at E3. Play­ers have two view­points in the game.

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