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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo held a Nintendo Direct video presentation on October 1 that focused entirely on 3DS and WiiU games that are on the way. The following is a list of the five most important things we learned from watching the presentation.

Super Mario 3D World is coming November 22, 2013

It also looks like it is EXACTLY what Nintendo needs to kick off the holiday season. The game looks amazing and is bringing more innovative ideas to the table than I can ever remember from a Mario game. This is going to be a must own for families that own a WiiU (and might even be a reason to buy a WiiU in the first place).

Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze has been delayed until February 2014

This is a pretty big disappointment because it was one of my most anticipated games of the holiday season. I really enjoyed the last Donkey Kong game.

The last thing Nintendo needs to do is to push some of its premier franchises out of the holiday window, but it is possible that they wanted to avoid any potential competition with Super Mario 3D World.

Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 will feature an online multiplayer component

Players will be able to earn points for their country to help contribute to a leader board. This will be a great warm-up for the Nintendo online multiplayer services to help them get ready for Mario Kart 8 next year.

 

A new Kirby 3DS title is in development

They showed a brief preview of the title in progress and it looks amazing. The game is currently slated for release next year. Kirby fans look like they have a lot to look forward to. (I. Cannot. Wait.)

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds will feature some significant changes

They announced significant changes regarding item acquisition. The biggest difference is that items will be available for “rental” in order to allow players to tackle dungeons in any order they choose. This is a significant change for players used to previous entries in the franchise that were much more linear.

It looks like there is a lot to be excited about for Nintendo fans this year and next. What are you most excited about? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Lara Murray, staff writer

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: E

Released: November 18, 2012

Available on the Wii U

Overall Review:

New Super Mario Bros. U takes us back to the Mushroom Kingdom, where Mario, his brother Luigi, and two of their toad friends must save Princess Peach and her kingdom from the ever determined King Bowser and his Koopa Kids. It’s an old plot device that’s been used in nearly every Mario Bros. game, but it’s a tried-and-true formula that always hooks us in.

Players are taken across eight various, luscious areas that are brought to life with the high definition graphics. Visually, it’s one of the best Mario games out there. The graphics are crisp and colorful, showcasing many subtle details obtainable only in high definition, and is complimented by the array of catchy music unique to each level. It’s hard not to chuckle when a koopa stops mid-step to face the screen and subtly dance to the music.

Family Gaming Assessment:

In order to progress through the game, Mario and his companions must defeat enemies by a number of different means: jump on them, knock them over with spinning shells, throw ice- or fireballs, or become invincible. When defeated, enemies flash briefly or make a comical sound before vanishing.

Online features of the game allow user’s friends to post their thoughts on a level, and can indicate whether their post is a spoiler or not. Only friends of the user will have their posts appear, eliminating strangers from the game.

Playability Assessment:

Up to four players can control Mario, his brother Luigi, and two toads through the main story, in addition to an additional player who can use the gamepad to influence the environment, affecting gameplay for the players. There are challenge modes as well that put a player’s skills to the test, usually by requiring players to achieve a goal before finishing a level within a drastically limited amount of time.

This is a great game for young children with little to no platforming skills because of the use of the gamepad. You can sit back and help younger players by creating floating blocks or building up power to help beat enemies, or switch roles to let young players feel like they’re helping in a big way. Older players shouldn’t find using the gamepad as a demerit of their skills; more often than not players will work with the gamepad to easily clear pesky levels and find tucked away secrets.

Conclusion:

New Super Mario Bros. U is a great addition to a family that already owns a Nintendo Wii U, or is looking into purchasing a Wii U but isn’t sure what to buy. Those already familiar with the series won’t find much new brought to the table, as the gameplay and world design are retreads of older game designs. Despite the rehash, New Super Mario Bros. U is a safe investment for lots of fun, long after the princess has been saved. 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB: E 10+

08/11/2013

Reviewed on 3DS

Overall Review:

If you had told me when I was a teenager that one of my favorite role playing game (RPG) series as an adult would feature Mario and Luigi I would have laughed at you. I would never have imagined that the Mario and Luigi series would captivate me as much as it has.

To put it simply: Mario and Luigi: Dream Team is brilliant. This series never fails to impress me with its wit and charm. This particular entry stands out because it “features” Luigi. I use quotes here because most of the action takes place while Luigi is sleeping on the job!

If I were to have one complaint about the game it would be its length. I know that sounds odd considering it is a role playing game (RPG), but I was ready for it to be over by the time I was done.

Family Gaming Assessment:

There is nothing really worrisome about this game.

The villain can be a little scary at times, but the things he does and says are often funny enough to laugh it off.

Playability Assessment:

Anyone familiar with Super Mario games should be familiar with them. They look simple and cute, but that shiny veneer hides a devious learning curve. Mario and Luigi: Dream team is no different.

There are puzzles in almost every area that will test your child’s logic and memory. If they are easily frustrated by these types of activities you might want to play with them to help make sure they don’t get too angry.

There is a lot of reading involved in the game. Young readers might struggle with some of the words, but if your child can retain words that they read a few times then They won’t have much trouble after a while. The language is very repetitive.

Conclusion:

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

If you have a child that is interested in role playing games, then this is the perfect entry point to the genre.

 

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

We don’t normally post sad news here, but it is with great sadness that we report that Hiroshi Yamauchi, former Nintendo President, passed away today.

Yamauchi led the company for 53 years and helped the company grow from a humble playing card manufacturer into the video game giant that is responsible for some of the best video games ever made.

Yamauchi was the man who chose to hire Shigero Miyamoto who eventually became the lead game designer for Nintendo and eventually created Donkey Kong, Link, and Mario (and many more).

He was a visionary and will be missed.

This man was largely responsible for Nintendo’s success. What is your favorite Nintendo memory? Sound off in the comments so we can remember his legacy!

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Nintendo Land Review

by Guest Writer

By: Lara Murray, staff writer

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: E

Released: November 2012

Available on the Wii U

Overall Review:

Nintendo Land masquerades as an amusement park filled where Nintendo-inspired mini-games, know as “attractions”, are available to the player. Each attraction is a spin on the capabilities of the Wii U’s gamepad, demonstrating how it changes the way we play games. Playing attractions earn coins, which in turn are used in a pachinko game (think Plinko from The Price Is Right) to win up to 300 decorations that adorn the park. If sharing data over the Internet is enabled, then you will find other Miis (Wii U avatars) from other players around the world walking around your park.

There are a total of twelve attractions, and they range from one player to multiplayer where up to five people can jump in on the action or participate in an attraction tour, which is a tournament style of play. Attractions also range in difficulty and skill level, each spinning their own interpretation on how to engage the gamepad to play the attraction.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Nintendo prides itself as family-oriented, so it should be no surprise that much of the game play is also family safe. Many attractions have cute aesthetics and are absent of graphic gore and violence. For examples, Takamaru’s Ninja Castle calls for players to aim paper ninja stars at origami ninjas hidden inside a diorama, while The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest brings players into a patchwork landscape to fight against ragdoll goblins.

Some attractions may need explanation for young players. One attraction, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, may be spooky for younger children afraid of ghosts, despite how goofy the ghost looks. Another attraction, Metriod Blast, casts players as sci-fi bounty hunters defending their base by firing lasers at space insects. Younger or easily frightened children may be better suited to avoid these games until they can grasp the fantasy element like older children and teenagers will.

Playability Assessment:

Attractions are labeled as one of three categories: solo, team, and competition. As implied by their names, some of the attractions are more group-oriented than, say, the solo attractions which only one player can actively play at a time. Team attractions require full cooperation from all players to advance, while competition attractions pit one player against the others with winner-take-all stakes. As you progress in attractions, additional levels are added and the challenge rating increases gradually, but it’s always available to replay easier levels.

Each attraction involves manipulating the features of the Wii U’s gamepad, so in some attraction the gamepad’s screen is observed like a map or a first-person view unavailable from the third-party view displayed on the television, while other attractions require direct interaction by drawing a path or creating strokes on the gamepad’s screen to direct movement. Multiplayer attractions require at least standard Wii remotes for additional players, with some attractions needing the more expensive Motion+ Wii Remotes to play.

Multiplayer attractions are very easy to pick up for the players with Wii remotes. Usage of the gamepad can be more difficult in some attraction than in others, such as in Animal Crossing: Sweet Day where the two analog sticks control separate characters, or in Metroid Blast where the player has to control a vehicle. A nice feature, though, is that Nintendo Land recognizes when there is a new player based on the user’s Mii, and will go over a tutorial on how the attraction plays. Replaying the tutorials is just a button away if there’s ever a need for a refresher.

Conclusion:

Nintendo Land is one of the better exclusives available for the Wii U. Lots of replay value is hidden within the game, but the game is at its best when four to five players can monopolize the multi-player attractions, and in order to do that, each player needs their own Wii remote that retails for ~$30 apiece. Nintendo Land is best suited for larger families or an active house with frequent guests over that likely have or can bring over the extra remotes needed to fully enjoy the game, whereas small families may want to wait for a drop in price before picking Nintendo Land up.

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Nintendo released a lot of information regarding the upcoming holiday season today. The biggest announcement was the impending release of the Nintendo 2DS which I discussed here. But, that was not the only announcement that came from the Nintendo camp today.

Nintendo also announced a $50 price cut on the deluxe edition of the WiiU console. That leaves the console at a price point of $299.99. I think this is a great move. The PS4 is only $399.99 and it was well worth the $50 upgrade to get that kind of hardware improvement over the WiiU. The $100 gap is more significant.

Nintendo also announced that they would be releasing a Legend of Zelda:Windwaker HD bundle on 09/20/2013 that would retail for $299.99 and include a digital copy of Hyrule Hystoria and a download code for Legend of Zelda: Windwaker HD at no additional charge. This is a phenomenal deal!

Other announcements include the release dates of several Nintendo titles:

WiiU –

The Legend of Zelda Windwaker HD ($49.99) – 09/20/2013 (digital) and 10/04/2013 (retail)

Wii Party U, bundled with Wii Remote Plus and stand ($49.99) – 10/25/2013

Super Mario 3D World ($59.99) – 11/22/2013

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze ($49.99) – 12/06/2013

Mario & Sonic at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games – Launches this holiday, further details to be revealed soon.

WiiFit U – Launches this holiday, further details will be revealed soon

3DS –

 

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

Mario Party: Island Tour ($39.99) – 11/22/2013

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

Nintendo came out with a TON of news today. The biggest announcement of the day was for a new handheld system call the Nintendo 2DS. This is, for all intents and purposes, a stripped down version of the 3DS hardware that is being sold at a budget price of $129.99. The system will launch on 10/12/2013 which is, interestingly enough, the release date for Pokémon X and Pokémon Y.

The there are two main differences between the 2DS and the 3DS. The most significant is that the 2DS does not have the 3D technology that inspired the 3DS’s name. It will, however, still play all of the existing DS and 3DS games. This is a big deal because there are a lot of parents who are concerned about the 3D effect and its potential impact on young and developing eyes. This gives those parents a worry free option for their child.

The other difference is in the actual physical shape of the machine. The 3DS is shaped like a hinged clamshell. The 2DS has no hinge. Both screens reside on one side of a tablet-like device. This has the advantage of protecting the device from hinge breakage (there isn’t one). This does come at the expense of a risk for more frequent damage to the exposed screens.

The lower price point is also welcome. The internet exploded when the announcement was made, but there was universal agreement that a $130 machine being released alongside a Pokemon game is a killer combination that will result in a lot of happy children (and Nintendo executives) this holiday.

What do you think? Are you picking this up for your family?

 

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By: Lara Murray

Publisher: Nintendo

ESRB Rating: E

Release Date: April 26, 2013

Reviewed on Wii U (also available on Wii Virtual Console. Used cartridge copies available for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and the Game Boy Advance)

Overall Review:

Older fans have long argued whether it was Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World that was the strongest influence on the modern Mario games of today. Both titles have lent features to latter games like multiple power-up suits and hidden levels that have helped the popularity of the series stay fresh. Available on the Wii U’s Virtual Console, Super Mario World is back again to resurrect the old dispute.

Family Gaming Assessment:

Like most Mario games, the premise is simple. Bowser and his Koopalings have overtaken  exotic Dinosaur Island, kidnapped Princess Peach, and imprisoned all the friends of Yoshi, a happy but hungry cute green dinosaur that assists Mario and Luigi in saving his island home. Despite the name “Dinosaur Island”, don’t expect a romp through Jurassic Park. The island’s inhabitants all have a cute cartoony look that would leave a velociraptor giggling.

As a direct port from its original Super Nintendo Entertainment System release, the graphics, music, and puzzles are the same as they were in 1990 but their charm holds up to the test of time. There are no online features to the game—another adaption from the SNES era of games. No inappropriate language is used, and the minimal violence is limited to flinging fireballs, twirling in a cape, or jumping on the monsters populating Dinosaur Island.

Playability Assessment:

Up to two players can play as Mario and his brother Luigi, alternating between the Wii U’s game pad or using up to two classic controllers to navigate the brothers through the game’s many levels. The game controls are very easy for anyone of any age to pick up, though later stages can be a little challenging for inexperienced or younger players not used to timing their moves to proceed.

Power-ups are available through throughout the game a la the Fire Flower, which grants the ability to throw fireballs at enemies, or the Feather, which bestows a cape that allows the player to fly through levels. Creative use of the feather power-up helps to discover secret keys and keyholes in select levels that lead to hidden levels, further expanding the game its replay value.

Super Mario World also marks the first appearance of Yoshi, who has since appeared in subsequent Mario titles and starred in his own spin-offs like Yoshi’s Story and Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2. By riding Yoshi, players can take advantage of his ability to eat enemies and, at times, temporarily earn power-ups from certain colored shells, but he will throw off the player and run away if an enemy touches him. It can be frantically fun to catch him when this happens, but it may be distracting to players who misunderstand that Yoshi needs to be saved.

Conclusion:

There’s no reason not to buy Super Mario World from the Virtual Console. At $8, it’s a fraction of the cost of a new Wii U game, and as much fun now as it was when it was released over 20 years ago, losing none of its ingenuity over that time. As it only requires the use of the gamepad, there’s no need to go out and purchase additional accessories that don’t already come with a Wii U in its box. Buy it, play it with your family, and discover what all the fuss is about that fans have wrestled with for over two decades.

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By: Lara Murray

Publisher: Nintendo

Release Date: June 9, 2013

System: 3DS 

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is out for the Nintendo 3DS and is the newest addition to the Animal Crossing series. Like its predecessors, it’s not necessary to have played any of the other games in the series so a new player with just basic reading, math, and comprehension skills can jump right in and enjoy the game. Up to four people can create a villager to live in town, but only one person can play at a time. Additionally, only the first villager to arrive in town can become mayor after a misunderstanding from the animal villagers, which takes away one of the neatest aspects from other players on the same game.

As mayor of the town, a player has the ability to enact ordinances and start public work projects that add decorations to the town. As a resident, a player controls their villager and interacts with other residences and the environment. Every imposition has a consequence, however subtle it may be: befriended residents will stay in town, while neglected or annoyed one will take off for greener pastures; shake a tree in hopes that “bells” (the in-game currency) or an item will fall out, at the risk that a bee’s nest will drop and you’ll be stung instead; run over the same area of grass long enough and it will wear away into a dirt path; plant a red rose and a white rose together, and find a pink rose growing one day from their cross-pollination.

Being a mayor is fun, but a mayor needs a home to retire to after a long day of work At the beginning of the game, your villager starts off with a humble tent while your house is built. It’s a small home at first, but over time the outside of the house can be remodeled and the inside can be expanded into multiple stories and floors. Remodeling cost bells, but by reselling old clothes and furniture and selling fruit, fish, insects, and fossils gathered in town, earning bells to repay your debt is easy. If money isn’t an issue, then fruit can be planted to grow more fruit trees and fossils, insects, and fish can be donated to the town’s museum for exhibition.

Seasons and time pass by in the game much the same as in real life. There’s snow on the ground in the winter and an abundant amount of mosquitoes in the summer, just to name a few of seasonal quirks. Many insects and fish only come out during certain months of the year, so there’s always something to catch. Holidays and villager’s birthdays are celebrated, often with a commemorative item available only during that time. When you want to remember a moment, pressing the L- and R-shoulder buttons will snap a photo that’s stored on the 3DS and can be uploaded online.

When you feel like your villager needs a change of scenery, chart a boat to a local tropical island for some exploration, visit the Dream House in town, or visit a friends town and see what they’re up to. You can also open the gate to your town and invite friends in. Visiting friends’ towns provides the advantage to gather fruit and buy items not available in the stores in your town, and finding travelers who only crop up in towns weekly on a random basis more often. Unless you’re in range of another player with a 3DS and a copy of the game, it’s necessary to have already swapped friend codes prior to visiting a friend’s town, preventing unwanted strangers from entering your town or you from entering theirs.

The multiplayer aspect of the island is a new feature that wasn’t featured in the past Animal Crossing games, but is one of best new features of New Leaf. Once in the same town, friends can travel to the tropical island and participate in one of the many “tours” available. The tours are mini games where participants work together to complete tasks, such as catching a certain amount of bugs within a time limit or completing a scavenger hunt, to win medals. Medals may then be cashed in to buy exclusive items available only on the island. You can also visit and play any of the tours by yourself by visiting the island when there are no friends visiting your town, but without the hectic fun of working together with friends.

The Dream House is another fun new feature in New Leaf. It allows you to visit the dream world of another town—either randomly selected from towns uploaded online, or by specifically entering a code that represents an exact town—where you can do anything you want but changes aren’t permanent. Parental controls must permit Internet access to visit any dream town, as well as unlock the Child Online Privacy Protection option in order to upload your town to the database where dream towns are pulled from.

Very few games can actually offer limitless entertainment, but Animal Crossing: New Leaf does it without missing a step. New Leaf proves that you don’t need violence or adult situations to produce a good game. Sometimes all it takes is a little misunderstanding when you move into something new to have fun.

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Nintendo did not hold a press briefing at E3 2013. Instead they posted a 38 minute Nintendo Direct video on their E3 website showing off the new titles that are on the way.

They showed a number of new and exciting titles, but things didn’t really pick up steam until the end of the presentation where they closed with game play details for Super Smash Brothers.

Smash Brothers is a fighting game that pits iconic Nintendo characters against each other in 4-player battles has been on of the most successful franchises Nintendo has to offer. It really couldn’t be coming at a better time as the Nintendo WiiU has been struggling on account of a lack of killer games. The reality is that Smash Brothers might be just what the doctor ordered.

They confirmed the return of several longstanding characters like Mario, Pikachu, Samus Aran, Link and Donkey Kong. They also have announce three new characters so far at E3.

The first new character was “The Villager” from Animal Crossing. He appears to be an interesting character with a lot of defensive moves. For example he can dig holes to prevent opponents from charging in on him. He can also catch projectiles in mid air and pocket them.

The second character announced is quite possibly the biggest news of the entire event (Yes. I mean all of E3… ALL OF IT). Capcom’s Mega Man will be making a guest appearance in Smash Brothers this time around complete with mega-buster, a whole pile of robot master weapons, and his trusty dog Rush. This is a huge deal because Mega Man is among the most popular characters in video games and has, sadly, been left out of the spotlight in recent years.

The third character was announce after the Nintendo Direct presentation went off the air. The “Wii Fit Trainer” is going to be stomping all over some Nintendo characters with her yoga moves.

We, sadly, don’t have a release date for this game right now, but Nintendo indicated that it would be releasing for the 3DS and Nintendo WiiU in 2014. I expect that we will have a lot more character announcements between now and then.

Stay tuned!

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