Nintendo at PAX Prime 2012: Faith’s Overall Impressions

Another year has come and gone at PAX Prime, and while I’m exhausted, I’m also excited about the upcoming game release season… and Nintendo has no small part to play in that!

It was great to see Nintendo’s increased presence this year, not only having a large booth in the main exhibition hall, but also taking control of the annual handheld lounge with plenty of new and upcoming (and highly anticipated!) games. They also held several events—a Kirby bubble-gum blowing world record attempt, a Paper Mario Sticker Star sticker scavenger hunt, and a Kid Icarus event.

While an unfortunate miscommunication with the show meant that thousands of people were shut out of the Kirby event (the event was capped at 600 people, but no one knew that until afterward, causing many very upset people who both waited in line AND those who were turned away at the door), apparently they did manage to make the world record for “most people blowing gum bubbles at the same time”.

Down in the handheld lounge, I got to try out a few upcoming titles:

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon – Fun demo! The gameplay is slow (you’re sneaking around a mansion in the dark with a vacuum, so what do you expect?) but has that great pseudo-spooky element that younger players are sure to love. And while Luigi comes across as a bit of a wimp in the first level, I’m sure that changes as he gains confidence with his vacuum.

Skylanders: Giants – What can I say?! The new characters have fantastic, HUGE new moves that do damage like we haven’t seen before. They’re a bit cumbersome to control (they’re giant, lumbering creatures after all), but great for battles. The reposed original Skylanders also look beautiful… which is terrible for my bank account, but wonderful for the OCD collector in me! I didn’t get to experience a whole lot of actual gameplay aside from testing the new moves (one level or so), but what I played was similar to the original game, with some added tweaks. It’s definitely set to be another incredibly fun title.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii U – There were five people playing this demo (five!!!), and it got pretty crazy. The art is a little bit different in this title, which I found set it apart immediately from the new 3DS title. It’s not just another side-scrolling Mario game, because there are new enemies, obstacles, and power-ups available that make it absolutely insane when there are, for example, five people playing! The new flying squirrel suit is also suitably ridiculous. The three levels I played (in increasing difficulty) certainly demonstrated the entertainment value of playing this game with multiple people.

Nintendo Land – I had the chance to play the Animal Crossing and Luigi’s Ghost Mansion mini-games. In Luigi’s Mansion, one player is an invisible ghost, while the others run around with flashlights trying to find the ghost. If the ghost catches everyone, the ghost wins. If the players shine the light on the ghost long enough to reduce its hit points to zero, the players win! In the Animal Crossing game, one player controls two guard characters (yes, it gets crazy and confusing) who have to stop the animals from running around and eating candy. If the guards catch an animal three times, the guards win, and if the animals eat 50 pieces of candy, they win.

Both these mini-games were highly entertaining, though it took some getting used to with the GamePad. The interesting thing was that what I saw on the GamePad screen was different from what the others saw (particularly in Luigi’s Ghost Mansion) on the main TV screen. The entertainment value for these mini-games was huge, and while I’m not sure how re-playable they’d be on a regular basis, if every major title includes a Nintendo Land mini-game with their release (continuing to add new content to Nintendo Land), the “social hub” that Nintendo is trying to create with Nintendo Land may actually work. While Nintendo is only currently advertising 12 “attractions” for Nintendo Land on launch, I think it’s going to be critical to continually add new games for players in order to make it work and appealing for players over time.

On the whole, I also found the staff at each Nintendo booth highly knowledgeable and passionate about the games they were demoing (with one exception, but I don’t think it was his fault). When I walked past the Paper Mario Sticker Star booth, the staff member demoing was enthusiastic and had drawn a huge crowd, while the staff member at New Super Mario Bros. 2  was nice enough to give away t-shirts to those of us who could show him a copy of our game on our 3DS (as opposed to playing the demo of a game we already had).

I think Nintendo did a bang-up job of making their presence known at this year’s PAX Prime, and good thing, too—I overheard many comments about the GamePad that indicated consumers are wary about its usefulness, not to mention the ability of the Wii U to compete with existing console systems. Nintendo is going to need to continue to demonstrate the power and playability of their system if they want consumers to commit to the Wii U, and it seems that a hands-on demo is absolutely critical for making that happen.


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Author: Faith View all posts by
Faith likes games and books and cake and writing and Lara Croft, not necessarily in that order. She also thinks a Skylanders cartoon show is a really, REALLY good idea...

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