E3’s all well and good but yer man Scullion can’t be doing with all that hassle. The 13-hour flight to LA would be bad enough, but given my global celebrity status I’m sure I also wouldn’t be able to move for autograph requests, people asking for selfies and offers of marriage.
Thankfully, Nintendo recently invited me to its UK headquarters to spend time with some of its E3 demos, away from all the hustle and bustle of the main show.
Not only that, I was also allowed to record footage for some of the games, meaning below you can see the likes of Link’s Awakening and Luigi’s Mansion 3 in perfect quality as recorded by yours truly.
Here’s my impressions of what I played, along with my videos (including commentary on what you’re seeing) where applicable.
Pokémon Sword & Shield
Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to use my capture device for the Pokémon demo, partly because The Pokémon Company is more protective than SPF 100 sunscreen when it comes to coverage of its games.
I was allowed to record some of the screen using my phone, but it had to be over the shoulder, I had to be visible in the shot and it couldn’t be any longer than 3 minutes. After some lengthy deliberation I came to the eventual conclusion of “balls to that”, so no video for this one, I’m afraid.
The demo was set in the Water Gym – it isn’t made clear whereabouts in the game it appears – and as such my task was to make my way to the gym leader with a team of six pre-selected Pokémon while battling a few other trainers along the way.
For the most part, the game plays as you’d expect: the gym has its own little puzzle you have to solve in order to navigate it (in this case it’s to do with flipping switches to turn on and off waterfalls that are blocking your progress), and battles are the traditional turn-based fare (rather than the motion-based ball-throwing in the Let’s Go games).
It was hard to delve too deeply into the battle mechanics when the demo was deliberately set up to let you get through it fairly quickly: most of my battles with the trainers inside the gym were one-hit efforts with my Electric and Grass-type Pokémon giving their Water-type ones a hefty toe up the hole.
The final battle with the gym leader was impressive though. Taking place inside a massive arena with a large audience watching, it truly felt like a momentous fight, especially when the new Dynamax system kicked in.
This is a one-time transformation where you can make one of your Pokémon massive for a limited time (three turns). While it’s Dynamaxed its stats are raised and its attacks are extremely powerful.
The fact you only get to use it once during an entire battle means some tactical thinking is needed regarding when to set it off. I was also happy to see that Dynamaxed Pokémon can still take decent amounts of damage (especially when attacked by an effective move type). My initial concern was that Dynamaxing would essentially make you invincible for three turns but that isn’t the case: this is a stat boost, not a game-ender.
In all, I was happy with what I played of Sword & Shield, brief as it was. It looks sensational (the trainer animations are fantastic), it plays like proper Pokémon and the whole drama about the dropping of some species aside (which I’ll be addressing on the site very soon), this is shaping up to be another masterpiece.
Hype level – 5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Speaking of masterpieces, the remake of 1993 Game Boy classic Link’s Awakening looks like it’s going to be a fantastic Switch game.
The demo basically gives you free reign to do whatever you want for a quarter of an hour and I got to play through it three times, so armed with about 45 minutes of footage I’ve put together this 10-minute highlight package:
As you can see in the video, one of these playthroughs involved me trying to speedrun my way to the first dungeon to see if much had changed in terms of the sequence needed to reach it. Turns out it hasn’t really: this seems pretty bloody faithful.
That’s not to say it’s identical, though (the visuals aside, obviously). Some of the houses have little empty trophy stands with things like Piranha Plant and Goomba engraved on them, so it seems clear that there at least some little secrets tucked away in there. Obviously, I didn’t have enough time to figure out how to get the trophies for those stands: I suppose all will eventually be revealed.
The only concern I have at the moment is the frame rate. My video grabber captures perfectly at 60fps so the footage you see above is exactly how the frame rate’s currently looking. When you enter dungeons and caves it runs at a flawless 60 frames per second, but the overworld sections are extremely temperamental and pretty stuttery.
As ever though, performance is usually the last thing to be tweaked, so fingers crossed this is sorted in time for launch so that the game has that usual first-party Nintendo feel.
Hype level – 5/5
Luigi’s Mansion 3
I’ve got to be honest, I liked the first two Luigi’s Mansion games but I wouldn’t call myself a massive fan of them.
When I got my GameCube at launch I didn’t buy Luigi’s Mansion with it, so by the time I finally got round to picking up a copy a couple of years down the line the whole ‘it’s short but it looks great’ argument had been lessened somewhat. That’s probably the reason I was so indifferent about the sequel on 3DS too.
After playing the demo for the third game, though, I’m properly on board. This looks cracking and I’m suddenly excited about it in a way I wasn’t a couple of weeks ago. Here’s 10 minutes of footage I captured, along with my commentary:
The introduction of a second blobby character called Gooigi as part of solo play (it was also in the 3DS remake of Luigi’s Mansion in co-op mode) makes for a bunch of interesting puzzle mechanics that should make things entertaining.
The improved battle mechanics also make fighting ghosts far more satisfying. You can now slam ghosts into others, or fire plungers at various objects (including ghosts’ shields) and use your vacuum to suck the plunger, pulling the object out of the way.
The change in location from a mere mansion to a massive multi-storey hotel should hopefully allow for a much wider variety of stage designs, and that’s already evident in the demo with some impressively large rooms (including one brilliant vertical room with a lift that you can see at about 7:25 in the video.
I’m well up for this one now.
Hype level – 5/5
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
I loved the first two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, so the idea of one that’s exclusive to the Switch and developed by Team Ninja certainly has me interested.
Unfortunately, Nintendo was insistent that I played the demo in four-player mode with three other members of the press, and while it was fun enough it definitely wasn’t the way I was hoping to check the game out. Here’s my footage:
It’s clear that some concessions are made to support four players: the camera is zoomed out extremely far and each character has a thick coloured border around them so it’s easy to tell where you are.
That said, it can still feel like a bit of a mess, especially when a bunch of enemies attacks you and it suddenly becomes really tricky to keep track of them. And don’t even think about playing it in co-op in tabletop mode: unless it’s on the TV it’s going to be far too small to see anything.
From what I’ve seen in preview footage, it looks like when you’re playing in single-player mode the camera zooms right in and almost switches to a third-person viewpoint, so I’m going to have to wait and play it like that before I can get properly excited about it.
Based on the previous games, I’m still very much interested in playing this third entry. I’m just holding fire on the hype until I get to play it alone.
Hype level – 3/5
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
It’s back! After it shimmied the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang it wasn’t clear whether the Mario & Sonic series had come to its natural end.
Turns out Sega had probably just given up caring about winter sports, because it’s soon time for another Summer Olympics and sure enough, they’re back again.
I was given the chance to play five of the 24 events in the game, here’s my footage if you want to see it in action:
It’s hard to properly deliver a verdict on a mini-game compilation when you’re only really given enough time to play each game once.
As such, while I struggled to get to grips with the motion controls for the hurdles, skateboarding and surfing events, I’m still not inclined to write them off just yet until I get the chance to play each a few times more and properly figure them out.
The other two events on offer stood out to me, though. Archery is immediately brilliant because it plays just like the archery event in the other Mario & Sonic games (and the one in Wii Sports Resort), using both Joy-Cons and their gyros to line up your shot.
Karate, meanwhile, may be fairly basic but its blocking, parrying and charging mechanics mean that if two skillful players spend some time with it they could actually end up with a decent little fighting game on their hands.
I’ve always been a sucker for the Mario & Sonic games, and they may be even more successful on the Switch given that the thing isn’t exactly swimming in mini-game compilations to the same degree as the Wii.
Hype level – 4/5
New Super Lucky’s Tale
Finally, I rounded things off with a port of a game I genuinely enjoy.
New Super Lucky’s Tale is a harmless little 3D platformer starring an eternally cheery fox called Lucky. Here’s the footage I took from my time with the demo:
Originally an Xbox One exclusive – it launched alongside the Xbox One X and was one of the first games to offer X enhanced features like 4K and HDR – it’s now making the jump to Switch and the results are decent.
The usual concessions have been made: the frame rate has dropped down to 30fps, native resolution has been cut down, etc.
And yet despite all that I still had a good time replaying the first level of this love letter to early 3D platformers.
Not there won’t be new stuff for me to check out when it’s released, though (hence the ‘New’ in the title). There are going to be some new levels in here, new cutscenes, new dialogue, a better camera and better player controls, as well as a new costume shop where you’ll apparently be able to dress Lucky up in a variety of outfits.
Fingers crossed there’s a Fox McCloud one.
Hype level – 3/5
A huge thanks to Nintendo UK for inviting me to its headquarters to play its games, and an even huger thanks to my lovely Patreon subscribers for contributing the funds that helped pay for my trip there.
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