Hands on with Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3D Land

By Thorin Klosowski in Previews/Impressions
Friday, September 23, 2011 at 11:00 am
Nintendo has been fond of driving around the country with an Airstream trailer and dolling our quick demos of its holiday lineup in recent years. This time around, they had a reasonable selection of 3DS titles, but Super Mario 3D Land is clearly the most important of them. As for the poor little Wii, Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is set to be the system's swan song, but it will have a lot to live up.

The second I made my way into the trailer, I immediately started eyeing Super Mario 3D Land. This is supposed to be the game that saves the 3DS, that makes it worth owning, that appeases fans and sells systems. Could it possibly hold up?

It feels like it's going to. During my time with it, and as others have noted, Super Mario 3D Land feels like classic Mario mixed with Super Mario Galaxy. The bulk of Mario's moves are familiar, but you'll also be able to roll and attack, which, for someone like me, who consistently rolls everywhere in any game that allows it, was a remarkably enjoyable experience. You will, of course, be jumping around and stomping on enemies as well -- but rolling -- man, rolling is truly something else.

What sets Super Mario 3D Land apart from every other Mario game is that it feels like its a compilation of every Mario game. Side scrolling segments? Check. Star collecting? Check. Crazy, moving and changing environments? Check. Musical note extra-jump? Yep. Plus, of course, the Tanooki suit. Oh, and the flagpole is back.

The game also branches out in a lot of ways. You might think you can only score a particular coin by gliding across the screen with the Tanooki suit, but if you don't have one, there's another way around. The Nintendo rep watching me play was sitting on his hands trying not to tell me this, but it's one of those tricks that makes you feel better when you find it yourself. Thankfully, he kept quiet.

That's actually a good reason for the 3D too. It feels good, it looks good and most importantly, it actually enhances gameplay. Unlike pretty much everything else we've seen on the 3DS (including Mario Kart 7, which I checked out as well. All you need to know: it's Mario Kart, it's fun), Super Mario 3D Land has 3D that actually enhances the gameplay. Switch 3D on, and you get a better view of the puzzles and you can platform much more accurately.

From the bit I had a chance to play, it looks like its going to be exactly what the 3DS needs. It's probably not going to jumpstart the whole system, but those of us who own one will be happy having at least one incredible game.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword has been one of those games everyone has been eagerly anticipating, but the anticipation is clearly a little cautious. We've seen the footage of Shigeru Miyamoto struggling with the MotionPlus and my goodness, nobody wants that.

You'll swipe left, jab, swipe right, overhead, and even lift to attack (thankfully, you don't have to spin around for the spin-attack). It's natural, responsive and feels great. Motion controls haven't really grabbed me at any point, but they haven't irked me anymore than Twilight Princess on the Wii -- thankfully, Skyward Sword feels a lot better.

It's also immediately recognizable as a Zelda game, with a lot of the tricks and tools you're used to. That said, the amount of buttons you need to be using at all times get confusing and you have two separate inventory buttons, one for items and one for gear. It's cluttered, as is the screen, which is too bad, because the bright pastels are lovely to look at, in glorious standard definition.

Some of the motion controls aren't that great, the bow and arrow, for instance, feels awkward even after a few uses, but the game seems to recognize it's not about precision in any way and helps you aim. To pull the bow, you need to hit a button to select it, push a button to aim, pull the analog stick back to aim, then hit a button release. Hopefully you won't need to use it quickly at any point. Worse, you'll fly a bird around at some point (makes sense, properly?), using only motion controls, which is about as love-it-or-hate-it as you'd expect.

Still, it's a Zelda game and even with a Nintendo rep hand-feeding me what to do, the puzzles and combat forced my brain to actually think about how and when to attack. The combat was smooth and worked well. The enemies had a variety of animations and states that force you to think and use the MotionPlus. You can't just jam an attack anymore, the direction really does matter. My only real complaint is the bloated interface, which seems to stand in opposition to the simplicity of the interface from every single Zelda game before it. It also takes place immediately before Ocarina of Time, so those of us who just trekked through the game are sure to come across some easter eggs. Or we'll just sit around breaking our brains trying to understand the logic of how the hell this story could even exist in the same timeline.

If this is it for the Wii, it's looking like it'll be a good way to go out.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword hits on November 20th, Super Mario 3D Land releases on November 13.

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