E3 might already seem like a distant memory to some people, but even though the conferences have ended and the exhibitions are closed, there's still a lot to concern ourselves with. The reality is that E3 is only the beginning, and there's an awful lot still to come. That's especially true of Nintendo, which unveiled a motherlode of new and exciting titles that are set to arrive in the near future.
A lot was on show during E3's Nintendo Direct and the Treehouse live stream that followed, and we were lucky enough to sit down with some of the biggest titles heading to Switch and 3DS in the next twelve months. Here are our thoughts.
Metroid: Samus Returns
Due September 15th for 3Ds and 2Ds
Samus Returns, a remake of the Game Boy classic Metroid II: Return of Samus, pushes the idea of Samus-as-bounty-hunter more than any other game in the series.
Your primary mission is to locate and kill metroids as you traverse the game’s detailed 2D environments. Hunting them requires curiosity and diligence (since they’re not always going to be hanging out in the open), as well as some help from Samus’ new Scan Pulse. It's an essential exploration tool, which reveals how close you are to a nearby metroid, and highlights areas of the map that were previously covered in shadow.
Confronting the metroids is what really gives Samus Returns its variety and challenge. They will happily feed on the DNA of surrounding creatures, acquiring unique abilities and traits that require Samus to approach them differently each time. Some are impervious to certain moves, such as Samus' familiar arm cannon, so you'll need to use alternatives like Samus’s powerful new melee counter attack to defeat them.
Samus Returns retains much of the original game's sense of mystery, although it's design has been subtly updated to make it more accessible. That's great for those who've been eager to get into the classic Metroid series, but have been deterred by their archaic nature. If Returns is anything like Zero Mission on Game Boy Advance (another remake, this time of the original Metroid), then we’re in for a treat.
Yoshi (Working Title)
Due 2018 for Switch
Yoshi's back and, if it's at all possible, he's cuter than ever in this brand-new Switch adventure scheduled for next year.
This time, he's invaded some child’s arts and crafts box, like the scamp he is, which explains the new paper-themed aesthetic, replacing Woolly World's boundless quantities of yarn. Of course, everything is just adorable; there’s a tiny candle-powered train made of out a drinks can, and even cardboard moo-cows in the background, for goodness' sake! If death by cuteness-overload was a thing, this game would probably be considered a weapon of mass destruction.
But the art style's primary purpose is to once again show how much Nintendo loves to play with perspective. Every level has a ‘flip-side’ that opens up previously inaccessible paths, letting you explore the world in a new ways—and exploration is something you'll want to do thoroughly, given the enormous number of coins, flowers, and other collectables scattered throughout each stage.
The upshot of all this collectible-hunting is that Yoshi's pace feels a tad slow, since you're constantly stopping and throwing eggs at cardboard cut-outs to reveal hidden items. Of course, the Yoshi series has always favoured a much gentler approach to platforming, so the stop-and-start nature is very much in keeping with tradition.
Yoshi looks adorable from top to bottom, and should be just the ticket for those looking for a more sedate style of platforming on Switch.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Due this year for Switch
I’m a little out of my depth when it comes to anything Xenoblade related, so some of the finer points of Nintendo's lengthy Xenoblade Chronicles 2 demonstration may have been lost on me. Even so, it still looks impressively ambitious.
Chronicles 2 introduces us to new series protagonist Rex, and his blade companion, Pyra. It seems that our two friends are on the run, exploring a world built entirely upon the backs of gigantic monsters called Titans. There's a brilliant moment when you can actually see the neck of one titan stretching off into the distance.
Other than the fresh cast and setting, Xenoblade Chronicles 2's major addition is the new combat system. The word ‘streamlined’ was used rather liberally throughout the demo, and the new blade system appears to have cut out a lot of clutter from the first Chronicles game. Every party member has a selection of blades, and each blade has its own companion that fights alongside them. These companions have their own unique elemental ability, and can be switched out during battle—making combos a whole lot easier to perform.
To my eyes, there was always a lot happening onscreen, but there didn’t seem to be very much interaction involved. Which makes me wonder if Chronicles 2 might be championing visual flair over any actual substance: perhaps I’ll need to get my hands on it first, before making any kind of judgement.
Due this year for Switch, PS4 and Xbox One
Sonic Forces is Sonic Team's latest attempt at translating its mascot's legendary speed into 3D, and it's both intense and incredibly chaotic.
Just like Sonic Generations before it, Forces features side-scrolling and 3D stages. The 2D stage I played (a boss battle against Eggman, piloting an airship with a giant wrecking-ball attached) was by far the best part of the demo. The other two stages, both set in a city, featured Sonic and a custom-made character dashing through enemies and over rooftops, ala Sonic Adventure—but it was very disorientating.
There was way too much going on, including several noisy cast members doing their own thing in the top right-hand corner of the screen, making it hard to focus on where I was going and what I was supposed to be doing.
Sonic Forces clearly still needs a polish but, even so, I’m not too keen on the insanely frenetic direction it’s taking. At least there’s still Sonic Mania to look forward to!
Fire Emblem Warriors
Due this year for Switch and New Nintendo 3Ds
There’s not much to say about Fire Emblem Warriors that isn’t already obvious, and that’s not a bad thing—it’s just that the Warriors series knows what its audience likes and acts accordingly.
I had a lot of fun playing FE Warriors, which offers pretty much everything you'd ever want from a ludicrous hack ‘n’ slasher. There are ridiculous move-sets, fast-paced and continuously evolving objectives, and a lot of very attractive, wonderfully animated characters—including a welcome return for my sweet Chrom, as well as some new faces like Rowan and his sister Lianna.
Fire Emblem fans will be no doubt eager to learn who's made the final character roster (come on, Gaius!), and how the game's new setting fits into the series' overall mythos. Even without that information though, I'm happy to report that Warriors' core action unfolds brilliantly.
Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
Due August 2017 for Switch
Ubisoft’s insipid Rabbids series usually induces nothing but disdain in me, so it surprises me to report that Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle is fantastic.
For starters, Ubisoft's peculiar crossover is genuinely funny, sitting somewhere between Rayman’s absurdist humour, and the kind of character comedy that the Mario & Luigi handheld RPGs are known for. Oh, and it looks gorgeous too, full of richly designed environments and appealing colours.
As you'd probably expect if you've seen the trailers already, Kingdom Battle plays like an accessible version of XCOM or Fire Emblem. Combat is turn-based and grid-based, with characters only able to move a certain numbers of tiles each turn. It’s fairly standard tactical fare, but what makes Kingdom Battle so much fun is how much leeway the game gives you.
In a single turn I was able to get to the opposite side of the map, attack an enemy, and loop back round to the space I started in. The characters’ various abilities (such as being able to leap-frog over your teammates) and the creative level design, makes for a game with enormous scope for tactical experimentation.
There's always been a tonne of creative potential in Rayman and Mario, and it looks like Kingdom Battle's design team has successfully managed to tap into that, delivering a game that looks better than anything we could have expected.
Due July 21st for Switch
My brief time with Splatoon 2 confirmed two things: I still suck at Splatoon, and I still don’t like using gyro-aiming.
For this particular play session, I had the chance to revisit the game's PvP Turf War mode, as well as the new Salmon Run—Splatoon 2’s unique take on a co-operative horde mode. I disgraced myself on both these counts, and there's no way I could possibly try and shift the blame onto the game itself.
Firstly, my team and I were thoroughly splattered by our opponents in Turf War. It's here that I discovered the horrors of Splatoon 2's ink bucket weapon, the Slosher (heads-up, it's deadly). Soon after, we were embarrassed again, during several failed attempts at Salmon Run.
Even on its lowest difficulty (5%), Salmon Run is a back-breaking challenge for a newbie like me. Enemy fish spawn almost continuously, and the risk of being overwhelmed constantly hangs over your head. Nevertheless, it's an incredibly rewarding addition to the series, and despite my general incompetence, Splatoon 2 is still very fun play, and remains one of the most unique shooters out there thanks to its whole ‘covering the floor with ink’ mechanic.
It’s high time that Switch owners had a shooter to look forward to, and Splatoon 2’s distinct brand of insanity is sure to please when it arrives later this month.
There's a lot coming out of the house of Mario over the coming year, and I've barely managed to scratch the surface. Just remember that we still have Pokken Tournament DX, FIFA 18, and FlipWars to look forward to, along with the likes of Metroid Prime 4 and the untitled Pokémon RPG that have yet to receive release dates. In other words, Nintendo fans have a rosy future in store.