iwataE32013NintendoDirectFirst there was Microsoft’s press conference, then there was Sony’s, and now Nintendo’s… sort of. For the first time ever, rather than host a press conference at E3, the company opted to instead deliver its big announcements through a Nintendo Direct broadcast– and a relatively short one, at that, weighing in at only 41 minutes and some change versus the 90-minute to 2-hours the other guys brought.

And to be quite frank, I hope they never do this again. Or at the very least, are better prepared for it– I and many others who tried to view it live (well, “live,” given it was pre-recorded) found great difficulty with the streaming, no matter where we went. I had to view most of it on Nintendo UK’s website, and missed their second announcement in the process, while only gathering glimpses of the first. If you must do this again, Nintendo, please go with Twitch or YouTube or– better still– both.

Of course, the funny part is that while they had the shortest showing, I’ll probably have the most I have to say about anything here, though that’s likely no surprise. If you’d like to compare this to my thoughts from last year, here you go. Now, without further ado…

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Pokémon X and Pokémon Y - What a way to start, but at least it’s getting this out of the way first, even though I thought I’d heard it would have it’s own Nintendo Direct soon. Regardless, I have to admit that while Pokémon is neat, I’ve never really been able to throw myself into it the way I do with other games.

That said, this one looks like it could be the coolest one yet, and has some neat features, like the ability to treat the Pokémon like actual virtual pets using the touch screen. Kind of sucks that Dragon types are weak to the new type, fairy (I have a dragon bias, you see). It’s funny how the grass grows right around the Pokémon as they set out to do battle. Maybe that’s why they’re always found in tall grass?

Also, I can’t help but think that the male Pokémon trainer looks like Egoraptor from “Game Grumps” in a ball cap, but maybe that’s just me.

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Super Mario 3D World - Ah, now here we go. Where do I begin?

I’m excited about this one, but with a little trepidation, too. Super Mario 3D Land was a great title, but had a few nuisances which bothered me. In particular, the way Mario moved felt off for something that was meant to be a hybrid of the 2D and 3D Mario titles, moving more like the 3D version than 2D, making some jumps and reactions a little more difficult (and throwing me off when I’d forget myself).

This one not only brings the 4-player action of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and New Super Mario Bros. U to 3D, but also the four-character format last seen in Super Mario Bros. 2 (one of my all-time favorites, as you may well know). Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and the blue Toad (or just Toad?) are each present and accounted for as playable characters.

My biggest concern here is if Mario remains the same as in Super Mario 3D Land, while everyone else gets to move in a more normal fashion. I’m headed to Best Buy tomorrow to try it, though, so hopefully I’ll get to play and have my answers sooner than later, though the teased short jump towards the flagpole at the end has me slightly worried there.

Why they suddenly decided allowing different running speeds and jumping abilities is now okay is anyone’s guess, but I’m glad that my sentiment about always having to rescue Peach was apparently felt. But without a princess to rescue, then what’s the story?

IGN put the question to the developers, and while they wouldn’t reveal any details, they did offer that “it was an excellent question to have.” But me? I think I have an idea.

Check out the screenshot above. There and in the trailer, there are numerous dinosaurs around, a seeming callback to the game’s namesake, the original Super Mario World. Additionally, there are Super Mario World enemies seen throughout, including the tougher, rounder chestnut-style Goombas and the return of Charging Chuck. It’s only a hunch, but given the dino above looks like he’s in a large cage, I’m guessing that this time Nintendo is going back to a different well and having you rescue the denizens of a dinosaur land, if not the Dinosaur Land from before.

If this is indeed the case, I hope they take more than that from the original– particularly the map. There was literally nothing to Super Mario 3D Land‘s map– just a step-by-step line of stages which didn’t seem to have any particular rhyme or reason to their arrangement. They were simply… there. But the opportunity to explore Dinosaur Land or another such place in 3D? Just try to stop me.

The stages look a bit more wide open than in Super Mario 3D Land, too, which is pretty cool. I just hope there’s not too much of the “floating playground” thing going on, where everything is basically just an obstacle course suspended in mid-air. That’s just a tad weird, even for Mario (Super Mario Galaxy notwithstanding). Some are okay, but it felt like the majority of ground Mario covered in his Nintendo 3DS outing wasn’t really on the ground at all. Fortunately, that doesn’t look like the case here.

It looks like the assist mode is back, though that makes me wonder if it’s a GamePad feature. If so, will everyone else be relegated to Wii Remotes, as seen in some footage on GameTrailers? I wonder how well that will work… while I got used to it, many didn’t like using a Dpad to play Super Mario 64 DS. Hopefully there’s a Nunchuk option as well.

A new power-up appears in the form of a bell that turns Mario and friends into cat-suited versions of themselves. It’s a little weird, though no more than a penguin or frog, I suppose, though I don’t remember Mario making animal sounds with those. The running, climbing, and pouncing looks like fun, and since I love cats, I’m down with this. It’s interesting to note that Luigi’s trend of unique power-ups continues here, as he’s the only one with rounded ears, but stranger still is that Mario’s suit is yellow, while everyone else retains their signature colors. How very odd, indeed.

Suffice to say, I’m excited for this one. It looks like Nintendo has addressed some of my issues with its predecessor, and I hope they’ve taken care of more than that.

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Mario Kart 8 - It goes without saying that I’ve had a rather interesting relationship with the Mario Kart series. Each one has several things I love, and several I don’t; I’ve loved pieces of different games, but often not the whole game as I did Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. Hopefully Mario Kart 8 will bring everything together for the ultimate iteration.

It’s off to a good start: Waluigi and Toadette are back, as are motorcycles, and it looks like the kart styles and parts from Mario Kart 7 have returned, too, all with the glider and underwater attachments. I just hope things aren’t as difficult to unlock as in previous iterations (I never got any new characters besides the Mii in Mario Kart 7, and only a small handful in any other title). Fingers are crossed for Rosalina, Funky Kong, and most of all, R.O.B.! Oh, and Mii, too. If they aren’t, I hope DLC for new characters and classic courses will be an option.

The hover and anti-gravity mechanics, which look like they may be related, look interesting. I am a little concerned with some of the camera angles seen in the trailer, though; I don’t mind the idea of upside down racing, so long as I’m oriented the same way my racer is.

I also love the amount of detail they’re putting into this; I guess high-definition is making Nintendo step their game up, as you can even see the fabric of Mario’s overalls in some shots. It’s not quite Super Smash Bros.-styled denim, but it’s something.

Simply put, Mario Kart 8 looks great. But then, they usually do– it’s after you start playing that things like Blue Shells striking at the last second as you’re trying to unlock someone rear their ugly head. Mario Kart 7 did improve on the cheapness of some items a lot, though, and hopefully we’ll see that refined ever more here.

Weapons are fun and all, but not when using them all willy-nilly eliminates any need or application of skill. And according to the fact sheet, though, we’re back to a 12-participant race, which didn’t work so well in Mario Kart Wii. I just hope they managed to balance things a bit more than in that installment.

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