A week ago Nintendo invited media to come and take a look at their holiday lineup for 2015. While the atmosphere of the event was lighthearted and full of interesting first party content for Wii U and 3DS one could not help but notice the absence of delayed marquee titles like Zelda and Star Fox. While we’ve known about Zelda’s delay into 2016 since this spring, the delay of Starfox Zero has left the Wii U with a gigantic gap in its holiday line-up. While November is traditionally the month to release a console’s biggest hits of the year, the Wii U will play host to Mario Tennis Ultra Smash and little else. Perhaps due to its new role as the “big November title” Nintendo gave Ultra Smash a lot more attention than one might initially expect for a Mario sports game. A tournament was held, and after signing up and being eliminated in the first round (In my defence it was a really close match) I came away from the title feeling both impressed and disappointed.
Ultra Smash looks great, controls superb and is mechanically sound, unfortunately it lacks the special feeling that should come standard with a Mario sports title. Outside of the mega mushroom, there were no power-up on display in the demo and the courts consisted of your standard grass and clay courts. The demo was extremely basic, no fire balls, no character specific special moves, no inventive themed courts and no special game modes other than standard doubles matches. Mario Tennis Ultra Smash is due out on November 20th and so far I feel safer recommending any of the three other Mario Tennis games playable on Wii U before recommending Ultra Smash. Both Mario Tennis Power Tour (Gameboy Advance) and the original Mario Tennis (Nintendo 64) are available for download on the eShop while Mario Power Tennis which was remastered for Wii is playable via backward compatibility and is arguably the pinnacle of the series. The aforementioned Power Tour even includes a full featured RPG mode, making it one of the most robust Mario sports offerings ever.
Also in November, Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival will be hitting the Wii U on he the 13th. When first announced at E3 this year fans feared that Amiibo Festival was essentially Mario Party with an Animal Crossing theme. I can now safely confirm all their worst fears to be true. Mario Party + Animal Crossing is exactly what Amiibo Festival appears to be minus the minigames that make Mario Party remotely interesting. That said, there is much better use of amiibo cards and figures in this game than any other before it as it’s one of the few titles than require amiibo for play. The amiibo figures themselves look great and are some of the best figures of series regulars like Isabelle and K.K. Slider that are on the market. Amiibo Festival can be purchased alone or with a bundled version that comes with two figures, Isabelle and Digby, and three starter cards for $79 CND. Since the game requires the Animal Crossing amiibo it’s fair to say that the bundle is your best best.
To be fair to Nintendo, while Zelda and Starfox are no-shows this holiday there is still one very very big game coming in early December. The epic Japanese role playing game Xenoblade Chronicles X is set to finally debut on December 4th. Xenoblade Chronicles X was first introduced to the world way back in January of 2013 during a Nintendo Direct as just “X.” This new game is a sequel to 2012’s Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii. While X is the second game in the Xenoblade series it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the plot of the original which took place in a fantasy world where humans live on a giant planet sized golem. The Wii U title has two rival alien species using Earth as a battlefield, destroying the planet and scattering the surviving native human population across the galaxy in city sized ark ships. One of these ships carrying the space colony “New Los Angeles” has crash landed on the life bearing planet Mira which is home to various species of dangerous and gigantic mega flora and fauna. It’s here that the player character and a diverse party of NPCs will help resettle the human race. The scope of the game world is massive. Mira consists of five continents with varying geography and ecosystems and the entire planet is equivalent to 400 square kilometres of real world land. In other words, it’s one of the largest open world games ever made and certainly the largest one from Nintendo. For many who call themselves “hardcore gamers” Xenoblade Chronicles X is more than enough to salvage the Wii U’s relatively lackluster November-December lineup. For Wii U newcomers Nintendo will be launching a Mario Kart 8 bundle complete with the very extensive DLC and a 32GB Wii U for $329.99 CND, it will join the Super Mario Maker bundle that came out earlier in the autumn.
On the 3DS front Nintendo just launched Yokai Watch this past week. The franchise has been a “Pokemon level” mega hit in Japan since its debut in 2013 and Nintendo hopes to replicate its success in the West. Yokai Watch’s pop culture critical mass isn’t the only thing it has in common with Pokemon. Both games are monster battle RPGs with tons of charm and an anime to hook kids even when they’re away from the game. Yokai, both in the game and in Japanese folklore, are spirits that inhabit the world of the living causing mischief and mayhem. In Yokai Watch, you’ll be battling Yokai, befriending them and using them to solve problems plaguing town. The Yokai are inventive and many are modern child-friendly takes on the Japanese folktales that have inspired them. My personal favourite so far is Manjimutt, a dog spirit with the face of a salaryman and an attack called “creepy superbite.” “Amazing” doesn’t even begin to describe how gloriously stupid it looks in the best way possible. The demo for Yokai Watch is actually available now on the 3DS eShop. I recommend downloading it immediately if only for the chance to see Manjimutt in all his greatness.