New Nintendo games breathe new life into old favorites

Aaron West

Nintendo’s silver, Mario-and-Zelda decorated trailer has been zigzagging across the country since September, showcasing upcoming titles such as “Super Mario 3D Land” for the portable Nintendo 3DS and “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” for the Wii.

On Tuesday, it made its way to Austin and media people interested in trying out the games were invited to climb inside the plush, surround-sound equipped trailer and do just that. The Daily Texan also took the games for a spin.

“The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword”
Release date: Nov. 20
System: Wii

The new Zelda title not only looks fantastic — Shigeru Miyamoto, who created the “Zelda” franchise, reportedly wanted the watercolor-like graphics to resemble impressionistic art — it really puts the Wii MotionPlus system to work. When “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” was released in 2006, there were some grumblings about its neglect of the Wii’s motion capabilities, but this latest game addresses those complaints in a big way. When you hold the Wii Remote to the right, Link holds his sword to the right. When you slice horizontally, so does Link. And when you hold the remote in the air, wait for a moment and then jab it forward (careful not to put your hand through the TV screen “and end up on YouTube,” said the Nintendo representative who was manning the trailer), Link duplicates the motion and shoots a beam of energy into whatever you’re aiming at.

The game’s demo version allows players to control Link while he rides on a bird (a new feature of the game), explores a dungeon and fights a boss. The dungeon is populated with classic enemies such as Skulltula, those bony spiders that hang around on webs, and Stalfos the ill-tempered skeleton soldier, but their fighting styles were anything but typical. Instead of the same predictable swordplay and attack tactics in previous games, the bad guys react to Link’s moves and players will find themselves having to actually block and parry strategically with the remote.

The boss battle with Lord Ghirahim — an elegantly creepy fellow with a long tongue that he flaps around Gene Simmons-style when he gets annoyed — started out fun but became a little repetitive. The fight felt a little more scripted than the dungeon gameplay, with Ghirahim using the same moves such as grabbing Link’s sword and transportation moves over and over again. But the intense, horror movie-meets-philharmonic orchestra soundtrack, the detailed graphics and that unique, beautiful feeling that overwhelms you when Link grabs hold of the heart container at the end of the battle generally make up for the repetition.

“Super Mario 3D Land”
Release date: Nov. 13
System: Nintendo 3DS

“Super Mario 3D Land” puts a huge emphasis on the 3D, which adds a lot to a franchise that, if it were any other, would have been played out a decade ago. Really, how many lands, worlds and galaxies can one moustached plumber explore before players say enough? Apparently, with this new game, there’s room for one more. The demo version felt comfortably familiar, with plenty of question mark blocks to head-bump, meat-head Goombas to squash and even the reappearance of the raccoon-styled Tanooki suit — absent from Mario games since 1988’s “Super Mario Bros. 3” for the NES. The well-known Mario environment is enhanced by the Nintendo 3DS’ 3D capabilities, which makes the 3D worlds of “Super Mario 64” and other older games look like “Pong.” Beyond just making the landscapes pop with color and depth, the 3D elements actually figure into the gameplay. Players can use the 3D perspective to find blocks that need smashing and power-ups that need grabbing that they aren’t able to see in plain-Jane 2D. Of course, for anyone who feels a bout of motion-sickness coming on, the third dimension graphics can be conveniently lowered or even switched off completely by turning a dial on the side of the 3DS.

Printed on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 as: Mario, Zelda demos feed nostalgic urge