Nintendo Connection Tour 2011 – Impressions

Nintendo Australia are currently touring the country with a new Connection Tour, giving fans the chance to show up and play some highly anticipated unreleased games. I was lucky enough to find time to attend one of them in Parramatta Westfield, and I spent a good few hours playing Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Skyward Sword, Kid Icarus: Uprising and Kirby’s Return to Dream Land. Most of my time was spent mingling with fellow Nintendo fans, and basking in the glory that is Mario Kart 7. Here’s a recap of the whole event!

The area was nicely set up, and fit snugly in the middle of the center. Not massive, but well presented and inviting. You could see this place from several stories up in the shopping mall, so it attracted a lot of attention throughout the day. It was split up into two areas: the part facing the camera in the picture had four different Wii games for anyone to stroll by and play, New Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Country Returns, some shitty Spyro game nobody touched, and “Kirby Wii”, which was Nintendo Australia’s name for Kirby’s Return To Dream Land. On the other side was Skyward Sword set up on five different Wii consoles (that’s ten GameCubes), and a bunch of 3DS games; some old, some new. To enter this area you needed to line up and obtain a lanyard, which would get stamped off after you played each game in there. It took me about 20 minutes to get into the place, but that was in the morning. As you can see in the picture, by the afternoon anybody could just walk in so I got a lot of game time in.

The first game I played was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and wow the graphics blew me away. I thought Xenoblade was the pinnacle of Wii graphics but this looked even smoother; the style and shaders look superb up close.

Here’s the brand new Zelda running on Wii in all its glory. The detail in the bushes is phenomenal, and Link’s sword and shield can move in 4 directions thanks to Wii Motion+. This was just one of many areas in the game; judging by the dot on the map, this game was going to be huge.

The level the guy next to me was playing looked a lot different. The demo units had 3 different options to choose on the menu: a flying mini-game as shown above, a dungeon that pretty much consisted of one room to play around in, and a boss battle. I played the flying mini-game first, though it was more of an area than a mini-game. It opens with some humorous dialogue about having a race, and the winner gets Princess Zelda. Everyone is explained the rules, with some goofy character being warned not to cheat or something along those lines; the whole scene was pretty entertaining and had the playful Zelda vibe most prominent in Wind Waker. The animations were really nice as well. The flying controls were great, it felt like Wii Sports Resort flying but with more weight. The bird felt chunky and needed momentum to fly well; I was impressed with how realistic and suitable it felt. Like Epona in other Zelda games, you have “carrots” to unleash with appropriate timing to make the bird go faster, and a little shake of the Wii Remote gets you a little boost too. I flew around for a long time without progressing before I figured this out.

I didn’t get to try the boss battle but I played around in the dungeon area next. The first thing I did was swing the sword – it felt so good. I swung in multiple directions and they all translated on screen perfectly, not just vertical and horizontal but diagonally. I targeted a moblin with Z and it blocked all the swings I was doing, then I realised I had to hit it at another angle and ripped it apart; very satisfying. I can see lots of depth in the battles opening up in this game; the combat is very interactive. Next I opened up the item menu, and was surprised to see the cursor tarding out. Immediately after bringing out the menu, you can hover over something and let go to select it – it happens so quickly. I took the bow out and shot some random bats around the place. The aiming felt weird to me at first because I’m used to the pointer, but this just uses the tilt of your hand and MotionPlus instead, it didn’t feel any better to me but no worse either. The impressive thing was how quickly and smooth the process of changing items is – it’s going to make this Zelda the most accessible and fun yet.

My greatest relief with this game was that the Motion+ never went batshit on me, like it has often done in Wii Sports Resort and Red Steel 2. I never even had to calibrate it.

Next up was my favourite game of the event, Mario Kart 7. My god, it feels SO GOOD. The smoothness of the controls and the graphics left me grinning like a dickhead the entire time. I had a huge smile on my face, I looked up once and a kid was staring at me and immediately looked away nervously – he probably thought I was going to rape him. But no, Mario Kart 7 was the only thing on my mind. The demo had 3 tracks, all new. My favourite was the Donkey Kong one; the track layout was so varied and fantastic. It looks like you could shortcut the entire thing with mushrooms if you had enough of them; it had lots of offroad areas and multiple paths. The items in the demo were very limited, none of the new ones were present, and it only had the basic ones like green shells, bananas and mushrooms. In fact, those WERE the only three items in the demo – Nintendo is still clearly working on balancing the game which is a good sign.

The handling felt like Mario Kart Wii but slightly more realistic: the wheels felt more attached to the ground and gave a nice smooth feeling to the analog nub. You could select three different types of wheels: tiny ones, normal looking ones, and huge monster truck wheels. There wasn’t a massive difference, but it was still noticeable. Small wheels took a bit more effort to turn and caused wider drifting. The powersliding is exactly the same as Mario Kart Wii – it’s impossible to “snake” in this game – attempting to do powerslides on straights will have you facing sideways like a moron. The start line boost timing is also identical to the Wii version, same as the boost when you get put back on the track. Despite farting around a lot I managed to win every single race I played; the AI was pretty basic at this stage and I don’t recall them even using items. There were coins scattered around the track which were fun to collect, but I couldn’t tell what they did. They regenerated after each lap as well.

The graphics were amazing, smooth, bright, colourful, sharp, and the 3D effect was very well done with no glitches or pop-out at 60 frames per second. The first track has an uphill section where big boulders plunge down towards you as you use boost pads to climb the hill; it looks amazing in 3D, so amazing that I drove straight into one of the huge boulders and got knocked back down the hill a bit. I can’t tell you about the music because I couldn’t hear the bloody thing even with the sound turned up full. The place was too noisy.

The other new aspects of the game, gliding and going underwater, were present in all three tracks. I couldn’t figure out the point of going underwater, everything stayed the same except the level design, with some giant shellfish opening up to reveal tempting coins. It was alright and a nice change of scenery I guess, but doesn’t impact the gameplay from what I could tell. Gliding in the air however, was VERY cool. I managed to fire a few green shells while gliding and it felt awesome seeing them launch forward then plonk down on the ground keeping the momentum. I used a mushroom while gliding too and it gave me a huge boost forward: it seems like there will be places you can only get to by using a mushroom to glide really far, which will no doubt open up huge shortcut opportunities. I loved every second I played of this game; instead of Mario Kart Seven it should be called Mario Kart HEAVEN.

Next up, Super Mario 3D Land. This game was a lot of fun. It was presented like New Super Mario Bros., but in 3D with much crazier level design. The game follows the classic Mario level 1-1, 1-2 progression, but the movement felt a bit different to the 2D Mario’s, a lot slower, resembling Super Mario 64 a lot more. Mario had a bit of weight to him – he’s clearly eaten a lot of white carbs from pasta and pizza since his last game. The levels I played were a lot more advanced than I expected for a demo, involving lots of switch flipping, wall jumping and maneuvering along disappearing platforms. It also had some well hidden secret coins, hiding in paths that use the 3D effect to nicely put themselves behind other layers of the level. The whole thing felt pretty surreal: this is definitely not a rehash, it’s a brand new game that gave me a very different feeling to recent Mario games. The demo was short – I blazed through it in about 5 minutes and it ended with a very simple boss battle that just involved jumping on top of the boss three times. The level design takes advantage of the 3D just like I hoped it would, and i’m very keen to see what kind of ridiculous levels are in the full game.

Kid Icarus: Uprising was another game I had fun with. Unlike the others, i’ve played this before, but this felt like a new updated build. The 3D was much better and I had no problem keeping it in focus this time, and the controls also felt smoother and aiming was more comfortable somehow. Either they’ve fine-tuned it a lot, or i’ve just become more comfortable with the 3DS after playing it for a few months now. A combination of both I think. One thing bugged me though, one of the levels had a very poor frame rate. There was a really cool urban type level where I moved around backstreets like a 3D third-person-action game, it was a great environment but chugged really slowly, and considering how smooth the flying parts felt, this was a step backwards. It wasn’t just slow but inconsistent, and for a brief few seconds it slowed to an absolute crawl, like a 4 player split-screen game of Perfect Dark on N64 with 8 Fist Sims. It’s only a demo so i’m optimistic they can improve it, especially since the game has been delayed to next year. However, it’s a bad sign considering Kid Icarus is going to include an online multiplayer battle mode in these same type of areas. The developers are going to have to work really hard to get that working properly.

Throughout the event there was some Nintendo trivia held on stage, with some pretty hard questions, like “Name every character in Smash Bros. Brawl“, and Zelda questions relating to Minish Cap and lots of obscure references. The great thing about these events with Nintendo Australia is they are all run by Jamie, a passionate Nintendo fan who plays a lot of games and actually knows what he’s talking about. He has more hours in Dragon Quest 9 than the President of Nintendo America, Reggie himself. I got my moment on stage, and I was asked to name 25 of the 63 Pokemon that appeared in Pokemon Snap. It was tough but I just got there; it was a lot of fun. The prizes were plastic ocarinas, Mario Kart 7 stickers and other small merchandise. Nothing amazing but cool things to come home with. I also got 30 more StreetPass hits for my 3DS, even though everyone I StreetPass’d was probably annoyed at my generic pietriots.com message. If that brought you to this article then HELLO! It was funny seeing everyone’s last played game as “Activity Log” or “Mii Plaza” again. Nintendo really needs to fix that in the next firmware update.

Kirby’s Return to Dream Land was the last game I played. I didn’t get too in-depth with it, but what I played was fun. I joined two others who were playing, the game let me just pick up a 3rd Wiimote mid-level and join in – pretty cool. We jumped about, scrolling through the screen, and had a few co-op moments where one of us dragged a bomb while the others fought the bad guys in front and cleared the path so we could blow up a wall to progress. The controls were good, graphics were nice, and it was really fun to play. It felt like a sequel to Kirby: The Crystal Shards on N64, one of my favourite Kirby games.

The National New Super Mario Bros. Wii doubles champions made an appearance too, doing what they do best. There was no competition at this Connection Tour, just a relaxed atmosphere with a lot of new games to play and talk about. Overall it was a pretty awesome day, and i’d like to thank Nintendo Australia for organising another successful event, and giving me the chance to play these awesome unreleased games. Hope you enjoyed the write-up!

7 thoughts on “Nintendo Connection Tour 2011 – Impressions

  1. “five different Wii consoles (that’s ten GameCubes)”

    Nice to see a good horse beating.

    I suppose Nintendo NZ or whatever cheapskate company that runs marketing down here isn’t going to bring anything like that here.

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  2. Grub, I am extremely jealous of you. I would kill to have a tour like this in Canada-land (where it is now feeling like winter, hooray!), but Nintendo of Canada can’t be arsed enough to do something like this.

    Yet one game related question: did they show of any of the motion controls for Mario Kart 7? Since the gyro controls for OoT3D were quite smooth (haha gaming media say they suck) I hope this smoothness translates well to Mario Kart.

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    1. Good question, something I missed in the article. There were no motion controls in Mario Kart, I tried but they didn’t work or respond. First person view wasn’t available either, it felt like a very early version of the game.

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    1. Oops, let me clarify that. It didn’t actually tard out, I tarded out because I was surprised by it. I opened the item menu and the cursor just APPEARED, it was ALREADY THERE and I kind of expected another step between me and items. My wrist was turning while I opened it up

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