I finally made my way out of the west hall today to do some exploring in the south hall. I couldn’t leave the West Hall without finishing up with Nintendo’s biggest games—Starfox Zero and Super Mario Maker. In the South Hall, I found one of the most beautiful platformers I’ve ever seen.

Starfox Zero

I played the hell out of Starfox 64 when I was a kid—getting all the medals, beating the game through all the routes, etc. I loved the overhaul it got when it was released on the 3DS, too. I went through the game a few more times and now there’s a new fox on the block. Starfox Zero brings the team together for a new adventure and it’s going to be badass and beautiful. Starfox in HD is just gorgeous and I got lots of hits simply because I was distracted by the world. The Arwing gets a sweet upgrade—it can turn into a two-legged walker with a touch of a button. It’s a quick transformation, and it’s a little clunky at first, but it’s a great addition to the Arwing’s capabilities. It’s basically a speedier Landmaster—which, by the way, can now fly—and it makes taking down the bigger ground enemies a little easier.

The controls are the only thing I’m not sure I’m completely behind. The controls are inverted—you pull back on the left stick to go up and vice versa, which I still hadn’t gotten used to during the demo. You use the right stick for braking, boosting and barrel rolling and your somersaults and U Turns are simple button pushes. That’s a little easier to swallow, but the hardest thing to get used to is the “cockpit view” on the Wii U gamepad. You use the game pad to aim with the annoying motion controls, forcing you to attempt to look at two screens at once. I didn’t kill very many enemies, because I was more interested in the beautiful world on the TV, but I’m thinking if I have more time to adjust to the controls, I’ll be able to snag medals like the good old days. It’s set to come out during the holiday season and I’m really hoping for November so I have something to play over Thanksgiving break.

Super Mario Maker

I’ve been playing Mario games for as long as I can remember—it was the first video game I actually have memories of. It wasn’t until later on in life that I learned all about the lost levels and people making their own levels by messing with the code. Nintendo’s decided to make it easy for all of us to build our own Mario levels. It’s point and click, drag and drop and bam! Mario level. You can build in 4 different eras of Mario—Super Mario Bros. 1, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros U—all of which have their corresponding abilities available. The U version has the helicopter suit and the wall jumps, while the older versions have the older suits and the ability to wear items on Mario’s head. The fucking awesome thing they introduced is the Mystery Mushroom you can now add to levels. While building levels, you touch an amiibo to the gamepad and the Mystery Mushroom will transform Mario into that amiibo on screen when you go through the level. It caused a lot of WTF moments when it happened during the Nintendo Direct without any explanation.

Sometimes you’ve gotta stop and smell the flowers. Photo: Ashley Lippert
You can create levels filled with traps and giant baddies to your heart’s content. Then comes the social part of Super Mario Maker. You can upload your level into the Miiverse for all the world to play and rate. When you go online to check out other levels, there’s a whole host of information surrounding their level—star rating, percentage of people who complete the levels, and comments. It finally gives the Miiverse a reason to exist, it’s been almost superfluous up until this point. It’s going to release with a sweet, 8-bit Mario amiibo in September.

Unravel: A Beautiful World

Coldwell Studios has built an amazing, heartfelt adventure in Unravel. In the presentation before the demo, the producer talked all about how some of the environments are based in their hometown and you can hear how much he loves this game in his voice. I’m a sucker for gorgeous environments, especially ones that are out in nature—I couldn’t stop smiling while I was playing Unravel. It’s stunning, and the mechanics make exploring easy and fun. You follow Yarny, a small, red doll made of yarn, as he wanders the world in search of memories of his family. As you work your way through the levels, Yarny gets thinner as the trail of yarn behind him gets longer—you can get him back to normal by finding yarn balls. Your yarn trail acts as almost a security blanket for you to fall back on—you can use it to retrace your steps and pull yourself out of pits. You can use your yarn for a few other things—swinging from branches, building bridges and rappelling down long cliffs. It all comes together and it’s goddamned gorgeous.

Beautiful day

E3 is a magical place, full of different hopes and desires thrown into many different video games. Unravel is my favorite indie of the show so far and you need to follow it and give it some love because it thoroughly deserves it. Nintendo’s got an awesome second half of the year coming up, but it needs a few more heavy hitters for the holidays. Tomorrow is, sadly, the last day of exploration, and the lines make it impossible to see everything, but I’m hoping to see just a few more games before the dream ends.