The Nintendo Bus has plush characters in lieu of hand towels at its sink. Photo: Alex Springer
When I first learned about Nintendo’s decision to release their next-gen console, the Wii U, a year before Microsoft and Sony had planned to release theirs, I was a bit perplexed. After visiting the Nintendo Bus and chatting with Marcus Suniga, one of Nintendo’s knowledgeable team members, it all made sense. While Sony and Microsoft are at each other’s throat, it frees up some time for Nintendo to outfit a trailer with merchandise and travel the country promoting some upcoming titles for the Wii U, which will be available come Christmas 2013—at least more available than the Xbox One and PS4, that is.
Every fall for close to 20 years, The Nintendo Bus has left the comforts of its HQ in Redmond, Wash. to promote their list of holiday titles. This year, Salt Lake had the pleasure of being the first stop on the bus’s cross-country tour. “We try to visit places where we generate the most interest, and we’ve always had a large audience here in Salt Lake,” Suniga says. From Salt Lake, the bus will be visiting 21 different cities to provide press and media with sneak previews of their upcoming holiday selection.
For those considering purchasing a Wii U for that special someone (even if that special someone is yourself), hold out for the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD bundle. It’s set to release on September 20, and it includes a digital download of Wind Waker HD along with a digital copy of Hyrule Historia, the unexpectedly engrossing companion book to the Legend of Zelda series. The true kicker—and this is for those of you who remember how totally badass the golden NES cartridge for Legend of Zelda 2 was—is the limited edition Wii U controller, decked out with Wind Waker-esque hieroglyphics. Though I personally don’t love re-releases, seeing Wind Waker’s beautifully animated graphics come to life in HD is a very tempting prospect. For folks who already have a Wii U, you’ll just have to wait until Oct. 4 to gather your Deku sticks and beat down some Moblins.
On a smaller scale, Nintendo is also releasing the 2DS, which is the next installment in their enduring arsenal of handheld consoles. “It’s like the entry level system in the 3DS family,” Suniga says. “It plays all DS and 3DS games without the 3D feature. It also has access to online programs like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.” It’s ideal for those looking for a reliable handheld system with a huge (over 2,000 titles!) library for a bit less money. The 2DS will hit stores on Oct. 12.
In addition to Nintendo’s upcoming console bundles, they have plenty in store for Wii and Wii U owners. I started my tour of their holiday releases with Super Mario Bros. 3D World, which will be available for the Wii U on Nov. 22. It’s a lovely mish-mash of previous Mario Bros. titles that come together in a colorful burst of nostalgia. The gameplay was reminiscent of Super Mario 64, the character selection option was right out of Super Mario Bros. 2, and the inclusion of different animal suits brought me right back to Super Mario Bros. 3. Every time I think that I’ve grown out of the Super Mario games, Nintendo manages to drop something like this to pull me back in. I don’t know how that mustachioed plumber and his posse do it, but I can’t help but find them endlessly endearing.
My next selection was Splinter Cell: Blacklist, a sharp, M-rated contrast to Mario’s colorful and terrorist-free world. Throughout my gaming career, I’ve always taken issue with games like Splinter Cell and Metal Gear Solid—these stealthy, have-to-be-smarter-than-the-game games always make me feel like an idiot. Despite a fairly embarrassing performance in front of Marcus during my first playthrough, I found that Blacklist’s learning curve was fairly easy to acquire. One aspect that I really liked was having an HQ where Sam Fisher can upgrade his arsenal and select missions based on their priority. Though I’m sure this game will be a hit across the board, the Wii U controller’s touch screen provides an interesting spin on inventory management. For example, I found that I could switch between regular and night vision seamlessly without pausing, which gives the game an increased sense of continuity. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is currently available for purchase, should you have the uncontrollable urge to cap a few anti-American terrorists.
After the gritty, headshot-fueled environment of Splinter Cell, it was nice to jump into Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze. Much like Mario 3D World, this new installment in the Donkey Kong franchise mixes nostalgia with innovation to create an addictive title. Players can look forward to revisiting the animal-riding, banana-grabbing side-scrolling platform established in the original Donkey Kong Country come Dec. 6 on the Wii.
I wrapped up my visit by checking out Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which will be available on 3DS and 2DS on Nov. 22. This new entry in the Zelda oeuvre combines the re-vamped top-down perspective made popular in Link to the Past on SNES with the 3D technology of Nintendo’s newest handheld system. Enemies now jump right out of the screen, and the multi-leveled environments are more imposing than those of Link to the Past.
As I have followed the Sony/Microsoft rivalry for a while now, it was nice to spend a day with the Nintendo team. I sometimes forget that the folks at Nintendo are consistent travelers on the high road when it comes to competition. I respect the fact that they discovered their strengths early on in the home video game system market, and have continued to stick to their guns despite the hectic ups and downs in gaming trends.