Video Game Reviews

Illustration: Phil Cannon

The good folks at Nintendo rolled their Mario-branded airstream through Salt Lake in September, giving SLUG a chance to preview their tasty offerings for the upcoming holiday season. The trailer was packed with a message of values and love. With a slew of new titles releasing for the Wii, 3DS, DSi and DSi XL, hardcore and casual gamers alike can find a great pile of items to spend their hard-earned cash on. If you’re a hater, then you can find a stack of IP re-releases to shake your bitter fist at. If you still hold some sort of hope for a fun gaming future, Nintendo has an offering of titles for you as well.

Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword
Street: 11.20
Nintendo Wii
With this year being the 25-year anniversary of Zelda, Skyward Sword is the icing on the celebratory cake. The developers have utilized the MotionPlus controller to its fullest extent, making Link’s arm motions follow your commands at an almost 1:1 ratio. Visually, I found the game to be stunning. The friendly representative from Nintendo insisted that they went for a more artsy style they hadn’t done before, but to me it simply looked like a crisper version of Twilight Princess. The game features new weapons, such as the beetle, which allows you to hit hard-to-reach objects by guiding it through the air via the Wii Motion Plus. Navigating the sky on a giant bird gave an additional piece of excitement while getting from dungeon to dungeon. This game will set records, empty shelves, and ruin any social life you may think you have.

Fortune Street
Street: 12.05
Nintendo Wii
This long-running Japanese series is being moved to the U.S. for the first time. It was described to me as a Monopoly-style board game utilizing classic Nintendo and Dragon Quest characters. The players can battle competitively on console or online via Nintendo WFC. The limited impression I gathered from the game made me want to sit down for an afternoon and attempt to wrap my head around the advanced play. Once players have purchased properties and gained some sort of income, they are able to reinvest that income into properties in a stock market style system. You are even given the ability to invest in your opponents’ properties that may be killing you. The strategy to this Mario Party-looking piece spells disaster for those of us wasting too much time on games already. I’ll wait until release to fully pass judgment, but the game looks interesting.

Super Mario 3D Land
Street: 11.13
Nintendo 3DS
Blending Mario’s roots with his future, 3D Land takes fans to the next step. This reminded me of Super Mario 64 meets New Super Mario meets Super Mario 3. This game was instantly addicting as I ran around in a polished, 3D-rendered world and utilized classic devices, such as the Tanooki suit. The poor spokesperson from Nintendo made three attempts to pry the device from my hands with little success. Being a somewhat stalwart hater of the Mario 64 release on DS, I was skeptical of another 3D Mario on a handheld, but the ten minutes of play I was allowed to indulge in made me feel otherwise. Super Mario 3D Land is another great reason to own a 3DS and a no-brainer purchase for the holiday season. I foresee this being sold out at every video game store through Christmas, so get your pre-orders done last week.

Mario Kart 7
Street: 12.04
Nintendo 3DS
This was one of my favorite parts of the preview event. The game itself looked beautiful, handled wonderfully, and allowed more options of game play than previous versions of Mario Kart dared to. From the moment you pick your characters, you’re choosing specialized karts, tire types, and which hang glider will better fit your racing style. The racing mechanics themselves felt identical to previous versions, with the addition of being able to glide after driving off of high ledges. Gliding can be applied in a variety of ways to suit your strategy. If you’re in a faster Kart and the terrain looks smooth, you can drop to the ground quickly to gain speed. If you’re in a slower Kart, or see rough terrain, you can stay in flight for a longer period of time to avoid a slowdown. Bundle this with ad-hoc and Wi-Fi multiplayer and your wallet is guaranteed to take a $39.99 hit.

Professor Layton and the Last Specter
Street: 10.17
Nintendo DS
Professor Layton holds a special place in my gaming library. The game is a wonderful mishmash of math, logic and maze puzzles that guide you through a winding and intriguing story. The basic premise sends Layton and his sidekick Luke to solve mysteries that they have been tied to by an invitation, friend or convenient placement. Once you have established the mystery to be solved, you begin interviewing townsfolk and solving their puzzles to advance the story. Since the first Layton Trilogy, completed with the Unwound Future, the new title will be begin the prequel trilogy of that series. You will discover how Luke and Layton became friends, and what got them started in the world of puzzle solving. If you’ve never played these games, this is a wonderful
jumping-off point.

Illustration: Phil Cannon