In my house, at least, this has definitely been a Nintendo summer. Starting with the June release of Animal Crossing: New Leaf – and yes, I’m still playing that one – the Big N touched off a string of high profile releases rooted in the company’s rich history of fun first-party offerings, with each reflecting the vibrant color palette of the season.
Though the retail release is still a few days away, many Wii U gamers have already enjoyed the downloadable New Super Mario Bros U expansion New Super Luigi U. This “Year of Luigi” title puts our green festooned second banana front and center in a continuation of the system’s biggest launch title.
Along with his top billing – Mario is even replaced by a nigh bulletproof Nabbit in the game’s multiplayer mode – Luigi gets the dubious honor of treading through a more challenging platforming adventure. Bigger jumps and noticeably looser controls combined with a stringent 100 second level timer make the game play like a green-tinted hardcore mode. Sure, the world map seems perfectly familiar, but the levels themselves have been re-tuned to ratchet up the difficulty.
In short, New Super Luigi U giveth and New Super Luigi U taketh away. The strict time limit makes exploration a hassle, but some of these Luigi-specific levels are tailored to his own unique flavor of the platforming speed run, making it easy to come in under the buzzer. Similarly, 1-Ups abound, which helps make up for the lack of the mid-level checkpoint.
If you and your family have already exhausted the gaming potential of New Super Mario Bros U and are looking for a new, more challenging iteration, definitely give this expansion a try. Also, if you skipped the original and simply want a budget priced, finely tuned gaming experience that showcases solid level design and serious difficulty, you’ll be able to cop the standalone version later this month.
If you’re prone to frustration and suffer from gamer rage, however, maybe you should let this one pass on by.
While New Super Luigi U is a fine addition to the Wii U library, it isn’t a new release in the fullest sense. Thankfully we oft-neglected Nintendo console gamers received a real boon in the form of Pikmin 3 earlier this month. The first proper series entry since the GameCube era – though both Pikmin and its sequel were re-released on the Wii – this gorgeous RTS takes players to the lush landscape of planet PNF-404, a world (unsurprisingly) inhabited by those helpful plantlike Pikmin.
The number three in the title plays into its expanded squad-based division of labor mechanic that this time employs a trio of Pikmin wranglers; engineer Alph, botanist Brittany and Captain Charlie are the last hope for the fruit juice-starved world of Koppai. Also new are the hardy Rock Pikmin and delicate Winged Pikmin, both of which add to the overall environmental puzzle-solving as well as the swarm-based combat. Still, there are a number of welcome throwbacks to the series’ earlier titles including (but not limited to) the original tri-color Pikmin.
At its best Pikmin 3 is a graphically gorgeous, emotionally engaging affair resplendent with adorable characters, ravenous enemies and big ol’ environments. At its worst it’s a big ol’ pile of frustration. Sometimes the massive scale of the game’s levels makes it easy to miss the crucial detail that helps you expand the map and advance the story. Other times it seems as if the controls themselves (not to mention limited navigational capacity of your Pikmin) are working against you.
While alternate control schemes abound – including Pro Controller support and the much more precise Wii Remote Plus/Nunchuk interface – the native GamePad control leaves something to be desired. While its on-board touchscreen map makes navigating terrain practically intuitive, the movement and targeting controls are both mapped to the left control stick. This means that bulls-eying Bulborbs can be problematic… and don’t get me started on airborne enemies!
With that said, Pikmin 3 goes out of its way to give the player choices, from control setups and mission structure – for the most part you’re free to gallivant across the map as you see fit, assuming you’ve got the right Pikmin for the job – to varied supplementary gameplay modes like challenge maps, now called Mission Mode, and Bingo Battle, its objective-based multiplayer. In the often slim pickings that is the Wii U game library, it offers a lively, enjoyable story and a genuinely fun gameplay experience that’s not to be missed.
Last but not least in this rundown of all things emerald-hued and Nintendo-related is the latest entry into the acclaimed Mario & Luigi line, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Boasting all the exploration, tandem turn-based attacks and off-kilter humor you’ve come to expect from the series, Dream Team is a unique title in that it too gives little brother Luigi the spotlight.
On the exotic Pi’illo Island, which Peach and the rest of the crew conveniently visit, a sinister secret and a great evil underpin yet another convoluted tale of comedy and heroism. Sure, the typical one-brother-one-button turn-based-but-timing-supplemented combat system of the earlier entries is back in full force, but it’s the tweaks to the individual games that give the Mario & Luigi titles their edge. This time around the job of saving both a captured princess and restoring the lost Pi’illo civilization rests on Luigi’s ability to… fall asleep practically anywhere.
In his touchscreen slumber the younger brother can open a portal to the alternate Dream World, where Mario is aided by a more competent Dreamy Luigi, a souped-up Italian hot rod that can become one with these dream environments to help his bro overcome obstacles. There’s mustache-manipulating aplenty – using the touchscreen to stretch these Luigi-possessed objects and fling Mario to safety or sneezing away obstacles by tickling his nose – but Dreamy Luigi also brings the pain in the title’s frequent battles, with new Luiginary Attacks supplementing the fray.
Beautiful in the both its isometric (real world) and 2D (Dream World) views, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team makes the most of the 3DS’s titular feature, adding depth of field throughout the experience. And there really is a lot to experience. A sizable original cast is joined by both old and new favorites – How you been, Broque Monsieur? – and everyone has something to say about the Mario Bros’ latest predicament.
If anything, the silly slant of the series’ dialog proves too much of a good thing, and Dream Team sometimes seems too wrapped up in its own cheeky exposition. Thankfully it’s easy to save at practically any time, so short play session are possible across this very lengthy core game. With its classic Mario RPG-style equipment system, a solid (if rudimentary) leveling/achievement structure and a great new Gear mechanic for buffs – wherein each brother chooses his own interlocking gear that, when combined, helps dictate the overall effect – this Mario & Luigi title may not be all sweet dreams, but it’s far from a nightmare.
Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America