I recently had the opportunity to visit Nintendo’s NYC offices and try out some of their upcoming games. I got my grubby little mitts on a couple of highly-anticipated titles for the 3DS: Pokémon X/Y (releasing October 12) and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (releasing November 22). My time with them was limited, but I came away with some impressions that I would like to share with you after the jump!
First up, I was very curious to play Pokémon X/Y. I’ve fallen out of love with the series, and I’d hoped that the 3D polygonal graphics would be enough eye candy to lure me in and be wowed by the changes to the gameplay that would have me catching ‘em all all over again. Unfortunately, I was immediately taken aback by the lack of 3D effects as the game began. I kept wiggling the 3DS slider, but nothing worked. It would seem that the overworld of this new Pokémon game simply wasn’t in 3D. I mean, the graphics were 3D polygons, and they looked great, but there was no depth to it. Not even a little bit.
There was, however, depth to the visuals once you entered battle or engaged in dialogue with someone. Then the 3D polygonal characters and Pokémon came to brilliant three-dimensional life. At least until it was over and you were back in the distractingly flat overworld. I know a lot of people don’t even bother playing their 3DS in 3D, but for those of us who do, it’s disappointing. I don’t know what the reasoning was behind this decision, but hopefully it isn’t heralding some new trend where developers don’t bother using the 3D anymore…
That said, the game itself was great. As I said before, my time was limited to the timed demo, but I was able to engage a wild Pokémon in the tall grass, a random trainer standing around, and then the surprisingly attractive Doctor Sycamore. The final battle allowed me to use Mewtwo and engage his Hyper Evolution, which naturally, kicked all kinds of ass all over the place. While the game plays just like before, using the same rock/paper/scissors strategy, having everything in beautifully-animated 3D polygonal graphics finally makes it feel as though the Pokémon series has at long last moved into the next generation. (Not crazy about putting the main character in rollerblades, though… moving around takes some getting used to!)
I was much more impressed by the 3D in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. Visually, it looks like a 3D upgrade to the original A Link To The Past. Same top-down perspective, same movement and action (with virtually the exact same gameplay), but with a smooth, cartoony sheen to the graphics. (And with the added depth of stereoscopic 3D effects, naturally!) In fact, I may have actually squeed a little out loud when I moved Link to the edge of the screen only to see it quickly pan to the next part of the map, just like in the olden days!
Making my way through the overworld, I stopped to fight a handful of monsters, but wanted to quickly make my way to the dungeon. (It was a timed demo, after all…) There, the 3D effects became almost crucial for playing the game. The rooms in the dungeon have depth, and you have to work your way up and down through the different levels to solve the puzzles and get the treasures to advance. Using a hammer to pound on little springs to bounce yourself up to the next floor is so much more fun when you see little Link sail up out of your 3DS screen and then back down in to land. Of course, adding in Link’s new ability to switch into two-dimensions and move along walls means that you’re going to have to approach these dungeon puzzles from every conceivable angle.
I wasn’t able to fully explore the new gameplay mechanic of “renting” your items from a shop before tackling dungeons. It’s an interesting conceit, turning upside-down the previously established Zelda convention of exploring dungeons in a specific order, gaining the item within that will allow you to proceed to defeat the boss. But I wonder how it will work this time around. Presumably, each dungeon will make it clearly obvious in the first couple of rooms which items you’re going to need to get through it. Because if I get halfway through a dungeon and find out that I should’ve taken the boomerang instead of the bow and arrow, I’m going to be more than a little upset!
But the beautiful graphics and clever use of the 3D space for puzzles has me eagerly anticipating the release of A Link Between Worlds. (Even if it makes me feel really bad that I never actually finished A Link To The Past all those years ago… hopefully that won’t impede my enjoyment of the sequel!)