I’ve always been a morning person. That guy you hate who can get up at the crack of dawn and be active and chipper. I would have normally baulked at getting up at 3 am, but today was the day. I was going to visit Nintendo UK Headquarters in Windsor.
The 5ish hour coach journey flew by with the help of some of my favourite gaming podcasts (from Gaming Fyx, Giant Bomb and Easy Allies) and I arrived in Windsor about 30 minutes early. I walked from the coach stop to the Nintendo offices and waited around a bit to not seem too keen, then walked into the lobby.
The Nintendo staff came out to introduce themselves and hand us some fact sheets that told us what we could and couldn’t say. We were told we would be able to play the following:
- Pokemon Sword & Shield
- Luigi’s Mansion 3
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
- New Super Lucky’s Tale
- Mario & Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
And on top of that, we were going to see an extensive demo of Astral Chain. Upfront I was only interested in Pokemon, not being a huge Zelda fan or having played Luigi’s Mansion. But by the end of the day, I had a very different opinion.
First, we were allowed to play a demo of Pokemon Sword & Shield. We were given every starter and a selection of the new S&S Pokemon to work our way through the Water Gym. There were multiple trainer battles and a light puzzle where you had to use switches to open and close water walls. I tried out all of the new Pokemon, and my favourite was a new corgi Pokemon called Yamper. He was adorable. I also used the new Dynamax feature to supersize the new sheep Pokemon, Wooloo. We were allowed to record video off-screen, which you can see here:
I enjoyed the demo, and it was stunning, I know that the discourse online has been that this game doesn’t look great, but I heartily disagree having seen it in person. I was already sold on buying the game at launch, and this demo only increased my excitement.
Next up was the guided demo of Astral Chain, a game that I was honestly not interested in at all from what we had seen during the E3 Direct. It was pretty long and comprehensive, similar to what you would have seen on a Treehouse stream.
Astral Chain is set in a sort of post-apocalypse world, where all of humanity lives in a single floating city called The Ark. Mysterious rifts have started to appear in The Ark, and monsters are invading through them. You play either a male or female created character, with the opposite gender being your twin. You’re both super cops in an agency called Neuron, devoted to protecting The Ark from these monsters. You also have access to monstrous partners called Legion that is connected to you by a “chain” which you can control independently.
The demo opened on a Batman Arkham style investigation section, where you use an AR detective vision to find out what happened and where the monster has escaped to. You then follow the trail and fight the monster, with very cool battle mechanics that are a little too complicated to explain here! You can see the demo I watched in the YouTube clip below. I’ve set the timecode for the battle sequence so you can see how it looks, which is better than I could explain I’m sure!
Overall I was very surprised by Astral Chain. It was a game I had dismissed entirely previously, but the gameplay and story elements I saw hooked me. I’ll be there day one to play this now.
Next up was Luigi’s Mansion 3. I’d tried out Luigi’s Mansion 2 but had never gotten hooked, so wasn’t all that interested in this game but boy did that change. First off, I need to say this game is great looking. Similar to Mario Odyssey it just has a lot of charm and Nintendo polish. This time around the mansion is technically a giant hotel, where each floor has a particular theme. Nintendo has shown footage of a Hollywood themed level, but we got to play a medieval one with knights and swords and such. The puzzle-solving was excellent, and what I initially thought were clunky controls clicked with me the second I started bustin’ a ghost.
For those of you who have played a Luigi’s Mansion before, the new mechanics are that you can now slam ghosts you’ve got tethered to your vacuum and you can create an ectoplasmic double of Luigi called Gooigi. Why there isn’t a special edition of the game where it is called Gooigi’s Mansion 3 is beyond me, but the charming green gooey plumber is very fun to use. The game can also be played two-players with the second player playing Gooigi.
At the end of the demo, we fought a boss who was a knight on horseback that had a light puzzle mechanic needed to defeat him, and it was enjoyable. Luigi’s Mansion 3 ended up being my favourite demo of the day, and now my most anticipated Nintendo game for Q4 by a mile. I can’t wait to play more of it.
Then we played Link’s Awakening. This is an old Game Boy Zelda title reimagined for the Switch with a funky new art style where everything in the game looks like it’s a miniature toy. This was easily the most anticipated game in the room (by everyone but me). I had played this game growing up, and it is what put me off 2D Zelda my whole life because I didn’t enjoy it at all. The demo also didn’t run super well, visibly dropping frames at times which I wouldn’t usually notice on most games, so that wasn’t great.
But how did the gameplay? Well, I am surprised to say I enjoyed my time with it. I ran the demo twice, once learning the method to reach the game’s first dungeon but not making it there in time before the 10 minute time cap and the second time getting multiple rooms in before the demo ended again. My tastes have admittedly changed since I last played it 20 years ago on the Gameboy Colour, but I was shocked how much I enjoyed it.
What was a game that I said over and over “why is anyone interested in this?” has now become something I am super looking forward to. It’s beautiful to look at, fun to play and has a lot of personality. I do hope that they fix the framerate by the time it comes out, but even then it wasn’t unplayable at all.
After Zelda, we were all put into groups to play Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. As a huge comic book nerd, Marvel fanboy (read my Avengers Endgame review) and also somebody who calls Diablo 3 his favourite game of all time, you might imagine that this game would have blown my socks off. Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to find the fun in the game during the demo.
I found it tough to tell which character I was, and the game was not super engaging. I would have much preferred to try it solo and see how it played there, in the way I would want to play. The selection of characters looks good with all your MCU favourites and a few extras. I played as Captain Marvel, Thor and Miles Morales who all played how you would expect. I’ll be playing this game for sure, but I won’t rush out to buy it at all. Especially with it being out shortly before Fire Emblem Three Houses, my most anticipated release of the year.
We stayed in groups next to play Mario & Sonic at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This may shock you, but this was precisely what you would expect. They have new events this time around like skateboarding and judo, which we played. Seeing Eggman in a judo gi facing off against Peach was pretty funny, but the game was nothing to write home about. It’s a minigame collection without the central element of the board game that you get in Mario Party or 1 2 Switch.
You already know if you want to buy this game I would expect, and the desire to buy probably also increases with the number of very young children or drunken game nights you have.
Finally, we were allowed free play on the demo stations and given access to Super Lucky’s Tale and Hollow Knight: Silksong. I played a minute or so of each before realising that neither was really my cup of tea and went back to Luigi’s Mansion 3 to hunt for secrets in the demo level. A testament to how much fun it was!
My visit to Nintendo was extremely fun, and I felt honoured to have been invited on behalf of Rapid Reviews. The team at Nintendo were lovely, taking particular time to sit with us while we played and answering any questions we might have and also just joking and having fun with us. Special thanks to the PR rep whose name I can’t remember who filmed my Sword & Shield gameplay, and to Rapid Reviews Editor-in-Chief Mike for sending me down, it was a fantastic experience!