My Thoughts on… Nintendo Games at EGX 2019

Nintendo Booth EGX

Yesterday, I attended EGX 2019 in London. Set in the ExCel exhibition centre and billed as the country’s biggest video game event, it was my first ever gaming convention, and the second time I’d tried out upcoming titles after (after the Nintendo Switch event back in 2017).

And I loved every minute of it! From getting to try out Luigi’s Mansion 3 to playing titles like the Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening, Ring Fit Adventure and Pokemon Sword and Shield, I got to test tons of interesting games that either released just a few days prior or aren’t due for months to come.

Nintendo Booth EGX
A quick shot of Nintendo’s booth area from E3 2019

So in this article, I’ll be discussing my experiences at the event, as well as my thoughts on each of the Nintendo titles I experienced there. Starting with Nintendo’s Switch era replacement for Wii Sports, Ring Fit Adventure…

Ring Fit Adventure

Ring Fit Adventure

Which in all honestly, was actually a really fun game to try out. The blend of fitness elements and RPG gameplay made for a really compelling experience, and certainly kept me interested throughout the level I tried out (level 2 was played by the person I visited the event with).

What’s more, it actually felt like the kind of game I think Mario RPG fans may want to check out too. Why? Well, think about it a minute. It’s an action RPG experience where you use timed button inputs to increase the damage you do to enemies and clear obstacles, all while dealing with a story written to be as light hearted and humourous as possible. In other words, it’s basically a Mario & Luigi/Paper Mario experience without the Mario branding with elements of Wii Fit, Donkey Kong Country and Crash Bandicoot tossed into the fray.

Might be the ideal thing for people craving their comedy RPG fix.

Or at least, the ideal thing for people craving said fix and with a level of fitness able to keep up with the game through its increasingly challenging stages. Because here’s the thing, after level 1 I was bloody exhausted.

And that was level 1. You know, the easiest level in the game, where enemy encounters were literally non existent and the challenges basically just involved collecting coins and opening doors. Give it three or four of those levels, and you’d probably feel like you’d been at the gym for an hour afterwards. So yeah, may not be the best choice of game to try and speedrun (or blast through in a single afternoon).

Regardless, it was better than expected, and may end up being the first exercise game I (or many other people) would ever buy. So well done Nintendo. You actually took two genres nobody would ever consider plausible parts of a single game, and created an experience that’ll probably keep people coming back time and again.

Heck, it may even get more people to buy the Switch too. Why? Because not only did every single person I saw playing the game at the event seem to absolutely love it, but it was apparently enough to interest the person who was visiting EGX alongside me to consider buying a Nintendo Switch as well. Not Mario, not Zelda, not Luigi’s Mansion 3. No, it was Wii Fit Adventure that got them the most excited about the system.

It really does have the potential to become the next Wii Sports if advertised correctly, and it’s one people should give a look if they have the chance to.

Still, enough about that for a moment. Onto the next title!

Super Mario Maker 2

SMM2 banner

Aka a game that’s been out since June, yet which Nintendo advertises like there’s no tomorrow. It’s kind of strange really, especially given it status as one of the ‘required event draw’ games over stuff like Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games or [insert upcoming third party game here].

Either way, as perhaps the one Switch owner on the planet who didn’t pick up the game at launch, I gave it a shot to see what was on offer. And for the most part it was a pretty fun experience. The mechanics still worked as expected, the level editor was okay (albeit handicapped by my decision to try TV mode play rather than handheld mode) and the co-op worked surprisingly well too.

Yet it still didn’t really draw me in to be honest. I’m not sure that was, in theory this is the exact kind of game I should really enjoy playing. The kind that should have justified a day 1 purchase within fifteen seconds of me seeing the first trailer in February 2019.

But it didn’t. Something about the game just hasn’t hit the spot yet.

And I suspect it really comes down to the fact that Super Mario Maker 2 just feels too limiting for me. It’s a system to make levels with whatever Nintendo gives you and no more.

Which just doesn’t really compare well with its fan made counterparts. ROM hacking tools like Lunar Magic, game editors like Super Mario Bros X and fan made equivalents like Super Mario Unimaker let you incorporate new graphics, music and other resources into the game and make it your own. Mario Maker 2 doesn’t. It’s good for someone who’s new to level making, but feels thoroughly outclassed for anyone with any real development/design experience.

It also feels a tad too disjointed too. Why? Well in Mario Maker 1 and 2, you’re just limited to creating single levels. You can’t tie them together, you can’t create overworld maps and you can’t set up anything resembling a story or game structure to go around it.

So the levels just feel really incohesive overall. Like you’re watching a TV series where every episode is a one off by a completely different production team. That may be fine for some people, but it’s just not for me, and I think I’ll have to have to accept that and move on.

The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening

Link's Awakening Switch Artwork

Onto another previously released game featured at the show, and yet another one I skipped out on at its release day.

Which unlike Super Mario Maker 2, isn’t really ruled out of my ‘may purchase’ list. It’s a good game, and one I thoroughly enjoyed playing the demo of at the event. The controls felt great, the graphics and soundtrack worked really well from what I experienced and overall, the classic Link’s Adventure gameplay from the olden days of the Game Boy was present and accounted for.

Yet nothing about it inspired me to go out and buy the thing. It was a fun diversion for about 10 minutes, but after that I just moved onto other stuff without a care in the world.

And I suspect that’s simply because the game’s a remake. I’ve already played Link’s Awakening before, and in actuality not all that long ago either (I think it was mid 2016 via the 3DS eShop).

So a retread of the same adventure (albeit a gorgeous looking one) didn’t hold much appeal here. It was still the same game, it still mostly played the same and it still gave me no real reason to double dip on the same adventure.

Ah well, at least there’s the chance I may get it when it goes on sale. Or when the drought between new Switch releases gets so great I need something… absolutely anything to kill time.

Pokemon Sword and Shield

Pokemon Sword Shield Artwork

Time for the most controversial game of the year now! Yeah, we’ve all heard the National Pokedex complaints now. The endless comments about Dexit or Bring Back National Dex on social media that flood every Pokemon post in existence. The civil war that seems to be brewing among its fanbase.

If you went by internet reactions, you’d think Pokemon Sword and Shield was on course to be the worst selling game in the history of franchise. A disaster that sinks both the series and Game Freak in one fell swoop.

But that didn’t seem to be the case at the event. Oh no, the queues were right round the block here, and people were stuck waiting for half an hour or more to even get the chance to try the demo. It was ridiculous, to the point it basically sunk Nintendo’s competition for a decent amount of EGX attendees (good luck playing all five major Nintendo games before 4:30 if Pokemon’s got hour long queues!)

Still, enough about the disparity between internet comments and real life now. What was the actual game like to play?

Honestly, it was still pretty fun. All the major aspects of the series stayed intact, the battle system worked as well as ever and for the most part, I got used to the graphics pretty quickly. Perhaps it’s because Nessa’s gym isn’t an outdoor area, but it looked damn nice in HD here, and felt like a huge step up for the series regardless of whether it stacked up to Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild.

Unfortunately, the difficulty level was still as low as ever. Indeed, despite this being the second gym in the game, absolutely none of the gym trainers posed a challenge whatsoever, with all of them having exactly one Pokemon apiece. Pretty disappointing in that sense, especially considering that every other game in the series gave the trainers at least two Pokemon at the same point in the adventure.

And the gym puzzle wasn’t exactly much to write home about either. It was just hitting switches to change waterfalls around, and it was done in such a way that virtually anyone above the age of five would probably blast through it in 2 minutes flat. Ah well, at least that one is a step up from before. Early gyms in the older generations didn’t even have any sort of puzzle to deal with, and often just let you walk right up to the gym leader with a single trainer battle or two in between.

In that sense, there was at least an attempt at making things more engaging. Which also extended to the trainer teams too.

Since in this title, it seems the old ‘everyone follows the gym’s preferred Pokemon type’ rule has been kicked to the curb. Whereas Misty’s gym trainers all used water Pokemon exclusively (and could be singlehandedly swept by your starter/the Pikachu you found in Viridian Forest), the ones in Nessa’s gym actually used quite a mix of types. You had the obligatory water Pokemon, a grass type, a dark/fairy type (Impidimp), etc, which rewarded you for actually having a rounded team rather than merely picking one Pokemon and blasting through everyone with a single move.

Of course, the demo kinda facilitated that style of play too, since it gave you a full team of six Pokemon all with different types and abilities. So you had a surprising amount of options in how you could approach the battles in this one, even without the ability to catch anything yourself.

Well, for the most part anyway. One particular option was nowhere to be seen here.

Namely, the pause menu. Yep, for likely anti-spoiler reasons, the EGX demo for Pokemon Sword and Shield disabled the pause button altogether, meaning you had no way to reorder your team, view stats out of battle, access the Pokedex or save the game.

This meant every battle was started by Sobble, and your opponent would get a nice free hit in whenever you needed to switch out. It was an annoying setback, albeit one made more tolerable by easy healing both via an NPC in the gym and a prompt at the entrance to the gym leader’s arena.

And it was a logical sacrifice to make on the Pokemon Company’s part too. Why? Well think of it like this. What information can you glean from the game if you can access the pause menu?

Answer? Pretty much the entire Pokedex count. All you’d need to do is to go to the Pokedex and scroll to the bottom, and you’d have an easily way to figure out how many Pokemon were in the entire game. That would then allow for a ton of easy speculation, let people work out how many evolutions each newcomer is likely to have, and perhaps even leak entirely unknown species too, depending on how careless the demo setup team was here.

So it was probably the right move to disable it, as annoying as it may have made certain sections.

As for Dynamax, the major feature added in the game?

Dynamax Battle
The BIG selling point of Pokemon Sword and Shield

Well it was okay I guess. The sight of your chosen Pokemon becoming 200 foot tall kaiju was pretty cool the first time around, and they certainly felt powerful in battle.

But I fear it may be a bit too much of an upgrade overall. That’s because while the giant Pokemon are limited to three turns on the field in said form, their attacks now do a ton more damage than normal, and anything against them via normal sized creatures is basically useless. It’s realistic (would your dog be able to do much in a battle against Godzilla?), but a little too overpowered if you ask me. Turns the optimal strategy into a game of immediately using Dynamax whenever the other player does so, in order to avoid seeing half your team get curbstomped.

That may be a bit too centralising for competitive play overall.

Still, I guess it isn’t that different from megas and Z-Moves in the power sense, and it is fun to play around with. So I give it a thumbs up overall. And hey, it did let me beat Nessa and finish the demo with a single well timed attack from Grookey, so that’s nice as well.

Overall, the Pokemon Sword and Shield demo was a fun experience, and one that’s likely to move an awful lot of Nintendo Switches this year, even with the online controversy firestorm raging non stop online.

Luigi’s Mansion 3

Luigi's Mansion 3 Scene

Either way, time for the last game I tried, the one which arguably made me buy a ticket to the event to begin with. Yeah, it’s Luigi’s Mansion 3, the game I’ve been raving about on this site for months now.

How did it stack up?

Really well actually. Obviously the demo didn’t have a ton of things I didn’t know about already, since the EGX one reused the same Castle MacFright floor found in the E3 demo and at every show since then. So I was exploring the medieval castle section, getting past some spike puzzles with Luigi, fighting King MacFright in the arena, that sort of thing.

King MacFright and Luigi
The feared boss of the Last Resort’s sixth floor, King MacFright

And I had an absolute blast with it overall. Within minutes I was taking down ghosts left and right and exploring the hotel like the good old days, having an amazing time in the process.

Of course, being the kind of person who’d seen everything in the game posted online, I basically speedran the entire level in my playthrough. So much so in fact that I actually managed to take down King MacFright on my first attempt, with minimal damage being sustained in the process. Yeah, guess all that GameXplain footage kinda rubbed off on me there.

Which actually surprised me to be honest. After seeing Nintendo Minute struggle for minutes on the battle before their Luigi met a gruesome end, I genuinely thought this boss would be a challenge. In fact, I actually kinda dreaded entering the arena there, since I thought I’d be in for a long and difficult fight where ol’ Luigi would be stuck taking damage left and right.

Above: Nintendo Minute really struggled with this boss

But no, that wasn’t the case. The boss was a cakewalk, and the controls were really easy to get used to overall. Guess I shouldn’t assume Kit and Krysta’s skill level is going to be at all reflective of my own in these things.

Still, I shouldn’t be too arrogant there. While the boss himself was easy and the floor was simple to explore, I made a fair share of mistakes myself too.

Like completely failing to understand how to summon Gooigi until a staff member pointed it out. Turns out you need to click the right analogue stick, which I basically never did in any other Switch title up until now. So I spent a good five minutes messing around with the R button and wondering why it wasn’t working as expected.

I also screwed up a bit with the ghost catching controls too. Initially forgot you’re meant to hold the other stick away from the ghost to suck it up, before realising the dual analogue setup makes it work more like the original game’s mechanics than Dark Moon’s. That was a fun screw up.

None the less, everything worked as expected when I got used to the mechanics again, and it’s gotten me super excited for the final game when it launches this Halloween.

And despite the demo being both extremely short and fairly well documented online, there were a few neat things in it that surprised me regardless. Like the hilarious boss defeat cutscene, where King MacFright desperately plunges his sword into the ground and hangs on for dear life to avoid getting sucked into the Poltergust. It was a neat touch, and really shows just how much these bosses hate being captured by Luigi during his quest.

I was also pleasantly surprised by how open ended the boss fight seemingly was in general. Oh sure, there was an obvious method to defeat him (stun him as he charges, shatter his armour by slamming into the ground three times, fight him like a normal sword/shield ghost afterwards). But it felt like there were other options here too. Like say, using the electrified arrows he shoots from the background against him. Or using the suction shot on his shield in phase 2 rather than just avoiding his charge move. It’s a game that seemingly rewards you for out of the box thinking, and gives you multiple ways to tackle these major ghost encounters.

Finally, I also seemingly tried to step outside the demo area too, since one of the doors I opened just immediately shut again, with a nice big ‘no entry’ symbol popping up on screen. Guess that’s how Next Level Games keep you on track in these playthroughs…

All in all, it was a great game to try out, and one I’m definitely going to enjoy later this month.

Other Aspects of the Event

Still, before we wrap up, I may as well talk about a few general aspects of the event I found interesting too.

For one thing, Nintendo had a neat contest going on throughout the day, where anyone who played at least four games and got a stamp to prove it would be entered into a contest for a new Switch Lite. Obviously I didn’t win this, but it was a neat thing to participate in regardless, especially as it encouraged us to try out everything we could.

Nintendo Competition Card
Yes I did eventually fill this out. Also, the Mario Maker 2 stamp ran out of ink

There was also a second version which involved Twitter too, where you needed to take a selfie of yourself holding the score card and tag @NintendoUK, #EGX2019 and the name of the game you enjoyed the most to be in with a chance of winning a Switch with Luigi’s Mansion 3. Again, an amusing enough distraction, though one I didn’t participate in myself.

There was also a competition to win three Switch consoles and copies of Luigi’s Mansion 3

Meanwhile the Nintendo booth also had a giant screen showing whatever game was being played competitively at that point in time. This seemed to be split 50/50 between Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Tetris 99, much to the surprise of the person I attended with (who wondered why anyone would want to watch others play Tetris).

Attendance for the event was pretty high overall, though I suspect going on the last day meant I got a bit of a quieter event experience than I would have had on Friday or Saturday. Did make for an absolutely surreal wristband queue experience though, where the entire line area was deserted except for about 20 people.

This also likely made the waits for games more manageable overall. Hell, it only took me 10 minutes of waiting before I got to try Luigi’s Mansion 3, which was nice to see.

Finally, Nintendo’s booth design was both a blessing and a curse overall. On the one hand, the ability to try either handheld mode or TV mode for every game let you see how it’d play in any situation, and pick the one that best suited your preference. On the other… it also meant you missed out on a few features too. Like co-op play in Luigi’s Mansion 3 (since you couldn’t separate the Joy-Cons).

There was also the usual promotional material given out as well, like this glossy book featuring info on virtually every Nintendo game coming out in 2019-2020. Said book also had a code for 10% of your next Nintendo UK store order, a few little games like crosswords and spot the difference puzzles and info on things like the best games you might be able to buy for under £10.

EGX Nintendo Games Guide
A neutral publication about Nintendo games? Nah, but it looked nice

So yeah, all in all I enjoyed EGX 2019 this year, and would definitely consider going next year as well, assuming there are some interesting games on show at that point in time.

But what about you? Did you visit EGX 2019? If so, what did you think of the event overall, or the various games that was showcased there?

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below, or over on the Gaming Latest forums today!

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