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PAX East Report: Nintendo-a-go-go!

I meant to stay only an hour or two at the Nintendo booth, but kept finding myself gravitating back to one of the world’s most beloved video game companies. Splitting into two booths this year, Nintendo brought nearly a dozen titles, once again showing off their innovative “Nindies” next to platform exclusives. The adage of “everything old is new again” also ruled the offerings with side-scrollers and retro throwbacks dominating the floor. Here are a few samples of what Nintendo has in store this year.

Already out as of March 29, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a 3D side-scrolling adventure that follows our favorite egg-swallowing dinosaur as he tries to save the Sundream Stone in a land straight out of Michael’s discount aisle. Bright and friendly cardboard and yarn layouts let you move not just left and right but front to back, and the “flip side” mode lets you play through the back of each level. By Saturday afternoon, there were over 30 stages unlocked with several more worlds to go. There are echoes of Yoshi’s Island (most notably the trail of eggs waiting for you to shoot at enemies or targets in both the foreground and background) but the play is challenging enough with the variety to offer an easy 10+ hours of gametime.

Some may already be familiar with Cuphead from Xbox, PC, and Steam, but the port to Nintendo Switch is a welcome addition as it was originally considered a platform exclusive. A traditional run and gun game, what sets the title apart is its gorgeous 1930’s style animation. To have something look like it was hand-drawn frame by frame while also being a seriously tough game to play even in 2 player mode (be prepared to learn some lessons by losing a few lives with every boss battle) is no small feat. I played several times with a different partner each go, and we barely made it through the demo level after 4 or 5 tries. A player that was observing mentioned that it had taken him the better part of the year to beat it on Xbox and he could not wait to put his money down for the ability to take the game on the road with him.

Staying with the retro theme, Nintendo takes a trip to the Upside Down with Bonus XP’s Stranger Things 3 The Game, which will launch at the same time as the Netflix series on the 4th of July. The 2 player co-op mode let me play as Hopper while my partner had Joyce. There will be 12 playable characters, each with special abilities and moves relating to their streaming storylines. The game unfolds alongside the 3rd season, but thankfully all spoilers were cut out of the demo. 80s fans will enjoy the puzzles and straightforward play whether they follow the show or not.

I’ll end on one of the more violent but elegantly stylized titles on the floor, Askiisoft’s highly addictive but equally maddening Katana Zero. It’s a neo noir side-scrolling action game that will have you throwing joy cons across the room. As an assassin with amnesia, players go through each scene trying to work backwards to figure out what happened. One of the most interesting aspects is that the real-time conversations can be interrupted or ended at any time, making a choose-your-own adventure game that would vary wildly depending on whether or not the player felt like slogging through dialogue. The no health bar instant kill can be infuriating when first getting the hang of the game, but a fast reload and frequent checkpoints help out greatly.

Nintendo once again brought a little something for everyone, and proved that the older they are, the more times developers will figure out new ways to make them fun to play again.


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