E3 2003: David Dayton's Report

Day 1

After waiting one and a half hours, the magical doors flew open and I rushed into the conference hall, straight towards Nintendo's mystic pavilion. Many were the games I encountered. They are presented in the order in which I managed to get my hands on them.

Mario Kart: Double Dash

After the lackluster screenshots, I wasn't really sure what to expect from this title. Jumping into the relatively short line, I noticed that one young man was racing as Wario. Wario appears to have his stylish generic racer coupe car from Warioland 4, and it fits the atmosphere well. No sign of Toad, but a cheery Nintendo rep told me that "Toad is not in this version... BUT this version is just the e3 version." No confirmation, but at least it sounds a bit more hopeful for our favorite fungi. One good sign was that the e3 version supports LAN play for 8 GameCubes linked together. Earlier reports stated that the game would only allow 2 GC's to be linked.

Overall, MK:DD seemed quite good. The preview movies and screenshots don't do the game justice at all. One interesting change is the introduction of "double" item blocks -- some of these give you two items (one in reserve), others seem to drop items on the track; in addition, there seemed to be some loose mushrooms littered through the track that acted as mini boosts. (I'll look into the items again tomorrow, as I believe I may be mistaken about some of the item details.) Powerslides have been altered (I was unable to perform a 'power slide boost', but I might just be lousy at the game), characters have lots of animation (if Waluigi grabs a Triple Mushroom, he will juggle them until you use one). Gas and brakes are controlled with A and B rather than the R and L triggers, which is slightly annoying. As a final note, the title screen music is a remix of the SNES Super Mario Kart's title screen music.

Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3

This game looked very nice, and it now contains a somewhat elaborate intro sequence showing a Koopa Kid taking control of Grass Land. At the title screen, you can choose between Super Mario Bros. 3 or Mario Bros. On the SMB3 title sreen, you have the options of playing 1) Mario Game, 2) Mario & Luigi Game, or 3) Multiplayer. Only the first option was active, although I suspect that the Mario & Luigi option is for the eReader support (the kiosk mentioned that eReader cards could be used to add extra aspects/items to the game).

As far as the game goes, it is standard SMB3 with SMAS graphics. There was no sign of the cape, Chargin' Chucks, veggies, or anything else. Based on earlier stories, I'm assuming you unlock various extras by beating the game and/or using the eReader and another GBA. I tried using Warp Whistles in an attempt to beat the game and check for extras, but the e3 version won't allow you past world 3. One rumor going around is that you can later play as Luigi (among others) and earn extras by completing certain objectives in the game -- but please note that there was nothing at e3 to confirm or deny such rumors.

As a side note, SMB3 seemed "laggy" to me. It was probably just my imagination, though. I'm happy to know that it is coming.

Jimmy T.

While searching for free stuff, a man wearing bell bottoms, an open leisure jacket, a bright purple wig and sunglasses came up to me and began speaking about himself in the third person. It seems he is a programmer at Wario's software company and worked on the upcoming Wario Ware. He left me his business card. (Yes, this was stupid. It was also one of the best live ad routines I've seen in a while now. Stupid, but effective.)

eReader stuff

More eReader cards are coming. Of interest are the Game & Watch series, which appear to be all the games from Game & Watch Gallery 4, but now available as cards and without the ability to save your high scores. On the good side, they look interesting. The reps said they will be sold in random packs with a mix of classic mode and modern mode games. As a side note, the eReader NES games look very, very good when played on the GBA Player.

Mario Kart Double Dash Celebrity Tournament

Some guy (I was told it was Jamie Kennedy, but I am really out of the loop on pop culture stuff) introduced this tournament and the players...

1) Tiffany Falwell from American Idol
2) "J.D." from American Idol
3) Haley from Mr. Personality
4) Johnathan Taylor -- random guy from the crowd.

These lucky folks played on big screen projections whilst they raced through Luigi Circuit. Then, to the sheer and utter amazement of myself, the random guy from the crowd LOST to the J.D. fellow. How can one lose a video game match against celebs when you are a visitor at e3?

Mario & Luigi RPG

It looks like a cross between the playstyle of Super Mario RPG and the much better use of the traditional Mario elements found in Paper Mario. The most interesting aspect of the game is that Mario and Luigi must always be treated as a team in the game... this means that A and B serve the same purpose in the game, but each is dedicated to one plumber. If you want to have your party hop over a cliff, you must press both A and B together and at the same time, or one them might not make it. The brothers can take advantage of this by performing special jumps -- one I saw had Mario doing a helicopter spin jump across a ravine while Luigi clung to his legs.

In battles, your characters can -theoretically- dodge any attack and increase the power of any of their attacks by pressing either A or B at the proper moment -- even if it isn't their turn. Also, Magic appears to have been replaced with "Bros." techniques. These require careful tapping of A and B as the Marios go through a gynastics-like attack sequence.

Rumors abound that many of the staff developing this title are ex-Square folk, some of whom were in the SMRPG team.

Mario & Donkey Kong

"Donkey Kong Plus" is back, but seemingly minus the GC connection this time. Donkey Kong is strolling down a street one day when he runs into the "Mario & Friends Co." building. Our favorite rapping ape decides this simply won't do, and proceeds to terrorize the Mario gang.

As Mario, you must travel through screen after screen of puzzles and traps, chasing the package-swiping Donkey Kong. Maneuver through the obstacles in the stage, collecting three scattered packages and rescuing one of your pals who just happens to have been locked in a bubble by that rascally ape. Find your friend and carry him/her to the exit door to complete the stage and move onwards. If you've played the GB Donkey Kong (not Donkey Kong Land), you know what kind of gameplay to expect, as this is the same game with new levels and a few other changes. If you haven't played the original, imagine M&DK as a cross between the arcade Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. 2, mixed with puzzle game elements. Mario can pluck items and enemies, then hurl them at each other, and he can even backflip and triple jump (moves which he first debuted in the original GB Donkey Kong, NOT Super Mario 64).

The biggest change in this game between the last e3 and now is the graphics. Mario looks like the SSBM Mario model, with many many frames of clean animation. The levels seem to have a "cute" Mario theme to them now, as opposed to the rather industrial/urban scheme they had previously. It is worth noting that Nintendo Software Technologies is developing this title... and that it seems very good.

Some final random comments: the little old mushroom guy from Super Mario Sunshine appears on the informaton and instruction screens, there is a "Mini Mario" powerup that creates a small team of tiny Marios who follow him around the screen, and the game now has Shy Guys.

Day 2

After a restful night's sleep, I awoke late and struggled through L.A. traffic to arrive at the convention center, armed with a small list of "things I really need to do today". Naturally, I never looked at the list again. Once again, enjoy this list of game impressions, presented in the order in which I tried out the games.

Logitech Wheel w/ Mario Kart Double Dash

To be blunt, do not use the Logitech Wheel with Mario Kart. It is lousy. Turns are hard to pull off, power sliding seems nearly impossible, and the foot pedals are too small for big feet. Then again, I wear shoes in the 14-15 range, so I could just be an anomoly.

I did discover a few more facts about Double Dash, though. Each racer in your team can hold one item, but you must have that character in the back of your kart for them to use or collect items. It seems like you can no longer "hold" an item behind your kart, but you can now hold two items at once, and there are "double ? blocks" that will give both of your characters an item. If you are using a multiple use item and you get knocked out or off the track, you appear to lose the item. There are also mushrooms sprinkled over some tracks that act as instant turbo boosts; I also saw giant banana peels on the track and Chain Chomp items. For all those wanting Toad, I am sad to report that the racer select screen appears full at this point, with two rows of eight character icons each and no visible room for "unlocked" racers to appear. Finally, it seems that once you choose your two racers, you also have a choice of cars. I'm not yet sure whether you can choose between either character's car, or whether each character has a class or range of cars available to him and you are able to choose any car available to both racers.

Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour

This game is Mario Golf with better graphics and some tweaks. This is a good thing, of course. The game offers you two courses to start with: Normal (a rather realistic looking 18 holes), or Mushroom Kingdom (complete with pipes, Chain Chomps, and more). Not all characters were enabled for play, although a Koopa Troopa was (complete with Super Mario 64 sound effects) and Bowser Jr. and a Boo were listed in the character list, although they were greyed out.

One of the best new additions is the ability to "mark" your swing power bar, which helps you better game when to swing the club. A mark set on the bar using the L and R buttons, and the estimated travel distance is shown above it. This takes the guesswork out of hitting. One problem I noted is that the game seems to set computer controlled limits at times, limits that traveling power meter will not pass -- so if you are trying for a very small put, you can no longer leisurely watch the meter go up and down, but have to frantically tap the A button during the few seconds the red bar travels the the computer reduced power graph.

Taunts are back, but now they are more fun/annoying. A B X Y act as taunts, and pressing one causes a little icon and text balloon to pop up on the screen, staying there for a moment or two before fading away. With a little effort, three players can almost completely fill the screen with encouraging messages. Sadly, taunts vanish and are disabled once the player begins to swing.

There appears to currently be no GBA version of the game, and a GBA connection wasn't mentioned either.

Nintendo Puzzle Collection

Graphics fans will not be happy here. Dr. Mario, Panel de Pon, and Yoshi's Cookie are all present in this compilation, and all feature four player modes, but only Yoshi's Cookie has completely redone and snazzy graphics. Dr. Mario uses the graphics and sound from the N64 game, looking very pixeled and very ugly this time around. Panel de Pon must have new graphics, as the SNES game it was based on never had a four player mode, but it looks like a low resolution, blocky set of graphics anyway. The gameplay is still present, of course, but the games just don't look as nice as they could. A large GBA Connection icon on the menu verifies that you should be able to download versions of all three games to your GBA, but Nintendo wasn't letting us test out that function.

Mario Party 5

It looks like Mario Party 4, but with new minigames. I tried a few, and they seem alright. Mario Party 4 seemed to have a ridiculous number of games based entirely on chance, but most of the MP5 minigames available seemed to be based on skill. One interesting thing is that Bowser Jr. seems to be listed as a playable character. Character models seem quite detailed, with the backgrounds of the minigames ranging from really low polygon counts and poor textures to midrange levels. Hudson is developing this game, as it did all the other Mario Party games.

Day 3

The third and final day of e3 approaches... and once again, I wake up late. I really need to find a hotel with a better alarm clock.

Wario World

Wario World was fully operational, and feeling quite like a mixture between the first Warioland game and a Double Dragon brawler. I found myself running, stomping, kicking, and charging through enemies, stumbling into an occasional bonus room where I was able to pick up extra coins. The game looks polished and stylized, but I do hope there are powerups or morphs available later in the game, as it feels a little "simple" right now. It's a Treasure developed game, so I do have high hopes for it. The problem I have with the demo is that it feels too slow paced to really get a good feel for the game at e3.

Wario Ware

Fun, weird. You get a minigame, then try to complete it before the time counts off five seconds. Once the five seconds count down (whether you fail or complete the task early), it's on to the next minigame... and this repeats, dashing through a variety of games, until you either complete a set number of challenges OR fail too many times. I am really looking forward to this release... and I'd mention more about the game, but I'm sure you already know everything worth mentioning about it.

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