It’s good to have friends in high places, like our pals at Nintendo giving us a guided tour of several heavy-hitting new titles they debuted during this year’s press conference. Given the option of what to play first, I went for the obvious choice and enjoyed a few matches of Super Smash. Bros. Ultimate, the new be-all and end-all of the Smash series.
There’s no question why Nintendo’s E3’s Direct was nearly cannibalized by all-things Smash Bros; this one’s going to be a monster, and I was lucky enough to squeeze in some time between the mob and press scrum. My time was spent trying out new characters Inkling and Ridley; the former is an agile fighter who needs to keep both the environment and their opponents soaked in ink to maintain their effectiveness, while the latter is a large, monstrous character somewhat reminiscent of Bowser.
From a gameplay perspective, I’m no pro Smasher, but the experience was strongly reminiscent of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U. It was solid fun, all in all, and I can’t wait to have a copy of my own later this year to take the fight to friends.
Following that, I also checked out Starlink, a new IP from Ubisoft that’s all about building and customizing your own spaceships. In the full release of Starlink you’ll do this by physically assembling a model ship and attaching it to your controller, but this functionality wasn’t available for my demo; instead, I chose ship parts out of a menu. Rather than being disappointing, this let me really check out Starlink’s gameplay for what it was – and what it was turned out to be pretty darn good. It’s a flight sim and shooter somewhat similar to the All-Range Mode segments of Star Fox (and, in fact, Star Fox ships will be available exclusively on Switch) but there’s a little more depth here.
You’re able to cut the engines in order to land and use your ship as a ground vehicle whenever you’d like. In combat, you’re encouraged to be creative and experiment, since mixing and matching weapons can produce interesting results – my ship, which was loaded with guns that shot black holes and ice, was able to combine both effects to produce ice-spewing black holes of doom.
Starlink looks like it’s going to be both defibrillating the ailing Toys-to-Life genre and playing out as a pretty effective shooter in its own right.
Pokémon Let’s Go was next up – as a die-hard fan of the series, I couldn’t wait to check this one out for myself. I was also able to check out the Pokeball Plus controller designed specifically for this game; it’s a little sphere somewhat smaller than a tennis ball that fits in your palm as you play. You’ll control your character through a tiny analog nub on the top of the ball, while menus are activated and controlled using a button on the front. As for gameplay, Let’s Go unsurprisingly owes a lot to mobile title Pokémon Go. Unusually, you no longer directly battle wild Pokémon in order to capture them, instead using the Joy-Cons or Pokeball Plus to pantomime throwing Pokeballs at them.
Series aficionados shouldn’t fear, though, as the classic turn-based battle system is still present and returns during trainer battles. The combination of the two styles is unique and presents a lot of questions that weren’t readily answered (Can you run out of trainer battles and no longer engage in turn-based combat?
How much Pokémon storage do you have with this extended focus on catching more?) though I found myself fond of both.