E3 2013: Nintendo details new Zelda, 3D Mario games

June 11, 2013 | 10:51 a.m.

To set the stage for the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft and Sony on Monday showed off their new hardware and games at large-scale news conferences in basketball arenas near USC. Nintendo, in contrast, is relying on the names of some of its most trusted brands, unveiling details Tuesday morning on a 3D Mario title for the Wii U, an HD Zelda remake and the eighth edition of its venerable “Mario Kart” series.

In lieu of a large-scale press event, Nintendo presented its wares Tuesday with an episode of Nintendo Direct, its online-direct-to fans news conference. The 40-minute live-stream initially seemed unable to meet demand and was fraught with glitches for much of the first half.

But here are the highlights: “Super Mario 3D World” will be released by the end of this year; “Mario Kart 8” is coming in spring 2014; a previously unannounced “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze” is due in November, and the Wii U remake of GameCube title “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker” is due in October.

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It’s been relatively quiet on the Wii U front in 2013, as a number of titles teased before the system’s late 2012 launch, including the superhero-themed “The Wonderful 101” and a return visit to the world of “Pikmin,” have still not hit retail shelves. Anticipation was high that Nintendo would trot out most of its biggest brands at E3 to regain momentum, but Tuesday’s announcement didn’t come without more product delays.

Still on the horizon is “Wii Fit U” and “Wii Party U.” Both were initially targeted for summer and are now postponed at least until the winter to add new features, said Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.

“After the Wii U launch, we couldn’t release games as smoothly as we had planned,” Iwata said, who then apologized to fans with a bow.

But the company offset the news with a number of surprises for its core titles. Chief among them: For the first time in a Mario game, players can gain cat-like abilities. A power-up will give Mario, Luigi, Toad or Princess Peach — all four are playable in “Super Mario 3D World” — a cat-like suit that allows them to climb walls and do spinning, tail-claw attacks on enemies.

Nintendo has a reputation for handling its original properties with great care, subtly adding details that can make games feel fresh. A brief hands-on with “Super Mario 3D World” left a positive impression, as the game incorporates the open-feel of “Super Mario Galaxy” with a look that takes after the more structured, level design of “Super Mario 3D Land.”

In addition to playing as the speedy Toad or the graceful Princess Peach, the game also interjects puzzle-like challenges. Mario games have long made use of flower-pot-like tubes that magically transport characters to other lands. Here, those green pots again are plentiful, but so are clear, valve-like cylinders that send characters soaring around sometimes-convoluted tracks that are navigated with the directional pad. When you are playing with others, a head-first crash of Mario and Toad will send the characters rocketing in the other direction.

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Even more important, the game supports four-player local co-op, and it’s implemented in such a way that players are alternately working for and against one another. While completing a level is a team sport, tallying up gold coins is an individual contest. When you are facing enemies, the GamePad can be used to put a touch-like hold on them, or it could be explored to find hidden paths not visible on the screen for one’s selfish quest for lucre.

An early look at "Super Mario 3D World." (Nintendo)

An early look at “Super Mario 3D World.” (Nintendo)

But even playing the game for just a few minutes left me wanting to further explore. Admittedly, I am a cat person, so watching four Mario characters in cat suits climb walls and scratch their way through the universe transfixed me.

“Mario Kart 8” and “Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze” were also sampled in hands-on time. “Mario Kart 8” possessed all the fluidity the series is known for and took advantage of the Wii U’s power by mixing in antigravity vehicles. A seemingly serene race through castle-adorned lands can instantly be turned upside down, challenging players by changing perspective and then forcing them to hang-glide back upright. It can be a shortcut or a dizzying detour.

“Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze,” despite having a name lifted from the local Tiki bar, is a 2D side-scrolling game that feels like it isn’t. Underground paths, trails among the trees and barrel-blasts over sea shift camera angles to give the feel that each area can be explored up, down, backward and forward.


Along for the ride this time are Donkey Kong pals Diddy and Dixie, and they’ll come in handy in single-player mode. With underwater paths, penguin foes and viking ships jammed into one level section, there’s a colorfully complex richness to the worlds. It wasn’t always clear where to look or where to explore.

Missing, however, was news on the original “Zelda” game in development for the Wii U, but Nintendo did confirm that the 3DS “Zelda” title will be called “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.” Hero Link can now become a drawing to move along walls.  The game is due this holiday season, coming after the release of the more lighthearted RPG “Mario & Luigi: Dream Team,” due Aug. 11 for the 3DS.

In long-term development is a game for the Wii U from Monolith Software, the team behind “The Xenoblade Chronicles.” It is due in 2014.

— Todd Martens

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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28 Responses to E3 2013: Nintendo details new Zelda, 3D Mario games

  1. lolwut says:

    …and nobody cares.

  2. The Skev says:

    I love the Zelda series. Have played every release in the series but with only one release per console, I might be done. I just can't justify laying down $300-400 to play this game anymore. We got 3 releases on the gamecube and 1 on the wii. I laid out $300 to play Skyward Sword. Great Game but $300 really? And now to play the next installment I gotta buy the Wii U? why isn't this stupid tablet just an add-on for the Wii? And I am with an earlier poster, gimmicky motion controls and now tablet controls just blow. Zelda + WaveBird all the way. Just my po'd 2 cents worth.

    Oh, nintendo if you are listening, I am not buying the wii u to play a rehash of a gamecube game. You gotta be kidding me! I already bought this game once and loved it but it should be free for previous owners. This release is embarrassing for you. Too bad for such a previously strong brand.

  3. mattfoley says:

    nintendo is dying, if not already dead. Have they created any new, memorable characters since MArio or Zelda? Every game they have released in the last 30 years that had any significant success was a mario or zelda game. Frankly, i got bored of nintendo when I turned 14. The only people who still play it are 6 year olds and adults who are tripping on cough syrup

  4. mattfoley says:

    snore fest

  5. @wiiill says:

    Exciting that they are bringing multiplayer to this game type. I am happy to see it looks like the 3ds version, that game was really good. I hope it is as challenging as the later levels of 3d land on 3ds or mario sunshine.

  6. Zim says:

    Where's Zelda U darn it!?

  7. Dave c says:

    Scrap windwaker. Do majoras mask remake on wii u redone, bigger, and a vast world. Or maybe do oracle of ages and seasons on wii u would be insane. Be creative….. Or make an entirely new game, one you dont have to point and click or wave your arms around like an idiot…. That would be nice.

  8. Caleb says:

    *Nintendo fans beg for Zelda: Majora's Mask HD remake*

    *Nintendo remakes Wind Waker*


  9. ChristyTina22 says:

    I've been a Zelda fan for years, and the only reason I haven't bought a Wii U yet is no new Zelda. If I wanted to play Wind Waker, I'd plug in my Game Cube! (Yes, I still have it.)

  10. Brandon says:

    You know what they need to make a remake or sequal to? BAD FUR DAY!

  11. Desdemona says:

    I am an AVID ZELDA fan. I am 56, a grandmother, and I think Zelda is the bomb. I have played other games but never got the thrill I got from playing the Zelda series. Nintendo needs to make a NEW Zelda game. Zelda Twilight Princess was incredible. Can't they come up with something similar to that. Where was the genius that came up with that scenario?

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