Feb. 26, 2014 | 7:00 a.m.

Review: ‘Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze’ springs ape to action

A scene from "Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze." (Nintendo)
For the last three decades, one of the video game world’s greatest antiheroes has been a barrel-throwing ape. He’s arrogant, ornery and not nearly as dexterous as he thinks he is. A kidnapper whose jungles were construction sites, he’d steal your girlfriend and trap her atop a skeletal steel structure. But as males-behaving-badly became a pop-culture norm — and an unfortunate requirement of most video games — Donkey Kong softened up. The once attention-desperate gorilla shed his hostage-taking ways and settled into a more healthful lifestyle with the launch of “Donkey Kong Country” in 1994. Now five iterations of the game later, he’s morphed into a rather lovable grump who just wants to enjoy a slice of cake with a frosted banana on top in peace. “Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze,” released last weekend for Nintendo’s home console the Wii […]
Nov. 27, 2013 | 2:03 p.m.

Review: Nintendo reinvigorates classics in new ‘Mario,’ ‘Zelda’ games

Mario and pals have new cat-like abilities in "Super Mario 3D World." (Nintendo)
This month saw the release of two high-end home video game consoles from Sony and Microsoft. But competitor and long-standing game powerhouse Nintendo has a surprisingly effective countermove: cats. Yes, cats. The Italian caricatures of Mario and Luigi, who may be the closest thing the video game medium has to a Mickey and Minnie when it comes to brand awareness, have returned in the Wii U exclusive “Super Mario 3D World,” now with the ability to morph into feline form. It’s one tweak among many, and it turns out that putting paws on the plumbers more than livens up a trusty formula. Mario and Luigi now chase rabbits, climb trees and attack enemies with claws out, a number of seemingly small design changes that when taken as a whole results in one of the more inventive Mario adventures. Like the […]
Oct. 12, 2013 | 7:00 a.m.

The Nintendo 2DS: Is lack of 3-D a deal-breaker?

The Nintendo 2DS lacks 3-D but has a lower price at $129.99. (Nintendo of America)
The new Nintendo handheld device the 2DS seeks to solve a puzzle that may not, to the casual games observer, seem in need of a solution: How does a company get more games in kids’ hands? Nintendo has stressed in promotional materials and interviews that the 2DS, available today, is a budget-friendly gaming device that is geared toward first-time players, most notably children. Yet in crafting a gadget that looks like an entry-level tablet rather than an ultra-sexy gaming machine, Nintendo has managed to walk the line between a toy-ish contraption and an accessible way for people of all ages to game. When it was first unveiled in August, the 2DS raised some eyebrows among Nintendo fans and the gaming community. After all, the company’s current portable gaming machine, the foldable, dual-screen 3DS, is doing quite well for itself. The […]
Aug. 28, 2013 | 10:44 a.m.

Nintendo slashes Wii U price by $50

Nintendo is launching "Super Mario 3D World" this holiday season. (Nintendo)
Nintendo is hoping a cheaper price and well-known video game characters such as Mario and Zelda will convince shoppers to buy a Wii U this holiday season. The slow-selling system will receive a $50 price cut effective Sept. 20, a discount that comes about two months before the release of new consoles from Microsoft and Sony. What is now known as the “deluxe” edition of the Wii U will soon retail for $299.99, down from its current $349.99. Since its release last holiday season, the deluxe edition of the Wii U has come packaged with a copy of the game “Nintendo Land” as well as a relatively robust 32 gigabytes of storage. Both will be included at the reduced price of $299.99. A more bare-bones version of the Wii U, one without the copy of “Nintendo Land” and just 8 […]
Aug. 01, 2013 | 12:30 p.m.

Wii U: Reasons for optimism despite slow sales, no ‘Arkham’ online

A scene from "Super Mario 3D World." (Nintendo)
PERSPECTIVE It’s been a difficult week for Wii U fans. First came word that players will not be able to take advantage of the online multiplayer functionality for the upcoming “Batman: Arkham Origins.” Then there’s the matter of sluggish sales for the console. Nintendo unveiled in its latest earnings report that the Wii U continues to have a “negative impact on Nintendo’s profits,” with only 3.6 million units sold worldwide since its release late last year. Earlier reports had Nintendo hoping to be well above 5 million units sold of the Wii U by this point — the company laid the blame for the slow start on the release of “few” first-party titles for the console. But amid all the woeful reports there is still reason for optimism. The Wii U undoubtedly has suffered from a lack of software — […]
July 31, 2013 | 10:30 a.m.

‘Pikmin 3′ review: Nintendo’s alien world is one of discovery

Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto's latest offering is "Pikmin 3." (Nintendo of America)
Nintendo has two key advantages over any of its competitors in the game space. One, its core properties such as “Donkey Kong,” “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda” are instantly recognizable to gamers and non-gamers alike. Two, all of those brands have all been shaped by Shigeru Miyamoto, a legendary designer who continues to challenge himself and the company he helped build. The prolific gamemaker, who works in some capacity on much of what Nintendo releases, returns this week as general producer of the patient, surreal strategy game “Pikmin 3,” one of the odder, more understated works of his career. Starring doughy astronaut explorers who need the help of workaholic, ant-like extraterrestrials, “Pikmin 3” resurrects a lesser-known Nintendo franchise that hasn’t seen a new game since 2004. It was a surprise when Nintendo revealed that “Pikmin 3,” a […]
June 18, 2013 | 12:36 p.m.

‘The Legend of Zelda’: Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma plots series’ future

Nintendo’s Eiji Aonuma is seeing two major “The Legend of Zelda” titles through release in 2013 — “The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD” for the WiiU and “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds” for the 3DS — but with each project nearing completion, his attention is shifting to a project he hopes will completely reimagine the “Zelda” franchise. Though early in development, the first original “Zelda”-branded game for the Wii U is proving to be a creative challenge for Aonuma, the longtime overseer of the franchise. The Wii U, with its touchpad-like controller, offers game mechanics unlike any other system on the market — or coming to the market — and Aonuma intends to use them. “It’s not that anyone is telling me we have to change the formula,” Aonuma said. “I want to change it. I’m kind of getting tired […]
June 15, 2013 | 8:48 a.m.

E3 2013: Selling the Xbox One, PS4, Wii U in a tough climate

The just-completed Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles is an extended tease. It began early Tuesday with a promise from Nintendo, that an extremely important announcement would be coming at Nintendo’s E3 booth at 11:40 a.m. Press had been gathered before the Los Angeles Convention Center doors opened at noon for early looks at some of Nintendo’s fall slate of games. Nintendo execs walking the floor ensured the media that no one should leave before 11:40 a.m. “You won’t want to miss this,” one of them told me. Except by the time the announcement came and went, I wished I had missed it. The info-disguised-as-news was simply that the human avatar in Wii Fit would serve as a playable character in “Super Smash Bros.” for the Wii U and the recently unveiled 3DS editions of the game. Cute, but […]
June 11, 2013 | 10:51 a.m.

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

A scene from "Mario Kart 8." (Nintendo)
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 […]
May 09, 2013 | 2:23 p.m.

‘Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move’: Five mini-reasons to play it

Help wind-up versions of Mario and his friends in Nintendo's latest. (Nintendo of America)
Nintendo this week again turned to its ever trusty Italian plumber for its latest puzzle game, “Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move.” A download-only title, “Minis on the Move” is a deceptively undemanding game that makes use of the company’s environment-shifting “minis” brand. For those who missed previous installments, the minis are diminutive, wind-up figurines that represent well-known Nintendo characters. They walk forward, they don’t stop and it’s up to the player to control and tinker with the paths in front of them. That about covers the basics, but not the details. What follows are five reasons to give Nintendo’s latest a shot. There’s more variety than expected. “Minis on the Move” consists of a primary puzzle game and a host of mini-games that players can unlock as they advance through the game. The main concept is extremely simple. Players […]
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