In Super Mario Odyssey, our favourite plumber doesn’t just doff his cap at enemies – he throws it at them. The new headwear is actually Mario’s faithful companion in the game, called Cappy, and it allows him to ‘possess’ enemies and objects. If you need to travel across a chasm too wide to jump, just throw Cappy at a Bullet Bill and Mario will become that Bullet Bill, flying across the gap.
Cappy’s powers don’t stop there, however, as Mario can become all manners of things in the environment, even electricity. The idea behind this new mechanic is based around the Japanese gardening concept of ‘hakoniwa’, the goal of which is to create miniature scenes or landscapes in a small space. By allowing Mario to ‘possess’ enemies and objects in his environment, the development team can create lots of surprises and cool gameplay ideas in contained areas. The cities and landscapes of Super Mario Odyssey become a collection of nooks and crannies, each one waiting to be discovered and deciphered.
That doesn’t mean the traditional Mario gameplay of running, jumping, backflipping and bopping doesn’t exist in Odyssey. These core tenets are still the foundation of Mario’s new journey, but the new headwear – well – caps it all off. Nintendo took old ideas and made them new again.
In fact, that was the theme of Nintendo’s conference as a whole. The other big announcement (arguably the news that ‘won’ E3 for the company) was that Metroid was coming back. Not one, but two Metroid titles were announced.
The first, Metroid Prime 4, has been more than a decade in the waiting. Only a title card was revealed, but we already know that Retro Studios, the team behind the first three Metroid Prime games, won’t be involved this time. It remains to be seen if the new development team can live up to the legacy.
The second Metroid game revealed was Samus Returns for the 3DS. It’s a remake of Metroid II on the Gameboy Colour. Samus Returns uses 3D models for 2D gameplay, adding melee attacks and full 360 shooting to the Metroid mechanics.
Nintendo showed Mario, Zelda, Metroid and Kirby at this year’s E3, but no new games or characters. Despite that lack of originality, the reaction from gamers was almost unanimous – the Japanese giant won the day. Pandering to old franchises can get tiresome, but when those franchises become vehicles for fresh ideas, as with Mario’s Cappy and ‘hakoniwa’ in gaming, then that old hat becomes new again.
ATARI IS BACK!
Old is one thing, but dead is another. Atari have done their best Walking Dead impression this week by announcing they are ‘back in the hardware business’.
Atari were the original console king, releasing the Atari 2600 back in 1977 and bringing the likes of Pong to sitting rooms everywhere. They continued making consoles until 1993, when the Atari Jaguar became their final hardware release.
The company filed for bankruptcy in 2013 before re-emerging to focus on online and casino gaming. Now the CEO Fred Chesnais has revealed Atari is back in the hardware game, releasing a teaser video that appears to show the front of the new console, complete with famous wood-panelling.
The console is said to be based on PC architecture, meaning it’s likely to be an emulator of sorts housing collections of old games. Such devices have become extra popular in recent years, with the NES Classic console selling millions before Nintendo inexplicably discontinued it. Atari might be an old timer, but they’re about to make some new money.
Even Sony is resurrecting old names. They have announced that Shadow of the Colossus, one of their most revered first-party games, is getting remade in a new engine. The whole thing is a little shady, and not just because of the shadows involved.
While the graphics do look better, everything else we’ve seen so far looks identical to the original game. Hopefully Sony shed some light on the situation soon.