We paid Nintendo UK a visit recently, to check out what's in store for Switch owners during the second half of 2019...
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: LINK'S AWAKENING
Originally released for the Game Boy in 1993, Link's Awakening has always been a bit of a curiosity. It's one of only a handful of Zelda games to not take place in Hyrule, and its story focuses on a quest to find musical instruments to wake up a gigantic fish, rather than buggering about finding bits of Triforce or battling Ganon or whatever. For many people (ourselves included), Awakening is up there with the all-time greatest Zelda games, and this new Switch edition promises to expand the game's legacy even further.
Completely remade from the ground up with toy-like characters and diorama-style backgrounds (this is way more than a simple re-release of 1998's Link's Awakening DX), everything that made the original so special (eccentric characters, quirky dialogue, the ever-present immaculately-designed dungeons) is still present and correct, along with new additions like Amiibo support, improvements to the map screen, a reworked soundtrack and customisable dungeons to bring the title up to date for modern gamers. While our time with the game was limited (those pesky 15-minute demos again!), everything we saw in our two run-throughs filled us with nothing other than absolute joy. September 20th can't come soon enough!
POKEMON SWORD & SHIELD
Set for release on November 15th, Pokemon Sword and Shield (yes, it's another one of those where you get to decide whether to buy one or the other... or both) are the first games to feature the eighth generation of Pokemon.
Our 15-minute demo took place inside a Water Gym, which contained a few traversal puzzles (flipping switches to open paths by opening/closing pipes) and showcased Level 50 versions of each of the three new starter Pokemon - grass-type Grookey, fire-type Scorbunny, and water-type Sobble. Gameplay is largely similar to Pokemon Let's Go, although the addition of “Dynamax” moves adds a small layer of strategy. These moves can be used once per battle, and last for three turns, transforming your Pokemon to gigantic proportions and allowing the use of some extra-powerful attacks that can turn the tide in your favour if used wisely.
S&S is said to contain somewhere in the region of 1000 different Pokemon, although recent reports suggest that an undisclosed amount of these (we suspect in the hundreds) won't appear in the game itself, instead needing to be transferred in from other Pokemon titles. Shouldn't be too much of a problem for fans of the series though, and we already know from 2018's Let's Go that this sort of thing is easy enough to do. Although it might mean S&S is going to be more a case of “gotta catch as many as you can” rather than “gotta catch 'em all.”
With a fair amount of time to go until release, we'll have to wait and see how things develop in the coming months. Check out Nintendo's recent Treehouse Live video below to get the full rundown of what's been announced so far.
LUIGI'S MANSION 3
When Mario and Luigi check in to a luxurious hotel for a well-earned break, the last thing they expected was for the entire building to be a trap conceived by the evil King Boo to capture them once and for all! With help from the returning Professor E. Gadd and his trusty ghost-busting vacuum cleaner, Luigi makes his way through the hotel to save Mario and his friends!
Playing through the ground floor of the mansion, we were treated to way more secrets and surprises than we were expecting. Ghosts are “killed” by first stunning them with a beam of light from Luigi's torch, Alan Wake-style, before sucking them up with your hoover and bashing them around the place a bit. Luigi also fires plungers which can then be grabbed and pulled, useful for disarming shielded ghosts and solving puzzles / escaping rooms, and we're also introduced to a new character, Gooigi, a sort of ectoplasmic doppelganger of our green hero who can be used for reaching inaccessible areas (he's also player two's character, if you're going multiplayer).
Controlling Luigi's aim might prove to be a little bit tricky at first, especially for series newcomers, but once you're over that hurdle, Luigi's Mansion 3 looks to be quite the riot. With some unexpectedly fiendish puzzles, and a devious boss battle to round off our demo, we're super keen to get our hands on the full game. There's no release date for this one as of yet, unfortunately, but all signs point towards a late-2019 arrival. Fingers crossed!
A brand new IP from Bayonetta (and the supremely underrated Vanquish) creators PlatinumGames (yes, all one word, don't edit me), Astral Chain is directed by Takahisa Taura, the man behind 2017's incredible Nier: Automata, and is set to be released exclusively on Switch on August 30th.
While we weren't able to play this one ourselves, we were treated to an extended live gameplay demo that showed off some of the game's features. Invisible enemies known as chimera have killed millions of humans across the planet, and your job as a police officer is to help in the fight against these invaders. Your character is connected to a Legion - basically an enslaved chimera that has been turned against its own kind to help humans - which can be summoned at any time. Despite being part of an invisible race, you're able to see your Legion, and being a chimera means that the Legion can see other enemies (as well as usefully being able to spy on other humans).
Combat appears to be a more considered affair than anything we've seen from Platinum in recent years, although there's still a lot going on. Morphing weapons for close or long range attacks, a variety of different Legion with unique abilities, “sync attacks” where you and your Legion fight in tandem, independent skill trees for your characters, and way more besides, promise to make for some deep fighting mechanics that could well be tricky to master but ultimately incredibly satisfying to use.
It's not all combat though - there are also investigations to carry out, by gathering information around the city, and tons of side quests tucked away all over the place. A separate area - the Astral plane - contains even more exploration and puzzle solving, giving players a break from the insane over the top combat.
On the strength of this demo, and previous PlatinumGames releases, we're pretty certain Astral Chain is going to be quite the stunner. Check out the video to see how wild things can really get!
MARVEL ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 3: THE BLACK ORDER
Immediately being thrown into a 4-player co-op game was a bit of a wild introduction, as even though UA3 feels immediately familiar as it retains many of its predecessors' gameplay traits, trying to coordinate your tactics with three other decidedly uncoordinated players can be a bit of a minefield! With over 30 characters to choose from, each player can, in theory, choose their heroes to compliment the other players' styles but, with limited time to check the game out, that wasn't the case here.
Each hero has two basic attacks along with four specials mapped to the face buttons. When performed in tandem with other players, these special moves can combine to make some truly devastating (and flashy!) attacks, but it's still easy to over-rely on spamming your two basic attacks to get the job done. We weren't able to get a look at any possible upgrades or skill trees during the demo, but we're assured there'll be plenty of new abilities and customisation options to unlock in the full release when the game arrives on July 19th.
HOLLOW KNIGHT: SILKSONG
Team Cherry's follow-up to 2017's incredible Hollow Knight, Silksong's release date has yet to be announced but on the strength of our demo we're even more excited for it than we already were!
Playing as Hornet, the protector of Hallownest in the original game, feels much different to controlling the Knight from the last adventure. Hornet is faster, can sprint properly and launch into huge leaps, has the ability to grab ledges, and the Knight's downward slash attack has been replaced by a diagonal thrust. Hornet also has projectile attacks and a long-range stab in addition to her regular attack, and can heal three chunks of her life bar in a split second, where previously it would take the Knight several seconds to refill a single health point.
We were able to play through two levels - one from the early part of the game, and another later area. It's still unmistakeable Hollow Knight, but there's a bit more colour this time around, which makes the world feel a little less oppressive and dreary. The new enemies we encountered fit perfectly with the series, and boss battles were as challenging as you might expect. All in all, it's more Hollow Knight, but a bit faster and brighter. The original is an undeniable classic, so if Team Cherry can expand on that to give us even more, we can't see how Silksong can possibly fail. Two thumbs up for this one!
MARIO & SONIC AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES: TOKYO 2020
We'll be totally honest and say we were going into this completely blind, having never even considered picking up any of the M&S (that's Mario and Sonic, not posh shop Marks and Spencers) sports games before, but if someone sits you down and puts a controller in your hand, you're going to have a go, aren't you?
Tokyo 2020 plays exactly how we'd imagined - choose from a roster of Mario and Sonic characters and go head to head with the computer or another human player in a variety of Olympic mini-games. We checked out archery, karate, skateboarding (is that really an Olympic sport now?!), hurdle race and a bit of surfing, and found that while each game is definitely different, it seems to always devolve into an awful lot of button mashing and controller waving (because motion controls). Some games were way more difficult to get the hang of than others - even after half a dozen attempts, we've still no idea how skateboarding or surfing works - but we could definitely go for a full-on archery game at some point!
Switch-exclusive Tokyo 2020 is set for release in November, with an arcade cabinet (yes!) to follow next year.