Nintendo might be saving their biggest surprises for this year's E3 — at least, we beleaguered Wii U owners hope they are — but that doesn't mean the lead-up to June's biggest event is lacking in releases. This week, I had the chance to check out the upcoming 3DS installments of two long-running Nintendo series: Mario Golf: World Tour and Kirby: Triple Deluxe, both releasing on May 2. Now, if you've played any recent entry of either series, don't expect the changes made to their 3DS versions to leave you bowled over — if anything, World Tour and Triple Deluxe offer mostly what you've come to expect, which isn't always a bad thing.
The core game of Mario Golf hasn't changed much since Camelot pioneered their player-friendly brand of the sport with Hot Shots Golf on the PlayStation, but the 3DS' library has been curiously low on golf games in the system's three years. That said, if you've ever played a Mario Golf game, you know it's roughly 90% golf and 10% Mario — Camelot prefers delivering an incredibly solid, intuitive version of the actual sport dressed up with Mario accoutrements. Like every golf video game since the beginning of time, World Tour is really about stopping little meters over and over again, but Camelot manages to dress up this very basic interaction with their usual level of polish and satisfying feedback. Even though I only played a few holes on my own, after just a few swings, I felt like I had total control over my ball's destination — even on the always-irritating putting green.
With local multiplayer being a major element of World Tour, the Nintendo reps at my demo set up a quick six-hole session to show off its unexpected snappiness. Instead of taking each hole one turn at a time, World Tour allows players to experience every course at their own pace, all while letting them know how the competition is doing by depicting opposing golfers on their screen as translucent ghosts. No one can move on to the next hole until the last player sinks the ball, but waiting players can choose to send semi-distracting taunts in emoticon form to annoy or cheer on opponents taking their final swings. Even though we were essentially trying to get the lowest scores in our own respective games, World Tour definitely made its multiplayer feel like a communal experience, and seeing someone sink a tricky putt just as I lined up my own added just the right amount of pressure.
World Tour's focus on multiplayer extends to its weekly tournaments, where players can jump in at any time (within a seven-day window, of course) to compete with others on a global scale. An unsurprising omission from World Tour — also absent from Mario Tennis Open — are the RPG elements Camelot injected into their portable sports titles during the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance eras. Instead of starting with a character and gradually increasing his or her golfing stats via level-ups, World Tour has players trading in-game currency for equipment that improves your golf game and appears on your Mii during play. As much as I'd like to knock World Tour for leaving out the one element that made me such a fan of Camelot's sports titles to begin with, my 15 minutes with the game proved, without a doubt, that the developer still knows how to put together a golf game that belies the genre's meter-stopping simplicity.
During this demo session, Nintendo also showed off Kirby: Triple Deluxe, best described as "a Kirby game on the 3DS." Triple Deluxe features the same mechanics established by Kirby's Adventure: Suck up enemies, swallow them, and absorb their powers to unleash pink, cuddly vengeance. The notable gimmick of Triple Deluxe comes in the form of the Hyper Nova power-up, which amps up Kirby's inhaling abilities to the point where he can suck down entire trees, foliage and all. Spawning a swirling vortex of destruction in front of Kirby certainly feels satisfying, but in my demo I also used this power to move giant blocks and use the business end of a wrecking ball to clear a path.
Typical of the Kirby series, Triple Deluxe also offers a host of extra modes and mini-games, one of which I checked out during my session. Kirby Fighters, World Tour's reduced take on multiplayer Smash Bros., pits up to four versions of Nintendo's puffball against each other in mortal combat. Honestly, it's pretty simple — you choose one specific Kirby form and stick with it until the end of a match — but Kirby Fighters still feels like a nice appetizer (or at least a test-run) for the eventual 3DS Smash Bros. Triple Deluxe also includes a rhythm game called DDD Drum Dash, a boss rush mode, and a second quest starring Kirby's longtime nemesis King Dedede. If you enjoy the same core Kirby action that's been a constant for the past twenty years, you should know what to expect from Triple Deluxe, but anyone looking for a Mass Attack-style shake-up may want to wait for HAL Laboratory to take the series in another unexpected direction.