The only thing more surprising to yesterday's "Link to the Past" "sequel" announcement was the opportunity to get hands-on time with the game in the same day. That's what Nintendo offered at a post-Nintendo Direct media event in San Francisco. Along with this "Legend of Zelda", we got hands-on time with a number of other upcoming 3DS games:
"The Legend of Zelda"
That is actually the placeholder title for this 3DS follow up to the seminal "A Link to the Past". Despite the updated look, initial screens and videos show familiar level layouts from the SNES game. It may not be a bona vide sequel so much as it might be a "New Super Mario Bros." style enhanced remake.
For what it's worth, the seven minute demo certainly felt like a "Zelda" game, down to the combat, exploration and key fetching. Nintendo picked an area to show off the game's verticality where you queued up launching pads (via mallet) to fly up to higher levels. The most notable addition is the "Paper Mario" influenced wall merging, where Link transforms into a paper thin version of himself to access areas his 3D version could not.
"Mario & Luigi: Dream Team"
Keeping to this year's Luigi Anniversary theme, Luigi becomes the focal point of this latest episode of the "Mario & Luigi" RPG series. He might only have super powers in this dreams, but at least that's where the majority of the game is set. Much of the touch screen is taken up by a slumbering Luigi and playing with his face triggers level changes in the dream world. Expect lots of platforming, RPG-style battles, and even a rolling katamari of Luigis.
"Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D"
As you might expect, "Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D" is a portable 3D remaster of the 2010 Wii game, with some unsurprising bonuses. Remember that bonus level in the original version? It's now part of a set of nine levels in a new ninth world, each level representing one of the previous worlds in the game.
Nintendo also added "New Mode", a version of the game that allows you to carry more items and more hearts. It does make the game more forgiving, though the Nintendo spokesman refused to call it an "easier mode" (which led to a lighthearted debate on semantics). Other aids include three new items: a green balloon that recovers Kong from a single pit fall, a crash guard at saves Kong from a single mine cart hazard, and the ability to activate the DK Barrel at any time.
"Mario and Donkey: Minis on the Move"
The real question is: When have the Minis not been on the move? You're once again tasked in guiding wind-up Marios to their respective goals. This fifth installment in the series breaks away from the 2D plane with 180 levels of 3d spatial challenges. Expect small areas that can take 30 seconds to clear as well as much, much larger levels that will warrant multiple retries.
"Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins"
If you played the excellent "Lego City Undercover" on Wii U, you might have noticed it featured quite a few flashbacks and backstory exposition. Now you can play out those events on the 3DS. I can't say whether or not Nintendo and Lego wanted you to play the 3DS prequel first, but at least it's coming out this month. I was impressed how this portable version attempts to recreate the open world design of the Wii U game, although each district is now separated by loading screens. And like the Wii U version, you'll need to don various disguises, not only to fool gangs and foes, but also to utilize various occupational skills. That includes cracking as safe as a robber and hanging on a chicken has you glide through the air as a farmer.
"Animal Crossing: New Leaf"
Overdue for the 3DS, this new "Animal Crossing" plays to the series' strengths, namely with more customization. While that does include clothing and home interiors, you'll have even more creative control over the town itself. That's right, you'll have the opportunity to be your town's mayor.
To the south, a docked boat can take you to Tortimer Island for wifi or local multiplayer mini games. To the north is a neighborhood called the Happy Home Showcase. There you'll find the houses of your Street Pass buddies. If they happen to have items and furniture that you like, you can special order these objects at a price.