We went hands-on with a couple of upcoming Switch titles ahead of release – including Mario Tennis Aces!
With E3 just around the corner, it’s safe to say Nintendo have no shortage of games on the horizon for their Switch console (especially with Pokemon announced this morning). With more destined to be announced at the year’s biggest gaming expo, let’s first see what we can expect from Mario Tennis Aces, Octopath Traveler, and Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion.
This adorable JRPG took us a little by surprise. Not knowing much about it, and only assuming it had something to do with octopi, we were pleased to discover the ‘octo’ instead referred to the beautiful characters you personify in Octopath Traveler. The 8-bit escapade can be loosely compared to the Pokemon series as far as combat mechanics are concerned, but that’s about where the similarities end. You play as a group of travellers each with their own skills and on their own ‘path’. Each member of your party has their own skills that can be used both in and out of battle. For example, on character has the ability to ‘scrutinise’ townsfolk, learning a little more about them and perhaps even finding out more information towards their current goal. If this same party member is present in battles, he can reveal some of the weaknesses of the enemies.
Which brings us to the battle suystem. Octopath Traveler is a true JRPG, so if you’re not used to the concept you might find it a little overwhelming at first. It’s a turn-based combat system, meaning there’s a fair bit of strategy involved. Do you embrace an all-out offensive, or do you jump on the defense and make sure you have some good healing spells up your sleeve? Turns alternate between you and your opponent, and you can see the order in which you’ll get to move in the top left of the screen. Each member of your team has different melee options using different weapons (with varying levels of effectiveness), as well as different types of special attacks. Some will have heals or defensive spells, and others will have different ‘types’ of elemental attacks, for example lightning or dark, that are more or less effective dependant on the enemy type. Each character in battle has a health bar, a skill points bar (that are used for the special spells), and a battle points bar that you can use to give your attacks a boost for one turn. There is a lot to think about, but thankfully if you’re new to JRPGs the game features a tutorial that can help you through.
Octopath Traveller is shaping up to be a true JRPG for the Switch that has until now been slightly lacking in that genre. Its quaint art style and beautiful score make it an endearing title, and the punishing battle mechanics demand your full attention. We can’t wait to see what the full game has in store. It’s out July 13.
Mario Tennis Aces
The tennis game we’ve all been waiting for. Mario returns to tennis in Mario Tennis Aces, bringing back the beloved story mode from Power Tour all those years ago. We had a brief session with the game, allowing for a few levels of the Adventure Mode – the story mode. Aces‘ adventure mode doesn’t take on the story mode you might expect – of a simple tournament where you progress by defeating opponents in games. Instead, it’s a number of levels set on different courses that incorporate puzzle solving as well as normal tennis matches to keep you entertained. One level we played through taught you a little more about each of the standard shot types – achieved through using each of the different face buttons – and how and where they land on the court. Another was a match against Donkey Kong on a ‘dynamic court’ that had piranha plants in the middle that interfered with gameplay. Yet another showed us how to use our special Zone Shots and Zone Speed – slowing down time – to place the ball in different areas of the court for the best effects. It’s a great mix of content that never fatigues you, and a nice way to ease you into all the different gameplay options without ever feeling overwhelming. There’s not much else to say, really. It’s a Mario tennis game, and it’s pretty ace. It’s out June 22.
Splatoon 2 – Octo Expansion
Play as an Octoling! That’s all you need to know, really. In the new Octo Expansion you get the choice of playing as a customisable male or female Octoling (which are adorable) and play through a bunch of new missions. We had the chance to navigate around some new worlds as an Octoling, and the most memorable experience was simply pushing an 8-ball around a bunch of platforms until you reach the end goal – and dying a bunch of times in the process. You’ll be happy to know that there’s a bit of a helping hand for the younger audiences, as some of the levels require a fair amount of brain power. The new weapons look great, and it’s a sizeable expansion – albeit with no release date yet.
Splatoon 2‘s Octo Expansion is the game’s first paid DLC and introduces Agent 8 – a new Octoling. This expansion will feature a tonne of content that expands on the lore of the Splatoon universe – and allows for a lot of fun while doing it. You’ll also unlock Octolings as playable characters in multiplayer!