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First Impressions: The Games of New York Comic Con

We came. We gamed. Who conquered?

By / Posted on 14 October 2011

While no media expo will ever compare to the size and scope of San Diego Comic-Con International, the New York Comic-Con has taken noticeable strides in becoming a legitimate pop culture hub in recent years. San Diego will always have the media outlets for television and movies, but New York is still home to the biggest and best publishers, making NYCC the show for books. That said, the presence of other media has grown with each convention, and at this year’s show videogames seem to take up nearly a quarter of all exhibiting space, remarkably larger than any year in the past. Even the biggest booths – Marvel and DC Comics – are prominently showing off their newest gaming properties in Superhero Squad and Batman: Arkham City. Videogames are bigger than ever at NYCC this year, and – knowing that the lines would only get longer as we get later into the weekend – we opted to get our gaming out of the way first. Here are the games that made the most lasting impressions on us on the first day of New York Comic-Con:

Super Mario 3D Land

Super Mario 3D Land

Good news: this game is gorgeous. Screenshots do not do Super Mario 3D Land justice, running in your hands this game looks just as good as Super Mario Galaxy, only without all the outer-space elements. We played through three full levels, running through grassy fields with fire-breathing Piranha Plants and raccoon-tailed Goombas, classically blue-tinted underground sections (a la the original Super Mario Bros) with swinging obstacles and oil-spitting Piranha Plants (the oil hits the screen, obscuring view, of course), and a series of floating blocks with unfolding card platforms that refolded on a timer, resulting in a quick platforming challenge that would fit perfectly into either of the Galaxy games. The fire flower is back and works exactly as it always has, but the star of the power line-up is the return of the Tanooki suit, which gives Mario a post-jump-flutter like Yoshi in addition to the ever-useful tail whip. Controls are smooth and precise, though crouching has been relegated to the shoulder bumpers, a layout that will take some time to get used to. The Mario veterans we are, we still accidentally rolled when we meant to long-jump, leading to three accidental deaths in a row. Still, this is classic Mario through-and-through. The end of each level is easy to reach if you don’t care about collectibles and coins, but the hardcore will have fun experimenting with the deeply nuanced environments and trying to collect the three gold tokens in each level.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

Not only is this another Capcom fighting game, but it’s an expansion of a game released mere months ago. There should be no reason for anybody to pay attention to the newest demo of Ultimate MvC3… except for Phoenix Wright. Yes, finally Capcom officially announced their Ace Attorney as a playable character (as was leaked months ago surrounding San Diego Comic-Con) and NYCC was the first opportunity to play as everyone’s favorite bumbling defense attorney. Of course I found a friend and we faced off, Attorney vs Attorney. First of all, and most importantly, I can now confirm that Wright’s secondary costume is, in fact, colored to make him appear as rival prosecutor Miles Edgeworth, as seen in the off-screen photo below. Wright is clearly the comic relief character in this game, much like Servbot was in MvC2, and we’re completely okay with that. Watching him knock Strider back by marching forward and tapping legal documents like he was badgering a witness was equal parts charming and badass. Also, not the evidence folders above his super bar. That’s right, you collect evidence to use against your opponent as super attacks. Sweet.

Miles Edgeworth vs Phoenix Wright in Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3

Oh yeah, Hawkeye was pretty excellent too, probably the entire reason I won the match. Sad note, you cannot have the same character on your team more than once, otherwise we would’ve had three Phoenix Wrights vs three Phoenix Wrights, much like how MvC2 would allow us to have six Hulks duke it out or six Servbots run around and miss each other like an army of Lego minifigs.

Skyward Sword

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Plenty of information has been released lately about this long-awaited new entry in the beloved Zelda series. We know more about the characters, story, environment, and items, but the one thing most people still don’t know is how the game feels in person. The demo available at NYCC involved three areas: an air race riding giant birds, a simple dungeon area, and a boss fight. We played the first two. As anyone with experience with Wii MotionPlus can attest, the controls are way more responsive than the overwhelming majority of motion-controlled videogames so far, but also quite finicky. Maintaining altitude in the bird race became challenging and it felt at times that the bird was doing the opposite of what I was doing to the controller in my hand. Stabbing spiders in the dungeon made perfect sense in theory, but actually getting the controller to make the subtle rising strike and forward thrust movements was hit-or-miss. We’re hoping this is just the result of a busy and crowded convention booth and that the game will be much more fluid in the comfort of one’s own home. The art, though, is fantastic. The clouds on the skyline in the bird race were gentle white paint daubs on a blue expanse, adding to the impressionistic whimsy of the environment, and shadows in the dungeon were bathed in a blue-grey as though they were a watercolor wash. Skyward Sword is absolutely a delight for the eyes and a fitting late-game hurrah for the Nintendo Wii.

Sonic Generations 3DS

Sonic Generations 3DSThe only stage available to play was the Casino Zone, which looked and felt exactly like Sonic 2, only rendered in 3D. Something just felt off, though. The old Casino Zone was fun and frantic, this one just felt kind of laborious. Bumpers made it difficult to go the direction you wanted, and elevators brought a crashing halt to all the speed that makes a Sonic game feel like a Sonic game (whatever happened to just flying up through a pneumatic air tube?) We’re always happy to see classic 2D Sonic speed platforming, but we couldn’t help but realize that, by the end of the first stage, we just were not having fun and were already looking back fondly on Sonic Rush for the DS.

Mario Kart 7

Mario Kart 7This one caught us by surprise. It’s Mario Kart, right? What’s the big deal, we’ve all played Mario Kart before. Six of them, apparently (not including the two arcade games). This should be a case of same-old-same-old, n’est pas? Imagine our surprise that Mario Kart 7 was the most fun we had the entire first day of NYCC. Everything just feels right. The controls are exactly the same as Mario Kart DS, which nearly everybody has played, so there’s no barrier to entry whatsoever, just pick it up and you already know how to do everything. We were mostly curious how the hang-gliding and underwater portions of the maps would feel, and we were pleasantly surprised that they feel absolutely natural and comfortable. Taking off from a ramp and sprouting a hang glider is no big thing, it just happens, and you keep tilting the analog slider exactly as you’d imagine. Flying seems to be much faster than driving, so this should be a great way to make up for lost time against opponents. Driving underwater feels exactly the same as driving on land, only with bubbles and fish floating by. There is no momentary lapse between air, sea and land to disrupt the flow, it just happens instantaneously and feels fantastic. The biggest surprise, though, is that tracks are littered with coins. That’s right, coins are back! Pretty much unseen in a Mario Kart since the original Super Mario Kart in 1992, you can now collect coins in order to purchase upgrades to your vehicle. Add on top of this that the graphics are smooth, vibrant, and incredibly fast with a steady 60 fps framerate and this portable outing might possibly look better than the Gamecube’s Double Dash. Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land are the two strongest arguments for the 3DS being a graphics powerhouse. Other developers will need to look at these two games and reconsider the presentation of their games for the platform, because these are two of the nicest looking games we’ve seen all year, and they fit in your pocket and play in glasses-free 3D.

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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.