Features PAXAUS 2019

Nintendo Booth at PAX AUS

Nintendo Booth at PAX AUS

Pokemon Sword & Shield

I believe the Pokemon Sword & Shield demo shown at PAX Australia was the same one seen at E3 earlier this year. So while we didn’t see anything super new and exciting, attendees did get to see a water gym section, replete with all the Nintendo staffers dressed in matching gym outfits, which was a cute touch.

Showing a gym section is possibly the least exciting way to show a new Pokemon game. Last year’s Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee demonstrated the novel critter catching concept, in addition to showing Pokemon appearing in non-randomised encounters for the first time. Sword and Shield didn’t do anything quite as exciting, like show off its wild area exploration.

However, the gym section shown did look pretty flashy, and the battle animations look slick. Once you get to the gym leader, a cool little cutscene plays akin to a boxer entering the ring before a massive bout into a packed stadium. This battle also showcased the new Dynamax system, which although it sounds like a brand of washing detergent, is an ability that makes your chosen Pokemon become gigantic and able to use a Dynamax-specific attack. What concerns me most with Dynamax is that the respective Pokemon line up behind their trainers, putting the hapless monster captors in the firing line and undoubtedly some sort of WHS issue in a stadium filled with people.

Most importantly, Pokemon Sword & Shield showed the gym leader, Nessa. I’m normally not one to lose my head over waifus, but seeing Nessa? Hoo, boy. I needed to remind myself I was playing a family-friendly game and not to get too hot under the collar.

Ultimately, was the Pokemon Sword & Shield demo a glowing endorsement of the upcoming game? Not really. However, this was only due to not showing off a more interesting aspect of the creature collectathon.

Hollow Knight: Silksong

Naturally, the first game I checked out during the media hour was Adelaide-based Team Cherry’s Silksong, the sequel to the wildly successful Hollow Knight. Other than loving the original to pieces, the fiercely loyal South Australian in me wanted to support my local devs among the east-coast dominant Player2 contingent. I was not at all influenced by the opportunity to seize an extremely limited edition Hornet pin, no siree.

Just after members of the media were granted show floor access, I immediately made for the Silksong display. At this time, the Nintendo reps had not yet fully staffed the booth, so I grabbed a controller and selected the mossy area available in the demo build. I later learned – from Player2’s own Stephen Del Prado – that the other location had a boss encounter not yet ready for public consumption, so my apologies for missing out on the juicy scoop for you all.

Silksong sees you play as the popular side-character from Hollow Knight, Hornet. Thanks to her ability to grab and boost up from ledges, and long-reaching diagonal attacks, Hornet moves considerably quicker than the original game’s hero. Learning the new basic attacks took a little adjusting for someone who played many hours of Hollow Knight. However, Hornet feels great to control, and the deliberate level design takes full advantage of her added vertical reach.

After getting lost several times, I eventually found my way to the demo’s boss, the Moss Mother. Relatively basic as far as Hollow Knight bosses are concerned, the Moss Mother spawned minions, caused harmful rubble to fall from the ceiling, and occasionally swooped with her stinger. Once I figured out her attack pattern, it was soon left-right-goodnight for the glorified bug on the windshield. Here, the demo ended on a teaser of a cutscene, hinting at many more cryptic plot moments to come in the full release.

For the curious, Vooks’ Angelo Valdivia captured some off-screen footage of my time with Silksong so you can see my sweet skills in action.

Team Cherry, please announce a release date for this game so I can then complain about how many torturous days until Silksong.

Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD

One pleasant surprise at Nintendo’s PAX display was Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz HD, a remake of what I believe was a launch Nintendo Wii game. Hidden away in the handheld section of Nintendo’s booth, Banana Blitz HD rarely had lines, a stark comparison to the nearby Witcher 3 port. I played through the first bunch of levels in the adventure mode, where your goal is to roll your monkey ball from each stage’s beginning to the finish. Instead of controlling said monkey, you actually tilt the entire stage and let momentum do the rest. Once you build up some speed, Banana Blitz HD creates fun chaos through various obstacles and jumps to navigate en route to the end goal.

I had a great time with Banana Blitz HD, especially riding every bump and sharp turn with a couple of Nintendo attendants I was having a good chat with at the same time. Full props to those two lads who were impressively enthusiastic for 4 PM on PAX Sunday.

Those who know my gaming brand intimately will understand I have some bizarre gravitation towards bright and colourful games featuring apes collecting bananas in various scenarios. For Banana Blitz HD, it didn’t hurt that the banana-yellow stress balls they were handing out were of surprisingly good quality, meaning I’ll have something to take my frustrations out on once the full game releases later this month.

Overwatch

Blizzard’s recent controversies aside, I was curious to see how Overwatch runs on the Nintendo Switch. When I played the FPS at Nintendo’s booth, they were displaying the free-for-all deathmatch mode, which doesn’t illustrate the team-based nature of Overwatch, but understandably was the easiest way to show the game running at PAX. Unfortunately, there was no way to demo the hyped-up gyro or laser-pointer control methods, but again, show floor restrictions likely dictated this decision.

Fortunately, the available player spot I nabbed had my main monkey boi Winston selected, so I had a familiar character to test out. One of the biggest talking points about Overwatch’s performance on Switch is the developers’ decision to limit the game to 30fps. I found it visibly noticeable in comparison to what I’m used to on PC, but it didn’t detract from the actual gameplay. Admittedly, Winston is not a character that relies on precision aiming that a few extra frames might enhance, but considering all Switch players will be on the same level – does it really matter?

Ultimately, my brief time with Overwatch on Switch was positive and showed me that it performs capably on the Nintendo platform. Of course, there are several Hong Kong and China-shaped factors to consider whether Overwatch on Switch is worth dipping into.