Nintendo Media Summit: Infendo’s Hands on Impressions

Last week, Nintendo held it’s Fall Media Summit, dropping bombshells like the Nintendo DSi, a new Punch-Out!! for Wii, and the arrival of Club Nintendo to U.S. shores. I was lucky to be on site to mingle with Nintendo staff, talk to developers, and sample unreleased games. Keep an eye out for previews, hands-on impressions, interviews, and speculative analysis of the event in the coming weeks.

Hit the jump for some initial gameplay impressions on Animal Crossing, the Conduit, Call of Duty, and more!

Animal Crossing: City Folk is shaping up to be the definitive game the series. The rolling horizon has been brought over from the DS version, and now it actually increases your field of view. Some things are only visible from far away, like the clock tower in the city. (Which actually keeps time!) You can play with the wii-remote and the nunchuk, or just with the wii-remote. I found using the remote only setup very satisfying, it makes me dream of lazing away an afternoon on the sofa.

Eric Nofsinger, Chief Creative Officer of High Voltage Software, guided me through my first hands-on of The Conduit. I can see where the hype about this games graphics and controls come from, but what stood out to me was the AI. Enemy characters will react differently if you come out firing, or if you try to hit them with a melee weapon. Enemies will react differently each time you play the level through. Good AI is one of the most important aspects of a FPS, and in this respect, Conduit seems to be shaping up quite nicely. That said, the rumors are all true, the game looks great and it features the best custom control setup I’ve seen for a first person shooter on any platform.

It’s well known that Call of Duty: World at War is built on the engine from Call of Duty 4 and it shows, but it’s a little jaggy. The engine runs pretty smoothly on the Wii, but don’t expect the same visual experience as CoD4. The controls were among the best I’ve seen for a shooter on the Wii, and felt natural. Because all of the maps, missions, and resources are the same across every console, players on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii will all play the same single player campaign. Still, the demo left me wondering if all platforms would truly get the same experience. Perhaps it’s because I had such a positive experience with The Conduit, but the AI in World at War, although better than other Wii shooters, seemed unimpressive. I’m somewhat concerned that Call of Duty for Wii will suffer diminished AI intelligence vs. it’s “next-gen” brothers. Then again, CoD4 on Xbox had it’s own AI problems.

Two DS games on demo at the media summit took my by surprise. The first, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, hit me hard with its classic platforming action, fast paced puzzle element, smooth animation, and goofball humor. The bottom screen is home to the puzzle element of the game, where the player eliminates ascending bricks through color matching in order to gain power ups, regain health, or defeat certain enemies. If an “enemy block” makes it to the top of the screen without being eliminated, it seeps into the platfrming world of the top screen, and Henry Hatsworth must defeat it in order to return it to the puzzle. Despite how odd it sounds, the integration between the two styles of play is flawless, and feels natural.

The other DS title that caught my eye was Rhythm Heaven, a collaboration of the Wario Ware team and Japanese composer Tsunku. Rhythm Heaven takes music games on the DS in a new direction. Rather then focusing on completing a sequence of rhythmic button pushes (Guitar Hero) or sequential taps (Elite Beat Agents,) the player must listen for musical cues to know when to tap, flick, or hold their stylus to react with the action on the top screen of the DS. Although it seems simple, the game gets progressively more challenging as you go along. Because your performance effects how the music sounds, doing well in the game is extremely satisfying, relaxing, and quite fun. Rhythm Heaven may not be hardcore, but its addictively fun.

I’ve already shown you that Tetris Party is more than your average Tetris remake, and the new modes of play are really what makes this game great. I’m not a huge Tetris fan, and I usually don’t give the classic puzzle game more than a second thought, but the duel space and shadow modes really caught my eye. When I played Tetris for the first time as a child, I didn’t know what the rules were. I found myself building up designs and trying to draw pictures with the mysterious falling shapes. Tetris Party turns the game on its head and validates my younger self’s innocent, but incorrect gameplay approach. The new game modes are fun, innovative, and competitive. I found myself deeply impressed with how Tetris Party made an old game seem new again The only thing missing is Wii-Speak functionality.

That’s it for this initial sampling of post-media summit impressions. Keep watching the front page more detailed previews of these titles, interviews, and more.