By Ronald Gordon, Makeda Byfield and Khloe Wilkerson
Mario, and Sonic, and Pikachu-Oh My! Last week, New York Videogame Critics Circle senior interns Makeda, Ronald and Khloe had the opportunity to attend a Nintendo event at Daylight Studios in Manhattan. Over the course of two or so hours, they had the opportunity to play five newly-released and soon-to-come games, dine on game-related food and drinks, and, perhaps most importantly, learn more about the art of questioning public relations teams (under the guidance of the highly-skilled, highly-talented Axios scribe, Stephen Totilo.) Stephen told us what to watch for, to pay attention to details and to look for what might be missing (like the upcoming Super Mario RPG). The trio spent the evening indulging in Mario Wonder, Detective Pikachu Returns, Just Dance 2023, Sonic Superstars, and a few new racetracks in Mario Kart 8. Each game’s designated section came with a staff member who was well-versed enough in each particular piece of art to walk us through it and answer any questions we had. Each area was also decorated with adorable plushies, toys, and related decorations for each specific game. Attending this event was definitely a treat for our interns. Now, we’ll hear from each person about their favorite game or two from the night! –Makeda Byfield
Super Mario Bros. Mario Wonder
Releasing its joy upon the world on October 20th, 2023, Wonder was an absolute blast. The game was packed with exciting levels, challenging obstacles, and ironic power-ups. Its an action-packed adventure where Mario embarks on a journey to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. But there’s more to this than that well-worn story. The main differences here were the power-ups, for example, the Wonder Flower. It’s a unique power-up and when Mario collects the Wonder Flower, it grants him special abilities. He can shoot fireballs, freeze enemies, or even create platforms to help him navigate through tricky levels. Playing in a group enhances the entire experience by allowing you to assist your colleagues as you work together to complete the level.
It’s Nintendo’s big game, judging by its placement. When I entered the Nintendo event, the first thing I noticed was the Mario Wonder-themed area. The plushies and the big red couch were all related to the Mario theme. We were told to get comfortable, so I grabbed the question mark box plushie and wiggled my way into the couch. There was a table in front of us with various decorations and bookshelves with more items that contributed to the overall “homey and comfortable feeling.” For example, there was a King Kong and Mario Lego set, tabletop air hockey, red candles, and big coin stands. Something that caught my eye was the Nintendo Switch—OLED Model: Mario Red Edition System coming out on October 6th. The Nintendo Switch stands that I’ve seen were all black, but this one was red, which added to the theme. Nintendo’s theme was that everything should have the feeling of being welcome and at home. Rather than being guided or having a set approach to which games to play, they wanted to allow people to explore at their own speed.
There were also human-sized standees of Princess Peach and Yoshi. Since the theme was Mario Wonder, I thought, where is Mario, the main protagonist? We were told that he was in the back with the Mario-inspired red mocktails, which was amazing because the drinks and food were primarily themed after characters from different games. The overall experience was fun, especially because I’m a Mario fan.
Just Dance 2024 Edition
Just Dance was a staple of my childhood. The game turned a person as uncoordinated as myself into a dance superstar! I can’t help but smile as I reflect on weekend afternoons spent dancing the day away in the living room, or dancing alongside my classmates and gym teacher on rainy days in elementary school. I’ve written before about losing my Wii – and part of my childhood – in an eviction in 2014. Since then, I haven’t really kept up with the Just Dance games. So when I found out that there was a 2024 version with classic throwback songs and new, relevant tunes/dances, I was super stoked!
Just Dance 2024 features about 40 different songs with a selection comprised of both throwbacks and top songs from the most previous year. One cool new feature was the multiplayer aspect, which allows you to play with friends who aren’t in the same space as you. I know that younger me would’ve loved to play with my friends this way, so I was really interested in this component. The three of us got to play three different dances, including Britney Spears’ more advanced “Toxic,” Beyoncé’s upbeat “Telephone,” and the easier, but very hilarious “Top of the World” from hit movie (and one of my favorite films) “Lyle Lyle Crocodile.” There were some other classics from 2022 like Encanto’s “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” The songs ranged in difficulty; while there were some moves that required us to change levels (like getting on the floor and back up). There were more than enough songs that did not require advanced mobility, therefore making it playable for people of all capabilities.
If I had to give any critiques, I would say that the app was promoted in a misleading way. Maybe it’s on me for not understanding what was meant when the PR person said your phone could be used as a controller. I was under the assumption that you could use any device to watch the dance and use your phone as the controller (instead of the Wii or Nintendo Switch controller). When I excitedly went home to look for and download said app, though, I was disappointed to learn that I could not use my iPad and would need a compatible video game console in order to play Just Dance. Then, I realized that the 2024 edition doesn’t come out until later in the month. As someone without a TV, I would love if there were a way to play Just Dance “on the go” (like on a computer, iPad, or phone) – perhaps this will happen with the new game!
That being said, I really enjoyed playing the game at Daylight Studios. The throwback songs were super nostalgic and I was refreshed by the wide range of more recent tunes. Just Dance 2024 was a great way to work out without feeling like it was pure exercise. The dances were fun, and varied in difficulty levels so there was something for everybody, and the moves did not feel repetitive between all the songs! Overall, I was satisfied with the game and wished I had unlimited time to play more at the event!
Detective Pikachu Returns And Sonic Superstars
Detective Pikachu Returns is a calm, thought-provoking game with interview aspects. With the comedic voice of a grown man coming from Pikachu, I enjoyed the short demo of the new game so much that I envied those fans who’ve played before.
Jumping right into it, I was tasked with solving a mystery on stolen goods. While it may have been a simple case of misunderstanding, the culprit was harder to find than expected. It took interrogating at least three different Pokémon and eventually using the keen sense of smell of an Arcanine to eventually track down the bird who didn’t even know they had stolen something! This one case alone made me want to buy the game, simply for the comedic moments in solving it.
Detective Pikachu Returns seems like a long-awaited sequel that features plenty of Pokémon and even more mysteries to solve within Ryme City, which may make a lot of long-time fans very happy.
Sonic Superstars feels like a blast from the past; it took me all the way back to being in grade school and playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my GameBoy color, but with so much more substance.
From the level designs being a blend of nostalgia and new age thoughts, to the usefulness of the Chaos Emerald, Sonic Superstars has a lot of potential for great gameplay. The camera focuses on whomever is faster, leading to some competitive play between friends. But you can also help out your pals by grabbing them as Tails to lift them up or throwing them forward as Knuckles. Not only that, but with the new Chaos Emerald powers you can take the edge away from other players by blasting yourself further through the level or looking for hidden objects and power ups.
Never did I think a 2D Sonic game, or any Sonic game for that matter, could be such an exciting cooperative experience. While it may be a tad hectic, Sonic Superstars captures the speedy chaos of the OG Sonic games while also handling the speed and abilities of up to four players at once.