Gaming Age goes to…The 2023 Nintendo Holiday Tour

Last Thursday Benny, Brendan and I were invited to Daylight Studios, situated at Hudson Yards in New York City to participate in Nintendo’s Holiday Tour, where the house of Mario showcased some of their products that will be available leading up to this year’s holiday season.

Each station was decorated as if it was a “lived in” space, if your “lived in” spaces had products from a singular company, however I cannot state it was the most comfortable I’ve been at a product demo.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

The first title we sampled after playing *redacted title* (I’ll write about it shortly in a different article…don’t worry, I’m not keeping anything from you) was the latest entry in the Super Mario Bros. series, Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Styled after the “new” SMB titles, this one also lets you play with up to four players as you attempt to stop Bowser’s machinations in the Flower Kingdom.

Our session was a little distinct when compared to the others that have taken place that day, in that we actually had four players going at once. We were joined by someone from Coming Soon (whose name I completely didn’t remember, sorry bud!) and tried to complete as many stages as possible in the 15ish minute allotted time.

The Flower Kingdom definitely distinguishes itself, from its more pastel color tones, zany new power ups and features a surprising amount of deformable terrain. Having four players on a single screen definitely ramped up the chaos and I often found myself losing track of the Blue Toad I selected as my avatar in the demo, occasionally dying because of just the sheer amount of noise going on in the screen. Benny was spared from death as he chose Nabbit, the klepto purple lagomorph that debuted in New Super Mario Bros. U. Playing as him or the Yoshis ostensibly meant you were playing on easy mode, facing no penalties falling into pits, but you are barred from using power ups.

The Elephant in the Room (heh) would be the new Elephant Power Up. It hit with a wild impact when it debuted in the first trailer of the game, but when I got it, I would say the impact was a bit muted. I can chock it up to the fact it was during a four player session where we constantly were running forward so I didn’t get to appreciate the ability to take in liquids and water various things in the environment. I will say one new element intrigued me and that was the badge system. Before entering a stage you can select a badge that will grant your team a character ability. Gliding, Wall climbing were some of the options and there are stages that act as tutorials for the badges you earn meaning you’ll get a taste of each badge you collect and who knows maybe certain badges make collecting certain Wonder Seeds a cinch!

I lamented the four player session meant I wasn’t able to take things in at our own pace, but there was something important at stake…camera control! Much like another competing title at the showcase (It’s Sonic Superstars) that featured up to four players on a single screen, Super Mario Wonder’s means of corralling the chaos was something I actually approved of. The player who hit the flagpole first is the one whom the camera will focus on in the next stage. I much preferred this method over whatever Sonic Superstars did, where one moment the camera would be following me, and a couple seconds later it’s tailing Brendan’s character (who ironically…was Tails).

Super Mario Bros. Wonder will be released on October 20th and I look forward to taking in the sights of the Flower Kingdom at my own pace, but if I want some chaos in my life…I’m certain a fellow editor will be streaming the title on his own Twitch Channel and I can do some Super Mario Trolling there.

Detective Pikachu Returns

This one definitely slowed the pace down as it was a single player affair as Benny and I watched/judged Brendan’s sleuthing skills. We jumped in mid-case as Tim Goodman and Detective Pikachu were searching for clues in an area near a mansion where a theft took place. Arriving at a pond with a view of the crime scene, the duo gathered clues and eventually found a Pawniard to question. This was where Detective Pikachu shined as his ability to communicate between humans and Pokémon unveiled things a traditional gumshoe couldn’t gather. Gathering more clues meant weeding out bad choices, but generally there are no cold cases in this game as eventually the mystery will come to a conclusion.

After an interrogation that only proved how sharp Pawniard’s blades are, we fast forwarded to a later portion of the case where we had to locate another Pokémon. After questioning a Manectric, Clefairy and a Growlithe, Brendan chose the fire type puppy Pokémon to lead the search, leveraging his superior sense of smell to sniff out our missing mon. This was one of the new features in Detective Pikachu Returns, where not only can you question Pokémon, you can enlist their aid to further your case. Riding on the Growlithe, the temporary trio were eventually led to a bush several screens away where a Ducklett (?) wearing a stylish purse revealed itself.

Detective Pikachu Returns, as the rep put it, is a game that you can play to wind down your day, requiring low fast twitch skills, but just enough smarts to progress through. It might not be for me…cause when I sleep, I go to sleep. But Brendan has shown interest, so who knows you might see a review from him around the game’s release date of October 6th…which is just a couple days away!

Sonic Superstars

Another single screen multiplayer game, except this time you’re expected to go fast because it’s one featuring SEGA’s blue speedster, Sonic. I’ve seen Sonic Superstars a lot this Summer/Fall as I can count at least 4 events (including this one where the title was playable), however this time I had to play it with Brendan and Benny. Perturbed that he was player 4 during SMB Wonder, he leapt at the chance to be player 1 in this game, which led something that might have caused this playthrough to be awkward or hilarious for our poor PR reps…trash talking!

Selecting Bridge Island (although in hindsight I wished I pushed for the newly announced Battle Mode), we all sprinted at full speed not really concerned about the pace of our compatriots. Stages took us forwards and back and we ended up entering a lot of special stages. I think I could count 5 or 6 diversions in each of the two stages we played. The first one nabbed us a chaos emerald, which granted us the skill to traverse waterfalls, but we never actually used the power. Our surprisingly lengthy session kept us doing Sonic 1 style special stages and a special stage new to superstars which required swinging toward a specific item. One of the reps quipped how we were pretty good at these stages despite all the verbal barbs that were being thrown around (I believe Brendan kept his mouth shut and managed to collect most of the medals, I did my minor contributions and our “Player 1” was just there…). Eventually we made it to the end and faced the obligatory Robotnik encounter where we as seasoned Sonic players made quick work of his mechanical monstrosity.

Sonic Superstars will release a couple days ahead of Super Mario Bros. Wonder on October 17th (Get it…Sonic’s fast! Tip your waitresses, folks!). It will be interesting to see where these two will land when it comes to single screen multiplayer games.

Not So Discrete Product Placements!

Before I discuss the final game…which only Brendan played. I wanted to talk about the games we didn’t play because of time or our insecurity with our masculinity (Hi Fae Farms!) or because we just didn’t find the Switch that had it (Super Mario RPG). Other titles featured at this tour was Disney’s Illusion Island, the combat free Metroidvania title from Dlala Studios, EA Sports FC 2024, the first soccer title from EA since losing the FIFA license, Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet: The Hidden Treasure of Area Zero the latest DLC in the newest mainline entry of the monster raising titles.

I also wanted to remark on all the hardware on display be it the Hori Split Pads, the Animal Crossing Aloha Edition Switch Lites, the Switch OLED Model – Mario Red Edition and a @Nintendoinspired curated setup that Brendan wished he could’ve taken home. Nintendo is starting to grow beyond a gaming brand into a lifestyle brand and it’s wild to see.

Speaking of taking things home there were plenty of things I wish I could’ve absconded with, such as the Epoch Games Super Mario Air Hockey TableHot Wheels Mario Kart Rainbow Road Raceway, Jakk’s Wriggler Mario and Luigi 3 Pak, LEGO sets such as Donkey Kong’s Tree House Expansion Set, Diddy Kong’s Mine Cart Ride Expansion Set, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom strategy guide collector’s edition, assorted plushies (I’m man enough to say I’d unironically own a Bob-omb plush!).

Just Dance 2024

A long running series that I’ve somewhat admired from afar, Just Dance is continuing to pivot into a platform style release with this year’s edition of the title. The ui looks pretty much like a streaming service, but this title will have songs such as Butter by BTS, Tití Me Preguntó by Bad Bunny and a rendition of Rapper’s Delight as performed by Groove Century. If you want more music you’d be inclined to sign up for Just Dance+, the game’s subscription service whose ever growing song selection will have you dancing ’til the cows come home.

However despite all the songs available, all that Brendan and the rep manning that station would play were songs from Britney Spears! In fact Brendan even tried to replicate the star’s recent routine featuring two sharp knives, the results? It’s locked away in Brendan’s Facebook archives.

Wrap Up

Once done, Benny had to rush out to take on rush hour traffic, Brendan and I ended up chatting with a Nintendo Staffer about comic books and how the former runs a comic shop (Take a shot!). I probably ate another delicious grilled cheese sandwich (I regret not asking who catered the event…) and eventually we took our leave, looking forward to what Nintendo has in store for us in the near future…suffice to say we’re all gonna have a good time this holiday season!

2023 Nintendo Holiday Tour gallery: