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E3 2011: Inside Nintendo's booth! 'Zelda,' 'Kirby,' and a slew of 3DS games

For the Mario and Zelda fans in the crowd, we have our hands-on impressions of some of Nintendo’s hottest upcoming titles, straight from its bustling, flashing headquarters on the showroom floor of the Electronic Entertainment Expo is Los Angeles. Alhough the games demoed for the newly-revealed Wii U were just promos to show off the system’s capabilities, Nintendo displayed lots of promising software for the 3DS and original Wii. Chances are, at least one of these games will pique your interest, whether your bag is more pink puff balls with feet or more drawling, rotund space hares.

Mario Kart 3DS – The now 19-year-old racing franchise revs into 3-D. This go-around, you can finally customize your kart, pimping your ride with the body, wheels, and accessory (e.g., a hang glider) of your choice. Plays very similar to Mario Kart DS, offers new tracks, and looks good in 3-D. (Holiday 2011)

Kid Icarus (3DS) – This action game was perhaps my favorite pick in the 3DS cornucopia. You’ll start by selecting one of several weapons for Pit, the Eros-esque hero of the game. Choose among claws, a blade, energy-shooting orbs, and more. It’s Cupid and his bow and arrow taken to maniacal levels, basically. Combat is a mix of on-foot and aerial, and there are fast-paced sequences that perhaps make use of the 3DS’s technology better than any of the other games. (2011)

Star Fox 64 3D (3DS) – A 3-D version of the 1997 Nintendo 64 classic that took up around seven-eighths of my middle school years. And it looks even better now, with made-over graphics and re-recordings with most of the original voice cast. There’s some touch-screen integration, as well, but the controls, dialogue, and levels are all carried over intact from the 64 version. You can also use the 3DS’s built-in gyroscope to turn the Arwing, Fox’s trusty, barrel-rolling spacecraft. Reflection question: Is this game Star Wars with woodland creatures? Discuss in small groups. (Sept. 11)

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS) – Many-a-gamer consider the original 1998 version for Nintendo 64 to be the greatest game of all time. The hallowed capolavoro looks splendid in 3-D. Also: new instructional videos for the stumped, and using the gyroscope to better aim weapons like the slingshot. But, like Star Fox, this is likely going to be a title you should only pick up if you’re a mega-fan of the original, or have never played it (sacrilege!). (June 19)

Luigi’s Mansion 2 (3DS) – The greenest second banana in video game history got one of the biggest applauses at Nintendo’s press conference Tuesday when his very own game was announced. It’s a sequel to the 2001 GameCube game that dumped Mario’s scaredy-cat little brother in a byzantine haunted house. The 3DS installment plays similarly to the first one (Luigi using a vacuum to suck up ghosts), but from what we could tell, the addition of 3-D for this particular title felt a little tacked-on, at least compared to the more action-packed and scenery-diverse Kid Icarus. (2012)

Super Mario 3D (3DS) – Allow me to re-introduce you to the tanuki suit, threads resembling a raccoon-like creature that allow Mario to hover slightly and turn into a statue on command. The ensemble hasn’t been seen since 1988’s Super Mario Bros. 3. (We’re not sure if Mario can turn into a statue this time, however.) Lots of classic, familiar fun, but we found the 3-D can sometimes make depth perception a bit screwy when jumping from block to block. (2011)

Kirby Wii – The blush-colored ball had a big comeback last year with Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii (though our own Jeff “Doc” Jensen was less-than-enamoured). This year, Kirby headlines another side-scrolling platformer, and this time, up to four people can play. Though not as creatively crafted as the button and cloth inspired graphics in Yarn, Kirby Wii harkens back to his earliest days on Game Boy and Super Nintendo. (Fall)

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) – Finally, one of the crown jewels in Nintendo’s circlet of ace-in-the-hole franchises. Zelda fans will likely love this entry that was announced at last year’s E3. We’re excited, too, but we feel like something’s missing. The art is a little to nondescript for our tastes, and some of the motion-sensing activities were a little fussy, such as piloting a huge bird or using the Wii nunchuk to aim your bow and arrow. (Late 2011)

So, what’s your poison, PopWatchers? Which of these upcoming Nintendo titles are you especially keen on?

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