Hands-on Preview: Star Fox Zero, Xenoblade Chronicles X & Project Zero

Many believe that Nintendo’s Wii U console is near its expiration date and, with reports of Nintendo to announce information on their new home console the NX, that may be the case. However, the Wii U is still a worthy console to own in 2015 and beyond based on what Nintendo showed at their EB Expo booth.

Nintendo had a variety of games on display at this year’s EB Expo. Games like Star Fox Zero reimagined the ‘Nintendo charm’ while other games, such as the Wii U sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles X and the spiritual successor to Fatal Frame, Project Zero: Maiden of the Black Water, proved that the console has a broader appeal.STAR FOX ZERO

Star Fox Zero is much like the Nintendo 64’s (and 3DS port’s) Star Fox. Players control Fox McCloud as he and his team defend the world from galactic turmoil. Environments are strategically placed to manoeuvre and avoid in game. You find not much time to admire the art style and graphics of Star Fox Zero since the game is so fast-paced.

The boss battles are fun if not cliched. In one of the missions I played, I was tasked with circling around a giant ball-shaped ship, aiming at the ship’s turrets before destroying it. The militaristic soundtrack at least made up for the poor boss design (although I have no doubt that there are more interesting enemies Team McCloud face but Nintendo would only show me a select few missions).

The player uses the Wii U controller’s gyro controls to aim and joystick to move. This is confusing at first but once mastered, it becomes engaging and fresh. Star Fox Zero is one of the first games on the console to utilise the machine’s in-built motion controls in a simplistic yet enjoyable way.

Star Fox Zero is expected to release sometime in 2016.

Project ZeroKofi Tecmo’s Project Zero: A Maiden of the Black Water is the long-awaited sequel to the PlayStation 2’s survival horror adventure series, Fatal Frame. Players take control of three protagonists: Yuuri, Miu and Ren; as each character tries to solve the mystery of Hikamiyama (meaning, ‘The Mountain of Death’), heavily inspired by the non-fictional Aokigahara (‘Suicide Forest’) where many people go to commit suicide.

The game’s tone is very much a mix between the grotesque Japanese horror film sub-genre and Pokemon Snap. Players explore the area, discovering the mountain’s secrets and disturbed spirits by the game’s spirit camera. The player uses the Wii U controller’s motion controls and in-built camera to capture photos of the haunted environment, revealing hidden collectables, ghosts’ whereabouts, and at times, to defend yourself from irritated ghosts.

Fatal Screen Speaking of the ghosts, the game’s character designs fit the Japanese Psycho-Horror tone. The ghosts in each area feel unique from those of other chapters. The long haired witches in the pool of blood and bodies chasing the prologue’s protagonist, Haruka, are disgustingly intriguing, recreating the classic ghost child from The Ring. The game’s environment is as disturbing as its supernatural beings as several zombified hands surrounded Yuuri in a flooded room, reaching out to her in an effort to drown her.

Project Zero: A Maiden of the Black Water will fittingly release in Australia on the Wii U on the 31st of October this year.XENOBLADEOf all the games I played at this year’s EB Expo, Xenoblade Chronicles X was one of the most memorable. A sequel to the Wii’s Xenoblade Chronicles, the game is set in a futuristic world where colossal machines and prehistoric creatures inhabit.

Players take control of a customisable character and scout the lands for rare creatures, citizens or military officials who need help, or undiscovered locations. Players can have three party members at once with another four in a reserved slot.

One of Nintendo’s Public Relations staff described the game’s combat as a love child of Phantasy Star Online and Dragon Age: Inquisition. Characters switch between gunplay and swordplay, as certain actions are tied to one of the two weapon types. Switching between the two fighting styles overs a dynamic change to the classic Japanese Role-Playing action-game routine, and is incredibly entertaining and rewarding.

XENO1Co-ordinating with your other party members and giving them individual and collective commands greatly helps in a battle, especially if you’re fighting an enemy that’s twice your level. Most of the creatures I encountered in my short ten minute preview of the game were near 40 levels above me, despite being close to the main city.

Speaking of the game’s geography, the world of Xenoblade Chronicles X is huge. In the current demo save file, Nintendo explained that they had only discovered 3.14% of the first of five continents, each as big as the next. The map, shown on the Wii U gamepad, is divided into grids representing the various outposts and encampments, and there were more than 40 in the first continent alone.

To say that Xenoblade Chronicles X is a large game would be a very obvious understatement. The game’s content equals if not rivals that of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, Dragon Age Inquisition and Dying Light.

Xenoblade2Players can also unlock giant mechanical suits, although this was not available in the demo save file. Mechs can be used as a vehicle, transforming into giant hovering tanks, or can be used in combat as a mechanic titan, much like anything in the ‘Mech’ genre of Japanese animation.

Xenoblade Chronicles X is set to arrive on physical and digital stores on the 4th of December this year.

Nintendo has more to offer next year, including the Legend of Zelda: Wii U and Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, however neither were featured at the Expo.