James Goes to Gamescom – Day One

by James Baker
Published: Last Updated on

Gamescom 2017 has begun, and I’ve had the pleasure of attending this year. Whilst the show will be going on until Saturday, I can unfortunately only make three days until I head back to Ol’ Blighty. That said, what a treat Day One has been, notably as only trade and media (and minimal fans) could enter. This was the perfect opportunity to try out all the Nintendo games before the swarm arrives tomorrow.

It’s no secret that the Koelnmesse is huge, and getting lost around the exhibit was my most common pastime. By the late afternoon, I had finally figured out the layout, several times after circling the Farming Simulator exhibit. Not that Farming Simulator wasn’t a worthy title to play — it’s just that I had Super Mario Odyssey on the mind.

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Super Mario Comes to Gamescom

As soon as I found the Nintendo section, I immediately headed to the Super Mario Odyssey exhibit. The queue only took around 30 minutes, which is surprisingly good for this kind of event. Motivated by my jealousy that fellow Goomba Stomp writers had already played the game at E3, now was my chance to see how good it really is.

I had the choice of playing either Tostarena or New Donk City; I chose Tostarena. The level itself was pretty straightforward, easy enough to follow. I especially love the piece of nostalgia they have placed within the level, with green pipes that warp you to classic 2D Mario — not a side-game, but an integral part of the level itself. It’s cleverly done and doesn’t feel like a cheap gimmick at all, providing the player with another challenge that requires a shift in approach.

The Sand Kingdom is a beautifully crafted level, and although I didn’t understand the NPC’s dialogue (as it was in German), it was easy to figure out what the objective was. The controls were simple and took no time to master, and before I knew it, I was flying through the level as a Bullet Bill wearing a rather dashing hat. The hat dynamic is a unique idea and it seems to work remarkably well. I was admittedly hesitant about the concept, but playing Super Mario Odyssey threw all my doubts out the window.

I was disappointed I never found Jaxi, the jaguar statue that comes to life when you throw your hat at it, but I did get to plant my hat upon a Moe-Eye, the Moai statue-headed enemies. They all were unique to control, and the diversity makes the feature so exciting. I personally can’t wait to control a dinosaur, but that will have to wait.

Keeping with the Mario theme, I also had a go at Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. I’m not really too sure how to feel about this game, and though certainly the rep was keen to find out what I thought, it was quite difficult to explain. For the most part, the game is quite easy to learn and get involved with, but (possibly because of translation problems) there some things I couldn’t quite grasp how to do.

I’m used to this style of game, having played Fire Emblem, and the layout out of the game is never an issue; the major problem was finding a treasure chest, opening it, and not really knowing what I got from it — definitely a translation issue. The dynamics are pretty simple, however, and I can see how the game would be fun, I just wasn’t quite feeling it the same way I felt about Super Mario Odyssey. I think I might have needed more time to understand the game better, but it certainly had some fun tactical ideas, such as forcing your enemies to be chomped by a chomper.

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Samus has Finally Returned

I had the chance to play Samus Returns, and what a delight it was. It’s been a long time since I played a Metroid game, so this was two returns. Not that my return to Metroid is as relevant as Samus,’ but I’ll take my chance and morph ball with it.

Again, I can’t fault the controls. The demo itself was some sort of tutorial to help you learn the buttons, and for the most part, it was easy to pick up. What surprised me was the variety of different enemies so early on, all requiring different tactics. Some hung from the ceiling waiting to drop on you, while others flew in the sky and waited to attack; no matter the creature, it required some perseverance to defeat.

Just like other Metroid games, you’re required to do some backtracking, especially once you’ve obtained a unique item or ability. Once I gained the morph ball ability, I went back to roll under all of the places I couldn’t before in order to obtain other items and abilities. The difficulty is unique in its own odd way; the enemies are quite a challenge, but sometimes finding where you need to go is the biggest challenge of all.

Unsurprisingly, that’s how I finished the game: lost. The rep kept looking over my shoulder as if she wanted to help me, but probably couldn’t contain her composure watching me walk up and down the same area trying to find a way out. Indeed, I was trapped. I couldn’t go back up, and none of the doors seemed to respond to my desperate shoot for help. At that point my time was up, and my glorious return was in ruins. Samus’ comeback wasn’t though — it was fantastic.

Gengar Vs Gardevoir

I grew up on both Pokémon and Tekken, so it didn’t take much to persuade me to play Pokkén Tournament DX. Unfortunately, this is a multiplayer game, and I travel solo, so I was paired up with a highly-accomplished German player. For those hoping for a story of the underdog triumph, you’ll be most disappointed.

Naturally, I chose Gengar, as I’ve never known Gengar to be a bad choice in anything. My opponent chose Gardevoir, and in any other Pokémon game, this would surely be advantage Gengar, but not in Pokkén. Quite frankly, by the time it was over, she should have demanded another go, because she wouldn’t have played for the fair allotted time. I was happy to lick my wounds elsewhere.

This isn’t to say Pokkén Tournament DX isn’t fun, because it’s a wonderfully creative game. Understanding what each button does is crucial — or you resort to button bashing, a real problem with the original Tekken games. If your pokémon can mega-evolve, it will when you use your special attack, and it was quite nice seeing Gardevoir’s mega evolution so many times. The one time I managed to pull off my special attack, my opponent blocked it with ease. This is why I stick to single player.

Pokkén Tournament DX is the perfect multiplayer game, and it’s a clear example of Nintendo pushing the Switch as a social console. Alongside Arms and Splatoon 2, it’s easy to see the Nintendo strategy, and I think Pokkén Tournament DX is my favorite one out of all three. The characters are recognizable, their strengths and weaknesses correlate well with the main series of games, and for the most part, it’s nice to see your favorite pokémon battle it out with skill rather than turn-based tactics.

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A Sudden Farming Revival

Harvest Moon has always been one of my favorite games, so Story of the Seasons was never going to be passed up. It was its usual chilled-out self: plant some parsnip seeds, go chat to the locals down in the village. Just wetting my appetite for Farming Simulator 18 later on, whenever I’ve felt a little stressed, the Harvest Moon series has been able to relax me once more.

With that said, there was a little commotion at the Farming Simulator exhibit by the afternoon. An announcement of a new tractor I thought, or maybe the addition of some nice durian fruit plantations. Whatever the reason, Farming Simulator had never seen a crowd like it, so I had to take a look.

It was difficult to see what was happening, but security was much more aggressive than usual, ushering us into a tidy block of curiosity. Being quite short, any hope of seeing anything was getting weaker by the second, but at this point I knew this couldn’t be any old tractor. Living in Norwich, England, I know what excitement a tractor can bring to certain people, but this was in the middle of Cologne, and I had higher hopes for these people.

As it happened, the commotion was over Chancellor Angela Merkel. I saw a glimpse, realized I didn’t care for politics, and moved on my merry way. But if you ever wanted to know which game Angela Merkel likes to play, it’s Farming Simulator 18.

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Seizing a Moment in Tropico 6

Strategy games like Tropica 6 have always been something I’ve enjoyed. It all started with Age of Empires, which moved to the Civilization series, followed by the great challenge of Europa Universalis 4. The joy of Tropico is building a rogue state to defeat a much bigger enemy, and you do this through quite unordinary means.

Translation issues spoiled my plunder once again, and I was bankrupt not soon after I had begun. I think the demo could have used more tutorial, as the only command it gave was to build an espionage headquarters. After that, I was free to spend too much on docks and plantations, all of which I had trouble connecting to roads. I don’t even think I had enough people to work in these new buildings, but by then I had lost what to do.

Admittedly I hadn’t played a Tropico title before, and was quite eager to try it out. There’s a lot to love about the series, notably it’s satire towards modern politics, and though I’m not overly political, I can enjoy a political joke now and then — and most certainly in a game format. I was just horrible at the game, so it’s probably best I avoid politics either way.

Goalless in Manchester

My journey inevitably took me to FIFA 18. Unfortunately, the choice of teams wasn’t exactly fantastic. I chose Manchester City, as it was the team I was most familiar with, but my hopes of being Southampton were dashed. The opposition was none other than Paris Saint-Germain, so it was a real blockbuster…kind of.

At least it should have been, but I’m hopeless at scoring. I turned Manchester City into Arsenal with incredible ease, passing the ball around without really going anywhere. Trying to find the perfect goal is my problem, and I honestly can’t even remember if I had a shot on goal. On the plus side, my defense was solid — I even saved a penalty. Just a shame it had to end in a goalless draw.

I managed to play both the PS4 version and the Switch version. The Switch version can be a little unsettling on a single joy con, as it’s a little small and I kept pressing to shoot instead of pass — it would be much easier on a pro controller. Other than that, it looks great in the tabletop mode, but TV mode will definitely be the way to get the most out of it.

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Sent to War in Battlefield 1

Quite the contrary to what I usually play indeed, it showed how very little I had played the Battlefield series. Luckily this didn’t need much translation, and I was sent to battle with the rest of my battalion. Unfortunately for them, I probably contributed more to the loss than the other team did.

I couldn’t quite work out how to run, so for most of the game I must have looked like a sloth stretching out for a tree branch — easy pickings. At one point I was trapped in a vehicle that no button bashing could remove me from, and I was eventually put out of my misery and able to respawn elsewhere.

The game itself was remarkably fun, if not a little stressful for someone who plays Nintendo religiously. I’m pretty sure at some respawns I was killed almost instantly, so the respawns can be unforgiving at times. Other than that, the gameplay is ferocious and the graphics are pretty clean. In the Name of Tsar is a wonderful addition to Battlefield 1, and I’ll probably have another go before the time in Cologne is over. Onto the much busier day two!

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