LOS ANGELES — I checked out a lot of Nintendo’s upcoming games for its Wii U, a console that’s been struggling to find an audience, during this week’s giant Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow. Some might expect the Japanese game publisher to try a different approach to gain back some market share. Maybe Nintendo could change its family-friendly perception and become more edgy.
Well, that didn’t happen, and I’m happy. Almost all of Nintendo’s games at E3 had two things in common: they were fun, and they were insanely adorable. It was almost comical how often Nintendo’s PR staff (OK, and me) would “oooo” and “awwwww” during the cute demos I played during my booth tour.
Here are some examples of just how ridiculously cute the Wii U’s upcoming games are:
Yoshi’s Wooly World
This was the first one I played, and it might have been the cutest. Wooly World plays like other 2D Yoshi games, but Nintendo made everything — Yoshi, his eggs, and the world — out of balls of yarn. Yoshi was already adorable, but his appearance is absolutely heart-melting in this one. His little feet turn into wheels when he begins to run. It’s even precious when he swallows enemies whole, digests them, and poops them out as an egg-shaped ball of yarn. Awwwww!
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse
This is a sequel to one of my favorite games on the original DS, Kirby Canvas Curse. You move Kirby around by using the touchscreen to poke him and draw rainbow paths for him to roll on. Kirby is a little ball for most of the game, and this somehow makes him even cuter than when he has all his tiny limbs.
Oddly, however, Kirby was at his most adorable during my demo when he turned into a tank. He moved much slower, but he could shoot at any enemies that I tapped on the screen. A tank is usually death on wheels, but it’s just the cutest thing when it has Kirby’s adorable eyes.
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
This was a bit of a surprise. Captain Toad starred in some side-levels in Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U, but this is the first time the character (or any Toad) starred in his own game. After witnessing Nintendo’s PR people absolutely freak out over how cute he was as he sprinted his tiny legs across my demo, I can understand why. With his high, baby-like voice and eternal smile, he might actually give Yoshi and Kirby a challenge when it comes to cuteness.
How much does Nintendo value cuteness? It actually found a way to make team deathmatch adorable. Splatoon is a competitive shooter like Call of Duty and Titanfall, but characters shoot ink instead of bullets. They can also turn into little squids to swim around any part of the level covered in their team’s ink.
It was a fun take on an established genre, but it’s impressive how Nintendo was able to take a type of game usually filled with guns and death and turn it into something the whole family can enjoy.