Game Time 

BW's preview on the latest Nintendo

OK, so you're still stumped about what to get that gamer in your life. Well, BW is here to help.

I don’t claim to be a gamer, hell, I can barely tell the difference between the Mario Brothers, Donkey Kong and Pac Man. But one aspect of electronic gaming in which I am now an expert, is the simple fact that playing some of the most anticipated games of the season months before they are released gives you some serious bragging rights.

They are the kind of bragging rights you can use on a friend when you’ve worked your way through a level of Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks on Nintendo DS months before it’s Dec. 7 release. Or they’re the kind of bragging rights you uses on your brother-in-law when you’ve careened through New Super Mario Brothers Wii well in advance of the date he has circled on his calendar.

Better yet, they are the kind of bragging rights that get exponentially greater when you can report back to eager audiences that, yes, the games are worth the wait.

It’s the opportunity a few of us at BW got when the folks at Nintendo kicked off their national media tour in Boise. Why they started in Boise, we have yet to figure out, but we’re still thankful.

We’re even more thankful that Zelda turned out to be what fans of the Legend of Zelda franchise have been hoping for—at least according to the BW tester who has played the various incarnations of Zelda for years.

On this go-round, there’s new puzzles, new companions, a new story and new weapons all aboard a new mode of transportation (a train, if you couldn’t guess). After a short trial, our Zelda player gave it his approval, saying that the game holds true to what fans of Zelda are expecting. He did hold back final judgement on the train aspect until he’s had more time to explore the game, waiting to see if it’s just an excuse for a new game or a key part to the adventure.

Also relatively new for the DS system is Style Savvy, a fashion game where players act as personal shopper and try to figure out what their electronic clients will look best in. While our rather burly Nintendo gamemaster seemed surprisingly taken by the decidedly girly game, none of us warmed up to it, although it may be just the thing for teens.

We were far more interested in the new offerings for the interactive Wii system. Even those of us with extremely limited gaming experience were quickly infatuated with the latest selection of games, as well as the ease of the controllers.

New Super Mario Brothers Wii, the much anticipated game which came out on Nov. 15, harkens back to the original and much-loved game (or so I was told). But it adds new aspects to the game play, including the option for up to four players to work together to achieve goals, or to work against each other.

Considering that two of the three BW staffers at the game controls had only passing familiarity with Nintendo, throwing characters off floating pedestals was only done by accident, but more experienced, and ruthless, players are able to literally knock off their competition.

Mario and Luigi are back, along with toads and assorted characters from the Mushroom Kingdom, as well as several different versions of Yoshi. But there’s plenty new this time around, including a flying propeller suit and Mario’s new trick of transforming into Penguin Mario.

We also tried out the Wii Sports Resort, which is the latest offering from the popular Wii Sports game. This one has even more sports offerings, yet continues to be easy enough to pay that it’s completely addicting. After just a few minutes, the least video-game exposed of us was in deep concentration as she mimed holding a bow and arrow in the game’s archery challenge.

This version of the game adds sports like Frisbee, basketball, canoeing, ping pong and wakeboarding to the already popular golf and bowling. While we didn’t get to try it out, the swordplay option has some of us a little overly excited.

Finally, we also checked out Wii Fit Plus, the updated version of last year’s game. This one has more customized workout plans, more strength-training options and 15 new activities, including skateboarding and rhythm Kung Fu (no idea what this is, but “Kung Fu Fighting” is now stuck in our heads). And beyond just sports, the game offers some relatively silly games that get players moving, including one that involves waving your arms like a chicken to aim for targets.

We’ll forever owe the Nintendo folks for giving us the lasting image of a colleague flapping his arms while standing in stocking feet inside an Airstream trailer. Who needs bragging rights when you’ve got blackmail.

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