Nintendo might have shared some fairly gloomy financial news with the rest of the world yesterday - with both the 3DS and Wii U missing their sales targets - but the outlook for the future couldn't be much more positive for the Japanese giant.

Off the back of yet another engaging Nintendo Direct broadcast, Nintendo went that extra mile last week to put its new software into the hands of the press and to help generate some excitement for what's next down the pipeline.

So, not only did we get a chance to play a 20-minute segment of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past sequel, but we also had an opportunity to go hands-on with four other new first-party 3DS titles coming out over the next few months.

Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D


If you've already played this on the Wii, then you'll know that Retro Studios did a damned fine job of resurrecting Rare's long-dormant SNES franchise.

Sure, it was a slavish attempt to recapture the magic of that '90s side-scrolling platform trilogy, but Retro Studios ticked all the boxes, and smashed all the crates along the way.

The 3DS version, naturally, has the added novelty of 3D visuals, though Nintendo has done a fair job of tinkering with the game in a few other areas to give it an even broader appeal (read: you can now make it easier).

New mode essentially helps you get through the levels with one extra heart of health - so that's three instead of two.

Elsewhere, you can now pick up items that help save you from falls, or allow the Mine Cart and Rocket Barrel to take a second hit, and even use a DK Barrel whenever you choose.

On top of that, the 3DS version also features local wireless play. This means you can team up with a pal and enjoy the co-op play, as well as help each other collect hard-to-reach puzzle pieces.

But it's not all easy street. There's also an unlockable ninth world (featuring eight new levels) and hardcore Trophy levels for the old skool masochists.

During what was ultimately quite a short showcase event, we didn't get an extensive hands-on of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D. But even a quick playthrough of a couple of levels was more than enough to impress.

The controls feel precise, the visuals suit the confines of the 3DS screen perfectly. Put simply, no one's going to be disappointed.

Mario & Luigi: Dream Team


The Mario RPGs have always quietly gone about their business of being awesome. They haven't sold in the kind of vast quantities that you tend to associate with Nintendo first-party games. And no doubt the fourth game in the series, subtitled Dream Team, will continue in this cultish vein.

Nearly four years after the release of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, developer AlphaDream has come up with another surreal RPG, where the mustachioed brothers engage in turn-based battles for typically spurious reasons.

This time around, Mario, Luigi, and Peach take a holiday to Pi'illo Island, and - gasp - Peach gets captured (just for a change). It's your job, then, to wrest her back from her captors.

Cue endearingly oddball mechanics, where Luigi must lie down for a snooze, and Mario gets to join him in a dreamworld at the various "Pillow Portals" dotted around.

In the early stages, the turn-based battling gameplay is all fairly standard JRPG fare, with a selection of basic actions from which to choose. To ease you in, early enemies are little more than cannon fodder, so it's a simple task to attack, with a generous window of opportunity to stomp on their heads.

Wandering around the dreamworld, you can opt to either jump over enemies or get your hands dirty and build up experience. A few rounds in, you're introduced to a Katamari-style attack, where you get to tilt and roll over as many of your enemies as possible. Needless to say, it's a game mechanic that never gets old, and points to an array of daft gameplay styles that freshen things up.

Talking of which, the gameplay switches to a more traditional 2D platforming exploration experience later on in the demo. This, bizarrely, involves twanging Mario up to higher platforms via Luigi's on-screen moustache.

With AlphaDream demonstrating such dedication to playful nonsense, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team's arrival in Europe on July 12th will be a cause for much celebration.

Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move


In the good old days, it used to be Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Best described initially as a 'fierce rivalry involving the "borrowing" of frightened lady friends', this particular conflict then morphed into a bitter tale of clockwork toys.

Somewhere along the line, Donkey Kong and Pauline have actually joined forces to run a carnival. You read that right. And Mario's probably shaved off his 'tache, and is busily setting himself up as a therapist.

Whatever the logic, Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is basically an excuse to come up with a tile-moving puzzler, where you have to ensure the safe passage of a clockwork Mario from one side to another.

So, how does it work? On the touchscreen, you have access to a number of tiles down the right-hand side. The idea is to quickly shift them onto the correct square, and thereby create a path upon which Mini Mario can traverse.

As you progress through the levels, new obstacles and challenges enter the fray. These range from blockages that you must bomb out of the way, to tiles that you can eliminate to free up space for (hopefully) better ones.

As lame as that probably sounds, the reality is surprisingly engaging. And with 180 levels for you to look forward to, Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move's debut exclusively on the eShop on May 9th should be a cause for unfettered excitement.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf


I'll confess that I have a heart of ice, and never really took Animal Crossing to my heart back in the day. Since it came to DS and became one of Nintendo's biggest-selling global franchises, however, it appears that plenty of people absolutely adore it.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is, of course, the first handheld iteration in the series for nigh on eight years, which means, if nothing else, that its appearance is officially 'long awaited'.

Due for release on June 14th in Europe and on June 9th in North America, it doesn't, unsurprisingly, represent a massive departure from previous versions.

As ever, you move in to a rural village, build a humble abode, and then spend days, weeks, months performing endless tasks for lazy-arsed animals. Oh, and taking undue satisfaction from customising everything. But you could have probably guessed that, right?

The big news is that there are now far more customisation options. As mayor of the town, you now have the right to build bridges and buildings; make your own laws; and create museum exhibits.

You can also take a boat to a nearby tropical island full of fruit, insects, and fish, not to mention indulge in various mini-games that you can enjoy alone or with pals online.

In fact, multiplayer is a much bigger part of the overall experience than it was in previous instalments of the series, with the ability to visit other players' homes and towns (via wireless connection or online) present and correct. If you're that way inclined, you can also socialise with up to three other players at once. Imagine!

Apparently, up to four people can live in the same town on a single cartridge, and you can get together simultaneously with friends who also own a copy of the game (either online or via Local Play).

StreetPass integration is also a big deal in Animal Crossing: New Leaf, meaning you can now have a nose at other player's towns while they sleep. Actually, that sounds faintly creepy. But there you go.

Visually speaking, Animal Crossing: New Leaf is essentially Wii standard. The same beloved signature style of old is back, so expect a cutesy overload of slow-burn customisation chaos in the month of June.

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