October 13th 2012 saw Event City in Manchester welcome gamers to Play Expo, an event featuring a wide variety of different gaming experiences from the classic to the latest and upcoming games from various publishers and developers. One of the most popular booths at the event this year was undeniably from Nintendo, bringing their Wii U Showcase tour along, giving people a chance to go hands on with their upcoming hardware and games. Shinesparkers were invited along to offer our thoughts.

Event City opens its doors for a weekend of gaming goodness

Event City opened its doors on the first day to huge crowds of people of all ages queuing up outside of Event City eager to check out the many offerings within. The event was delayed slightly due to an electrical fault, but the staff were quick to inform everyone and even kept the event open longer in the evening to make up for it. Once inside, I was immersed in gaming goodness. This isn’t the first time I have attended an event by Replay Events, I was also invited to Replay Expo last year and had a brilliant time!

My first port of call was undoubtedly Nintendo’s Wii U showcase booth, which was understandably crowded with keen gamers wanting to check out the Wii U and 3DS XL. I got in line behind the “Two hours from this point” sign, preparing myself for a extensive wait, but was pleasantly surprised to find that within thirty minutes I was inside the booth playing games with other Nintendo fans. Staff were also on hand to keep the crowds entertained with 3DS, offering Mario Kart 7 and Kid Icarus: Uprising to people waiting in line.

Gamers flocked to the Wii U booth to check out the latest hardware and games from Nintendo.

Once inside, I immediately checked out Nintendo Land. While Metroid Blast wasn’t shown at this event, it was good to get a taste of what the game has to offer. Five of the twelve games shown were The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Each of these games offered a very different experience, each one showing off the potential of the Wii U Gamepad. I was able to play each game with Gamepad and Wii remote where appropriate to ensure I got a complete experience, and I shall touch on each of them briefly.

Nintendo Land was very fun and quite diverse, showing multiple ways of enjoying the Wii U

The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest puts you in control of Link as you take down various enemies using a sword if wielding a Wii remote, or a bow if you’re using the Gamepad. I felt that the Wii U Gamepad was the best method of control, as you could aim more freely, while the Wii remote is on rails. Graphically the game looks great, but I hope that in future levels, Wii remote users will have more freedom to take on waves of enemies.

I played Luigi’s Ghost Mansion with four other people, playing as both the ghost and as the ghost hunter. Using the Wii remote, you can use your flashlight to locate the ghost and expose it to bright light. When using the Gamepad, you take control of the ghost and stealthily sneak up on players from behind. I really enjoyed this mode, I even beat one of the staff at the booth, which I felt quite smug about! It’s my favourite of the five games I played and I feel that whether you’re using the Wii remote or Gamepad, players will get a lot of enjoyment from the mini game.

Animal Crossing: Sweet Day has similarities to Ghost Mansion, where you take control of characters from the Animal Crossing series to collect fifty sweets using the Wii remote, or catch the animals and stop them from doing so with a larger view of the map on the Wii U Gamepad. I felt that using the Wii remote was best for this mini game as it was fun to communicate with other players to avoid getting caught.

Tilt and...be frustrated! Donkey Kong’s Crash Course will chew you up and spit you out!

From multiplayer, to single player experiences, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course offers a challenging experience to anyone who dares to pick up the Wii U Gamepad and take on its frantic obstacle course which requires you to turn the Gamepad to move your mine cart through moving platforms controlled by the trigger buttons or turning the analog sticks. This game takes no prisoners, and I tried a few times to complete just one level, with little success.

Takamaru’s Ninja Castle was the last Nintendo Land game that I played. The game requires you to hold the Gamepad flat, pointing towards the screen as you swipe your finger across the screen, firing Shurikens at Ninja’s around different environments. It requires some accuracy, which I felt was difficult in the crowded environment I was playing this in. However, it was still quite fun, and I am sure in a quieter environment at home, the game will be much better to play.

The turnout for Wii U was high, as was the praise

I played a wide range of Wii U games over the two days I was at Play Expo, including New Super Mario Bros U, Zombi U, Darksiders II, Rayman Legends and Batman: Arkham City: Armored Edition. I also went hands on with Paper Mario: Sticker Star on 3DS, which is a game I had a personal interest in. Overall, I was really happy with the offerings from Nintendo, and felt that the staff were knowledgeable about the hardware and games on offer and were approachable and helpful.

Outside of Nintendo’s presence at Play Expo, there was plenty on offer to suit many gaming tastes. If you’re a fan of retro gaming, you were totally in the right place. There were plenty of classic video game consoles and home computers such as the SNES, Atari and even a Japanese Famicom Disc System available to check out. There was also many free to play arcade and pinball machines, which seemed to be very popular. I noticed a Donkey Kong arcade machine too, but couldn’t play due to other attendees getting there first. That’s probably a good thing, because the last time I played Donkey Kong, I sucked..

Play Expo had plenty of cosplayers enjoying the event. Here's Professor Layton enjoying a cup of tea!

Play Expo also had a section for Cosplay, which included various related stalls offering lots of cool merchandise from the west. I saw lots of cool costumes, Professor Layton and Zelda made appearances, and Toad also made an appearance behind me while I was playing New Super Mario Bros U! Sadly, I was expecting to see much more cosplay, there was certainly enough support for it, and I hope this doesn’t discourage Replay Events from featuring Cosplay again in future events.

I was also really pleased to see tons of support from third party companies and exhibitors such as Microsoft, EA Games, Konami, Capcom, EGL and many many more! I had some great chats with the guys from Retro Collect, who are a retro gaming community and Retro Gamer CD (RGCD) who are an indie games development community, showcasing brand new, or revamped games on the classic Commodore 64 console. I really enjoyed the chat I had with James Monkman of CGCD, (Thanks for the free lollypop!). It was also great to talk with Robert Callister from Illegal Toothpaste, who had some cool games for attendees to play such as The Legend of Zelda: Four Sword Adventures, Taiko Drum Master and Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise.

Retro bargains galore! Console Passion bringing gamers a blast from the past

I’d also like to give a special mention to Console Passion, who were selling lots of retro gaming consoles, games and imported merchandise. Last year I picked up boxed Japanese copies of Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid II: Return of Samus and Super Metroid from Console Passion and was really pleased with the service I received. I didn’t pick up any games this time around, but I did find a cool Starman plush.

Overall, the event was fantastic. I had a fantastic time and I strongly recommend you check out any future events that Replay Events hold if you’re in, or plan to visit the UK. I want to give special mention to Andy Green, James Bowden and my good friends David and Stuart for assisting me during the event.

The final day of Play Expo, it's time to go home

Additionally, a big thanks to everyone at the Nintendo Wii U booth for being so kind, friendly, helpful and for putting up with me and letting me check out all the awesome games on offer for the Wii U, it looks like it’s going to be a great success! And of course, finally, a huge thank you to Replay Events for inviting me to cover the event. Be sure to check out the Replay Events website for more information on Play Expo and future events.