One of the big E3 announcements from Nintendo this year is an unexpected partnership with Skylanders SuperChargers. Both Bowser and Donkey Kong will have their own figurines, and their characters are playable in Skylanders SuperChargers on Wii U. These figurines can also double as Amiibo, and functionality is toggled by twisting the base. According to the story, the Skylanders put out a call for help across the worlds, and these two Nintendo characters are the ones that respond. It's strange to imagine Bowser responding to a distress call, so we'll just assume that he has some sort of ulterior motive.
Both Nintendo characters have a range of special abilities. Bowser can summon Koopas (up to four) to fight alongside him. They'll patrol the area and beat up nearby enemies. He also has a fiery magma form, which changes his look and increases his size. Donkey Kong bashes enemies with his huge arms, and his special moves include playing a conga to attract enemies into tight groups to swipe at them all at once. Additionally, levels are far more interactive than they are in previous games. For example, you might have to clear away some clouds in order to reach a secret area. Different levels will have unique features to them.
The big gameplay feature for SuperChargers are the vehicles. Players can spend as much time as they want doing the traditional game mode, where they explore by foot and battle everything along the way, but jumping into a vehicle opens up new gameplay possibilities. SuperChargers will have 20 new characters, accompanied by 20 vehicles. Each vehicle has two attacks, and they will take players across land, sea and air.
Whether you take the skies, speed across the land, or transform your vehicle into a submarine to explore the watery depths, a variety of challenges await in each area. I used Donkey Kong and his signature Barrel Blaster to take on a boss character that continually summoned minions to attack me. Donkey Kong's vehicle attacks includes firing barrels surrounding himself in a circle of them, which can be used to ram enemies with. The barrels can also be used defensively as a shield against enemy shots, but not in the demo I was playing.
I had to ring four giant bells by ramming them with my car in order to open a giant gate. The first three, attached to around a half pipe, were easy enough to ram. But the fourth one was a little trickier. I had to drive off a ramp and ring a bell hovering in midair. However, the camera doesn't zoom far back enough for me to take in the whole stage, so I pretty much rung the third bell by pure luck.
Each Skylander, including the two exclusive Nintendo characters, have a signature vehicle. Pairing a figure with its personal vehicle, like Bowser with Hotstreak or Donkey Kong and Barrel Blaster, unlocks a unique look and a special ability. Vehicles can be further customized using mods, which can be picked up throughout the game. Mods not only change the look of the vehicle with fun upgrades like Green Shell Plating, they also change the vehicle's stats. So, an upgrade might offer additional hit points at the cost of speed or damage. One of the more spectacular mods is the Bonsai Bill Driller, which essentially transforms your plane into a flying Bonsai Bill styled bullet with wings.
Similar to previous games, figures and vehicles can be switched out at any time without interrupting gameplay. There is also no game over or restart if you're defeated, so kids won't have to put up with much frustration. All they have to do is switch out the Skylander figure for a fresh one and continue from where they left off. Additionally, all the figures from previous games can pilot vehicles, but they won't have signature pairings. So, perhaps Wolfgang (the guitar playing wolf from Trap Team) will be able to pilot a Bonsai Bill style airplane into battle. Traps will also be included in SuperChargers, but they'll be used differently. Instead of flipping an enemy over to your side, characters will be able to copy powers from the enemies they trap.
The developers also announced Dark figures at the San Diego Comic Con, which offer sleek black looks to special starter pack figures and their vehicles. The Dark look is completely cosmetic, and does not change the way the characters or vehicles play. There are no additional powers, or Dark variations on existing ones. They are essentially different skins and paint jobs for those who are a little tired of the bright colored look. Both Bowser and Donkey Kong will have Dark versions.
Whether you decide to go with a Dark side Donkey Kong or not, the game is shaping up to be good family fun. Vehicles bring in all-new areas to explore, and it's all tied together with interactive environments. The inclusion of Nintendo characters is great conga playing bonus.
Skylanders SuperChargers releases on September 20th for PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, and Wii U. The Nintendo characters are exclusive to the Wii U release of the game.