TIME China

This Move in China Could Be a Big Boon For Game Console Makers

2014 China Joy Digital Entertainment Expo & Conference In Shanghai
ChinaFotoPress—ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images Visitors experience the Xbox One game during the China Joy event on July 31, 2014 in Shanghai, China.

China is already the world's third biggest gaming market

In a big boon for Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, China has finally allowed the production and sale of video game consoles on their shores.

In a statement released by the Ministry of Culture, the move will mean that after 15 years, foreign and domestic companies will be allowed to manufacture and sell consoles anywhere in the country, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

Consoles were initially banned in 2000 to protect children and youth from the perceived negative effects of playing video games. This, however, hasn’t stopped traders from illegally importing consoles and selling them to customers at “gray markets”.

In January last year, China relaxed their ban by allowing “foreign-invested enterprises” to manufacture consoles inside Shanghai’s Free Economic Zone. The government, however, emphasized that new rules would be drafted to govern the entry of consoles into the country. “Things that are hostile to China, or not in conformity with the outlook of China’s government, won’t be allowed,” said Cai Wu, the head of the Ministry of Culture, in a report by Bloomberg.

This has opened the gateway for companies to start selling their hardware in a potentially huge market. China is the world’s third-largest market for video games, and could overtake the US as the biggest market with potential revenues of more than $22 billion by 2016, according to a report by Newzoo. As a result of China’s console ban, most of the games sold have been online, with sales of online games in China said to reach around $18 billion in 2014.

Companies have already taken steps to make their consoles available in China. Microsoft started selling their Xbox One in September of last year, and sold more than 100,000 units on the first day alone, marking a better debut in China than in Japan, according to a report by Polygon.

TIME Video Games

5 Reasons to Buy Nintendo’s Wii U Right Now

Wii U
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Nintendo's Wii U console, above, and touch-pad controller sit on display during an interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America Inc., in New York, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012.

The case for Nintendo's flagship console mid-2015.

To be clear, if you’re looking for a video game system that plays stuff like Grand Theft Auto V, The Witcher 3 or Batman: Arkham Knight, the Wii U isn’t for you. For one reason or another, Nintendo’s quirky, quasi-portable, dual-screen, trend-bucking system failed to clinch crucial third-party support, and thus lacks many of the current generation’s third-party blockbusters.

But likewise, if you want a system that plays games made by Nintendo, including those starring icons like Mario, Donkey Kong, Kirby or Zelda’s Link, the Wii U is pretty much a slam dunk, sluggish sales or no.

Here’s a roundup of reasons to consider the Wii U, mid-2015 edition.

The games it already plays

The Wii U harbors some of the most acclaimed first-party games of any system, bar none. It’s a formidable list that includes Super Mario 3D World (a clever hybrid 2D/3D platformer in the mold of Super Mario 64), Super Smash Bros. (a mammoth fighting game starring Nintendo’s beloved characters), Bayonetta 2 (a sublime, totally gonzo action game), The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD (a remastered version of director Eiji Aonuma’s nautical masterpiece), Mario Kart 8 (the apotheosis of the Mario Kart racing series), Pikmin 3 (an ingenious exploration-driven puzzler), New Super Mario Bros. U (old-school Super Mario Bros. sidescrolling with contemporary twists), Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (evolutionary Donkey Kong Country gameplay by Metroid Prime-maker Retro Studios), Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (an intricate monster-hunting, slaying and capturing simulation) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (rotate 3D micro-levels to find collectibles and solve progression puzzles) and Splatoon (think high octane paintball, only with squids).

The games coming this year

We lost The Legend of Zelda—originally due this year—to 2016, but the Wii U’s fall and holiday lineup still has its share of titans, including Super Mario Maker (a toolset that lets you create and share 2D Super Mario Bros. levels in retro 8-bit or contemporary 3D styles), Yoshi’s Woolly World (a sidescrolling platformer staged in levels made entirely of yarn and cloth), Star Fox Zero (the sixth installment in Nintendo’s sci-fi shooter series, and the first in nine years), Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash (the most cathartic tennis series on the planet) and Xenoblade Chronicles X (a sci-fi roleplaying game and spiritual sequel to the superlative Xenoblade Chronicles for Wii that could more than make up for Zelda‘s absence).

It has Amiibo, the Virtual Console and Wii backward-compatibility

The Wii U plays Wii U games, but also the entire Wii library (over 1,000 and counting), as well as NES and Super NES classics via the Virtual Console, from Super Metroid to F-Zero and Earthbound to Super Mario Bros. 3. And it shares Nintendo’s programmable Amiibo figurines with the Nintendo 3DS and uses them in ways no other toy-game vendor does, with uniquely tailored inbuilt support across multiple Nintendo titles instead of a single franchise.

You have children old enough to play games

Sony and Microsoft’s systems aren’t totally bereft of games both thematically and creatively aimed at younger players, but they’re pretty wanting. The Wii U is basically the inverse of that, though one of Nintendo’s hallmarks is crafting experiences that transcend demographic boundaries, meaning the system’s age-related floor is much lower, but its ceiling no less high.

It’s still less expensive than Sony or Microsoft’s systems

And it may wind up cheaper still if we see a late 2015 price drop (I’d argue it’s long overdue). But even without one, the Wii U remains the cheapest current-gen console on the block. You can grab a 32 GB model with various bundle options for $300$50 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One and $100 less than Sony’s PlayStation 4.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Fans Mourn Death of Satoru Iwata on Social Media

Gamers posted fan art on Twitter

Nintendo fans took to Twitter after the death of the company’s president and CEO, Satoru Iwata, to mourn the loss. In spite of their sadness, some were able to get very creative in their tributes to the gaming icon.

Read unpublished quotes from TIME’s March interview with Iwata here.

TIME Video Games

Read Satoru Iwata’s Unpublished Quotes From TIME’s Interview

The rest of Satoru Iwata's answers to questions posed in a broad-ranging March 2015 interview, and his last with a Western media outlet.

At just 55—a year younger than Apple’s Steve Jobs when he passed in 2011—Nintendo CEO and president Satoru Iwata has left us too soon. With his passing, the world of and beyond the games industry has lost a visionary leader and creative giant.

“Mr. Iwata is gone, but it will be years before his impact on both Nintendo and the full video game industry will be fully appreciated,” said Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie Fils-Aimé in a statement Monday morning. “He was a strong leader for our company, and his attributes were clear to most everyone: Intelligence, creativity, curiosity and sense of humor. But for those of us fortunate enough to work closely with him, what will be remembered most were his mentorship and, especially, his friendship. He was a wonderful man. He always challenged us to push forward…to try the new…to upset paradigms—and most of all, to engage, excite and endear our fans. That work will continue uninterrupted.”

Read more: Why Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Mattered

I spoke with Mr. Iwata in March for a TIME story about Nintendo’s plans to reinvent itself amid struggling sales, but I had to leave much of the interview out. Here are the rest of Iwata’s answers to my questions, in a dialogue that included his reflections on the evolution of digital content, the importance of multigenerational design and his thoughts on the responsibilities of a company obsessed with surprising (without alienating) consumers.

Note: A few of these answers were previously published in shorter form. I believe the complete versions offer broader insight into Iwata’s philosophies and personal style, and so I’ve included the full versions here.

On his desire to engage with Nintendo fans in unique ways

“I think a typical president of a company does not do things like Iwata Asks or Nintendo Direct, so some people might view me as a slightly strange president. But I do think that there is a tremendous amount of meaning for me to be able to do and continue to do things that only I can do, and so I’ll continue to look for new and unique things that I can contribute.”

On the value of content in a rapidly digitizing world

“We’ve seen dramatic changes to things like music and videos in terms of how they are shared over the last 10 years. And I think certainly we’ve seen it become much more convenient. But as a content industry, I think there are questions as to whether or not they’ve managed to sustain and maintain the value of that content. For example, an artist who once used to be able to sell millions of copies of CDs in the previous model, now they are not selling as many copies of their albums digitally, and the questions is if, as a content creator, they’ve been able to sustain that level of income and revenue in the new model, and I think that there’s questions as to whether or not the content creators have been able to.”

“The digital world is one that has sort of a unique characteristic, where it’s a place in which it’s very easy for the value of content to fall. In the music industry, for the artists who are not able to gather as large of an audience for live performance, they’re finding that they’re not able to achieve as rewarding of an outcome for their content creation. Similarly if you were to speak with movie producers they would have said in the past that DVDs were a very important revenue stream for their business model, but now what we’re seeing is that DVD sales are to achieving sales at the levels they once did and primarily that’s because now there are so many different video streaming services where you’re paying just a few dollars a month and you have access to tens of thousands of different movies that you can stream on demand.”

“And so what we have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking deeply about is, how do we as a content creator who is making games that we are spending tremendous amounts of resources to craft into these experiences that consumers can enjoy and find value in, how can we continue to deliver those experiences to consumers in a way that ensures that we can recoup that investment and achieve an appropriate level of revenue by maintaining the value of the content, while ensuring that the content we’re delivering is of value to the consumer.”

On Nintendo’s drive to create multigenerational, socially conscious experiences

“I guess one thing that I would say is that we have personally experienced of course that even though entertainment is a thing that one can enjoy on their own, it becomes much more fun when you are enjoying it together with others, friends or family. And that it becomes easier for that entertainment to reach a broader audience when it’s designed to do that, and we’ve got a lot of evidence that suggests this. One of the reasons that we put such a focus on things like StreetPass and local play is because we’ve felt that it adds a tremendous amount of value to our entertainment, and we’ve seen this time and again.”

“One thing that we have found over the years is that video games themselves are a thing that have a tendency to be difficult for them to break out of a particular segment, or a particular group, or a particular group of people with particular interests. But what we have found with some of our most successful products, is that they tend to be ones where people are playing them together and the communication is spreading much more broadly and more easily than standard word of mouth communication. And what you start to see is people of different generations playing together and talking with each other, and sometimes you even see grandchildren talking with their grandparents about a video game. And when the game itself is one that reaches across those different age groups, then you see situations where different people are talking about it together and learning from one another different things about the game. And we feel that these types of properties in games that we’ve created have brought many new people into the industry and been a great contribution to the video game industry as a whole.”

“And so even for example with the plans for our smart device efforts, that will also take on this theme of giving people opportunities to learn from one another about games, and giving games an opportunity to spread across different generations of people, and give people more opportunity to communicate with one another about games.”

On the inception of Super Smash Bros. during Iwata’s tenure at HAL Laboratories, and the original idea for Amiibo

“If you recall, I used to work at HAL Laboratories, and I was there at the time that they were working on the original Super Smash Bros. for the N64. And the individual who was responsible for localization of that Smash Bros. games is the individual who is translating for me now, which is Bill Trinen. But what’s interesting about the Smash Bros. games, is that the Smash Bros. games do not represent the Nintendo characters fighting against one another, they actually represent toys of Nintendo characters getting into an imaginary battle amongst themselves. And frankly that has to do with a very serious debate that we had within the company back then, which was, ‘Is it really okay for Nintendo characters to be hitting other Nintendo characters? Is it okay for Mario to be hitting Pikachu?'”

“Of course now Smash Bros. is such an obvious thing to be in existence than most people forget that that type of a debate was something that had to happen when the original game was created. And so the idea at that time was that, we already knew that there were going to be 50 characters playable in the new Smash Bros. game, which is now just released. At the time, the idea was that if we were to create a toy or a figure for each one of those characters, and if you could tap that toy to the system and have that toy interact with not just Smash Bros. but with a lot of different games, you would see very quickly that people would want to collect the toys and they would want to get the benefit of having the toys and using the toys in many different games, and that together all of that would make the overall value of the platform increase greatly for the consumers, and the value of owning the toys and the games would also increase. So that was the original idea around amiibo.”

On the Nintendo Wii and taking risks

“In the time period before Wii was called Wii and we still referred to it as Revolution, no one thought it was going to succeed. But it produced the results that it did, and it was able to do that on the back of Wii Sports, on a single software title, which changed the fate of the system. And so I think the entertainment industry is one where continually we’ve seen how a single product can determine the future of a product or company, and that’s where I think us being able to devote all of our Kyoto craftsmanship to creating our products is where people can look forward to what’s coming from us in the future.”

On Nintendo’s iconic IP and wooing third parties

“Nintendo is a company that’s in a very unique position, in that we are both a platform holder, a console manufacturer and we are a strong content provider with very strong IP. The basic underlying principle is that when we are able to showcase the value and the appeal of our software titles, then people see the value and appeal of our hardware. And that’s how we build momentum and we sustain that momentum, and it’s when we’ve built that momentum then that the third-party publishers are excited to join in and support us.”

“But when we have a situation like we have with Wii U, when the hardware is not reaching a suitable level of sales, then it’s harder for the third parties to come and support the platform, and that is when we have to rely more heavily on our first-party production, and we’ve experienced this at times in the past as well. So one approach that we take with that is an approach similar to Hyrule Warriors, where what we’ve done is we’ve taken one of our very strong IP and we’ve combined it with a strong gameplay system from an outside publisher and provided that on our platform as a way to continue to provide additional offerings to our consumers.”

“By leveraging our first-party studios to drive the appeal of both our software and our hardware, we’re then able to lay the foundation for the third parties to be able to do a meaningful business on our platforms. So as we go forward, going forward with the intent of trying to achieve that momentum and that foundation sooner. We achieved it with both Wii and DS, but it wasn’t there at the beginning. The third-party support for both of those systems came, but they weren’t there right at the beginning. And so we need to have the mentality of quickly establishing the appeal and that initial install base to make it easier for the third parties to come and support our systems earlier.”

On designing resonant, easily grasped entertainment experiences

“We’re constantly creating prototypes, many of which never see the light of day, but those prototypes, they come in a very wide variety, and they represent varying forms and varying systems and varying structures, so anything is possible. Ideally what I would like to see us do is, choose an approach that doesn’t require a lot of explanation, and is something that people can understand quickly at first glance. Ultimately we’re an entertainment company and we make entertainment products, but if it takes a lot of explanation for people to understand your entertainment product, you’re doing something wrong. So I don’t know when we’ll be able to show you something, but I hope that when we do Matt, you’ll reflect on our conversation today and you’ll say ‘A-ha, I got it!'”

TIME Video Games

Why Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Mattered

He was one of the few gaming execs with hands-on experience

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata has died at only 55 years old after battling cancer for over a year. His unexpected passing marks the end of a wildly inventive and broadly celebrated 13-year stretch helming the iconic Kyoto video games company.

Iwata, born in Sapporo, Japan in 1959, was only the fourth person to lead Nintendo since its inception as a playing card company in 1889, and the first president unrelated to the founding Yamauchi family. His ascent to the topmost Nintendo position in 2002 was unusual as it followed a career in software engineering, making him one of the industry’s only corporate luminaries with substantial hands-on game creation experience.

In an exclusive interview with TIME this spring — Iwata’s last with a Western media outlet — he talked about how personally involved he remained in helping drive and evaluate the company’s hallmark unorthodox inventions. He called Nintendo “a company of Kyoto craftsman” and joked “this is where my background in technology is quite helpful, because it means that the engineers can’t trick me.”

At Tokyo-based Nintendo affiliate HAL Laboratory during the 1980s and 90s, Iwata helped develop some of Nintendo’s most memorable games. That list includes Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64, the opening salvo in a critically lauded and financially lucrative fighting series starring Nintendo characters like Mario and Donkey Kong that’s since sold in the tens of millions for the company. After he was promoted to president of HAL Laboratory in 1993, he continued to work personally on the company’s products, including several titles in Nintendo’s wildly popular Pokémon series.

Iwata’s move to Nintendo came in 2000, when he assumed management of the company’s corporate planning division. Just two years later, then-Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who had helmed the company since 1949, decided to retire, allowing Iwata to step in and steer Nintendo through its most inventive period yet.

It was under Iwata that Nintendo ushered in the Nintendo DS, a dual-screen gaming handheld that succeeded the popular Game Boy, eventually going on to challenge Sony for the title of “bestselling games platform of all time.” Nintendo’s wildly successful Wii, now arguably the most recognizable video game system in the industry’s history, arrived in 2006, another Iwata-led gamble that paid incredible dividends following the company’s lackluster GameCube, which launched in 2001. And while Iwata’s critics often accused the company of reacting too slowly to industry trends, Iwata wasn’t afraid to enact radical change: after years of financial downturns (exacerbated by the company’s poorly received Wii U game console), he unveiled plans this March to develop games for smartphones and tablets. The world will now remember Iwata as the Nintendo leader who tore down the wall between the company’s heavily guarded iconic IP and non-Nintendo platforms.

But it was Iwata’s playful, almost mischievous and refreshingly candid personal style that so endeared him to the company’s fans. In 2011, he helped launch a video series dubbed Nintendo Direct, personally emceeing the company’s biggest surprises, often with quirky framing twists, like an effects-laden mock kung-fu brawl with Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé for E3 2014. At Nintendo’s E3 2015 presentation last month, he appeared as a Muppet designed by The Jim Henson Company.

Iwata’s other significant public relations innovation was “Iwata Asks,” a remarkable series in which Iwata interviewed members of Nintendo’s many development teams, delving into the anecdotal history of some of the company’s best loved projects. It was a Nintendophile’s dream come true.

Above all, Iwata established and maintained a decorous tone often at odds with his competitors. In lieu of visually splashy, clamorous stage-led events at annual game shows, Iwata chose charmingly simple, almost dignified presentational vignettes. When fans responded negatively to a new Nintendo idea, Iwata’s reaction was often swift and direct: after an upcoming Nintendo DS game built on a hallowed Nintendo franchise was waved off by fans at E3 last month, Iwata tweeted his thanks to fans for their feedback and promised to meet their expectations.

Read more Nintendo CEO reveals plans for smartphones

Iwata’s health problems were first aired just before E3 in June 2014, when Iwata, who had been planning to attend the show (I was scheduled to meet with him), mysteriously backed out. At the time, Nintendo said Iwata’s doctors had warned him against travel, but didn’t say why. A few weeks later, the company disclosed Iwata was battling cancer, specifically a tumor in his bile duct. At that point he’d had surgery, and his prospects sounded hopeful because the doctors had apparently found the tumor early. When he resumed appearing in Nintendo Direct videos following E3, he was clearly thinner, but seemed otherwise unfazed. Though he again missed this year’s E3, he remained publicly active to the end, participating in Nintendo’s last shareholder meeting just a few weeks ago.

When I spoke with Mr. Iwata by phone for TIME’s story on the company this spring, he sounded his normal, puckish self, answering my questions with upbeat and insightful remarks. He laughed often, and had the rest of us chuckling as well. Iwata had a knack for making interviewers feel at ease, mostly because he knew how to answer even the questions he wasn’t allowed to with an apologetic sincerity lost on most corporate leaders. And he always had something interesting to add, usually an amusing or revealing anecdote. He’ll be rightly remembered for all the triumphs listed above and more, but it was his warmth and affability when engaging with strangers that I’ll remember most.

Read next: Nintendo Allows Same-Sex Marriage in Role-Playing Game

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TIME Nintendo

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies at 55

He was only the company's fourth president.

Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata died Saturday due to a bile duct growth, the company announced Sunday.

Iwata, 55, was appointed president of the gaming company in 2002, overseeing the launch of the hugely successful Wii console, the Nintendo DS handheld and its line of Amiibo interactive figurines.

In March, he spoke to TIME about the company’s plans to move into the smartphone gaming market.

When he replaced longtime president Hiroshi Yamauchi, Iwata became only the fourth president in the history of the company and the first from outside the Yamauchi family.

Read Next: Inside Nintendo’s Bold Plan to Stay Vibrant for the Next 125 Years

TIME Video Games

Watch What Happens When Mario’s Creator Meets the Muppets

Take a peek behind The Jim Henson Company's studio doors with Nintendo video games luminary Shigeru Miyamoto.

Did you catch Nintendo’s zany puppet-filled E3 showcase? Were you left wondering whether those were just slick Nintendo-fashioned Muppet knockoffs or the real thing?

The video above lays the question to rest. In it, Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto confabs with The Jim Henson Company chairman and Muppets maven Brian Henson, and tours the company’s historic Charlie Chaplin Studios headquarters. (Yep, that’s Mr. Miyamoto grabbing a shot of Kermit with his smartphone.)

That’s also pioneering Zelda and Mario collaborator Takashi Tezuka as well as Nintendo Senior Product Marketing Manager Bill Trinen accompanying Mr. Miyamoto on the tour. It sounds like Nintendo reached out to The Henson Company when it was pulling its idea for the E3 video together. The Henson Company then built the puppet likenesses of Nintendo’s executive team (including Mr. Miyamoto) as well as their elaborate Star Fox analogues. And Nintendo asked Brian Henson himself to sit in ther director’s chair:

Also of interest, it seems The Henson Company gave Mr. Miyamoto a rare award back in 2008 (they’ve only handed out 15 total) for, as Mr. Miyamoto describes it speaking to Brian Henson, “all the games [he] made for children and helping them to dream different dreams.”

“We gave them out to who we thought were the most imaginative people in the world,” says Henson.

“Even now I have it in the center of my room,” says Mr. Miyamoto.

TIME Gaming

Nintendo Allows Same-Sex Marriage in Role-Playing Game

fire-emblem-fates
Nintendo

“We believe that our gameplay experiences should reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate.”

A Nintendo videogame released in Japan on Wednesday and drops in the U.S. in 2016 will break new ground by including the option for same-sex marriage for the first time.

The characters in the popular role-playing game series Fire Emblem will be able to marry people of the same sex. Nintendo issued this statement to announce the decision:

“We believe that our gameplay experiences should reflect the diversity of the communities in which we operate and, at the same time, we will always design the game specifications of each title by considering a variety of factors, such as the game’s scenario and the nature of the game play. In the end of course, the game should be fun to play. We feel that Fire Emblem Fates is indeed enjoyable to play and we hope fans like the game.”

The gaming company had previously received criticism for not offering same-sex relationship options in its games. The new game will be called Fire Emblem Fates in North America and is playable on Nintendo’s handheld 3DS console.

[Japan Times]

TIME Video Games

Nintendo’s New Game Lets You Create the Mario Levels of Your Dreams (or Nightmares)

Super Mario Maker lets players build custom levels

Super Mario Bros. turns 30 this year, and Nintendo is celebrating the iconic video game character’s birthday in style with a new game that’s like a love letter to Mario’s legacy.

In Super Mario Maker, players can build their own levels using the warp pipes, question-mark blocks, piranha plants and other items that have become Mario staples over the years. Players can even skin their levels to look like the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. U, complete with items and moves specific to those games. Levels can be shared with others online.

In an E3 trailer showing off the title, Nintendo revealed some particularly twisted worlds built with the level editor, featuring giant Koopa Troopas, a screenful of Boos and an entire wall of fireballs, among other obstacles. Players will be able to use Mario’s signature mushrooms to transform into other Nintendo characters, such as Link and Wii Fit Trainer, as well. The alternate costumes can be unlocked in-game or using Nintendo’s toys-to-life Amibo action figures.

Super Mario Maker debuts on Sept. 11 for the Wii U.

TIME Video Games

Nintendo Is Doing Something Totally Unexpected With Its Super-Popular Amiibo

Nintendo is adding its Amiibo figurines to Activision's Skylanders

Crazy, but true: Nintendo’s Amiibo figurines are about to join hands with Activision’s new Skylanders game in a deal no one saw coming, but in hindsight makes perfect sense.

Activision unveiled its latest Skylanders installment, Skylanders: SuperChargers, a few weeks ago, but breathed not a word about Nintendo’s involvement. Instead, we learned that the pioneering toy-to-life series’ fifth outing would see vehicles hit the franchise for the first time, paired with new Skylanders (the series’ quirky fantasy characters) to conjure “supercharged” versions of said characters and vehicles capable of more deftly navigating mammoth new land, sea and sky-based levels.

As of Tuesday, you can add two completely new and technologically singular Nintendo Amiibo figurines, with their own matching vehicles, to the dossier of Skylanders: SuperChargers derring-doers. Pick your jaws up off the floor and meet Hammer Slam Bowser and Turbo Charge Donkey Kong.

Activision
Activision

Yep, we’re talking bona fide Nintendo icons in a not-Nintendo-made game. What’s more, they work in both Skylanders and Nintendo Amiibo-supported games. How? With a twist of the base, you can cycle from Amiibo to Skylanders mode. It’s that simple.

In my demo with Skylanders developer (and Activision subsidiary) Vicarious Visions, the company illustrated how both figures are going to work in Skylanders: SuperChargers, which is to say, pretty much like all the other Skylanders characters, albeit with distinctively Nintendo-ish DNA.

Take Hammer Slam Bowser, who lumbers around meting out destruction with a giant hammer, a pair of flaming fists, and the ability to spit fire. But he can also summon koopas (the Mario-series turtle-thingies) which then operate as either minions or deadly pinballing weapons if you whack them with your hammer or stomp on their backs Super Mario Bros. style.

Pair Bowser with his de facto vehicle, the plane-like Clown Cruiser, which by default sports a koopa clown face (a nod to a Bowser battle in Super Mario World), and you’ll supercharge its abilities, conjuring a wooden version of Bowser’s head on its nose (a nostalgic nod to Super Mario Bros. 3‘s airships).

For Donkey Kong, the character’s dressed in a stunt man jumpsuit, iconic red DK tie and can transform into Super Kong, wielding giant barrels like boxing gloves on each hand. You can throw those barrels, of course, but you can also pound on a bongo to unsettle enemies, turn into a giant steamrolling barrel, or rain down girders and ladders (bright blue and red) modeled after Donkey Kong’s original arcade appearance.

Activision

Marry Donkey Kong with his optimal vehicle, the Barrel Blaster, and you get a souped up motorbike that looks a little like the fat-tired Batcycle from Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight sporting a cannon-saddled sidecar. And who’s in that sidecar? Diddy Kong, of course.

Both characters come in their own starter packs, which include the game, either Donkey Kong or Bowser, their corresponding supercharger vehicle and a Skylanders figurine for $74.99. The only catch: You’ll need a Wii U, Wii, or 3DS to use the special Amiibo with the game.

The new Nintendo figures will be available when Skylanders: SuperChargers launches on September 20 in North America.

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