Wednesday, June 23, 2010
E3 2010 Day Two: Kid in a Candy Store
That said, it's time to finally finish the rest of my E3 coverage here and finally get it posted and over with.Most of the focus goes to Nintendo, which revived multiple classic franchises against expectations, brought a strong Wii lineup to the table, a smaller name but still strong DS one, and then blew minds with the unveil of the DS's successor - the 3DS. There'll also be some more third party and industry narrative talk, and then a brief look at Sony's conference, which was as embarrassingly lackluster as Microsoft's last Monday. With the contents within, I wrap my E3 2010 coverage and commentary and get back to my usual stuff - and there's good stuff coming to make up my excessive video game babble to the rest of you. Yes, it's actually in the works.
Christmas Come Early: Nintendo at E3 2010
Nintendo came to E3 this year with the most positive buzz behind them, that Sony and Microsoft were planning to spend their conferences on their new motion peripherals being known. I actually went out of my way to stay up and watch the conference live at noon last Tuesday on G4, which has gone back to being unwatchable on the whole since they cancelled their two-season 8-bit animated series Code Monkeys. (Honestly, the whole channel is a good argument for why "hardcore gamer culture" will never catch on as something mainstream - said culture not catching on is very much a positive.) They aired the whole thing live and free from commercial interruption, anyway, so I can't complain.
For easy reference, everything notably Nintendo at E3 is easily accessible at their E3 Network site, from trailers to developer interviews, game details, new hardware information, and awkwardly English-dubbed discussions between Nintendo President and CEO Satoru Iwata and various other industry figures - a rare case of a corporate leader actually being personable and interesting, since rather than just being the usual expected suit, Iwata's a game developer himself and is actually personally involved with and invested in what they do at Nintendo. This is undoubtedly a factor in the company's meteoric rise to the forefront in video gaming in recent years, while the competition completely lacks this connection and involvement as they struggle to remain relevant.
Rather than battle on at quite as much length as in the last post, I'm going to break down the game announcements platform by platform, with links to trailers and some commentary.
The Wii's a bit over halfway through its fourth year on the market now, and after years of being impossible to find on shelves as its sales continuously exploded, its unprecedented momentum began to slow some. The media, slanted toward Sony and Microsoft as ever, have ignored actual regular sales figures and latched onto the narrative that "the Wii is losing momentum, while the PS3 and Xbox 360 are gaining it" - once again attempting to continue to imply that "Nintendo is doomed," the unchanging video game industry chorus. The popular myths perpetuated by a gaming industry media slanted against them were the first target of Nintendo's conference at E3, as Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime stepped out on stage and brought some truth to the crowd. New Super Mario Bros. Wii made the Wii impossible to find on shelves for months again after its holiday season launch last year - the unsustainably high, unprecedented sales of the Wii can be recaptured with a well made high demand game here and there. Even when the Wii can't maintain those ridiculously high sales numbers, its sales momentum is still the strongest in the industry by a wide margin, and even when paired with major releases, the competition's consoles can rarely match even a single week's sales of the console - there's no evidence of any kind of meaningful increase in sales momentum for the other two. The occasional sales bump from a major game or price cut, but they're never sustained. And they don't know how to reach out to the general public, having spend all generation marketing their platforms to a very specific, small audience, while telling the masses they aren't welcome on their platforms of privilege for so-called 'superior' gamers. 'Superior' gamers who do not actually buy enough hardware or software to make Sony and Microsoft's video game console divisions successful, let alone to keep the third party companies publishing games on their systems afloat.
They rely on technology, as Reggie made a point of succinctly noting. They push technology, but these are not gaming platforms designed and developed by gamers, and not with gaming in particular in mind. They bring powerful technology to the table - as they've spent all generation on and bragging about, "high-definition graphics" having been their primarily pushed selling point the whole time - but they don't focus on the experience. That alone is a major point of division between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo - Reggie spoke again of their design philosophy in working to harmonize their technology with the experience of the games, knowing full well that technology is only as valuable as what you actually do with it. Graphics alone were the main focus of the competition, and that focus failed them. Moving on, Reggie also noted the common myth that "nothing sells" on the Wii, commonly touted on gaming blogs and message boards when attacking Nintendo, ignoring the actual sales numbers. But with all the numbers in - Wii owners buy more games and spend more time gaming than the self-proclaimed "hardcore" crowd on the competitors' platforms that spend so much of their time sneering at Nintendo and its customers across the internet. You don't see much criticism, let alone objective discussion and plain truth about the state of the industry these days when it comes to what Nintendo and their competitors are doing, as Sony and Microsoft have become such sacred cows to the self-proclaimed "hardcore." The Wii audience? They're too busy having fun with their games to waste their time getting into fights on the internet. There's something heartening about that - the divide between "hardcore gamer culture," in feeling as threatened as it does, and normal, well-adjusted people having fun with a hobby. This is how video gaming loses its negative stigma as a hobby - not by games like Halo and Call of Duty becoming insanely popular with the masses, not being admired for having a high gamer score and being "one of those hardcore gamers!" but by fun, accessible games being made for everyone to enjoy without even a hint of the contempt the 'hardcore' crowd carries for hobbyists outside the subculture.
It is in this spirit that Nintendo came to E3 this year with something for everybody, and one of their most impressive lineups in years.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword - Nintendo opened their conference with a couple of trailers and a live demonstration of the game their fans had been anticipating most at this year's E3. Father of modern gaming Shigeru Miyamoto showed off the game's new art and control styles - requiring the MotionPlus attachment for perfect 1:1 swordplay motion controls for the deepest combat and most action a 3D Zelda has ever seen - while translator Bill Trinen acted as an interpreter. There was some minor wireless interference during the demonstration, but that didn't put a damper on the game's overall impact - after Twilight Princess, a Gamecube up-port, opened the generation, Skyward Sword is the long-awaited first Wii Zelda game developed from the ground up for the system, fully taking advantage of what its controls can do for the series, while working on returning the franchise to its gameplay roots after falling into a predictable formula with the 3D games that debuted on the N64 in the late '90s. In this game, Link lives in a kingdom above the clouds called Skyloft, and spends the game adventuring back and forth between Skyloft and the dark, oppressed lands beneath the clouds. It promises to be the most exciting console Zelda in quite a few years, and was an amazing start to the show. The game won't be out until sometime in 2011, though, so we have a bit of a wait ahead yet.
Mario Sports Mix - Following that, Nintendo moved on to offerings for sports fans. Nintendo has a history of getting the short end of the stick on serious realistic sports game efforts, this generation included, despite that you'd think their having motion controls as a standard feature would make the Wii the go-to console for the sports genre. The Wii has, however, been a thriving platform for arcade-style sports games - which in my eyes, are a lot more fun than the more realistic games - and in that vein, they highlighted a major third party exclusive (The revival of NBA Jam, which I'll cover later down in this post), and unveiled a new Mario Sports game of their own as this E3's only Mario game to get major coverage. (After last year's conference featured both New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2, which have gone on to be smash hits since their respective releases. You can always count on quality with Mario.) Rather than just tackling one sport like in the past with games like Mario Tennis, Mario Golf, and the Super Mario Strikers soccer games, this time around, this Square-Enix developed first party release brings explosive, arcade-style volleyball, hockey, dodgeball, and basketball to the Mario universe. As Wii sports games go, this definitely looks like another excellent one.
Wii Party - Next up came an expected title, which had already begun receiving press coverage in Japan weeks before E3. The "Wii" series - Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Play, Wii Fit, Wii Music, and Wii Fit Plus - which tends to focus on simple, arcade-style gameplay, player health, and personal player investment in bringing their little personal Mii avatars into the game world, has been one of Nintendo's biggest new franchises this generation, and a tremendous success. But because they're all designed to be very pick-up-and-play oriented so that anybody can comfortably get into them and have fun, it's a favorite franchise for the 'hardcore' crowd to raise a stink over online, insisting that new, wider audience games like this are ruining gaming for their older fanbase - which is demonstrably false, of course, since Nintendo still makes more games for their longtime fans than ever before, and even more than their expanded audience titles. Reggie discussed Wii Party, like the rest of the "Wii" series, as a "bridge," in that it gives audiences who might never play or be interested in video games otherwise something they can connect with personally and find the appeal of gaming through. Everybody who plays video games has to start somewhere, and most people who get into games like this - despite popular web forum troll arguments - end up getting into more traditional video gaming as well through the gateway these titles offer, so they're a very important franchise, not just for Nintendo, but for all of the industry, which can always sorely use new blood in game players as much as they need new designers and visionaries in the increasingly stagnant industry. All that said, Wii Party's a fun collection of new Mii-based party games, with board game style modes and many others. An excellent addition to the franchise, with many creative uses for the system's gameplay capabilities not doable in the past. Though I haven't picked up any of the games beyond Wii Sports - which came with my Wii (And Resort is a pack-in now too, along with MotionPlus) - I've been enjoying watching the "Wii" franchise grow as Nintendo continues to find more uses for their little Mii avatars, one of their most appealing new features this generation. I have a feeling we may see some fantastic Mii-based social networking and indepth simulation games in the future as well - their potential is only beginning to be tapped, and Wii Party is another good way of using them.
Kirby's Epic Yarn - The next big surprise in Nintendo's conference came in something long hinted at, but ultimately very unexpected. For the first time since the N64 - not counting the fun, arcade-style racing game he had on the Gamecube in Kirby Air Ride - Kirby's getting a new console game. Nintendo had teased a 3D Kirby back on the Gamecube with 2D sidescrolling style traditional gameplay that fans had assumed might someday turn into a finished game, since Air Ride spent years in development hell before Nintendo was happy enough with it to release it. What we got was something completely different - yes, the title itself is a pun. Kirby returns to consoles at last in a completely different style 2D sidescrolling platformer inspired by an old Kirby's Adventure commercial in Japan - this time, instead of inhaling enemies and taking their powers, he's a piece of yarn exploring an entirely textile/fabric art world, exploring all the fabric's nooks and crannies, battling new takes on old enemies as well as new faces, collecting all sorts of goodies, and using all kinds of new yarn-based powers. There's even two-player cooperative play, taking a page from the smash success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii to make sure people can sit down and play together. As a fan of the Kirby series ever since my father picked me up the original Gameboy game on release when I was at home sick with the chicken pox back in second grade, I can't wait to play this game. It's teeth-rottingly adorable and fantastically inventive. A great announcement from out of left field. And the game is due out this fall, well before the holiday season!
Metroid: Other M - I don't have as much to say about this one as the others. It was originally unveiled at E3 last year, so it's not a big surprise. The new trailer looks very nice, though - a mix of old school style 2D Metroid platforming and 3D action with a gorgeous visual style. I have some concerns with the game, though - Retro Studios, which made the Prime games, has moved on to a new project (Which I'll discuss shortly, as it's coming out this year!), so Nintendo turned to the modern Ninja Gaiden series' development team, Team Ninja, to reinvent Metroid in 3D. The Metroid Prime trilogy was fantastic and really did the best job imaginable bringing the experience of exploring desolate planets and fighting hostile space pirates and alien life to life across the Gamecube and Wii in 3D. The series has never been heavily story-based, but in an attempt to get Japanese gamers - who have mostly ignored the series after the first two games - Other M is the most story-heavy Metroid game to date, complete with massive prerendered movie cutscenes exploring bounty hunter Samus Aran's past and origins as she explores the huge, desolate environment in this one. Metroid is not about watching cutscenes. And apparently she won't use certain weapons at times due to not receiving permission from another character - Metroid has never been about characters, and as this silent, strong ultra-feminist figure in Nintendo's long-running character stable, the writing they've done for her in Other M frankly sounds out of character. That said, the game still looks great in motion, so while I have some misgivings about the movie and story-heavy approach, I'm looking forward to actually playing the game after it hits at the end of August.
Donkey Kong Country Returns - Yes, you read that right. The aforementioned new Retro Studios project turned out to be none other than going from succeeding at bringing the Metroid series into 3D with flying colors to bringing Donkey Kong back to the forefront after a run of less popular titles following the Super Nintendo's legendary Donkey Kong Country trilogy by Rare. Donkey Kong 64 - which has yet to hit the Virtual Console download service on the Wii - didn't hit an audience nearly as large as the Donkey Kong Country series, nor did the musical drum controller based Donkey Konga games on the Gamecube, nor the Gamecube and Wii port of the more action oriented Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, which at least recaptured some of the original spirit of the Country trilogy. Donkey Kong Country Returns brings us back to D.K. and Diddy Kong - with rumors already flying that we may see Dixie Kong unlockable - with gorgeous 3D graphics and the same kind of 2D sidescrolling gameplay we came to love on the SNES over a decade ago in our childhoods. Likewise, there's cooperative play like in New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Kirby's Epic Yarn, so two people can play together, each controlling one of the monkeys. There's a few new features, like Diddy Kong's jetpack, and new villains - the Tikis have replaced King K. Rool and the Kremlings. But the story - D.K.'s banana hoard being stolen - and soundtrack (Completely remixed and remastered) are familiar. Donkey Kong Country Returns was another wonderful surprise revival at Nintendo's E3 conference, and it'll hit as perhaps the biggest game in Nintendo's very packed holiday season lineup this year - I can see it easily accomplishing this year much of what New Super Mario Bros. Wii did last year, considering that it's been about 15 or so years since our last big Donkey Kong hit. At long last, the Donkey Kong we know and love is back, one of the SNES's most beloved franchises returning with something that looks fantastic.
FlingSmash - Kicking off the Wii games not shown at the conference, but otherwise still shown at their booth and on track for release is FlingSmash. At heart, FlingSmash is a very small title to give MotionPlus peripheral owners something else that makes good use of it - a sort of tennis-meets-pinball score-attack-oriented action adventure game. You use the Wii remote with MotionPlus to smash the little lead character around across levels, racking up points, defeating enemies, and avoiding things that can screw up your score combos or make you lose points as you wreck your way through the game's eight worlds. A nice home arcade style game due out late this fall that looks like fun. Innovative motion game design.
PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure - One that I'm passing on, but worth noting since it's part of Nintendo's lineup. A pretty decent scale looking 3D Pikachu adventure set in the world of a PokePark theme park, with lots of minigames to play and things to do. It's quite lovely visually, and with that music, there's a definite relaxing atmosphere. I'm not a very good Pokemon fan, though - I've only picked up two of the games between one of the very first ones on the Gameboy and a Gameboy Advance one several years back. Still, a nice treat for Pokemon fans, and I could see perhaps picking it up in the bargain bin someday if I ever exhaust the huge numbers of other Wii games I'm interested in. There's no release date for PokePark Wii yet, but it may end up being another holiday title.
Samurai Warriors 3 - The last of the three first party Nintendo releases for the Wii not to be shown at the conference itself. And this is one of my most anticipated games coming to the Wii yet - like Dragon Quest IX ahead, it's a third party game that Nintendo's directly invested in and is publishing as a first party title here. The "Musou" series - made up of the Shin Sangoku Musou (Dynasty Warriors) and Sengoku Musou (Samurai Warriors) games - tends to be very hit or miss for players. Critics in the west hate these games because each new title is basically a refined version of the same core game - an epic-scale feudal brawler (Set in China's Three Kingdoms era in the Dynasty games and Japan's Warring States/"Sengoku" period in the Samurai games) dropping the player down into the middle of vast battlefields with various objectives to carry out as you play and power up one of many famous historical figures (And occasionally fictional or player-created original characters) from the time, recreating these famous battles and changing the flow of history. Koei's built a strong track record on decades of Japanese and Chinese history based games like these, but unless you're really into arcade-style repetitive games where you're constantly moving about beating the tar out of hordes of soldiers and enemy officers while upgrading your characters, it can be hard to get into. I fell in love with the series as it got big on the PS2 last generation, and after Koei focused heavily on the HD consoles - and lost a tremendous amount of money there, showing that they need to get off those platforms - this is their first 'real' Warriors/Musou game for the Wii. It looks excellent in action, with role-playing game style stat building for characters, a good original character creation system, tons of story modes to play through, the deepest equipment and weapon system in the series yet, and an exclusive Murasame Castle adventure mode based on an old Zelda-like Nintendo game that never came west, bringing its protagonist - Takamaru - into the Samurai Warriors world. This mode even features online cooperative multiplayer, on top of the game's usual local two-player cooperative play options. As a huge fan of this series and its addictive, stress-relieving arcade-style action, I can't wait for Samurai Warriors 3 to finally hit this fall, and am hoping to pick it up as soon as I can after its arrival. Fantastically, Nintendo has left the original Japanese audio in as an option for the western release too, so I can ignore the English dub. Hopefully Koei will follow this with more Nintendo-backed Musou series games on the Wii - I'd love to be able to play Dynasty Warriors 7 and a Dynasty Warriors Gundam game on there. It's nice to see more of these arcade style brawlers where you can mow down thousands of enemies in a single battle, rather than the kinds of brawlers the HD consoles get more of, like God of War and Devil May Cry, that are more set on looking and feeling "cool," and less interested in this kind of pure arcade style action.
Epic Mickey - Now that the first party Wii games from the conference are out of the way, it's time to look at the third party games they showed off at the conference. First up, Nintendo's partnered with Disney - which has decided to get serious about gaming after mostly becoming irrelevant after all their memorable NES and SNES era games, following a few successful original stints like the Spectrobes series they produced on the DS and Wii - for a huge exclusive title. Epic Mickey, designed by Warren Spector, one of the best game design minds in the western industry, a legend unto himself - games like the Wing Commander and Ultima series, which he worked on, were a big part of my PC gaming habit in my childhood - is another of the big holiday release games coming up late this year, and it could possibly be one of the very best game of the year. Set in the world of Wasteland, Epic Mickey is a huge adventure - mixing Mario style platforming with Zelda series and RPG elements - celebrating the forgotten and dilapidated side of the Disney universe. Instead of playing as modern, Prozac-happy Mickey, we return to playing as the Mickey Mouse of the original cartoons, who could be anything from kind to a tremendous jerk to everybody. You interact with the world through a magic paintbrush, using paint to create things and turn enemies friendly, bringing color back to the dismal world, and paint thinner to destroy enemies and erase obstacles. This gives you a tremendous amount of depth in how you can interact with and explore the world - even the ability to skip certain areas and bosses entirely if you know what you're doing, apparently - and with multiple moralities of sorts you can affect as Mickey, there's a tremendous amount to see and do, and multiple endings to earn, warranting multiple playthroughs to experience everything there is to be experienced. Oswald the Lucky Rabbit - one of Disney's oldest and most unused characters - will be appearing as a primary antagonist in this game all about everything forgotten and cast aside about Disney, from characters to theme park rides and more. A brilliant meshing of Warren Spector's game design genius and a side of Disney we never see. And even Pixar is actually involved in some of the game's animation work. Fantastic. One of my most anticipated games of the year.
NBA Jam - I'm not a huge basketball fan, but I'm just noting this briefly since Nintento mentioned it in their conference, and this beloved basketball franchise is a big exclusive. The goofy approach to the game is definitely appealing, too, with a humorous, non-realistic approach to the visual style. A great announcement for the series' fans.
GoldenEye 007 - So, we're getting new Kirby, new Donkey Kong Country, and what? Yes, now one of the N64's most beloved games is getting a spiritual revival. Activision, after years of hefty Wii success with its underpromoted Call of Duty games and consistently strong selling Guitar Hero (And other music "Hero" series games) releases, Activision's finally decided to take the time to give the Wii a top of the line exclusive like it's had coming. What better way to do that than with one of the most beloved first person shooters of all time? Rather than merely taking the original N64 game and giving it a facelift, as is impossible to do due to the legal issues surrounding the original game, they're building us a ground up new GoldenEye game (Along with a DS version) with online multiplayer with plenty of depth, even more overall content than the original game, and a tremendous amount of effort to live up to the stellar reputation of the original game - impressions from E3 so far have all been very good, so this could very well be the GoldenEye successor and revival we've waited for, retelling the movie in a new way. They also replaced Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig as both the voice and model for James Bond in the new game. I'm not a big FPS player myself - not enamored of military glory shooting at dark people in sandy countries, nor the outer space SUPER COOL SPACE MARINE version of it either - but I could actually see buying this, since I'm sure friends will be picking it up too. The occasional FPS isn't a bad thing, and if I'm going to play one, why not one with a classic spy theme? I'm a big enough Chuck fan as is. This will be another major holiday season release for this year. I fully expect that between GoldenEye, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Epic Mickey this holiday season, the Wii is going to be impossible to find on shelves for months again, just like we saw after New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This kind of first and third party support is how you bring back otherwise unprecedented and unsustainable insane sales momentum in video gaming.
Just Dance 2 - The last third party Wii game shown at Nintendo's conference. I'm not into and have never played Just Dance, but the original game was a surprise smash hit last year, taking dance gameplay far beyond simply following arrows and dancing on a pad like Dance Dance Revolution, thanks to the Wii controls. Gotta give Ubisoft credit where credit is due in identifying the audience for a game like this and both making a quality game for them and actually marketing it. A well earned sequel, and more fun for all who love dance gaming.
While inevitably smaller than their massive Wii showings this year, the DS being in its last few years of active support on the market now, Nintendo brought some quality games to their conference and the show as a whole. All worth noting and playing, though the DS showings were ultimately overshadowed by the explosive 3DS debut - coverage and commentary on that is next!
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn - The first DS game shown was a long-awaited role-playing game announced and teased at their conference last year, now with a full gameplay trailer and slated release window for the holiday season this year. Fans had to wait a long time for Golden Sun: Dark Dawn. It follows Golden Sun and Golden Sun 2, which were big Gameboy Advance hits. Golden Sun 2, however, came out back in April of 2003, so we've had to wait over 7 years now for a new entry in the series. This one takes place 30 years after the original two games - which featured connecting stories including carrying over your characters and stats from the first game into the second - giving new players a fresh start to jump in from without having played the first two. The core gameplay is very traditional turn-based RPG fun, mixed with some psychic power-based environmental manipulation to solve puzzles. The developer behind the series, Camelot - a former Sega division, which made some of my favorite role-playing games on the Genesis and Saturn - has a very strong track record, so for fans of the series and genre, this should be a real gem in the middle of an incredibly crowded holiday season this year.
Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies - Words cannot sum up how excited I am for this one. The Dragon Quest franchise is the formative Japanese role-playing game franchise that spawned the entire genre. I've been playing the series since its NES origins in my childhood, and over twenty years after the series' first release, it's stayed true to its roots, depth, and challenge to players. Nintendo has rightly decided to invest in this long-running Enix franchise as part of their relationship with third party publisher Square-Enix, and brought it west as a first party title - hence why it's being discussed the first party section of the software breakdown. In this entry in the franchise, you get to fully create and customize your own hero to play as, as well as create party members to adventure with as you explore the series' vast 3D world - which seems to have carried over its incredible scale from its PS2 predecessor, Dragon Quest VIII, and which will undoubtedly continue in the upcoming Dragon Quest X on the Wii - and there's a number of new features to enjoy. You can connect with up to 3 friends locally to adventure together in the same room, log online to download new exclusive quests (I need to get my DS working with my internet connection again for this.), and there's a special tag mode (Like Nintendogs' "Bark Mode") that you can use to put the game and DS into sleep mode in your pocket and search for connections with other players who have the game in the area to exchange data with them. Tag mode is a DS feature that Nintendo is expanding on greatly in the 3DS, which I'll get to further down, having noticed the popularity of downtown gatherings in Tokyo to exchange data in games like this. They're hoping to make that sort of feature as popular and commonplace here as it is in Japan, though obviously it's much more oriented toward densely populated urban environments than suburban hell where everyone's spaced out far apart. At any rate, the game's due out in less than 3 weeks now - on July 11th, to be precise - and I'm hoping to pick it up as soon as I can, since it's one of my most anticipated games of the summer. This is one of the franchises that sums up well why I've continued my lifelong love affair with the role-playing video game genre, and it represents an oasis of gameplay true to its roots in a genre that's getting increasingly detached from what made it appealing in the first place these days. The visuals and artwork in this series - all by internationally famous artist Akira Toriyama, best known for Dragonball and Dragonball Z - only get better with every new game, too.
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future - The first of Nintendo's announced upcoming DS releases that didn't get shown in the conference. The sort of Tin-Tin/classic book-like mystery/puzzle adventure series continues with its third installment from developer Level-5, complete with some lovely animation and voice work here. I haven't gotten into the Professor Layton series yet, but it's beloved by a huge audience for its visual style, characters, stories, and puzzles - a series that has managed to draw both traditional and new gamers alike. I need to catch up on the series - as is, this one looks great. There's already a fifth one in the works for the 3DS now too - the fourth should come west next year.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! - I haven't played a single Mario vs. Donkey Kong series game, and I believe this is the fourth one. They've all looked like quality puzzle games, though, and this one looks just as good. It also seems to bring back Pauline, Mario's girlfriend from the very original Donkey Kong way back in the day, for the first time in decades. One has to wonder how they'd deal with a world with both Pauline and Princess Peach in it. Retro lovefest from Nintendo. They keep bringing back more and more forgotten characters and concepts from their roots.
Pokemon Ranger: Guardian Signs - As before, I'm not a good enough Pokemon fan to have kept up with the main series, let alone the spin-offs. I believe this is the third of the Pokemon Ranger action-RPG spin-offs, and it looks pretty fun.
In addition to the above, there were some more notable Wii and DS games shown at E3, but they'll be in the third parties section further on. For now, on to the big hardware announcement!
The Show Winner: 3DS
If the veritable smorgasbord of amazing gaming on the Wii and DS wasn't enough to sate your appetite, there's the crown jewel of Nintendo's E3 conference: the reveal of the 3DS, the long-awaited successor to the DS/DS Lite/DSi/DSi XL line. Its hardware is more powerful - roughly a portable Gamecube, where the DS was roughly a portable N64. The games will display in 3D using a stereoscopic image method, getting around the need for 3D glasses entirely and undercutting the competition's push for 3D glasses/3D TV-required 3D gaming. The system also includes a slider so that you can adjust the level of the 3D effect in the display, so that those who don't deal with 3D well or have problems viewing it can turn it off entirely and still enjoy the rest of the hardware for what it is without any eye pain, strain, or risk of unpleasant feelings. The 3DS will launch with ample downloadable content right out the door, bringing over everything from the DSi's DSiWare online shop that's been released since the DSi launched in the west in early April 2009. Similarly to the DSi's cameras, the 3DS will also include 3D cameras for use in gameplay as a new major innovative addition after last generation's touchscreen, 3D photography, and 3D video recording. You'll also be able to watch 3D movies on the 3DS from various companies now providing content. The upper screen will be larger than the DS's at a full 3.5" now, and the bottom screen will still basically be the same as the original DS touchscreen, retaining all of its functionality, and the 3DS will be able to play all DS games with full backward compatibility, though Nintendo has yet to confirm whether or not there will be region locking on physical software releases - hopefully not, as I'd like to be able to buy import games for it too, as I have my DS. I'd imagine that given the DSi's ability to connect with Facebook to upload photos, we'll probably see similar major social networking connectivity in the 3DS with its photography and video recording features. There's an analog slider in addition to the usual directional pad for more control methods, and the system also has a gyro and motion sensor inside, making it possible for further motion detection-based gameplay to be done on the 3DS, opening the doors for even more new and innovative gameplay styles.
As mentioned before with Dragon Quest IX, "tag mode"/"Bark Mode" is becoming a standard, in-build 3DS feature as well. The 3DS will constantly search for WiFi hot spots and other 3DSes to connect to and exchange data with. While with games like Dragon Quest IX or Nintendogs, you have to have the game card in your DS and in its special tag mode to look for other DSes to connect to, the 3DS will hold information on all the games you've played on it and utilize that to constantly look for other 3DSes to exchange data with for localized gaming social networking in ideally populous urban areas. Likewise, while relatively little is known about what kind of software will come preinstalled as standard features yet beyond hints - I suspect there will be a Mii Channel like the Wii's, as Miis have been confirmed for the platform through screenshots of Pilotwings Resort - Nintendo has acknowledged that they're working on finally building a more robust, unified online experience for the system. (Hopefully we'll see the same thing hit the Wii through a big overhaul version 5.0 firmware update release around when the 3DS hits.) I have a feeling we won't get specific usernames, but just a single system friend code - like the Wii's basic system code - to exchange with friends. EA seems to have confirmed that we'll be seeing unified friend lists with the ability to see who's available online at the time for voice and text instant messaging on the system, as well as to see what game they're playing at the time and what games they have played, with some sort of achievement system presumably not unlike what's become a standard carrot-dangling feature to encourage spending additional time on games. Iwata has also mentioned that video chat over the internet may be possible too, but hasn't committed to it as a feature yet. To say the least, the 3DS is jampacked full of amazing things already and there's so much that's still unconfirmed and otherwise mysterious to look forward to being revealed.
Naturally, you need a big game to launch a new platform. Mario has been a traditional staple for Nintendo, at NES, SNES, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, and DS launches - the only ones to break the trend have been the Gamecube and Wii. The Gamecube's major first party launch title was Luigi's Mansion - director Hideki Konno, who plays a major role in the 3DS' development, has said he'd like to bring Luigi's Mansion to the 3DS. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a sequel. The original was great and sorely underrated. The Wii launched with The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which helped its insane hype right out the door. For the 3DS? Nintendo's bringing back a franchise we haven't seen in 19 years.
Kid Icarus. And Kid Icarus: Uprising looks like an amazing launch title. The original two games on the NES and Gameboy were hard to define - rather than having a style of gameplay exclusive to the franchise like Mario, Donkey Kong, Metroid, Zelda, and the rest of Nintendo's staples, Kid Icarus was an oddity. At heart, it was a hybrid. You'd get big Metroid-style vertical scrolling levels to move through, Mario-style horizontal ones, lots of similar platforming and bow-shooting like Samus's cannon in the Metroid series. Then you'd also get Zelda style upgrade and item collection and a Zelda style dungeon here and there, and all this was paired with some of the most brutal difficulty in a Nintendo series. What do we have in Kid Icarus: Uprising? Something that looks like a mix of Sin & Punishment (The sequel to which is about to come out!) and Star Fox style aerial shooting (With perhaps a touch of Space Harrier or NiGHTS) and Star Fox Assault and Earth Defense Force style ground combat across large scale stages against hordes of enemies, which makes me think of the Musou/Warriors games discussed before with Samurai Warriors 3. The bosses are huge, and Nintendo has promised a ton of depth, while also that you don't have to beat all the enemies to clear stages - which sounds to me like there'll be hundreds to thousands of enemies on each battlefield, very Musou/Earth Defense Force style - so it should be an arcade style action game for the memories. Very different from classic Kid Icarus, the hybrid gameplay in which wouldn't translate well into 3D gaming, so instead, we've got a new kind of gameplay/franchise style hybrid going on in Uprising here to reinvent Kid Icarus as a franchise and make it relevant again, as Nintendo's been working on doing with all of their older and forgotten game series.
Suffice to say, Kid Icarus looks like an amazing launch title and I absolutely want to get it with a 3DS on launch - or as close to launch as possible. The rest of the launch lineup hasn't been confirmed yet, nor has the launch date or price. Reggie has stated that the 3DS will launch everywhere by the end of March 2011 at the very latest. The Wii, Gamecube, and DS all launched roughly simultaneously worldwide around the holiday season when they hit - odds are very good that the 3DS will arrive sometime in November, as such, when a more concrete release window and additional features get nailed down and finalized by the end of summer so mass production can begin. The system costs more than the original DS to manufacture, and at launch, the original DS went for $150. It's possible they could turn a profit - as is always a hardware priority for Nintendo - at that price point, but it's just as possible that they could charge more. Perhaps closer to the DSi or DSi XL around $170 or $180. $200 would be the absolute price ceiling, since that's what the Wii sells for now - they're not going to charge more for their current portable than their current console. And games will probably continue to sell for $30-40, the same as the original DS. Anything higher could complicate the process of disrupting the DS, and Nintendo's always made a main focus of keeping their hardware and software affordable - far more so than their competition. The DS kept the same basic game prices as the Gameboy Advance, so it follows.
As for the software lineup, rather than fill even more space with a list here, enjoy the link. Nintendo has new games in major franchises coming, including: Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Animal Crossing, Pilotwings, and Nintendogs (Now with cats! Hopefully they'll include a Scottie in this one. The animals will also be able to see and recognize the player's face through the 3DS's internal camera.). They've also announced a full ground-up remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time to expand and improve upon the iconic N64 game in every way they can, ensuring that it'll be worth buying and playing through for the new experience. They're doing the same for Star Fox 64, which I never owned, so I'm looking forward to that, too. And for a new property release, there's a submarine game called Steel Diver in the works for it too - Shigeru Miyamoto's described it as sort of a "submarine pet." It's been praised in hands-on, but there's no gameplay footage and nowhere near enough information on that one to get hyped about it yet. Then Koei's bringing Dynasty and Samurai Warriors games, Square-Enix has Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and more coming, Marvelous is bringing Harvest Moon, Atlus is bringing Etrian Odyssey and three Shin Megami Tensei games, EA's bringing The Sims 3 and Madden football, Capcom's bringing a new Resident Evil, Super Street Fighter IV, and has said they might make a third Okami game for it, Ubisoft's bringing Assassin's Creed, Majesco's bringing A Boy and His Blob (It'll be interesting to see if it's a new game or a portable port of the stellar Wii game.), Konami's bringing Contra, Frogger, and Metal Gear Solid 3 (And inevitably Castlevania), THQ's bringing de Blob and the GTA-like Saint's Row, Activision's bringing DJ Hero, Namco Bandai's bringing Ridge Racer, Dragonball, and Gundam, Warner Bros. is bringing the LEGO series, and Sega's bringing Sonic and Super Monkey Ball. Yes, the 3DS isn't even out yet, and third parties are already taking it more seriously than they have the Wii - time to bring this kind of huge-name support to the Wii, guys. That is, if you don't want the HD consoles to completely devour your bottom line and sink you in the long run.
At any rate, that's it for Nintendo's big events this year. It really was like Christmas last week - hence my horrifically out of character childlike giddiness - and just writing about all this makes me smile.
That said, they didn't show everything I was hoping for. There is a Nintendo Fall Media Summit ahead later this year, though, where they'll probably announce their spring 2011 lineup, since their E3 showings covered the rest of this year with very little for 2011. I was hoping to see a release window for Xenoblade, a massive role-playing game that just came out in Japan a week and a half or so ago. They announced it early for a planned western release at E3 2009 as "Monado: The Beginning of the World," but then the game's name changed to Xenoblade in Japan and we haven't heard about it since. Still, it's a colossal and incredibly engrossing looking game. It's definitely going to come here, beyond the shadow of a doubt - I'm just hoping they don't make us wait until Autumn 2011 for it. One of my most anticipated Wii games, as an RPG addict. The in-game world is said to be to-scale roughly the size of Japan, making it the largest game world on the Wii by a huge margin. Gorgeous environments too. This one was developed by Monolith, half the team behind the Gamecube's fantastic cult Baten Kaitos RPGs - they seem to be working on a third one for the Wii now, together with their developing partner Tri-Crescendo, which released the amazing Fragile Dreams ~Farewell Ruins of the Moon~ here a few months ago. (Fragile Dreams is one of my favorite games of the year, by far.) Another big first party Nintendo RPG - developed by Mistwalker, the new developer formed by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi - on the way is The Last Story. There's no gameplay footage of it yet and only a few screenshots. I was hoping for a trailer at E3, but given everything else, I'm alright without. That's going to be another huge title that will absolutely make it to the west. Another I was hoping to see announced for the west was Zangeki no Reginleiv, a very violent arcade-style tale of the Ragnarok - basically Earth Defense Force meets Norse mythology. They didn't really announce anything too niche at E3 this year, but they seem to be planning on announcing smaller name titles at the media summit this fall, so that may be Zangeki's final shot at a western release. It looks insanely over the top and fun, battling armies of Jotuns, dragons, and more as the god and goddess siblings Frey and Freyja, and has good online cooperative play that you can do with up to 4 friends. It's fantasy action warfare at its most over the top and insane. If we don't get it, hopefully the EDF-like Kid Icarus gameplay on the 3DS will make up for it. Nintendo brought the strange Line Attack Heroes to E3 2009, but there was no sign of it at the show this year. Hopefully they're still planning on bringing it here, since it looks like a very original title, battling with entire lines of characters. And Nintendo unveiled a zero-g outer space/space station game called Cosmic Walker over a year and a half ago now - by the father of the Shin Megami Tensei series - and there hasn't been any sign of it since. I'm hoping they'll show something on it sooner than later, since the concept's very interesting to me. Otherwise, there was no sign of Dragon Quest VI or Dragon Quest Monsters Joker 2 from Square-Enix, and I'd hoped Nintendo might localize those after IX came out, but there was no word from them either. Nintendo's investing heavily in the Dragon Quest franchise as is. After its unveiling at E3 2009, the Wii Vitality Sensor was a no-show this year. Nintendo has confirmed they'll be showing the finished product and software for it at another venue later this year, though - no word on the price or release date yet. They'd felt that since the Vitality Sensor is a very relaxation-oriented peripheral - with software all about relaxing the user in complementing your daily life and reducing stress - it wouldn't fit in well at the hustle and bustle of E3. There's a lot of potential to use something like the Vitality Sensor in horror games and others, too, to detect when the player is frightened and react to it. Some serious innovation possibilities lie in that. I'm betting it'll be at the fall media summit, anyway. Pikmin 3 was a no-show as well, but Nintendo confirmed it's still being worked on and that we'll see it on the Wii in the future. No new Star Fox for the Wii yet either, though Miyamoto has hinted at that - Nintendo knows fans want more Star Fox. There was no sign of the Wii no Ma video streaming/virtual Mii life channel, which we're supposedly still going to see at some point. The release of Netflix on the Wii - which works fantastically - may have deemed it obsolete, but I still hope we see it or something like it here. The whole virtual Mii life/city/building/house/living room concept is perfect for Mii-based Nintendo social networking. And on that note, the last disappointment was a lack of Tomodachi Collection, a Sims-style DS life sim based around Miis made on your Wii and within the game. It's been deemed "too Japanese," largely due to its vocal linguistics code, to bring to English speakers. But not all hope is lost - Yoshio Sakamoto did state that we could see a sequel come west in the future, implicitly if they built it with the intention of international release. It could be the next Animal Crossing in terms of virtual life sim gaming impact. Something to potentially look forward to on the 3DS.
Good job, Nintendo. You rocked everybody's face off at E3 this year. And third parties that made an effort? Kudos to you guys, too.
Cue the Sad Tuba: Sony's Conference
Now for a very, very brief summary of Sony's conference. They unveiled Playstation Move, their Wii remote and nunchuck knockoff. Turns out that between those separate purchases and the PS Eye camera that you need to buy, you'd have to spend an additional $130 or so to get motion control on the PS3. And from what retailers have shown, the 360's Kinect is going to retail for that, too. Kinect lacks software that will move it, while the only Move-compatible PS3 games that will actually sell make it all optional, since Sony knows that they'd cripple the sales of those games if they tried to push Move on their userbase, which already doesn't want motion controls.
After their clumsy display of their "Please pretend we're Wii!" peripherals, the most compelling game that seemed to require it was Sorcery - basically a Harry Potter Wii game years too late, minus all the Harry Potter. And the PS3 and 360 crowd outright ignored their versions of the Harry Potter games this generation. Embarrassing. The rest of their lineup for the PS3 was titles they'd already revealed - the same old stagnant stuff that won't move hardware or make them competitive. Their big surprise game unveil ended up just being a new Twisted Metal game - another stagnant title that won't move PS3 hardware beyond their already established audience either.
For the PSP, Sony had a new God of War game, and an obnoxious new stereotype-heavy ad campaign that they launched on TV just recently - "Marcus," starring Role Models' Bobb'e J. Thompson. The latest in a long line of "Here, let's not actually talk about games, but we'll push racial stereotypes telling you our hardware is cooler than the competition" commercials that Sony's been running for the PSP since its launch years back. The platform's basically dead and they know it. The PS3's headed on a similar trajectory. And the best they can hope to give their fans are performances by paid actors - the Marcus ads are embarrassing, but the fact that there are fanatics on the internet telling themselves unironically that the "Kevin Butler" character PS3 ads are funny or in any way likely to push hardware or software is just as embarrassing.
That word really just sums up Sony and Microsoft's E3 this year. They were embarrassing - downright pathetic. Yet their respective fanatic crowds are still convinced that they're top dog in the game industry while third parties supporting them continue to collapse. Pathetic.
Third Parties Again
One more section on third parties after last week's mammoth post, and then I'm done. Gonna try to keep things even more brief on this one. I need to sleep
Namco Bandai - Namco Bandai is run by idiots who don't have a clue how to make the company sustainable. Their latest financial numbers are out and they're cutting hundreds of jobs due to the hefty, hefty losses they're taking on the HD consoles left and right. Despite that? One of their western branch's execs recently came out and announced that Nintendo's Wii and DS markets had collapsed - Namco made good money on both of those when they actually tried at all, and they didn't make any effort to market any of their games on Nintendo's platforms. The HD consoles are literally killing the company, and they blame Nintendo for it. "What." is an appropriate reaction. They've announced some potentially decent 3DS support, but it's hard to say if we'll ever see any of it - their DS support petered out very early in the generation as they refocused on Sony's PSP, where their games have flopped time and time again. They insisted the Wii couldn't handle Soul Calibur 4, but ported it to the PSP where it bombed - along with Tekken games - and then gave the Wii a half-assed insulting Soul Calibur hack 'n slash spin-off that naturally nobody bought because it was basically shooting the Wii crowd the middle finger. They've released One Piece: Unlimited Cruise episodes 1 and 2 in Europe, but refused to in North America, apparently citing the sales "failure" of One Piece: Unlimited Adventure. There's a problem there. They shipped very few copies of the game - every single copy of it sold out. It's impossible to find the game for a reasonable price now - I've been hunting for it myself, as I'm a One Piece fan. You can't call a game a sales failure when literally every copy you released to the market sold. When you set a sales ceiling and hit it, that's success. The Wii and DS crowds have been asking for a new Katamari Damacy game all generation, wanting the colorful weird fun to hit Nintendo platforms at last, where it would fit best. What did Namco do? Promised us a game for the Wii early on and didn't deliver. They released one each for the HD consoles, both completely bombed as neither system's audience cared about the franchise. Now there's calls for a 3DS Katamari as well. Namco hasn't responded. The only audience asking for Katamari is on the only platforms the ultra-niche series is capable of turning a profit on now - and Namco refuses to make the requested Katamari games, outright ignoring fan demand out of open disdain for the audience here. The "Tales" RPG series team is basically collapsing now, as of their latest financial reports. Their PSP Tales games all got pirated and bombed. They didn't bring a single DS one over despite large campaigns to do so. Tales of Vesperia bombed on the Xbox 360 and PS3, dealing a lethal blow. Tales of Symphonia 2 on the Wii made good money and found a dedicated cult audience. What did Namco announce at E3? No, not that the second huge Tales game for the Wii, Tales of Graces, was coming west. That would have made sense. Instead, they continued to sneer at the Wii crowd and announced the late-release PS3 version of Tales of Vesperia, which will lose money on the system here like it did in Japan, and like the Xbox 360 version did in all regions. Calling this suicidal business practice isn't strong enough language. Their only recent notable Wii games to make it west are Fragile Dreams and Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, and we only got those because they licensed them out to XSeed for localization - something they should do with Tales of Graces and the other One Piece games, but refuse to. When you're literally antagonizing and consciously denying content to your only profitable audience and teetering on the brink of financial collapse while continuing to just push big HD games and ignore the mass market, that's not just bad business. That's the kinda sneering, malicious, flagrantly idiotic practice that deserves to get you blacklisted from working in the business world. Incredibly, incredibly disappointing, Namco. What are you giving the Wii crowd this year? A 30th anniversary Pac-Man party game and another Active Life Power Pad game. Yeah, at this point, the best thing that can happen to Namco Bandai - much like Konami - is getting purchased by Nintendo as they collapse so they can refocus the development of Tales, Katamari, Pac-Man, and their other franchises on platforms where they actually have an audience and can make money. Honestly, Namco, your business practices are flabbergasting - only you guys could get the Tales of Graces section on GameFAQs to rise sharply through the Wii top 10 out of the sheer rage you've inspired in Tales fans by refusing to bring Graces over here when we already know Vesperia PS3 will flop like it did on the 360. When you attack a dedicated, devoted following, you should expect to get bitten hard in return.
Ubisoft - Aside from Just Dance 2, Ubisoft announced Shaun White Skateboarding, some solid 3DS support, Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, and Rayman Origins, a new episodic 2D Rayman series for PSN, and XBLA download and possibly WiiWare. If it doesn't hit WiiWare, odds are it won't make much - if any - money given the cute, cartoony nature of Rayman. Use your brains, Ubisoft - make sure the console that made the Rabbids spin-off series a hit gets their Rayman fix too All things considered, Ubisoft actually revealed some pretty good stuff at E3 this year. Good job, Ubisoft. Now make sure the Scott Pilgrim game hits WiiWare too and I'll have no qualms with you guys. There's no excuse for putting these 2D download games on the HD services and ignoring the Wii, especially given that they're all types of games that won't sell to the HD crowd.
Electronic Arts (EA) - EA's lineup was predictably full of big HD titles that'll see mixed sales at best in many cases. On the Nintendo end, the Wii, DS, and 3DS are getting versions of The Sims 3, like the other two - only platforms it'll sell on, since previous HD Sims games bombed, while Wii and DS ones have done well. In the least, the Wii version of The Sims 3 sounds like the best console version, complete with exclusive content. EA recognizing where the audience is. NBA Jam as a Wii exclusive was a great call, though, and the Wii's getting an exclusive NHL Slapshot hockey game that looks very well made and seems to have a hockey stick peripheral attachment to use with the Wii remote, too. Nice to see the Wii finally getting some proper hockey support. Madden's also coming, as usual, though it won't sell as well on the Wii as the HD versions, due to where they focus their support for that franchise, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, which will only sell decently to well on the Wii and go ignored elsewhere. I'm not as interested in those, since with the kids leaving Hogwarts at this point, they're turning the games into wizardry-based Gears of War clones. Not as interesting as the Hogwarts exploration in previous games - LEGO Harry Potter looks much more appealing and hits later this summer. We're also getting Monopoly Streets and Hasbro Family Game Night 3 for more digital board game fun. Plus the latest FIFA and Tiger Woods PGA Tour yearly sports games. Some solid exclusives, and otherwise a pretty good EA lineup.
Square-Enix - They had an especially embarrassing E3. A few Kingdom Hearts games for fans of that, though I can't stand the series, so they're not of interest to me - good scores for the DS and 3DS though, both being exclusive new games for those platforms. The majority of their lineup was Eidos properties and releases since Square absorbed Eidos. The same kinds of stagnant HD games that basically caused Eidos to crumble and led to Square buying them - Square's continuing down the exact same self-destructive trajectory on the HD consoles, when dropping support for them should be a high priority. On the upside, they have a very old-school looking Final Fantasy spin-off coming to the DS in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light. For me, the one and only noteworthy and recommended Square game shown there, which hits in October. I wish they'd actually shown the remaining upcoming Dragon Quest DS games from Enix. Lack of Enix outside of Nintendo's Dragon Quest IX was sorely felt.
Sega - Sega had a mixed E3, as they've had a mixed track record as of late. They're outright hated by the HD crowd, but they still continue to insist on putting games on their platforms, despite their flopping time after time. The PS3 crowd demanded Yakuza 3 come here - Sega finally relented and released it earlier this year. Like the PS2 Yakuza games, it was a colossal flop that lost even more money given the insane development costs on the PS3. How did they follow this up? By agreeing to bring Yakuza 4 over too, despite 3's massive failure. Poor thinking there. They've got an HD title from Platinum Games that doesn't look like it'll distinguish itself either, especially after Bayonetta's lackluster sales following its incredible hype. MadWorld on the Wii was more profitable. That said, they've also got Shogun 2: Total War coming for the PC, which they showed this year. Never played the Total War series, but I've heard good things. And their Nintendo support is always quality, and this year was no exception - the Nintendo crowd is their entire main audience. High Voltage Software's had me wary - Sega's been backing them, but they've made some difficult turns to respect with The Grinder, bringing a top down version of it to the HD consoles, which won't sell, and reducing the Wii first person version's 4 player online cooperative play to 2. But I'm still willing to give them a chance, and if The Grinder ends up being legitimately good, I could still see buying it. They had two games to show at E3 this year that Sega's publishing, both of which were well done. Tournament of Legends is basically a Soul Calibur clone, all the way down to the visual style. A reminder of what could have been if not for Namco's disdain for the Wii. This looks good, though, and it's coming out at a budget price at only $30 this summer. Previously unveiled as Gladiator A.D., it was going to be an ultraviolent gladiator sim in the past, but honestly, what it turned into here is much more appealing. Good job, HVS. Aside from that, HVS also showed The Conduit 2, a follow up to last year's ambitious success in The Conduit, a first person shooter that wanted to be the Wii's definitive answer to Halo and the like - to be the next GoldenEye. It didn't quite make it, but it was apparently a pretty good game, and The Conduit 2 is on track to be even better, adapting to complaints and mistakes with the first game to improve it on every level, even bringing a long-awaited headset to the Wii for those playing it online. Once again, good job HVS, and good job backing them, Sega. Prove me wrong on The Grinder and I'll be even happier. Of course, the biggest star of Sega's lineup? Sonic Colors. The best looking Sonic game on the Wii yet - and the previous three have all been surprisingly good for 3D Sonic games - is basically Sonic's answer to Super Mario Galaxy. Sonic journeys into space to help out some aliens and goes through a bunch of crazier, older style Sonic zones. Busting out machines full of little animal friends at the end of levels is back for the first time in ages, and there's lots of 2D segments going fully back into old school style Sonic platforming. There's a 2D version coming to the DS as well, and episodic Sonic the Hedgehog 4 is still bound for WiiWare and the other download services. So Sega has a good lineup this year overall - lots for the Sonic fan to drool over.
Disney Interactive - Aside from Epic Mickey, there wasn't too much of note from them, though they're still pushing a higher commitment to the HD consoles, where Disney games have a very well established track record of selling extremely poorly. They advertised a realistic racing game about tearing up the track to disrupt opponents to death earlier this year - Split Second - and it bombed at retail. At E3, they unveiled a new Pirates of the Caribbean action RPG that takes place before the movies and doesn't tie into them directly - the licensed Pirates of the Caribbean game that hit for the last movie bombed everywhere but the Wii, the one console where Disney's audience is this gen. Banking on an HD Pirates game is a poor call on their part. The same studio's working on an action game with RPG elements, Tron Evolution, for a holiday release to tie in with the Tron: Legacy movie due out later this year too. A Wii version was just inadvertently confirmed through the Wii getting a special Tron Wii remote, but until I actually see gameplay - of which none has been shown for any of these platforms - and more details, the only Disney game I'd bet on the quality of is Epic Mickey. Warren Spector's said he wants to do a Ducktales game if Epic Mickey's a success - as it undoubtedly will be - so hopefully we'll either see a revival of that next (Given the amazing games it yielded back in the '90s), or more Epic Mickey, given that the game was conceived as a trilogy. They need to keep Spector and Junction Point at work on Nintendo platforms like the Wii and 3DS - and Disney needs to get off the HD consoles and not look back. They're not going to reach their fanbase or "get serious" about video game development again by targeting an audience that turns their nose up at the Disney name.
THQ - THQ's notable stuff this year boils down to de Blob 2: The Underground, some HD stuff, a bunch of licensed games, and their usual WWE vs. RAW wrestling games. de Blob 2 is their crowning gem - the original on the Wii was an excellent, fresh painting-based platformer. The sequel's going to get a cartoon tie-in on the SyFy Channel. And the HD consoles are going to get a version of it that will bomb incredibly hard and eat up a lot of money, which makes me sad for THQ. Cute, colorful games do abysmally on those platforms - trying to expand de Blob to an audience that rejects everything it stands for is a very poor call. de Blob 2 looks great on the Wii though, as it's the main platform, and there are DS and 3DS versions coming too, apparently. It'll be interesting to see how they differ and stack up, if any of the others are worth playing.
Warner Bros. Interactive - Relevant to Nintendo fans are two of their titles: Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4, which looks great, and is due out this summer, and Aragorn's Quest, the first notable Lord of the Rings game to hit the Wii. It makes me think of the Musou/Warriors series some as well, with its epic Middle Earth battles. The cartoonier graphical style pretty much guarantees that the PS3 version that they delayed its release to port won't sell, but the gameplay looks solid. Otherwise, there's Batman: Arkham Asylum 2 coming for the HD crowd. Warner's confirmed some kind of Batman game for the 3DS as well - could possibly be a portable Arkham Asylum tie-in. The first game has a good reputation. Also, coming to the DS, Warner Bros. is publishing the sequel to the much-loved Scribblenauts, Super Scribblenauts, later this year. Very cool. I still need to play the first.
Atlus - Atlus is a small fish in a huge gaming sea. They've thrived in the past on localizing lots of very niche Japanese games. In more recent years, they've tried to turn their backs on their profitable Nintendo base on the DS and to a lesser extent the Wii - they've barely even tried to snag niche Wii games compared to XSeed and Ignition - and tried to refocus on Sony's platforms. With the exception of Demon's Souls, which they made money on simply because there were minimal costs to bring it here as the game was already in English, Atlus's HD releases have bombed incredibly hard. Their latest, 3D Dot Game Heroes, was another huge flop. And since they shifted their focus from the DS to the PSP, their PSP sales have been awful too. Worse than the DS. Get back to your Nintendo base, Atlus. At least, Atlus Japan doesn't seem to have quite the same delusions of PS3 success grandeur as the western branch, having announced 3 Shin Megami Tensei RPGs - one of which is a Persona game and may be Persona 5, which many assumed was bound for the PS3, where it wouldn't make money and Atlus would risk completely collapsing a second time, having done so last generation over Shin Megami Tensei NINE on the Xbox in Japan when even that was too expensive to develop for - along with the 4th Etrian Odyssey game for the 3DS. Their only notable E3 showing this year is Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City on the DS, which hits in September. I've got a lot of love for this dungeon crawler series. Get back to your fans, Atlus - get away from Sony. You can do better. Now I just need to go finish Etrian Odyssey II over the summer. Sailing at sea in III looks great.
XSeed - For another obscure game localizer, we've got XSeed. They bring over a lot of amazing and niche Japanese games, and have been much better at catering to the Nintendo crowd and thriving than Atlus in recent times. I've got quite a few of their localizations in my library. Only notable titles they had for E3 this year, though, were Ivy the Kiwi? on the DS and Wii, and some upcoming PSP Ys series releases that likely won't sell, unfortunately. The Ys series is great, but platform-wise, it can do much better. Falcom brings Ys to the 3DS and XSeed localizes it, they'll have me as a customer. Ivy the Kiwi? looks good, at any rate.
Telltale Games - Last but not least, we've got Telltale Games, known for their classic PC style point and click adventure games. They brought back Sam & Max across as couple of episodic seasons on the PC and Wii, Wallace & Gromit on the PC and Xbox 360, Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People on WiiWare and the PC, and Tales of Monkey Island on WiiWare and the PC. And now they've got two more series of episodic point and click adventure games on the way! After striking deals with some major studios, they're now working on seasons of Jurassic Park and Back to the Future based games for all platforms. Congrats to Telltale on the big scores. For once, we've got games based on Back to the Future coming that'll be worth playing, and Jurassic Park hasn't had a notable game in years.
Whew. That pretty much wraps up my E3 2010 coverage. If you made it through this, I don't know how. Next time? Substantive posting! On other topics, specifically, for those of you not into gaming.