E3 Day 1 and 2, and Probably 3 Because Why the Hell Not?

Well, Nintendo’s conference was Tuesday.

  • It confirmed the first actual Star Fox game in what feels like two decades, Star Fox Zero.  For those who don’t know, Star Fox is a franchise about an anthropomorphic fox named Fox McCloud who flies a starfighter of thing.  The last flight-based Star Fox game was for the N64 in the late 1990s, and though there have been two Star Fox games since then, they take place outside of Fox’s starfighter and on some planet filled with dinosaur people or something.  So, this was a pleasant surprise.
  • Another pleasant surprise was actually not a surprise, as it was mentioned Sunday: Yoshi’s Woolly World.  It’s a side-scrolling platformer starring Yoshi, a gluttonous dinosaur who first appeared in the Super NES classic Super Mario World (way back in the very early 1990s).  The cool thing about this game is that everyone in the game looks like they’re made of yarn, and so the gameplay gimmicks will likely be centered around that (unraveling enemies, etc.).
  • Metroid is kinda sorta back with the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a game that takes place in the Metroid universe but will likely not involve main character Samus Aran in anything more than a cameo appearance.  I’m ambivalent towards this title at the moment.

Square-Enix’s press conference was likewise on Tuesday.  Some upcoming games that caught my eye:

  • Just Cause 3 is an open world action game that involves cars, guns, and destruction, ala Grand Theft Auto–but apparently you have a grappling hook by which you can connect items, the environment, and enemies.  So, if you, say, target and enemy and then target the back of a moving vehicle, the enemy will be dragged behind the vehicles.  The operative words during the demonstration were “chaos” and “destruction”.  My concern is that Rockstar Games is, thus far, the king of open world chaos and destruction, so Square-Enix might be a bit out of their depth on this one.  We’ll see what happens.
  • Kingdom Hearts III.  When Kingdom Hearts was originally released way back in the day on Playstation 2, it was a big deal because it was one of the first times that the worlds of a video game company (SquareSoft at the time) and a multimedia entertainment company (Disney) collided in a final product that wasn’t the worst thing ever conceived (I’m looking at you, Alien Vs. Predator).  For some, that novelty still exists, and this is big news.  But for me…not so much.
  • It’s now been confirmed that Final Fantasy VII Remake will indeed be a ground-up remake, which means the original turn-based battle system will be changed.  The plot and story will also be altered.  Remember when I said that I was hesitant to become excited for this game?  This is why.  I’ll explain more in an upcoming post, but for now, here’s a link to the article confirming the changes.

I discovered on Wednesday that Capcom only brought four new titles to E3:

  • Resident Evil 0 for new generation consoles, which is a graphics update of, well, Resident Evil 0 for the GameCube (from about twelve years ago).
  • Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition for new generation consoles, which is a graphics update of, well, Devil May Cry 4 for last generation’s consoles (from about eight years ago).
  • Street Fighter V, which is the next entry in the storied fighting game franchise that set trends back in the late 1980s/early 1990s.  It’s also the only new, original, non-remake/upgrade game Capcom is showing at E3.
  • Mega Man Legacy Collection.  Now, I’m a huge Mega Man fan.  I really am.  But for God’s sake, why on earth does Capcom refuse to do anything cool or new with the property?  I realize that since Keiji Inafune–the father of the Mega Man series–left Capcom, everyone in the company has decided to stick their heads firmly up their own asses, but this is becoming ridiculous. Instead of a making a new game, what they’re doing is packaging six old games (Mega Man 1 through 6 for the NES, which is about four games fewer than the Mega Man Anniversary Collection released eleven years ago) and some of Inafune’s art.  The sooner they sell the property to Nintendo (purely my speculation and, frankly, wet dream), the better.

My understanding is that a Konami representative will speak for fifteen minutes on Thursday to talk about Metal Gear Solid V.  It’s the only game they’re bringing to E3, as they canceled the new Silent Hills a few months ago (which was to be a survival horror game starring Norman Reedus–Darryl from The Walking Dead–and directed by Guillermo del Toro of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, and Pacific Rim fame)…which is a shame, because Silent Hills was shaping up to be a damn masterpiece.

The rumor is that Konami is getting out of the console gaming business and will produce mobile games exclusively from now on, making Metal Gear Solid V their last console game ever.  If the rumor is true, this is devastating news, because it will mean that yet another grand old gaming company is walking into the sunset.  There’s also the question of what Konami will do with its old properties–Castlevania, Contra, Metal Gear, Silent Hill(s), Gradius, et. al.  These franchises will no longer be profitable to Konami, and so it would make fiscal sense for the company to sell them to other, more viable gaming companies…perhaps Nintendo?  I could see them purchasing Contra and Castlevania, while Sony would likely fight for Metal Gear and Microsoft would grab Silent Hill(s).  It’s all speculation at this point, but if the plan really is to stop making console games, I could see that as being part of Konami’s endgame.

Tomorrow: I rant about Final Fantasy VII Remake’s alterations and discuss why Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS is one of the best and most significant and important games out right now.

E3 Day 0

This numerically nonsensical numbering of the days is really throwing me.  The damn show hasn’t technically even started yet and already we’ve had Nintendo (Day -1), Sony, and Microsoft reveal a fair number of items–with Sony’s and Microsoft’s presentations happening on Day 0, not Day 1 as one might suspect. After watching these conferences, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m kind of an old man mentally.  I come from the old school, and find myself caring more about old school gaming experiences than anything else.  While flashy graphics and big name voice actors are great and all, I just don’t find myself getting excited for that sort of thing anymore.

Case in point: Microsoft revealed a number of new titles for the XBox One, most notably the new Star Wars Battlefront and Halo 5.  You know what caught my attention, though?  A little indie game called Cuphead.  Why Cuphead?  Because Cuphead couples the classic gameplay of a run-and-gun platformer with the zany (and sometimes disturbing) antics and aesthetic of a Max Fleischer cartoon.  Each game sprite (the little guys you both control and fight–for those unfamiliar with the lingo) and background is hand-drawn and inked, so the game is smooth and beautiful, just like a piece of animation from the Depression Era (it claims a release year of “1936, plus 80 years”).  Truly a work of art.  I’ve taken the liberty of embedding the trailer below, so you can better see what I mean:

I don’t know if it’s the cynicism of age (by all accounts, I’m not even close to middle age yet), or if it’s the fact that, as an OG (original gamer), I’ve come to expect games to actually remind me of…well, games and not of movies…

I don’t know.  I’m discovering that I’m someone who doesn’t like “new” so much as “old done in new and innovative ways”.  And I’m definitely not someone who likes “same”.

For all of Sony’s showmanship at E3–indeed, thus far, they have had the best presentation–I tend to feel like their spread is becoming filled with sequels, remakes, and derivative experiences (much like the current state of Hollywood).  That said, there are a few games I’m looking forward to from Sony (click the title to see the trailer):

  • No Man’s Sky.  This game promises to open a whole universe of choices to gameplayers–literally.  You can jump into your starfighter and travel anywhere in the universe…to any planet, any star system, any galaxy.  Anywhere.  Everything in the game is destructable, and you as a player can choose whatever side you wish in a conflict (if you happen to encounter sentient races at war on a given planet, or fighting in space between planets).  While the actual gameplay shown didn’t show us much, the premise and concept is interesting if it can be executed properly.  Grand Theft Auto or Fallout on a universal scale is endlessly appealing to me.
  • Tearaway Unfolded.  This game uses the aesthetic of construction paper color forms, origami, and papier-mâché to tells its story.  If one owns a tablet–one would presume a Sony tablet–one can draw items, backgrounds, etc. and transfer them into the game.  The trailer painted the game as whimsical and innovative, much like the Playstation 3 classic Little Big Planet.
  • Dreams.  You know…I don’t know what the hell this is, really.  From the developer’s explanation, I think it’s a type of creation tool that a person can use to make and animate digital models, and then film those models, add music, and share the final product with the rest of the world.  The inspiration behind it is what happens in dreams–how the dreamer can transcend an immense expanse of space in no time at all, or how one’s dream shifts scenes seemingly on a whim.  Either way, it speaks to me and I’m looking forward to it.  “If you can dream it, you can make it.”
  • The Last Guardian.  This is a long-awaited title from the makers of Playstation 2 classics Shadow of the Colossus and Ico.  It first received a trailer six years ago, and then dropped of the face of the earth–until today.  It tells the story of a friendship between a child and his giant…uh…gryphon/dog…thing as they traverse through the world.  Team Ico, the developers of this game, are known for creating unique gameplay experiences, lavish creatures, and lush environments–so I’m very much looking forward to seeing where this game goes.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn.  This is a post-apocalyptic adventure/survival game whereby primitive humans (basically future humans bombed back into the stone age) fend for themselves in a ruined world populated by mechanical monsters.  It looks great, but is it really that different of a gameplay experience than, say, Uncharted or Tomb Raider?  I’m hopeful that it is, but time will tell.
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.  Speaking of Uncharted, the next installment was announced.  It’s pretty much a modern Indiana Jones in video game form–two-fisted and action-packed.

Several other games were announced for the Playstation 4, such as the newest installment in the Hitman franchise, another installment in the Destiny franchise, a port of Star Wars Battlefront (identical to the Microsoft version for the most part), another Call of Duty, and a game for which I should be excited but find myself dreading: Final Fantasy VII Remake.  Why am I dreading it?  That will take another post to explain.  Tomorrow is the official Nintendo conference, followed by the Square-Enix conference, so unless there’s something earth-shattering in either of those, I’ll likely tackle my issues with FF7 Remake at that point.

E3 Day -1

I’ve been struggling with how to approach E3 as it relates to my blog, and I think I’ve finally settled on keeping it simple and somewhat personal.  I’m not a news blog, and I’m not someone who’s interested in every little thing going on in the gaming world.  I don’t even really like Microsoft, to tell the truth…so, instead of trying to cover every nook and cranny of the show, I’ll simply comment on what strikes me as important–what I know, that about which I can talk, and that about which I want to talk.  So, without further ado…

So, apparently E3 starts with Day -1 as opposed to Day 1.  I say this because today, Monday, is being called Day 0–and there’s a ton of content already out there.  So what day was yesterday?  Pre-Show.  But that’s some sort of nonsensical Doctor Who math right there, so I’m calling it Day -1. That’s how Randall Malus maths, mofo.

I’ve always been a huge Nintendo fan.  I grew up in the 80s, and though my first system was an Atari 2600, my first true video game experience was with a classic Nintendo Entertainment System (henceforth abbreviated to “NES”, as is customary).  A lot of my love for Nintendo and its properties comes from nostalgia; whereas Sony dominated my teenage/young adult years, Nintendo is this only child’s childhood friend.  Though I don’t find the Big N to be flawless, I do appreciate its innovative ideas, and its dedication to keeping its old franchises alive while introducing new fun and engaging franchises to the world.  And, with Sega out of the console competition, Capcom being unable to distinguish its ass from a hole in the ground, and Konami rumored to get out of the console game business entirely, Nintendo really is the last and brightest light from the beginning of video games.

Day -1 was pretty much Nintendo’s day.  While they will have an official conference during the convention, Sunday was peppered with early surprises from Nintendo.  Among them:

  • The announcement of EarthBound Beginnings, an official Western release of a game from 1989 previously only available (officially in Japan).  It became available for download to the Wii U’s Virtual Console that same day.
  • The official announcement of characters Ryu (from Capcom’s Street Fighter series) and Roy (from Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series) as coming to the game Super Smash Bros. as downloadable characters.  When are they coming?  Yesterday.  Like EarthBound Beginnings, they were a surprise release for download on Day -1.  I’ll comment more on this in a later post dealing specifically with Super Smash Bros. and why Ryu’s inclusion matters so much (or should matter, especially to Castlevania fans who want to see Simon Belmont on this game’s roster).

After these reveals, it was time to play some games.

The 2015 Nintendo World Championship.  The main event.  It’s been 25 year since the last Nintendo World Championship (1990).  I remember because I was a part of it–and that’s about all I remember.  I was about six or seven, maybe eight, so I’m working with a bunch of imperfect memories–if I’m wrong about something, feel free to correct me as long as you’re not being a dick about it.  The regional qualifier was either held at the IX Center or the Cleveland Convention Center.  It was a three-to-five minute timed contest whereby a person had to complete three challenges across three games:

  • Collect 50 coins in Super Mario Bros.
  • Complete a lap in Rad Racer
  • Clear what felt like a billion lines in Tetris

The cartridges used were specially programmed to shut off after a certain time (the aforementioned three-to-five minutes, I believe), and whomever got the farthest the fastest won.  There were, like, ten or twenty seats available, and the idea was to whittle the list down with each additional round.  Or something.  I went out after one round, so I wouldn’t know.  Damnable Rad Racer.  And standing.  That was off-putting…standing while playing a video game.  I was used to sitting on the floor close to the television.

Anyway, I didn’t win, but I must not have cared very much because there exists a video of child-me “doing the Mario” in front of a crowd of cheering teenagers and adults to some sort of video game rap or something.  Plus, I don’t remember the competition very well, but I do recall the convention hall being filled with demo stations for upcoming games (specifically, Capcom’s Rescue Rangers, Namco’s Rolling Thunder, and Vic Tokai’s Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode).  Come to think of it, it was all kind of like an E3 before such a thing existed.

Now, one thing that most nostalgic gamers will remember about the 1990 World Championship is that it was featured in a movie called The Wizard, starring Fred Savage and a bunch of people who you recognize but you can’t name, either because you can never remember or because you never knew it in the first place.  For most, the movie was also the first preview of Super Mario Bros. 3–during the climax, it is the final game that the contestants (and the hero, who oddly is not the main character and plays second fiddle to Fred Savage the whole damn movie) must play before winning some sort of macguffin or other.  This will come into play in a little bit.  But, first, I have to make fun of Fred Savage for a moment.

Ahem.  Wonder Years?  More like, wonder why that show was on for years.  Thanks, I’m better now.

So, how is the 2015 NWC different from its obsolete 1990 version?  As I said, 25 years have happened.  As one can imagine, the Nintendo games library has increased a bit since then–and the 2015 NWC took advantage of that fact.  Mixing challenges from both modern Wii U titles and older titles from more retro fair, the 2015 NWC took a whopping three hours to complete.  In the end, a dude named John Numbers took home the trophy.

Each of the challenges, or “stages”, were followed by an elimination round, whereby contestants were, well, eliminated from the competition.  A list of stages and eliminations follows:

  • Stage 1: Splatoon (Wii U)
  • Elimination: The Legend of Zelda (NES)
  • Stage 2: Blast Ball (Wii U)
  • Elimination: Super Metroid (Super NES)
  • Stage 3: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
  • Elimination: Balloon Fight (NES)
  • Stage 4: Super Smash Bros. (Wii U)

Notice that the retro titles were used to eliminate folks from the competition.  Man, does that bring back memories…

It wouldn’t be a Nintendo World Championship without introducing a new, never-before-seen Mario game as the final challenge–and so both players and the audience got their first glimpse of a new game, Super Mario Maker, in action.  What is Super Mario Maker, you ask?  It is what it sounds like–a game where you make retro Mario games.  You can design the levels, place the enemies, etc., and force other people to play said levels–or play said levels yourself.

Was it as magical as Super Mario Bros. 3?

No.  No, it wasn’t.

But it was a fantastic attempt, and I applaud Nintendo for never forgetting the past.

And, really, whoever made the levels for that last challenge is the biggest jerk in the world.

Want to watch the event for yourself?  Click here!  It’ll take you to youtube, where things called “videos” capture past events in webs of chrono-sorcery!