E3 2015 Round-up: Day Zero and Day One
Today has been a pretty hectic day on multiple fronts, and even as I tried to sink my teeth further into the rather deep combat mechanics of Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, I couldn’t help but direct my attention to Twitch, as the streaming for the premier gaming extravaganza known as E3 got under way. Now, keep in mind that I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the entirety of the day’s coverage. So, this will basically be my impressions on what I’ve seen.
Day Zero – Microsoft and Sony
Microsoft: The first of the major press conferences I saw today was the one held by Microsoft and what I realized was that this was the heralding of a major-league course correction in the gaming industry. How so? Simple. Even amidst the titles that Microsoft had touted for their current active console, AAA surefire blockbusters like Halo 5: Guardians, Forza 6 and the increasingly hype-tastic Fallout 4, there was one big change to the hardware architecture that even had this somewhat-jaded gamer applauding: Backward compatibility.
Coming soon is the very real eventuality of Xbox One consoles being able to play titles from the Xbox 360 catalog of games. Plenty of applause to be had, however as far as I’m concerned, my response could be summed up simply: “It’s about damn time.” Add to this the announcement of the “30 Games for $30” Rare Replay collection, bringing back classic Rare games from the days of the Nintendo 64 such as Perfect Dark, Banjo Kazooie and CONKER’S BAD FUR DAY, and that makes for a moderately good start. Especially compared to the jolly-stomping MS suffered this time last year.
Sony: After witnessing Microsoft getting a proverbial cookie for doing what the gamers have asked for since the launch of their newest gaming console, I asked myself the following: “Will Sony follow suit and do the same for the PS4? Will they expand the capabilities of their console and, as a result, their rather impressive library?” Sadly, all signs currently point to “No.” However, Sony did come out the gate and announce that the system will finally receive a media player app, thereby granting the new hardware some of the same functionality as their previous generation counterpart. Of course, the PS3 is capable of acting as a media player and allows for “custom soundtracks” RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX.
Another proverbial cookie for getting right what should’ve been there from Day 1. On the plus side, for those that own a PS4 and haven’t done so yet, the Media Player app is available right this very moment.
If you want to know where Sony really shines? It’s the announced games. There was absolutely ZERO time spent talking about statistics and stocks. It was all about the games, and I couldn’t be happier! Rise of the Tomb Raider was suitably intense as a follow-up to Lara Croft’s most recent adventure/origin story. The newest footage from Uncharted 4 looked fast-paced and fun. Hitman seems to be returning to form and let’s not forget the character reveals for Birdie and Cammy in Street Fighter 5. While the continuing franchises look good, it was the new IP from Guerilla Games, Horizon: Zero Dawn, that really captured my attention and my imagination.
At least, that was until another new Final Fantasy game was announced.
With the chibi-styled characters and the decidedly saccharine presentation of World of Final Fantasy, I was ready to spend the rest of E3 pissed off and jaded against Sony and Square-Enix. When the following trailer graced audiences worldwide with sweeping views of East Edge and the fresh-yet-familiar Midgar, I waited with baited breath. They were toying with my emotions. I couldn’t handle the suspense and I shrieked like a giddy schoolgirl going to prom at the very moment that I saw the camera pan upward along the edge of the fabled Buster Sword. When those 7 familiar notes played, I about lost my mind. Admittedly, I was already riding pretty high from the long-overdue reveal of The Last Guardian and after FF7-R was announced, the hig continued when Yu Suzuki took to the stage to announce the historic Kickstarter for Shenmue 3.
With all that said, I gotta admit that it’s a great time to be a gamer. I will end by saying this to Sony and Ubisoft, though…
Stop it. Give Assassin’s Creed a break! Unity has a litany of marks against it and, by-and-large, gamers need as much as break from AC as they do from Street Fighter. Give it a rest.
Day One – Nintendo and Square Enix
I’ve got plenty to talk about so, I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible. Today’s big E3 pressers were, as one would guess those held by Nintendo and Square Enix. Keeping with their current track record of cutting out the middle man and going right to the consumers, Nintendo’s press conference was a digital presentation and chock full of the fun and individuality that the House of Mario has come to be known for. Meanwhile, Square Enix’s live press event was…shaky, although tolerable. Let’s get down to it, shall we?
Nintendo Digital: As I mentioned above, the Nintendo Digital E3 press conference was an entertaining trip down memory lane, celebrating 30 years of the jovial plumber and his bro helping defend the Mushroom Kingdom well as a case study in bringing fun and connectivity to the arena of video gaming. While announcing the US releases of long awaited 3rd party exclusives like Xenoblade Chronicles X, Fire Emblem: Fates and Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem, Nintendo really played to their strengths and even added some signature Big N humor to the mix. I’m sure that by now, you’ve seen the numerous gifs of the Reggie/Iwata/Sakurai puppet bits. Watching them even now is sending me into mirthful giggle fits.
The one big bone of contention the Nintendo fanbase seems to have is the announcement of Metroid Prime: Federation Force. The fans have clamored for a new entry into the legendary franchise headed by the soulmate of Ellen Ripley (you know her as Samus Aran) and instead of the wildly imaginative and atmospheric exploration/action/puzzle-solving that the series is known for…what fans got was, essentially Gears of Metroid and Metroid “Blast Ball” (not unlike the Anarchy Reigns multiplayer mini-game, Death Ball). There’s already a petition for a cancellation of Federation Force making its rounds across the internet. So, yeah. Oops.
Aside from that, Nintendo’s showing was strong, this year, largely carried on the wings of the Platinum Games co-developed Star Fox Zero. With the first-party rearguard being bolstered by imaginative titles like Super Mario Maker, Yoshi’s Wooly World and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, this coming year looks pretty solid. So, Happy 30th Anniversary, Super Mario. Thanks for 3 decades of fun, innovation and indelible memories.
Square Enix: Considering yesterday’s revelation of the long-awaited and fervently requested Final Fantasy 7 Remake, all Square Enix had to do in order to restore an even greater amount of goodwill among gamers would be to provide more information. Instead, it was announced that FF7-R…was being officially announced at E3 and more details would be made available at the end of the year. Way to give the fans a sharp case of blue-balls. However, even through some rather bumbling presentation issues, the line-up of games presented at this presser was relatively solid.
Starting with the explosive, high octane carnage of Rico Rodriguez in Just Cause 3, the first of SE’s Western-based franchises to rock the show floor did just that. Fans of JC2 can rejoice in the expanded aerial and ballistic capabilities that our hero brings to bear in this latest installment. Tighter parachute controls, a wingsuit, more weapons and vehicles…December is going to be a good month if the only title you buy is JC3. What followed after that, though, was worthy of memes and admiration for quite some time to come.
Taro Yoko steps on to the stage, wearing the “Moon Man” head from the sleeper hit NieR. Then, he proceeds to announce the development of what’s tentatively called “NieR: New Project.” Adding further to the hype is that action gaming powerhouse Platinum Games is also aiding in the development of this title, as they did with StarFox Zero and the upcoming Transformers: Devastation. With so many projects, one would think that Platinum is stretching themselves thin. One could also think that they’ve gotten themselves slated to work on multiple, high-profile titles back-to-back. So, keep your fingers crossed and keep a careful eye out for more information regarding this one, folks!
More footage from Rise of the Tomb Raider followed suit, showing off the graphical advancements that’ve been made even beyond the previous entry. Hitman also made a pretty big impression with its “World of Assassination” theme. Active, evolving online multiplayer with numerous contracts sounds like an ambitious step for the franchise.
The new footage shown off for Kingdom Hearts 3 looks jam packed with action and is definitely evidence that the fans will, in large doses, finally be getting what they want from this latest entry into the Disney/SE mega-crossover series. As good as that looks, though, the JRPG I’m personally pumped for the most from SE is arguably Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. Or, simply put, Star Ocean 5. The focus on seamless transition between events, exploration, and combat was beautifully conveyed in the early build gameplay footage shown.
Last, but by no means least, was the extended trailer and discussion of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. If ever there was a franchise that brought heady subjects into gaming, then Deus Ex is that franchise. Human Revolution was groundbreaking in its handling of the concepts of trans-humanism and furthering that discussion seems to be the driving goal of Mankind Divided. Well, that and refining the technical prowess brought to bear by it’s predecessor.
My biggest gripe, however, with the Square Enix press conference is simple. TOO MUCH TALKING! There was very little room for the games being showcased to really bring much excitement because the devs and suits were overly long-in-the-tooth. Show, don’t tell! Keep the lip flapping concise and let the hard work speak for itself.
Speaking of which, that, right there, is going to be it for me. I’ve gone on long enough and now I plan to go back to doing some serious gaming, myself.
Stay tuned for more E3 Round-Up coverage and analysis from Ace Nelson and the rest of the gang here at SuperNerdLand!