There’s a lot going on at the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year, especially with everyone battling it out on the new frontline of motion control warfare. Both Microsoft and Sony busted out some interesting tech demos displaying the potential for their Wii-competing technology, but a lot of it is just pie in the sky projection, and we know what everyone really wants out of E3 year after year: GAMES.
The 2009 press conferences from the big three didn’t ignore that aspect either and, while still chomping up a bit too much air in favor of borderline non-announcements like the Vitality Sensor, even Nintendo seems to have learned an important lesson from last year’s irate fan feedback. With that in mind, I thought there was just too much cool stuff to parse it all out across a ton of news posts, so here’s a quick rundown of some of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony’s juicier bits, leaning toward what we do best: Japan.
Project Natal, Microsoft’s new camera-based motion solution, may have reminded some of a game gimmick straight out of a movie from the late 80’s, but that may change once we see it applied to a real title down the road. That said, I can’t say they had too many games to announce themselves that would strike a mighty chord in the heart of otaku worldwide. There wasn’t anything that would shake and rattle their low position in the Japanese market, but there was also a lot of interface-related buzz (like the integration of Twitter, Facebook, and Last.fm) that will likely continue to cement its tight grip on North America.
Of course, there were still some titillating games on display. Epic announced and showed off (courtesy of Cliff Bleszinski) the Xbox Live Arcade exclusive Shadow Complex, which looks like a visually popping sidescrolling action title with some clever weapon-based aspects to it. Honestly, Tokyo Game Show seems a more likely venue to see just how tight of a grip MS will have on the Japanese side of gaming. At E3, the real 360-exclusive hot tickets are the new Halo titles, and the incredible-looking Alan Wake. Seriously, if Remedy’s (Max Payne) mysterious and long-awaited game has piqued your interest at all in the past, check out the gameplay they demoed during E3.
Wait, what’s that you say? Hideo Kojima snuck out on stage to add some clarity to Konami’s cryptic announcement countdown? Yeah, I bet you thought I was going to overlook that, but it was as impossible to ignore as the alarming sound of an alerted guard’s overhead exclamation point. Though not much of substance was explained, it looks like the next title in the series will follow Raiden, and it’s known as Metal Gear Solid: Rising. The subtitle of “Lightning Bolt Action” is sure to titillate, and Kojima’s appearance at this particular press conference signaled the beginning of a 360-included era of Metal Gear.
Nintendo’s press conference might have been the dullest of the three, but it did reveal the greener pastures they promised after the negative fan reaction to last year’s event. To find these ripe fruits, fans had to sit through a volley of announcements that heralded a continued attempt at market expansion, like Wii Fit Plus, and the incredibly vague Vitality Sensor that I mentioned before. That might have been interesting had they provided some idea of the software implementation they would be going for, but as it stands it was just another “this isn’t for me” moment from the powerhouse.
So were the eventually fulfilled promises worth the wait? Very much so. Nintendo still has that power to reel the naysayers back in with just a couple of words, and the key Names of Olde this year were Mario and Metroid.
Everyone expected a new Mario title, but Nintendo took it a step further by announcing two. The first of the pair is headed our way this year, and is known by the somewhat unceremonious title New Super Mario Bros. Wii. The 2D sidescrolling style that never goes out of fashion is back in a followup to the Nintendo DS hit New Super Mario Bros., but this visually beefed-up (relatively speaking) platformer has a fantastic twist. Similar to the competitive-cooperative Four Swords Zelda game on Gamecube, New Super Mario Bros. Wii allows up to four players at once—taking control of Mario, Luigi, and a couple of Toads—tallying up their totals at each stage’s end.
And if that didn’t fully sate everyone’s plumber lust, it was followed by the announcement of Super Mario Galaxy 2. It seems appropriate, coming a bit past Otaku USA’s two-year anniversary, to be writing about Galaxy once again. In the very first issue’s games column, I previewed the original Galaxy, and I couldn’t be happier about taking to the stars once more. This time Yoshi joins Mario, along with some new abilities, and Nintendo claims that Galaxy 2 will contain 90% new content, with the rest comprised of familiar levels with new objectives.
That may have come out of the blue, but I guarantee that when people think back about the big shocker Nintendo announcements, Mario won’t even rank very high on the list. The true whopper of the show was the announcement of Metroid: Other M, a third-person action title developed by Tecmo’s Team Ninja. Despite the fact that the team is now Tomonobu Itagaki free, they’re still best known for their Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden games, the latter being the closest comparison to the action displayed in the Other M videos. A more fleshed-out, story-driven take on Samus? Sign me up so long as they don’t make her out to be yet another DoA-style lady of the night.
Nintendo continues to prove how easy it is to get back in their fan’s good graces, and I won’t pretend it didn’t work on me, as well. If this year’s E3 accomplished anything, it’s ensuring that I’ll be hanging on to my Wii for quite some time.
Their own motion control device, which uses a camera and two remote-like controllers, is about as interesting in theory as Project Natal, though it lacks a similarly head-scratching code name. Aside from that, more detail was given on titles of which we were already aware. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves continues to look absolutely incredible, providing a solid reason for anyone to pick up a Playstation 3. (If you haven’t played the first game, Drake’s Fortune, you have a seriously brutal dent in your backlog.) God of War III was given a release date that may disappoint anyone hoping to dish out the mythological violence in 2009. Like the previous entries in the series, it’s dated for a March release.
But perhaps the greatest incentive to pick up a PS3 comes in the form of Team ICO’s latest game, which was originally known as Project Trico thanks to a leaked trailer that put a bit of a damper on what would otherwise have been one hell of a reveal at Sony’s conference. That doesn’t make what’s now known as The Last Guardian any less appealing. The way the child protagonist interacts with the dragon/cat/bird creature looks amazing, and if you haven’t checked out the trailer for it yet, open up a new tab and do so right now. We’ll still be here when you’re done.
The biggest bomb had two distinct phases of crowd reaction. When Final Fantasy XIV was announced as a PS3 exclusive, hands were clapping mightily. That bright enthusiasm dimmed noticeably once the Online portion of the title was revealed. Yes, FFXIV (these roman numerals are getting insane) follows in the footsteps of Final Fantasy XI, practically guaranteeing that I’ll ignore it from here on out. I’m sure there’s a large group of excited fans awaiting its arrival, though, and I salute you all. It’s just very strange to me that they keep these online iterations within the titling scheme of the series proper.
This is all really just scratching the surface of this year’s showing, and the expo rages on even as I type. Writing about E3 ’09 could be an eternal endeavor if I didn’t handpick the best of the best, focusing on games that are most likely to interest our readers. There are also a ton of multiplatform games that are looking great; Bayonetta, for instance, just keeps getting hotter and hotter (and I’m not talking about the protagonist specifically). It would be an understatement to say that I’m bummed to not be there right now trying out even a fraction of these, but it all has me excited once again for what the not-so-distant future of entertainment has to offer us all.