That elusive, Sasquatch-like gargantuan has slipped into the woods once more. Yes, despite its immense size and broad scope, all three days of E3 managed to disappear without warning. Somehow, somehow, the darn beast got away from me with some of its treasures locked away; with some of its stones left unturned… Ah well, now that it's over, I've something to look forward to—next year's show.
Keeping in mind my time was limited, I hit the floor in the morning with a real drive to hit up the important things I mentioned yesterday. So, it was right over to Nintendo's booth for their big-time new product, the Nintendo 3DS.
Surely by now you've read about it and seen the technical specs. Well, the truth is that this little baby's gonna turn some heads. While I'm not personally sure if it will wholly replace the DS as it stands, it sure will be something that will move units—no question.
The first thing I noticed about the system is that it finally features an analog nub akin to Sony's PSP system. We've been waiting too long for that one, so analog fans rejoice. I also noticed that the system hasn't been redesigned too much. It's still very close in looks to its non-3D cousin, though the screens are a bit smaller than the DSi XL. Finally, get a load of that top screen. Yep, it's instantly noticeable that whatever game or video is playing, the image has a substantial depth effect going on. It's pretty remarkable, and it's marvelous to see a striking image like that without the use of any sort of glasses.
After waiting about 45 minutes in a line to see the thing, a large group of attendees were shuttled into the 3DS area featuring dozens of units to put your hands on. Unfortunately, most of what was on display were non-interactive videos, but just seeing the unit in action was enough for most people.
The playable titles on display were quite simple, but as the unit is so new I'm willing to give Nintendo a pass on that. I flitted amongst the videos and got a peek at Dead or Alive, the Kingdom Hearts port, Resident Evil: Revelations, the newly resurrected Kid Icarus game, and the new Animal Crossing. Somehow I missed the Metal Gear 3 video demo, but I didn't really care after seeing Kid Icarus Uprising in action!
This one looks to be a real winner, if the video is to be believed—the technology makes it looks like the most action-heavy and exciting DS title yet! Pit flies, shoots, and slices with ease. Check out the video yourself, and you'll see the kind of quality that I thought couldn't come out of a second-tier Nintendo title such as this one.
The other playable 3DS titles I tried included Nintendogs + Cats (cute), Steel Diver, and a couple of demos including 3D Paddleball and a Target Shooting demo (that used the camera's overlay technology ala the EyeToy). Both of those demos were great examples of what the little machine can do. Steel Diver was a curious side-scrolling submarine game that was apparently a tech demo for the original DS way back when. The 3D effects on that one were minimal (but nice) and the game seemed a sweet little diversion.
Though time with the new device was short, it was pretty amazing, I must say. I was worried at first, as the screen seemed somewhat blurry when I held it close to my face (my eyesight's no so great). I was soon relieved to see that there's a visual "sweet spot" a few inches away, where the dual-image technology achieves its desired goal. We'll see how that plays out on a person's arms when gaming for more than a few minutes, but it seems it may be easily corrected: with a dial on the side of the top screen, you can easily adjust the level of the 3D effects. That's a touch I really appreciate.
High off the excellence that was the 3DS, I couldn't help but hang out in the Nintendo both for one more title—Team Ninja's Metroid: Other M for Wii, of course! (Some of you might ask why it wasn't the new Zelda, but geez… With one look at that game, I thought it may as well have been called The Legend of Zelda: Fripperies.)
I didn't mind waiting 45 minutes to see the 3DS, so waiting a bit more for Metroid didn't seem such a bad idea. Mistake—it turned out I had to wait an hour.
Anyhow, Other M is coming along well, but I'm happy that it's had the recent delay. Moving an iconic character like Samus around in a "simple" 3D environment looks and feels great, and the extra dev time seems to have been well-spent. What needs some looking into are the jarring feelings that occur when switching from the third to the first person view in order to aim at specific targets. Shooting in first person does not afford full viewing of the world around you—only the view of what's right in front of Samus. It just didn't feel as smooth as the old 2D or the full first-person action.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from a Team Ninja Metroid, but this wasn't quite what I was hoping for. Anyone looking for a badass, acrobatic Samus blasting aliens to bits without batting an eyelash will have to wait for the retail version, for sure. Fingers crossed…
Next stop was over at the IndieCade to check out some of the hidden gems among the small dev houses. (By the way, I'm so glad services like XBLA and PSN now exist to bring us these things. Hats off to them!)
Two of the games there were immediate attention grabbers. They were Meigakure by Marc ten Bosch, and Hazard: The Journey of Life, by Alexander Bruce.
Meigakure is a puzzler akin to something like the twisted echochrome, where your character moves towards a simple gate. Getting to the gate requires your character to manipulate the "fourth dimension" in order to bypass obstacles and maneuver objects so as to reach the goal. It starts simply, of course, but soon became quite mind-bending. I'm still not sure what the fourth dimension is, but the game was pretty engaging; it's planned for PC, XBLA, and PSN sometime in the future!
Hazard is a game I didn't have time to play, but one that I got to see in action with the game's designer—and it's freaking bizarre. Essentially an abstract first person puzzle with no visible rules, the game leads you through a sometimes barren, sometimes incredibly vibrant world of moving shapes and patterns. "You won't understand this puzzle the first time," said Mr. Bruce, the game's designer, briskly urging on the player on to the next. The game seems so amazingly loose, that it almost seems like it's making itself up as it goes along. This is definitely one to watch, and it looks like it's going to be a truly innovative gaming experience.
Next up was a quick jaunt over to the fine, fine folks at Atlus, who had no playable demos at the show, but were happily treating attendees to their line-up of games coming out within the next year.
Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City for the DS was first up, and not too much was shown, other than it continues on in the fine tradition of kicking your ass, old-school RPG style. Fans will be happy to see that the new oceanside setting of the game will change its traditional dungeon-crawling vibe. The characters in this game will be sailing the seas in a ship, as well as diving beneath its waters. It launches later this year.
Next, I got a look at Knights in the Nightmare from Sting, coming soon for the PSP. The pungent mix of SRPG and action that wowed people on the DS is getting a few graphical enhancements, as well as a new playable character with Princess Yggdra (from Yggdra Union).
From developer ACE Team was Rock of Ages, a new tower defense/action game that looks like a heck of a lot of fun. Rock features a giant rolling boulder that players control to crush enemy forces set up in the play field. With a mix of art styles that date back hundreds of years, it's a whimsical game that should be kooky fun for online face-offs or through the single-player campaign. It'll be available as a download title for PC, XBLA, and PSN in 2011.
Also a download over those three services is Trine 2 from Finnish dev Frozenbyte. Seeing the game in its full glory made me regret having never played the first, and I'm aiming to do that ASAP. The wizard, knight, and thief return for a new adventure featuring one-player action or online co-op where up to three players can each take on a role as one of the heroic trio. We were assured that the game was being overhauled in all the right ways, including puzzles designed to cut down on the certain "cheap" methods of bypassing sections that were present in the first game. Trine 2 looks fabulous and exciting, and it's coming in early 2011.
The sad news of the day is the fact that I didn't get any hands-on time with Microsoft's Kinect device. Boo. By the time I made my way over to their guided tour of the thing, they'd shut down the room, and were closing up earlier than the other booths in the South Hall. I was disappointed, but I did spend some quality time watching groups of people play through the windows in the booth.
Overall, the people who were playing with Kinect seemed ridiculously engaged. Each person I saw, though they were flailing wildly at times, seemed very excited to be doing so. As disappointed as I was to not experience it myself, I walked away with a legitimate glow from watching those involved. Though I can't personally compare all of the motion controls on display at the show, I will say that the Kinect participants seemed to be getting more of a kick out of the things they were taking part in than those who were mildly content with the PS Move. Microsoft may have a real winner here…
A couple of quick hits before I get to my gaming thrill of the day: The new downloadable Lara Croft game from Square Enix and Eidos plays fantastically. Lara fit right into the "smaller" game mold, and it was a real blast. I'm looking forward to its mix of action and co-op puzzle solving.
I also spent time with Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole from Krome Studios. A movie adaptation that's coming this fall for Wii, PS3, and Xbox, it's the only game I've ever played featuring a flying, fighting owl. It was actually pretty cool when it was all said and done, and it reminded me of some of the great parts of Crimson Skies. For a movie adaptation, I was having a great time.
Finally, I'd like to mention that I was lucky enough to be on-hand for Valve's Portal 2 demo. Yes. I was giddier than a goldfish, to be sure. (Goldfish are giddy, aren't they?)
The game has tons of great new features that will expand the scope of the original by some degree, and while it surely can't have the same "wow" factor of the first, Valve seems to be doing everything in its power to blow our minds with the new twists. On display were six new "testing" features with properties that greatly expand the player's in-game capabilities. It looks positively beefy, and it's certainly one of my most anticipated games of 2011. That's of course for Xbox, PC, PS3, and Mac.
And with that, this lonely gamer's one-man coverage has come to an end. Overall, it was an amazing show, and I'm sad that it's over so soon. I walk away with only two regrets: the first was that I didn't get to try the Kinect myself, and the second is that Ueda's The Last Guardian was nowhere to be seen. Then again, the nonstop noise that is E3 is not the ideal place for what's sure to be such a gentle gem, so perhaps it was all for the good.
Anyhow: huzzah! Another E3 in the bag and thanks for reading both my run-down of the show and GameCritics.com!
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