E3 2005 Breakdown
This year's expo at the Los Angeles convention center was a little different than it has even been before. The most significant difference was that I WAS THERE! (Reprinted with implied oral permission from Con-Trast)
::The 2005 E3 Breakdown (sans Zelda)
This year's expo at the Los Angeles convention center was a little different than it has even been before. The most significant difference was that I WAS THERE!
Because of this, I have taken the liberty of doing a nice little recap of all the games I played/saw a lot of. With so much to see and do, I really had to pick and choose what I wanted to know more about, or what was NEXT to the lines leading up to the things I wanted to know more about. If you think the reason for having a longer list of gamecube games than xbox is because I'm a crazy Nintendo fanboy, you weren't at E3. There weren't all that many xbox exclusives this year. I mean, there were some that I didn't notice or didn't care about enough to play, but there just wasn't much. I hope you'll take the time to at least notice the multiplatform list at the bottom as it seems to even things out a bit. If you're looking for Zelda, it's on another page since it absolutely needs its own space.
Now, if I were to choose the best platform of E3 this year, I'd just have to say the Nintendo DS, hands down. PS2 had a lot of really nice exclusive stuff, numerous games I didn't even get to play! However the DS had loads of original content and finally made it worth owning one of the 2 new handhelds. The PSP on the other hand had mostly games currently out and a few ports/upgrades/downgrades. With limited time, I tried not to waste it playing games I've already played before. One thing that I really hope Nintendo (and maybe even Sony) implements next year is their download station that allowed DS owners to download some of the demos while they waited in line at Nintendo's enormous booth. Unfortunately, with so many people accessing these demos, they really should have had more stations with more demos. Oh well. Now, on to the mini-reviews...right after a picture of the PS3 and "controllerang!"
-Need for Speed Most Wanted: Like all the new 360 games shown so far, the lighting has impressed me more than anything else. I think they may have had 1 playable unit on a gynormous plasma screen so I merely watched for a couple minutes. The game still had its fare share of glitches (like riding INSIDE a truck) but that's expected at this stage. The models of the cars looked a little better than before, only now it seems 360 games won't have those horrible jaggies in progressive scan mode. If I had to say one thing about this game, it's that I found flying into a dark tunnel and out into a big city intersection with a sun-saturated sky to be really impressive.
-Full Auto: It's racing with guns...mounted to the car. I thought that having Sega make a game like this was a waste or resources, but it was actually decent. I didn't give this too much time, but from the videos I saw, you can reverse time to redo car crashes. It's kind of like a Mario Kart for real life. Then again, I didn't notice any item pickups.
-Ninja Gaiden Black: wasn't playable, but the video showed a lot of extra content for those that couldn't download the Hurricane Pack. Other than that, it's pretty much the same great game.
-Samurai Shodown V: It's an old game, but it's now affordable in a home version. I couldn't really grasp the fighting system as the last time I played a SS game was when that pizza hut was still NOT out of business and they had an SNK machine. I'll just say that if you know anything about the series, the game feels like a perfect port.
-Nintendo Pennant Chase Baseball: graphics aren't quite up to the likes of MVP, but the character movement seemed very realistic and from the looks of things, it should at least blow the MLB series out of the water. Interestingly, this game wasn't very popular at the show and I didn't even touch the controller.
-Geist: Geist seems to really focus on its story more than I expected. It appears that you're a scientist or programmer assigned to do some kind of work for these people (the intro was really long and I'm a busy man!). Eventually you're captured and your soul is sucked right out of you. You escape somehow and eventually want to take revenge...or save someone, I don't know. You can go into objects and people to take control of them and get into certain areas. As for what I actually did, after I did the standard "walk over there and download info to your PDA" sequence, I was given a gun to protect myself. I walked a few feet and tested the friendly fire on one of my buddies. I shot him in the head for about a minute and then left. The Nintendo guy behind me said "awe comon guys..." I never did get to play in soul/ghost form.
-Battalion Wars: One of the biggest surprises of the show was that this game was actually really good. Last year the game looked like garbage, but after playing it, I can almost guarantee my purchase. The graphics seemed a little muddy, so I'm assuming no progressive scan was implemented in this title as opposed to ALL the other Nintendo games. Here's a quick rundown. You start off as a regular infantry unit and you complete small objectives like destroy this and follow that. You later meet up with a group of men that you can recruit. At this point you can command them to attack or switch to control a different guy. Later I found a 4x4 vehicle that I then began to control and chased a spy to the enemy headquarters. This part of the demo ended here, but it was enough to tell me the game's interface, control, and just general gameplay all felt like the seemless Nintendo experience I've come to expect. I didn't play the other 2 demos so I don't really know how an all out war between infantries will handle, but it doesn't seem like it will be an issue.
-DDR: Mario Mix: I saw someone playing this. Without the music videos of the PS2 DDR games, things are pretty bland by comparison. Wacky stuff happens on screen with Mario, but seriously, this game would be a lot better without Mario.
-Sonic Gems Collection: Hey look, it's all the games that weren't good enough for the original collection! Seriously though, I'm glad I can finally play Sonic CD. In fact, that's just what I did! It didn't seem like the amazing Sonic game people make it out to be, but it also doesn't seem to be bad either. They did throw a good load of crap in there though. I've only heard how bad Sonic: The Fighters and the Tails game was, now I can actually play and find out!
-Yoot Saito's Odama: Hey, his name is in the title now! This is your basic pinball game. Bounce a cannonball around a battlefield while your men carry a bell towards the enemy base and yell at your men to attack to save the bell. C'mon, it's all been done before! Yes the game uses the microphone now and It appears that the bongos are nowhere to be found. It makes sense to me since this guy made Seaman for Dreamcast. The game is odd, but it's probably the best console pinball game I can think of.
-Killer 7: It's also on PS2 but no one will buy it on PS2...seriously. Anyways, the game is odd to say the least. Your guy walks around and you choose which doors to go in or when to turn back. The majority of gameplay in the demo was aiming and shooting. Luckily there's more to it than this since you're always trying to collect blood from the enemies by shooting a specific body part that glows yellow. It looked like different characters had different attributes, but half the time I was just trying to figure out what was going on. I don't even remember if I was playing or I was just watching someone! I'll just say, it's definately worth seeing in person, but I can't tell if it's fun after a lot of play time.
-Super Mario Strikers: It's Mario Soccer. It's another sports game with Mario in it. The funny thing is, it was fun. My friend and I played against 2 French guys that were yelling and laughing the whole time. I stole the ball from one guy and he just shot me this sad/angry look. I just shrugged and smiled. Anyway, the control is simple, yet good. The goalie AI seems much better than in Monkey Soccer (if you know what I'm talking about). Overall, I was surprised this game was as fun as it was, but I still think the fact that it exists is stupid.
-Mario Baseball: A simple Mario sports game once again. It looked like there was more to it than I could figure out, but I doubt I'll be that interested in it. The general E3 population found it more interseting than Nintendo's REAL baseball game. Basically, if you were to play this game, you wouldn't be surprised.
-Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance: It's a tactics RPG that feels a lot like Advance Wars for some reason. If you've played the GBA Fire Emblems, you have a good idea of what to expect, but it's quite different in its own respect. You command armies over a large playing area, they level up and you aquire new classes, you strategically place your team for long battles. The CG sequence I saw was an impressive mix of realistic models and high contrast (cell shading) that makes something I like to call "real life anime." You'll understand what I mean after watching a video. I'll be picking this one up.
-Okami: I unfortunately did not get to play this, but the graphical style really impressed me. It's best described as Viewtiful Joe meets Mark of the Kri. You play a wolf that...something something. Read the preview somewhere else. Stupid lines.
-Ratchet: Deadlocked: It seems that platforming is pretty much sucked dry from the Ratchet series now. What was once a great mix of platforming and 3rd person shooting is now...3rd person shooting. Hopefully there was more to the game than what I played, but I hear Insomniac wants to focus on multiplayer this time around. I guess it's finally time to call it a day. On another note, the weapons seem less wacky/inventive.
-Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: The game is in 3d now and I have the glasses to prove it! The demos available reminded me of the first sly game with it's minigames and focus on Sly. However, I know the other guys are back too so I can't really comment on the overall package. Aside from 3d, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of NEW here.
-Kingdom Hearts II: It plays just like the first one, but it appears that combat has improved. A game like this is hard to summarize after only playing a few minutes, but the story looks to be really deep once again and I think I noticed the shooter elements from the first game are back in full force. As long as I don't see the Hunchback of Notre Dam in this game, it will probably surpass the first one.
-Soul Calibur III: After playing this game in what looked like progressive scan, I feel like I can actually anticipate it now. I will still need a new stick, but that's fine I guess. Only Mitsurugi and Tira were playable in the standard vs demo, while Kilik was available for a few story mode matches. Tira handles slowly, but strings combos and juggles together quickly. She looks to be someone that's hard to master. If you've played Tekken 5, you'll know what I mean when I say there are now destructable environments. It could be done better on other consoles...but whatever. The gameplay doesn't look like it's changed a BIT and that's fine by me. Why? Well because of all the new features of course. There's a 1 player mode where you create your character and roam over a world, then fight the enemies you come in contact with. It's sort of like the story mode in Mortal Kombat, except Soul Calibur doesn't suck. There was a SCIII tournament that I attempted to qualify for, but you had to beat someone from the development team to get in and I just couldn't do it without a stick. I dealth about 75% damage both times so at least that's something.
-Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King: Character models by the same guy that did Dragon Ball Z? Yeah I guess Japanese people love his style but I'm not a huge fan. At least the characters in this game look charismatic and original. The battle system seems the same as before, but I've only put a little time into Dragon Warrior 1 and 7. The overworld seemed really plain, but for an old-school RPG, that's not surprising. I think the battle system and deep story will set this one apart, but all I really played was a battle and a little exploring. Battles are still random and you are still just looking at your enemies. I'm sure the real innovation is somewhere outside the demo.
-24: The Game: I didn't play it, but I did watch it being played. They are definately focussing on the time element and the character models are immediately identifiable as the TV ones, but I really think this will turn out to be a timed third person shooter. I don't plan on getting it, but it has the potential to somewhat live up to expectations of such a unique show.
-Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams: In my short session, I noticed the fully analog control and snappy graphics. Apparently the guy turns into this glowing demon thing at times that makes him stronger and faster. I hear they want to bring back and emphasize horror elements in the game, but all I saw was straight up action. Rumors are also abound that there will be a co-op mode.
-Devil Kings: Think Dynasty Warriors meets...umm, Dynasty Warriors. You can rack up huge hit counts upon hoards of enemies and unleash some crazy special moves to help you out. There seems to be strategy involved that makes you protect certain allied armies too. The most impressive element of this game was the sheer number of guys on screen at once. It looked like it could have been about 50 at one point.
-Shining Force NEO: It's a basic combat system mixed with action rpg elements. It's similar to the recently released Ys and it definately looks better than Shining Tears. I can't say much else. It felt kind of plain.
-Castlevania: Curse of Darkness: It really does feel like Symphony of the Night more than the last PS2 Castlevania: LoI did. I'd like to see even better environments but I didn't go through too many rooms to find out.
-Samurai Western: It's your basic adventure/hack, but it's dodging/reflecting bullets system makes it a whole lot more fun. You're a samurai in the wild west and you're basically soaking cowboys with their own blood, sometimes by reflecting bullets back into their chest. This was better than I thought and I could get it if it's out during a slow period.
-Fullmetal Alchemist 2: Curse of the Crimson Elixir: This one didn't seem all that special, but I did play it for a little bit while I was waiting to see the "behind doors theatre." You transform stuff to use or fight with and you tell Alphonse when to follow you and such.
-Urban Reign: One of numerous brawlers mysteriously coming out this year, this one is similar to Tekken with it's long combos and unrealistic hit reactions. You can juggle people in the same manner, but this also seems like it's too easy to just wail on someone without any skill. It was pretty fun, but it needs more to set it apart.
-Burnout Legends: It's a lot like Burnout 3, only smaller. Graphically, it looks like it will turn out to be like a first generation PS2 title, but the great Burnout 3 gameplay should make this the best PSP racer for some time.
-Ghost in the Shell: SAC: I watched someone play for a minute, but it doesn't look like it will be any good.
-Guilty Gear Judgement: Much like the DS version, you don't do quarter circles and dragon punches to execute specials. However, the "special" button combined with directions allows you to perform most, if not all your moves. This game was similar to Final Fight and Streets of Rage, only with lots more moves and some great graphics. The fact that this game will also have GGX2 makes up for its shortcomings, but it's not really a new fighter so don't get the wrong impression.
-Metroid Prime: Hunters: The only demo I found was the 4 player wireless mode. You could choose from 3 or 4 characters that had similar abilities to Samus. The game still have 4 control schemes, but the one I used utilized the stylus/touch screen for looking and double tapping for jumping. I think this could work better with that little "nubbin" that comes with the DS, but control was pretty confusing in the short time I played it. The maps now look more interesting and the interface has improved over the demo version. I can't say I'd buy this until I could try out solo mode, but it really doesn't seem like story is a significant element here.
-Viewtiful Joe DS: The slow and mach speed powers weren't available, but the "split" move was. You use the stylus to split the bottom screen in half in order to move environments or enemies out of or IN the way. An example would be your path is on fire so you move some falling water over to the side to put it out and then keep going. Graphically it gets the job done, but the special effects don't jump out at you anymore. The gameplay is just as fast though, so this will probably turn out to be just as good as the console offerings.
-Guilty Gear Dust Strikers: ahaha I get it! DS! Dust Strikers! You'd think combining elements of my favorite 2d and 3d fighters (smash bros) would make an AMAZING game, but I was pretty dissapointed. You don't even have to do quarter circles and I'm pretty sure the movelist is about half of what it used to be. You jump platforms between the top and bottom screen, attacking one another. This isn't really what I was hoping for in a Guilty Gear game, but it's possible that they wise up and bring more moves back and create more detailed environments than just 4 platforms.
-Animal Crossing DS: I only played for a little while since I didn't know if someone else was in the village or not. You can use the stylus to drag items onto your character and drawing designs is much easier now. I really just wanted to chop down all the trees and be a dick, but I didn't have an axe. All you need to know is this game will have online play and it feels just like the GC version. One interesting thing to note is that the town is now on a big sphere. So it's no longer your standard flat map.
-New Super Mario Bros: If you've been waiting for a new REAL Mario game, this is it. I only played the vs. mode, but judging by the moves I could pull off and level design, it's working quite well. The only powerups I've seen so far are the mushroom, star, and fireball. I guess there's a mushroom that makes you HUGE, but I never found one of those. There's a lightning bolt in vs. mode that makes you tiny and shocks you for a little while. Hmm, I wonder where they came up with that one. On top of old moves, Mario had a bunch from Mario 64 like the reverse flip and the ground pound. If Nintendo adds more powerups and a super mario world amount of levels, this could be the best Mario yet.
-Nanostray: I thought this would be just like Iridion...and it really feels like it. However, it just seemed more fun. Graphically, it may very well be the best looking DS game out for a while. If you like verticle shooters and have a DS...Ok no one reading this does so forget it. (I'm getting it)
-Mario Kart DS: With 30 tracks from the other 4 Mario Kart games on top of a selection of its own, this could be one fantastic multiplayer racer. I played some 8 player wireless LAN and it ran completely lag free. Though I assume there was a cart in each system, the game can run off just 1 for 8 people. Online however, is not the same case. The sad part was that character selection was random. I understand choosing characters can be confusing, but why not at least have the option of choosing if you'd like. Say, before you pick your characters, choose random or manual selection. Players can be chosen at random to choose their character. Anyways, I got stuck with DK, but it still felt great. The jump is back and I think blue sparks are now merely red sparks. It's understandable since getting sparks on a d-pad is just plain harder. Let's recap: Lots of tracks, 8 player online play, jumping and boost turning...best mario kart yet?
-Nintendogs: I'll be brief here. Nintendogs feels like you're interacting with a puppy. Comparing this game to a tomagotchi, a furby, or pokemon is doing a huge injustice. You pet, feed, train, walk, play, and talk to these little guys and it all feels so real. The models of the puppies are really well done for the DS and it's just...the emotion and...you just feel like a little kid when you're playing. I plan on getting Nintendogs only to be really nice to one puppy, really mean to another one, and then put them in the same room and throw stuff at them. Speaking of which, Nintendogs also has the best frisbee throwing simulator ever. FINALLY!
-Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow: Following Aria of Sorrow on GBA, this one seems to be a little better graphically and has the absolutely wonderful option of having a map on screen without pausing. Personally, I use the map all the time in Castlevania games so this is a great use for the other screen. I guess you're supposed to be able to draw seals at bosses, but I only played for a minute or 2. The environment I saw was snowing outside so it seems the castle could be very unique this time around.
-Snowboard Kids DS: It's not really like the N64 games, but it does seem like a decent portable snowboarding game. The thing that sets this one apart is doing tricks with the touch screen and mario kart like items.
-Sonic Rush: You fly through stages just like the Sonic days of yore. At times you switch to the top or bottom screen. Luckily, during these times nothing else is really going on to distract you from the split second eye switch. Sonic's character model is in 3d so you sometimes are thrown really close to the screen by a bungie chord or the camera shifts to a 3d perspective. This coming out around the same time as a new 2d Mario is a godsend. Judging by the first level (and boss fight), this 2d/3d hybrid Sonic game is exactly what Sonic fans didn't know they wanted. It definately makes up for Shadow the Hedgehog.
-Trace Memory: Formerly known as "Another Code," this game has you running around an overworld on the bottom screen with a view of your surroundings in the top. Think of this as a Myst game with actual gameplay elements. Unfortunately, the point and click element of examining stuff isn't really my thing. I will say that this type of game works perfectly with the DS touch screen though.
-Meteos: This is the DS puzzle game that answers PSP's Lumines. You line up 3 colored blocks in a row (with the stylus) and everything stacked on top of them launches in the air. If it launches high enough, it shoots up to the top screen to help blow up an oncoming meteor (at least that's what I think that was). Lining up 3 blocks vertically launches it all the way up. You only move blocks vertically, but that's what makes it so much different than the likes of Tetris Attack (my favorite puzzle game). 4 player gameplay is available and as a puzzle game made by the creator of kirby and smash bros, it's fantastic.
-Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga 2: If you thought the original Mario & Luigi was tricky controlling 2 guys, try controlling FOUR! Mario and Luigi go back in time to see their former baby selves and they team up...for some reason. Battles seem the same, only the top screen is utilized to keep track of your Marios. I dont know if the touch screen is used, but I don't really care. I'm sure the game will be hillarious just like the first one and the graphics are some of the best 2d you can find.
-Kirby: Canvas Curse: It's hard to explain why it's so much fun controlling a rolling ball by drawing lines. You draw lines for kirby to move along, you tap him to do a spin dash kind of like sonic, and you tap under him to bounce him. If you dash into certain enemies, you get their power. If you like scribbling and Nintendo, you'll love this. Seriously, it's another DS game that's more fun than you'd ever expect.
-Trauma Center: Under the Knife: One of the best games to utilize the touch screen, Under the Knife has you performing surgery for fun! You use what seemed like 8 or so tools for different purposes and perform surgery on virtual patients. It's sort of like the board game Operation only I hate Operation and this time, it's not water on the knee. Sorry if I can't say much about this game even though I'd like to. It's pretty much a definitive purchase for any DS owner.
-Gunstar Super Heroes: Unfortunately I only had time to play a level that really confused me. I'll just say that from the videos I saw at E3, it will be damn good. If you liked the original Genesis game, you'll like this. Fast-paced Treasure action is always a good thing.
-Sigma Star Saga: The gba unit was set up so that a 5 year old could play it. This turned me off and I didn't play Sigma too long. It's basically a shooter and action rpg rolled into one. Think blaster master, only with shooting instead of the tank. It looked like you can find and customize weapons too. The shooting didnt seem that special and neither did the on foot stuff. However, I'm willing to bet it's worth a shot with extended play so I'll probably be picking it up.
-Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects (psx/xbox/cube): This was the only EA game I played in that god forsaken booth. It was actually pretty good. The battle area was like Power Stone, only bigger. Character models were really smooth and so was the gameplay. I particularly liked the "superpower button" that modified your abilities. I'm not sure if the combo system will be tweaked, but I think the 4 player mode and online play could make this one worth checking out. Besides, it's nice to finally have a good game with Marvel characters for the first time in years.
-Burnout Revenge (ps2/xbox): It looks like Burnout 3, only with slightly improved graphics (especially in environments). The most notable change (and only one I really noticed) was that the crashbreaker button is available in races now. That means you can explode during your slow crash sequences just like you could in crash mode.
-Phantasy Star Universe (ps2/pc): Graphically, it's incredible on PC, pretty sad on PS2. Going to Blue Burst from a gc and dc pad was tough, but going to PSU with it's controller interface made me realize THIS is how it should be done. Hell, the PC displays (with their gorgeous, massive monitors) had PS2-like game pads to use alongside the keyboard. Pressing the equivalent of the circle button brought up your weapons for a very nice quick switch, similar to the c-stick inventory access of the GC version of PSO. The combo system allows for more than 3 hits now, but you must alternate between regular and hard attacks. There was no pause screen so I don't know anything about how the inventory works, the mini-robots that take the place of mags, or how stats are handled. All I can say is that the areas are huge and the graphics are great. Remember that big room in the first level of the caves? I'd say the smallest area I went in was about the size of 4 of those. It looks like there will only be 4 people in your party still, but the game was only 20% done (ps2 version) so this could change in the future. Talking is still handled with those pop-up bubbles and lobbies are huge too. Bottom line: everything I saw has improved, but there's still a lot to see.
-Shadow the Hedgehog (psx/xbox/cube): Aiming with weapons is tricky, the horrible pits from Sonic Heroes are back, you're going too fast to avoid the environmental hazards that come out of NOWHERE, but at least you can control the camera now. This game moved too fast for its own good. It feels like a basic sonic stage, only really sloppy. If they can smooth things out, get rid of those goddamn pitfalls, and make it so you don't really have to use those weapons, this game could be great. As it stands now, I didn't like it.
-Starcraft: Ghost (ps2/xbox/cube): Changed again! The shooting perspective is like Splinter Cell now. I'm not sure if this was known before, but I don't remember it. I only played a little, but fighting off zerglings while moving around was tough for me without the inverted look. Graphically the game looks great and the CG was fantastic. It's nice to hear some of the over-the-top voices from Starcraft in there. I didn't see any Protoss but I know they'll show up. I didn't get to try any stealth, but I can say for sure that the polish is really there and I expect this one to live up to expectations. Hell, it's taken long enough.
i could have edited that guy out, but just look at his face!
-Batman Begins (ps2/xbox/cube): The only demo I played was with the crazy-ass new batmobile. It pretty much copied Burnout's "crash-pan back-slow-zoom back" style so it obviously had some quality to it. This looks like it could shape up to be the best (not horrible) batman game in years. I don't plan on buying it, but at least I can say the racing is decent...
-Prince of Persia 3 (ps2/xbox/cube): They didn't want you to play it, but they had one playable area where some guy demonstrated it for you. I watched from behind a couple times and I can say that the game doesn't really look all that different than PoP2. Combat is important once again, but it looks like platforming is still in too. The noticable change is that PoP3 is following the recent trend of giving someone a dark side. He has another incarnation of himself that's apparently "evil" and he can turn into it at times. The game already looks really polished so I'm sure it's worth a purchase unless you have something against buying the same series once a year.
-Capcom Classics Collection (ps2/xbox): Say that 40 times fast. This has about 22 games I hear, but all you need to know is that is has Bionic Commando, Ghouls and Ghosts, and Final Fight. Only a few games were playable, but all the ports seemed to run fine.
-L.A. Rush (ps2/xbox): If Battalion Wars was the most pleasant surprise, this was the worst. Racing was similar to GTA in that you looked for a glowing spot on the road and once you hit it, another spot would appear. This is what happens when you use a free-roaming environment for a racing game. Since I hate GTA, I didn't like this at all. There were a bunch of glitches too, though that was always prevalent in Rush games. The real time damage was decent and wouldn't you know it, they copied the slowdown zoom from Burnout 3 too. At this point, I doubt the game will improve dramatically, but I may still give it a chance. Without the wacky track design and shortcuts, it doesn't feel the same. I know shortcuts are there, but they make SENSE now.
Now that E3 has come and gone for another year, it's time to reflect on the most important things in life, the free swag. I give to you, my swag. If you have any comments, questions, angry comments, or angry questions, feel free to post in my Q&A thread at nbrid. Of course, you'll have to take a couple minutes to sign up first.