Thursday, June 4, 2009

"What does heaven look like?": A look at E3 2009

Another videogame post this week? Why?!

E3, which stands for "Electronic Entertainment Expo" is the videogame industry's biggest annual conference. Taking place sometime in the summer, it serves as the perfect sounding board for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo's prime holiday releases. Of course, every industry has been feeling the impact of the recession but that has clearly not affected the quality or quantity of videogames that will be released this year. Producers are placing their faith in the consumer to eat up these titles.

While all three of the big names have some excellent releases coming up, I'm going to focus on those I'm interested in, which revolve around Nintendo: specifically the Wii and the DS. On reflection, no new titles really catch my eye. There are no Okami's or Katamaris to spice up things. Sequels from tested titles.


Super Mario Bros. Wii

This game looks really exciting. I'm always up for innovative ways of dealing with an old theme, and Nintendo has come up with some great ones recently. The introduction of a 4-player competition mode, similar to what was done a few years back on the Gamecube with the Zelda Series (4 Swords), is really enticing! Plus, I have a softspot for platform games: I think they're great fun, even though they can be very nerve-racking at times. (One of the first platform games to really catch my heart was actually a 3D platformer for the PS, "Spyro the Dragon".) I will definitely get this game, if only to play with my family since there are three gamers in my house (two twin brothers and a sister).

Metroid: Other M

I came to the Metroid series late, and to be honest, and I can't even call myself a Metroid fan. Shooters were never really my thing, and I don't enjoy the futuristic atmosphere that much. However, being game-starved on the Wii (it's really a pitiful state), I bought Metroid 3: Corruption and slowly began to enjoy it. The screens linked to above showcase some absolutely beautiful graphics and the story I posted got me really excited about the game. You don't normally see graphics like that on the Wii, so it at least deserves some attention given that. But, since the Metroid series has always been strong I bet it will end up being a very good game. From what I've read from it so far, it seems like it may be the type of game in a series that really turns first-timers on. Something similar could be said of FF7 and RPGers (such as myself!), and GoldenEye and first person shooters (FPSers, not like myself).

Super Mario Galaxy 2

I loved the first Super Mario Galaxy! Seriously, I recommend this game to anyone who is interested in something completely new and innovative in platform games. This game is 3D in the most extreme sense of the word: in space! Mario jumps from planet to planet, each of which is fully explorable on an x, y, AND z axis. In addition, Super Mario Galaxy combines a unique set of new abilities/powers for Mario and nonlinear gaming (at times... though arguably this could have been work on) in a way that is quite challenging at times. I seriously lost dozens of hours on this game, it's that good and addicting. The fact that Nintendo is developing a sequal signals the praise that this game has received. I also have a feeling that the developers just had so many ideas when compiling the first game that they had a lot of "leftover" ideas for levels and gameplay concepts. Really, this game is so innovative in its conceptual framework that you could spawn an entire series just off of its basic premises of fully 3D worlds and unique use of physics and gravity.


Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks

The only thing that genuinely worries me about this game is that it's using the cell-shading of the Gamecube games. See the trailer for what I mean. While in principle I find nothing wrong with this style, I think it makes the game more childish, at least that's how WindWaker is designed (a Gamecube title). I found Twilight Princess, with its more adult "feel" (although still childish in essence) to be conveyed artistically very well. Still, what Zelda does well is designing challenging dungeons and new items, and I'm sure this new installment will not disappoint. Plus, I just love the DS on principle (great games with great graphics and gameplay on a portable) I've never had a complaint with a DS game I bought.

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days

I've been a long-time fan of the Kingdom Hearts series. When the first Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002 I was in high school, and my friends were making fun of me for being interested in a game that combined RPG elements from classic Square games such as FF7 and FF8 with Disney elements such as Winnie the Pooh, Beauty and the Beast and Nightmare Before Christmas (admittedly, the last one may have interested some anti-Disney people). Little did they know (nor did I for that matter), the game was huge. Not only was the gameplay impressive, but the Disney elements were incorporated in such a way that anyone who did not like Disney could have easily looked past these elements. How did they pull it off? Well, that would take an entire blog post but the gist of it is that the main story was not Disney-centered, nor was it Square-centered. The developers created a unique story that has really caught on with the fans. How do we know that? It's 2009. I said I first enjoyed this game in high school, in 2002. That should be proof enough. Kingdom Hearts was followed by Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the Gameboy Advance, Kingdom Hearts 2 for the PS2 (an absolutely magnificent game, highly recommended). Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 days is another addition to the storyline, but promises (from the trailer) to deliver on gameplay as well. I can't wait for this game, scheduled to be released in the U.S. sometime at the end of September.

Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box
Some information about the first Professor Layton (and the Curious Village):

The first Professor Layton game was released in February of last year, and instantly people loved it and were asking about a sequel. It turns out that the game's charming style has attracted a big audience in Japan, which is already (I believe) on its fourth installment. But due to localization issues, changing some of the puzzles so they cater to a Western audience, there has been considerable lag in getting the games on U.S. shores. So when I heard that the director had finally set an approximate release date of the early fourth quarter, I was very happy. It's difficult to convey just why this game is so great, so you'll just have to check out the story and review I posted for the full details. And, again, it's a DS game with great support... how can I complain?

Well, there it is -- my summary of E3 according to my own interests and the systems I own. Honestly, there is so much data from the conference to analyze that if I were to try to objectively summarize everything it would take a week of blogging.

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