Another year, another E3 show over and done with. While some editors on this site were experiencing E3 for the very first time, the same can't be said for yours truly. This is my 6th E3 show. It's amazing how fast time flies. As such, I may view E3 a little differently than some of the other editors. I may not get that big "excitement" feeling anymore like I did the first couple of times. I may not go and try every game that's playable at the show like I used to do. I've come to a point where I'm just "observing" the show and wandering around and hanging out with the other staffers instead of playing the latest & greatest games that are just waiting there for me to try. Of course that's outside of the official RPGFan appointments that I'm assigned to obviously.
As such, it's difficult for me to really say whether the show was better or worse than previous years. It seemed to me like there wasn't THAT many big announcements or tons of new games to check out. Most of the stuff we were already aware of and apart from the big presentations for high-profile games like Metal Gear Solid 3, Halo 2, Half-life 2, etc.. there wasn't that much stuff to see this year. As far as RPGs are concerned, I can't say it was a GREAT E3 show. There was nothing mindblowing and the quality and quantity of RPGs wasn't what I was hoping for. It seems to me like this was a better show for PC MMORPG fans than for console RPG players.
There also seemed to be quite a few RPGs for the GBA and unfortunately for me, I can't really get into those. I just don't play enough GBA to commit to a long game like an RPG. As such, I was left with only a handful of RPGs that I could get excited about and not too many of them made a big impression on me. During the last year, there were 3 RPGs that I really HAD to buy and play. Suikoden III, Skies of Arcadia Legends and Xenosaga. I can't really think of any RPG that is coming in the next year or so that I NEED to have. There might be a few good RPGs here and there, but to me, they won't really be classics that will remain in my favorites for years and years to come. In any case, here are some of the RPGs that I thought looked interesting:
On the Playstation 2 front, the only 2 RPGs that impressed me were Star Ocean 3 and Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. However this is only based on limited play time. Star Ocean 3 seems to have good graphics, good music, a solid battle system and looks like it could be a winner. Arc the Lad was surprising to me. I have never played an Arc the Lad game before and from the limited time I played it, I liked the graphics and I thought the music was incredible. It seemed to me that ALL the music in the game was orchestral. Not only the intro but the world map, the village music, etc.. It looked to me like a solid Strategy RPG. Also, instead of moving your characters around on boxes (like FF Tactics and most other strategy RPGs), you actually get to move your character anywhere within the range that he can reach in his current turn and you can also attack anywhere in a 360 degree around you (not just north-south-west-east). Anyway, those are the 2 that stuck in my mind.
I also checked a lot of the Xbox RPGs since it's the only category of games that I'm missing on that system. I got a chance to talk a lot with the development team of Sudeki and it's looking pretty good. The graphics are gorgeous. The village that was available on the E3 demo was very colorful and full of detail. It was also near the water and the "wave" effect of the water was very well done. The battle system seemed pretty cool for an action RPG and there was a lot of cool effects and spells available. The coolest thing though was that when you bring up the menu, the action continues but is REALLY slowed down to a crawl so it gives you a chance to use items, change weapons or cast a spell without worrying too much about ennemies attacking you. Using this "slow-motion" effect, you can attack an ennemy and bring up the menu while doing it and you then see your attack in slow-motion for a cool Matrix effect. Overall, it seemed like a pretty solid action RPG.
I also got to check out Knights of the Old Republic over at the LucasArts booth. Unfortunately, the person from LucasArts demoing the game was using the PC version and not the Xbox version so I have no idea if the Xbox version will look as good as the PC one. I can say however that the PC version looked incredible.
The other big Xbox RPG I wanted to check was Fable. unfortunately, due to an error by the Microsoft PR people, I was scheduled with an appointment to see Mythica on PC instead of Fable. It's too bad because I was really looking forward to seeing Fable which sounds like it's going to be THE big RPG on Xbox next year.
On the non-RPG front, I can't say that I've checked many games. The MGS3 demo was pretty cool and I also tried out a bunch of games at the Sega booth (still a Sega fanboy at heart). All of the Sega Sports titles looked great, especially NHL2k4. Being a fan of sports game, it was great to see that Sega will still remain the best in terms of Sports titles this year (although EA will still sell more copy just because they're EA).
Apart from all that, my main job at the show was to take pictures for the E3 gallery. As such, me and my buddy Ken spent quite a while roaming around the booths looking for picture opportunities. We had a lot of fun with that just like last year :).
E3 impressions wouldn't be complete without mentioning the staff and how good it was to see everybody again (or meet some people for the first time). Like many others have stated before, Rob, Chris & John (the newbies for this year) were a riot. These guys are just too funny to watch. From the constant arguing between Rob & Chris to the constant gay antics that was prevalent between these guys, it was a hoot to watch. Not to mention Rob getting drunk all the time and Chris constantly saying stupid things or John constantly DOING stupid things :). You can check some of their antics on the Staff picture gallery.
In the end, E3 was still a blast and even though the games weren't the best ever, we still managed to have a LOT of fun and I'm looking forward to next year so we can do it all over again.