E3 2003 Impressions
Impressions Gallery

Mike Salbato's Impressions

This being my fourth E3, you'd think I might be unimpressed since the newness has worn off. You might be partially right. Or, maybe E3 2003 just lacked surprises, what with all the new games being announced before the show - or after, as is the case with the next Zelda and Splinter Cell. So from a news standpoint, there wasn't a lot to report. But that's okay, since there was still a lot to see and play this year anyway.

Nintendo is where I must start, since some of my most anticipated games are coming from them. Zelda: Four Swords is being upgraded for the GameCube, and as a big fan of the multiplayer GBA game as I am, I really enjoyed playing a souped up version of it. Zelda: Tetra's Trackers looks a bit too stripped-down and simple for me. I still insist it's meant to be a simple game for younger kids or something - good for them, but not exciting for me personally.

With Custom Robo GX (GBA) vanishing from sight after E3 2002, it was a surprise to see that Custom Robo for GameCube should make it to the US. With an apparently RPG-styled single-player mode (which I don't think was playable at the show - just multiplayer), and a frantic 4 player mode, this could become one of the great party games like Smash Bros. and Bomberman. The creative part of me likes the high level of customization too.

Nintendo also had a long video of Metroid: Zero Mission. It's a new classic Metroid game. That's enough to make me want it. Fire Emblem finally coming to the US is amazing to say the least, after seven games. While it was a surprise title, and one many people still don't know about, Mario & Donkey Kong is a fun little puzzle game for GBA, not surprisingly starring Mario. Look for it. You might be surprised. Oh, and then there was F-Zero GX and Mario Kart Double Dash!! (yes, the dual exclamation marks are part of the name) As a big fan of F-Zero and F-Zero X, I can't wait for GX. There's a sense of speed now that far outdoes anything in the series before. F-Zero X now seems slow in comparison - now that's fast. Mario Kart seems very cool - highly upgraded since last time, plus I came in 2nd place out of 8 people my first time playing, scoring a GBA SP case and t-shirt. Go me.

Square Enix was a strange mix of good and 'eh.' Final Fantasy X-2 shows promise, though overall seems very fruity. As long as it has its moments and clears up that thing in FFX though, I'll get it. The battles are fun at least. UNLIMITED: SaGa, besides looking pretty and having great music, does little for me. FF Crystal Chronicles looks like a potential Secret of Mana-style game in 3D, with four people. I don't think it can go wrong. Sword of Mana shows immense promise, despite somewhat stiff controls compared to Seiken Densetsu 2 & 3. Final Fantasy XI is finally making me interested in playing it, but I'm still not sure if I want to make the investment of both time and money to give it a shot.

Now then, on the "Enix" part of Square Enix, we have Drakengard and Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. While I've not had much interest in Enix products since back in the SNES days with SoulBlazer and its followers (Valkyrie Profile excepted), they've made me a fan again. Star Ocean, visually, is downright amazing. In and out of battle, everything is speedy - a nice change of pace after Xenosaga Episode I's clunky...everything. There's very few sci-fi RPGs on console, let alone ones done right, and I can't wait til SO[3] is released. Drakengard I knew nothing about. I heard it was somewhat of a "Panzer Dragoon meets Dynasty Warriors" game, and that's about as close as I can get. It DOES deviate from Panzer in that the flying scenes give you complete control, rather than placing you on an ever-moving path. The melee battles are hectic, with literally hundreds of soldiers on a field (though you fight them in smaller sub-groups). With various weapons, magic spells, and apparently the ability to level up not only your character, but your weapons as well, there's a lot to like here.

Capcom continues to whore out Mega Man, which is both good and bad. Mega Man X7 could be the change of pace the series needs after the atrocious X6. Network Transmission on GameCube turned me away quickly, and Battle Network 3 looks like more of the same. Megaman Zero 2 does too, to an extent, but appeals to me MUCH more. Also, Chaos Legion could compete with Devil May Cry for outright cool factor. Maybe. Dino Crisis 3 has a neat setting, but saw not a single dinosaur to kill in all that I saw. Oh well.

Besides that, there's a few notables. Metal Gear Solid 3 & MGS Twin Snakes, Cy Girls, TMNT, Gradius V, Otogi, Sonic Heroes and Castlevania: Lament of Innocence are already on my "must rent, and probably buy" list. Otogi has an even higher cool factor than Chaos Legion and Devil May Cry combined - though DMC still has a better lead character. TMNT plays like the old TMNT games (I love you Konami), which is compliment enough. I doubt they will, but I'd love if they kept the "Get!" exclamation when you pick up items. My passing interest in Cy Girls is now bordering on fanatical, as I was thoroughly impressed by the slick style of the visuals, as well as the great gameplay. The two Metal Gear games need no introduction - if you've played MGS, you know why I want these. Sonic Heroes is there simply because it's finally a NEW style of game. Plus it's actually fun, too. And then there's Castlevania. A good Castlevania, in 3D. How the hell did that happen? While I'm not sure yet if it can rival Symphony of the Night or Aria of Sorrow, being 3D and having voice acting and cutscenes does enhance the atmosphere greatly, and I love my well-done atmospheres. We'll see later this year I suppose.

Okay, enough about games. Despite all that there was, I still was able to sleep through the whole morning parts of the show on Thursday and Friday and had time to see everything a couple times. Most of the good times were hanging out at the hotel with the staff, or in the media room "working". Eating at the moderately expensive California Pizza Kitchen for the second year was easily the best meal we all had together. I'm still not sure what Rob said to the hostess to get our 45 minute wait cut down to 10 (we did have 12 people), but I'm forever glad he did.

Getting together to see The Matrix Reloaded (which I've still only seen twice... need to fix that) was the other big highlight. The 12 of us all ate at different places at Universal CityWalk before the movie, from Rubio's (who makes a killer steak quesadilla), the Dodger Dog place, to... well, maybe that was it. Someone might have had Panda Express, but maybe not. Like every other day, we also got to see John do his "run" multiple times, which I already miss.

But by far the most fun I had, was the last night there. Rob, and to a slightly lesser extent Nicole, had a wee bit too much to drink. I was heading to bed, but decided to check if they were still up, and I'm glad I did. Eric, Chris and I got to play babysitter to the both of them. Nicole wasn't too bad, but she had enough to want to go down to the pool, and across the hotel to the ghetto-fabulous lounge and play a few notes on the piano. Then she did some cartwheels and handstands til she fell on her head and hurt her wrist. This is why I drink in extreme moderation.

Rob however, had so many classic moments, I don't think I could remember them all. There was his putting out a cigarette on his arm for some reason, which I'm glad I missed. He also saw an air vent in the hotel hallway and proclaimed "Hey guys, this is where Solid Snake hides!" and proceeded to feed Snake a piece of cardboard from his cigarette carton. I guess you had to be there. Sometime there he also got a hold of a foam cup, and after crushing it partially, realized it was actually a glass slipper - and went to place it on Nicole's foot as such (who he actually called Cinderella). The best part was Rob catching some hotel guest walking by and trying to start up a conversation with "Hey..... I'm really drunk." The guy said "hi" back, but just kept walking. After he was way down the hall, Rob uttered the now-classic, "Hey guys! That's Hideo Kojima! We should go interview him about Metal Gear Solid!" said in a slightly slurred manner of course.

So yes, lots of good games and drunk New Jersey editors were the highlights of my trip this year. Okay, that's only partially true. While the above night as fun, I once again had a blast seeing everyone again, and finally getting to meet Rob, John and Chris. They'd all better come again next year. Now then, go look at the E3 Gallery I spent an ungodly amount of hours compiling, and check back next year for more E3 impressions.

Favorite RPGs:
  1. Zelda: Four Swords (GCN)
  2. Drakengard (PS2)
  3. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)
  4. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GCN)
  5. Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
Favorite Others:
  1. Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes (GCN)
  2. Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Multiplatform)
  4. Cy Girls (PS2)
  5. Sonic Heroes (Multiplatform)
Best of Show:
  1. Seeing everyone again, and meeting staffers I hadn't before. Yes, I say it every year, but they're good people, dammit.
  2. Rob being... Rob.
  3. The damn media center finally got around to upgrading their Macs to OS X. 'Bout time, you Nazis.
  4. Free food at Apple's booth again. There's no better alternative to the (crappy) $7.50 sandwiches sold by the C. Center.
  5. John's 'run', plus the video of him playing with Sony's Eye Toy.
Worst of Show:
  1. Lack of good swag - The best I got this year was a single t-shirt. A far cry from previous years.
  2. P.N. 03 - Never have I been so let down by a game I was looking so forward to.
  3. No Dead Phoenix or Killer 7 on display - What's wrong with you, Capcom?
  4. PSO Episode III - I still think turning PSO into an online card battler is one of the worst ideas in gaming history.
  5. Sony is still Sony.

More Impressions
John McCarroll Nicole Kirk Robert Bogdanowicz Liz Maas
Mike Salbato Eric Farand Stephen Harris Ken Chu
Christopher Holzworth      


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The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (Speedrun) • 6pm PDT/9pm EDT

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