E3 2004 Impressions

Stephen Harris' Impressions
Top 5 RPGs:
1) Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
I know, typical... but nothing about this latest installment of Square Enix's flagship series is "typical." A technological paradise awash in political turmoil, one boy's dream of freedom that turns into an adventure of a lifetime. This game is a love letter from Square Enix for all the patient Final Fantasy fans who have been waiting what seems like eons for a game of this caliber. From the incredibly well done character models to the almost strategic real-time battles, I think Matsuno's vision of Final Fantasy will take fans, skeptics and even the fickle mass market audience by storm.

2) Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (PS2)
It seems that after an eternity, we're FINALLY getting this game, and the 2 DVD-ROM Director's Cut no less. While Till the End of Time has been covered to death with enough news updates and images to leave any surprise the game might hold in complete ruin, I still want it. Vibrant visuals, an amazing combat system and an intriguing storyline lend to what has to be one of the most solid titles I've played since Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits. The extra fighting-mode on the game is also a blast!

3) Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne (PS2)
North America wins a second time with yet another "director's cut" for Atlus' upcoming domestic foray into the surreal genre of post-modern occult RPGs is coming Stateside. MegaTen fans can now peer out of their locked closets and don their black trenchcoats with pride - the demons are going mainstream. Top notch visuals and the cutting edge art direction of the delightfully twisted Kazuma Kaneko lend aesthetic appeal to one of the most enjoyable RPG gaming experiences I've had in a loooong time. In fact, the only thing that can come close is of course...

4) Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner (PS2)
This spiritual successor of sorts to the MegaTen lineage is more of a post-apocalypic supernatural RPG than the modern gothic of Nocturne. Still, the game features a dramatic cel-shaded style unlike ANY other RPG I saw at the show. The fact that Atlus is viewing this game as the beginning of an entirely new series, not an offshoot, also has me drooling. My favorite artistic masocist Kaneko-san and most of the Nocturne dev team comes together once again for what will probably be FFXII's biggest contender this winter. This game is teh hawt!

5) Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Boese (PS2)
I'll say it loud and proud, "I am a Xenogears fanboy!" While I've gotten into many disagreements over the quality of Xenosaga: Der Wille zur Macht, I don't think any of my colleagues will disagree with me when I say that Episode II was jaw-dropping. While not in playable form, from what we've been told, and what we've seen - many of the discrepancies of the first title have been addressed completely. The fact that Namco is committed to seeing this series to fruition and are willing to throw gobs of money at the license to see it succeed brings a tear to my eye. What I experienced of the game at the show could only be described as astounding.
Top 5 Non-RPGs:
1) Half Life 2 (PC)
Was there really ANY doubt in your mind that this game wouldn't end up on someone's top 5 list? I'm sure Chris H. will rant on and on about how amazing the game's visuals are, how involved the gameplay is, how evolved the enemy AI has become blah blah blah. I'll simply say "this game makes me feel funny in naughty places."

2) Halo 2 (Xbox)
Delayed but delectable, the more I see of Halo 2, the more I want to scrape the 4 inches of dust off my Xbox and buy myself a REAL planter. Eye-popping visuals - check, bone-crushing audio - check, frantic teamplay and co-op - check, intense weaponry - check, vehicular mayhem - check. Yes, this game tied with Doom III as the most horrifically delayed title of the 21st century, but hell, i'll STILL buy it.

3) Metal Gear Solid 3 (PS2)
Wow.. just.... wow. Kojima-san is really insane to have pulled this game off on the PS2's hardware. The attention to detail is astounding and the gameplay is classic Metal Gear. Hopefully, the storyline won't be so much of a letdown.

4) Gradius V (PS2)
OMG a shooter! I thought these things were extinct!? Supposedly developed by the guru's at Treasure, Gradius V is pure, unadulterated thumb-blistering joy candy. Where are my band-aids? Yeah it's 2D, but it's still purdy.

5) Nanobreaker (PS2)
Sometimes you're just in the mood for killing legions of biomechanical baddies who explode into fountains of blood that would make fans of Fist of the North Star happy. The storyline is kitschy, the graphics are sweet and the splattering of goo is ungodly. I won't lie, this game is shallow as shit, but there's something liberating about a game that's sole purpose is to be a cathartic escape of plasma eruptions.
Favorite Show Experiences:
1) Running off from Atlus' booth with their 7 foot promo stand for Digital Devil Saga. Don't ask how I'm supposed to get it home.

2) Stuffing 14+ people into one hotel room with over $300 worth of liquor and a camera. Good times.

3) Comparing FFXI character avatars with Yasumi Matsuno during our interview with Square Enix.
Least Favorite Show Experiences:
1) Having the site die on us on day 2 of the show. Kinda felt like getting kicked in the nuts with soccer shoes... while having your dog shot in front of your grandmother. Sucked pretty bad.

2) Having Chris H. projectile vomit onto our bathroom wall after a lovely night of binge drinking. Got some pictures I'm sure he'll never remember ;p

3) Being completely let down by the promo movie for Sega's Phantasy Star Universe. I was giddy as a school girl only to walk away feeling I had witnessed the bastard offspring of a CGI Yu-Gi-Oh meets DBZ. Sega, you hurt me.
Best Swag:
1) Anarchy Online: Shadowlands OST
Funcom loves us enough to give us a few of these soundtracks before they even went on sale. Awesome.

2) Atlus Tote Bag
Since I didn't make it to the Nintendo Press Conference, instead, having to sit in those uncomfortable ass chairs at the Sony Press Conference, I missed the cool Nintendo bags. Those awesome folks at Atlus gave us 3 of these durable, sexy tote bags to carry our swag in.

3) Phantom T-Shirt
Now, I too, can show that the Phantom does exist. This sexy black T also glows in the dark, for when you really wanna get frisky.

4) E3 Faux-Leather Media Badge Holder
No baseball caps for press this year, but this hot little badge holder they gave out on the last day of the show was pretty tight. A little on the heavy side, but this durable black badge holder had pockets for business cards, a tiny notepad and pen holder.

More Impressions
Tim Duong Stephen Harris Liz Maas John McCarroll
Mike Salbato Damian Thomas Mark P. Tjan


Twitch Schedule & Status

Sunday, July 29
Persona 3 [CYOA] • 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Star Ocean: Second Evolution • 2:30pm PDT/5:30pm EDT
Octopath Traveler • 5:30pm PDT/8:30pm EDT

Octopath Traveler • 5:30pm PDT/8:30pm EDT

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep • 2:30pm PDT/5:30pm EDT
Octopath Traveler • 5:30pm PDT/8:30pm EDT

Final Fantasy IX • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (Speedrun) • 6pm PDT/9pm EDT

Octopath Traveler • 5pm PDT/8pm EDT

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