I can't believe I've been to E3 six times now. Some years are of course better than others. It usually seems to be around the middle of a given generation that we end up with a tame E3. Meanwhile, the beginning and end of generations typically give us a show with either exciting new possibilities or the big last hurrah of the previous generation.
E3 2006 managed to be both of these things. While we've all known about the PS3 and the newly-named Wii, there was little to show for either until now. I'm still adjusting to the shock of the PlayStation 3's price. For a "real" PS3 (because who would want one that can't play Blu-ray movies?), $600 is anything but cheap. There were some games shown, Gundam was pretty and clean, Gran Turismo HD was the same game as always, but slightly nicer. Heavenly Sword was the one playable PS3 game that impressed me... anything else of interest was shown on video. Now, I need to decide if the combined bliss of Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid 4 are worth $700+. And, yes, probably so.. but I'm still likely to wait for a major price drop. Oh, and last thing... anyone who thinks the last-minute inclusion of a motion sensor in the now shock-less Dual Shock 3 (which is a controller I still hate the design of) was not entirely based on Nintendo and the Wii is really kidding themselves. Poor move.
On the other side of things was Nintendo. Yes, I stood in the line to play the Wii for nearly 2 hours and it was worth it. There was little on video, as Nintendo instead showed...you know, actual games. Unfortunately, there were lines inside the booth to play each game, so in my hour or so in there, I only managed to play Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy. I didn't want to wait an hour to get a mere ten minutes with Zelda, since I know I'll get it anyway. There's a lot of great games and concepts already brewing for this console, and it's far and above my most wanted thing at the show. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you.
RPG-wise, it may be obvious, but Square Enix couldn't be touched, be it in quality OR quantity. With Final Fantasy XII finally on its way here, three versions of FFXIII on video and the usual large presence/contest area set aside for Final Fantasy XI, SE's flagship series still shows no signs of slowing down. Final Fantasy III finally, finally nearing completion after countless delays and platform hops was nice to see. But FFXII aside, the most exciting games they had were the Valkyrie Profile titles. I never played the original, so I'm glad the PSP remake is coming here to give me that chance. And Silmeria is simply gorgeous.
Capcom had what will be one of the last great PS2 games in Okami, which has also been a long time in coming. It's great fun as I'd hoped, and of course, I love the art style the game employs to death. The innovative use of the brush and interacting with the game is neat... though at this point I looked at it and realized this game would be perfect on the Wii, be it a port or sequel. Mo Devil May Cry 4, and not a lot in the way of Mega Man (though Mega Man ZX should prove fun), which made me a little sad.
Konami, or specifically, Hideo Kojima, somehow can enthrall crowds with his Metal Gear trailers every. Single. Year. The crowd in front of the projection screen this year was the largest I've seen, all to see a new 10-minute trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4. I was one of those people - twice. Security had to keep having people move to keep from blocking the aisles it was so packed. While I doubt Kojima will ever completely let go of Metal Gear as he says, this one is no doubt the final "Solid" title and it looks like it'll go out fantastically. If the final game can actually come through on how amazing this trailer makes it out to be (and it will, because Raiden aside, Kojima never disappoints me), I dare say it would justify the PS3's cost.
Sega still only has two things I look at annually: Phantasy Star and Sonic. This year should finally see release of the long-time-in-coming successor to Phantasy Star Online, Phantasy Star Universe. Compared to E3 2005, the gameplay has been tightened up a great deal, and the controls are so much more fluid and smooth than PSO it's not even funny. Think of PSO with better controls, MUCH larger environments and art direction to die for and you have an idea. It's not 100% new, it is pretty much still PSO, just made better in every imaginable area. If you can run it though, the PC version is the one to get. PC and PS2 look identical except for the resolution... which let me tell you, makes a huge difference. I couldn't even look at the PS2 one after playing it on the PC. Oh, and the Xbox 360 one, we were told, should be comparable to the PC edition. Except you can't play on the same servers as the other two platforms, which kinda sucks.
Three Sonic games were there: One for PS3/360, one Wii and one PSP. I played a bit of the untitled PS3 Sonic and... it has a long way to go. Visually gorgeous, usually you have a nice sense of speed, but the controls were so touchy, a slight flick of the analog stick made your character do a 90 degree turn... there was no middle ground. So if they clean up the controls and don't flood the game with characters we don't want to play as, there's potential. Silver the Hedgehog uses psychic powers instead of running and attacking... that was pretty awful. Just...stick with Sonic and the running, guys, come on.
As per usual, Namco, sorry, Namco Bandai shunned its RPGs. They had a massive booth, and even a second small one for mobile and arcade content, yet couldn't find a place for Xenosaga III or Tales of the Abyss. Instead, each game had a plasma TV on the back wall of the booth looping surprisingly-dubbed English trailers. But talk about hiding it - I walked past them twice before I noticed they were back there, and I was looking. I'll never understand the complete lack of coverage they show RPGs at E3, and it's every year. The only ones that weren't ignored since I've been there were Baten Kaitos and Tales of Symphonia.
The last game I want to touch on, and perhaps the only game in SCEA's area we cover, is Rogue Galaxy. I love Dark Cloud 2 something awful, and RG could honestly be more of the same with a few tweaks and I've love it. It has some similarities, and I can't wait to play the final game, since I've been waiting for it for quite awhile.
Oh, and that 'no booth babes in revealing outfits' rule that was supposed to be in effect? Yeah, uh, if you're gonna make a ridiculous rule, you may want to enforce it people... cause there was no lack of that this year or any other year.
The RPGFan staff, as always, is the best bunch of people anywhere (except for one or two of you, but you weren't there), and I'm feeling like a broken record, but I always love seeing you guys. Even an E3 as packed with awesome as this year, it wouldn't even be the same without you.