E3 2006 Impressions

Stephen Harris' Impressions
General Show Impressions:

Since my last E3 was two years ago, it was nice to see that the show has kept on getting bigger and better. While the painful lack of booth babes was a hard pill to swallow, the insurmountable number of amazing titles at the show was a welcome balm. Finally being able to see and play the PlayStation 3 was sinful delight, though I didn’t have the stamina to stand in line for hours on end to play the Nintendo Wii.

On Sony’s side of the court, there was a bevy of super software that I had to rush out to pre-order when I got back from the show. God of War II, Okami and Rogue Galaxy were top notch among others. Suprisingly, the PS3 titles that were playable were actually very good. Warhawk used to be my favorite old PS1 title, and it brings tears to my eyes to see SCEA revive the franchise with this amazing update. While it was the only PS3 title at show that took advantage of the motion-sensing PS3 controller (the lack of a rumble feature sucks), the result was awesome, though it took a little while to get used to. Heavenly Sword was the perfect combination of sadism and hot babe fan service – thumbs up! Gran Turismo HD was nice, if you’re a gear-head and still enjoy the franchise. The Gundam title they showed was visually impressive, but looked about as precise as controlling an irate squirrel through molasses in winter. Of course, I have to say that the MGS4 trailer was godly, but I think I’m the only one left on staff who enjoys the series.

Sony also had a 30 minute long trailer of upcoming PS3 titles that left my jaw unhinged and firmly planted on the floor. The console itself looked sweet as hell. I just hope they release the silver and black models. The “revamp” of the concept controller from 2004 was a private joke the staff enjoyed for quite some time. Personally I would have liked to try out the boomerang controller before they decided to sell-out and use the same decade old design we’re tired of playing with. Oh, and lets not forget about blatantly ripping-off some of the Xbox 360 functionality. Bravo Sony, at least Nintendo chose to innovate – but you stole their motion sensation concept also. Was it worth ditching the rumble feature? Time and software development will tell. Still, the console holds amazing promise, even if it is a down payment on a car. November is still a ways away, so its time to save those quarters.

I’m off the Sony Soapbox, and I have to say this year’s E3 had the largest and most promising collection of RPGs I have EVER seen. Unlike earlier years with everyone hopping on the MMORPG bandwagon, we have a strong support of first and third party titles for just about every platform. The Atlus/NIS America booth was bursting at the seams with titles (see our news story) and even old school Hudson Entertainment plans to get back into the party with a Far East of Eden game. Square Enix had probably the strongest showing of the legacy RPG publishers with an incredible lineup for Nintendo DS, PSP, PS2, PS3, PC, Xbox 360 and mobile phone gaming. They really are pushing their Polymorphic Content to the next level. 3 FFXIII games!? Crazy! Also of note was the new .hack// game, which was freakin’ amazing. Cel-shaded graphics, stupidly fast action = winner! Though the third and final Xenosaga game was shown in video form only, it looked like it might actually be worth playing.

Nintendo was of course showing off their gem of show with Twilight Princess, but I never got the chance to play it, or the Wii, due to the horde of humans in their pavilion… every…day…of the show. Christine and Damian were dedicated enough to brave the masses and I encourage you to read about their experience.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 arena was amazing, showing that they had no intention of letting their early entry into the next generation go to waste. There were at least 50 playable Xbox 360 games at the show and on the way to retail shelves in the next few months, not to mention a ton of new wireless peripherals. Simply amazing!

On the PC front, we of course had the MMORPG parade with the World of Warcraft expansion: The Burning Crusade setting the pace. Of course, just about every MMO in development is “borrowing”(blatantly ripping off) many core concepts and designs from WoW. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. NCSoft had a very, very strong showing with some new MMOs that might actually be worth our dollars. The recently released Guild Wars: Factions showcased the same drop-dead gorgeous graphics of the franchise, but couldn’t hold a candle to the hush-hush sequel (I loathe thinking of the graphics card that monster requires). Thankfully, their free-to-play model has been highly successful, and they intend to launch 2 episodes a year internationally from now on. Next up came Tabula Rasa, the brainchild of Richard Garriot – a sci-fi MMORPG that actually accomplishes something original and wonderous! Next up, we have Aion from their Korean development team. Though still in mid-development, the game is running on a highly modified Crytec engine, and was hands-down the most promising new MMORPG at the show. Taking massive gameplay pointers from WoW, the cinematic storytelling of FFXI, and a twitchy combo-based battle system – I think I just found my next addiction.

Then there’s the Webzen games… meh. Huxley looked interesting, but still had a way to go before breaking new ground, and Soul of the Ultimate Nation continues their tradition of making character models so attractive that players will ignore how badly the overworld is designed. Last but not least, we managed to find a promising new PC RPG that wasn’t online… the shock, the horror! The Witcher was an excellent third person action RPG that was running off of a seriously tweaked Aurora engine, licensed from Bioware. The game looked like a cross between Legacy of Kain and Jade Empire – hot stuff! The developer CD-Projekt is still entertaining publishing offers, but I expect to see this title state-side by 2007.

That’s a wrap for me – no seedy stories of staff hijinks this year, and no celebrity faus-pas. I must be slipping, though we did find time for CRACK CHICKEN! Regardless, here’s my list for top 5 of show in their various categories!

Top 5 Playable RPGs:
1) Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria (PS2)
2) Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
3) Rogue Galaxy (PS2)
4) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GC/Wii)
5) .hack//G.U. Vol.1: Rebirth (PS2)
Top 5 Playable Non-RPGs:
1) God of War II (PS2)
2) Okami (PS2)
3) Heavenly Sword (PS3)
4) Warhawk (PS3)
5) Too Human (360)

More Impressions
Patrick Gann Stephen Harris John McCarroll Christine Radler
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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