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John McCarroll
Patrick Gann
Sam Hansen
Mike Salbato
Console RPG of Show
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John McCarroll's Top Picks

5) Dragon Age Origins (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - BioWare is one of the top developers in the world, now under the umbrella of megapublisher Electronic Arts, and they have not let gamers down with Dragon Age: Origins. While I was the only member of the staff at the show who got to check out both of BioWare's titles (this, and my #2, Mass Effect 2), I think that they'd all agree with me that BioWare's newest fantasy title will be a great game for both fans of Dungeons and Dragons as well as BioWare's newer titles. Strong characters with great interplay between them, controls that are crafted specifically for both the PC and console versions of the game, and crisp visuals lead the pack in what will be one of the best RPGs released in 2009.

4) Jumpgate Evolution (PC) - I've been a World of Warcraft player since the day it was released and will probably keep an active subsciption until my guild dissolves. That being said, I've warned my guildmates that once Jumpgate: Evolution sees release, chances are I'm not going to be around as much. Imagine a game like Wing Commander: Privateer or Freelancer in an MMORPG. You might be saying, "but John, that's EVE Online!" You'd be right in the economic sense, but NetDevil and Codemasters have crafted a game that features not only a fantastic economic system, but action-oriented gameplay that feels like the space shooters of yore. With massive environments, both PvE and PvP objectives, and one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen, I'm conviced that Jumpgate will make a huge splash in the MMO world without trying to be the next World of Warcraft.

3) Torchlight (PC) - Runic Games, the developer that spawned from the ruins of Flagship Seattle, has crafted in just a short seven months a game that's not only a great, fun-to-play Diablo-style hack-and-slash, but some of the greatest modification and creation tools in any game ever. Players can create their own models, modify just about every chart in the game in regards to monster spawning, hit point scaling, gold drops, gear drops, and script their own events without knowing any scripting languages. On top of that, after the single-player release in September, Runic is teaming with Perfect World to create an MMORPG version of the title. I'm stoked and you should be, too..

2) Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC) - Do I even have to write anything here? Shepard's coming back with better gameplay, better dialogue, better graphics, heavy weapons, the ability to interrupt conversation, and a chip on his shoulder. This game is going to rock everyone's socks, from the hardcore RPG fan to the casual guy who doesn't even know what a charisma statistic would do. The only problem with Mass Effect 2? We've got to wait until early next year to play this masterpiece of a game.

1) Alpha Protocol (Xbox 360, PS3, PC) - It was a tough decision between this and my #2, Mass Effect 2. Both games are action-oriented RPGs with gunplay, deep dialogue systems, and a customizable main character. Why does Alpha Protocol get the edge? The gameplay is more shooter-esque, but the focus on RPG-style statistics never takes a backseat to the gunplay, even after taking the player skill into consideration. The dialogue system allows players to keep control but they're never seeing a full option, just a direction that Thorton might take with his speech. Everything I saw about Alpha Protocol impressed me, and I can't wait to see the final product from Obsidian and Sega.

Awesome Non-RPGs:
NHL 10 (Xbox 360/PS3)
Gran Turismo (PSP)
Brink (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

Where was...?:
Sigma Harmonics (DS)
Sakura Taisen (Wii/PS2)
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony (PSP)

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Patrick Gann's Top Picks

5) Spectrobes: Origins (Wii) - I know it's a game for kids. But it handles really, really well on the Wii controls. I imagine that, should a Kingdom Hearts game ever come to the Wii, it will play like this. Except, of course, you generally only control one person in a KH game. The concept of controlling two characters with two input systems simultaneously is what will make kids (and adults) want to play this game.

4) Glory of Heracles (DS) - Just the fact that Nintendo resurrected an ancient, Japan-only RPG series was enough to get me excited. The fact that it's a Japanese take on Greek mythology makes me even happier. Tack on the bits of gameplay I experienced on the show floor, including a super-fun turn-based combat system, and I'm sold. I can't wait to play this game in full.

3) Shiren the Wanderer (Wii) - Atlus USA's surprise announcement for E3 was a huge treat for me. The DS port of the original game (released courtesy of Sega last year) was the first time the pinnacle Japanese rogue made it to the US. Based on the bit I played at the show, coupled with the general reaction by Japanese gamers of the Wii version (including a mega-high score from Famitsu), I'm guessing that I'll be playing the crap out of this game whenever Atlus drops it (not for awhile, but at least before next year's E3!).

2) Demon's Souls (PS3) - It's been a long time since I was truly excited about a From Software title. And by "a long time," I do mean forever. They really stepped up to the challenge of decent online play with this strange and difficult Diablo clone. This should be a good experience, and I'm very happy about Atlus doing the localization on it.

1) Alpha Protocol (PC, PS3, 360) - Though it was shown off at last year's E3 as well, the excitement building around this game as it nears release this Fall is really getting under my skin. I have extremely high hopes for this "modern-day spy RPG" from Obsidian and Sega. We'll see if they deliver, but based on what I saw at the show, this is my most anticipated game for 2009.

Non-RPGs that tickled my fancy:
Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
Rock Band Unplugged (PSP)
New Super Mario Bros Wii (uh...Wii)
Tatsunoko vs. Capcom (Wii)
Closure (PC, indie)

Missing games from the show floor:
- Dragon Quest VI (DS), Dragon Quest IX (DS), Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3), and Sigma Harmonics (DS). What's going on S-E? I know the last one doesn't stand a chance, but you showed a trailer for Versus XIII at E3 2006! Can't we at least get a new/updated trailer this year?

- Far East of Eden: Tales of Distant Jipang (360). We got mixed signals from Hudson this year, ultimately ending with them denying any plans to bring the game to the US. But they first announced intentions to bring the game over three years ago at E3 2006. I would really like to see this game come to America.

- Sakura Taisen V (Wii). For that matter, NIS America themselves. Their games were split up and represented at Koei's and Atlus' booths respectively. I wanted to have a chance to play this game on the Wii. I did not get that chance.

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Sam Hansen's Top Picks

5) Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) - Even though I never got to have a go at the RPG side of this game (battles weren't in the demo for whatever reason), I actually had a lot of fun playing around with it. Everything was more or less a motion-controlled mini-game, and even though that's pretty much what the Wii is known for, it didn't really feel tacked on like it does in other titles. As I said in my impressions, it all tied in with the story, which forced me to play through a staggering variety of stuff. If the game can nail its battle system, I think we'll have something Wii owners can look forward to.

4) Demon's Souls (PS3) - I didn't play much of it, though the little I did was enough to get my attention. Every time I had a go at it, dying seemed to be as common as me missing an attack, so?yeah, something something challenge something something. The online features are what really have me excited about this title, however. I absolutely love how you can leave your fellow players notes and watch real-time reenactments of how they died right there in the game. I've never seen something like that done before, and I imagine it will be a great tool for players hoping to overcome upcoming battles that managed to slay their comrades.

3) Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii) - Of all the games I got to play on the floor, this was probably the most entertaining of the lot. I was expecting much more of an Odin Sphere-esque battle system, but the tutorial taught me a whole slew of different moves that gave combat the variety that Odin Sphere should have had and then some. The fluidity of the controls paired with the brilliant and oftentimes awe-inspiring graphics made all my expectations that much higher. Hopping around on the mountaintops and sprinting past the barley farmlands which swayed about in the breeze was incredible. This will definitely be a visual experience first and foremost, but I'm thrilled that the gameplay manages to keep up with Vanillaware's top tier graphical presentation.

The only downside was that I had to press up to jump. Ewww.

2) Devil Survivor (DS) - I'm sort of cheating with this one. I didn't actually play it on the show floor, but as you'll see next week, I have played it (hint hint!). At the risk of me spewing out too much, I think I'll stop there. Let's just say that this is something Shin Megami followers, and oddly enough, The World Ends With You fans, will be loving.

1) White Knight Chronicles (PS3) - I really didn't like this game the first time I played it, and yet I still came back to it day after day. Sometimes I played it from the beginning and got a taste of the story, other times I had the booth sitters shoot it into debug mode and power up my characters for more intense, later-game combat. The battle system was fine and all, but the thing that really grabbed at me was how huge and overwhelming the environments felt. The initial town I started in had me wandering for a great length of time, talking to the locals and exploring the nooks and crannies. The dungeons, too, were absolutely gargantuan, with swarms of critters eager to try and hit me where it hurts. Lackadasical first impression aside, White Knight has me stoked. I'm expecting an epic adventure on a truly grand scale with this one.

Non-RPG Sweetness:
Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
Bayonetta (PS3)
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3)

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Mike Salbato's Top Picks

5) Final Fantasy XIV (PS3, PC, ?) - No true gameplay footage, so this is perhaps a bit silly to list, but the sheer massiveness of the announcement still stuns me a bit (and not only because Final Fantasy XIII is still so far off). I never got into FFXI, but I love World of Warcraft, so if FFXIV can deliver to both hardcore and casual (i.e. I can only devote so much of my life to a game), I may have to give it a chance. Also, the trailer music alone is fantastic, so I have high hopes for the soundtrack.

4) Champions Online (PS3, Xbox 360, PC) - Why I never played City of Heroes, even after it came to the Mac, I don't know. I've been a superhero fan since Batman: The Animated Series and Lois & Clark, and of course the recent surge of great superhero movies has left me quite pleased. But the idea of playing a good superhero game always seemed like a pipe dream (thanks, Superman 64). Champions Online of course follows a typical path for an MMO to an extent, but the execution looks spot-on. Most importantly to someone like me though, is customization, and the disturbing amount of ways you can build your hero, not only in terms of looks, but custom-tailored powers (down to the amount and color of glow on certain things - are you kidding me?) boggle the mind. I'm afraid I'll buy the game and do nothing but build cool characters. At my luncheon with Bill Roper, he said the 'average' character creation time for people is around 30 minutes. Average! September 1st needs to get here.

3) Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii) - I honestly don't know if The Crystal Bearers is even really an RPG anymore. It certainly looks the part, and is no doubt rooted in the Crystal Chronicles world, sharing similar races and art style, which is one of my favorite things about the series. Replacing the multiplayer focus for a single-player quest may make it feel like more of a 'traditional' RPG experience - assuming there's much more to the game than we saw and that's still what it is, of course. Either way, it does seem fun, so we'll see in time.

2) Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii) - Fast-paced, highly stylized and beyond drop-dead gorgeous, Muramasa was a blast to play. At a glance, it doesn't seem to be something we should cover, but I only spent a brief time with it at the show - not because I was bored, but because it was all I needed to know it was something I'd buy without hesitation (while not an RPG, this is the same reason I didn't play Bayonetta).

1) White Knight Chronicles (PS3) - I have to admit, I've only played one Level-5 game: Dark Cloud 2. I hear the first isn't so hot, and I somehow missed the boat on Rogue Galaxy and Dragon Quest VIII. However, Dark Cloud 2 easily became one of my most beloved RPGs of all time, so I closely watch everything the company does, and am a huge fan based just on the one game. White Knight Chronicles looks stunning, and while there's a bit to learn to play successfully - it's turn-based to a point, but doesn't look it - I have a good feeling about this one. Sony was typically mum about plans to bring it out here until semi-recently (contrasted to announcements such as XSEED picking up Lunar PSP immediately after its Japanese announcement), they plan to improve and add content much like with Rogue Galaxy, so it's all good.

Top Non-RPGs:
Wii: Metroid: Other M, Sin & Punishment 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii
WiiWare: Cave Story, Icarian: Kindred Spirits
Dissidia: Final Fantasy (PSP)
Bayonetta (PS3)
Wet (Xbox 360, PS3)

Conspicuously Absent and Other Oddities:

Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, Xbox 360) - It was on video now and again, but it's a shame it didn't have more of a presence.

Final Fantasy Versus XIII (PS3) - I'm honestly more excited about Versus than "Regular" XIII, so seeing nary a mention of it saddened me.

Mother 3 (GBA) - I know it has no chance of making it out of Japan in an official capacity, but after seeing that fan-made strategy guide, there's clearly a hardcore demand for it here.

Zelda (Wii) - I'm happy we saw cool concept art, but it's a shame we didn't get a tiny glimpse into the direction of the next mainline Zelda title, especially given that Twilight Princess was intended to be the "last" of the Ocarina of Time-style games in the series.

Just Weird - The lack of any Metal Gear or Castlevania influence at Konami (A single iPod touch running MGS Touch, already released, does not count).

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