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RPGFan Feature - E3 2012 Awards


E3 2012 Awards
July 1, 2012 – Finally, it's our E3 2012 Awards! This year was a little different than past years in that there were fewer surprises, and perhaps fewer mind-blowing games on display than some years. But instead of a handful of stunning games and a huge pile of so-so titles, the overall level of quality was definitely up in 2012, and we saw an overall higher number of promising games, sometimes in the least likely of places. As always, below you'll see our attending staff's individual picks, and the obnoxiously-large golden menu in between will let you switch over to our overall awards. Some may surprise you!

Now Viewing: Individual Picks Switch to: Overall Category Awards >>

Neal Chandran's Top Picks
5) Mugen Souls - Mugen Souls was easily my biggest surprise of the show.  I honestly shouldn't like this game as much as I do, especially since I've not been too enamored of Compile Heart's (or their parent company Idea Factory's) games.  But gosh darn it, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Mugen Souls.  I laughed at the ridiculously over-the-top parodic humor.  I found the battle system engaging.  I even liked the silly, neon-bubblegum art style.  This game will easily be a guilty pleasure game for me.

4) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - I was pleasantly surprised that Bandai-Namco put this game on display as prominently as they did.  Sure, I would have preferred that the demo be more than just two 10-minute snippets, but what I played left me impressed.  The game does not turn the genre on its ear, but is just such a smooth, fluid, refined, and immersive experience that it's impossible to ignore.  The game looks gorgeous, the ergonomics are intuitive, the music and voice acting are solid, and I never had to adjust the camera. Playing the demo has made me want the game all the more.

3) Deponia - Daedalic showed us two killer graphic adventures - The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav and Deponia.  While my partner at this appointment was more enamored of Chains of Satinav, I was drawn more to Deponia.  I loved Deponia's lush cartoony art style and its sense of humor.  It reminded me of the best LucasArts graphic adventures.  If you enjoy stylized graphic adventures with 100% hand drawn art, Daedalic has your number, whether you want the humorous Deponia or the more somber Chains of Satinav.

2) Of Orcs and Men - This was the game I went back to the second most at the show.  It doesn't reinvent the RPG wheel, but it was quite fun.  I loved the Lost Vikings-esque interplay between the orc and the goblin to overcome situations, and the "bullet-time" mechanic used when shifting between action menus appeals to more patient gamers like myself.  I also liked the developers' goal to create a traditional "orcs and goblins" RPG with more adult sensibilities.  This story-driven game had great dialogue, was fun to play, looked pretty good, and kept me coming back.

1) Dust: An Elysian Tail - If I hadn't known this title was from an independent developer, I would have thought it was the next VanillaWare game.  It's AAA good.  This 2D, side-scrolling action-RPG has lushly drawn backgrounds, fluidly animated sprites, super tight controls, no slowdown, killer art direction, and is great fun to play.  Whenever I had a free minute at E3, this was the game I went back to the most.

Honorable mention: Age of Wushu
I swore off online gaming after a PSO addiction 11-12 years ago, but I really wanted to play Age of Wushu.  This and Mugen Souls were my biggest surprises of the show.

Favorite Non-RPGs:
  • Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit: If Treasure made a 2D side-scrolling Sonic game set in Hell, it would be Arkedo's Hell Yeah! This was the highlight of Sega's booth.
  • The Moonlighters: I had a lot of fun with Rad Dragon's 1950's styled heist action-adventure game at the IndieCade booth.
  • I'm a fighting game fan, so I had plenty of fun with Persona 4: Arena, Dead or Alive 5, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2.  My favorite out of those was Persona 4: Arena.

Most grin-worthy experience:
My day 3 excursion going around asking booth girls about the worst pickup lines they'd heard.

What made me cry at E3:
Analogue: A Hate Story was on display at the IndieCade booth, but unfortunately Christine Love was not in attendance, so I couldn't meet her, talk to her about the game, or possibly get an interview or photo with her.  That would have been icing on the cake, because I liked that game a lot and reviewed it positively for the site.

Liz Maas' Top Picks
4) Final Fantasy Dimensions - As readers might know, I followed this when it was known as Final Fantasy Legend: Warriors of Light and Darkness on Japan-only cellphones. Fortunately, my wish for an iOS version came true this E3. Dimensions gives off that old-school Final Fantasy type of feel, the same type I grew up on. Each additional episode adds a new character and job, and it seems likely that the game will be bundled with all of its episodes upon release. I'm excited.

3) New Little King's Story - This game has a bit of everything, from building your own kingdom as young King Corobo to travelling to other corners of the world to rescue seven princesses. What I enjoyed was the building/adventuring bit: you can have a number of subjects follow you around and not only help you fight, but also collect resources that'll come in handy with the 'build' aspect. This Vita game is bright and colourful yet a very different style from the Wii title form three years ago; not to mention it makes a lot of use of both touchscreens.

2) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Unfortunately, since both demos had a time limit, I couldn't get a feel for the story or characters. What I do know of the plot is promising, coming from Level-5 and Studio Ghibi, and the battle system isn't very complex. The graphics and animation are absolutely lovely and something right out of every JRPG lover's dream. If the game fully lives up to its initial charm, I can hardly wait for early 2013...

1) Borderlands - I love shooting things and have a crude sense of humor that doesn't quite reach Duke Nukem levels. Add that to a graphics style that isn't too cartoony nor realistic and overly 'serious' and you get Borderlands 2. The gameplay, the controls, the character classes, and the smartass quips from your allies? I could have fun with this for a while... especially if I'm that big Gunzerker who can dual-wield anything in the game.

Non-RPGs That Turned My Crank:
  • DmC Devil May Cry (yes, you read that right!)
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • God of War: Ascension (multiplayer)
  • Assassin's Creed III

Other Quirky Games That I Loved:
  • Gravity Rush (Guess what finally sold me on a PSVita?!)
  • OrgaRhythm (which I suck at – despite all XSeed!Jess' best efforts! – but is still fun)
  • Frogger Pinball was fun, but they should really keep it on a pinball machine like they did at the show. It won't be the same as a FB/iOS app.

Best Swag, Edible And Otherwise:
  • Burgundy/blue Borderlands 2 shirt, and in a decent size to boot
  • Bright yellow Persona 4 shirt (though I couldn't nab one...)
  • Edible zombie hands at Telltale (made of turkey)
  • A green plushie thing from WeMade
  • Replicas of the four main classes' weapons in Core Blaze From Gamania. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to bring these back to Canada without looking like a terrorist...

Best Accidental RPG Announcement:
The slip-up by Reggie, followed up by an official announcement by Nintendo of America for Fire Emblem 3DS. (That said, I'm sad it wasn't at the show.)

Surprise Of E3:
The sheer size of GREE's booth. It was almost the size of a Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft booth, and they were giving out cups and other swag like candy. As a company, they've expanded overseas big time in the past year and it looks like they're after North America, too.

Most Disappointing... Everything:
Nintendo. No seriously, I spent all of two minutes in their E3 booth this year. Their big non-hardware announcement was NintendoLand. Come on, really?! They then talked in great length about Paper Mario 3DS, only for it not to be playable on the show floor. In fact, 3DS demos in general were quite difficult to find. As it turns out, you have to find one of Nintendo's booth babes whom the systems were attached to if you wanted to play one at all. Okay, because that isn't creepy at all...

Where were...
3DS games aside, I expected Nintendo to announce an English Dragon Quest X, SEGA to mention Phantasy Star Online 2, hell, even BioWare to talk about single-player ME3 DLC, ending cut or otherwise. I'd also hoped for a NISA game that wasn't Mugen Souls, like maybe Black*Rock Shooter. Oh and Final Fantasy Versus XIII was a (very) non-surprising no-show, but when in the blazes are we getting Final Fantasy Type-0?!

Stephen Meyerink's Top Picks
5) Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] - There isn't much I need to say about this one, honestly. I'm among the biggest of the Kingdom Hearts fans on staff, and this new entry looks like it's got everything Birth by Sleep (best in series thus far, if you ask me) had and a bit more. My only hope is that it advances the story in a meaningful way! What I played at E3 definitely had me ready to play the full game – and we already know the soundtrack rocks!

4) Code of Princess - I loved Guardian Heroes as a kid. I still love it now. Code of Princess is a game that I was completely unaware of until I saw it at Atlus' booth during E3. It is also a game made by many of the same folks responsible for Guardian Heroes, and it shows. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up/RPG with tons of varied characters, lots of gear to collect, and a very distinctive art style. A full suite of multiplayer options, as well as a soundtrack by ACE+ (of Xenoblade fame) round out the package nicely, and have me totally stoked to play the full version.

3) Borderlands 2 - I have sunk something like eleventy-bajillion hours into the original Borderlands and couldn't get enough of its 'shooter meets Diablo' gameplay. The multiplayer is some of the best cooperative play around, and the new game is basically "more more more" in the way that Fallout 2 was (hopefully minus the glitches, of course). Count me in for day one on this one. Everything I saw at E3 had me convinced the game is on the right track to keep fans very happy.

2) Darksiders II - The first Darksiders was a Zelda-like game with fantastic art and great combat; this new one trades in a bit of the Zelda for a little more Diablo, what with tons of items to collect (and trade with your amigos) and a full set of skill trees to develop Death with. The fluid combat is most definitely still around, complemented by a gorgeously well-animated visual component, and what I played at E3 had me ready to plunk down the cash to take this one home as soon as possible. This is definitely one I'll be keeping an eye on.

1) The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav - I love the point-and-click adventure genre. I've beaten King's Quest VI more times than I can count (232/231 points, anyone?), and I've definitely enjoyed more modern takes on the genre (The Longest Journey, Back to the Future: The Game, and The Walking Dead, for example). Imagine my surprise when the fine folks at Daedelic dropped this gorgeous piece of game on my eyeballs. The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav is a point and clicker based on a very popular German tabletop universe, though it tells a totally original story set in a rather unexplored region of the in-game world. The game's fantastic hand-painted backgrounds will definitely hook you (along with the excellent animation), but the writing had my good pal Neal and I quite entertained during our lengthy demo, which definitely bodes well for the final product. The game will be out by the time you read this, and my review should be up soon as well, so be sure to check it out if you bear any love for the genre!

Kyle E. Miller's Top Picks
5) Daedalic's Graphic Adventures - Although I didn't see either in depth myself, Deponia and The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav bring back good memories of Daedalic's previous graphic adventure, The Whispered World. Like that game, they both seem full of charm, personality, and wonderful graphics; I can't wait to see what kinds of strange items I'll have to combine in ways only Daedalic can think up.

4) Pokémon Conquest - I love Pokémon, but I've always held marginal interest in traditional strategy RPGs. That I'd be willing to play Pokémon Conquest says a lot. The game promises many hours of solid content full of grid-based battles, Pokémon strengths and weaknesses, creature collecting, and micromanagement. On top of that, there are Nobunaga-inspired warriors to collect and pair with their most appropriate Pokémon as well as castles to conquer. There was just too much content to preview in the hour or so I spent with the game, and that's a glorious thing.

3) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - I haven't played a solid traditional JRPG in many years. Ni no Kuni looks to remedy that with its breathtaking visuals, adorable cast of characters and creatures, and classic gameplay. The brief demo didn't give me enough time to truly understand the battle system, but access to various creatures and the ability to move about the field seem to provide that extra vitality necessary for a good turn-based battle system. I am sure the little mini-games and special optional quests and activities that all great JRPGs share will be present, and I look forward to falling in love with the genre again.

2) Darksiders II - I played neither Darksiders nor its sequel's demo at E3, and yet here it is at number two on my list of top games. I did saw the game in action, read Stephen's preview, and I have a feeling this is just the right mix of genres and subgenres. My gaming intuition is rarely wrong, and I think the action-heavy combat, level design, and new RPG elements will make this a stupidly fun game.

1) Dust: An Elysian Tail - Although there weren't many big RPG titles on display at this year's E3, it's still somewhat surprising (and perhaps telling) that the most impressive was from the indie sphere. Due this summer on Xbox Live Arcade, Dust is a gorgeous 2D side-scroller with astonishing aerial combat. The better you become at combat, the less time the anthropomorphic fox hero spends on the ground, and the result is unlike anything I've played before. With items, experience, multiple paths, and hidden treasure, Dust delivers everything an RPG should have in a way like never before.

Best Non-RPG: LEGO The Lord of the Rings
Being able to switch between every member of the Fellowship in the Mines of Moria? Priceless.

Most Distressing No-Show: Paper Mario Sticker Star
A few 3DSs could be seen attached to a few booth babes by thick black tendrils, but none held poor Paper Mario.

Most Disappointing: Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two
I still get the feeling I'm battling the controls and camera at every turn.

Mike Salbato's Top Picks
5) Goblin Mobile - Goblin whoble? This little game from WeMade is a fun side-scrolling quasi-2D (or whatever the term for old-school brawlers like Streets of Rage is) action RPG, coming for both iOS and Android, that showed some surprising promise. Quick hack-n-slash games are great for mobile devices and, unlike many mobile games at the show, Goblin Mobile ran at a great frame rate, so I have high hopes for the final game. This one really caught me off guard.

4) Pokémon Conquest - I'll admit I haven't really been able to get into – or devote the time to – a strategy RPG since Final Fantasy Tactics. But the sheer absurdity of Pokémon Conquest has me interested. It's ridiculous and shouldn't really exist, but the very insanity that birthed the game actually makes me want to play it more. And not just because I need payback after picking up halfway through someone's playthrough at E3 that left me fending off 5 Pokémon with a lone Jigglypuff (it didn't end well). Speaking of absurd crossovers...

3) Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] - I know the story is silly, and combat is sometimes nothing more than mashing buttons, but darn it, I just love Kingdom Hearts. This looks like the KH game I've wanted for awhile. Nothing against Birth By Sleep, but I really do like playing as Sora as he was responsible for many hours of good memories in the first two games. Kingdom Hearts may not be for everyone, but kudos to Square Enix and Disney for making such a weird concept work in the first place, when I never thought it could. As for you, Disney, can you please get some Kingdom Hearts characters/merchandise/attractions in Disneyland? Thanks!

2) Rift: Storm Legion - As an on-and-off World of Warcraft player, Rift appeared to me first as WoW with a higher polygon count, which was fine, but I decided to stick with what I knew. Rift's upcoming expansion, however, looks to add so much content and areas to explore, along with some nice gameplay additions to keep things interesting, that I may have to give it a serious look. The massive building-sized boss we saw at the show just astounded me, and has me anxious to try it out (once I upgrade my computer of course).

1) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - Ni No Kuni, to me, has a certain Dragon Quest/classic RPG vibe to it. Given Level-5's experience with Square Enix's franchise, maybe that's not coincidence. But make no mistake: Once you get deeper than the game's gorgeous over world map, you are most certainly in a world that feels like a Studio Ghibli movie. The art direction is superb and there are even some nods to other Ghibli productions (we saw a boss named Porco Grosso). Gameplay, based on the demo anyway, seems fairly standard JRPG fare, so it remains to be seen if it breaks much new ground. Regardless, if Ni No Kuni even manages to portray a fraction of the atmosphere, emotion and whimsy found in Ghibli's best – Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, Ponyo come to mind – then it's worth playing.

Top Non-RPGs:
  • Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
  • Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
  • Epic Mickey 2
  • New Super Mario Bros. U
  • Quantum Conundrum

Random Niceties:
  • Gamania gave press members a stunning set of weapon replicas from its upcoming Core Blaze. Some of the best swag ever. (To say nothing of the chicken sausage, salmon and other appetizers!)
  • GREE, who lured us into its surprisingly large booth with free drinks and spiffy reusable plastic cups.
  • Showing off The Walking Dead, Telltale had turkey legs with life-sized zombie hand-styled holders. Brilliant (and appropriately gross).
  • Once again, though from Perfect World this time and not Atari, a sweet Neverwinter bag filled with a shirt, iPad-sized travel bag, a knitted dragon head hat and a friggin' glass mug. Thanks Perfect World!
  • The always-delightful joy brought by Peanut Butter Snickers: the official E3 snack food as determined by Kimberley. (I bought these myself, but they were still great to have on hand)

Where Was...
  • Paper Mario? Out this holiday and nothing playable?
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening?
  • Black*Rock Shooter? That game looks so weird and cool.
  • Final Fantasy Type-0? Seriously guys, we know it's coming. Not even a mention?
  • Phantasy Star Online 2? I haven't been as excited about a Phantasy Star release since the original PSO.
  • Tales of Xillia? I didn't expect this one, but opinion seems super positive on it, so I'd love to see it come here.
  • Final Fantasy Versus XIII? A no-show for 6 years now, and it will remain on this list until we see it.
  • Zelda for Wii U? Perhaps a futile hope, but since we saw a Wii U demo a YEAR ago, I'd hoped Nintendo would at least tease a next-gen Zelda.

Dave Yeager's Top Picks
5) Dust: An Elysian Tail - Like so many games at this year's E3, I hadn't even heard of this game before being wowed by its beautiful visual style and startlingly visceral combat. I'm hoping this makes it big when it releases on XBLA so that it gets ported to other platforms.

4) The Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav - I'm a pen and paper, tabletop RPG guy, and The Dark Eye is to Germany what Dungeons and Dragons is to the US: as ubiquitous as tabletop gaming gets. Since the German audience for this should be big, the production values are fantastic for a game that won't be as recognizable to a US audience, and that's a big win for adventure fans.

3) Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch - If you're not at least a little bit excited about a video game made by Studio Ghibli, I can only assume you are visiting this site for the first time.

2) Age of Wushu - Like Dust, here's another one that wasn't on my radar at all. Like The Dark Eye, this one already has a huge audience overseas. When I heard "free to play" (although that is still up for debate in the US due to the stigma attached), I expected something completely different than the AAA quality title I saw during Snail Games USA's demo of Age of Wushu. The MMO market is crowded and the lines are starting to blur, but Age of Wushu was something I wanted to get my hands on ASAP.

1) Torchlight II - It wasn't on the floor so this might be cheating a little bit, but seriously it's great. Read the many words I've written already in my preview.

Most Disappointing: Nintendo
I honestly just do not get the Wii U. I wasn't a huge fan of the Wii, but it was very easy to understand the appeal and the demographic. I can't figure out either when it comes to this new platform, and the few things I tried on it were generally underwhelming. Without a "killer app" like Wii Sports that demonstrates the real possibilities the Wii U opens up, it's hard for me to imagine where exactly they are hoping to go with this. The "new multiplayer" features, like one person controlling some aspect of the gameplay while other people play, is not exactly groundbreaking stuff and certainly doesn't require a tablet controller to pull off. Color me confused.

Favorite Non-RPG: Sleeping Dogs
I am a big fan of the Yakuza games, and Sleeping Dogs reminded me an awful lot of what Yakuza might look like with more focus on the core fighting mechanics and less focus on mini games. The result was pretty awesome to play.



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