My first E3 turned out to be a very nice experience. I had heard many times about the show being so huge, and indeed it was huge enough to take 15 minutes to go from one end to the other, but I had close to no idea there would be THAT many people. As big as the convention was, it was constantly crowded. I know the industry is big, but it's still amazing to see so many people from so many different places gathering for the event.
The Square booth was cool, except the fact we had to line up to get to see footage from the FF movie and all inside the room. Getting to play Final Fantasy Chronicles so soon was great. Being the FFIV fan I am, I did notice some improvements in the translation, and the loading times seemed much better than Final Fantasy Collection's. It looks like Square is going to do a good job with the new translation, although they're apparently not going to keep all the extra items that were originally taken out. Still, the playable versions enabled me to see the effects of the "smut" item and take a look around the hidden programmers' room, with Sakaguchi and even Uematsu - in sprite form. Final Fantasy X, of course, was a point of attention for us RPG fans. Sony's giant spheric screen had some nice looking FFX footage displayed. The FMVs look better and better, as usual. Though as good as the graphics may look, personally I can't really say I'm looking forward to FFX that much. It looks like a weird mix of FFVIII and Baywatch to me :).
Kingdom Hearts... My, isn't this a weird game, and not the kind I usually play. The idea of a Square/Disney RPG didn't seem all that bad to me at first, but when the first characters you see are Goofy and Donald, and the Nomura-designed main character fights with a key... you get somewhat disturbed. The sole idea of a Square type of story telling with Disney characters makes me smile. Of course we should wait and see before making a judgement, and the game may turn out to be a great game, but it right freaks me out. I am also starting to wonder why just about every new Square game has to be designed by Tetsuya Nomura. I can understand for games like The Bouncer, but is Nomura's style really... suiting the Disney universe? And Nomura seems to be really involved with this new game as he's the director... I wonder how good this game will really be.
Kentia Hall, though not the main center of attraction of the show, was something of an interesting place to explore once you'd seen all the main booths. There was a lot of Japanese-style RPGs developed by Korean and Taiwanese PC companies and all the companies were planning to release them in the US market. It looks like an Asian Tigers tidal wave is going to fall on the PC market. Some of the games look a bit amateur but others looked really nice. Kentia Hall was definitely the hall of foreign companies, I got to talk with some fellow french developers. A company was selling DDR-related products, like the Game Boy DDR controller, and another Taiwanese company even had a cheap DDR clone, with 8-bit looking graphics and sound effects ripped off Puzzle Bobble (!).
Speaking of DDR, I got to play the US version on the show floor and at an arcade before E3, and I was pretty disappointed. Where's Butterfly!? Where's the challenge? The songs choice was a big disappointment, with all the versions available in Japan, I would've expected the US version to have more songs, and I would have thought the most famous and most popular songs from the game would be there, and it wasn't really the case in my opinion. Not to mention this version really lacks challenge, though this doesn't surprise me. Oh well.
The Enix booth was probably the best-looking booth in my opinion. I just loved those giant blue slimes! Dragon Quest VII may be nothing new, but it was as good as usual and I'm glad to see it's going to make it to the US. And all the DQ remakes are nice for people who never got to play the NES versions in the old days, not to mention Enix has re-done the translation which is always nice.
If I hadn't had my bag filled with free stuff, I would've tried to win a Ghaleon puppet from the Working Designs booth. I would have hoped to see more Lunar-related things on Working Designs' booth. Arc the Lad Collection just doesn't appeal to me at all. I already didn't like the games when they first came out in Japan. They just look... old, even if I like the idea of releasing all three for the price of one.
I got a lot more interested in the GBA those past few weeks, and especially at E3, than I thought I would. I had played Castlevania: Circle of the Moon when it first came out, and it somewhat disappointed me... Ports of games I just loved in their days like Mario Advance or Chu Chu Rocket made me interested in getting the system, but now that I see a new Tengai Makyou game, a Puyo Puyo (which appears to be a zillionth port of the original though) and a Tactics Ogre are coming out... Wow! I'm getting a GBA! The new Klonoa looks good and reminds me of the good old 16-bit platformers. As for the GameCube, I didn't get a chance to see many of the games because this part of the booth was so crowded, but it sure looks like it's going to do better than its 64-bit ancestor.
The X-Box on the other hand... I don't know what to think of it. It IS big. So far, Japanese developers and gamers haven't been very receptive to the system... It might sell well in the US with PC-style games, but it doesn't seem to be able to face the GameCube and PS2, in my opinion. The games on display at E3 didn't impress me much, I'm afraid. I guess I'll have to wait until I can see more of the system's qualities.
Overall, this year's E3 may not have been the best year for someone like me who's a console player and wasn't looking forward to a specific title. The show was huge and great, and it was nice to get to meet all sorts of people from the industry and press - like Brian Glick from the GIA (who was very nice!), and people from Nintendojo with their cool -though somewhat garish- sweaters. But in terms of (console) RPGs, it was probably not the best year, which is understandable, with the new generation systems coming. Getting free game soundtracks, bags, t-shirts, caps, magazines... was sure nice though. And I finally got to meet more of the RPGFan staff and I can tell you we had some great moments together. I don't know if the show was worth the 24 hours of plane, but I certainly had a lot of fun with my fellow editors and I'm glad I was able to make it - I even got to improve my English! Heh. I am already looking forward to next year's E3, with the hope there will be more interesting titles (for my tastes) and crossing my fingers that I'll be able to go.
- Hoshigami (PS)
- Dragon Quest VII (PS)
- Final Fantasy Chronicles (PS)
- Grandia II (PS2)
- Tales of Eternia (PS)
- Bomberman Online (DC)
- Puyo Puyo (GBA)
- Dance Dance Revolution (PS)
- Mario Kart Advance (GBA)
- Kaze no Klonoa: Yumemiru teikoku (GBA)
Best of Show:
- The Enix booth
- The Nintendo booth
- All the free stuff
- Playing DDR every evening at the hotel room... and getting the RPGFan staff to play Vib Ribbon and Puyo Puyo!
- Getting a picture together with Victor Ireland
Worst of Show:
- Too many things to see, too little time.
- Sega's booth being appointment-only.
- Not getting to see enough new console RPGs
- The food. The food prices.
- Having to play Puyo Puyo at the hotel room with a DDR mat because we weren't smart enough to bring enough controllers :P