E3 2002 marks my first trip to one of gaming's most impressive events. Sure, I'd read about past shows, seen pictures of some even, but nothing can actually prepare you for just how overwhelming the Electronic Entertainment Expo truly is. E3 is like Christmas morning for gamers...only it lasts for three whole days. My first time on the show floor reminded me of being seven or eight years old and gawking at the pile of presents under the tree. Everywhere you turn, there's something bright and flashy vying for your attention. Trying to decide where to start first is just one of many daunting decisions you'll have to make.
The whole process started on Tuesday morning (literally, right around midnight), when, after getting lost in LA (which isn't hard to do), I finally arrived at my hotel. Seven hours in a car was just as bad as I'd imagined it would be.
After nabbing a few hours of rest, I woke up early Tuesday morning. My first goal was to meet up with my fellow RPGFan staffers and head out for Sony and Nintendo's press conferences. After arriving at the hotel where the majority of the staff was staying (which was a few blocks from where I was), I met my fellow editors for the first time. Everyone was very cool, and it was nice to finally have faces to go with the Ogami Ittos.
We set out for the Sony press conference, and after a scenic tour (in the wrong direction, no less) of East LA, we finally arrived at our destination. Unfortunately, most of us didn't RSVP so we couldn't get in. Nicole and Nathan did make it in, though, and they got some cool swag, including a really nifty pen.
Those of us who were unworthy of viewing Sony's press conference returned to the hotel, nabbed some breakfast, and set out for Nintendo's morning press conference. Someone had the bright idea to walk, and roughly two miles later (walking up and down hills), this old man had feet that looked sort of like raw hamburger.
While the walk sucked, the conference was definitely worth it. Nintendo buried us in a virtual avalanche of games in action. Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Star Fox, Resident Evil, and Eternal Darkness were all on display, making it clear that the Big N was going all out in the ‘console war'. And, if that weren't cool enough, we all got nifty GameCube tote bags (which were very handy for the rest of the show). Kudos to Nintendo; that was the best swag I got.
After that, Tuesday was spent preparing for the main show: getting our badge holders, hanging out at the hotel, etc. Wednesday was when the big stuff would really get going.
Being media, I had the advantage of getting in an hour before the masses on Wednesday. Since it was my first E3, it probably would have been forgivable for me to go in without a plan and be overwhelmed by all the cool stuff around me. Instead, I made a beeline for the Nintendo display; it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that people were going to be lining up to play all the new Nintendo games. Better to beat the crowd, I figured, and I was right. I had a chance to play Zelda, Star Fox Adventures, Metroid Prime, and Mario Sunshine before the long lines started.
With that out of the way, I was free to spend the rest of the day exploring, and explore I did. I spent my time vacillating between hanging out with my fellow staffers and wandering off by myself. I spent some quality time with Panzer Dragoon Orta, the new Shinobi, Grandia Xtreme, Dark Cloud 2, Wild Arms 3, and a veritable cornucopia of other titles. Truthfully, E3 is gaming heaven.
From Wednesday to Friday, I played games, basically. I went to a few interviews (Xicat and Bethesda), hung out in the media room, and scored free lunch every day (the media hospitality suite rules; the food was even good). Basically, I had a blast: E3 was even more fun than I'd expected. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it. I'm already looking forward to next year...once my feet finally heal, of course.
- Zelda (GC): I have to admit that I was one of the critics of the new cel-shaded look, but after playing the game, I'm really looking forward to Nintendo's newest Zelda title.
- .hack (PS2): This game was probably the biggest surprise of the show for me. An offline game set in an online world, it's almost headache-inducing when you think of all the ramifications. Still, this could be one of the most interesting RPGs released this year. And, at least it's not a sequel.
- Deus Ex 2 (Xbox & PC): I was rather skeptical about this sequel, particularly after playing the PS2 port of the original a month or so back. However, what we saw at the show was impressive...the game has really been reworked with better physics, more gameplay options (as if the first game didn't have enough), nicer graphics, and a streamlined interface. While the original is certainly showing its age, the sequel appears to be getting a complete facelift. I'm certainly looking forward to experiencing the full version on the XBox.
- Suikoden III (PS2): While I'm not entirely thrilled with the new graphics or the changes in gameplay, I still found Suikoden III to be pretty entertaining. And, if it's even half as good as the first two games, then it's definitely worth playing.
- Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (XBox): While Tenchi and Tortolia (our two big PC gaming guys) were less than impressed with the XBox version of Morrowind, I found it quite entertaining. Yes, there were some framerate issues and the graphics were a little dark in spots, but if you don't own a high-end PC, this is probably the easiest (and cheapest) way to experience Bethesda's newest game.
- Panzer Dragoon Orta (XBox): This is everything I'd hoped it would be: classic Panzer Dragoon combat with incredibly lush graphics from the XBox. I'm sure this game will make some folks consider buying a ‘Box.
- Shinobi (PS2): Jayde and I both thought the controls could use some tweaking, but there's no denying the inherent coolness of a new Shinobi game. It's particularly awesome when you slice up four or more guys, then stand and watch as they split apart...all the while keeping your arms crossed with smug satisfaction. Ninja Gaiden might have made the list, too, but unfortunately they didn't have anything more than a video clip of the game.
- Metroid Prime (GC): Believe the hype...this game is awesome. What more can I say?
- The Thing (XBox & PS2): Games based on movies generally suck, and I was absolutely mortified when I heard they were taking a cult classic film like The Thing and turning it into a game. I'm happy to report that the title is coming along nicely, and does the film justice. It's creepy, it's gory, and it's far more action-oriented than the RE games. Horror fans are gonna want to pick this one up. Too bad they didn't get Keith David to do some voice work. Childs was the man...
- Die Hard: Vendetta (GC): Sure, it's another FPS, but Vendetta really impressed me with all of its gameplay options. As John McClane, you can take guys hostage, don disguises, or just blast the holy hell out of everything in sight. This one was a very pleasant surprise for me-one that I barely caught on the last day of the show.
Best of Show:
- Being the first fanboy in line to meet John Carpenter (director of films like Halloween and The Thing) and have him express interest in contributing to my planned 20th anniversary retrospective on his 1982 film The Thing.
- Meeting the majority of the RPGfan staff.
- Korean BBQ with Sumire, Legion, Tenchi, Tortolia, Woojin, and Commodore Wheeler. That was some truly good food-and lots of it, too.
- Playing Mystic Heroes with Woojin. We both bagged on this game pretty unmercifully-then stood there for half an hour playing it and having fun. Don't judge a book by its cover.
- Free booze and massages at the Wild Tangent booth. There's nothing like an open bar and a nice backrub at the end of a long day at E3.
Worst of Show:
- The walk to the Nintendo press conference. Never again.
- NHL Faceoff 2003: Why do they continue to let 989 make these games? They're horrible. The only plus of my experience was destroying some hapless guy at the game. Mario Lemieux is a hockey god-and so am I.
- Not staying at the same hotel as everyone else: I booked my room late, and had to stay at a different hotel. Because of this, I didn't hang out much after the show. Next year, I'll plan ahead.