So, E3. It's a gamer's mecca, and this was my first pilgrimage. Held in one of my least-favorite cities, the show is like nothing else, and is truly overwhelming, particularly to the first-timer, particularly when that first timer can't find anyone he knows (or even knows of, save the Penny Arcade fellows) for the whole first day and wanders around aimlessly through the massive Los Angeles Convention Center for nine hours.
But I digress - on to the show! It's big, it's loud and it's glitzy. It's packed with games and booths and nerds of every type and description. You've got your South Hall, filled to the gills with Microsoft, Konami, Capcom and dozens of other developers, including the bulk of the PC crowd; you've got your West Hall, home to Sony, Nintendo, Square (kinda, they had a tiny booth), Tecmo and more dozens of others. And you've got Kentia Hall, full of. Uhm. They had chocolate. Add to these three a sprinkling of companies with their own areas throughout the center, such as THQ, and you've got yourself a long few days of hoofing it around. The place.
There were a couple real stars and some noticeable themes running throughout the exposition. The first was Nintendo - it was Nintendo's show, through and through. Their huge, closed-in booth was packed all the time I was there, with excited gamers playing the new Mario, Zelda and Metroid games, among others. A triple threat like that can't be ignored, and I can vouch for the early excellence of GC Zelda and Metroid Prime and Fusion, at least.
The other big winner was LucasArts, with its myriad Star Wars games. The unwholesome interactive progeny of Episode I: The Phantom Menace is long past - there was no crappy Super Bombad Racing or Jedi Power Battles to be found this year. Instead we saw Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars Galaxies on the RPG side, with a quality selection of games based on the recent Episode II: Attack of the Clones include, um, The Clone Wars and Bounty Hunter. The GBA Attack of the Clones game, however, looks and plays like crap. Ah, well, two for three ain't bad. Now all they need is a real X-Wing/TIE Fighter update ...
Cel shading was probably the feature most on display this year. Every third game or so had it, and there were no genre boundaries - action games, RPGs, FPSs, platformers; you name the genre, and it had a cel-shaded counterpart this year, the best-looking of which had to be the new Zelda. The industry as a whole seems to be in love with giant robots this year, as well, with MechAssault and RoboTech being only two of at least a dozen or so such titles.
The other main theme I saw was that everything old is new again. The exhibits were stuffed with sequels, remakes and updates of every kind. Aside from the new Zelda, Mario and Metroid games, there's a new Star Fox (kind of), Shinobi, Ninja Gaiden, Panzer Dragoon, Wild Arms, Dark Cloud, Suikoden, classic-style Contra, Warcraft, Doom, Unreal Tournament, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid Substance, Zone of the Enders - the list goes on. Most of them look great, too.
Some of the omissions were surprising, however. Where was Soul Calibur 2, in any form? Why wasn't Xenosaga playable? What of Project Ego, or of Halo 2? WHAT? There was lots of stuff missing, and some of the stuff there was well on its way - Medal of Honor: Frontline came out just over a week ago, for example, but they had it at the show. Why?
Finally, on the RPG front - well, it was kind of low-key. Working designs announced the release of parts two and three of the semi-obscure Growlanser RPG series, and Wild Arms 3, Dark Cloud 2, Suikoden III, Knights of the Old Republic, Kingdom Hearts and FF XI were all playable, but Xenosaga wasn't, and there was nary a hint of FF XII or the upcoming GBA FF Tactics re-release - in short, no real surprises in RPG land this year. There was quite a bit of stuff, some of which I haven't mentioned, but most of it wasn't very inspiring.
I suppose I have some lists for you, now:
- Zelda (GC) - Love. It. The new spin attack is a game-seller for me - you'll know when you see it.
- Kingdom Hearts (PS2) - Disney and Nomura's insane collaboration looks better every time I see it.
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) - Vooom! Vssshhh!
- Final Fantasy XI (PS2) - Must...keep up...hope!
- Star Wars Galaxies (PC) - Included by virtue of the concept and word-of-mouth.
- Metroid Prime (GC) - Hands-down. Felt like home.
- Contra: Shattered Soldier (PS2) - Old school, yo.
- Shinobi (PS2) - Long overdue. You're a ninja. You can run on walls and teleport and cut things. Gimme.
- MechAssault (Xbox) - You're a giant robot pilot. You can run and jump really high and blow up things. Gimme.
- Metroid Fusion (GBA) - Old school, again, yo.
Best of Show:
- Meeting some of the people from this site, albeit briefly.
- Running into the Penny Arcade fellows while watching someone play the new Wolverine game, about 10 minutes after the doors opened. Cool.
- Getting to play with all the newest toys before the other kids do.
Worst of Show:
- Wandering around lost and alone the entire first day of the expo.
- Paying $11 for a burger, fries and drink. F**k you, L.A. Convention Center.
- Ow, my feet!