Well, this year's E3 was my first show and I can certainly say it was an overwhelming experience. Aside from the numerous appointments and the PC crunch in the media room, there was a bevy of amazing software and even more amazing women on the show floor. Being one of the staff photographers at the show, I certainly had my work cut out for me, but I think you'll all agree that pictures tell a thousand words. Our E3 photo gallery this year is simply gigantic.
On to the show...
Sony's presence was notably large, but while they had a decent selection of games, the overall atmosphere was pretty sedate. While games such as Primal, Sly Cooper and The Mark of Kri were all impressive, nothing really blew me away. Wild Arms 3 was interesting, but as I own the import it really wasn't that jaw dropping. Dark Cloud 2 was, well..Dark Cloud with cell shading. Final Fantasy XI was playable on the show floor but since the GUI was completely in Japanese, playing the game was a little overwhelming. The crowning jewel of Sony's presence at the show was Kingdom Hearts. Thankfully there wasn't a huge line to play the game and there was no set timelimit on playtime. Rudo, Commodore Wheeler and I spent a good amount of time running Sora around the lush island featured in the demo. Enix's presentation of Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time was stunning beyond words and Grandia Xtreme wasn't too shabby, but I wasn't very impressed. Working Designs had a lovely movie-theater style booth with Growlanser II & III placards aplenty and a penny arcade prize-crane for Goemon plushies. Oops, let's not forget those prize-winning Growlanser inflatable swords.
The X-Box pavilion had quite a large showing, though there were really only a handful of games that I would have considered worthy of purchase. Panzer Dragoon Orta had me waxing nostalgia over the good old Saturn days. If you're a shooter fan, or an acolyte of the series, then this game will blow your socks off. Murakumo, From Software's take on ZOE inspired mecha shooting, was a total blast to play and almost completely localized. For shooter fans, that makes a definate two to tango for the X-Box later this year. While I never had a chance to actually play Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II for the X-Box I was quite impressed with the new levels, races and weaponry. After the pain of having my beloved Hunwear NOL'd, I had given up on the game, but if Microsoft incorporates server side saves and improved security then sign me up. Though not a part of the official X-Box arena, Phantagram was showcasing the very impressive action-RPG Duality for release on PC and X-Box for later this year. Though the game was unplayable, the digital press kit Jayde brought back from his interview had me drooling all over his laptop.
One of the Capcom employees saw me oogling the Devil May Cry 2 demo video and saw the pretty media badge swinging on my neck. Next thing I know he's throwing me into the cockpit of their new X-Box mecha simulator Steel Battalion. God I love being media. Now I applaud realism, but having a 4 foot controller with over 40 buttons and switches, not including foot pedals, to control a mecha was a bit much. Needless to say that my performance was horrid. Capcom says they plan to package the game and the behemoth controller together. Let's just hope they put a hernia disclaimer on the box. I can't wait to see the MSRP on that one. TDK's new Robotech game for the X-Box blew me out of the water, sans 400 lb controller. Finally, my dreams of being a UN Spacy pilot can be realized...no wait...this is based on Carl Macek's creation and not my beloved Big West. I guess the RDF will just HAVE to do.
Nintendo's area wasn't quite as open air as their contemporaries, preferring to keep all of their goodies in a totally enclosed arena. The wonderland of Nintendo's booth had everything from playable copies of Zelda, Metroid Prime, and Mario Sunshine to link-up play with the GameCube Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II. Sadly, I never had the time to dwell very long in Nintendo's wonderland, but Feena managed to win a GBA during the festivities.
The PC presence was pretty strong in West Hall with a fully blown plaza of Blizzard software titles. World of WarCraft and Warcraft III were playable and while the lines were long, all I can say is...wow. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was extremely impressive, though the 6 month X-Box exclusivity announcement was a bummer. Hopefully LucasArts has better luck with Bill's Box than Bethesda did. Hitman 2 was in fine form as was NeverWinter Nights, though looking at the game after 2 years of anticipation and a year of waiting had me less that thrilled. Gravity's Ragnarök Online booth was one of the most pleasant surprises for me at the show. As a longtime fan of the game since the alpha (to the point of hooking several staff members on the game) I was elated to see such a large showing. Their booth was styled as a medieval town square complete with fountain. There were shades of Prontera thru-and-thru, and the fact that their scantily clad sorceress was also easy on the eyes didn't hurt either.
Finally, Kentia Hall. Well, I think Tort's logfile concerning the maligned basement of the Staples Center was pretty accurate. Going into Kentia Hall was likestepping into another dimension, mixing a little of the comic con feeling with the atmosphere of a middle school science fair. Though a far cry away from the Hollywood blitz of the other halls, there were a few niceties to be found. I found many of the Korean and Asian contigent of Kentia to be quite acomodating and much more open with product information than their high-bill contemporaries. I had found two gemstones of gaming amid those strange cubicles: The Seventh Seal: Lost Reminiscence and Mu-Online. All in all, the hall had that quirky enthusiasm like the Little Engine That Could, and I want a GamePark damn it!
Through the swag of the booths, the oogling of showgirls, and the copious liquor that was provided by the fine folk of the industry were definitely appreciated, the highlight of my trip to E3 was a massage provided by the generous folks at Wild Tangent. After running around for 3 days with a GameCube tote bag filled with swag and press materials, a camera case, cellphone, notebook and tape recorder, I was a chiropractic mess. At any given time I had 80 lbs of crap on my person while running around the show floor. Falling asleep on a massage bench after a refreshing Long Island Ice Tea followed by 30 minutes of deep tissue massage was pure bliss.
Though I didn't have the pleasure of having drunk sex in the bathroom, I will fondly remember the staircase of the Quality Inn and the fog we left on the windows of the second floor.
Here are my lists..
Best console RPGs of Show:
- Star Ocean 3: Till the end of Time (PS2)
- .hack: Infection Expansion (PS2)
- Kingdom Hearts (PS2)
- Zelda (GC)
- Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA)
Best PC RPG's of Show:
- Duality (PC & X-Box)
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (PC & X-Box)
- Warcraft III (PC)
- Sea Dogs II (PC)
- Deus Ex 2: The Invisible War (PC)
Best MMORPGs of Show:
- Star Wars Galaxies (PC)
- Final Fantasy XI (PS2)
- Anarchy Online: Shadowlands (PC)
- Neverwinter Nights (PC)
- Phantasy Star Online: Episodes I & II (X-Box)
Best non-RPG's of Show:
- Shinobi (PS2)
- Devil May Cry 2 (PS2)
- Panzer Dragoon Orta (X-Box)
- Mario Sunshine (GC)
- Robotech (X-Box)
Best Show Experience:
- Fun with Staff: From Sushi & Star Wars to crack chicken, meeting and hanging out with the crew was truly THE best part of the trip. Even though I ragged on Citan a bit too much. Who loves ya BAYBEE!
- Funcom Interview: Corona with lime and a free copy of Anarchy Online Special Edition.
- Sex Kittens: Discussing the male perspective of sexuality with the booth babes at The Future of Videogames kiosk seconds before the photo-shoot. Rrrrwarrr...
- Second Base: Getting hot and heavy with one very sexy California girl on the staircase of our hotel.
Worst Show Experience:
- Foul Ball: Not having a room to myself during said baseball activities. Boo!
- Missing Dr. Shoals: Having to tote the press kit equivalent of an obese 12 year old on my back for 3 days.
- RSVP My Ass: Getting lost in East LA looking for the Sony Press Conference and then finding out we didn't RSVP the staff! D'oh!
- Goodbye's: Having to get back on the plane for an 8 hour trip back to my dull state.