E3 was this week, and it was pretty awesome to watch! It’s great that so much stuff from E3 gets streamed now, there was so much to watch. I’m sure I’ll be finding stuff to watch from E3 for quite some time, you can’t watch it all during the show. I watched all of the press conferences on Sunday through Tuesday, but during the show mostly watched Nintendo’s Treehouse stream and Giant Bomb’s after-show streams, only occasionally watching other streams during the show such as Twitch’s, IGN’s, or Youtube’s. I love Nintendo, so it got first priority.
Ratings: The Press Conferences & Games Shown
(and Nintendo World Championships 2015)
First, my thoughts on the press conferences. They will be organized from best to worst. I’m judging each conference mostly based on whether they had games I want to play.
Nintendo World Championships 2015 – A. This was a great show! I hope that in the future Nintendo goes back to live press conferences (with more reveals), but this tourney was great fun, I really liked watching it. The tourney was structured well, they showed off a lot of games, there were even a few new games shown, and Mario Maker looks really great, it has improved a lot over last year. If they do more events like this in the future, though, it’d be nice to see more places holding qualifying tourneys — this had only eight, which really isn’t many. Otherwise, great show!
Nintendo – A-. Nintendo showed almost nothing for next year, but their library for this year is great, stronger for 3DS than Wii U but the Wii U has some good-looking games as well — Star Fox and Mario Maker look fantastic, and hopefully Xenoblade Chronicles X as well. Yeah, I also wish that the conference had had a big reveal of some major upcoming Wii U game, but otherwise it was quite good. The hate Nintendo is receiving here is crazy. The 3DS got some great stuff announced — new Zelda! New Mario RPG! And maybe the Metroid game too, MP Hunters was fun. The Treehouse stream later on made the Metroid game look a lot better than it came off in the initial trailer in this conference, so I am optimistic about the game (more below). The Mario RPG game is by the Mario & Luigi team, which does make me a bit cautious — those games are okay, but I strongly prefer the Paper Mario games over M&L. I hope this is better than past M&L games. And the Zelda game really looks awesome; it’s basically a followup to Four Swords Adventures, which is a very good game. This year’s Wii U library is pretty good as well, with Star Fox, Mario Maker, and Xenoblade Chronicles X as the headliners. The Wii U Mario’s Tennis game looks good as well All three major Wii U games looked fantastic in the press conference, and in the Treehouse afterwards as well.
Sony – B to B+. Yeah, the three big reveals are a big deal, and they showed some other great stuff that’s a ways off too (Horizon could be good), but Sony showed NOTHING for this year. Sony and Nintendo really are opposites here, and while shocking reveals are great, why wait all that time for the games with nothing until then, when Nintendo has good games now AND will surely also have other good games in the future, even if they haven’t announced them yet? And as for those three reveals… FFVII isn’t a game I’ve ever found interesting enough to stick with, but it is cool it’s getting a remake; TLG looks okay but dated; and I found Shenmue 1 quite boring so I doubt I’d like this new one either. So yeah, as cool as it was to see them, for me personally the games aren’t my favorite things. As for the rest of the show, it was the usual mixture of stuff; Sony conferences are always long and unevenly paced. This time the first half was loaded with reveals, but the second half had few to none and was less interesting. Sony finished with Uncharted 4; the driving stage shown looked fun, but I’ve never had much interest in that mostly third-person-shooting-focused series. The highlight for me at Sony’s show, as far as a game I might want to try, is probably Horizon. It’s got a female protagonist, an interesting long-after-the-robot-apocalypse setting, people with primitive weapons fighting against robots… it looks pretty cool! Robot dinosaurs are awesome. 🙂 The Last Guardian also could be better than it seemed here, we’ll see. And FFVII… well, the trailer was good, even if the original game never has held my interest. I’ll certainly be following the remake, though I imagine it’ll be a long time before it releases.
Square-Enix – B. Square’s conference was pretty impressive, loaded with pretty good-looking games that look pretty interesting. The main thing holding back this conference was that the biggest titles were already shown yesterday at other conferences — FFVII Remake, World of Final Fantasy (is this an F2P game, or a traditional RPG? I can’t tell.), Tomb Raider, etc. Still, they showed some games I’m interested in. I hope Star Ocean 5 is good! Star Ocean 2 is my favorite PS1 game, so though the series hasn’t come even close to that high since, I still hope each one will be great. Apparently it’ll be set in between the second and third games, and might say more (or maybe retcon or explain-by-weird-metaphysics) SO3’s crazy plot twist. That could be interesting, or just dumb, we’ll see. Kingdom Hearts 3 also could be good, though I’m not a big fan of the series; the games get repetitive, and Sora isn’t the most interesting character. I really wish this one would have other playable characters, but all they’ve shown is Sora. The Nier 2 reveal was also interesting for how little it said. I haven’t played the first one and from what I know about the story I don’t think I want to (it’s incredibly dark and depressing!), but I’m glad a sequel is being made for its fans. As for their Western games,they talked about the new Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Just Cause games. They all look good enough, though I’m not really looking forward to any of those; I’ve never been a Tomb Raider fan but turning it into a third-person shooter made me like it even less; I don’t care for open-world games; and Deus Ex… who knows, we’ll see. Still, it was a pretty good show overall, though they could work a bit on their presentation; it was a bit slow and low-budget.
Microsoft– C+. This was one of MS’s better conferences, but still was a bit thin on games. MS definitely has a better 2015 library than Sony, but they didn’t have the big reveals Sony did, and we already know about their major titles for this year. Armature’s Recore and the Rare pirate MMO game look very promising and could be good, but I want to see more of them. Armature was founded by some people from Retro Studios, so I hope this game is good, Metroid Prime is one of the best ever! MS also showed off their AR headset, Hololens. I’m not a fan of VR stuff, though I do like my Virtual Boy, but it’s interesting to see at least. But I don’t think all games will be better in VR, and certainly as long as it’s a big bulky headset I won’t want to be wearing those things for long. And how will they feel over glasses? However, I really find it annoying that MS won’t talk much about PC in their conferences. Microsoft, so long as you show that PC isn’t important by not talking about it in your conference, I’ll never believe your “we care now about PC gaming, really!” talk. And trolling PC gamers by, at the PC Gamer conference, announcing that KI and the Gears remaster are getting PC ports but not Halo or Forza is kind of annoying; I’m not really a fan of any of those four franchises, but still, if you’re going to support the PC, release your major titles for it. The PC IS a Microsoft platform after all. Their excuses for why they barely mention it at their press conferences don’t hold up.
Ubisoft – C. The conference was well presented and as entertaining as ever, but they showed very few games I really want to play. I like Ubisoft’s racing and platformer games the most, but they had almost none of those apart from a new console Trackmania game and maybe the new Anno game. Trackmania will probably be cool, but otherwise the conference was just way too much Tom Clancy stuff I’ll probably never play. They showd like three Tom Clancy games… blah. There was Assassin’s Creed as always, of course; as a history major I wish I loved that series, but I just can’t get into it, the gameplay is too simple and lacks depth or challenge. The story is weird as well. Still, Ubi does always have one of the funniest conferences, and that is worth something.
EA – C-. Mirror’s Edge 2 and the yarn game were the highlights here, and those look great. The yarn game is a 2.5d platformer and I’m hopeful it’ll be as good as it looks in the video. Also, I am particularly happy to hear that Mirror’s Edge 2 won’t have guns, that’s a step in the right direction! The guns were the weakest part about the first game. The new Mass Effect game could be good too, but they showed little of it. I still haven’t really played the series, either. However, apart from those few games, this conference was mostly bland. EA talked a lot about its sports games of course, and such. There wasn’t much interesting here, but nothing completely terrible either. Oh, and as a longtime Star Wars fan maybe I should care about the new Battlefront, but I’ve never played the series before and don’t particularly care for that kind of (Battlefield-style) game, so I don’t really. The original Battlefield 1942 demo was alright when it first released, but I never was interested enough to play any more of the series after that.
Bethesda – D. Dishonored 2 could be great, but nothing else here was at all interesting. Doom, looks pretty seriously disappointing (where’s Doom’s speed, graphical design, and level styles? Gone, that’s where, it seems.), and the only Fallout games I care about were made by Black Isle. I don’t like Bethesda much, and this conference was a good example of why. Their parent company ZeniMax has done some pretty scummy things to developers, but even just looking at their games, as someone who does not enjoy open-world games it’s hard to find much in their library of any interest.
The PC Gaming Show – I can’t rate this PC Gamer conference for sure because I didn’t watch it all. It’s a good show, but long. The show is interesting, but low-budget and light on reveals. Still, it’s great that it happened at all. MS showed their usual lack of interest in the PC, so someone had to step up! And they had lots of great and interesting PC games to show, even if they were’t new. So yeah, B-something grade probably.
More thoughts on some games shown on the show floor
No Man’s Sky (PS4/PC) – This was shown at the Sony conference, the PC Gaming Show, and during E3, and it’s a game that has gotten a lot of buzz, but definitely does not look interesting to me; it’s all about incredibly open-ended design. This looks like a product that is not for people who want to play a game… it is for people who want to experience life, explore, find things, and shoot at them if you want. It’s massive with no real clear gameplay hook unless you LOVE near-purposeless exploration, a 100% procedurally generated world, and such. Is it a game? Yes… but there’s barely any point to it. I don’t see a hook to actually make me want to play, and their talking about the games’ complex crafting system reinforces that– I hate crafting! This is not a game for me design-wise, that’s obvious. Also no date was mentioned for release, for those who are interested in the game.
Street Fighter V (PS4/PC) – Based on the first reveals I basically had thought of this as ‘SFIV but with better graphics’, but after watching people play the game, there is a bit more to it than that. Capcom have mixed up the game system a bit here — parries seem to be back in for example, and movesets are different. The art is also a bit different. Still, the game is very much based on Street Fighter IV. Just like that game it is a 2.5d fighting game, with polygonal graphics but gameplay strictly on a flat plane. The graphical design is also similar to SFIV, but with better graphics. SFIV is a good game, but never has grabbed me like KOF XIII. Still, I’m sure this game will be good. It’s already very playable, clearly.
The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes (3DS) – Watching some Nintendo Treehouse stuff, the new 3DS Zelda game really looks like great fun. I’ve been thinking that it’s a shame that Nintendo hasn’t made another Four Swords game, because FSA on the GC is a great game, but they’re finally doing it! And it looks really fun, too. They are emphasizing cooperative play more this time, so the three players share a health bar. This definitely makes things more challenging, but making people work together isn’t bad. The graphical look is similar to the previous 3DS Zelda game, but it looks good enough. The different costumes are interesting as well, each one has different abilities. Different costumes will definitely change how you approach some things, and I’m sure there are better costumes for certain stages. Plus it’ll have online play too, which is fantastic (FSA relied on GBA links only, of course, and that connectivity thing… wasn’t exactly an answer for online play, that’s for sure.). It’s looking great.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS) – After watching some footage on the Treehouse stream, Metroid Prime: Federation Force looks pretty good, basically like Metroid Prime but with cartoonier art and 4-player co-op. The character and mech designs definitely could use some work, and hopefully they improve, but otherwise this game looks quite good. The environments look great, very Metroid Prime-styled. The music sounds like MP stuff as well, and the interface and controls also, which is awesome because Metroid Prime is one of the best games ever. So yeah, they have some things to work on, but the game definitely looks quite promising. So yeah, another thing where the hate is massively overdone. I’m sure they will eventually make another single player-focused Metroid or Metroid Prime game, but this game looks good too.
Star Fox (Wii U) – I’ve seen some criticism of this game, both visually and in terms of controls, but at least for the graphics, I think the game looks pretty good. And in terms of the gameplay and story, what they showed here aimed straight for the Star Fox 64 fan, and Star Fox 64 is my favorite rail shooter ever so I like that for sure. The gyro controls could be good or bad, and I’ll need to play the game before I know if it’s fun to play that way or not, but at least based on graphics, design, story, and levels, I’m really excited to play this game! It looks good. That Platinum Games are working on the campaign is good news as well, they do great work.
Mario Maker (Wii U) – Mario Maker is probably the most improved game that also showed at least E3. Last year the game looked fairly basic, but now this is a polished, full-featured Mario game creator. From the NWC’15, conference, and Treehouse this game got a lot of focus this E3, and it’s easy to see why. This game looks simple enough that making levels will be easy; the complex editors in some games don’t make me want to try to learn how to make levels, and that interest drops even more when the physics and design have unfixed issues as well (see Little Big Planet), but this game doesn’t have any of those problems, the footage shown made this obvious. This game has only tile-based graphics, which limits you, but it also makes design easier. That’s also how the games actually look, of course. Both making your own levels and playing other peoples’ stages look like great fun.
On the Harsh Criticism of Nintendo This E3
So, Nintendo’s E3 Direct got a lot of (overly-) harsh criticism online, because it didn’t show much new. I think the critics are going too far, even if they have part of a valid point. The contrast between Nintendo and Sony’s conferences this year really was interesting. Nintendo had a very good conference for 2015 games, but showed almost nothing for next year and had no big reveals. Meanwhile, Sony had a very good conference for 2016-2017 games, but showed almost nothing for this year (apart for some multiplatform third-party titles), and had some big reveals that are a year or years away.
Which is better? I’m not sure, both have their merits. Had Nintendo had even a single hinted major Wii U game reveal, I think it’d be easy to say they won, because for E3, the game releasing later this year should matter more than games that are a year or more away. Of course, the problem is that they didn’t have that, they had only some handheld and minor titles to reveal. And yeah, that’s a problem, but I think the haters here are MASSIVELY overstating how bad the conference was. It was, for the most part, a great conference, with no major bad sections, lots of interesting games shown, and some interesting reveals — the three new 3DS games announced all look good, for sure. Yeah, it was sadly lacking in reveals for the future, but still, it’s an okay conference overall.
After watching, I thought ‘I wish there had been some more new games shown, particularly for Wii U’, but overall I think it was a good conference. And yeah, anyone saying “worst” did not watch 2008 — this one was many, many times better than that thing was.
Last though, I really do hope that the absence of any major reveals was just because Nintendo was too focused on showing only 2015 stuff, and not because they’re giving up on Wii U in favor of NX sooner than they should.
Game of Show
The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes. Zelda is my favorite series, and this game looks like a lot of fun.