E3 2017: My Thoughts, Particularly on the Press Conferences and Nintendo

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I got a Wii U last month at last, probably a couple of years after I should have, and have been quite addicted to it, particularly Splatoon, Mario Maker, and Super Mario 3D World. But this isn’t the place for that, this is for gaming’s big event last week, E3.

Like usual I watched a whole lot of E3 footage last week, including all the main press conferences and lots of floor footage particularly from Nintendo and Giant Bomb though I won’t say much about the latter’s shows. So, for the third year in a row, I wrote up an article compiling all of my thoughts about this years’ show, focusing on the press conference and my primary interest as far as E3 is concerned, Nintendo. This years’ show was not as interesting in some regards as last years’ was, because there were fewer major game reveals and no new platform announcements, just details on Microsoft’s upcoming system they announced last year, but even if it wasn’t the best E3 there were quite a few interesting reveals and lots of details about games that were shown at the show to discuss, so there is plenty to say!

    The Press Conferences

Electronic Arts

EA’s conference happened first, and it was on Saturday so this year E3 started earlier than ever before. It was an hour and a half long and didn’t have much to show that was all that interesting. Or at least, it didn’t show much that was new. EA’s conference had a few good parts, but mostly it was just another not too great EA press conference; their press conferences are usually among my least favorite, though EA makes some great games, and this year was no exception. EA started with their sports games this year. The intro with a bunch of guys drumming while wearing Rob Gronkowski jerseys was amusing, but the long segment for EA’s football, soccer, and basketball games that followed was not. And also not particularly interesting to me was the end, which was a long segment about Star Wars Battlefront 2. I like Star Wars a lot but I have never played any of the Battlefront games before. I’m sure the game would be fun for a little while, but Battlefront, like Battlefield, isn’t a kind of game which has ever grabbed me for long; I remember finding the Battlefield 1942 demo amusing for a bit back when it first released, but not enough to to buy any games in that franchise. And on the note of Battlefield, EA also showed off Battlefield 1’s upcoming Russia expansion. The game has fantastic graphics and WW1 is an interesting setting, but for how long I would play the game I doubt it’d be worth the money unless it was cheap.

There were some games at the EA conference that looked more interesting, though. There is a new co-op-only game from the guy who made Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons looks like it could be pretty good, though I don’t know if I want to play it considering its tone and prison / prison-escape setting. EA also showed the new Need for Speed game, and it was a good trailer. I like the NfS franchise, but we’ll see how this one turns out. The graphics look really good, but it didn’t seem like much of it was actual gameplay so I couldn’t really tell how the game will actually play from that trailer. Still, it’s another fast and fun looking NfS game with fast, expensive cars, so that’s cool.

And then after the long Star Wars Battlefront 2 segment, the conference ended. It was mostly just a sequence of videos without much of a stage show most of the time, so the conference was average stuff. Two big titles were missing from this conference, Amy Hennig’s Star Wars action game, which was not shown publicly at this E3, and Bioware’s action-RPG, which was held back for the Microsoft conference. After watching this conference I thought that I was probably looking forward to seeing what it was.

Microsoft

Microsoft was next, running their conference on Sunday afternoon. The main focus of their show was on showing off the Xbox One X, a new much more powerful revision of the Xbox One hardware. The system will be the most powerful console ever by a sizable margin, but very few exclusive games were shown off to help convince people to buy it beyond just the “powerful hardware!” aspect. And also concerning, late in the conference they announced the price, and it is high: $500. The less powerful Xbox One S has been cut to a reasonable $250, but $500 is a lot. It is mostly focused on people with 4K televisions, which is a small market of peopl who probably have money to spend on expensive electronics, but that also limits Microsoft’s potential audience. Still, the hardware and graphics of the thing look great.

But while exclusives were few and far between, Microsoft did show a lot of games, 42 in total they kept saying, and that’s good. Apart from a handful of first-party games most of those 42 are multiplatform third-party titles which might have timed exclusivity windows at best, and almost all are Western titles as Microsoft’s serious problems at getting Japanese games on their platform continues, but they did show a lot of stuff, some of it interesting.

But seriously, as far as a Microsoft platform-exclusive library goes — that is, games only available on PC and Xbox One — here’s all I can think of that they showed: Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves, Ori 2, State of Decay 2… and not much else. The very nice looking 2d platform/action game Cuphead and the not-VR-anymore 3d platformer Super Lucky’s Tale also may be MS exclusives, but that’s about it. There may be some other indie things, but MS had NO major new game announcements here, unless you count Ori 2 and Forza 7, but while Ori 2 is a 2.5d platformer, and the sequel to a very highly acclaimed game from not long ago. The new game looks amazing, I can’t say that a sequel is a big surprise with how successful the first one was. There have also been hints that the game would get a sequel. Similarly, Forza 7 has been heavily hinted at so it’d have been more surprising if the didn’t show it than that they did. Forza 7 looks amazing and does a great job of showing off the hardware power of the Xbox One X hardware, but I find simulation driving games boring so I wouldn’t want to play it. As for the rest of those games, Crackdown 3 could be pretty fun, but I’d need to see more of it; the original is good. Sea of Thieves has some good ideas, but the very strong co-op focus is a big negative, as how playable will the game be with random online groups? Because I’d almost never be playing with friends, and the game has no solo play at all pretty much, so while I love Rare I am very doubtful that there would be much in the game for me. And State of Decay 2 just doesn’t look interesting at all to me. I know MS doesn’t have many first-party studios left now, since they have shut down multiple studios including Lionhead, Ensemble, and more, but we’re really seeing how much that is hurting; you need games on your system to make people want to buy it! Peter Molyneux may have his problems, particularly with the truth, but the Fable games were pretty good and they are missed, for example.

Making that worse, almost everything they showed was Western-developed, so MS has done nothing here to change the X1/PS4 narrative that Japanese games almost never appear on X1, but PC and PS4 only. Maybe there’s nothing they can do about that now, but it is unfortunate and makes me less interested in the system. The issue for me specifically is the paucity of PC/Xbox-only titles, to be clear, not that MS is now releasing all of its first-party games on PC as well; I’ve been a PC gamer since the early ’90s and have always considered PCs to be the best gaming platform. And since I bought a new computer in early 2017, it’d be great to see more PC games that push its hardware. I was pretty unhappy with how MS mostly abandoned the PC back in the early ’00s in favor of mostly only supporting the Xbox / Xbox 360. So, it’s fantastic that MS is getting back to supporting the PC better again now. And as my PC and TV are in different rooms, there is a place for a console like the Xbox One in my game collection. Microsoft just needs more exclusive games. And as I mentioned earlier the loss of Japanese third-party game support is very disappointing as well. It’s sad how MS collapsed completely in Japan after the ’00s; they never were successful there, but it was nice how the 360 got a lot of major Japanese titles. I don’t have a PS4 or X1 (or should it be XO? XONE? Why is there still not an agreed-on acronym for this system?), and naturally if I was to get one I’d far rather get the MS system than the Sony one because of how much I dislike Sony and because the powerful hardware Microsoft announced here looks great, but it has nothing I can’t get on PC and is missing a lot of third-party software that the PC and PS4 have. Of course though really when I get another system (this holiday, next year, or whatever) because I also love Nintendo it’s sure to be a Switch and not either of those systems and the Switch has even less third-party support since at least MS has all of the Western studios onboard, but still. Anyway, I may sound harsh, but it’s just because I do like Microsoft’s consoles and operating systems, and want to see them succeed. And I hope they do succeed with this and win back the Japanese developer audience, even. We’ll see how the X1X sells.

Right before mentioning the X1X’s price, MS announced something pretty interesting, that the system will soon have some original Xbox backwards compatibility added in. That’s awesome, though they didn’t mention any details of how it will work. Only one game was announced so far and it sounds like only a limited number of titles will be brought over, but the first game is a real classic, the great flight combat game Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, but that’s a great one to start with. In the conference MS didn’t make this clear, but later I believe I saw that you will be able to activate these games with real original Xbox discs, and that’s great because you won’t need to rebuy the game to play it on the new system, unlike how, say, Nintendo does this kind of thing. That’s great if true. Between this and things like the recent HD re-releases of original Xbox titles Voodoo Vince and Phantom Dust, it’s great to see MS care about the original Xbox again beyond just Halo. So they aren’t trying to erase the existence of the original Xbox system.

As for the third-party games shown at the conference, I won’t try to cover all of them. I do have to mention the last one though, Bioware’s upcoming action-RPG Anthem. The game was shown at the end of the conference, and it has some great art design and could be good, but I don’t know if it actually will be. The game is a Destiny-style multiplayer-focused sci-fi third person shooter. There is a lot I don’t like about Destiny but the core shooting gameplay is surprisingly good. If Anthem is similar it could be good, but at this point who knows. Way too many games these days are first or third person shooters and this one is no exception though. And when you consider how Bioware’s last couple of open-world action-RPG games have had mixed receptions (Mass Effect Andromeda, Dragon Age Inquisition, Dragon Age II if you count it…), will this be better? The visuals are good, but I have no idea based on this if it will be fun to play.

Bethesda

Bethesda’s conference was next, airing Sunday afternoon. This one was almost exclusively a video, excepting only a bit from their top guy Pete Hines at a few points in the conference. As a result it barely needed, but it had one. You’d just think that with a stage you’d make some use of it, but ah well. They did put each segment in a “theme park” framework which is amusing and worked fairly well. I’m generally critical of Bethesda, as anyone who has read a lot of my stuff would know, for some pretty valid reasons including their bad business practices and my dislike of giant open-world games, but they do own id and their main focus this year was on a new game in one of id’s classic franchises.

That game is a new Wolfenstein game, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It’s from the developers of the highly regarded Wolf game from a few years ago and looks pretty good. The visuals are good of course, but the gameplay looks good. This time the game is set in an America conquered by the Nazis (the last game was set in Europe), and you need to help defeat the Nazis here. That sounds serious, and but despite that the trailer is amusing in a weirdly interesting way. The art design, silly writing and story, and more are pretty good. Watch the video of the game, it’s well worth it. From the Nazi-propaganda fake-TV shows to the ingame cutscenes this game may be doing something that has been done before, but it’s having fun with it. The silliness within a serious franchise, Nazi robots to destroy, and all have long been some of my favorite things about the Wolfenstein franchise, and this one looks good. The title intrigues me too; “The New Colossus” is of course the title of the famous poem written for the Statue of Liberty, which goes “send me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and such, and was written by a Jewish woman in the late 1800s. The game is about a rebellion against the Nazi occupiers so it could just be a reference to the obvious (freedom, America, etc.) but will it be any more than that? And even if it’s unintentional I can’t help but think of at least a few modern political issues this makes you think of… but anyway, as for the gameplay, it looks like a very fun and good-looking game in which you kill a lot of Nazis. It should be good. As an aside though, the title of this game is questionable because this is the fifth game in the current Wolfenstein chronology, not the second. It doesn’t make much sense to call it “II”… heh.

After the Wolfenstein reveal Bethesda showed quite a few other games, though it was all just videos. They showed a new Dishonored 2 game, which I believe is a standalon expansion or something and may be multiplayer-focused; I like Thief at least in theory and Dishonored is similar so it’d probably be fun. They also showed one game for a Nintendo system in some footage of their upcoming port of Skyrim to the Switch. It’s great to see The Elder Scrolls on Nintendo, even if I’m hardly a series fan, and it looks like Skyrim all right, with some added Amiibo support. If you scan the Link amiibo for example, you get his outfit in the game or something like that. They also showed three VR projects — and this was interesting because VR was something conspicuously absent from Microsoft’s conference — for a new shooting gallery-style Doom title and VR ports of Skyrim and Fallout 4. They only showed much of the Doom game, and it has warping like most VR games. I’m not sure how well Doom would work without movement, but I guess people with headsets will see. Additionally Bethesda also showed little bits about their card game Elder Scrolls Legends, some new content for their MMO The Elder Scrolls Online, and maybe a bit more. Overall Bethesda had a decent conference. It was short-ish at only 40 minutes or so, so the pacing was good. I liked this more than last years’ Bethesda conference.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft was fourth, and since MS moved to Sunday they had the early afternoon to themselves. Ubi started with a bang early on, as they announced a title a lot of information leaked about early, Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Switch, for real and showed a bunch of gameplay… and it looks great! Miyamoto himself made a special surprise appearance at the conference, too. There was a pretty entertaining discussion between Yves Guillmot and Miyamoto, watch it. One of the games’ creators from Ubisoft said that Nintendo said to make a Mario game unlike any other Mario game before, and, well, they succeeded, there has never been a Mario game like this. As for the game, yes it is real, and it does look quite good. The games’ graphics are great and have a shiny, cartoony look to them, very much like many Mario games of the last few years. The gameplay is, interestingly enough, a tactical strategy game basically. The characters all have guns, too. Sure, they are futuristic laser weapons and not realistic guns, but still Mario with a gun is kind of weird stuff to see. Oh, and compared to Mario Odyssey, here Peach is a playable character in your party and appears to be reasonably tough, while there you need to rescue here again. Ubisoft wins that one by a lot, Nintendo needs to stop being so sexist! And as for the gameplay it doesn’t just look great, it sounds like it is great going by impressions from the show. Once in a battle you move each character within the movement range, shoot at enemies, throw allies at other points in the map, etc. It looks fun, and a Mario strategy game is a good idea which actually works. The games’ concept seemed silly when the existence of this game leaked, but the game actually looks great. It’ll be out in August too, so it’s coming soon.

After that, Ubi showed a bunch of stuff, including The Crew 2 (now with planes and boats, and no sign of an overly serious plot like the original… but will it control well this time?), Far Cry 5 (now in Montana, versus a cult), Just Dance 2018 (once again coming to the original Wii, as well as everything else! The last Wii game was, I believe, last years’ Just Dance game, but it is not dead yet… maybe this is the last year? We’ll see.) some more of the new Egypt-themed Assassin’s Creed Origin (which was announced at the Microsoft conference Sunday; it’s an AC game in every way, just in Egypt now and with a black protagonist. Gameplay appears unchanged though, so it’s probably going to be decently fun but not too compelling for me.), an Olympics DLC addon to Steep, the new game Skull & Bones (basically the pirate parts of AC IV/Rogue spun off into a multiplayer-focused, ships-only game; it looks pretty good, though it’s a late 2018 title so it’s a ways off. It’s set in the 1700s as usual for pirate games, but in Indian Ocean instead of the Caribbean. The unique setting could be interesting, I like that the game is trying something different there!), and a few more. It was all well presented, though I did miss Aisha Tyler — this year she wasn’t hosting, they just had Yves Guillmot and each games’ developers pretty much. That is too bad, but it still was a very Ubisoft press conference thankfully with some of their usual silliness.

Then, at the end, came the big reveal… a brand new trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2! Yes, the project lives, though art style aside it looks unrecognizably different from anything either from the original game or even that BG&E2 trailer from like ten years ago now. The new trailer is great, but it’s a 100% CG cutscene without a hint of gameplay. And for the other major negatives, it’s a prequel so it won’t star Jade; it sounds like some kind of open-world / space exploration game, and not a 3d platform/stealth game like the original; and no year or platforms are mentioned. So yeah, despite being in development for a very long time this game is still early on apparently. That’s not great. The game could be great, sure, but knowing so little and with such a dramatic change of everything from the first one, who knows. Now, considering that I did not love the original like many making some changes is not bad, but I would have liked to see Jade return at least. Still, it’s kind of crazy that this game is still in development. After the conference information came that the game is apparently still early in development and might go in some sort of early access route, perhaps. I wonder if the game ever actually releases, it sounds very early. I had issues with the original game but I really hope this game actually is finished sometime in the next few years.

Overall, Ubisoft’s conference was pretty good, and once again is the best one through Monday.

Sony

And last for Monday, Sony’s conference was in its usual evening slot. Much like last year Sony gave a shorter and game-heavy conference, cut a lot from their boring two hour conferences of years past. As a result this show was more like MS’s conference this year than the Sony conferences of old, but it was probably cut back too much; trailer after trailer with minimal context is not the best way to show a game, in my opinion, some discussion of the game beforehand is great. Sony’s hardware is out, so it’s all about the games, for PS4 (Pro) and PS VR.

As with many companies this year Sony divided their footage into several parts. Unlike Nintendo, who started with a show then streamed afterwards during the show, Sony did a pre-show stream that concluded with their conference. Some games were only shown in the main one-hour pre-show piece, and others only in the conference itself. Some interesting titles only appeared in the pre-show, such as Knack 2 and Gran Turismo Sport. I don’t care about GT much, as just like Forza sim racers do not interest me, but Knack 2… I haven’t played the first, but despite its infamous mediocrity I like that kind of game at least in theory, so sure, why not make another one, particularly if it is better than the first one e is usually regarded as being?

But in the main show Sony focused on only its top hit titles for the US market. Staring with the games they showed that I disliked the most, as expected, they showed a lot more information about Days Gone and the new God of War. Days Gone is what it looked like at last years’ E3, a zombie game where you play as a not-very-nice biker guy. It looks as completely uninteresting now as it did a year ago, to me anyway. Open worlds, QTEs, luring zombies into killing your enemies, etc… it did not look very good, or in any way interesting to me. My main issues would be that Zombies are hugely overdone, QTEs are terrible, the protagonist is kind of an awful person from what little we see, and the core gameplay looks generic. God of War also looks similar to last year — it’s God of War, but Kratos has an axe now, and the game has a new, somewhat contemplative story tone as well. Considering the horrific things Kratos did in the previous games, saying that just because centuries have passed now he’s sort of decent is hard to believe, but I’ve always thought Kratos is one of the most unpleasant, awful game protagonists around and what he did before doesn’t go away just because of this game. And anyway, he still is an angry killer and I imagine the plot will eventually turn into an excuse for killing your way through another set of gods, so yeah, my borderline hate for this series’s story continues. As for the gameplay… walk around and hack things, just slightly differently this time. Meh. The games’ third person behind-the-character viewpoint is new for this franchise, but that’s not better, just different.

The rest of Sony’s first-party titles shown in the conference looked better, but not by much. They showed more of their Uncharted stand-alone addon thing, which is interesting for starring a pair of female characters but not for its generic shooting-and-auto-platforming gameplay; announced a Horizon DLC addon set in a nice-looking snowy mountain setting; announced a PS4 port of Shadow of the Colossus, with better graphics this time but a 2018 release date for this remake of a remake of a very popular classic; and some more. One other focus title was David Cage’s Detroit, the latest title from that maker of very cinematic games. You play as three characters, and the one this trailer focuses on is a guy who is leading an android rebellion against the humans, it seems. The story could be good, but I wish it was a game and not just a QTE sequence with cutscenes and minimal interaction like his games always are, this one included… ah well. Sony also showed footage of their upcoming Spiderman game for PS4. I think that was announced before, yes? It looks like a Spiderman game all right. Run around a city, web people, etc. I’ve never cared for Spiderman games and doubt this one would change that, but it looked fine, QTEs excepted. There’s some nice destruction in this trailer, but will the game have real destructible environments or is it just canned? And how much of that trailer was actually gameplay, a lot was cutscenes and QTEs… so at this points who knows. Oh, and it’s a 2018 game too. As usual Sony sure does love showing things you won’t be able to play in the year of their conference.

And finally, Sony had a VR segment, announcing some new games for their Playstation VR headset. Star Child, a 2.5d platformer in VR, could be good though I doubt it really needs to be a VR-only game. The other VR games interested much less. There is a horror game called The Inpatient, an FPS titled Bravo Team, a little more shown of Skyrim VR from Bethesda, Final Fantasy XV fishing (Yes, really… but why? And what?), and a good-looking somewhat Redwall-styled action-adventure game starring a mouse warrior called Moss. I’d like to play that one.

Additionally there was also a bunch of third-party stuff shown, much of which will be multiplatform — COD: WWII, Destiny 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 4, Monster Hunter World, and more. Monster Hunter World is a big one, but it apparently will be multiplatform so it’s not exclusive. I don’t like what little of this series I have tried, but for fans it’s nice to see one on a major console again for the first time in a while, I guess.

(Not at this conference: The Last of Us 2. I don’t really care, but I’m sure many people are disappointed by that.)

Overall the Sony conference was alright, but it didn’t have the big reveals of last year, or any major reveals at all really. They did show more exclusives than Microsoft did, but most of the big exclusives aren’t games I care about at all or want to play, so that doesn’t mean much. They also moved too quickly from trailer to trailer, without much explanation of each game. Sony this year, overall was average at best, probably below that.

Nintendo

Nintendo went last as they always do, airing a short video presentation on Tuesday morning just before the show opened. Despite yet again only having a video and live demonstrations from the show floor, Nintendo easily won E3 2017 and had a great show. Headlining the conference was the announcement of Metroid Prime 4, a game I am very excited for though it is probably a couple of years away. Continuing on the Metroid theme, in the first hour of the E3 showfloor Treehouse stream they announced a new 3DS Metroid game, Metroid: Samus Returns, which is a remake of Metroid II for the Game Boy. Additionally Nintendo also announced Kirby and Yoshi games for Switch, both of them 2.5d platformers similar to the Kirby and Yoshi games of recent years and due to release in 2018. I have always loved the Kirby series, so it’s great to see it continue. The game looks very similar in design to the Wii and 3DS Kirby games. The Wii and 3DS Kirby platformers are really good, and this looks like it should be just as good. Being able to combine powers returns too, something not seen in the series since Kirby 64! That’s really cool, that was one of the better things about that game. And for another Switch followup to a series previously on 3DS, in the conference Nintendo announced, with no details, that a mainline Pokemon game is starting development for Switch, to release… sometime. This is another sign of the 3DS not having much of a future past 2017 or early 2018; the next Pokemon game, Pokemon Super Sun & Super Moon, release this year for 3DS, but the next one will be on Switch. This is similar to Fire Emblem, which recently had a 3DS game release, but there has been anannouncement that the next just had a 3DS release but there has been an they said the next major FE title will be for Switch, that switchover is happening.

I would like to say a bit about that though, on the future of the 3DS and Switch. The last couple of Kirby platformers have been on 3DS, so while Nintendo is still supporting the 3DS this year, this is another sign that next year they are probably planning in going in a Switch-only direction next year. Still, we aren’t quite there yet. I like my New 3DS a lot so while the system is getting older I’m glad to see that it will continue to see software support. Beyond that though, one reason it’s good that the 3DS is still alive is that it is more portable than the Switch is. I wonder, will they have some more portable-friendly version of the Switch then? Between the large size of the tablet, the lack of built-in screen protection that folding provides, and the poor battery life, the Switch is not nearly as portable as the 3DS is, and Nintendo so far seems to realize that, as most games on the Switch are “console-style” titles and not handheld-style” games. It will be very interesting to see if Nintendo does eventually go Switch-only, if they will release a more portable variant of the Switch, or if a year or more down the road they release another more portable console to follow the 3DS. Either of the later two would work I think.

Some people are frustrated by Nintendo’s decision to continue supporting two platforms, and want the 3DS killed off right now in favor of only the Switch. The concept of having one device for all Nintendo games is not a bad one, but abandoning the ~70 million plus people who own 3DSes in favor of the smaller, and supply-constrained, Switch audience would be foolish and Nintendo knows that. So, I at least like that the 3DS has a solid library for this year, and that Nintendo added to it with some major announcements at this show such as the aforementioned Metroid: Samus Returns. That’s great, this slower fade-out is a far better move than abruptly abandoning a still-successful platform. I know I’ve never used a Switch and I’m sure it’s a great portable for times when you can bring it with you, but is that really the solution as a handheld as it is, with, again, its large-ish size, lack of an easy screen cover (folding systems are great for that), and poor battery life… it’d be fantastic for taking around the house and such, like the Wii U Gamepad but without that annoying range limit so it would also be great to bring on a trip, but for carrying around or playing on the go? The 3DS is clearly better for that.

Anyway, back to the games. While Nintendo did announce some games for 2018 or later, the most important of which I mention above, their main focus at this E3 was on games releasing this year. The games shown were mostly first party, since sadly the Switch still has very poor third party support. A few third party games were shown in the conference though, most notably Rocket League, which is getting a Switch port. That’s awesome, Rocket League is a great game which well deserves its huge success. Fascinatingly It’ll have PC/X1/Switch cross-platform multiplayer too, similar to Minecraft which will also have cross-platform multiplayer for everything except Playstation systems. Sony-platform versions will not have cross-platform multiplayer because Sony refuses to allow that, for stupid reasons, but at least everything else will. I hope Sony gives up on their refusal to allow cross-platform multiplayer soon. Still though, cross-platform multiplayer between all the other platforms should be great. A bit of FIFA was also shown in the conference, but it is too bad that that continues to be the only game EA has announced for the system. First party wise, Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 probably got the most time, though others like Splatoon 2 were mentioned. XC2 looks alright, but the character designs and selection are pretty disappointing — seriously, after having that great character creator in XCX, why in the world did Monolith-soft think that forcing players to play as the generic annoying young anime protagonist guy who you have to be in this game was a good idea? It’s not! The character art is also not very good, and I know that’s an issue XC and XCX have to some degree as well but this might be worse. The actual gameplay looks like classic XC stuff though, and that’s good because they are pretty good games. Apparently this game is going to be a more directed, story-focused experience, more like the first Xenoblade game than X, and that’s good, but that character choice is disappointing.

As for Mario Odyssey, it looks fantastic! It’s an open-world Mario game, very much like Marios 64 or Sunshine but with one major new mechanic, that you can throw your hat and possess many types of monsters with it, or turn into electricity and travel down power lines and the like. You can also turn flat and go into 2d segments of levels. The game looks really good of course, and it’s great to see Nintendo return to this 3d Mario style after so long away. I’m sure the gameplay will be very well polished, and the variety of stages is good. That story is TERRIBLE though, there is no excuse for “rescue the princess” AGAIN in this series. No, it is not okay. The whole ‘wedding’ and ‘evil wedding planner villains’ ideas are amusing, sure, but they do not take away from that core problem. And only being able to play as Mario is a definite disappointment too; just being able to take over enemies isn’t quite the same, though it is a pretty good gameplay concept. On the other hand, though, it’s cool that Pauline appears in this game, for the first time in a main-series Mario game, and she is no less than the Mayor of New Donk City. That’s a step up from her previous appearances! Still though, Nintendo’s backsliding on gender is awful, both here and in other games they showed this year. This stuff needs to stop.

Mario Odyssey’s graphics look really good, for the platform at least. It doesn’t have that glowing shine of 3D World or Mario Kart 8, though; it goes for a more ‘realistic’ look, with contrasts between the realistic elements and the cartoony ones like Mario himself. I guess some people criticize that ‘plasticy’ look, but I think that games like 3D World and Mario Kart 8 look amazing! Those are really impressive looking games, and I’m not sure if I like this look quite as much. This time that shine isn’t there, and what you do have, that mix of visual styles with different looks towards more or less realistic styles both within each of the games’ worlds and between each one, works but doesn’t have that immediate ‘pop’ for me that 3D World’s shine does. The worlds they showed here at E3, the city and desert, both look very nice though so that’s fine. Once they release it will, however, be interesting to compare this game to Ubisoft’s Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle, which has that ‘shiny’ look to it and looks fantastic.

So for the most part, Mario Odyssey looks like a really, really fun, classic 3d adventure platformer in a way the Mario hasn’t seen in 15 years. There have been a lot of Mario games in the past decade-plus, but this is quite different from all of them in a lot of ways and that’s great. The game looks really fantastic, with inventive gameplay, worlds that look like they will be a whole lot of fun to explore, lots of stuff to find, and so much more. It’s very exciting that Nintendo is finally making a new Mario 64 or Sunshine-style Mario game, it has been fifteen years now since the last one! If I really wanted to criticize something else, this game is “Mario 64 style but new”; it doesn’t have a completely new and unique game design element to it like Galaxy, 3D Land/World, and Mario Maker all do. New Super Mario Bros. should be on that list too I guess, though I don’t like those games nearly as much as Galaxy, Maker, or 3D World; they are good but feel less original and compelling. Still, each of those game styles does something new and different, but this game returns to the style used before any of those four. As different as they are, all four of the recent Mario game styles are more linear experiences for the most part, some mazelike Mario Maker levels excepted, so Mario Odyssey’s large, open 3d levels are a significant change from Mario games of the past decade and as much as I generally prefer a more directed experience to a completely open one, in the case of Mario both styles work great so I love that 3d Mario is finally back. I only got a Wii U last month — yes, this is one of the main reasons I haven’t updated this site in a while, I’m sorry — but as a result I’ve been playing Mario 3D World and Mario Maker recently, and both are REALLY amazing games that are easily among the better games in the genre. I hope that Nintendo makes another Mario Maker game on the Switch, but I have also wanted to see the Mario 64 style return, and it’s awesome that it finally is! I just hope that if it’s as great as it looks that it gets a good reception; Yooka-Laylee is outstanding and deserved much better than the mixed reception it has received, and I hope something similar doesn’t happen with Mario. In conclusion, I have a few issues with Mario Odyssey, but for the most part it looks very good and I am looking forward to it. It’s only a few months away now…

    Thoughts on things shown on the E3 Show Floor or During E3

Nintendo: E3 Show Floor Thoughts

First, on Metroid Prime 4. On the one hand, wow! The game was announced in the conference with just a logo, and as a big fan of the original Metroid Prime I am excited. But on the other hand, afterwards we learned that Retro Studios is apparently not working on the game, instead some new internal team at Nintendo headquarters in Japan is. I’d rather see Retro make the game, but if this is true and it is another team I hope that they are up to the task, because this is should be a very important title for Nintendo and they need to get it right. The game is probably still several years away, though, so we’ll see how that turns out. Because of that, we still don’t know what Retro is working on, several years after their last game. By this point I’d really like to know; shouldn’t three-plus years be long enough to announce your next project? Hopefully we hear before next years’ E3… but even if it is a new team Metroid Prime is one of the all-time greats and it’s been a long time since the last one, so I’m really looking forward to this one even if it is years off.

On the floor, Super Mario Odyssey was Nintendo’s main focus this year, and the booth looked like a street scene from New Donk City. Unlike last year they did show other games, and had a tourney stage for Arms, Splatoon 2, and Pokken Tournament DX tournaments, but Mario was the main focus and going by gameplay videos from the show-floor demo it looks fantastic. You can possess all kinds of things with your hat, from people to Bullet Bills to enemies, and each one has different abilities that let you do different things to get to new areas in the stage, past challenges, or what have you. Like Mario 64 the levels are large and open, but there are some platform-jumping segments here and there. Only the earliest levels were shown, so I’m sure things will get much more complex later on. It looks like a good mix, much like Marios 64 and Sunshine before.

Seriously though, the presence of Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle at the show, which looks like a surprisingly good turn-based strategy game with a decent sense of humor and great gameplay, makes Mario Odyssey’s very sexist depiction of Peach look really bad. In Mario & Rabbids Peach is one of the playable characters in your party, and has a gun just like Mario and co. and goes around shooting enemies. The Peach Rabbid character acts even tougher, too. But meanwhile, what is Peach doing in the mainline Mario game? Getting kidnapped again, go rescue her. Ubisoft has plenty of its own issues with gender in its games — Ubi’s open-world games pretty much always have male protagonists, for example — but Nintendo is worse and as a fan that is frustrating.

On the subject of the 3DS, Metroid: Samus Returns was shown and it looks great. The game is being programmed by Mercury Steam, a developer with a mixed track record, but working with Nintendo often brings the best out of developers and this project is looking good. The game is a 2.5d platformer and supports stereoscopic 3d for what is supposed to be some nice depth in the visuals, and the background graphics in the gameplay demo videos look pretty good. The gameplay looks good too, and while it is mostly classic Metroid, the game does a few new things, including allowing you to aim in any direction instead of only being able to shoot left, right, or up, and giving Samus a melee attack. And even better, the game will allow you to drop markers on the map, to remind yourself where key points are! That is a fantastic idea that should make this games’ map system easily the best ever in a Metroidvania game, and I hope more games in the genre use it in the future. The game releases later this year and I’m interested.

While the main half-hour conference was entirely Switch focused, on the show floor Nintendo showed 3DS games, and made a few more announcements after Metroid: Samus Returns. One is Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, which is one part a port of the original Game Boy Advance game Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, and one part new game, or perhaps minigame, Bowser’s Minions. I have actually never really played the first M&L game, since at the time it didn’t look too interesting, but I do have some interest so if this is reasonably priced I might get it. The Bowser’s Minions thing could be fun too. Nintendo also announced a new 3DS puzzle game with a sushi theme, Sushi Striker, that will release in 2018. It looks silly and fun and I definitely want to play the game. The 3DS has a few other previously announced first-party games releasing over the next year as well, including Fire Emblem Warriors (which will require a New 3DS; fortunately I have one), Pokemon Super Sun and Super Moon, the 2.5d platformer Hey! Pikmin (it could be good? Who knows; I’m no Pikmin fan, but I am somewhat interested), Miitopia (some social network/game thing which looks completely uninteresting to me), and, releasing in just a few days now, the action-RPG Ever Oasis. Going by what we had seen of the game before I was not particularly intersted in Ever Oasis, but after trying the new demo that released during the show and looking at the footage from the floor, I’m definitely looking forward to it! Ever Oasis is a Zelda / Mana-style game with good controls, great art design, and fun gameplay and combat. You play as a male or female character trying to build up your oasis, both by doing quests to help out people who might want to move in, and presumably also by venturing out to collect stuff, defeat threats, and the like. There are some predesigned areas and also randomly-generated dungeons to explore, and it looks good. I’ll be getting this one.

On a less happy note, while this was a great E3 to be a Metroid fan, it was yet again an awful year to be a F-Zero fan. F-Zero is one of my favorite racing game franchises ever, so Nintendo’s total lack of interest in the series continues to be incredibly frustrating! I know th efuturistic racing game genre is not as lively as it once was, but games like the Wipeout collection for PS4 or Fast Racing Neo for Switch, not to mention similar titles on the PC, show that there is still an audience for them, and F-Zero’s style is one of the best. Nintendo, make another F-Zero game, please! It’s one of your best franchises and it’s a real shame to see it abandoned like this.

Non-Nintendo E3 Show Floor Thoughts

Finally, I should say a little about the show itself beyond the Nintendo booth. When it comes to playing games, while I have a large collection of older to semi-modern game platforms — I have most major platforms up to the Wii U, though I do not have a Switch, PS4, or Xbox One, or a few significant classic systems such as the Jaguar, Intellivision, or Colecovision to name a few — the largest amount of my playtime comes on the PC, 3DS, and, since I got it last month, the Wii U. But while the PC has always been my favorite gaming platform, E3 as a show is generally focused much more on console games than PC. Many PC games are at the show of course, and since Microsoft is now releasing all their first-party titles on PC as well as Xbox One there was actual PC stuff in the Microsoft booth again, but they are mostly just ports of console-focused games, not PC-original experiences, and most were the kinds of major AAA titles that rarely interest me enough to make me want to watch more of them beyond their appearances in the press conferences. As a result, while I love the PC, I didn’t see much at E3 PC-related to say much about, beyond what is in the press conference sections above. As for my love for classic gaming, E3 is definitely not a show for that; its purpose is to show off upcoming titles after all. So when it came to the show itself I mostly watched Nintendo’s great Treehouse streams. I did also watch Giant Bombs’ nightly interview shows, and many of those were interesting, but they never have Nintendo people on so I’m not sure how much I have to say about that here. On the subject of VR though, which came up in several of their panels, it will be interesting to see how long it takes to actually catch on; right now it is just too expensive, and the physical space requirements are also hard to deal with. I don’t have a VR headset and doubt I will anytime soon.

And last, there are some interesting things to discuss about the show itself. E3 is in transition, as the rise of streaming internet video and digital distribution has greatly reduced some of the main reasons for its existence, such as showing distributors the products they should order for the coming holiday season and giving a large platform for announcing upcoming titles. Now many games are just bought online, and publishers can get a large audience on their own for an announcement video or conference without needing E3, so it feels less relevant than ever. At the same time though, it still is important as an event where a significant number of industry people all gather at the same place and meet, as still the gaming industry event which gets the most attention publicly, and as a place to see a lot of footage of upcoming games in a short time. I love watching E3, and I hope it does not go away. And to try to keep E3 relevant, this year for the first time tickets were sold to allow members of the general public in to E3. They apparently sold 15,000 tickets, at costs up to $250… and then did very little on the show floor to modify anything to fit with the far larger crowds this meant. As a result lines were horrendously long for any more prominent game and a lot of people were upset. I hope that next year they modify things to fit better with crowds, such as separate areas for press and journalists, a press day followed by days which allow in the public like Germany’s Gamescom conference does so that journalists can see titles without having to wait in hours-long lines, more demo stations at booths, and such. I’m sure they will work this out over time, but it’s too bad that the first year was not as well planned as it should have been.

Overall though, E3 was a fun show to watch as always, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing it next year too!

About Brian

Computer and video game lover

This entry was posted in Articles, First Impressions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *