My Thoughts on E3 2016, Part 3: Nintendo

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Nintendo’s E3 presentation was in good hands with Reggie Fils-Aime at the helm!

I had no idea what to expect from Nintendo going into E3 2016.  Although a few interesting titles like Paper Mario: Color Splash or Ever Oasis spiced up Nintendo’s showing, a whole lot was riding on Pokemon Sun and Moon and Zelda for Wii U/NX to make allow the Big N to keep up with the frankly stellar performances of its competitors.  And yet somehow, they managed to deliver despite having only two games, a true example of what JonTron termed the “Nintendo hadoken.”

Let me lead with the one I’m less excited about, and that is Pokemon Sun and Moon.  There are a lot of steps forward being taken in this game that I love.  For one thing, I love the enhanced 3D models and the fact that you can see 3D models of whatever trainers you’re fighting.  The fact that Zygarde is coming back into play with different levels of power has me stoked – finally this guy is getting the attention he deserves.  The Battle Royal mode is also fascinating, and adds an interesting new dimension to a battle system that’s been normally trainer vs. trainer until now.  The new Alola region is also gorgeous, home to some pretty cool looking new Pokemon, and the legendaries are amazing, although I’m most excited about Magearna for its Steel/Fairy typing.

But the big money is coming from the true reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  I’m going to just say it, this game looks lit.  I genuinely think BotW is going to set the standard for Zelda in the years to come.  I’ve never seen an installment take this many risks since Wind Waker, and in my view, it trumps even that game pretty cleanly in terms of innovation and variety.  We see a level of freedom that hasn’t been seen since the first ever Zelda, tempered by many inspirations in between like Elder Scrolls and Shadow of the Colossus.

This game gives you the bare minimum story context before letting you loose on the overworld, an overworld TWELVE times larger than the one seen in Twilight Princess, one of the largest the series has seen to date.  You can climb, hunt, forage, cook, fight, ride, pick up weapons and armor to suit the environment…this game allows the player to do leagues more than Zelda has ever allowed before.  Top that with improved physics, gorgeous art style, and a dynamic story wherein the player can complete the game without learning much of anything about the world, or get the full experience by exploring.  Throw in some amiibo compatibility, including using the Wolf Link amiibo to make the wolf your temporary companion, and you have a nostalgia arrow that’ll go directly to my heart.

All I’m really left hoping for is that this game has a rich offering of sidequests.  Previous entries like Majora’s Mask had excellent sidequests that were extremely rewarding for how they gave unique, unpredictable items that proved useful in different situations.  Other games, like Twilight Princess especially, had sidequests that were entertaining in large part because of interesting characters and missions that took you all across the overworld.  In an overworld as large as Breath of the Wild’s, I hope to see sidequests taken to a new level – I want to see mysteries and interesting questlines, huge battles and cool gear.  Also, as a last mention, I hope the classic green hat and tunic are at least possible to find somewhere in the game.  But if this game is able to fill its shoes, it will redefine one of the most iconic series of all time, maybe even beating out Twilight Princess as my favorite in the series.  It was unquestionably the game of the show for me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

My Thoughts on E3 2016, Part 2: Sony

Sony's press conference was full of surprises and promise.
Sony’s press conference was full of surprises and promise.

Sony’s press conference leads me to believe that the PS4 is about to become the leading platform for cinematic, poignant, and hard-hitting video games.  From the next installment in the God of War franchise, to Hideo Kojima’s undeniable collaboration with The Walking Dead actor Norman Reedus, to a series of VR experiences of all kinds, it looks like Sony is aiming to evolve in the position it’s always had, pushing the boundaries of the stories video games tell.

So what really got me going at the press conference?  Well, just about every other thing.  God of War looks like it’s about to go in an interesting and hopefully more narrative-driven direction compared to its old third installment.  The Crash Bandicoot remakes hopefully signal a re-emergence of that franchise that so many of us grew up with.  Horizon: Zero Dawn looks like it will be an incredible combination of themes and deliver on some thrilling gameplay, and I have to admit, the very idea of Insomniac Games creating a new Spider-Man game gets me cautiously giddy.  As for all the promised VR spinoffs shown, all I can really say is I like the idea of them – given the current expense and relative novelty of VR, it’s something I can’t honestly say is going to be amazing or not – I may take an in-depth look at VR in another post, another day.

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But now onto the real hype machines.  First off, Detroit: Become Human looks like it’s going to set a new standard for interactive story building, exploring insanely interesting themes of real humanity vs. artificial humanity through engaging, investigative gameplay.  The multiple endings also make me thinking this is going to be an incredibly deep, well-crafted narrative experience and I can’t wait to see it take off.  Death Stranding and Resident Evil VII: Biohazard also excited me almost to the point of tears, not necessarily because they represent the kinds of games I play a lot, but because they are sure to shake the industry to its core.  The ingenious minds at Kojima Productions are most definitely going to make Death Stranding an intensely creepy and profound work of art, and RE7 not only looks like a return to the series’s survival horror roots, but the continuation of the kind of immersive, disturbing gameplay we were promised in Silent Hills before it was canceled.

Lastly (pun intended), we have The Last Guardian, the long awaited third entry in the series of extraordinary games that started way back when with Shadow of the Colossus.  It’s looking better than ever on this generation of consoles, and I think it’s sure to move us like few other games can.  Truly, Sony wowed us with the variety and promise of their whole presentation, and I hope their final products are as good as they look.

My Thoughts on E3 2016, Part 1: Microsoft

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E3 2016 was an incredible showing from every major company!

Going into E3 2016, I had no idea what to expect.  So little information had come out prior to Day 1 on June 13 from any major company.  But the expo was absolutely incredible this year – from advances in community and technology to reveals of extremely impressive new games, a lot has come to the surface.  Just about every company has brought interesting stuff to bear, so let’s break it down by presentation, starting with Microsoft!

Microsoft @ E3 2016 saw some huge announcements in tech and games from Xbox!
Microsoft @ E3 2016 saw some huge announcements in tech and games from Xbox!

A lot of what Microsoft turned heads with was the information it gave about its future plans during its press conference.

For one thing, it announced the implementation of Xbox Play Anywhere, which promises seamless integration of saves and data, not to mention  more cross-play, between Xbox One and Windows 10 PC.  Paying for an Xbox One digital game gives access to the PC platform.  This feels like a massive step forward for Microsoft in a market where more people are tending toward PC play than ever before, and it should put games in the hands of fans more often for no extra cost.  This is an idea I completely approve of, provided it doesn’t get bogged down to be more complicated than it has to be.

But Xbox also came out swinging in terms of hardware – it announced a new design program for custom controller color palettes as well as the Xbox One Slim.  But the big news was the first official announcement of Project Scorpio, the next console generation for Microsoft, which promises no-compromise 60 frames-per-second gameplay in 4K resolution.  How they will deliver on that promise without making the thing the size of a portable generator I don’t know, but we’ll see!

As far as games go, the press conference felt to me like most other Microsoft conferences: there was a lot of stuff that got me excited and a lot I don’t care about one bit, like Forza Horizon 3 and Dead Rising 4.  Other games like State of Decay 2, ReCore, and Tekken 7 all have me really intrigued – they look like they could be bringing a lot of beauty, innovation, and variety to a console that, for a long time now, hasn’t sparked my interest that much.

If I had to pick my favorite games on display at the conference, they would have to be Sea of Thieves, Inside, and Scalebound.  As someone who loves a good pirate battle in a video game, Sea of Thieves for me carries the promise of creating a unique online experience, and I hope it becomes the game to bring my boys at Rare back into the light.  Inside, the spiritual successor to Limbo, promises to do what its predecessor did – use the interactive medium to pose interesting questions and offer interesting yet simplistic gameplay.  Scalebound, meanwhile, just looks like PlatinumGames (the team behind Bayonetta, Wonderful 101, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, and Star Fox Zero) is doing what it does best: creating some over-the-top, intense, awe-inspiring boss fight carnage.  It looks like it has a ton of personality and I hope to get some time with it soon enough.

In all, I think Microsoft put on a great presentation and looks to be offering a lot of variety and opportunity to its fans that we haven’t seen in previous years.  Now feels like a better time than ever to keep an eye on these guys, especially if the Scorpio breaks the current bounds of gaming technology.