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My Thoughts on E3 2017

Critics and online personalities have been saying 2017 is shaping up to be the best year for video games in decades.  E3, the biggest event in gaming, had a lot riding on it.  I went in with few expectations.  E3 is often hit-or-miss, and commentators will usually talk about it in terms of who “wins.”

I’ve fallen victim to this mindset in the past couple years, but I don’t really think it’s healthy.  I wrote posts for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo separately.  But I’ve realized that E3 is an expo, not a competition.  Sure, one company or one game might generate more hype than others.  But the real winners are us, the video game community.  We’re the ones who get to play the great games.  So instead of breaking this E3 down by company, I’m just gonna talk about everything I’m excited for!  And there is a lot of exciting stuff happening.

METROID

Let me kick off with the return of Metroid.  I went convinced that Nintendo could rock the E3 boat in two ways: porting Super Smash Bros. to Nintendo Switch, or bringing back Metroid.  Smash is going to wait, but Metroid is back in full force.  And although I’m not a huge series fan, I’m now a believer.  Metroid Prime is now in development for Nintendo Switch, and Metroid: Samus Returns is coming to 3DS on SEPTEMBER 15th.  Now that this series is back, I’m gonna do all I can to support it.

MARIO ODYSSEY and MARIO x RABBIDS: KINGDOM BATTLE

Although Mario games are consistently good, I usually don’t get excited about the franchise.  I was burnt out when Odyssey was announced, and Mario x Rabbids sounded too weird to be real.  Come E3 though, both games really impressed me.  Mario x Rabbids is a fun spin on the XCOM style, and it has the great Grant Kirkhope coming through as composer.

Meanwhile, Mario Odyssey looks expansive, innovative, and fun.  It’s the ultimate Mario playground, and a return to the best 3D Mario formula.   I’m definitely going to give it a play at launch.  All in all, a great showing for the franchise.

YOSHI AND KIRBY IN 2018

Like with Mario, I tend to sleep on the Yoshi and Kirby games, but their planned releases in 2018 are promising.  Kirby on Switch promises to bring back cool franchise mechanics and Yoshi looks clever as ever.  Now I just hope for a revival of Kirby’s Air Ride.

POKEMON

We didn’t see much from the Pokemon Company at E3, but what was announced is the development of a main-series Pokemon game for Nintendo Switch.  This is a huge development.  We got no further details, but Pokemon for Switch is a win in itself.

I also rally enjoyed watching the Pokken Tournament DX Invitational.  I know virtually everyone hates Pokken, but I have something of an affection for it.  I’ll probably be picking it up on Switch.

SPIDER-MAN by INSOMNIAC

I’ve always been a massive fan of Spider-Man games.  I played both PS1 games, all three Sam Raimi movie games, and spinoffs like Friend or Foe and Ultimate Spider-Man.  With the recent movie reboot, we got a couple of incredibly lazy games along with them.  Thankfully, at E3 2017, Insomniac Games showed off their new palate-cleansing Spider-Man game.

This game looks incredible.  Despite my distaste for quick-time events, it includes them gracefully and cinematically.  Combat looks complex and engaging.  The world of Manhattan looks vast and varied.  Most of all, navigating the world by swinging looks like an homage to Spider-Man 2 on PS2, the best of the bunch.  I can’t wait for this game to come out.

STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT II

The first Star Wars Battlefront by DICE and published by EA was one of my worst disappointments.  Battlefront was one of my favorite games as a kid, and I always wanted a revival.  Sadly, although the revival was aesthetically beautiful, it turned out to be a bore.  And a money scam.

BUT, if the new sequel turns out like it looks so far, it will be a huge turnaround.  It has a story mode, an improved class system, more heroes, and generally more content.  Furthermore, DLC will be free so as not to divide the player base.  This game has my attention, so hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

MIDDLE-EARTH: SHADOW OF WAR

This sequel to Shadow of Mordor has actually been around for a few months, but I’ve been on the hype train since the beginning.  I wrote a post about this hype train a few weeks ago.  For E3, we’re getting new story content, new characters, and a look at some of the new mechanics.

Combat looks more intense and brutal.  Cinematic scenarios and conquest missions are coming through in full force.  And the plotline of Talion is coming to a head as he confronts the Dark Lord Sauron.  I honestly can’t remember wanting a game this much.

MISCELLANEOUS COOL STUFF

There was a lot of other stuff at E3 that looked neat to me, so I want to mention it.  Fire Emblem Warriors is an idea I had years ago, and to see it in action is thrilling.  I like that it has character switch and strategic mechanics.  Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a big point of love for me, and what I saw at E3 looks like a beautiful successor to the first game.

Days Gone looks like it’ll be the most interesting zombie game since The Last of Us.  Uncharted: Lost Legacy will be an interesting game, especially thanks to its two female main characters.  God of War is finally on deck, and it looks much less over-the-top than its predecessors, which I enjoy.  Bethesda’s VR shenanigans, like Fallout 4 in full VR, looks like an exciting step forward.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus seems like a ridiculous, Nazi-killing extravaganza and I can’t wait.  Anthem looks like a fun, huge multiplayer experience that will hopefully deliver. The Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti, Super Lucky’s Tale, and Cuphead are bringing back fun, quirky platforming adventures.  Assassin’s Creed: Origins actually has me really pumped because I’m a fan of the franchise and I like the new mechanics.  Although I’ve sadly never played the first game, Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks like a great sequel and it’s stunning in 4K.  Sonic Forces didn’t get a lot of new info, but we saw a team-up of four legendary villains, which should be cool.  Lastly, Crackdown 3, The Darwin Experiment, Dragon Ball Fighter Z are games I know nothing about, but they look sick.

So that’s where I stand on E3 2017.  Reactions are all over the map, but I’m honestly coming away from it feeling excited.  A major plus is the fact that most of these games are coming out this year, so 2017 should be a great year for games after all.

Top 10 NES Games

This week has been exciting for retro Nintendo fans with the release of the NES Classic Edition, a bite-size bundle of 30 iconic games from the company’s history.   It’s a great portable NES library, and even comes with recreations of classic NES controllers.  Apart from the fact that the cords on the classic controllers are a little too short, the NES Classic is a great value at 60 dollars, and I recommend you guys go out and pick it up if you can.

Anyway, the NES Classic got me thinking about some of my favorite NES games.   So to celebrate, I wanted to list my favorite games on the system.  This list is going to be based partly on my personal tastes and partly on which games have had the biggest impact.  All of them, though, will be available on the NES Classic Edition.

In addition to my own comments, I’m also gonna throw in videos on each game by one of the best retro game review channels out there, CGRUndertow.  Massive thank you to Derek Buck for his amazing reviews.

10 – Balloon Fight

Oh yeah.  You heard me.  Balloon Fight.  If you recognize this one, chances are you really know your way around the NES library.  The whole game is similar to the arcade game Joust — it’s an arena-style game where you fly around with two balloons and defeat other enemies by popping their balloons from above.  It also has a side-scrolling gauntlet mini-game called Balloon Trip that’s extremely fun and extremely hard.  Although it’s pretty obscure, this game is definitely a Nintendo classic, and one of the most inventive NES games out there.

9 – Donkey Kong

Just about everybody and their mother has heard of Donkey Kong, and for good reason.  This game was a breakthrough in the career of legendary game developer Shigeru Miyamoto, and one of the most iconic arcade games of all time.  It created not one, but two mascots that would go on to impact the industry for decades to come.  Although it hasn’t aged too well in my opinion, it’s still a good game and a good challenge.

8 – Kid Icarus

Another one from the depths of the Nintendo library, the story behind Kid Icarus is amazing.  It was developed initially by novice game designer Toru Osawa, who slaved over its development for several summer months before the team from Metroid came on board to help the game meet its December deadline.  The rest of its development was long and arduous, but it resulted in one of the best yet littleknown platformers of early Nintendo history.  It’s difficult and complex, but also has a unique style that was revamped to great success in the 2000s and even led to a sequel, Kid Icarus: Uprising, in 2012.  If you get a chance to play this game, it’s well worth giving attention to.

7 – Ninja Gaiden

If you ask the average video game expert about hard NES games, Ninja Gaiden will be the first game that comes up.  It’s a merciless, fast-paced, complicated platformer that was the bane of every kid in the 80s.  It requires twitch reflexes, sense memory, and a whole lot of patience, but it backs up its grueling difficulty with character.  It saw the first attempt at cutscenes in the history of gaming, and a surprisingly compelling story.  It’s not a game for the faint of heart, but Ninja Gaiden is nevertheless a great game that’s worth trying out.

6 – Punch-Out!!

Punch-Out!! is a quirky little game, but it’s a great early example of games with personality.  The plot is simple: you’re a short-but-tough American boxer named Little Mac who has to fight a series of opponents from all around the world.  Every character in the game is a blatant stereotype of one culture or another, but it parodies every culture equally in a way that simply makes it a laugh.  This game is also a good underdog story, maybe the first ever in a video game.  It takes a lot of quick reactions and patient repetition to defeat each opponent, and it’s no easy task.  But the game encourages you to keep coming back after defeat and earn victory time and time again.  For that alone, I think this game is one of the greats.

5 – Kirby’s Adventure

Something about Kirby is irresistible, and I think the long list of games in the series is a testament to that.  Kirby’s Adventure was where the legend of everybody’s favorite little pink blob started.  Not only is it adorable, it’s a game that’s both easy and difficult at the same time.  There are some levels where you can just float over all the obstacles, but then again there are others where you have to dodge enemies carefully and avoid hazards to make it through.  This subtly hard gameplay is masked by catchy theme tunes, fun level names like “Butter Building” and “Yogurt Yard,” and an overall fun aesthetic.  If you’re looking for good first NES game, this is the one for you.

4 – Castlevania

If Ninja Gaiden is the pinnacle of NES difficulty, Castlevania is a close second.  In the same way that Ninja Gaiden is an example of extreme raw difficulty, Castlevania is an example of extreme refined difficulty.  Every enemy placement is deliberate, and every control was meant to create clear rules for the player.  Each boss has a strategy that takes trial and error to discover.  It’s one of the most rewarding experiences in all of gaming, and its theme of European monster mythology created a dynasty that carried on for years.  Sadly, the series hasn’t seen a release for a few years, but it generated a ton of great games throughout the 80s and 90s that every gamer should try.

3 – Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario is one of the most iconic franchises of all time, and its initial trilogy of NES games is legendary.  I had to put one on the list, and I thought hard about which one I should pick as the best one.  The first broke new ground for the industry, and the second was charming and fun.  Ultimately I decided on the third one, Super Mario Bros. 3.  It was an incredible sequel that improved on its predecessors in nearly every way.  It had an overworld, alternate paths, interesting themes, new items, and even some vertical level design.  Every part of this game oozes personality, and it’s one of the best games in a series of full great games.

2 – The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda was perhaps the earliest game in history to make exploration in games fun and accessible.  You start this game with no clear goal and a lot of options.  You just grab a sword and start fighting, exploring, and having an adventure.  Soon enough you begin to find direction and take on dungeons, exploring to find secrets and items.  The journey of this game is always as fresh as playing it for the first time.  Each discovery feels new and natural.  As simplistic as it is, this game is actually quite tough, and needs to be mastered in order to be beaten.  This game is wonderful, pure fun, and it gave rise to a series of games that remains my personal favorite to this day.

1 – Mega Man 2

It was a hard decision, but I couldn’t bring myself to put anything above Mega Man 2.  This game is an amazing work of balanced gameplay, experimentation, and skill.  For the whole game, you play as the titular protagonist Mega Man as he journeys to defeat the evil Dr. Wily and his army of “Robot Masters” who are the bosses of each of the eight levels.  Each boss has a themed stage and a weakness to a specific weapon that can only be obtained by beating some other specific boss.

To make it through the game usually requires figuring out the right order in which to beat the bosses.  Beyond that, you have to finish another series of levels to reach Dr. Wily.  Every victory in this game is well-earned, and every level will put you through your paces until you learn to beat each one.  It’s a great challenge, but not an unbeatable one.  I’ve managed to beat this game more than once in a single day, and I’ve never gotten tired of it.  It’s fun, colorful, and has a kick-ass soundtrack to boot.  If you try no other game on this list, give this one a chance if you haven’t already.  You won’t be disappointed!