E3 Archive


Nintendo E3 2012 Press Conference Liveblog


Sony E3 2012 Press Conference Liveblog


Microsoft E3 2012 Press Conference Liveblog


Nintendo’s Pre-E3 2012 Wii-U Controller Announcement

Apparently Nintendo decided to post a little primer on their upcoming Wii-U controller on the eve of E3.

My thoughts (in a running diary format):

  • Looks like the tablet controller may be more comfortable than it looks. It’ll have to be if they assume you’re going to play “hardcore” games on it.
  • Real sticks instead of thumbpads are good.
  • Having the Wii-U controller act as your TV remote is cute, but I’m guessing most people have a smorgasbord of home entertainment equipment that need to be controlled at the same time as the TV. It doesn’t look like the Wii-U will be replacing that Harmony remote just yet.
  • NFC Reader/Writer – Most smartphones (including iPhone) don’t have NFC chips embedded yet. Color me skeptical on this being used in a non-novelty way anytime in the near future.
  • The asynchronous dual-screen display could open some interesting possibilities in game design. Think DS, but on a larger scale.
  • I like how they’re making existing Wii peripherals compatible with the new system. However,with the sheer amount of controller possibilities, how in the world is a developer to know what inputs to design their games for?
  • Wii U Pro Controller – Finally Nintendo decides to stop ignoring the fact ergonomics matter and clones the Xbox 360controller (definitely the most comfortable console controller ever made). It even looks like it has anon-crappy directional pad as well. But what’s up with the right stick being all the way up there? It looks like it’s going to be uncomfortable to hit the face buttons while using the stick at the same time.
  • Ok, cheesy video dramatizations aside, Nintendo is clearly out of its mind with its “WaraWara” initiative. While the Demon’s Souls-esque message board game tips functionality is a neat novelty that probably went over well in the brainstorming session, I can’t think of many things I’d want less than an impromptu video chat with a random internet troll to ask for clarification on his “tip.” In case Nintendo’s forgotten, the web exists! I can look up walkthroughs and tips on my own without the fear of some idiot spoiling the rest of my game for me. Something tells me Nintendo’s in for a rude awakening when they find out the horrors of moderating message boards.
  • Let me get this straight, one of the main criticisms of Nintendo products so far is a clumsy UIthat is lugubrious to navigate through, and their solution is to make the home screen of the system be a digital manifestation of noise?
  • The reason why we don’t use handwritten notes as much anymore is because people have awful handwriting.
  • I don’t get the continuing obsession that Nintendo has with Miis. Hasn’t anyone learned anything from the trainwreck of uselessness that was PlayStation Home yet? Please just make it easy to find, play with, and interact with my friends when I want. Everything else is, to use their term, Wara Wara. Create something unique, sure, but keep the end user in mind, please.
  • I dunno, Mr. Iwata, the Wii-U doesn’t really seem like a solution to multiple problems as muchas it’s a solution that will cause multiple problems.

I have no desire to see the Wii-U fail, but the best thing I’ve seen so far (other than an Xbox 360 controller clone) is the promise that developers can use two screens in fun and innovative ways. Unless Nintendo shows some really mindblowing applications of this on Tuesday, that’s all the Wii-U will be, a promise.

Watch the whole thing here:

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E3 2010 Preview: Playstation Quick Takes

While combing the E3 showfloor, I had a chance to play a decent amount of upcoming games. Here are some quick impressions from some of the Playstation 3 games I tried out:

Killzone 3:

Killzone 3 at E3 2010 was all about the 3D. I was surprised at how unintrusive the 3D glasses actually were. Combining a first person shooter with stereoscopic 3D glasses seems like a recipe for extreme motion sickness, but this didn’t end up being the case.

The demo was about 20 minutes long and started with an on rails helicopter turret sequence in the snow. Amusing, but nothing terribly original. The 3D was really impressive in the blizzard as I really got the sense of immersion of being pelted by snow.

Once I landed, the game became very familiar. If you’ve played Killzone 2, you’ll know exactly what I experienced. In fact, if it weren’t for the 3D and the fact that there was a “3” in the booth, I could have mistaken the game for Killzone 2. The graphics are incredible on a console, but underneath the glossy veneer is a typical, albeit very polished, cinematic shooter. I didn’t see any new weapons or gameplay mechanics during my time with the game.

Little Big Planet 2:

Most of the short Little Big Planet 2 demonstration was focused on the new game creation tools. Emphasis was placed on mini-game creation. Little Big Planet is no longer a platform to create platformer game levels, but one that can do many different game types.

Three mini-games were shown to show off some of the new possibilities. The first was a sort of fast-paced Simon Says button pressing game, kind of like competitive Quick Time Event pressing. We then played a bumper-boats game, evoking memories of the hilarious Mario Party minigame. The goal is to knock the other players off of the ring, with the use of a single button to boost. The final minigame was a competitive 2D shooter using rocket launchers. Think Smash Bros. level with little Sackmen toting rocket launchers.

The Sony rep also talked about making it easier to find and filter user-generated content. An improved search feature is planned, along with the ability to “follow” specific designers. There would also be Playstation Move integration, the details of which were not shown at the booth.

Overall, it sounds like if you’re an active LBP designer, you’ll want to pick this one up as it gives a lot more tools in the toolbox, so to speak. I’m on the fence, since I never really played the game much beyond the included campaign. There’ll be another Media Molecule designed campaign in this sequel, but I can’t help shake the feeling that LBP is a title that just didn’t work, despite its noble mission of empowering end users to be game designers.

Marvel vs. Capcom 3:

I absolutely despise the Xbox 360 controller for fighting games so I made sure to try out Marvel vs Capcom 3 on the Playstation 3. There’s not much to say about this title other than it controls tightly and looks amazing. The character select screen for each player creates a comic book cover from the selected characters using the actual template for a Marvel comic. I found this a very nice nod to detail on Capcom’s part.

Any concerns over the title losing any speed over the move to the 3d Street Fighter 4 engine were quickly laid to rest after one round with the game. The same ridiculous 32 hit laser super combos and tag team air combo action is back and as fun as ever.

I even held court for awhile, winning four consecutive matches before people started getting afraid to challenge me. Unfortunately, the demo didn’t have a single player arcade mode, so rather than twiddle my thumbs and wait for a new challenger, I left.

Yakuza 4:

At the Sega booth I was surprised to see Yakuza 4 on display. See, although I have always heard great things about the Yakuza franchise, it’s never quite taken off in the US. It’s a 3rd person fighter/adventure game hybrid with RPG elements set in modern day Japan. I’ve been told the writing in the game is exquisite, with comparisons to The Sopranos being made.

The very nature of the game doesn’t scream “MAINSTREAM APPEAL”, so I was surprised to see the fourth installment green lit fora  US release. After speaking with the community manager in charge of evangelizing Yakuza 4, it became quite clear that this title is a labor of love from the localization team dedicated to the fans. One of the key features mentioned was the fact that you can now go into Japanese hostess clubs in the game and, well, interact with girls. Apparently the more vocal fanbase had cried foul over the hostess clubs’ omission from the US version of Yakuza 3, so they were re-added to the sequel. That’s listening to your customers, folks.

While I’m not sure if I can devote 30-40 hours to a single game anymore, I’d like to see Yakuza 4 succeed if only for the fact that it’s supposedly an authentic look into certain aspects of modern day Japanese culture. The game releases on the Playstation 3 in spring of 2011.


Invizimals is an interesting take on the Monster Hunter/Pokemon genre of RPG collection games. Using the PSP camera attachment, you can find creatures “hidden” amongst everyday items lying around the house. Basically, anything with a distinct color is liable to be hiding a creature to capture. Once you find a monster, you can then train with it in RPG-style turn based battles to upgrade them ala Pokemon.

(please excuse the sudden cut off in the video, there was an unfortunate battery mishandling)

I’m a big fan of Augmented Reality and this seems like a really novel way for tweens and adults to play the genre. Battles take place on screen using a combination of game animations and live footage of whatever the camera is pointing at. You can even wager the creatures you’ve earned in multiplayer battles, kind of like the ultimate form of virtual cockfighting. YES!


E3 2010 Preview: Twisted Metal

Twisted Metal was perhaps the biggest “surprise” of Sony’s E3 press conference in that it was probably the biggest first-party Sony title announced without being leaked in advance. However, it was only a matter of time as there have been Twisted Metal titles released for every Sony console generation prior to the Playstation 3.

David Jaffe’s (God of War) new Eat Sleep Play studio develops the latest installment in the franchise and I had a chance to play a quick deathmatch at the Sony booth.

The quickest way to describe Twisted Metal if you’ve never played a game in the series is that it’s a cross between Mario Kart battle mode and Unreal Tournament. You pilot a twisted character/car combination such as a homicidal clown’s ice cream truck and you’re pitted against equally colorful cast of characters’ cars in a deathmatch. Each car has its own special weapon that recharges over time and you can pick up assorted missiles and ordinance powerups on the map. Oh, and your battle arena is generally an expansive real-life setting like suburban housing tracts.

The original Twisted Metal on the Playstation was one of the launch highlights of the system and Jaffe’s PS3 version definitely captures the look and feel of that seminal title. It’s not for the controller-challenged, though, as it pretty much uses every button on the Dualshock 3 controller to some degree. I took one look at the loading screen picture of the controls and blanked out like I was watching C-Span.

Fortunately I pick up games fairly quickly and within a minute I had figured out how to drive and shoot. The demo included two new vehicles (a helicopter and a motorcycle) that haven’t been seen in the franchise before. I found the helicopter difficult to maneuver, but it does have the satisfying ability to pull enemy vehicles up with its magnet attachment and drop them in less than optimal places. The motorcycle dude’s special attack is to throw a boomerang chainsaw at enemies. It works as ridiculous as it sounds and does MASSIVE DAMAGE to enemies.

Twisted Metal was created to be played among a large number of players and it’s exciting to see the franchise arrive in a console generation where online play isn’t an afterthought. It’s not a franchise overhaul, but it doesn’t have to be. We’re in an era where car arena deathmatch titles number in the single digits. It’s an entertaining title that should be a blast to play with friends.

As long as Jaffe delivers a polished game, Sony should have a hit on its hands.

Twisted Metal is scheduled to be released in Spring 2011 exclusively on the Playstation 3


E3 2010 Preview: Goldeneye Wii Remake Multiplayer

Let me tell you a shameful secret of mine: I never played Goldeneye 64. Well, substantially anyway. I dabbled in it a couple of times, mainly at large social gatherings and never for an extended period of time. I was too busy being narrow minded with my elitist “mouse and keyboard 4 life” worldview as a teenager. But I did understand that it was (and still is to many people) the most beloved console FPS ever. With this in mind, I had a go with 4-player split screen multiplayer for Eurocom’s (published by Activision) upcoming remake of Goldeneye for the Wii at E3.

Now, I couldn’t tell you if this game fully recaptured the magic of the original N64 Goldeneye, but I can tell you that the game was a fairly fun Wii FPS. Activision smartly had a setup of Wii Classic Controller Pros (depicted above), which are basically Wii Classic Controllers with “love handles.” The handles make a big difference in ergonomics, especially for FPSs. It doesn’t feel quite as natural as an Xbox 360 controller for the genre, but definitely brings the Wii on par with the Playstation Dualshock. Having two analog sticks changes the gameplay experience too, but probably for the better.

Goldeneye Wii did seem rough around the edges though, at least in 4-player split screen. I noticed that there were no on screen notifications. There were no kill announcements nor any on screen score report of any sort so it was hard to know how I was doing at a given time without bringing up the intrusive scoreboard. It also didn’t seem as if there were any items on the level to pick up as well. Whether this was intended or just a function of being a demonstration build was unclear. Unsurprisingly, frame rates also seemed slightly sluggish (yet playable) with a 4-player split screen compared to a 2-player split screen. I’ll chalk this one up to “demo build” and “Wii hardware”

Like the original title, you can select from many different Bond characters to take into deathmatch. I remembered that the infamous Oddjob model had some sort of unfair advantage, which my opponents at the booth confirmed with a question for the Activision rep. Apparently his model is no longer harder to hit, but he does have the ability to throw his hat for an instant kill. To counteract this, he can’t throw grenades, like the other play models can. I found the hat throwing not too big of an advantage as it takes some time to wind up and does leave you vulnerable should you miss. I did manage to get a few kills like this though and it felt mildly satisfying, kind of like a lite-humiliation kill.

Hopefully, Eurocom will polish the game up when the game is finally released. Given past Wii FPS entries, I don’t think I’d expect Goldeneye Wii to compete with the big boys, namely Call of Duty and Halo on the 360/PS3. However, it could be a great source of nostalgia for those who cherished the original. I’d be curious to see how those fans receive this remake when it releases.

Oh, and I finished the 10-kill limit deathmatch in second with 8 kills. I blame trying to go for the hat kill too much.


E3 2010 Preview: Donkey Kong Country Returns

Donkey Kong Country Returns on the Wii courtesy of Retro Studios (Metroid Prime).

That’s pretty much all you need to know about the game. If you have fond memories of playing Rare’s beloved Donkey Kong Country on your Super Nintendo, you’ll feel right at home in this 2D sequel on the Wii.

It’s clear that Nintendo didn’t tune the difficulty of this game to be as easy as, say, Super Mario Galaxy. One of the first things I noticed about DKCR was that I couldn’t sleepwalk through the game. Donkey Kong has three hearts and once he loses all three, you have to replay the level. Replenishing these hearts isn’t as easy as picking up the coins being thrown about you in Mario Galaxy as hearts seemed to be few and far between. Perhaps this was compounded by the fact that I felt extra pressure to play perfectly because my demo time was constrained on how many lives I lost. Nevertheless, I consider myself a fairly competent platformer, and was definitely challenged throughout the demo.

The E3 demo consisted of a 3 levels of which I was given the choice of playing 2. I first had a go with a boss stage involving a typical “jump on his head three times” encounter that I thought I would breeze through, but ended up having to concentrate to defeat. The encounter involved platforming boss mechanic standbys such as “run under the boss as he jumps really high” and “avoid the charging boss so he hits the wall and you can jump on his weak point.” I was thrown off, though, by the unpredictability of when the boss would leap high enough for me to run under and how quickly he would recover from the stun of running into the well. The other level was a standard side-scrolling platforming level that reminded me of the first level of the original Donkey Kong Country.

Donkey Kong has three moves he performs in the game: ground pound, big breath blow, and a spin attack. You may be familiar with these moves if you’ve played Super Smash Bros. Each is done by pressing a particular combination of buttons on the nunchuik and Wiimote. It’s not as simple as the sideways wiimote 2-button action, but is almost there. Donkey Kong can use the ground pound to make certain items fall from trees or as an attack against enemies. The  breath maneuver can be used to blow the leaves off plants and flowers, uncovering hidden items. You can guess what the spin attack is used for.

Something new to the series is the utilization of Diddy Kong as a “helper” rather than a tag team partner. Once you break Diddy out of a “DK” labeled barrel, he will ride on top of Donkey Kong with his J=jetpack. Controlling Donkey Kong still, you’ll be able to hover for a short time while also being able to fire peanuts from Diddy’s cannon. More importantly, Diddy will also add two hearts to your life meter, increasing your survivability. Lose those two extra hearts, though, and Diddy will disappear again.

Although it was not playable at the show, I was told there would also be a 2 player co-op mode with the second player controlling Diddy. Not many more details would be given by the Nintendo rep, so we’ll have to see what this will entail exactly. It definitely sounds like something that could be fun, although I hope it’s not as passive as Super Mario Galaxy’s “co-op” play.

Other than that, the game is pretty much what you would expect from another entry in the Donkey Kong Country franchise. Nintendo has even brought back the iconic collectibles from the original franchise as well. You’ll want to replay levels to collect bananas, letters spelling “K” “O” “N” “G”, and also golden puzzle pieces. (My friendly Nintendo rep would not disclose what these are for yet)

Nintendo has had great success reconnecting with it’s 2D platforming roots in New Super Mario Bros Wii and Donkey Kong Country Returns looks to continue that streak. If you’re a Wii owner who’s nostalgic for the ol’ DKC or just love 2D platformers, you’ll probably want to give this one a look this fall. Just keep in mind it’ll be a tad more difficult than some of the more recent platform games.


E3 2010 Preview: Metroid: Other M

Ever wish you could hear Samus’s voice in a Metroid game? Metroid: Other M (MoM) makes those wishes come true.

Metroid games have traditionally been about solitary exploration and incidental narrative through found logscanning, but MoM represents a distinctive departure for the longstanding franchise with it’s heavy emphasis on cinematic storytelling. Virtually every character is voice acted as well, which is something Nintendo doesn’t often do for their games.

I almost felt guilty for indulging in MoM’s lengthy cutscenes at Nintendo’s E3 booth. It felt a little unsettling at first, but I quickly became accustomed to this New Metroid Order.

Without giving away story spoilers, MoM sheds a spotlight onto Samus’s origins. Here’s a character we know almost nothing about over the past 25 years other than her gender and profession. It’s kind of weird to all of a sudden learn where she came from and how she’s felt about her adventures so far. I’m not ready to pass judgement on this game design choice yet, but I can say that I’m intrigued enough to see the whole thing through.

From it’s initial announcement at E3 last year, I always envisioned MoM playing like Ninja Gaiden meets Super Metroid. The playable demo at E3 more or less confirmed this assumption. MoM shifts between 2D and 3D planes depending on what part of the map you’re in. If you’ve seen last year’s Shadow Complex, you have a good idea as to what the 2D corridors look like.

In a surprising move, no nunchuk is used while playing this game. The default controls are similar to New Super Mario Bros. Wii where you tilt the controller on its side. <insert obligatory snarky comment on the uselessness of motion controls in games>

Gameplay didn’t throw very man curveballs at me. If you’ve played a metroid game before, this game will feel very natural for the most part. I found the way MoM handled “crippling” Samus at the start to be novel. At the start of the game, Samus works with one of her friends from the Federation. They haven’t “authorized” her to use missiles or heavy weaponry yet, so that’s how her starting ordinance loadout is explained.

I do have to draw attention to how annoying the first-person aiming system is, though. At one point in the demo, I had to fight a boss that could only be damaged by missiles. Problem is, you can only fire missiles by switching into first person aiming mode and pointing the Wiimote at the screen. In theory this sounds intuitive, but in practice it’s awful. I felt like an invalid fumbling around with the Wiimote trying to defeat this particular boss.

The problem lies with the fact that you have to completely change the way you hold the controller in a pressure-filled twitch action sequence. It’s just doesn’t feel natural to be flipping around the controller when you have a 2 second window in which to flip, aim, and fire. Novel exploration mechanic, sure. Twitch boss fight mechanic, HELL NO. Sadly, I fear we may be too close to launch for any significant control changes.

Despite this, I’m too much of a Metroid fan to let this completely derail my enthusiasm for MoM. The game does contain Team Ninja’s signature movement fluidity (other than the aforementioned first-person aiming issue) and the cinematic cutscenes and voice acting are a fascinating new wrinkle for the series.

Metroid: Other M releases for the Nintendo Wii this August.


E3 2010 Preview: Castlevania: Lord of Shadows

The most common question I heard at Konami’s booth while playing Castlevania: Lord of Shadows was “Hey, is that a new Castlevania? I used to love that game back in the day.”

Clearly Konami was prepared for this question because the friendly representative demonstrating the game for me wasted no time in responding to these inquiries with a confirmation and sales pitch that Lord of Shadows is a return to the golden days of Castlevania games. I hope the full game ends up fulfilling those promises, because the demo levels I played barely reminded me of the 2D adventures of Simon Belmont.

Castlevania: LoS looks plays very similarly to God of War. In fact, if it weren’t for the signs above the station, I might have thought Konami scored itself the God of War franchise. Gameplay in the demo was very combat oriented, including the obligatory action combo and grab system. The grab system was actually kind of novel. It plays similarly to a rhythm game (Bemani influence anyone?) where you have to tap the grab button right as 2 concentric circles overlapped each other.

You play as Gabriel Belmont with a weapon called the “Combat Cross” which reminded me of Kratos’ “Blades of Chaos” in that they acted as both short and long range weapons depending on the situation. Gabriel’s Combat Cross will morph between Castlevania’s signature whip and other weapons such as a sword. Other than the aesthetics, the weaponry system works out very similarly to God of War‘s, complete with psuedo-RPG elements such as the ability to upgrade weapons several levels and assorted magic attacks.

Long time series fans will remember the secondary weapons and a couple of these remain unchanged, such as the silver dagger or holy water. Konami wouldn’t disclose the other items Gabriel could pick up though.

The demo ended with a very brief horseback riding combat scene. Again, this played out very similarly to mounted combat in God of War.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved God of War, but I think I was expecting a little something more distinguishing from a new Castlevania game. The Konami rep assured me that there would be familiar “metroidvania” gameplay elements such as level backtracking in the complete game. With Hideo Kojima (Metal Gear Solid) acting as an advisor for this game, I still hold out hope that the final product could end up being something special.

As it is though, the E3 demo left me with the sense I was playing a well executed God of War clone. This could be a good or bad portent depending on what you were expecting from a new Castlevania game.

Castlevania: Lord of Shadows releases this fall on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.