I've kept up with the conferences of E3 for the past 5 years or so, 2006 - year of the Giant Enemy Crab and Riiiidge Racer - being the furthest back I can remember. Of course I had heard of the expo before then, I just hadn't been so interested in keeping up to date with all of the announcements, especially when I had to stay up so late to see them. This year I watched all of three of the main conferences - I didn't mind missing EA, Activision and Ubisoft's too much.
Microsoft's conference was a real bummer, even more so than last year since I thought they would have looked past Kinect a bit by now. A bunch of third party games were utilising its features but, as usual, they just seemed gimmicky and awful. The voice commands in Mass Effect - while a cool show of the technology - were really pointless and not something I'd want to be shouting in my living room whether by myself or with friends/family. Most of the time it seems like designers are just using voice, touch and motion control to substitute the use of a button. Bad substitution, I might add.
I woke up early with about four hours' sleep for Sony's conference, and it turned out being a little better. The Playstation Vita looks like a nice step up from the PSP to compete with the Nintendo 3DS, but even then I couldn't help but think the thing was dead on arrival.
In terms of games for the handheld, I felt a bit conflicted. Uncharted looked great for a portable game - but it was also at the point where I'd rather just be playing it on my television with a controller instead. I'm sure it was a good decision since it will sell a lot of PSVs, but it doesn't look like a good portable game.
|Uncharted on the PSV|
For good portable games I generally like to try something called the public transport test. That is, if I can take the game with me on a bus - be able to boot it up, play for a few minutes without being overly immersed, then pause or stop my game without missing my stop - then it's a game well tailored to the portable system. Games on the DS without too many cutscenes that you could put into sleep mode were generally good for this. Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars was a good example. The Professor Layton games, even better.
If you can't quite pass the public transport test, then at least have some reason that your game is better off on the portable system than on a console. Kirby Canvas Curse was a great DS game because of its use of the touch screen in platforming. The Pokemon games are best suited as portable titles because they're designed for getting out there, meeting new people and trading/battling your monsters. With the Uncharted game at E3 I could only see myself plugging it into my PS3 to play on a bigger screen.
Nintendo seemed to steal the show this year, rebounding with a new console and a pretty nice slew of games for the 3DS. I'll probably pick up a 3DS for myself later this year when I have the cash. Ocarina looks great. Co-op on St--Lylat Wars was a great move and actually something I had written down as a game concept just a few weeks ago, so I'm glad Nintendo's finally doing it.
Luigi's Mansion 2 I'm a bit skeptical about since the ghosts don't seem to have the same charm as the first game, but otherwise it looks okay. The two Mario games coming out (Super Mario and Paper Mario 3DS) will likely be added to my collection pretty quickly. Mario Kart 3DS wasn't too stunning, but the Animal Crossing game sort of caught me by surprise just by the fact that they had added more new stuff to it than the Wii version.
Nintendo talked briefly about a free version of Zelda: Four Swords on the 3DS, a game I'd really love to finally be able to play with three other people. Kid Icarus also looked nice for a series reboot and different from all of Nintendo's other standbys.
From what I've heard so far, navigation of the 3DS shop is great (at least compared to that of the DSi) and the virtual console library is also something I'd love to get my hands on. But the best thing about the 3DS so far in my eyes is probably the great level of support from third parties, which carries over to the other side of Nintendo's press conference this year.
|The console itself is pretty easy to confuse for a regular Wii from afar|
I'm glad that the Wii U is finally trying to compete on the same field as the Xbox 360 and PS3 - being able to play some of Nintendo's prettier titles in 1080p has been long awaited. The controller is also pretty big, but I love the concept of being able to continue playing your game on it while something else happens with the television, or being able to use it as a map in Zelda or whatever.
But again - best part of the Wii U for me was the solution to an ongoing problem I had with the Wii - third party support. A handful of third party games and developers were shown, and several top third party designers such as Ken Levine of Irrational Games (the one I remember clearly who wasn't Warren Spector) sounded off with their support. The Wii's main criticism was a distinct lack of variety of its games - the best usually being first party titles from franchises which had already been done to death. Throwing top franchises like Ninja Gaiden, Bioshock and Rocksteady's Batman Arkham City into that mix makes the console a lot more appealing than the Wii, especially after its drought of games in late 2008-early 2009.
The Wii U still has a year until it's set for release, though - plenty of time to prove itself worthy of purchase. I'm pretty excited for it, albeit a little wary this time around - not about to rush in and get suckered a second time after what happened with the Wii.
Overall, though, I think it's safe to say that this has been a pretty good year for videogames - be it games that have already been released or announcements of what's to come. My only regret is not being able to be there in person and demo some of these products myself, such as one of my most anticipated downloadable titles, Bastion. But perhaps I'll be there at some point in the future. Perhaps I'll even have something to show off, myself. We'll just have to wait and see.