E3 2006 Recap

And so another E3 goes by, with me drowning in a sea of press releases and fact sheets for five days. This article offers you a summary of the major highlights and upcoming game titles that caught my eye as "possible gems".

THE SYSTEMS:
Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3

The show practically revolved around Sony and Nintendo and their upcoming consoles. We'll probably be headed for another console war coming November, with the launch of the PS3 and the console formerly known as Revolution.

The major difference between what we knew from the PS3 before and what we know now is that the boomerang controller idea has been scratched. Instead, Sony is sticking to the design of the controller we are already familiar with from the PSOne and PS2.

But the launch price is probably what has us all baffled. Console gaming is getting more and more expensive, and with the system costing $499 with a 20GB HDD and $599 with 60GB HDD, it makes you wonder how much each game title will be.

Speaking of which, there isn’t much that justifies purchasing at PS3 at launch in my opinion, especially when most PS3 titles will be available on the Xbox 360 as well. The PS3 certainly won’t be for everyone, and it might be wise to wait for a price drop and an interesting game library before opening your wallet.

As for Nintendo, they have decided to rename their Revolution as Wii. Because "Wii sounds like 'we', which emphasizes this console is for everyone." Or so the press release stated! I still think it's retarded. But name aside, the Wii has really good potential for gaming, especially in what comes to classic games. As stated before, the system's online network will allow players to download and play classic NES, SNES and Genesis titles. The controller, as awkward as it seems to me still, offers a whole new kind of interactivity with the games, which can prove to be a lot of fun.

The Wii also has a large advantage over the PS3 in terms of price. If Nintendo sticks to their prior announcements, the Wii will launch costing around $300, which is certainly more affordable than the PS3, and will more than likely reach a broader audience just because of that.

But let's have a look at what I thought were eye-catching game titles showcased at E3 this year.

THE GAMES

There were quite a few head-turners at the show this year, all kinds of games for all kinds of players. There are too many titles to be listed here, and it was tough to pick only a few to showcase, but I tried to stick with the ones I think will become the "best-sellers".

GameBoy Advance

Sega presented Charlotte's Web (also available for the DS), which seems like a cute game based on a children's storybook where you play Wilbur the pig on a quest to show people he is special, so he doesn't get slaughtered and eaten. The game is a mission-based side-scrolling adventure with a little platformer action that should appeal to younger audiences.

Square Enix is bringing out two timeless classics to the GBA: Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy, essentially the same games but with improved features and a few surprises such as a wide range of jobs and new dungeons.

Summon Night: Swordcraft Story is a new RPG by Atlus offering different paths and a link mode for battling a friend. The first title is due this Summer, while a sequel is in the works for the Fall.

GameCube

Baten Kaitos Origins is due this Fall. This prequel takes place 20 years before the original game, and will give details about the story to help players understand better the world and events of the first title. Unlike traditional RPGs, you don't level by killing things. Instead, there are over 600 Magnus Cards with different properties that you must find in order to level. With over 70 hours of gameplay, Baten Kaitos Origins will be a solid GC title.

Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess has had everyone anxious for quite a while, especially with all the delays. It is now scheduled for this Winter, featuring an older Link and a darker storyline. It will also be available on the Wii, with the remote being able to function as a fishing pole, and the Nunchuk controller can be used to perform spinning attacks. Let see if it gets delayed again.

Nintendo DS

Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin brings us another side-scrolling vampire-hunting adventure, with a couple of twists. First, you don't play a Belmont anymore. Second, you can alternate between two playable characters. There will be no use of the touch screen as to not disrupt the action-type gameplay. The artists have also decided to bring back some monsters from Symphony of the Night (my favorite), how cool is that?

Final Fantasy III makes it’s way onto the DS with 3D graphics and lots of wonderful little details in the environments and characters with no noses, similar to those in FF Tactics. An old classic with a new twist, it should be available this Fall.

New Super Mario Bros. is exactly what the title announces. Take the classic game, add to it some improved graphics with 3D depth, some cool new features and you have a hit. There's enough content to remind you of the old, and a lot of new stuff to keep it fresh.

PS2

.hack// series has been overlooked, but it has a great storyline about an MMO that's known to put people who play it in a coma. The next series (no, it's not just one volume), .hack//G.U., takes place on a new and evolved "The World" where PK's have come to exist. Sounds like a good challenge!

I’m sure everyone is dying of anticipation to get their hands on FFXII, especially if you played the demo that came with Dragon Quest VIII. The combat system is probably the most remarkable change.

God of War 2... I shouldn't even have to say any more than that! I'm still in awe of the first one, and what I've seen from the sequel is just outstanding. Now if only they'd keep last year's E3 promise and bring out the live action movie, I'd be in heaven.

Another PS2 exclusive for the rhythm and music games fan is Guitar Hero II. This time around, things get a little more complicated, with guitar "duets" and singing. Next thing you know, you'll have Guitar Hero III where you will also be required to stomp around on the dance mat. A rockstar needs to be versatile and know all these things after all!

PS3

FFXII is not even out yet, but the trailer for FFXIII is already the talk of the party! The director is Motomu Toriyama, the same person behind FFVII, FFX and FFX-2. The game takes place in a less fantasy and more futuristic setting, offering real-time combat and seamless transitions. But we won't really know many details for quite a while (I’m expecting at least a year for the release).

Marvel Ultimate Alliance allows comic book fans to play as over 20 of their favorite characters, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Blade and Captain America, in a mission-based gameplay with open storyline. I'm not big on comics and I honestly don't know less than half of them, but the game sure looks promising and might be a strong selling point for the PS3.

Tony Hawk meets SSX in Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam. This will be basically a skateboard racing game, with three gameplay modes: race, slalom and tricks. Pretty much like SSX, where you go down steep hills performing tricks at high speeds. Except this time your board has wheels and there's no fluffy snow to fall on.

PSP

Bomberman on the PSP called my attention because it’s Bomberman, it’s portable and it has 20 wi-fi multiplayer levels. There are 100 levels to blow up in Story Mode, and about 50 in Classic Mode. It’s set for release this Fall, and honestly, I can’t wait!

If you like Metal Slug, why would you even pass on the Metal Slug Anthology? Side-scrolling shooting fun on the palm of your hand, does it get better than that? Yes, it does. The game includes Metal Slug, Metal Slug 2, Metal Slug X, Metal Slug 3, Metal Slug 4 and Metal Slug 5 and - here is where it gets better - it has two-player wi-fi support.

Silent Hill Origins brings us the tale of a lonesome truck driver who gets stuck in the creepy town while attempting a delivery. The game introduces a barricade system that allows players to completely block off rooms from enemies. Characters from previous titles are to make an appearance as well in this game, which proposes to give players a historical background for the happenings in Silent Hill. Plenty of creepy monsters and situations will arrive this Winter.

PC

Ubisoft's Dark Messiah of Might & Magic could very well be the next Oblivion. This action-RPG has the player fighting with spells or weapons in first-person view, battling all sorts of fantastic creatures in no less fantastic environments. The spell effects are visually impressive, and you can use them to your advantage indirectly, such as using an ice spell to freeze the ground and make enemies slip and fall. Multiplayer co-op and versus modes will also be in the game.

Just like PSO, Phantasy Star Universe will provide the same single and multiplayer experiences that players are already familiar with, with no need to go online if they don’t wish to. The plot and characters in the single-player mode make you actually care for the experience as a whole. Cinematics are added to emphasize character interactions. Characters are now able to dual-wield and multiplayer parties can have up to six members. PSU is due in October.

Based on D&D rules, Neverwinter Nights 2 will give players an immersive storyline and character development, gorgeous graphics with dynamic lighting, a dynamic world and inhabitants, and multiplayer features. Morality and alignment play an important part. A massive editor is also included with the game. This sequel maintains what already made Neverwinter Nights such a hit, but manages to improve pretty much everything in all aspects.

Wii

Princess Peach has been kidnapped yet again (how does she manage?) and Mario is the only one who can save her by using a repertoire of special new moves. You gain control of Mario in space by tilting, pointing and shaking the Wii Remote, and drag things around with the pointer in the upcoming Super Mario Galaxy.

Trauma Center seems to have been quite a hit on the DS, so Atlus is bringing out Trauma Center: Second Opinion for the Wii, making use of the interactivity with the controller to perform delicate surgery. It will be released in November.

If you played Warioware: Twisted on the GBA, you will want your hands on Warioware: Smooth Moves for sure. Of course, you will be required to act like a fool in order to play the fun yet strange mini-games (such as sticking dentures into someone's mouth), but it will be tons of fun.

Xbox

Apparently, we didn't literally destroy all humans in the first game, so maybe Destroy All Humans 2 actually means it! Our favorite psycho alien Crypto is back for more probing, head exploding, levitating and mind-controlling action. With a new arsenal of more powerful weapons and enhanced mental abilities, Crypto will try to take over a world set in the 60’s, where hippies provide the comic relief. Plans of a co-op mode made it sound even more interesting.

Luke, Leia and Han star in the second Lego Star Wars game. Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy offers a create-your-own-hero feature, but goes as far as letting you make your own ships from scratch, all out of Lego pieces that you first must find throughout the game. There are around 50 playable characters in the game, but players can import data from the first title to unlock another 50 characters right from the start. The most remarkable feature is the AI balancing that adapts the gameplay to how well you play.

In Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, the innovation is the playable character that allows you to actually step out of the Interceptor, and get into some furious third-person action. Featuring the likeness and voice of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Alex, the game is based on the upcoming movie and is scheduled for a Summer 2007 release, with plans to include an arcade-style unlockable Spy Hunter game.

Xbox 360

I have high expectations for Fable 2, but then again, I had high hopes for Fable and then it somewhat disappointed me. With new nobility and corruption paths and the ability to use muskets, Fable 2 offers a few new interesting features. Their ultimate goal is to get people "emotionally engaged" with the game. As for me, I'll be happy if while your character ages, everyone ages with you.

How many of you remember playing Golden Axe? I loved that game, it was so much fun. The good news is SEGA is working on a next-gen Golden Axe remake for the 360, which will be an action-adventure RPG. The only images shown of a beautiful heroin look quite spectacular, so we can expect beautiful graphics all around.

It wouldn't be E3 without Halo 3. Scheduled to release around November, it's Microsoft's "secret weapon" against the PS3. And does it ever look good! Not many details are given about the story, but as we see Earth being controlled by the Covenant and some strange transmissions, we will possibly be playing Master Chief on a quest to rescue (or maybe destroy?) Cortana.

If you downloaded the trailer for Tony Hawk's Project 8, you'll probably be as amazed by it as I am. Not only the motion capture is absolutely outstanding (both the skater and the board), but that was actually slow-motion gameplay footage, or so says Tony Hawk himself. Finally, a Tony Hawk game that is as realistic as visually impressive!

THE DISAPPOINTMENTS

After mentioning so many good games, it's only fair I mention the ones that I wasn't so impressed by. I don't know about the rest of you, but I had a few disappointments this year.

The first one was Indiana Jones. I love Indiana Jones, the movies were so great. I loved the action (especially the whip), the ruins, the exotic places, the antique relics, the way history was mixed in it, the humor. I had high hopes for this game. So the game announcement comes out, the screenshots come out, and where are the crumbling ruins? Where is the whip? Where are the breathtaking exotic places? All I see is Indiana Jones shooting or kicking the crap out of people on a cityscape. On top of a tram. What the hell?

Shadowrun. I was sharing my husband's enthusiasm over it when I saw the trailer on the 360. Looks great doesn't it? Further announcements show that there seem to be no plans to include a solid plot. Think Quake or Counterstrike. You're put in the game with pre-set armor and weapons, and off you go against others. You can learn more about that subject in this article. Fans of the original will be disappointed with the lack of storyline.

Maybe even more disappointing than those two (or just plain horrible) is Dead or Alive Xtreme 2. Notice how "beach volleyball" is not in the title? Well, it looks like this time around the volleyball (which was already bad before) takes even more of a backseat... to boobs. Big floppy bouncy boobs that have - get this - individual physics. Yes, that's right, while one moves left, the other moves up. Is that what they call realistic breast physics? Developers, when was the last time you actually saw a real boob?

These three are basically my nitpicks for this year.

 

And that about sums it up for the biggest videogame event of the year, which, in my opinion, was a huge turning point in gaming history. But then again, aren't they all?