E3 Rundown: Day 1--Conferences: The Sequel

Posted Wed Jun 17, 2015 at 06:11 AM PDT by
E3 2015 logo

Nintendo, Square Enix, and PC Gaming chime in.

E3 has begun. But instead of Nintendo giving their two cents and everyone's off to the races, we actually got three conferences today of, shall we say, varying quality. Heres the verdict, folks:

Nintendo

Nintendo's actually having a pretty good year, especially considering that 'Splatoon' was a giant risk, and it's apparently hit its mark. There's tales that the game is virtually a rare commodity in Japan right now. That game right there is proof positive that Nintendo, and the gaming world at large, is much better off just letting Nintendo be Nintendo.

Within 30 seconds of their Nintendo Direct, it's clear that's exactly their plan, as we got Iwata, Reggie, and Miyamoto puppets doing wacky stuff all over Nintendo HQ before and while they introduced the games. It was simultaneously the goofiest and most endearing thing ever.

This was the leitmotif for their whole presentation which went for quality instead of quantity. A new 'Star Fox' was announced, which looks a little on the slow side, but then we found out later that it's being developed by Platinum Games, which is more than enough to inspire faith.

In the category of "What you wanted, but not the way you wanted", 'Zelda WiiU' skipped the show this year, but we are getting a cool looking 'Four Swords' type of adventure for 3DS, as well as a pretty good looking 'Hyrule Warriors' port. There's a 'Metroid Prime' on its way for 3DS....except that's a 4-player co-op game too. if you watched the Nintendo World Championships--and really, you should, because that was fun as hell--and wondered if 'Blast Ball' looked awful familiar, yes, it's part of this new package.

Two new 'Animal Crossing' titles were announced. One is essentially an 'Animal Crossing'/'Mario Party' hybrid, the other, on 3DS, is an interior design sim, in which you design houses in your town. As goofy as that reads, it also looks strangely gratifying.

A wonderful segment (with a female designer, no less) was dedicated to the design of 'Yoshi's Woolly World'. And yes, we do in fact need a game where Yarn Yoshi and the 'Unravel' cat hang out together. Yes, there was Amiibo talk, but it was kept rather low key. The neatest thing there is that you can tap Amiibo in 'Super Mario Maker', and turn Mario into whatever character your Amiibo is.

Speaking of Mario, a brand new Mario RPG is coming to 3DS, where Paper Mario and 'Superstar Saga' Mario cross worlds. There hasn't been a weak Mario RPG yet, so, bring that on. The big one this year is gonna be 'Super Mario Maker'. The presentation didn't show off too much of the game itself, but in its stead, we got about 5 or so minutes of Miyamoto talking the game design of the original 'Super Mario Bros', which was the most fascinating look at the history of a beloved game we've seen at an E3 in some time. So, it may not have sold anybody on the game, but yet again, I refer everyone to the Nintendo World Championships Sunday, where the final round was three absolutely bugnuts insane custom levels from 'Super Mario Maker'. THAT was some effective advertising for the game.

There wasn't exactly a weak point in Nintendo's slate, it simply wasn't a presentation with any mind-blowing announcements like the others, focusing on Nintendo quietly and happily doing its own thing away from the current-gen cacophony. And that's exactly how it should be. Keep Nintendo weird.

Grade: B

Square Enix

There was grumbling from corners of the internet that Nintendo had basically blew their opportunities at E3, delivering nothing of substance.  I firmly believe the Square Enix conference was the karma for that sentiment.

When Square Enix brought content, it was paltry: Narrated trailers for 'Just Cause 3', 'Hitman', a new 'Star Ocean', and 'World of Final Fantasy' (which I've been calling 'Funko Fantasy' for two days now) happened, which showed footage, but not nearly enough of how exactly we'll be playing them besides blurbs you'll probably read on the back of the box, and only 'Just Cause' showed off anything worth getting wide-eyed about. 'Kingdom Hearts III' got to stand on its own, but not before completely trolling the audience, pushing back the trailer behind more and more corporate speak, false starts, and lesser titles.Regardless, the game itself is, well, more 'Kingdom Hearts', and by now, you probably know how you feel about that.

We got the unexpected news that Platinum Games will be taking over C-level property 'Nier'. It was a middling RPG with some strong ideas the first time, so Platinum's swagger will be appreciated. We got a second look at the 'Final Fantasy VII' remake trailer. Still goosebump inducing, but, we've seen it. A brief behind-the-scenes of 'Rise of the Tomb Raider' happened, which was more of a tech demo than a look at the game. Which we also got yesterday, at the Microsoft show. More 'Deus Ex: Mankind Divided' was shown in a story trailer, though the term "mechanical apartheid" was used, and that's just, well, not an ideal term to throw around.

The most intriguing title shown turned out to be a mobile 'Lara Croft' game, which looks like 'Tomb Raider' in 'Monument Valley'. The presentation ended with the announcement of a new RPG studio, and 4 very pretty concept art pieces for....a game they weren't ready to announce and had no name or details for.

Basically, the Square Enix show was set up like a shareholder meeting instead of a presentation for enthusiast press. This might've been okay if they had any concept how to dress up their mediocre offerings in something better, but they don't. And so, we sat. And waited. And begged for Pele to come back.

What we got in return was this dude:

See you in your nightmares.

Grade: D+

PC Gaming Show

The intro should have warned us.

The PC Gamer show started with the most aggravatingly pretentious introduction imaginable, in which an unseen gamer opens up their gaming rig, puts an AMD component in, and pours himself a Mountain Dew into a wine glass.

We could have run. We should have run. And yet, for all 2 1/2 interminable hours of the PC Gamer showcase, we prayed for a reason to smile that would never come. Sony and Microsoft had unfortunately set an unsupportable standard, that maybe something impossible could happen. That, maybe the BIG impossible for PC could happen.

It didnt.

Instead what we got was 2 1/2 hours, in a talk show format hosted by 'Starcraft' commentator Day9, of random PC developers discussing tech minutiae in unspecific tech jargon entirely not in service of ideas or user experience. Much of the first hour was spent making high assumptions about userbase that only applies if you're among the PC elite--which is exactly who it seems this was made for. One dev spoke about optimizing his game for 4K monitors like there's one in every home.

There were a few meager crumbs to be snatched. Phil Harrison showed up to pimp Xbox One/Windows 10 cross compatibility again, and announce 'Killer Instinct' for PC. An 'American Truck Simulator' is happening. The dude behind 'Elite: Dangerous' showed up to intro a brief, but sweet trailer for a delightful looking 'Rollercoaster Tycoon' type of game called 'Planet Coaster', and that was co-opted fast for  a 5 minute segment on 'Guild Wars'. We got an all-too-brief interview with Hello Games' founder about 'No Man's Sky' that got all the wind taken out of it when a great Polygon piece went up on the game at the same time.

The best segment were a short but sweet interview with Fullbright's Steve Gaynor about the exploration in 'Tacoma', and with Sherida Halatoe about the sight mechanic in 'Beyond Eyes'. The interviews were in-depth, heartfelt, with two people not just fascinated by tech, but had an actual creative vision for their game, during a show that spent a ridiculous majority of its time showing off either hyperbloody shooters ('Killing Floor 2'), survival/zombies/zombie survival ('ARMA', 'DayZ'), or uninspired medieval strategy ('Total War: Warhammer'), The show paints a fairly unflattering picture of modern PC gaming, one that doesn't represent the vast and weird cavalcade of esoteric and fascinating work being done every day that DOESN'T rely on AMD pushing more graphics cards. And this went on for the amount of time one could actually speedrun most of the titles shown onstage. This wasn't a gamer's showcase. It was a verbal tech demo. It was the PC Master Race at play. And it was awful.

Grade: D-

From here folks, it's all news all the time. Stay tuned, we'll have big stuff throughout the day, as well as a giant aggregate post the next two nights for anything you might have missed.

Tags: games, E3, conferences, Nintendo, Square Enix, PC Gamer, AMD, best, worst, grades (all tags)