It seems sort of funny to think that E3 is almost upon us. Three years ago I was barely able to handle the anticipation as I approached the West Coast for the first (and so far only) time; then, for two years, E3 was an anticlimax, a non-starter. No truly massive news came out of those conferences, partly because of the scaling-back, but mostly because the two new platforms– the Wii and the PS3– were still in their feeling-out phases. Only Microsoft was able to deliver with bombshell news, and even then it was only last year at their pre-E3 conference.
As it turns out, most of the big news for E3 doesn’t come at the actual show itself, but from the press briefings the big three show immediately prior to Day One. It’s perhaps most evident now, in the mid-phase of the current console cycle; all three preview events are slated to have some interesting news. Well, I should say, two of them. For all that I like their platform, I have absolutely no freaking clue what to expect out of Nintendo this year.
Let’s get to that, then. Nintendo is at the top of the heap, in terms of sales. Most would say it’s on the backs of the… there’s really no neutral way to put this, but the “casual” market, as if expanding gaming were a bad thing (that’s a rant I’ve run before; bottom line is “grow up: elitism is stupid”). Because of this it makes Nintendo excruciatingly hard to predict. Now, obviously there’s not going to be an announcement of new hardware; the DSi is still in global infancy, and the Wii is selling way too well to consider an outward revamp. Any hardware announced is probably going to be more peripherals, which honestly wouldn’t be so bad if they were used for more games; I like the Balance Board, particularly for We Ski/Snowboard, but I’m not entirely convinced about MotionPlus unless I see some proof. What I expect to see, then, is a more focused software announcement regarding some of the older standbys as well as announcing that some more second-party developers are working on either new IPs or classic ones. I would love to see a revival of Kid Icarus, but I don’t think it’ll happen; more to the point, I still hold the extremely slim hope that there’s a Mother collection on the way, but I know that almost certainly won’t happen.
Moving on to Sony, there’s a bit of an odd duck. If it’s hard for me to justify peripherals for the Wii for just one game each, how much harder is it for me to justify the expensive Playstation 3 for just Metal Gear Solid 4? I can say in almost all honesty that there’s not a whole hell of a lot on the platform to interest me in the future– Cross Edge looks nice and all but it’s mostly characters I’m not entirely committed to, and the PS1 Classics releases I fully expect Capcom to bust out (the Mega Man Legends games in particular) are perfectly playable on my PSP. Which brings us to the other point: Sony has finally picked up that nobody likes UMDs. The alternative, download-only, would be great if WiFi penetration was more prevalent in the US, but outside of a few city centers I can’t say that it is. Taking a cue from Apple, they’ve already started with a couple of titles being download-only. There’s just one itsy-bitsy problem: an app for the iPhone/iPod Touch averages under 10 MB. PSP games start stretching into the 1.0-1.5 GB range. I don’t know about you, but I would think that losing a $40 Memory Stick that has $60 worth of games on it is far riskier than losing one UMD that only has me out $30. And if you thought people moaning about the Wii’s storage was bad, just wait until the whinging about Memory Sticks or filling up the PSP2’s flash drive starts. I can put up with UMDs for a bit longer because, ironically, the alternative is too expensive. In terms of games… you know, outside of Final Fantasy Versus XIII and those PS1 Classics, I just don’t even care anymore. If you want to wow me, Sony, here’s how: kill off the PS2 once and for all, and unlock backwards compatibility for all PS3 models.
Which leads me to Microsoft. It’s funny: when I was in Los Angeles three years ago, I didn’t make too much of an effort to pay attention to the MS booth. The 360 was still a new and unproven quantity, and while I liked the idea of some of the XBLA games, it wasn’t impressive enough to steer me away from the Nintendo, Sony, and Square-Enix booths. My, how times have changed. The 360 is a cornerstone of my gaming now; has been ever since a little while after I got it, and the NXE from last year only solidified that. The software support the machine has got has also been phenomenal and to my liking; Namco Bandai and the various studios under EA in particular have really made me glad I own the machine. In terms of the future, though, there’s not really much that MS can do beyond expanding on what’s already been done. The rumored motion control option is a complete non-issue since MS won’t make it mandatory (if it’s even in the wings for the 360 as opposed to its successor), so that’s more of an interesting thing to see if not use. Really, MS’s strongest support is its software library, and if that means a couple more series migrate to the machine from other platforms, then so be it. There’s rumblings that Metal Gear Solid 4 is going to make its debut on the 360 this year, but I doubt it; more likely, it’ll just be a side-game or a re-do along the lines of the Substance/Subsistence expansions from the last two games. No, I think we’re going to see another huge franchise jump ship to MS, though for the life of me I couldn’t honestly tell you what it would be. Maybe Persona? Maybe Lunar or Grandia? Maybe even Breath of Fire? We just don’t know.
So that brings me to third-parties… and I’ve rambled long enough, so I’ll just go down the list and give quick notes on what I’m expecting and what I wish for.
Capcom: Expecting reveals of a new IP from GRIN, some previews of the next Resident Evil, a revival of Rival Schools for all three platforms, and a solid date on Spyborgs. Wishing for a new Mega Man Legends and Breath of Fire, or at the very least another console Mega Man– probably a new timeline/series.
EA: Expecting to see a vastly improved set of NFL, NCAA football/basketball, and NBA games for all three, particularly a better Wii entourage (NHL will get unfairly shafted, AGAIN); a new Battlefield game for consoles, more along the lines of Call of Duty; reveal of Mirror’s Edge 2; and Rock Band Beatles will use existing DLC, won’t allow exporting, but will have Beatles-specific DLC for RB/RB2. Wishing for MySims 2 with full online, portable Boom Blox, and an NHL game that doesn’t suck.
Atlus: Expecting to see them push their online community much more; promoting games already out; making the Atlus Spoils program a standard on all future releases; and announcing a larger Wii presence with… hell, I don’t know. Wishing for a proxy announcement by Banpresto that Super Robot Wars Original Generations is getting cross-ported to the Wii, with actual subtitles for the speech this time pretty please, or that they’re working with Sony to bring over some “new” PS1 Classics that slipped through the cracks.
Square-Enix: Expecting to see more of FF XIII, along with some English-language footage and a public demo at some point for both platforms; stepping up their iPhone division with a new version of Song Summoner and more Tactics A-series spinoffs; a game based on the new Fullmetal Alchemist series to arrive simultaneously in Japan and NA; and a teaser trailer for Kingdom Hearts 3 on PS3/360, simultaneous cross-platform and worldwide release in 2011, running on the Crystal Engine. Wishing for a revival of the Mana series with Seiken Densetsu 3 on Virtual Console, with a translation for NA coming; a continuation of The World Ends With You; and a new Chocobo game for the DS.
Konami: You’re on my no-good list, so I’m not expecting to pay the slightest bit of attention to anything you have to offer unless it’s prefaced by a public apology for Beat’n Groovy and the promise that you’re going to do better. Since I know that won’t happen, then this is all moot.
NIS: This is another company that’s impossible to predict, so I’ll just say that I wish they’ll consider Wii-porting Makai Kingdom and Soul Nomad, and that they could maybe possibly make a game that’s not so ridiculously bloody hard? I mean, I like hard, but sometimes I like easy, too, you know?
Sega: We’re going to see Sonic trotted out once more, folks, so let’s just resign ourselves to it now; more “core” titles for the Wii, including a better push for The Conduit; at the same time, more accessible titles across the board. I’m wishing for a new, not-online Phantasy Star game or a new RPG title along the lines of Skies of Arcadia, and I think we’re about due for a new Puyo Pop game, too.
Namco-Bandai: Expecting to see a new Ace Combat game, a new Soul Calibur spin-off, and a compilation of the Pac-Man World games for the Wii. Wishing for a new Klonoa (and hoping he found a home on the Wii), as well as a partnership with Nintendo/Monolith for a Xenosaga revival.
Overall it’s looking like the show is going to have a lot to offer everyone, and while I certainly don’t expect that even one of my “wishes” will turn up (seriously, I’ve been holding out for Mega Man Legends 3 since 2002) I am certain that I won’t be disappointed by any of the announcements. When you get down to it, it’s impossible to be disappointed; after all, we’re getting new games. Some we were expecting, others we weren’t. Some we’ll play, others maybe other people will play. And really, when so much stuff is coming out, it’s very difficult to find nothing that you like.
Catch you folks later.