The 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo has finally wrapped up. Microsoft and Sony may have dominated headlines with their new consoles, but next-generation hardware is only as good as the games it can play. With that in mind, let’s take a look the Blistered Thumbs staff’s personal picks for Game of the Show.
This year’s E3 conferences made a pretty good showing, to put it simply. Many awesome games were revealed and demonstrated over the course of the conferences, but I couldn’t help but appreciate one of the games I already knew would be getting its first appearance at the event. A new Super Smash Bros. title has been a long time coming since the release of Brawl back in 2008, but a new entry in the series was finally revealed during the E3 Nintendo Direct and made quite a good showing. Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Yes, Mega Man was revealed. Yes, it was awesome to see him fighting against the series regulars with all the obvious improvements and tightening made to the fighting system. However, that’s only the tip of why the new Super Smash Bros. is impressive.
In addition to the much-lauded Mega Man, the Villager from Animal Crossing and Wii Fit Trainer were also announced as newcomers to the series. While definitely not obvious choices, they each seem to be bringing very unique styles, and subsequently dynamics, to the fighting that are much appreciated. Also of note is how the game will have interactions and differences between the 3DS and Wii U versions, the least of which is that stages on the systems will have some differences to correspond with the games actually available on the system. Interestingly, it was also said during the direct that the two versions would “have the same number of characters.” The way it was worded, I can’t help but think it might mean that the cast of characters for each version could be different, much the same way the stages will be. Even without considering that possibility, the game looks great in HD and looks as good as it can on the 3DS while still maintaining a speedy flow on both versions. There were a lot of strong showings at E3 this year, but, sometimes simply showing what fans want to see is all that is needed.
By the way, am I the only one who thinks that the Villager’s ability to catch all forms of projectile and throw them back, described in the Developer Direct, could make him one of the best? I swear, the entire character seems to be made for trolling… and I love it.
E3 was a bedlam of old and new surprises that attempted to up the wow factor for consumers of all ages. Once the dust was settled though, one game stood out amongst the rest, a colossus in a room of small fish. That game is TitanFall. The concept is novel, the visuals are top notch, and considering Respawn Entertainment is being spearheaded by one of the men behind Infinity Ward, there is a certain pedigree that can be expected in terms of quality. It was the gameplay, however, that really captured my imagination.
The solid mix between swift ground combat and the more lumbering mech combat gives TitanFall a new dynamic to what many would consider a stagnant genre. The action was fast and loose in terms of what we saw, but it was clear that the asynchronous design made any number of strategies available to the player. Do we jump in a Titan or jump on the back of one? Do we blow up oncoming enemies or hold a position for as long as possible? Couple this with the interesting relationship between cloud gaming and the seamless multiplayer experience and TitanFall is swiftly transforming into one of the more important flagship titles for the next generation.
You pretty much knew what was up when you saw it was my turn. Of course I would come out of hiding to take up the keyboard again and tell you why I’m so excited about The Witcher 3, and why you should be too.
The Western RPG has had a far too forgiving audience of late. Fans have “come to accept” that the idea of an open-world game is irreconcilable with a deep plot, driven by character and strong writing. We’ve been forced to choose between unpleasant linearity, thrilling set-pieces, and excellent characters or open mayhem, the world at our fingertips, and a plot that lacks any degree of sophistication whatsoever. I happen to think that CD Projekt Red is about to change all of this.
Don’t mind the fact that the Witcher games so far have indeed let you play your own way, or the fact that they’re some of the best written role playing experiences around; in fact, you should even never mind that this is a promised conclusion to an epic story in an age dominated by self-propagating sequels. What you ought to mind is how they’re promising all of this within an open world–an ambitious goal to be sure, but I don’t lack confidence that they can do it. An open-world game that has the guts to punish the player in situations with limited information, that encourages exploration but also wariness lest you stumble upon some terrific beast without the proper tools to fight it, one as gorgeous and detailed as the Witcher games have become famous for; this is the kind of game that tips balances and announces new demands that gamers will have from a *true* next generation title.
I know I have a reputation for being a Square Enix defender/fanboy among BT readers, but funnily enough I had zero interest in Final Fantasy Versus XIII going into E3 this year. So negative were my feelings towards the game that for months now I have been actively rooting for it to simply be canceled in favor of forward movement on Kingdom Hearts III instead. And yet, here we are. I am giving the renamed Final Fantasy XV my E3 2013 Game of Show pick. What a difference two trailers can make. I am still looking forward to Kingdom Hearts III more, but I cannot in good conscience give game of show to a title with so little actual footage available. Besides, with how long Nomura takes, I will likely have numerous opportunities in the future to name KHIII Game of Show.
No doubt the long development cycle helps to account for the difference in quality between the underwhelming gameplay footage of Versus from a few years back and the combat trailer for XV released earlier this week. That being said, I find myself wondering what role the transition to next gen has played as well. Director Tetsuya Nomura has always aimed for cinematic flair in his productions (both in and out of the gaming medium, as his sole non-gaming director’s credit for Final Fantasy VII Advent Children can attest) and perhaps he needed the extra power of the newer console generation to fully bring his vision to life. Or maybe he really did just need seven plus years of development time after all.
Whatever the case, Final Fantasy XV cut an impressive enough stride in its official debut to silence many of its harshest critics (like myself) and those of the company producing it. I continue to look forward a great deal to such upcoming Square Enix titles as Bravely Default and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (#DealWithIt). However, I would be lying if I did not admit that my anticipation level for Final Fantasy XV is now even higher, as much because I am a fan of Nomura’s abilities as a director/producer as anything. A new console generation brings with it new opportunities for the medium to continue to grow and evolve and for the moment at least Square Enix seems well poised to take full advantage of this with Final Fantasy XV.
While it might not be the most epic game out of E3, and I might have been treating it like a joke the day before it premiered, I have to admit that Plants vs. Zombie: Garden Warfare won my attention and vote for Game of Show. There were several titles I saw that loudly voiced my approval for (seeing Crimson Dragon after so many years without a new Panzer Dragoon title and hearing the Killer Instinct theme after so long brought a smile to my face) but here’s what PvZ:GW had going for it during E3: a lot of fun and some GENUINE enthusiasm.
One thing that can kill a game presentation for me is when the presenter talks about the game like he or she is reading off the annual financial report. This wasn’t the case for PopCap and EA’s new title: John Vechey, PopCap’s founcer, showed up in a zombie mask and was borderline ecstatic for his company’s new game and why not? The trailer was rollicking good time that showed off everyone’s favorite plants from the original game running havoc on a pack of zombies. The gameplay was nothing but fun as well, with the fast-paced shooting action being chaotic and brutal, the classes being clever takes on the roles games like Team Fortress 2 have taught us to expect, while also keeping true to the plants’ original roles. That’s to say nothing of the huge grin I had when I saw Disco Zombie and Gargantuar make an appearance. I can’t wait to play this game when it comes to PC.