Tuesday, July 1, 2014

E3 2014: My Thoughts

My FIFTH E3 article! Can you believe it? Time sure flies.

We'll be undergoing a major structural shift this time. See, there won't be a need to split games into "mixed" or "hated" categories, as Nintendo completely it out of the park this year. Yes, after the Nintendo Direct disaster from last year, I am just as shocked as you are. No more we were shackled to a faulty half-hour stream, as the Nintendo Treehouse live event proved to be continually engaging throughout the event and was full of exciting surprises. This was how things should've been last year, and the Nintendo fanboy in me is very pleased. Oh yes.

So since there wasn't a single game I was displeased with, I'll just be listing nearly every major game showed off independently without their own section. Keep in mind I will be cutting out several games for convenience of length (Hyrule Warriors, Mario Maker, EFFING STAR FOX), but rest assured: I am just as excited as you are for those titles. Let's get started!

New Zelda

Open-world Zelda? Open-world Zelda.

With fans begging for the evolution of the tired "Zelda formula," Nintendo's set to finally fulfill their wish after experimenting with Skyword Sword and A Link Between Worlds. Seeing as how Aonuma revealed his dedication to cut the hand-holding garbage from Skyward Sword and stick closer to the free-choice nature of ALBW, that promise looks to soon be fully realized. However, this time we'll be enjoying that experience on a much grander, HD scale.

While not much was shown, we know enough to get excited. For starters, you see all that game footage in the above trailer? That's not pre-rendered; it's all real-time, in-game footage. Granted, I dunno if all that crazy camera movement and slow-mo shots will be possible in the final product, but just...holy shit, does it look good. The crazy razor-bladed laser arrow gizmo alone looks more exciting and dynamic than anything within Link's weaponry in at least a decade, and that's just one weapon. I can't wait to see and utilize the rest!

Also, did anyone else catch the obvious Skyrim influences? Aonuma's made no secret of his admiration for the game, and with him echoing Bethesda's promotion from years before ("You can reach those mountains in the distance"), I can't wait to see how they'll spin Zelda into a similar format. This is the breath of fresh air the series needs.

Captain Toad Treasure Tracker

Did I ever mention how much I loved the Toad Brigade music from Super Mario Galaxy? Never did I imagine it would be the main theme for a Toad spin-off!

Based off of the periphery Captain Toad bonus levels in Super Mario 3D World, the titular adventurous fungus is back for more treasure plundering; to be specific, he's hunting down coins and stars We're not quite sure why he frequents floating isometric landscapes for riches, but you can't deny the adorability, so there!

Despite whatever issues I had with Super Mario 3D World (blasphemy, I know, but I'll get to that in a later review), the brief Captain Toad adventures showed enough promise and charm to form a full-fledged game on their own, and so here we are. Gameplay footage from the Treehouse Stream proved that even Captain Toad's more basic locales contain enough visual trickery and traps to impress (completionists in particular should have a blast, as evident by the hidden collectible jewelry. Anyone who's played the point-and-click adventure Zack and Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure for the Wii should also instantly feel at home with the dragon boss battle, and I'm excited to see what the game has to offer in that area. Quest on, Captain Toad! 

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse

2005's Kirby Canvas Curse for the DS was an innovative Kirby experience that was begging to be expanded upon, and that shall soon be realized ten years later as a home console sequel. The star attraction of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is undeniably the gorgeous claymation aesthetic, which are so lovingly, immaculately detailed that one could swear that they were handmade. Coming off from 2010's heart-melting Kirby's Epic Yarn, it's thrilling to see Kirby continue to immerse itself into experimental graphical styles with the purpose of soothing the player's psyche. I know I'll be melting into my chair.

Gameplay seems to have largely unchanged from Canvas Curse. While Copy Abilities are yet to be seen, just about everything else from the paint meter to collectible stars and even the green poles that halt Kirby's movement. In the place of Copy Abilities, however, are cues taken from Epic Yarn: temporary, situational transformations that mold Kirby into missile-spewing submarines and rapid-fire tanks. As wonderful as they seem, I hope this means we won't see the last of the Copy Ability time trials from the previous game. But when considering how much the game seems to be embracing the beloved Green Greens theme, I suppose that's not a big deal.

More Kirby is always a good thing, but this is the sort of game I want to see on the Wii U: a title that takes full advantage of the Wii U GamePad as opposed to treating it a side product. Come to think of it, will Zelda U utilize it in ways beyond the inventory screen? I suppose time will tell.


Here's something new. Nintendo's take on shooters instantly won the hearts of many when this developer comment was presented during the game's reveal:

"One day, Sakaguchi and I were having lunch and he said 'hey, what if you're to switch between a squid and a person?'"

And thus Splatoon was born. As opposed to just gunning down opponents, Splatoon is designed around splattering the battlefield with color-coded ink so as to expand team territory. In doing so, the players can traverse through their team-colored goo via squid form to quickly move about as needed. Don't think of the ink or paintball guns as just simply conforming to Nintendo's family-friendly nature--being so visually distinct, the ink can also serve as defense (players move sluggishly in opponent's splattered colors) and their rapid-fire nature can serve as a warning that an enemy may be lurking around.

Admittedly, the concept and aesthetic some time to grow on me, but I've since warmed up to its creative nature. Splatoon is precisely what not just the Wii U but what Nintendo themselves need: a GamePad utilizing software (the controller utilizes the gyroscope to aim along with a map detailin how much it's covered in goo) that expands Nintendo's repertoire of new IPs and builds upon their philosophy of easy to learn, hard to master (the strategies described in both the director video and Treehouse Stream--such as walljumping as squids--are incredibly deep). Personally speaking? The game appeals just fine to my OCD complex.

Best of all, though, is that the game has blessed us with this lovely GIF from Nintendo's development of the game. If there's any evidence of Nintendo appealing to the kid inside of us, it's this.

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

While very little of these Pokémon remakes have been shown to the point where detailed discussion and impression can be shared, I'd like to take the opportunity to grant kudos for the trailer above.

Pokemon Ruby still remains my favorite Pokemon experience of all time just because of how much it awakened my inner sense of adventure as a child. Say whatever you wish about whatever downgrades it had from Silver, but there's no denying just how expansive and varied the world of Hoenn was. Never before did Pokemon explore the interiors of jungles, dive into ancient underwater caverns, or climb volcanoes. Secret bases were carved into trees and caves, and Pokedex descriptions elaborated wit detail straight out of a National Geographic issue.

From before the subject matter of this trailer was made known, I knew what it was previewing. The impossible heat of the summer-coated rainforest immediately rushed back to me as I watched the young explorer park his bike right in the wilderness. Having watched how Nintendo perfectly encapsulated my childhood experience, this is a remake I am awaiting with open arms.

Yoshi's Woolly World

When Yoshi's Woolly World was initially unveiled as Yarn Yoshi last year, I found myself skeptical. There was no denying the game looked appealing, but as much as I loved Kirby's Epic Yarn (both games are made by the same developer, Good Feel), I felt this new title came across as a little redundant. While still visually charming, that Good Feel was going with yet another yarn-inspired title centered around collecting beads rendered its introduction as something of little more than a palette swap. Granted, Kirby and Yoshi are two entirely different types of action-platformers, but their happy-go-lucky aesthetic can render them rather samey.

Of course, much like how Canvas Curse had already laid the groundwork for a sequel, I suppose the handcrafted yarn aesthetic was also raring for a second go. To its credit, the game has improved since its first showing to the point where one can safely say it can successfully avoid the mediocrity that's plagued Yoshi for the past decade. While the Yoshi gameplay is intact, the Epic Yarn inspiration is still strong from sound effects to gameplay mechanics, albeit perhaps improved in certain areas. In particular, the two-player mode seems more robust and involved than its predecessor, with Yoshi being able to toss his red counterpart at foes and obstacles.

Yoshi's Woolly World is soft, cuddly, fun, charming, everything it should be, and I will enjoy it. Yet I am of the opinion that certain Wii U sequels (Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze) grew a tad rote with a strange "been there, done that" impression. It's all still good fun, but I sure hope it can stand tall as a separate entity from Epic Yarn.
Bayonetta 2

Hard to believe my interest in Bayonetta started when the worldwide bitching began over the revived sequel being snapped up for the Wii U.

To tell the truth, aside from trailers I largely avoided coverage of Bayonetta 2 for two reasons: one, stream footage for this game always ends being really grainy and pixellated for me, and two, I've found the incredible adrenaline-fueled action of Platinum Games are better left as surprises. This isn't to say I'm not hyped up, though: the original Bayonetta was one of my favorite non-Nintendo experiences last generation--nonsense story and gaudy sexiness and all--and from what I've seen this is set to surpass the original in every way.

And speaking of the original Bayonetta, it's being packaged with this one! Complete with Nintendo character costumes for our leading lady. I'd actually just finished replaying it earlier this spring, and yet I'm already excited to burn through it again. Anyone else shocked that Nintendo told Platinum to reveal even more skin with the costumes?

Oh, and I can't believe Bayonetta 2 is going to include online co-op. Take notes, Nintendo; I'm getting a little sick of your multiplayer offerings not including this.

Xenoblade Chronicles: X

Isn't it refreshing to see Nintendo of America embrace this title so readily? Quite the turnaround from how they initially spurned the original Xenoblade.
The lack of motion controls aside, Xenoblade Chronicles was easily the most original title on the Wii thanks to its scope and ambition through character and setting, and its successor seems set to build upon that...albeit with piloting mechs and custom-created protagonists this time around.

Aside from this trailer and some of the Treehouse Footage, I also didn't explore too much of its coverage at E3. Xenoblade Chronicles was also an immensely enjoyable surprise thanks to the aforementioned original setting (colonies that live on the bodies of two deceased gods? holy shit), and much like Bayonetta 2, this spiritual successor seems set to surpass it.

My only gripe? Some of the faces on these characters are the stuff of nightmares. Blech.

Super Smash Bros. For Wii U and 3DS

Smash Bros. is here.

With three new characters entering the fold (Mii Fighters, Kid Icarus's Palutena, and Namco guest Pac-Man), collectible near-field communication figures set to interact with the game, and highly-publicized competitive tournament hosted by Nintendo of America itself, the hype for the latest Smash games has already surged through the roof.

What I'm personally most excited for is the potential of endless replay value. Of course, such is the norm with Sakurai games, yet these two games come across as rather ambitious even for him, what with the inclusion of character customization, interchangeable Mii Fighters, and Amiibo support. I know I'll be tooling around with the customized moves for quite some time, and just like Sakurai, I plan to purchase every last one of the Amiibos.

And guess what? I just so happened to play both versions at Best Buy's Smash Fest! While pictures and video weren't allowed at the event, I still stuck around for about five good hours.For my playtime with both versions, I decided to dabble into both my favorite veterans (Olimar, Kirby, Toon Link) while playing with my most anticipated newcomers (Villager, Mega Man, Little Mac, and Greninja).

My experiences with Olimar, Villager, and Mega Man were by far the most interesting. As an Olimar main, getting used to commanding only three Pikmin was challenging enough, but perhaps even worse was that *gasp* they nerfed the length of his up-smash! That move was wonderful in Brawl for hitting through platforms (especially with Yellow Pikmin, mmm), and I'm sad to see its effectiveness diminished. I'll just have to have trust Sakurai's words on balancing him with new strengths and weaknesses! It is a new game, after all.

And yet for someone who got the hang of him--a difficult character to learn--rather easily, I fumbled quite a bit with Villager and Mega Man. Villager in particular threw me for a loop: his down-smash, where he digs two Pitfalls, doesn't deal any damage (from my memory, anyway) and his forward smash is just him dropping a bowling ball. While he was tricky, my confusion did not stop me from having a blast! I can't wait to get a hold of him and Mega Man in the final products.

Can you believe we're getting two separate Smash Bros. in the same year? Melee die-hards and tourney skeptics can doubt them all they want, but I know I'll be enjoying these two games for years to come. Bring it on, Sakurai.


Annnd that's a wrap. Personally, I found my mixed impressions from my earlier models as more interesting to write, but I guess I can't complain if everything looks so good.

See you later with Biweekly Music Wednesday!

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