PAX is over once again, but it was a lot of fun, as were the friends that accompanied me this year. This was their first PAX, and with the exception of one of them falling ill from dehydration in the evening of the second day, it all went smoothly. And everyone made it through day three with no ill health!
Games, Games, Games!
I know that everyone gave this game shit when it was unveiled at E3, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have fun with the games I tried out. The first was the Legend of Zelda game, in which one player, using the Wii U gamepad, is an archer and the other players, using Wii Remotes, are swordsmen. The swoirdsmen move along a guided path, hacking and slashing their way through guys, while the archer shoots dudes from afar. There are also light puzzle elements; at one point in the demo, we were each stopped by an orb. To progress, the swordsmen had to strike their orbs, and before a timer counted down, the archer had to strike theirs as well. The game is purely cooperative and ends if any of the swordsmen go down.
The second was the Luigi's Mansion game, which, despite its Pac-Man Vs. similarities, was pretty hilarious in its own right. When I played, I had the Wii U controller, and so I was playing the ghost tried to kill the other players, who were trying to find me and shine a flashlight in my direction to damage me. I didn't quite win; there was a point where I had killed two players, but they can be revived if the remaining survivors are quick enough, and I eventually just got corralled and finished off.
Minigame collection? Yes. Fun? Also, yes. I'm honestly interested to see what the rest of the games are like.
PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
I have been heavily critical of this game for some time now. The time I spent with PlayStation All-Stars at PAX did nothing to change my mind. In fact, I'd say it just confirmed what I felt when watching things like the Giant Bomb Quick Look. The game desperately wants to be Smash Bros., but it's too slow, the UI does nothing to inform the players as to who's winning and losing until the match is over, and divvying points based purely on hitting with supers is a terrible, terrible idea. I was playing a fairly decent game, not particularly good or bad, when the player using Kratos busted out his Level 3 super near the very end, which basically lets him run around the arena with an instant kill weapon. It's less a trump card or comeback mechanic and more an "I Win" button.
I should note that, even though I was standing in the middle of the Sony booth at the show surrounded by other people playing this game, I didn't hear that much praise for it from anyone. Maybe the Sony fans just weren't out in force at that moment, but the reception to the game, as far as I could measure, was lukewarm at the very best.
During my time at the various Vita stations, I tried my hand at Zen Pinball, Little Big Planet, and Retro City Rampage. While my time with LBP did little more than remind me that I can't stand LBP platforming, Zen Pinball and Retro City Rampage were a lot of fun. The only problem is that neither is a Vita exclusive and I could get versions of both elsewhere.
But they did have Persona 4: Golden on display as well, and while the demo wasn't anything elaborate (the game was just started and left to run, so it was still in the opening, exposition-heavy hours), I did get to hear a fair amount of Chie's new voice, and she does a good job. I'm fairly certain that Golden is and will remain my sole reason to own a Vita for some time to come.
The demo of Tomb Raider on display was an old build; probably the same one shown off at E3. It's early game exploration and bow-hunting elements, and despite the occasional bug (at one point, Lara would just float across the ground with her left arm outstretched to the side whenever I ran forward), it's looking very, very sharp. I've never really been a fan of Tomb Raider, but the presentation and the feel of the gameplay make this very likely the first Lara Croft adventure I actually spend money on.
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion
The 3DS Epic Mickey title that serves as an ode to the old Genesis game Castle of Illusion is another game that's looking sharp. This was an extra-fun stop especially for one of my friends, who is a huge Disney fan. She had the chance to talk with the rep handling the demo, who also happens to be a graphic artist on Epic Mickey 2. Really, that part of the show made her PAX, and this game is now at the top of her list of upcoming games she wants. And you know? The platforming and the use of the paint and thinner mechanic in the 2D setting really does work well. She'll have a blast when it comes out; I'm sure of that.
I went to three panels this year; one on Friday, one on Saturday, and one today. The first panel, which I neglected to mention in my Day 1 blog, was on the depiction of religion and religious content in games.
It was terrible.
The primary problem stemmed from the fact that all three panelists had a very narrow view of religious content and context in games. All of their favorite examples came from either the Dragon Age series or the Mass Effect trilogy, and in general, it felt more like a Bioware love-fest than any sort of discussion on religion in general. This is possibly a predictable outcome, since one of the panelists is a QA Lead at EA Canada. Despite a fleeting reference to El Shaddai, they didn't have much of interest to say on the topic that didn't devolve into "Bioware is awesome!"
Saturday's panel was on sex in games, particularly in relation to tabletop RPGs, though some video game discussion came up during the Q&A. For me personally, as well as the friend I attended it with, it was very entertaining and informative, particularly since we both have experience dealing with a DM that could learn a few things (well, everything, really) on how to depict such in the game, but also on how to prevent "bleed." (i.e.: "Her character wants to shag my character, so that must mean she wants to shag me!")
Yeah, bleed is a bad thing when it escalates to that level.
The final panel we attended was another table-top/card game panel in which a number of creators of humorous tabletop games talked about how to insert humor into games. It was a very funny panel with a lot of self-depreciation (one of the panelists, a friend of a friend, was even dressed in a goofy cow costume he was using to promote his latest game, which he is putting together with Kickstarter help). It can be an odd thing, where some games succeed because they contain the right amount of inherent humor, whereas in other games, the humor is mostly there because of the way the players create it themselves.
As one particularly colorful anecdote, one of the panelists had also done writing work on a Marvel MMO title that happened to be on display at PAX, and mentioned how he'd be assigned particular characters, and for the most part, they're not difficult to write for. And then he was given Deadpool. He constantly missed his deadlines for Deadpool because it takes so much more effort to write him, particularly when all of the dialogue needs to be that Deadpool sort of funny.
Every year, I try to get in a little bit of the Console Freeplay area at PAX and play something I don't normally have the opportunity to try. This year was slightly different.
I used to own a 360, though I finally go sick of it after having repeated hardware issues that caused constant crashes and scratched game discs. On the list of freeplay games, I decided to spend a little bit of time with the game that I originally bought a 360 in order to play, when the console honeymoon was in full effect and before the rather nasty divorce. And that game was Ninety-Nine Nights.
OK, so N3 had its problems, but my time with it in Console Freeplay was enough to remind me that my fondness for that game isn't merely rose-tinted. I really do enjoy it.
The Swag and the Purchases
My wallet cries for mercy before the end of every PAX I attend, and this was no exception. The main reason being that I bought some furniture while I was there. Gaming furniture company Geek Chic was on display once again, and for the second PAX in three years, I ordered furniture from them. The first time, it was a coffee table. This time, it was their Alexandria Codex; a shelving/drawer unit that should be perfect for storing my games and DVDs. My collection has grown unwieldy, and if I'm going to get it under control, then I might as well do it in style.
On the faaaaaaaar less expensive end of the spectrum, I stopped in at the Pink Gorilla Games booth and bought a number of cool things. My favorite among them being the Final Fantasy Trading Arts Yuna figurines; the package comes with Yuna in her FFX outfit and her X-2 Gunner garb, and they are adorable. I also got some Samurai Warriors 3 trading figures.
I also picked up a few old PS2 games. A few I bought because I played them many years ago, and for one reason or another, carry fondness for them: Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore I played a lot in college. Dynasty Warriors 3 got me into the Dynasty Warriors series, and I logged more time in Romance of the Three Kingdoms VIII than should be considered healthy.
And then there are the other games I got. Namely, Chaos Legion, which I bought mainly because of an old Penny Arcade joke from eons ago, and Bujingai, which is just hilarious for the fact that it stars Gackt in the role of the protagonist. Really, it's just impossible to take seriously. And if you don't know what a Gackt is, Google is your friend.
PAX Prime 2012 was a rousing success all around. Certain health issues aside, my friends and I all had fun, and we all came away with things we enjoyed and are looking forward to. It's difficult to really name a game of the show simply because there was so much on display that really grabbed me. Though Tomb Raider certainly gets a lot of props, as does what Nintendo had on display for the Wii U. I didn't even have a chance to demo games like Pikmin 3 or Project P-100, but that time I spent with the new controller was well worth it.