Nintendo Presser Reactions - E3 2012

Nintendo's press conference, one would imagine, had to already be pretty much set in stone. While we didn't know exactly what would have been shown (and quite honestly when it comes to Nintendo who ever does?) we knew that there would be a heavy focus on explaining the upcoming WiiU, presenting information about the console, and showcasing which titles we can expect to play. With Sony and Microsoft having no new consoles to showcase, there was reason to drum up excitement for this presser. Lip service would likely be paid to the 3DS, but this conference was all about firing the first shots in the next generation battle.

Wisely, Miyamoto, everyone's favorite face from Nintendo kicked things off by revealing that Pikmin 3 will in fact be coming to the WiiU. The game, in HD, seems beautiful. Though there seems to be more of a focus on multiplayer elements, offering connectivity with the WiiU tablet controller, most of the game looks like standard Pikmin. And honestly, I can be pretty happy with that as I have wanted a new Pikmin since the Wii released.

Despite starting off with a big, though not super shocking, announcement, Reggie was brought out to assure everyone that we can, most certainly, watch Netflix, Hulu, and Youtube on the smaller tablet controller. And what else about the tablet controller? Well there can be two of them, just like the original Nintendo. This further begs the question I have been asking since the WiiU was announced last year: why is this console not called the Super Nintendo Wii in order to simultaneously capitalize on the Wii name and make a play for core Nintendo fans. But that's neither here nor there, I guess. It was all about giving clear explanations and assurances that the controller would both act as a traditional controller while also having unique functionality the touch screen offers.

Following along with the topics of buzzwords that define current gaming, Nintendo announced MiiVerse to make a huge push for social gaming. Aside from showing an upgraded Mii Plaza, Reggie announced and demonstrated some of the way social functionality works with the tablet controller in New Super Mario Bros. U. Basically you can tag certain levels and leave messages for other players, presumably on a friend's list. Not much was said about how this would work, though promises were made that more information would be made public at tonight's Nintendo round table. The 3DS improved, slightly, on the way social elements work on Nintendo platforms, so hopefully Nintendo continues to make strides in this department.

Third parties were also brought out, showing us how games we have already played (and in my case loved) would play on the WiiU by talking up Batman Arkham City Armored Edition. This seemed to indicate that third parties may still be trying to figure the tablet out, as the primary functions seemed to just be making visible certain detective vision elements or guiding a Batarang by tilting the controller. However, the new Scribblenauts Unlimited was announced as well, which seems like a great fit for the platform. That franchise has always been hit and miss, but with a larger technological scope the final product should improve What that showed did look beautiful, and the iPad version of that game met with some favorable reviews, so this could be an example of third parties doing right by the controller.

A huge montage of games were shown as well, and perhaps the most interesting bit was that Mass Effect 3 will be coming to the WiiU. That feels odd to me, but Bioware did pitch that game as a stand alone product for people who were not heavily invested in the universe. I don't think new comers would do well stepping in without having any knowledge of the fiction, but at least it's there, I guess. It does give the impression that the same problems that plagued early third parties on the DS and, especially on, the Wii are still present.

There was also talk of a new karaoke game and some more WiiFit that is WiiU specific. I don't think a WiiFit game will ever replace a gym, nor will a karaoke game replace the other titles out there. But hey, it can't be worse than Wii Music, right?

The time to the 3DS was, as expected, short. Tomorrow night there's going to be a web exclusive 3DS press conference online. As expected there will be a New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the 3DS that vows to teach children the importance of the gold standard and the value of hard currency. Our pennies are not going anywhere! A new Paper Mario: Sticker Star was announced and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon was shown. I liked Luigi's Mansion, so I was glad to see that game coming back. There are multiple mansions and a "heavier emphasis on ghost catching action" so that should be fun. It's time for me to buy a 3DS, I think. Hopefully tomorrow night a bundle is announced, even if it looks like a redesign won't happen until next year.

Most of the other announcements were lackluster or expected (like the new Lego game we've already heard about last year), but one of the more interesting titles was NintendoLand which likely is basically a minigame collection similar to Wii Sports that actually integrates storied Nintendo franchises in to a theme park inspired collection. The hook here is the integration that the game will have with the earlier announced Miiverse. Unfortunately more details won't be out until tonight's developer's round table. All that was really offered is that the player holding the tablet controller rather than the Wii-motes, and again a lot of Nintendo's games continued appeals to families and multiplayer experiences, will have different ways to manipulate the games. Nintendo makes compelling games, so this one should be no different, even if it is just a minigame collection. They developed the hardware, they'll best know how to use it. It was sort of odd though and incoherent. It's a minigame collection though, and even Reggie seems to be aware it's not presented all that well and urged everyone to check out Nintendo's E3 page.

But then it all sort of ended. Much like Microsoft's franchises, even with all the newness that surrounded Nintendo and the WiiU, everything felt like games we've seen before. And I was certainly disappointed that they didn't lock down a date or a price. I have expressed a feeling that Nintendo has been limited by its past and the expectations these place on the present. And, as a big fan of these franchises, but also a fan of video games as a whole, it was sad to see Nintendo end feeling so lifeless. There seemed like so much more to talk about, I still have questions, and that's not the best way to feel when everything is finished.

Did Nintendo deliver, or are you more concerned about the WiiU than you were before?

Anything stand out aside from Pikmin 3?

Who 'won' E3 in terms of press conferences?

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Sony Presser Reactions - E3 2012

So after a lackluster showing by Microsoft, hours later the ball was placed in Sony's court. Starting out with a montage that sweeps across the range of Sony products it was clear that Sony came with a stacked line up. Much like Microsoft, Sony already said they would not be announcing a new console prior to the start of E3, so the games need to speak for themselves, and they did an awful lot of talking.

Now I know that Quantic Dream doesn't really push units, but they continue to push boundaries in terms of creativity and storytelling. Seeing Sony's continued support of David Cage is reassuring and can only benefit the medium as a whole, so watching as the first footage from Beyond: Two Souls played across the screen, waiting to hear Ellen Paige start speaking, and trying to get a feel for what type of experience Quantic Dream would craft next had me filled with awe. Sure they tend to have a limited bag of tricks as far as gameplay is concerned, but even if this turns out to be a little more Heavy Rain with higher quality voice acting and writing, I am on board. Though no date was given, nor was a system explicitly stated, it certainly looks like a PS3 game, and as such I imagine it hits the console sometime next year. And, to be cynical, bargain bins a few months later. But I know my money is set aside, I'll be there the first day.

Perhaps not an instant purchase, but still an interesting proposition was Sony's showcase of Playstation All-Stars: Battle Royale, which is basically a Super Smash Brothers clone except with Playstation characters. Though the game itself looks a little slow and bland, I am curious to see the rest of the design. Part of SSB charm is actually the level design, and if that is addressed and it plays well I could see this being a good time. What impressed me here was Sony's willingness to showcase cross-play between the PS3 and the Vita. My biggest concern here though is that this feature that Sony touts so heavily, one that could be used to further their communal focus (paired with a nice bit of time talking up Playstation Plus and giving all attendees a free year of the service), will be completely negated when the Playstation 4 inevitably comes out in a couple of years. But perhaps it will be addressed.

Sony also spent some time highlighting known releases, albeit with a Vita focused twist. I know that dedicated handhelds are a dying platform in the world of iTouch's, smart phones, and cheap .99 cent games, but seeing a game like Assassin's Creed III Liberation seems enjoyable. Even the Vita version of Call of Duty, titled Black Ops Declassified, could potentially be unique if executed properly. But my hopes aren't up for that one because of how Activision works.

Perhaps on the opposite end of the spectrum, and firing back at Microsoft for all of their CoD DLC timed exclusives, Sony seems to be canoodling with Ubisoft by spotlighting PS3 exclusives for Assassin's Creed and FarCry. Though for me perhaps the most encouraging portion of the press conference was Sony's open support of indie developers. Though no games were given extensive time on stage, the continued support and promotion of these products provides a refreshing alternative to Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotions and the company's decision to not promote their own Indie Games section.

Also surprising was Sony's ability to inject some sort of life in to the Move. It's basically a dead device, but their efforts to focus more on kids with the device could pay off. Their Wonderbooks program, basically bringing books to life, could be helpful in elementary school classrooms. Sadly, it seems like the book portion of Wonderbook is just for inspiration, and less about doing edutainment right, as there was very little reading in the footage shown and mostly just more motion gaming tropes. So the Get Out and Read initiative takes another hit, but maybe there are transferable skills. The more I saw, the less interested I was, but JK Rowling is doing some Harry Potter writing for one of the games, so perhaps there will be some value buried in there somewhere. It's still odd to see Sony cling on to motion gaming, but with the Kinect still doing well and the Wii U coming soon it makes sense for them. Still, the educator in me mourns what looks like a missed opportunity.

A large portion of time was spent showing that the new God of War Ascension is still definitely God of War, but finally seeing The Last of Us in action was a refreshing palate cleanser. Much like Ubisoft's earlier reveal of Watch Dogs the restraint shown in Naughty Dog's latest game took the focus off of running and gunning for a slower type of combat that focuses more on disarming rather than spraying rounds. While there seems to be plenty of action, separating it slightly from a game adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, what Sony showed seemed like it's a game ready to be released tomorrow, so any extra time ought to further build anticipation.

Though many of the stories were already out there, and even the surprises had mostly leaked, Sony's focus on the games is a late generation E3 press conference done right. Sadly The Last Guardian was once again absent, and at this point I can't image that game will ever come out, but despite that what was shown looked great. Some time may have felt a little wasted, but for the most part, even with potential hurdles they will face, I walked away excited.

It's all up to you now, Nintendo. Sleep on it and plan, you've got quite a show to follow.

Did Sony exceed your expectations or did you want to see more from them?

Were the games shown diverse enough, or is genre fatigue still apparent as it was at earlier pressers?

What games are you most excited about playing on the PS3 and Vita?

What does Nintendo need to do to top Sony's press conference?

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Microsoft Presser Reactions - E3 2012

Though Microsoft led off this year's E3, it came without the sort of fanfare I had hoped for. Though the company had already stated that there were no plans to discuss new consoles at this year's show, I'm not sure I was prepared for what would equate to an all around dull media briefing. Though games and features were showcased, there was a noticeable lack of excitement both by the presenters and the audience throughout the presentation, which caused an ominous atmosphere that put a damper on the whole affair.

The tone was set when Microsoft decided to trot out the latest entries in the Halo and Splinter Cell franchises at the very beginning. While the combat in Splinter Cell: Blacklist seems interesting, and the jungle landscape appears to take up at least a portion of Halo 4's campaign looks fun and different, it was hard not to have a feeling of de ja vu even with some of the more obvious changes. Even the footage of the new Tomb Raider game, also present at last year's Microsoft presser in playable form, directly plays on gamers's familiarity with the Uncharted franchise.

And this sense actually permeated the rest of the conference, especially when the multimedia capabilities of the 360 were being mentioned. In case you were wondering the Kinect can still search on Bing. If you don't have some OnDemand service television channels like Nickelodeon are now going to be coming to the 360 at some point. And if you like all (non-NFL) sports the 360 has you covered by teaming up with the NBA and NHL in addition to continuing their work with the MLB to offer live streaming games to those specific organization subscribers (in addition to the Xbox Live Gold subscription required to stream content), while also adding all ESPN networks. Presumably this means I can watch Skip Bayless without changing televisions though, so that's fun I guess. Nothing revolutionary, and you never know how these things will shake out until they are launched, but it is nice to see consoles continue to become multimedia machines.

Multimedia was actually a large theme of this press conference, as perhaps the biggest announcement came in the form of Microsoft's new technology Smart Glass. This basically seems to turn any tablet device (including Android and iOS devices) in to another screen that is connected to your 360. Presumably while one plays or watches content one can click a button to check a guide, execute a specific strategy, or read up on more about the film or show being watched. The proposition is interesting, but splitting attention between two (or more?) screens seems problematic and I'm not sure how it will work while also holding a controller in one hand.

At this point in time the biggest surprise kind of appeared and disappeared just as quickly. Twisted Pixel said they would be announcing a new game, and the trailer for LocoCycle seems interesting. But it's just a trailer that seems to imply you control a motor cycle. Following along with the slightly funny edge, it was great to see the trailer for South Park: The Stick of Truth along with South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. No gameplay was shown, sadly, and while the successes and failures of a similar TV-to-game adaptation, The Simpsons Game, have been well documented, Matt and Trey's guidance will hopefully elevate genre expectations above the usual 'make fun of silly game mechanic and then proceed to have the player use said mechanic.'

And then it all ended with Usher performing and showcasing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Harmonix does great work with their Dance Central franchise, so Dance Central 3 should be more of the same. Treyarch, and all involved developers really, always make highly polished, enjoyable games, so Black Ops 2 ought to also be more of the same. It's odd to see that franchise move in to Modern Warfare territory, but I guess it kind of had to at some point.

Realistically Microsoft's event was a collection of known commodities. Some exceeded my expectations, Halo 4 doesn't look bad if the story can start taking more of a central role along with gameplay upgrades, while other aspects have me curious but hesitant, as is the case with Smart Glass. There was no mention of a new console, as expected, but I also didn't feel like there was much 'new' or exciting going on either. And that's not a great way to kick off the show. There's just not much substance, it all seems here and now.

Here's hoping Sony ups the stakes tonight.

Rich

What did you think of the Microsoft Press Conference?

Were you wowed by anything, or were most of the commodities known?

Are we ready for the 'next' generation?

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Summer Goal

This summer I hope to revisit either all of the four main MGS games or the three numerical Final Fantasy titles on the first PlayStation, though I am unsure as to which I will attempt to accomplish first. I assume this goal is mighty ambitious, and most of me doubts it will get done, especially if I decide to go with the Final Fantasy games, but I shall, at the very least, attempt to press onward!

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