Hailinel's Magical PAX Prime 2013 Adventure: Day 3

This was a heck of a day. Super-high level: saw some panels, played demos, bought swag. But as for the details...

The Games!

Hate Plus

I'll admit to not having gotten around to trying any of Christine Love's well-regarded visual novels, but she's at PAX Prime this year as part of the Indie Mega Booth with a playable demo of Hate Plus. I didn't play very much of it; enough to start the game and read various logs, but it was more than I needed to tell me that I really, really do need to give her games a try. She also had "swag" in the form of QR codes for Animal Crossing: New Leaf costumes based on outfits in Hate Plus, which one of my friends quickly took advantage of.

Tengami

Tengami is a game coming to iOS and Wii U; an entirely touch-based adventure game set within a pop-up book resembling traditional Japanese art. You can pull tabs and and other pieces of the environment to interact and cause items to appear or vanish. The look is very well done, and it seems to play well, but I sadly got stuck on an early puzzle and had to put it down.

Castle of Illusion

Sega's new Castle of Illusion was on display in an alpha form, so it still needs a lot of work. But it definitely has promise. The controls felt precise, and the graphics look great. Mickey can hop on enemies to defeat them or throw candles he collects to deal damage. there's also a lot of platforming (naturally) and it looks like there will be collectables of some sort. Still way too early to say anything else, though. The game wasn't even running on a console; just a 360 controller plugged into a development machine.

Sony and Microsoft?

Ha ha, no. The lines were just too insane when we walked by them. Maybe tomorrow, but at this rate, I'll probably end up skipping them both.

Panels!

I went to two panels tonight, both of which coincidentally were in the same theater, with one ending half an hour before the other started. And they seriously couldn't have been more different in terms of their quality. Fortunately, the better one came second. But first:

The Good, The Bad, and the Moogles: Final Fantasy Funtime Geekout

I don't want to be blunt, but man. What a shit show.

This was a panel hosted by Jason Schreier of Kotaku, Alexa Ray Corriea of Polygon, Adam Rippon (a game designer at Muteki) and Dale North of Destructoid. The panel was billed as a "Funtime geekout," but it felt more like a Final Fantasy forum bitch thread in verbal form. It started off with some good humor, but quickly descended into basically a constant stream of complaints, jokes, and attacks on Final Fantasy XIII that were less intelligently thought out and more just a lot of whining from fans of the older games about the direction the series has gone. Schreier was particularly insufferable, shutting down any other panelist's attempt to defend XIII in any way despite numerous openings to talk about things he liked about the series and his preferred games like Final Fantasy VI. So it was less a "geekout" and more a "bitch fest." It didn't help that the panelists felt the need to return to the well on the same complaints over and over again, much less when they continued going back to the subject of Lightning's breasts every three minutes.

It was so bad that people were actively walking out of the theater before the Q&A had even started and continued to file out during. Of course, it didn't help matters that the panelists left Final Fantasy music constantly playing over the sound system, drowning their voices out and making them all difficult to hear from the rear of the theater. (The panel was in Pegasus, which is one of the theaters in the Sheraton hotel, so there was a lot of seating. And also a shocking number of empty seats, given that it was a Final Fantasy panel. The theater wasn't even half-full.

Eventually, my friends and I just said fuck it and left; there was still half an hour to go in the panel but it was just a terrible, disorganized, unprofessional stream of whining. Not that I should expect any better from a panel headed by a Kotaku writer.

"Nintendo Panel"

The mysterious "Nintendo Panel," as it was called in the printed program and in the schedule app, had no official name or description up until a couple of hours before the panel actually was scheduled to start, nor did it indicate who would speak or allude to the topic at hand in any way. But there were hints about what to expect via NOA's Twitter feed, and when it received its official name, it became known as:

Inside The Wonderful 101 with Hideki Kamiya

Holy shit, guys. This panel was fantastic, and it was everything that the Final Fantasy panel was not; organized, professional, intelligent, informative, and entertaining throughout. The three men on the panel were an NOA rep that asked questions to Kamiya, Kamiya's translator, and Kamiya himself. And it was all about the design process and philosophy that he and Platinum Games used to create The Wonderful 101. Kamiya had a lot of great things to share, like some of his influences, early design sketches of the characters, two early gameplay videos of the game from different stages of development, and a sampling of the story's script as laid out in spreadsheet format used during development. He also showed character profiles that were used as guides for casting the voice talent, and they went over some of the casting decisions that they made. For example, J.B. Blanc, the voice of Wonder Yellow (some of you might recognize him from Persona 4 as Dojima) was a last-minute addition because the original actor fell ill just before recording was to begin.

One of my favorite bits was Kamiya's description of how the game came to be. Originally, he was asked by his boss at Platinum to design a "NIntendo All-Stars" game, and Kamiya came up with an idea that was basically Wonderful 101, but with all of the big Nintendo characters. He did it this way for reasons such as to avoid creating stages devoted to specific characters or do anything that might have players feel as though their personal favorites were being slighted. But the idea was immediately shot down when presented to NIntendo because they showed art of one of the game's unite forms; a bridge, that depicted Peach, Luigi, and Yoshi all forming a bridge across a gap that Mario walked across. Just a bit problematic.

So Kamiya went back to the drawing board and decided to make a game with new, original heroes, which is how we eventually wound up with the Wonderful 101 cast.

The panel was seriously a blast. There were elements that were obviously rehearsed because of how organized it was, but that didn't really matter because it was such a relaxed atmosphere, and Kamiya was very frank about what went into creating the game. This will likely be the highlight of PAX Prime 2013 for me and for many others that attended.

#SWAG

After giving my wallet a break yesterday, I was back in a buying mood today, and came home with:

  • The core Cards Against Humanity set (courtesy of the CAH booth)
  • The card game Story War, also sold at the CAH booth.
  • SMB3: Brick by Brick, a book on Super Mario Bros. 3 by Bob Chipman
  • Chronotorious, an album of fan remixes of Chrono Trigger music

Odds and Ends

  • After leaving PAX for the evening, we went down to a bar near Pike Place Market to eat, and despite the distance from the convention center, still managed to sit next to some other PAX goers that also attended the Final Fantasy panel. Their opinion pretty much matched ours. (Seriously, guys, it was sooooooo fucking bad.)
  • While waiting for the bus home, another bus passed by with an ad plastered on the side for Hatsune Miku: Project Diva F. Totally not a place I expected to see Sega advertise the game (hell, I'm surprised it's being advertised at all), but also strangely awesome.

Tomorrow is the fourth and final day of PAX Prime. What madness will ensue? What will I scramble to play? What will I be willing to throw money at this time? Stay tuned to find out!

6 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

Oh, and one things I forgot to mention! At the end of the Wonderful 101 panel, Kamiya revealed a secret about the game. Wonderful 101 versions of Bayonetta, Jeanne, and Rodin are all hidden somewhere in the game. And as far as he or anyone else at Platinum or Nintendo are aware, no one in Japan or Europe has found them yet.

Posted by Aetheldod

@hailinel: Well I was at crunchyroll and video ads of Projetc Diva F kept coming out ... altho not weird in reality because I was at crunchyroll.

So shamefull about that panel ... I mean come on guys FFXIII is not that bad D:

Still really jelly that you get to see so much cool stuff :(

I hate living in mexico

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Let's get down to the real deal: How much were Final Fantasy II, III, V or XII mentioned? Or was it just a recreation of the average Final Fantasy XIII thread on these forums in panel form? I feel like if you're going to make your panel revolve around a celebration of FF, you should probably keep on the positive side of things and at least give each (non-spinoff, non MMO) installment a mention. Of course, If I were to host such a panel it'd probably descend into me touting the merits of X-2's brand of self-parody over all else.

The Kamiya panel sounds like it was fun though. I may have missed it, but did you get into the GB panel last night? The screenshots I saw were... intriguing.

Edited by GunstarRed

@hailinel: All the secret characters in 101 are tied to the acheivements. I know people have managed to unlock Rodin, but Bayonetta's unlock requirements are insane. It's funny he had anything to say about yellow's voice as he barely has anything to say in the game. I would have loved to hear Kamiya talk about that game, it's a wonderful thing.

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Posted by Hailinel

Let's get down to the real deal: How much were Final Fantasy II, III, V or XII mentioned? Or was it just a recreation of the average Final Fantasy XIII thread on these forums in panel form? I feel like if you're going to make your panel revolve around a celebration of FF, you should probably keep on the positive side of things and at least give each (non-spinoff, non MMO) installment a mention. Of course, If I were to host such a panel it'd probably descend into me touting the merits of X-2's brand of self-parody over all else.

The Kamiya panel sounds like it was fun though. I may have missed it, but did you get into the GB panel last night? The screenshots I saw were... intriguing.

XII was mentioned maybe once in the time I was there, II wasn't mentioned at all, and V was only mentioned in passing with IV and VI. It basically was an FFXIII forum thread as a panel. It was just a poorly executed panel all around.

And I did not go to the Giant Bomb panel. I'm not aware of anything that happened at it, actually.

Edited by GrantHeaslip

I don't tend to seek this stuff out, so I may just be seeing the stuff that's dumb enough to be notable, but I find the way the popular games media talks about Final Fantasy XIII more often than not embarrassingly snarky, hyperbolic, uninformed and one-sided.

"The other games weren't linear", "lol feathered hair, "Nomura ruined everything!", "anime melodrama!", "20 hour tutorial!" or "oh, Japan!" aren't valid criticisms in and of themselves. They're not invalid, but they're not established facts that don't require any support. The "I'm an old-school FF fan" angle reads to me as idealized nostalgia, though in fairness I haven't played any of those games. FF VI could very well be the best game in the series, but if it was a formative game for someone, I doubt anything could really compare to the nostalgic reverence they have for it.

To put it more directly, if you're going to shit on something (or speak about in a condescending way) and your job mostly consists of writing, you should be able to put together a coherent argument to support your position. A large number of people saying a thing doesn't make it true.

(If this reads as bitter, it's a result of my just finishing XIII-2, finally watching the Lightning Returns trailers, and reading insufferable comment snark from the GB peanut gallery. Lightning Returns, by the way, looks pretty cool, and I didn't even have a lot of love for XIII-2.)