I survived a trip to L.A. and all I got was OH MY GOD E3!
E3 is the dream conference in the eyes of a gamer. In that magical land of sack boys and blue hedgehogs you’re treated to all of the upcoming games and consoles. A lot of us have to experience it through the warm, comforting glow of a computer screen. However, some fortunate souls get to step through the doors of the Los Angeles Convention Center where the entire area is decorated with more video game characters than a Smash Brothers’ match up.
This year, I was one of those lucky people.
As I walked towards the convention center I saw the city shift from a busy metropolitan area to a fast-paced gaming paradise. Banners of DC superheroes, large ads for Medal of Honor, lamp posts with Hitman and Sleeping Dogs, city buses decorated with Nina Williams and… Snoop Dogg? The entire downtown area had transformed itself into a giant gaming playground, equipping the crowd with energy drinks and booth babes.
Of course, from a first timer’s point of view, all of this gaming genius could be a bit overwhelming. You could easily lose your mind in your surroundings, not knowing where to go, what to do, or who to battle against. In this article, I’m going to go through my E3 adventures, from the beginning — where I was a young, inexperienced maiden with a fight stick in hand — to the end — where I became a battle vixen… still holding a fight stick, but not spazzing as much… sort of.
If you’ve never been to E3 before — oh hell, even if you’ve been to E3 — this is the day where you suddenly turn into a five year old whose parents just said they could have seventeen puppies, candy and ice cream for every meal of the day, and every single toy in the whole wide world. As my friend dropped me off on the corner I literally started pointing at things and screaming in the car — I apologize for your eardrums, my friend. After standing outside with my mouth hanging open, snapping pictures of Dante, Wonder Woman, and the South Park cast, it was time to walk inside. When walking in, the convention center looks rather calm. People are wandering around, checking out the E3 shop, lined up in front of the Starbucks inside the convention center, and hanging out with Quagmire from Family Guy — yep, he was there too, giggidy-goo! It was surprisingly quiet when first walking into the convention center. I had expected screaming fans and excitement. The crowd was there, yes, but it was…
… oh, several sets of stairs, I wonder what they lead to…
Oh. My. God. It’s the South Hall.
Once you enter into this amazing hall you see that every booth is decorated, things are being given out, and lines curve around each other like crazy straws. But this isn’t normal decoration, oh no. This wasn’t like my college dorm room with scraps of video game magazine ads taped to the closet. This is giant Borderlands 2 statues, Epic Mickey booths that show off displays of classic Disney merchandise in gleaming glass cases, Sonic the Hedgehog waving to you and hugging you, Tekken girls ready to throw down, large Skylanders, giant T.V.s showing off Kingdom Hearts, lego caped crusaders and wizards, just… the list goes on and on. This is where I learned that, on day one of E3, it’s best to just look around and take everything in, otherwise — oh, is that Injustice?! Devil May Cry! Devil May Cry!! Resident Evil 6, that’s Leon, and… Sherry?! Is that Sherry?! Colonial Marines! You can climb into the carrier?! And have an alien looking down at you, ready to eat your face?! And my goodness, Castlevania, there’s going to be more Castlevania! And that looks like some Assassin’s Creed III action, followed by Metal Gear Solid: Rising!
… what… I’m trying to say… is that it’s best to just look around at everything and take it all in before jumping into the first line you — Oswald the Lucky Rabbit ears! Let’s stand in line!
So after spending a decent amount of time in the South Hall I realized… there’s a West Hall. There’s a whole nother hall to explore. There’s Wii Us stationed in a beautiful, white area of Nintendo. There’s high school kids summoning persona and battling it out inside of a television. There’s Kratos, standing in the corner as people get a taste of God of War: Ascension. There’s a race car in the Microsoft area, lots of dancing, and an entire area dedicated to the Atari and other games of yesterday.
This is why Day One was, officially, E3 Spaz Day.
Day two is when your mind starts to clear. If you’re like me — who was with friends who had done this dance before — you did, indeed, walk around first before playing anything. Well… that’s a lie, I did play Persona 4 Arena… a lot.
Regardless, now that day one was complete, day two was underway and it was time to actually try some games. The thing to realize about E3 is that, fifteen times out of ten, you will not play every game there. The trick is to zero in on the games you want to play and spend some time playing, “The Line Ride.” If you’re not familiar with this ride, I’ll explain: “The Line Ride” is when you stand in line for a long period of time, simple as that. Going into E3, it’s best to realize that you will be enjoying “The Line Ride” longer than you will be enjoying your game, so make sure you choose games that are worth it, because the last thing you want to do is waste time in a line and miss out on that one game you really wanted to play.
Some lines were much, much longer than others. Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Lord of the Rings, Assassin’s Creed III, Halo 4, you can pretty much figure out which games would have lines that were three hours or longer. So you learn that, maybe, it’s best to just stand and watch unless if you really, really want to get your hands on Raiden. The plus side, of course, is being able to play the game you desperately want. The down side, however, is losing time at E3. This is why the first day is for walking and figuring out what to do so you can dedicate gaming to day two and three.
So this section is about the games I spent time with. Were they good? Bad? Orgasmic? All of the above? Is that even possible? Let’s find out.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
There was no demo available, however, there was a presentation for it. There aren’t going to be pictures from it because pictures weren’t allowed, so you’ll have to live vicariously through this piece I’m writing. I’ll tell you, right off the bat, if this game is reservable somewhere go out and reserve it now. It. Looks. Amazing. At first, when I heard the words Mortal Kombat and DC I felt a pang of dread enter my heart. MK vs DC wasn’t the worst game in the world, but it certainly wasn’t the best. However, Ed Boon and the gang are the ones behind Injustice, and if you fell in love with MK9 then you definitely need to be excited for Injustice.
Using the same MK9 style, it’s a gorgeous 2D fighter with stunning backgrounds. The stages are interactive, and not just from knocking your opponent into a series of buildings, but you can literally use parts of the stage as a weapon. See that button in the corner where the bat computer is? Push it. Now watch the missiles fly out of the Batmobile. See that car hovering in the air? Batman can use his nifty gadgets to drop it on an opponent. If you’re a stronger character like Superman or Solomon Grundy, just pick the car up and throw it. The stages seem to go on forever as you knock your opponent into a new area — not just once, but twice, or more. Each character’s move set fits them, so you don’t have a fast Solomon Grundy or an over-powered Batman. Batman is all about tools and martial arts while Solomon Grundy just wants to beat the crap out of things. Each character also has a super move that comes with a cool cinematic — the Flash runs around the world, for example, while Superman knocks his opponent into outer space.
There’s no word about story mode yet, but when I asked the men giving the demonstration about it they said this, “If you liked the story mode in MK9, you’ll love this one. MK9 was story mode 2.0, this is going to be story mode 3.0.” In conclusion, if you weren’t hyped for this game before, get hyped now.
The Wii U
One of the hot topics of E3 was Nintendo’s newest console. Teased at last year during E3 2011, the new system was playable out in the showroom this year. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the graphics really are on par with the PS3 and XB360. They’re clear, they’re beautiful, and they run smoothly on the new console. I hesitate to say that they’re better than the current next-gen consoles, but it’s hard not to after seeing Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition. This was the only game I got to try on the Wii U, everything else was packed, but I did get to see how ridiculously gorgeous Pikmin 3 is. Also high on my list was Zombie U, an actual hardcore — yes, I said hardcore for the Wii of all things — zombie game.
If you went out and bought the Game of the Year edition of Arkham City a few short weeks ago, you might actually want to consider trading it in for this version. This new Batman game is Arkham City with all of the DLC and new “armored” suits for Batman and Catwoman. First impressions when seeing the game was, for lack of better words, hot dayum! Before, when games came out on all consoles, the Wii would get the graphical shaft. Now, the Wii U is definitely a contender when it comes to multi-console games. When something like Assassin’s Creed III is released and someone asks, “Are you getting it on the Wii U,” you won’t feel the need to respond with, “PFFT! Are you joking?!” It’s a legitimate question, because the graphics are stunning.
But what about the gameplay with that crazy controller?
It’s fun but it’s going to take some getting use to. Surprisingly, despite the size the controller is quite comfortable and light. I can’t speak for the other games, but with Batman there were about a million and one things to do with the controller. It takes a while to realize that you have to look at the television screen then down at the controller since it’s the source of your awesome bat gadgets. It’s how you use detective mode, walking around to investigate the area. It’s how you use the batarang, following a red dot to your target. It’s how you set bombs and see where enemies are hiding, setting off explosives and silently taking them out. It does absolutely everything, which is both a blessing and a curse. I could not get the hang of the batarang, at all. The controller is definitely something you will have to stand up and use since you have to move around to use it in some areas. It definitely puts you in the middle of the action, but it could be a bit much to grasp.
Thankfully, it’s optional. If you couldn’t get the hang of tilting the controller in batarang mode you could easily use the analog sticks. If you looked at the control and thought “gimmick” then you can avoid all of the clever tricks with it, but I do recommend trying them. As for using it as a basic gaming controller, it actually works quite well for the normal combat that Batman encounters. The last game I remember buying multiple copies of because of the platforms it came out on was Resident Evil 4, Arkham City might be the next one to make that list.
Persona 4 Arena
If Guilty Gear and BlazBlue decided to have an orgy with Persona 4, Persona 4 Arena would be the illegitimate love child that would come from the affair. At first glance fans of the franchise might think, “There’s no way they can make an rpg into a good fighting game,” but not only does it work, it’s addictive as all hell to play. It’s actually the game I played the longest at E3, and when I finally stopped all I could think was, “Damn, August is so far away, I want the game now.”
Fans of the franchise — like myself — will be happy to see that the game does have a story that ties in with the events of Persona 4. Yu Narukami — or Souji Seta, his name in the manga, yeah I know that name too so don’t glare at me for using “Narukami” — is visiting Inaba after his departure. A friendly visit turns into something more dangerous when the group of friends discover that the Midnight Channel is back. Teddie is on the channel, dressed like a cigar smoking M. Bison and talking about some sort of fighting tournament. The Investigation Team comes together again to figure out the cause of it.
This is where the game really shines. The fighting is fun, yes, but the creators of the game remember that this group of kids are good friends. They have different intro sayings depending on the match up. For example, Kanji gets flustered around Naoto, because remember, he’s got a mad crush on her. Hell, even Yosuke calls Naoto a “pint-sized detective,” an insult he had given her early in Persona 4. Best of all is that their move sets fit them. As you play you know that this is exactly how each character would fight in a 2D fighter. The characters I used the most were Chie, Naoto, Yosuke, and Kanji. Chie is a fierce combo kicker, her moves straight from the kung-fu movies she obsesses over. Naoto is a fast little shooter who lays traps all over the place, and did I mention her array of instant kill moves? Yosuke is a speedy little ninja freak that seems content with throwing kunai and spinning around like a tornado. And Kanji? He’s a tank. He can sneeze on you and make half of your health disappear. The combos can be as simple or complex as you want them to be, so if you’re a beginner you won’t feel completely out of your element. However, if you’re one of those gamers who can cancel out of a combo to do another combo, tag your persona, and end with another combo with french fries and extra pickles you can do that, too.
If you like fighters, this is the game for you. If you like Persona 4, this is the game for you. If you like small detectives with guns, this is the game for you. If you want to use a folding chair in battle, this is the game for you. All and all, this is the game for you!
Square Enix Booth
A row of Hitman, a row of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, a row of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, a row of Heroes of Ruin, and a tech demo full of soldiers and magic. Where, oh where, to start?
The two games I got my hands on were Kingdom Hearts and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, both available on the 3DS. While Dream Drop Distance isn’t Kingdom Hearts 3, it is the next piece in the series. It’s not a prequel, it doesn’t happen in between games, it comes right after Kingdom Hearts 2. Graphically, it’s the best in the series to date, especially the cut scenes. In the demo you got to choose between Riku and Sora. I decided to give Riku a try since I’m use to playing with Sora. The gameplay is just like a console Kingdom Hearts game, though I didn’t play in 3D too much because it was difficult to do with all of the lights and ongoings of E3. The first thing you notice is that instead of Donald and Goofy your partners are Dream Eaters; colorful, pokemon-esque creatures who fight alongside you. They pretty much function the same way Donald and Goofy did, so it was easy to get the hang of them. I’m assuming that, as the game progresses, you can get more Dream Eaters and level them up. I didn’t play for too long because I want the story to be a surprise but I’ll say this: it was hard to set that 3DS down and walk away.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is like Elite Beat Agents with cute, chibi versions of your favorite Final Fantasy characters. The music is all of the songs you know and love — battle music, boss music, that pretty melody that plays when Tidus and Yuna are in the water together, SE-PHI-ROTH, and other memorable tunes. Instead of paying attention to the bottom screen to hit buttons in time — like in Elite Beat Agents — your focus is on the top screen. As you watch the buttons come across, you tap the bottom screen in time to hit each one. Occasionally, you have to flick the stylus in different directions to match the arrows on the top screen, or you’ll have to hold it down and release it in time with the beat.
On the giant screen in the middle of the booth were trailers of the newest Square Enix games. Hitman, Tomb Raider, and suddenly something called Agni’s Philosophy. I’m not sure if it’s a game, or if it’s a giant tease like that Final Fantasy 7 tech demo that happened years ago, but it’s a beautiful little trailer that shows off new technology Square Enix is trying. At one point it feels like Call of Duty with all of the guns blazing, but then there’s some magic flying around, strange creatures, and a pretty girl in red. Yeah, there’s the Square Enix I know.
Resident Evil 6
I didn’t get to play the game. I did, however, get treated to a rather long trailer that made my inner zombie fangirl squee in delight. There’s a lot of things that are going to happen in this game, from Leon and Chris holding guns against one another, to Sherry from Resident Evil 2 being all grown up, to Wesker having a son, to Ada jumping ship…again? I think? And, of course, the creatures. Those goddamn creatures. It’s been awhile since I actually cringed at a zombie, but these things were creepy, disgusting, brutal, essentially they’re everything you want in a Resident Evil game.
To combat against the tall, dark, and ugly are quite the team up of characters, but everyone seems to be in separate locations. Chris is in a completely different place than Leon, Leon runs into Sherry, at some point Wesker’s kid gets involved, Chris wants to kill Ada, there’s some new woman running around with a missing sister… yeah, this is going to be a long, long adventure. As sinister as the monsters look, the heroes seem to be full of new tricks. Running and gunning, landing on the ground and shooting, co-op — Sherry fights, oh my! But the thing that pleases me the most is that it actually looks scary. Somewhere along the line of these new Resident Evils, the fear factor has disappeared, but there were parts in this trailer that made me jump a bit. Scary Resident Evil? Yes, please, and thank you.
To be honest I wasn’t going to try this at all. I had extremely mixed feelings when I heard about this game. Smash Brothers with Playstation characters? I mean… it’s not a bad idea, just… really? But I have friends who are really psyched for the game and after watching some God of War: Ascension, I was in a Sony mode.
After playing the game I’m completely sold on it.
The stages are interesting combinations of Sony franchises: God of War meets Patapon, Buzz Quiz Show meets Little Big Planet, and each stage seems to have some sort of trap and items appear that can be used against your opponents. However, instead of knocking your opponent out of the ring, you beat the crap out of them until your super meter goes up. Yep, I said super meter, like Street Fighter. There are three levels to the super meter, and you use super moves to destroy your opponents and gain a point. Level three moves are the flashiest, complete with cutscenes and the ability to kill everyone on screen. And — this seems to be a common compliment from me and the fighting games of E3– all of the moves fit the characters. Sly is a sneaky little so and so while Kratos is, well, Kratos. You won’t see Nathan Drake being a giant powerhouse like the Big Daddy, while the Big Daddy isn’t going to be as fast and light as Parappa the Rapper. The appearance of the Big Daddy makes me very excited. Since he’s not a Sony exclusive character, perhaps it can open the door to other gaming properties. Maybe some Final Fantasy, or Assassin’s Creed? Hopefully some other Sony franchises like Ratchet and Clank or Heavenly Sword.
When it comes to four player battle royale, nobody does it better than Smash Brothers. Come on, you all know you’ve had that conversation with friends, “What if this game was made like Smash Brothers?” Well, here’s the Sony answer to that.
Lego Batman 2
Or “Lego Justice League” as I’d like to call it. This game comes out in a few short weeks and if you weren’t planning on buying it then you should definitely reconsider. The lego games always remind me of being a young gamer and getting that one platformer that puts a big smile on your face. There’s not much to say about the gameplay. It’s fun, addictive, and it’s hard to put the controller down — but E3 is all about sharing so after a while you had to. The biggest surprise for me was the voice acting. It’s no longer lego drabble, but full dialogue. This took some getting use to since I’m use to the lego games conveying their story through gestures alone, but the voice acting is just as good as Arkham City and the classic Batman and Superman animated series. It’s just hard to accept Lego Lex Luthor as an evil genius when he speaks because he’s so frickin’ adorable. You just want to pinch his smooth, lego cheeks, then promptly run away before he comes up with an elaborate plan to murder you.
Bonus Game: While I didn’t get a chance to play Lego Lord of the Rings it looked just as amazing and adorable. More legos, more legos please!
And finally, the last day arrives. At this point you’ve either a) seen everything you wanted to see or b) are frantically trying to get to that one game you really wanted to see because you got distracted by everything else at the convention. For me, I had played everything I wanted to and watched all of the games I didn’t want to stand in line for. Some games I already had a good feeling about, others I had been convinced that they would be awesome, and then there were some big surprises: Quantic Dreams’ new game, “Beyond: Two Souls,” and “Watch Dogs” from Ubisoft just to name a few. It’s strange going back to reality afterwards, going back to a world where these games aren’t out yet and you have to wait months and months before playing them again. Needless to say, I survived E3 2012 and it was a hell of a time. This year is going to be yet another big year for gaming, and next year already looks spectacular. For now, I’ll be getting my fightstick ready, Persona 4 Arena will be here soon!