Monday, June 19, 2017

E3 2017 Games I Want to Talk About

I think we've all come to agree that E3 2017 was one of the weaker shows in recent memory. Nintendo apparently "won"... though I've always been rather if-y on what mechanism actually determines "winning" E3. How do the points work again? Do you gain or lose field position when you trot out a pair of nobody English comedians for your soccer game? The point is that 2017 was a lesser show. The year blew its load early with all my biggest hyped games, like "Breath of the Wild" and "Persona 5" and "Horizon Zero Dawn" and "Nier: Automata" all out by April (I'll review the other half eventually). That left E3 to be a lot of filler.

Plus there just wasn't a lot of huge news even with new consoles to talk about. The Xbox One X or "XXbone" looks pointless to me unless you have a 4K TV in which case you're already so rich you don't need games. You can just hire poor people to fight to the death for exposure for you amusement. Sony was just killing time until 2018 when their new crop of exclusives will come out. And while Nintendo killed it, they can't exactly carry the games industry all on their own. We all know what the Switch is by now, that can't be the story anymore. And strangely there was also not a ton of indie presence, which I feel was a mistake. It all added up to a slow, weaker crop of games. But ironically also a ton of games that I think have promise. In fact, too many games I could see myself playing.

So for this year's E3 reaction I'm going to try to keep this as short and sweet as I can. We're going to use some triage and get right to stuff that I'm most interested in talking about. If a game is not mentioned here it doesn't mean I don't have hype for it, it just means there isn't anything to say. Here's why a lot of stuff got skipped:

1. It's just more of what we saw in previous years. This would include "God of War 4", "Detroit", "Cuphead", and yeah, even "Kingdom Hearts III".

2. It's new but isn't doing much that's really new. So nothing on the "Shadow of the Colossus" remake, "Far Cry 5", or that "Uncharted" DLC.

3. It used the word "loot" in the marketing. There is no faster way in 2017 to make me lose interest in your game then saying "loot". I hate loot. Loot is not a reason to play a game. Loot is an annoying extra chore. You of the "Minecraft" generation are killing gaming with this loot crap.


Super Mario Odyssey

"Super Mario Odyssey" is the first Mario reveal to excite me since "Super Mario Galaxy 2". It's not that Mario games have been bad over the years, just that they seem to have fallen into a rut. A lot of them have been rather forgettable. Even so "Super Mario 3D World" is a fantastic game, don't let anybody tell you otherwise. However, it is not a risky game or inventive game either. "Odyssey", however, feels like something entirely new. Nintendo has taken the gloves off with this title and are taking Mario into some truly strange places.

Mario is now wandering around vibrant locations that completely do not fit his art style or his tone. New Donk City looks just wrong - but in a unique way. It clashes but this series needed some fashion mistakes to experiment and make a new game worth playing. Plus there's the big new mechanic. The little Italian plumber can now possess people, objects, and dinosaurs with his hat. This is as groundbreaking of a mechanic as Nintendo has put into a Mario game since Fludd from "Sunshine".

I love the terrifying implications of this thing. Mario is sinking innocent bystanders into the Dark Place while he steals their bodies. Morals be damned. And what does this mean for Mario? Can we be sure that the mustachioed man we've known for decades is really the true Mario? Is there a true Mario? Has he just been borrowing some poor little plumber's body since 1981? Is Mario actually some formless demon, acting according to a some arcane motive beyond all mortal comprehension? Bowser just kidnaps Princesses, but the Mario-entity steals souls.

...Also I still have the trailer music stuck in my head.


Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

First off, I haven't played "The New Order" or actually any Wolfenstein games now that I think about it. I'm not an FPS virgin but I have real gaps in my shooter heritage. Even so, Wolfenstein's latest reboot has been on my radar for a while, especially after last year's "DOOM 4". If "Wolfenstein II" can also have wild and properly challenging shooter combat, I'm there.

I'm the first to complain that "Call of Duty: WWII" is just the same old game telling the same old story. How many times can you do D-Day and not get bored? Weren't there other countries in WWII other than America and Nazis? So "Wolfenstein II" is here to show Activision how its done. Let's have Nazis... in America! That's totally different than Americans in Naziland.

The different is that "Call of Duty: Snore Bore II" looks incredibly boring and self-serious. While "Wolfenstein II" is taking inspiration from the ridiculous Nazi-sploitation B-movies. Then it's combining that with the sweet Americana pie of the 1950s. So you get to kill a Nazi officer drinking a milkshake. And Lassie has been replaced by a fifteen-foot-tall mecha-dog that breathes fire. This is pulpy and wonderfully fun. You spend a level fighting Germans in a wheelchair. There's a magical fairy cartoon character for some reason. The main villain is a mix between Elsa She-Wolf of the SS and the bad guy from "Raiders of the Lost Arc". I'm sold.

We all want to kill Nazis in 2017, this is the perfect way.

 
The Last Night

Fortunately or unfortunately I couldn't leave this one un-discussed. "The Last Night" is now the most controversial game of E3 2017 but also one of the most promising. The developer of this indie title, Tim Soret, has some connections to Gamergate, has said some anti-feminist things in the past, and implied the game is about some kind of nightmarish liberal future. So yeah... really bad move, guy. Then thanks to the power of Twitter to bring everybody together, that blew up into a giant flame war. And from that point came the circus of retweets, Youtube videos, until yadda yadda yadda, everybody came out looking awful.

Long story short, Soret has apologized for his tweets, "The Last Night"'s publisher, Raw Fury, has stated clearly they will not publish a game that is in any way "regressive", and Microsoft has repeated their "commitment to diversity and inclusion". So we should probably move past all of this and put down the pitchforks. There won't be any crazy homophobic politics sneaking into this game unless Soret has a deathwish and Microsoft wants to get sued. And if there are, we can get pissed then.

I don't want to crucify anybody for old tweets. There's really no point to boycott something that doesn't exist yet and whose content isn't 100% clear. This is a very troublesome issue and I'm not sure there's an answer I'm completely comfortable with. I don't agree with these politics if they're in the game at all, but I can't say he's not allowed to make the game. Just nobody has to play it. If you just stab with your pitchfork, you're taking the easy way out. And who knows where this guy's ideas will ultimately end up? It could turn into "Atlas Shrugged" or if he's smarter about it, it could be "Brave New World".

In the meantime, "The Last Night" is a very promising looking indie game inspired by cyberpunk works like "Blade Runner". It uses a striking mixture of 3D environments and 2D sprites along with neon lighting to show off a bleak world. I would have a much easier time dismissing "The Last Night" if it wasn't perhaps the best-looking game of the entire show.

I'll be the most disappointed and the most angry if this ends poorly.


Yoshi (Untitled)

Anyway, let's talk about something happier and cuter.

The currently untitled "Yoshi" is a 2018 Switch game starring none other than Mario's faithful dino-steed, Yoshi. It continues the long tradition of Yoshi games having a pleasant arts and crafts style. Previous titles were like a crayon coloring book ("Yoshi's Island"), a felt collage ("Yoshi's Wooly World"), and this one is like a school display diarama. Yoshi and pals are wandering around a papercraft and cardboard world full of wonder and whimsy. There's a lot of great things being done with the camera focus here too.

I just love looking at this. The trailer's flute music is so beautiful it almost makes me wanna cry.


Ori and the Blind Sequel

I actually have very little to say about "Ori and the Will of the Wisps" but I do have quite a lot to say about "Ori and the Blind Forest". "Will of the Wisps" didn't have any gameplay to show so I'll assume it's just like the first game. And the first game is one of my favorite titles of this generation. You might miss this because E3 was kinda dull this year, but actually there have never been more good games. "Ori" is just one of the avalanche of greatness we've been experiencing. It's a more subtle and beautiful takes on Metroidvania games, almost like Studio Ghibli made "Symphony of the Night". While it looks lovely, it gets really tough thanks to intense platforming challenges. "Ori" is a serious hardcore experience with an art-game esthetic.

The new trailer has a giant frog, Shelob, and a sad owl. I don't know what any of that means.

So if "Ori and the Will of the Wisps" is just more of the same, I don't care. Bring it. This is the safest bet of E3 2017.


Beyond Good and Evil 2

Let's burst some hype bubbles right now. Don't count your "Beyond Good and Evils 2" until they hatch, alright? I remember back in 2008 it seemed like "Beyond Good and Evil 2" was right around the corner. Then that game never happened. And in fact, it still hasn't happened, because Jade and Pey'j are nowhere to be seen. This is some other game starring other people that just so happens to be set in the same magical French SciFi universe. The trailer was gorgeous but it was all movie, no play. You do have to actually play games, you know?

So if in 2026 we're all getting hyped for another "Beyond Good and Evil 2" trailer starring a different monkey and some other lady with an afro, remember I warned you.

Also yeah, I am excited about this. I hope it's great. Distressingly though, with this being re-announced, I don't know what game I need to hopelessly beg gaming companies for anymore. "Versus XIII" happened, "The Last Guardian" happened, the FFVII remake is happening and looks terrible, what is left? Maybe I'll wish for a "Chrono 3" or a sequel to "Tactics Ogre".


A Way Out

"A Way Out" was the odd game out at EA's conference. The EA show was too meathead to even show the "Star Wars Battlefront II" storyline. Teenagers don't want none of that talking shit, they just want to laser stuff in worse versions of "Overwatch" payload battles. Then between all the wanna-be eSports and wanna-be real sports, there was this dramatic title with an actual point. This is a two-player co-op adventure where you must play as a pair of criminals escaping prison. Afterwards you continue onward into some uncertain future as fugitives from the law.

Besides the actually adult storyline, I love the idea of two campaigns happening side by side. For some reason split screen gaming has all but died over the last generations. But here it's essential to the story being told and the gameplay. There's all kinds of options for puzzle solving, stealthing, and perhaps even betrayals.

Now all I have to do is find some human to play with me...


Tunic

"Tunic" is a little indie top-down adventure game. You play as a happy little fox with a little sword going around fighting monsters. The gameplay looks a lot like "Hyper Light Drifter" only with some extra Zelda cuteness. The 3D effect looks great here and the game is really colorful. And like "Hyper Light Drifter" the game seems properly challenging. You better dodge the enemy's attacks or you're going to pay dearly.

Otherwise, the trailer was only a minute long and that's about all I have to say. I don't want people to forget this one.


Mario+Rabbids at XCOM

So who thought this was actually going to be decent? We all laughed when we found out that the Rabbids were going to be in the next Mario RPG. "Oh those annoying Wii things? Who wants a game with them?" Then the game was revealed and it turned out to be actually awesome. I never knew I wanted a Mario XCOM game. Nobody knew they wanted a Mario XCOM game. And what do you know? Nintendo and Ubisoft have delivered it anyway.

(It's definitely a weird E3 when I have anything positive to say about Ubisoft. I'll balance that out by saying that "Assassin's Creed: Origins" looks as boring as ever.)

I mean, I could take the Rabbids or leave them, but a proper tactical RPG set in the Mario universe? I'm down for that. This really was a great E3 for getting weird with the Mario franchise. The Rabbids are obnoxious but I think there's an edge to them that could make this just a tad bit dark in a fun way. Peach just straight-up executes a Rabbid in cold blood in the trailer. You don't fuck with that Princess when you owe her money, you feel me?


Metroids

I was snarking before Nintendo's press conference that there wouldn't be any Metroid games. And then if just to prove me wrong there was a lot of Metroid. Next year I'll try the same trick on "Mother 3".

"Metroid Prime 4" had nothing but a single title splash screen. But when you realize that Nintendo had all but buried Samus over the years after the atrociously awful "Other M", seeing her alive again was a great surprise. I think she's paid her dues to society after that piece of shit game and deserves to be played again. Still, it's weird it took Nintendo this long to realize that people like Samus. "You mean consumers don't want to play as some anonymous space marine? They want to play as Samus?" Now Nintendo can jump on the Metroidvania craze just as it ends, perfect.

Then there's a 3DS remake of "Samus Returns". So if you downloaded "AM2R" like all true fans did, make sure to delete it from your computer now that Nintendo has done the right thing. Be a good law-abiding gamer and instead pirate "Mother 3". Some people seem down on this "Samus Returns" but I'm not. I really like the 3D graphics in this version. There's some new counter moves that seem to add a bit of spice to the old Gameboy title.

Suddenly the future is really bright for gaming's greatest heroine. Who would have guessed?

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Anyway, I'm sure you all have some other game you want me to talk about ("Kingdom Hearts III", maybe). I have a comments section for this reason.

5 comments:

  1. Kinda surprised you didn't mention Spider-Man: Arkham City.

    Also, thoughts on Dragon Ball FighterZ (even though I know in terms of fighting games, you're only really interested in Smash)?

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    1. Spider-Man like you said is just an Arkham City game. It looks nice, I like Arkham games, that's about it.

      I don't really play fighting games because I suck.

      And I have no thoughts on Miitopia.

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  2. Samus Returns looks amazing; from what I've seen in the Metroid community most are extremely excited for this game, even the AM2R devs are. There are of course a select few who apparently want to boycott this game out of spite for what happened with AM2R though, I guess every fanbase has to have its idiots as well.

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  3. Points for mentioning Mother 3 not once, but twice.

    Rabid Mario still looks ridiculous as ever, honestly. Metroid Prime 4, hope it will be good. I would prefer Prime Trilogy for Switch, as that would give me reason to play 4 at all.

    Mario Oddysey is the only thing that truly makes me feel hopeful for the future.

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