Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Report Card - E3 2013 Press Conferences

We were really skeptical coming into this year's E3. We were burned last year quite severely from overhyping the event. This year, however, the big three came and they came hard. ...That last sentence came out wrong.

Anyway, just like last year, we will be utilizing our popular Report Card segment to grade each of the big three's E3 presentation performances. This was a big year for all, as Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all had much to prove. Two had new consoles that needed to be unveiled, and one needed to stay relevant in the minds of consumers.

If you like, you can take these grades and play "who won E3" like the press and the fanboys they cater to enjoy doing, but we'd rather just sit back, relax, and enjoy how all three are going to give us each something to remember them by-- great gaming experiences. Let's get to grading, shall we?

Microsoft


Unfortunately, Microsoft has once again proven to us that they are still going to cater to the market that made them so popular in the first place. They will continue to publish, develop and house games in the genres of shooters, sports, and racers. That's fine. It works for Microsoft, but it means we have next to zero interest for the Xbox One. Even Dead Rising 3, a confirmed Xbox One exclusive, seemed to lose everything that made the first two games in the series so appealing, like the comedic charm. And what of Killer Instinct? Not only is it not being made by Rare (it's being made by Double Helix, who have a mediocre track record at best sadly), but it's F2P, meaning you get a free demo with one or two characters and you have to pay to unlock everything else.


Microsoft really did nothing to sell us on the Xbox One. They didn't bother mentioning the elephant in the room, the Xbox One's used game and DRM issues, which is a common tactic by anyone with something to hide. We all know that the average consumer will not really care about these issues and will blindly buy an Xbox One. We could say it's because of the games or all of their friends will be buying one, but our stance has the reason that Microsoft will throw an endless amount of money to make sure their system succeeds, despite what that would do to the future of our industry. That's generally Microsoft's answer to everything-- throwing money at everything. It's this crappy behavior and the lack of admitting they're snake oil salesmen that make us absolutely abhor what the Xbox One and Microsoft stand for.

Pardon the rant. We're here to talk about the press conference. After all of the gun games and sports titles, the price tag was revealed: $499. It seems to us that the so-called "third console curse" has taken another victim and its name is Microsoft. It is as if MS learned nothing from Sony last generation. They are acting just as arrogant, if not more so, and it is without a doubt disgusting. No thank you, Microsoft. No thank you. We're most definitely jumping out.

Grade: D-

Sony


Sony's 2013 press conference started out with the present, looking at PlayStation 3 titles slated for the rest of the year. Yes, Jack Tretton, not bad for a seven-year-old console indeed! There was Beyond: Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6, and much more.

Things then shifted to the PS4, what everyone was waiting for without a doubt. We saw the sexy piece of hardware, we saw Sony Santa Monica's first offering, developed by Ready at Dawn (God of War: Chains of Olympus, God of War: Ghost of Sparta), The Order. Steampunk? Werewolves? England? Color us intrigued!


We then caught a glimpse of four of the titles that debuted back in February's initial PlayStation 4 reveal: Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, Infamous: Second Son, and Knack. Somehow they looked even better than when they were originally shown. How is that even possible!?


It's no question that Sony is all about indies this new generation. They showed off an impressive number of independent developer games showing up first on PlayStation 4.

Third-parties were also kind to Sony, including Square Enix, who showed off not one but two mind-blowing games. The first was Final Fantasy XV, the game formerly known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII. There was a lot of murmuring about whether the former project would turn into the fifteenth mainline Final Fantasy game, and those folks who thought so were right. Then, the game announcement that excited us most from Sony's show, Kingdom Hearts III, was unveiled. Finally! No more spin-offs, no more side stories-- just the third numbered game in the Disney/Square Enix collaboration!


Most importantly, Sony absolutely pulled zero punches with regards to Microsoft, and after seeing how disgusting Microsoft's policies are, we loved every minute of it. There, stood Jack Tretton, with a giant warm grin plastered on his proud face, as the crowd hooted and hollered his confirmation that the PS4 would not be anti-used games (a funny official video from Sony can be seen here regarding that), would not need to be always online, and would not have any DRM. Then, came the haymaker-- $399.

Sure, the fact that online multiplayer will now be behind a paywall was a bit disappointing, but then PlayStation Plus has proven it is more than worth the money. You will still get free games, and you will still have an awesome service. The only other gripe we have with the press conference was the lack of a strong PlayStation Vita presence. I guess we're fine not caring if you're fine not caring, Sony.

Regardless, Sony came back in a big way at this E3. No doubt Microsoft thought the PlayStation 4 would be priced higher than their Xbox One, and Sony managed to deliver a seemingly knockout punch to Microsoft in round one of this new console war. Sony's E3 2013 press conference wasn't perfect, but it was one of the best in E3 history.

Grade: A

Nintendo


The Big N opted to do things differently than past E3s. They did not have a traditional E3 press conference. Instead, they had a Nintendo Direct, something very popular with fans and something that allows Nintendo to directly reach their fans... hence the name. Despite the seemingly infinite amount of lag and loading in the initial video, we were quite pleased with what Nintendo had to show.

There wasn't a lot that was not already known  coming into the Direct. Many of the games shown and highlighted had been previously announced at a Nintendo Direct which was shown earlier in the year. However, it was nice to finally get footage and details about a lot of the titles.

The program started with a look at Pokemon X and Pokemon Y, showing the impressive 3D world of the games, some new Pokemon, the battle system, and the eighteenth (thanks Rhythm Heaven Guy for correcting us) type of Pokemon, Fairy. We haven't had the "gotta catch 'em all" bug in a long time, but Pokemon X and Pokemon Y are giving us the fever once more.

Let's talk about the three games that excited us most. The first was Super Mario 3D World. We came into the Nintendo Direct, like most folks, expecting a 3D Mario in the style of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy. We wanted to see something that pushed the Wii U hardware. What we got instead was a sequel to the Nintendo 3DS's Super Mario 3D Land, only this time on Wii U. However, our whining soon turned to quivering with excitement as we saw the game in action. Four player multiplayer with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Toad, each handling differently? Colorful worlds? Tight platforming? We totally understand why there's a good portion of pissed off people over the announcement of Super Mario 3D World, but perhaps if it's like most Nintendo games, you won't know that you wanted the game until you sit down and play it.


The next game that excited us heavily was Mario Kart 8, taking the racing into a whole new direction-- literally! Upwards, downwards, alongside walls-- it's like Mario and the gang entered into the world of F-Zero. Bikes return, 12 person racing returns, gliders and underwater sections return, and the game looked absolutely glorious in its high definition beauty. All that and 60 FPS? Yes, please!


The final game that excited us most (don't get us wrong, we loved most everything else) was Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. We knew a trailer was coming, but we didn't expect being absolutely floored by the footage shown. Levels took place aboard the train from The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (3DS version), a platforming area in Super Mario 3D Land (3DS version), Skyloft from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii U version) and a new version of Smashville (Wii U version). Newcomers like the Villager from Animal Crossing, the Wii Fit trainer, and yes, Mega Man made up for having no information about the game for nearly two years. Masahiro Sakurai and company, you glorious bastards!


Then there was footage of X, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, The Wonderful 101, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Art Academy, and Wii Party, each intriguing us but at varying levels.


All-in-all, we liked this approach to E3 from Nintendo. We're a bit annoyed that we have to wait until 2014 for a lot of the titles shown, but this year with Pikmin 3, New Super Luigi U, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, and Super Mario 3D World, our Wii U systems will have plenty of games inside them for the rest of the year.

Grade: B

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This E3 will go down as one of the greatest in memory, and we've been following the expo since its inception in 1995. Great games were shown, consoles were revealed, and memorable moments were had. How would you grade the E3 shows this year? Break it to us gently in the comments section.

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