Gaming Industry News
Okay, so we're all aware that the Nintendo 3DS isn't doing as well as Nintendo would have liked. Even the die-hard fanboys have to reluctantly admit that the 3DS is not the badass system that anyone had hoped for. It's still definitely got potential, but that won't be enough. So, on August 12th, The 3DS will drop from $250 to $170. That's $80. Down to two-thirds of its orginial price-tag. That's pretty hefty, and what some might call "desparate". Your turn. But there's a PLOT TWIST.
For those who bought a Nintendo 3DS at original retail price at any time before the 12th, Nintendo are giving away some games on the virtual console. And by "some", I mean "twenty". For free. And I know what you're thinking, that all the games on the Virtual Console right now are for the Game Boy (and ONE Game Boy Colour game). And you'd be correct, at the current moment in time. But, the games being offered to the "Nintendo 3DS Ambassadors" are from the NES and GBA eras. 10 from each. The NES titles will be available starting from September 1st, before they are available to new 3DS owners. They will feature such titles as Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber and The Legend of Zelda.
As for the GBA titles, all we have for them are "before the end of 2011". However, the games offered here are Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ and Mario vs. Donkey Kong. You may have noticed that I only listed five games for each. These are the only titles that have been announced so far - and as of yet it is unclear whether we will have a choice of what games we download, or if its a set 10 that Nintendo will release. Oh, but there's ANOTHER plot twist.
As someone who's owned a 3DS pretty much since launch, this is only good news to me. Mario, Zelda, Metroid... Although I sincerely doubt how soon some of the release dates will be. I'd be willing to bet that they'll release one title a week, or something along those lines. One thing that Nintendo DID say, however:
"Once the paid versions of the games are released in Nintendo eShop later in the year, the updated versions will be available to Ambassadors for download at no cost."
It's pretty much a win-win for current 3DS owners.
I know you're here at the Caves of Narshe because you play RPGs, specifically Square Enix RPGs, specifically Final Fantasy games. Well, if you've not been following E3 this week, I've got news for you: there's precious little of that to be had here today. With E3 wrapped, here's what Square Enix hit heavy.
The biggest coverage to come out of the conference had everything to do with Eidos. The Tomb Raider reboot, which really did look very nice, got a lot of press (including a long-form controlled demo early in Microsoft's keynote). That game is still scheduled to come out next year, but the progress so far looked pretty impressive for a game that far out. Later in E3, the Hitman series took center stage, with a big crowd for the debut trailer. Absolution, the new title, is also due out in 2012. Deus Ex was also everywhere - a third title that a couple years ago would have been part of Eidos' booth, but fortuitously has fallen under Square Enix' umbrella due to smart corporate buyouts.
For the core RPG/Final Fantasy output of E3 2011, you really can't look much further than Final Fantasy XIII-2. We reported earlier in the week that a new, longer trailer debuted during E3, and while I admit that I haven't watched it (as I'm afraid of spoilers, since I still have yet to beat the first one!), it seems to have at least generated buzz, though of course it's not universally positive. One thing that surprised me, though, is that the game was actually playable at E3, as evidenced by these videos posted by Kotaku earlier in the week. RPGSite managed to get an interview with the director and producer of the game, as well, during the tumult of E3.
There was no news about Type-0 or the new Kingdom Hearts that I've seen come from E3, which is very disappointing. I can't speak for whether they simply had no presence at E3, or if the presence they did have was merely news old enough that it wasn't worth reporting, but there was almost certainly nothing new at all to appear. However, the official Type-0 site updated as E3 was closing, with some new screenshots and character reveals, so all is not lost there.
In other happy news emerging from E3, Square Enix announced a big, round number from the Final Fantasy series, and you have to admit it's impressive: the Final Fantasy series as a whole has now shipped over one hundred million copies worldwide. That's more than four million copies of the games every single year - maybe that's not a huge feat given the many remakes over the years, but you have to think back to the eighties and early nineties, when there just weren't that many from which to choose. The company, wisely, didn't talk about whether that includes just the core numbered series or also sideline series like Tactics, the Final Fantasy VII Compilation, or games that were called "Final Fantasy" in some regions but not others.
Even knowing that milestone, you'd be forgiven for being generally disappointed in Square Enix at E3 this year. I would have expected a stronger showing myself, if I'm perfectly honest. But, if you're unhappy with the company's performance, you're not the only one. Even at least one Square Enix executive shares concern over the company's core game franchises, going so far as to call the lack of Japanese output from the company at E3 "humiliating." Is there a way to bounce back from this? Koji Taguchi, the aforementioned executive, is clearly worried about it. Got any advice for him that doesn't start and end with "remake Final Fantasy VII?"
That does it for E3 this year, as far as CoN is concerned. Hope you enjoyed our recaps and editorials, and we'll be back with more of the same when it's time for the Tokyo Game Show in a couple months, where one hopes Squenix will be back with more gusto. If I missed anything good, make sure to respond and set me straight!
Nintendo was the main event on Tuesday, and based on announcements from earlier this year coupled with their performance in E3 conferences from previous years, expectations were high. Nintendo did not disappoint.
Right away, it was obvious that Nintendo was here to make a statement as we were introduced to the 25th anniversary of the Zelda series via a live orchestra. Shigeru Miyamoto and Bill Trinen talked about the many high points of the series as a whole, interacting occasionally with the orchestra to play some sound effects, then announced a few small things. First off, some port of Link's Awakening is coming to 3DS virtual console, and everyone can get a free copy of Four Swords. They also announced a concert tour of Zelda music, promised to come to "every region" of the world, so you can expect to travel to Papua New Guinea or Albania to hear orchestras perform your favorite songs from the series.
The Zelda bit was a bit underwhelming, with a lot of flair but not much substance, but the next segment - introduced by Satoru Iwata - was an instant remedy to a very un-Nintendo lackluster launch to the 3DS handheld system. We were treated to an incredibly impressive array of 3DS games promised to be out by this year's holiday season. We were shown a brief view of five key Nintendo titles to come out, and then Reggie Fils-Aime came out to show them in detail.
He began with the announcement of a new Mario Kart title. Though not a lot of details were given, it was promised to be tricked-out and clearly featured some hovering and flying elements along with some underwater racing. The karts seemed to transform a bit - nothing huge and out-of-character for the series - to accomodate the environments in which they were placed. The karts seemed a lot more customizable, as spoken about in CoNChat: "Bowser in a Mini Cooper." -R51
Following Mario Kart was probably the most impressive of the 3DS titles - Star Fox. The first push of the presentation showed gameplay from the outside - actually looking at the console as the game was played. They really pushed the fact that you can use the built-in accelerometer and gyroscopes to play Star Fox by turning the system itself instead of using the traditional controls if you wished. The screen images were small, but it appeared to be a pretty archetypal Star Fox game...until they got to the multiplayer piece. It looked like a pretty fantastic game that utilizes the cameras in a way to show player reactions to kills, whether the victim or the perpetrator. We don't yet know whether or not the multiplayer is WiFi enabled, but given that the original Mario Kart DS was enabled in that regard, gamers should expect that Nintendo would follow suit here. Anything less would be a disappointment and a mistake.
Smack dab in the middle of the 3DS announcements came a new Super Mario Bros game, SMB3D. Though Reggie seemed to be pretty excited about it, nothing that was shown in the trailer looked really innovative for the franchise. It looked very much like a Mario 64 universe, with improved graphics and some relics from the past thrown in, such as the raccoon suit from Super Mario Bros 3. Though it was one of the weaker titles shown, it simply wouldn't be a Nintendo console without a Mario platformer on it...it just seems like it would've been much better suited as a launch title.
Next up came the continued revival of #welovepit in the form of Kid Icarus: Uprising. A heck of a lot of gameplay was shown for this, including a character who looked suspiciously like Jecht from Final Fantasy X. It was very action-packed, with some platforming sequences and some flying through the air. It also featured a nice-looking multiplayer mode that almost felt like Kid Icarus meets Dissidia from how the action appeared to work. Finally, there was an augmented reality card game along with the actual game, but not a whole lot details were given there. A nice and simple summary quote came in CoNChat: "I wasn't at all excited for this game but this looks good." - FallingHeart
Finally, an unexpected series came back to the forefront as Reggie announced Luigi's Mansion 2. Having never played the original game, I can't comment on whether or not this was vastly different from the original, but the gameplay looked fun with more mansion exploration, and Reggie promised that there would be multiple mansions to explore, which made me wonder if there were complaints with the length of the original game.
Following these five came a look at what some 3rd party developers were creating for the 3DS, including but not limited to Cave Story 3D, Pacman, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D, Eggman Badminton, and Tetris. There was also a less-than-exciting Pokemon 3D announcement that only seemed to be about the Pokedex. I described it as "like Pokemon but not fun".
Amazingly, Nintendo wasn't even at their most impressive following this pile of must-own 3DS titles. After months of speculation, the official announcement of Nintendo's next console arrived. It is called the WiiU, which was explained in a somewhat confusing manner about putting You back into the We so when We play the Wii, wii are incorporating You into the equation, so that You are never forgotten when We are playing Wii with U.
The first announcement with the WiiU came via the controller. It almost looks like an Amazon Kindle, with a 6.2" touchscreen placed right on the front of the controller itself, surrounded by two joysticks, a D-pad, and the regular buttons that you've come to expect from a Nintendo console. The controller is highly interactive with the system, as you can play entire games on that screen if the television isn't available. It was shown being used as a drawing tablet, being used as an Othello board, being used as a targeting scope to assassinate Miyamoto in some bizarre peeping tom game. The controller also had a camera and showed a couple of people using it to videochat.
More importantly, the touchscreen on the controller can act as a second screen for the video games themselves - similar to the touch-enabled bottom screen of a DS - if you have access to the actual screen. It is highly interactive with the original Wiimote as well, as we were shown a golf game in which your lie was shown on the new controller, you used the Wiimote as a club, and the television showed the course and your surroundings. They showed a potential Zelda game in which the touchscreen was the item-select menu so gameplay on the main screen would never have to be interrupted.
Even though the new controller is much different than the Wiimote, they are still going to incorporate most of the same hardware within the Wiimote to improve upon gameplay. For example, there was a game where you slide across the top of the touchscreen the fling shurikens, and one where you have to hold the new controller in a specific position to shield yourself from incoming arrows. Additionally, there was a pretty neat-looking game called Mii Chase where only one person has the new controller - giving them an advantage with an additional view - and everyone else is forced to control themselves with the Wiimote.
Once we were all introduced to the WiiU, Iwata came back out and dropped yet another bomb - a new Smash Bros game would be developed that would somehow be cross-platform between the 3DS and WiiU. Legitimately no details outside of this were given, but it was met with rousing applause at both the conference and within CoNChat.
Following Nintendo's own personal announcements came some testimonials from the heads of third-party developers talking about their own reactions to the WiiU and how they could possibly make use of it. The first third party game looked like some bizarre Lego Grand Theft Auto game, and it was followed by titles such as Darksiders 2, Tekken, Batman: Arkham City, Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon, Ninja Gaiden, and Madden - many of which offer interesting changes for Nintendo as they are first-time appearances on their consoles and are much more violent than most offerings on the original Wii.
Why would one stay after hours to watch Sony's E3 2011 presser? Probably to either a) try to get a look at Kevin Butler or b) see if Sony apologizes for losing control of their security. You didn't get a), and you got b) out of the way just as fast as they possibly could do it. Blink and it's gone.
For me, I just sat through it and I'm not quite sure if there is a c), myself. I thought the overall presentation was pretty bland, though Sony will clearly score a lot of points with some gamers for not marrying their information to the Move the way Microsoft did Kinect. However, they might well lose points with a variety of other gamers for sticking so close to the handheld.
Some of Sony's games looked pretty great. I've never played an Uncharted, but Uncharted 3 does look solid in a crowded third-person, over-the-shoulder adventure genre. Resistance 3 looks like a perfectly adequate FPS. Everything is starting to look the same, though, and that wasn't helped by following Microsoft. You can show lots of adventure games and lots of FPSes, but after a while the brief time that each game has to show its uniqueness just fails, and I really didn't see anything during the PlayStation 3 portion of the presentation that really lept out as surprising or groundbreaking.
Once the Vita emerged, though, it got pretty interesting as long as you like handhelds. The tech behind the Vita looked pretty great in the live demos, though I for one have never been fully convinced by backside touchpads (fnar). The new handheld looks very much like a PSP, with the crosspad, four buttons, and two shoulders of the current PSP. After that, they added a second analog stick and made both sticks look more like DualShock sticks, made the screen multitouch-capable, and even added a back multitouch panel without a screen and front and back cameras.
The games shown live looked fanastic, nearly like PlayStation 3 games, and it seems like the time the devs have had with the development devices and SDK has paid off. I think the AT&T offering will not help the device; I would guess that the data plans will not be reasonably priced, and with no 4G availability, there will almost surely be a new version in just a couple years. PlayStation Suite, also on the mobile front, seems like a neat idea, but how many Android phones will really have the ability to control games that originated on PlayStation platforms?
Two things to point out here: one, there was pretty much no Square Enix here at all. That's two out of three down and barely any mention of Squenix - not a great sign, in my opinion. Two, please, please, don't let devs give presentations. God bless them, they make good games. They're not public speakers.
Microsoft finished up their press conference about an hour and a half ago, leaving CoNchat generally underwhelmed. Of course, for the people in there who remain avid RPG gamers, the Microsoft speech tends to be a bit of a famine, so maybe we're not all the target market for such things.
It was second in the show, but since it's the closest to Square Enix they had, we'll lead with Tomb Raider. It was a very pretty game, and looked very much like what you'd want in a Tomb Raider made fifteen years after the original, with an added little dash of bondage at the beginning. If you ever wanted to see Lara be trussed upside down, have to light herself on fire to escape, and then fall and break a rib, then, Eidos is bringing you just what you want.
Microsoft and their partners covered quite a few games, and among them were the ones you fully expected to see, starting with a full ten minutes of Modern Warfare 3, which looked pretty much like Modern Warfare 2, if you ask me. The post-Bungie Halo era moved on with both a remake of the very first game and an announcement for Halo 4. Every one of these games got a huge reaction from the crowd - call me a complainer, but I didn't see any of that stuff do anything so interesting that it demanded screams of joy. Someone thinks it's truly groundbreaking, though, or the excitement of being in the room with such a big screen really added to the impact.
Microsoft showed off their new dashboard, with an emphasis on the new non-gaming or gaming-related content to be on offer. They made a very big deal out of the addition of YouTube, and a Kinected Bing application to find games and media available for the Xbox. They also did a lot of talk about live television over Xbox, but honestly, I'm not going to get very excited about that; they still can't even give me live ESPN3 due to an ongoing dispute with Time Warner Cable that has been going on for almost a year now.
The rest was a big push to get Kinect more on the minds of not only kids and casual gamers, but the "hardcore" set as well. Games like Ghost Recon, Fable, Ryse, Star Wars (which, by the way, looked just awful, to me) and even Minecraft are looking to really make people take Kinect seriously, while a new sports game, a Sesame Street game, and a Disneyland exploration application/game will appeal to the casual and younger sets. I have to say, the last two excited me the most, but that might just be because I have baby on the brain.
What'd you guys think? Does Microsoft have anything that excites you for the next year?
Quote of the Microsoft conference came in from CoNChat, not surprisingly. It was Kappa the Imp, responding to the Sesame Street Kinect game:
[12:39] Kappa: Who else can imagine all their pothead friends going CRAZY over this
Square Enix are preparing for E3, of course; it officially starts next Tuesday. For us, they're mainly doing it with a microsite that, as of this writing, doesn't work. If you care to find a metaphor in that for your faith in the company, well, I won't stop you. Hopefully it comes back online soon, though, as the site last year was really pretty nice, as I recall.
Square Enix are only talking about a few of the games that they'll be showing, and I haven't yet found any mention of a standalone presser that will be aired anywhere public. I don't believe they did one last year, either, so we'll have to feast on scraps that we get second-hand. For now, though, we do know of several games that will appear; of most interest to RPG fans will be Final Fantasy XIII-2 and WAKFU. However, Tomb Raider, the new Hitman, Deus Ex, Dead Island, and the new 3DS game Heroes of Ruin also headline the offering. There's no mention of Type-0 or Dream Drop Distance in the press release, but there's little doubt that they'll be in the booth in some fashion, surely, along with some other big-ticket games that escape my mind at the moment.
As for CoN, we're going to cover E3 the way we did last year, I think, as much as possible. That means that we'll be watching the big three press conferences in chat, as well as posting live thoughts about the offerings to Twitter and Facebook. After each of the big pressers, one of us will write up a kinda-bloggy recap for CoN news as well. If you want to participate, all you have to do is follow us on Twitter (@cavesofnarshe) or on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/cavesofnarshe), come to chat to make snide comments about the games you're seeing, or watch this space for the wrap-up news.
If you're on Facebook or Twitter, we'd love it if you'd reference us in your own tweets or posts about E3, or if you'd retweet or share our comments to your own network. Help us keep our following growing by making sure all seven of your friends know about us!
Source: Square Enix, Kotaku