Nintendo had a typically strong opening to their press conference at E3 this year, relying again on the charisma of Miyamoto and a more clever opening than the other two. After that, though, was it really all that entertaining? The company showed a lot of new games coming for the WiiU console, a great many of them launch titles, but if you were expecting something with the energy and buzz of the pre-Wii-launch E3, it just wasn't going to happen.
If you thought the Wii was gimmicky, you'll certainly feel the same about the WiiU. If you thought the Wii was aimed more at families and especially children, you'll probably have the same reaction again. If you have thought that Nintendo just wasn't pushing the third parties enough, you might well be right again, even though Ubisoft showed up (again!) with nine games in development for the new console.
If you're into the product that Nintendo has been putting out for most of the last decade, you probably liked what you saw. The games looked casual- and family-friendly, and the gimmick of the WiiU controller looked like it was going to get used in some pretty interesting ways. Bottom line, though, if you weren't already mostly sold on the idea of the WiiU, I don't think today's conference was going to do anything to push you over the edge. And if you wanted to see 3DS stuff, such as Square Enix' forthcoming games? That has to wait until tomorrow, when Nintendo has planned a standalone conference to speak solely about the 3DS. Dream Drop Distance did managed to sneak in a 15-second clip into today's show, but it was hardly packed with information.
That does it for the big three this year. I can't pick a winner, all three felt a bit lacking in energy to me. Any thoughts?
I didn't write this news post last night for a few reasons: one, I wasn't able to focus on it very well. Two, I had a baby to put to bed because of how late Sony started in my time zone. Three, and maybe this was just because I don't own any current Sony devices, but it just wasn't very exciting, continuing the trend set earlier by Microsoft.
After introducing Kaz Hirai, in the crowd this year as the new leader of all of Sony, the company led with Beyond, a game from the makers of Heavy Rain that looked and sounded very much like Heavy Rain, distinguishable mainly by the new game having Ellen Page drop the f-bomb in the trailer. The next big game shown in detail was PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, the Vita/PS3 cross-play game that looks like Smash Bros. with a sketchier roster of characters. After that came a break where Jack Tretton talked for a while about why Sony's online offering is the best.
It was then back to the sequels; Ubisoft came in to show a new Vita game taking place around colonial New Orleans, with a new female Assassin, and the new ship-based battles available in the full AC3. Then there was FarCry 3 with four-player co-op, and after a long segment showing a J.K. Rowling-penned Move game, right back into the sequels with yet another God of War. The last new game wrapped up the keynote, with a gameplay demo of The Last of Us, which, good as it looked, still seems a lot like a "Nathan Drake in Zombie Apocalypse."
Did Sony have a better showing than Microsoft? It's hard to say. I tend to think that they both kind of just followed the same template as last year, and that's understandable given that this is probably the last E3 where their current consoles are the big news. Nintendo's going to be asking everyone to buy the new hardware, so the counterpoint offered by the other two is to talk about how great their new software is. It makes sense, but it's not exactly compelling.
Oh, and continuing the theme again - no mention of anything from Square Enix in this keynote. Nintendo will almost surely show Theatrhythm and Kingdom Hearts 3D today, but we'll probably need to do some more digging on our own to get the best information, and we'll be doing that soon as well.
You're here at the Caves of Narshe. You're reading this hoping for some RPG news. You're not getting it. Microsoft came out and just like last year, they had very little to offer other than games for the "core" and the opportunity to shove Kinect down our throats.
Now, don't get me wrong. Obviously there is a huge market for both of these things, or else they wouldn't keep showing up over and over again at E3. However, virtually every game that Microsoft showed was a sequel to a juggernaut franchise - Call of Duty, Gears of War, Forza. Of course, too, Halo. The Kinect offerings included the typical casual games and some content elaborating on how this year's EA Sports offerings will be more Kinect-enabled.
The big push beyond that this year has nothing to do with gaming at all. It was all about media, and all of the new video and audio that Xbox will be able to send to you, working towards meeting Microsoft's stated goal of becoming more than a gaming console. There was also an extensive demo of Microsoft's Smart Glass technology, intended to make your mobile and console devices interact with each other quickly on the fly to enhance the consumption of a variety of different content, be it games, TV, or movies, and also to potentially emulate the tablet interaction of the WiiU controller. All of these things have been expected, but it just seems to this author more and more like unless you're into console FPS or over-the-shoulder shooters, Microsoft really just doesn't care if you want their console.
That said, this has to be considered a pretty successful E3 keynote for Microsoft. Their talking points are all going to be very, very good for business. What doesn't appeal to me or (I assume) a lot of our readers here still appeals to a ton of folks. I just wish there were a little more to be really excited about.
Oh, and for Square Enix fans? There was one thing to look at, from Eidos: a new gameplay trailer of the Tomb Raider reboot. It looked pretty much just like last year, just with new scenery in which Lara gets beaten up thoroughly.
Am I being too hard on Microsoft, who announced that they were the biggest console company in the world as of this year? You tell me.
People have been waiting for Versus XIII for a very long time, which certainly grated on those fans when they instead got Final Fantasy XIII-2 first. Personally, I find that a bit odd, given that it's hard for me to look down on a game in favor of a game that we've barely ever even seen, but to each their own and I digress anyway. The news here is that Squenix are now just flat-out trolling gamers by releasing some Versus XIII content not as a trailer video, or as a demo, but as a DLC track for Theatrhythm. The released track is nice enough, at least in its thirty-second snippet, a quiet piano track with a Japanese vocal. And, I'm sure that instead of actually being a troll, it's more of a "this is a way to show them that we're still going to release this game" sort of thing. Still hilarious if you think back to the fact that it's been over five years since news of the game started coming forth.
Speaking of Theatrhythm, that game was released on 4 April in Japan, and Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance released the week before in the same locale. Why is that again relevant? Because this week, both games got their North American release dates officially confirmed by Squenix. The launch order will be different over here; the music rhythm game will be out on 3 July and KH3D will drop on the last day of the month. Apparently there's a fairly critical bug in KH3D that can stop some players from continuing the game - I, unfortunately, have no idea what that is because it's only written up in Japanese. One would assume it would be fixed before the pending Western release.
If you thought the last bunch of Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC was nuts, there's more this week, coming out in Japan on 10 April. This time, Noel can dress up as Ezio from Assassin's Creed, while Serah's new outfit is called "Exposure and Defense" and is based on one worn by a member of Japanese girlpop group AKB48. Also available at the same time will be Gilgamesh, who can be fought and added to your party as a Commando, and Final Fantasy VIII's PuPu (known as Koyo-Koyo in Japan), who can become a Medic. Only Serah's outfit will be free DLC, it seems. The costumes don't stop there, though; while they're not DLC, Final Fantasy XIII universe characters are going to appear in men's fashion magazine Arena Homme+ in the next issue. It appears that this magazine is British, though I've never seen one and therefore can't confirm firsthand; wherever it's published, it features new fashions for men from Prada draped on well-posed Final Fantasy characters, including Lightning. Sazh, in particular, is looking pretty suave.
We'll wrap this week with a bit of MMO news. First, Squenix have decided to do some public demos of Dragon Quest X this spring in Japan, starting at shopping malls in three cities. There won't be any new information coming from these, they're just a chance to get the game out in front of more people than the closed beta allows on its own.
Source: Kotaku, andriasang
Just how prevalent is downloadable content these days? Well, think back a few weeks. You might have heard that Bioware took heat on Mass Effect 3 for offering day-one DLC that wasn't available to everyone for free. Final Fantasy XIII-2 is taking a bit of heat for the same thing, of course, so it's really awesome intercorporate synergy that you will soon be able to download Mass Effect content into Final Fantasy XIII-2, namely armor worn by the crew of the Normandy. In a separate pack, you can also download Ultros and Typhon to fight and add to your monster pack. Ultros is a SYN, and Typhon is a COM, for those already excited by the prospect.
With regards to other Squenix games with DLC, check out the news this week that Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy now is confirmed to come to the West. That link discusses Europe specifically, but the release was also confirmed for North America on the Square Enix Facebook page.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is coming out in Japan next Thursday, a release that has been anticipated since the Nintendo 3DS was announced. With the game all but out now, video from the Premiere Event to show the game and celebrate the tenth anniversary of the franchise showed up online. Additionally, an advertisement made from game footage and clips of the event has been on the air in Japan. andriasang has both on one convenient page for KH fans.
Finally, a new domain has been registered and a teaser video produced for a mystery new game, apparently to be released this Summer in Japan. Rumor has it that the game will be called Crystal Conquest, but no other details are available. Kotaku guesses that it will be a smartphone game, and that seems like a pretty reasonable guess.
Source: andriasang, Square Enix Members Europe, Kotaku
Some of you out there may not have seen much from Square Enix' toy division, or even known that Squenix has a toy division. Most accurately, it's called Square Enix Products, and they produce figures and toys for a wide array of game franchises, not just for Squenix properties.
With the New York Toy Fair last week, the company took the time to set up some displays of their new action figures for 2012, and Square Enix events manager Wilbur Lin and a cameraman walked through the big ones to share with the fans. All eight videos are now available on the Squenix Members Blog, and if you're a gaming, toy-collecting nerd like I am (or would be if I had more money), I would bet that there's at least one franchise shown there that you play. Square Enix is producing figures this year from the universes of Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, Street Fighter, God of War, Halo, Mass Effect, and Arkham Asylum.
For those who just care about the Final Fantasy toys, the final video shows large, articulating figures of Lightning and Serah in their Final Fantasy XIII-2 costumes, and some smaller chibi figures of Cloud, Squall, and Yuna. The chibis come in packs of two of the same character, with different costumes and/or props, and have changeable expression faces (three pre-made, and one blank that you can draw yourself). I know what you're thinking - why would you ever need a face for Squall other than the totally blank one, right? Ha! Anyway, the two packs of the chibi characters appear to be set to retail at $19.99, and Lightning and Serah will be set for $54.99 apiece - a bit staggering, since I paid $14 for Final Fantasy XIII new, but the figures really do look pretty neat if you're a big fan.
Source: Square Enix Members, Square Enix Shop