Rundown (6/12) E3 2018: Exhaustion and Exertion

Once more, the bulk of E3 news has been unveiled, and the press conferences have all come to a close.  Meaning I am left both exhausted and exerted, while still holding a feeling of immense excitement in my heart of hearts after the blitz of news that occurred over the past few days.  I would call it a bittersweet feeling, but after doing this for 6 years now, I know that is not the case.  It’s a sweet feeling.

Nintendo, oh dearest, sweetest, most succulent Nintendo, the company that is capable of garnering absurd levels of adoration and anticipation from its fans, yet is so wrapped up in a veneer of mystique that predicting them truly seems impossible at times.  In the past year, they have been met with unprecedented success with the Switch, which became the idealized system for many people who actually like playing games away from a nice desk or chair, the weirdos. I would comment about how exciting it could be, but then Nintendo said that they would only focus on 2018 titles, which very few people, not even outlets who focus on Nintendo news, seemed to pick up on, despite being a well publicized story.  Then again, I guess paying attention to press releases and looking for information are two outdated habits that I cannot help but stubbornly clutch onto.

Things began with Daemon X Machina, a lavish looking mech combat game from Marvelous Entertainment and their newly established First Studio.  Despite how popular it is, I feel like there are not enough mech action games like this, and possibly because of that, I find this title to look rather impressive.  Featuring a vibrant cel-shaded art style along with fast paced gameplay that looks like it would be quite riveting to play. The game is a Switch exclusive due out in 2019.

A DLC expansion for Xenoblade Chronicles 2 was shown off in the form of Torna: The Golden Country, which was honestly indecipherable as someone who did not play the title the DLC belonged to.  Though, it is apparently a prequel story of sort set in either a new or a revised area from the base game, centering around a cast of seemingly new characters.  Xenoblade 2 was received well enough to make me possibly interested in this but, again, I would need to go through the 100 hour long beast that is the base game first, which I certainly will be unable to do by September 21st.

A Mario Party game is considered a necessity for a Nintendo system, so it is unsurprising to see Super Mario Party announced for the Switch to facilitate multiplayer shenanigans, and ones that seem to be taking extended use of the interconnectivity of the Switch as a platform, allowing two to be used for various mini-games, and also being fully playable in all modes made available with the Switch.  Oh, and there are naturally motion controlled shenanigans involved, because why would Nintendo not use the Joy-Cons in weird ways? The game is set to release on October 5th, 2018.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses marks the next entry for the long running tactical RPG series, and with the shift to more powerful hardware comes increased production values in the form of more detailed 3D environments, character models, and flashier interpretations of the tactical battles.  The art style is reminiscent of Fire Emblem Warriors in the sense that it has anime styled characters placed against realistic looking backdrops, which I honestly find to be a bit distracting, as it looks like a shader was not properly applied in many cases. While the presentation of gameplay can be altered to include various grunts accompanying every designated character to have the conflicts feel greater than the battles from prior entries.

I ultimately think the game looks fine, and like the UI shown in the trailer, but a lot of the decisions taken with the presentation strike me as a bit… underwhelming.  As if it is focusing on the wrong things with its depiction of the world and decision to throw in copy and pasted grunts into the maps. All of which I feel makes the game look slightly worse than the Radiance titles when emulated, or the 3DS entries if they were converted into HD.  These are very much just my first impressions though, and I am open to being proven wrong when the game comes out in Spring 2019… even though I thought that no 2019 titles would be shown.

The big game for this year was obviously the latest Smash Bros. title, which was revealed as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.  Rather than being an entirely new entry like some expected, the game is effectively an expanded and revised version of the Wii U entry but with a new rendering engine, various mechanical tweaks and improvements, and the inclusion of literally every character that has ever been in this series.  Yes, all DLC, third party, and Melee characters are back, with the additions of the aforementioned Inklings from Splatoon, the newly revealed Princess Daisy, who is an altered version of Peach, and the much demanded big boy Ridley.

Overall, the game looks like a very robust and, well, ultimate version of everything the series has been and has become over its nearly 20 year run.  A title that looks to bring forth the definitive Smash experience onto the Switch, and possibly serve as a base for the series going forward, as I honestly cannot imagine the developers recreating all within a new framework.  Some fans will likely take grievances with how this game did not have all of the reinvention and cut characters they wanted, because a lot of Smash fans also happen to be fools, but this is a fighting game with 64 characters, dozens of stages, and presumably a bunch of unlockable extras in addition to copious amounts of polish.  Besides, those dopes are assuredly going to pick this title up when it smashes right into their overexcited mugs on December 7th, 2018. Now if they announced Subspace Emissary, then there would be reason to get humiliatingly excited about this game.

Beyond that, several other titles were shown, such as the long rumored Dragon Ball FighterZ, Fortnite, Overcooked 2, Killer Queen Black, and so forth.  Personally, I was expecting to see a little something else, such as a repackaging of New Super Mario Bros. U and Luigi U, or a new Animal Crossing, maybe even a tease for Retro’s next project.  But it was ultimately a good showing by Nintendo, and will likely be remembered fondly, if only because Smash is Smash, and Smash makes people go crazy.  Although, the lack of Yoshi is a bit… odd.  

Oh, wait, I am forgetting something.  Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu and Let’s Go Eevee was shown off in the Direct with recycled footage, along with the mention that instead of working Mew into the main story of the game, they will instead be an overpowered Pokemon who is only obtainable through the purchase of a $50 Pokeball peripheral for the game.  Which I honestly find to be kind of insulting given how much Mew is worked into the greater mythology of Generation 1, but nope, you can just buy them and treat them like your starter.  Yeah, sure, that works, thanks Game Freak. Thanks a whole lot. November 16th is going to be a dark day, isn’t it?

Okay, okay, being fair, I watched part of the livestreamed footage for this game to gain more details (which were archived here) and make a more informed judgement of this game before release based on the gameplay shown.  It showcased the recreated map of Viridian Forest, and proceeded to showcase several new details.  Catching Pokemon is obviously a major focus, as is catching duplicates that are of varying sizes and overall power.  Said power can be manipulated by converting Pokemon into stat boosting candy, and is a slightly morbid, but valid way to increase Pokemon’s power, even if they lack the correct genes for their species.  Experienced is gained by catching Pokemon Natures return, Pokemon have been redistributed slightly, and there are a lot of small details added to the journey to make the world feel more alive… to an extent.

However, those are the positives, and the negatives are a bit more numerous.  Trainer’s Pokemon in the Viridian Forest are notably weaker than those caught in the wild.  The rival character is a scaredy cat who gives the player 5 potions upon entering Pewter City.  In exchange for watching a Slowpoke for 10 seconds, an NPC gives the player a Big Pearl. In order to get into the Pewter City gym, the player must have a grass or water type Pokemon in their party… seriously.  Players receive copious amounts of EXP for catching Pokemon, and also receive berries that can be used to increase their odds of catching them. It is all such needless simplification done in order to make the game more accessible and less challenging, but to the extent that it genuinely feels like the player is being babied throughout the entire process, and is rarely given the opportunity to fail, lest it hurt their self-esteem.  I have no problem with easy games or anything, but… this is beyond excessive.

What else was there beyond the Nintendo Direct?  Oh, Catherine: Full Body received its first western trailer, and I once again need to comment on its portrayal of the seemingly transgender, or possibly intersex, character of Rin, who the framing, camera, and general direction of the game all seem to be obsessed with reminding the audience that she has a penis despite looking like a grade A cutie.  Here is especially seems like the people behind this game have no idea as to what the hell they are doing or trying to present, as several sections seem to imply that Rin does not tuck her genitals away, which is a very common practice for transgender women. Again, I hope the portrayal is not as much of a glaring example of wet hot street trash, but I will need to wait until 2019 when the game launches on PS4 and Vita in Japan and the west to see how good or bad its portrayal is.

It was revealed that Cyberpunk 2077 will indeed be a first person shooter RPG, which greatly diminishes my interest due to how much I greatly prefer playing games in third person.  

Fortnite on Switch does not require a stupid phone for voice chat, which makes one wonder why Nintendo needed to make things complicated for everyone.

All in all, this was an enjoyable E3 with a number of remarkable titles having been shown, and a fairly good energy featured throughout, without focusing too heavily on games due out in the distant future.  With the majority of titles being scheduled to be out within the next 18 months, and quite a lot of them being scheduled for what is to be a positively packed Q1. There was something of a trend seen with a lot of the games shown, with post-apocalyptic shooters with some kind of multiplayer component being a big theme this year, and a lot of Sony first party titles bleeding together as cinematic action games.  Yet, I walked away excited to see how things would play out for the next year, and really, that’s all I can ask for from this event.

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