Reflecting on my Time at E3 2018

“Is that the real Master Sword that Link actually used in the game?!”

Another E3 has come and gone. Although this was far from my first time at the event, it was only my second time attending since I launched Wizard Dojo, which in a weird way feels like a whole different era for me (even though it’s just a wee blog). Though the fact that E3 has had a bigger attendance than ever the past two years means that the lines to actually play the games can be, well, downright evil in their tests of patience, it was overall a very fun show.

There’s plenty to be said about the mostly disappointing presentations. Whether it was Sony’s unusual format of changing revenues and taking noticeably long breaks, or Nintendo’s maybe-too-focused-on-Smash Bros.-Direct, there weren’t a whole lot of surprises, or even as much of a lineup as last year’s show.

With all that said, however, there was still plenty to enjoy. Especially for someone like me who’s just lucky to be able to attend E3’s show floor. I’ve already written some blogs dedicated to some of the games shown at E3, but now let me write just a little bit about my own experience.

“The world’s greatest necktie.”

Naturally, the first day for me was all about Super Smash Bros. (though I also played it the latter two days as well). Though the gameplay is familiar to the Wii U version, it feels like it’s getting the right level of polish, aiming for something of a combination of Melee and the Wii U game to make the definitive version of Super Smash Bros. Though I still have some reservations (please, don’t waste whatever new characters we get with clones!), Super Smash Bros. is one of the few games where I always get sucked into the hype before release. Since the demo didn’t have my main man King Dedede playable, I spent most rounds as Bowser (who is actually my favorite Nintendo character, so wouldn’t that make him my main man?), or Donkey Kong and Mega Man. I won more than I lost *brag brag* but I admit I made more than a little bit of an oopsie when I went into sudden death as Ridley (I’ll really have to practice that up-special of his). Anyway, I’m just really keeping my fingers crossed that Geno actually makes it in this time. Hey, Sakurai’s behind the idea, if only Nintendo can twist Square’s arm…

Other notable titles I played over the three day event were Marvel’s Spider-Man (which I wish had a more unique title) and Mega Man 11. Other titles that caught my eye but weren’t playable (at least not from what I could tell) were Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Dreams, the former of which comes from Hidetaka “Prepare to Die” Miyazaki, and the latter by Media Molecule, the creators of LittleBigPlanet who really look like they’ve upped their game.

Spider-Man’s greatest joy was simply how much it makes you feel like Spider-Man when playing it. I spent more of my time in the demo trying to find and ascend the tallest building than I did with any of the objectives. Mega Man 11, meanwhile, felt like the proper continuation of the beloved series that it should be. Mega Man 11 boasted the usual Mega Man gameplay, but with the added bonus of some fun twists on the level design.

Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice already looks like it could be one of my favorite games of next year. It’s interesting to see a game that follows suit with Miyazaki’s Dark Souls/Bloodborne series, but that omits the RPG elements, instead opting for action/adventure. The only downside is no multiplayer, which admittedly feels like a step back from the genius twists to co-operative and competitive multiplayer the Souls series brought to gaming. As for Dreams, well, it looks like the ultimate game-making game, with players seemingly able to make every single asset of a game (including genre, characters, environments, sounds, music, etc.). Let’s just hope the in-game gameplay doesn’t suffer as LittleBigPlanet did.

Other games I managed to play on the show floor include Team Sonic Racing, a new Senran Kagura title for PS4, Mario Tennis Aces, and Fortnite (which, believe it or not, was actually my first time playing Fortnite). Team Sonic Racing felt like a fun successor to the Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing series, though the removal of non-Sonic Sega characters actually seems like a step back (after all, Mario Kart eventually added Zelda and Animal Crossing characters into the mix. It didn’t start with them then take them away). Senran Kagura is…well, it is what it is: a mindless but fun guilty pleasure. Mario Tennis Aces actually surprised me with how much fun I had in my short time with it. I mean, playing as a Chain Chomp with a tennis racket in its mouth? How can it not be great? And although I sucked in the round of Fortnite I played, I can definitely see the appeal, seeing as it feels like PUBG, but with an actual personality and additional elements like crafting. Plus, Fortnite is now free on Switch, so I have no excuse not to get it.

Sadly, I never got the chance to play Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee, because the lines were always too damn long. Same goes for Kingdom Hearts 3. But hey, I’ll probably play them eventually. Besides, I got to meet the REAL Pikachu and Eevee in person! That counts for like, 10 demos of the games.

“Squad Goals.”

Being able to play all these games was great of course (even if the lines could be insufferable), but just the experience of being at E3 is fun in itself for someone like me. Basically, it’s like Disneyland: wait in monotonous lines most the day, get rewarded with a few moments of quality entertainment, and overall you just enjoy being there. The experience was made all the better, however, by little things like conversing with other people with similar interests while I waited in those aforementioned lines (one particularly interesting individual in line for Smash Bros. also wanted Geno to make the roster), seeing a Solaire cosplayer fat-roll his way through the exhibit hall, walking right passed The New Day and getting a photo with Charles Martinez!

“It’s-a him!”

Yes, another E3 has come and gone, and while most will be discussing the big, news-y aspects of the event, for me, it was just  blast being there, and am itching to return next year.

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Spider-Man (Playstation 4) Delivers!

Well, E3 2018 has come and gone. And while I hope to recount my personal experiences at the event soon, let’s wrap up these E3 game-related postings on the days of the show with Marvel’s Spider-Man on Playstation 4.

Now, Spider-Man was at E3 last year, but I never got around to playing it. I feared that would also be the case this year. Because geez, were those lines long! Thankfully, however, on this last day of E3, I managed to wait it out. Sure, it was still a long line, but nothing I wouldn’t see during a usual day at Disneyland.

I’m glad I decided to wait, because Spider-Man is now one of my most anticipated games on the horizon. I admit I was a little skeptical at first. Even though licensed games have deservingly removed much of the stigma that was once associated with them, I wasn’t exactly sure what would make this Spider-Man game stand out from any others.

This may sound incredibly cliched, but Spider-Man on PS4 works because of how much it makes you feel like Spider-Man. From the second I picked up the control and explored New York City, I had a big, stupid grin on my face from pure childlike elation at the ability to climb up/swing from pretty much anything. You could activate markers for different objectives, but I largely ignored them, and for the most part just wanted to explore the city. I spent most of the demo simply making my way to the tallest building I could find, and then proceeding to ascend it.

“Is Spoder-Man.”

It’s in how Spider-Man controls that makes it all such a joy. The sheer fluidity in which Spidey can go from swinging on webs to latching onto a wall to running up a building just feels…right. It’s hard to explain, but hopefully when the game is released and more and more people play it, they will get a similar feeling.

I did eventually do some mission objectives, which mainly consisted of beating up bad guys, and here’s where things do get a little worrisome. The combat pretty much made the game feel like Spider-Man: Arkham City. That is to say, it was basically just the combat from the Arkham series, but with a replacement in super hero.

Now, on its own, this isn’t a big problem, because for all intents and purposes, the combat of the Arkham games was fun. However, it would have been nice if the game felt a little more original in this area. This was especially true because – like the Arkham games – these combat sections seemed to drag on and on. Sure, the combat is fun and affective for a while, but it kind of went on to the point that I missed simply running around and goofing off as Spider-Man.

There was, however, a refreshing boss encounter against The Shocker during the demo. I say refreshing for the reasons most people might, like a completely new take on boss fights, but for the exact opposite. The Shocker boss fight was very much a video game boss fight, which in this day and age is becoming something of a lost art, and is always welcome in my book.

That’s not to say that the boss fight was just phoned in from another game or anything, of course. But it flowed like a traditional boss fight (three hits in the first phase, three hits in the second phase, third phase requires you to perform a more cinematic action to finish him off). Much like the exploration, the boss fight felt like experiencing one of Spider-Man’s battles, and wouldn’t have felt out of place in one of the Sam Raimi directed Spider-Man features (or Homecoming. Let’s not bring up those Amazing Spider-Man films though). You avoid Shocker’s attacks until you have an opportunity to strike (via throwing debris at him with webs, of course), in which case you give him a few swift punches. The aforementioned final phase sees you bringing the ceiling down onto Shocker (it’s okay, Spider-Man doesn’t kill him somehow).

“That’s not Willem Defoe! 0/10!”

The exploration alone had me giddy, but if a fight against a lesser Spidey foe like Shocker provided a good old-fashioned boss fight, imagine a throw down with one of his more memorable baddies? The standard combat is a bit overly familiar, but hopefully the final game adds some nice twists of its own, and learns when to trim things down a bit. Or maybe just make most such situations optional. After all, who cares when Spider-Man catches a bunch of books, right? The option to just head for primary objectives like boss fights might be a good alternative.

Any concerns I may have with the combat don’t come anywhere close to the sheer joy of traversing New York City as Spider-Man, however. The simple joy of swinging around on webs, sticking to windows, and scaling the tallest tower as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is nothing short of a joy.

Mega Man 11 is the Real Deal

I don’t get this “Mega Man 11” thing! It just looks like Capcom is trying to rip off Mighty No. 9!

All joking aside, I got to play Mega Man 11 at E3 today (after an excruciatingly long wait in line), and walked away very impressed with the game, which is now on my radar as one of my most anticipated titles of the year.

When Mega Man 11 was first revealed, a lot of fans were disappointed with the new visual look, and wanted another 8-bit throwback title. Personally, I think making another 8-bit entry would have felt a bit tired by this point. Besides, Mega Man 7 and 8 weren’t 8-bit, so it’s not as if Mega Man 11 is the first entry to go against the series’ NES roots.

“At least the long line included monitors with fun questions and factoids about Mega Man’s history. This was by far my favorite one.”

One concern I did have though, was that the new look may have meant a new direction for the series’ difficulty, and maybe ease things up a bit to grab a new audience. I’m not one of those people who demands that every game be extremely difficult, and that any game that’s on the easy side is automatically bad. But in Mega Man’s case, the difficulty is as much a part of the series as the Blue Bomber’s ability to steal the powers of defeated Robot Masters.

Although only one stage was available in the demo (Block Man’s), it proved to be pleasantly challenging. Perhaps more importantly, the challenge was brought about by some creative ideas in the level design, with the standout moment being Mega Man navigating through confined rooms which are on a conveyor belt heading for an insta-kill grinder. Mega Man has to shoot path-blocking stones, and navigate the rooms by jumping and sliding in order to escape them and, by extension, escape the grinder. But once one such mini-room is completed, there’s another one in line on the conveyor belt.

It’s concepts like that why platformers remain one of gaming’s greatest genres. Even with a template as old as Mega Man’s, getting creative with the level design is all the developers need to make things feel new again.

Additionally, Mega Man now possesses an ability to slow down time for a short while, with certain level elements and enemies taking advantage of the mechanic. One enemy hides within a spinning wheel, which has only a small opening for Mega Man’s blast can make it through. While Mega Man can time his blast to destroy the enemy under normal conditions, the enemy’s wheel spins fast enough to make it difficult to get the timing down. That’s when slowing down time comes in handy, as it turns the small opportunity to hit this particular enemy into a much bigger one.

The time-slowing mechanic is a fun little twist on the Mega Man formula, and hopefully a few similar mechanics are introduced to keep things fresh.

From what I can gather from my limited experience with the game, Mega Man 11 looks to not only revive the series after a notably lengthy absence, but also adding to the series’ norms in ways to make it feel like a proper continuation for the franchise, and not simply a throwback.

I was tentatively excited for Mega Man 11 when it was announced, but after playing a stage of the game, it’s really looking like the Mega Man title the gaming world needs…especially after Mighty No. 9.

“I’m a better Mega Man than Mega Man! I’m actually aiming my mega buster at the bad guy!”

Early Thoughts (and Concerns) on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

The Switch’s iteration of Super Smash Bros. has been revealed as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate! So far, from what I’ve seen and the little I’ve played, it seems like a refinement of the franchise. It’s faster paced like Melee, but looks to incorporate the sense of balance from the Wii U version. Despite Nintendo’s overall lackluster E3 Direct, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate looks to please its loyal fanbase, and then some.

However, even though Ultimate looks like it could be the definitive Super Smash Bros. game, I do have a few reservations about it. Primarily, it may seem awesome on one hand that the game will feature every character who has ever been in Super Smash Bros. history – from the N64 originals to the one-timers from Melee and Brawl to the DLC characters from Smash Bros. on Wii U – on the other hand, series director Masahiro Sakurai said they planned to emphasize the inclusion of every past character, so to “not expect too many new additions.”

But is that really what anyone wanted? Sure, Ice Climbers and Solid Snake had plenty of support to make a return, but did anyone really want characters like Pichu and Wolf O’Donell to make a comeback? Don’t we have enough clones as it is?

Speaking of clones, that brings us to another source of concern: Sakurai has given clone characters the official name of “Echo Fighters.” The problem with this is that the fact that clones nw have an official label could imply that Ultimate is doubling down on clone characters.

I know, a lot of people like to claim that “clone characters don’t take up much data, and so they aren’t getting in the way of anyone else.” Maybe, but if you ask me, I’d rather see a smaller roster with unique characters than a large roster filled with half-assed, copied-and-pasted clones.

The reason why I’m concerned about this (other than the fact that the clone characters are already just lazy additions) is that, with the Inklings from Splatoon and Metroid’s Ridley being the only completely new characters announced for the new game, along with the grim promise that there won’t be too many new additions, this could mean that most of the potential new characters could just be clones. And who the hell wants that?

Things get worse, however, with the revelation of the first new “Echo Fighter” in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is none other than (oh lord, give me strength)… Princess Daisy.

Ouch! It hurts just to type that.

Look, I understand that Ridley was one of the most requested characters for years, and Splatoon is Nintendo’s biggest new franchise, but Daisy? I don’t know, seems like we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel here. And yeah yeah, once again “clones don’t use up a lot of data,” but when they start stacking up clone after clone, the roster just feels watered down.

Now, part of me isn’t too disheartened with the idea of only a handful of new characters (I remember when Melee first showed off Bowser, Peach, Zelda and Ice Climbers as new additions, and I didn’t mind it when I thought they were the only new additions to Melee). But, if we do see only a handful of new characters, and most of them are just going to be clones, it would feel like a waste. And don’t even get me started on Bomberman being relegated to an Assist Trophy while Princess Daisy makes the roster. That’s just insulting.

I hope I don’t sound overly negative, because I love Super Smash Bros., and from what I played of Ultimate at E3, it looks to be excellent. But while it looks like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate may refine the series’ mechanics and competitive nature, it runs the risk of diluting the experience with an overtrumped roster largely comprised of characters who lack uniqueness. I mean, this is a series built on Nintendo’s illustrious history and peerless catalogue of video game icons. I’d hate to see it simply decide to settle on the quick and easy alternatives in place of meaningful additions.

Sakurai is known for asking his fans to “just be happy.” But if we’re getting a bunch of throwbacks and cookie cutter additions at the expense of worthwhile newcomers, it makes it kind of difficult.

“The physical incarnation of “we’re all out of ideas.””

But seriously, just give me Geno and Dixie Kong and I’ll take it all back and love it 100% LOL.

Well, Now I HAVE to Get Kingdom Hearts 3

I may not be the biggest Kingdom Hearts fan out there. Despite some fun ideas, I find the games are bogged down by an utterly convoluted, incomprehensible plot, cliched original characters, and often monotonous gameplay. Not to mention the fact that all the spinoff titles released on a myriad of different platforms all serve as parts of the main story have made it impossible for anyone but the most diehard of fans to follow.

But by God, Kingdom Hearts 3 has a Frozen level!

Allow me to fanboy-out for a moment here. Frozen is my favorite Disney animated film, and yes, one of my favorite films, period. And yes, its presence in Kingdom Hearts 3 is enough to sell me on buying the game (again, the series isn’t horrible. If it were, I wouldn’t buy it even with the Frozen stuff).

Now, this really shouldn’t come as any sort of surprise. Seeing as Frozen is the biggest animated film in history – and is especially popular in Japan – it would be nothing short of dumbfounding to leave it out of a game filled with Disney franchises. But to actually see it in action is just…YES!

On the downside, some of the dialogue in the reveal trailer suggests that this entry may still suffer from the narrative gobbledygook of the series. But heck, I’ll push through it for Anna and Elsa.

Although I still have my skepticisms with Kingdom Hearts 3, I do admit I’m intrigued by the fact that it seems to be emphasizing modern Disney movies more than past entries of the series. Along with Frozen, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, and Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. have already been announced. I’ve made it no secret that I think Disney’s current run is their best ever (I don’t care what your nostalgia says). So while some older Disney films will be making a return (Hercules), I’m happy to see something as prominent as Kingdom Hearts is putting modern Disney in the spotlight.

Yeah, I would probably prefer Kingdom Hearts if it were just the Disney (and Final Fantasy) characters. But whatever. We get Frozen. And they even nabbed Josh Gad to voice Olaf for the game, which is pretty great.

Anyway, here’s the reveal trailer for the Frozen stuff in KH3, though be warned, some elements are clearly unfinished (pretty sure Elsa’s ice blast is supposed to have sound), which makes some parts a little awkward. Same goes for the fact that Haley Joel Osment is still the voice of Sora, despite the actor now being 30 and the character still a teenager (have we learned nothing from Goku’s ungodly Japanese voice?).

 

…I promise I’ll add meaningful content soon.