OK Activision, you send me this little Spyro figure a few days before E3 and tell me to bring it with me? Oh great, another thing to have to remember to pack! Ha ha! Just joking! I didn’t mind bringing it with me. So what’s the significance of this little Spyro toy? Well you’ll just have to read day two of my E3 adventures to find out, and see what other games I played in the South Hall!
Day 2 was a total South Hall day, where most of the big third parties show off their stuff. It started off at Activision to check out their new Spyro the Dragon game: Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure. It stars Spyro and his several new friends, all of which will be playable in the game. Gameplay reminded me of other co-op titles like Gauntlet or Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. But here’s what makes Skylanders unique. Included in the game are a couple of figures, and a stand to put them on. Other characters will be sold separately, and there will be more than 30 in all. You can switch out characters simply by removing one and placing another on the stand. Each character represents an element (earth, water, fire, magic, etc.), and when you place them on the stand, a light changes color to let you know what element they are (yeah I’m easily amused by pretty lights). Changing characters is easy, and the figure saves your experience points and gold right on it. Best of all, you can take it off and go play the same game at a friend’s house and use your character, even if they have a different game console! Yup, the figures will work on any version of the game, Wii, 360, or whatever! Kids love playing video games and collecting action figures, so we’ll just have to see if putting the two together will really take off. (and what happens if your kids lose the figures?)
Other games Activision was showing off were new Spiderman and X-Men games, as well as sequels to popular franchises such as Prototype 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The Activision booth even had a panoramic theater all around the booth to promote their upcoming wares. It was like going to Disney World or something in there!
Natsume is best known for their Harvest Moon farming simulations, and they didn’t disappoint at this year’s E3.
First up is Harvest Moon: TheTale of Two Towns for DS and 3DS. In this one, you can choose to live in two rival towns. One has an eastern vibe with growing crops as their specialty, and the other has a European feel, with more animals to raise at first. Graphics are significantly better than past installments, and you can take on farming missions and compete in the cooking contest held each month between both towns. The 3DS version will have some neat SpotPass capabilities, too!
I’ve always liked the Rune Factory series a little better, however, because when you get bored of farming you can venture into dungeons to fight monsters. So I was glad to see Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny for PS3 and Wii, coming later this year. In this one, you grow your crops and raise your livestock inside a giant golem. They even had an inflatable golem at the booth, but it looked more like it had been in a fight with a birthday cake!
This installment of Rune Factory breaks the tradition of other Harvest Moon and Rune Factory games that’s been a bit problematic as of late. It definitely doesn’t feel like more of the same this time. You’ll want to befriend as many monsters as you can, because each one can grow different crops for you, and they’re the ones in charge of that task this time! To travel to different lands, you must control the giant golem and have it unearth islands in a vast ocean, then your character can go to the islands to fight monsters. Your golem can even fight giant sea monsters, Godzilla style. Just like other Rune Factory games, your character can befriend people in town and even marry one. The storyline has your childhood friend’s soul being trapped inside your body. But when you free her, you can play as her and marry one of the town’s eligible bachelors, too. The graphics in this one are really great, and I love the character designs. I even suggested to the developers that they make an artbook as a pre-order bonus. I hope they take my suggestion to heart.
The last game I checked out at Natsume’s booth was Gabrielle’s Ghostly Groove, a story-based music and dance game for 3DS. Gabrielle accidentally sneezed out her soul, and now she must travel to a monster town to get it back. She’ll befriend monsters like a vampire and wolfman, and use the touch screen to dance along to spooky beats. There are also mini-games to play, like helping the wolfman feed popcorn to baby birds. You can unlock all sorts of outfits and goodies for Gabrielle, and it looks like a lot of silly, spooky fun when it releases around Halloween, according to one of the developers.
2K Games drew a crowd with a lot of their popular titles, like Duke Nukem Forever. But I was there to meet with 2K Play, the division that deals with more of their family games. Their biggest announcement was Nicktoon MLB, a baseball game featuring Nickelodeon cartoon stars and MLB players! Choose to be popular characters like SpongeBob Squarepants, Ren & Stimpy, Ang from Avatar, and even Invader ZIM (Yay!). Or select players from real life MLB teams! Then play on fantasy stadiums from cartoons like Invader ZIM, or real stadiums like the Ballpark in Arlington (Go Rangers! Hey, I live in Dallas so I have to root for the home team). Even the announcers are from cartoons—the reporter fish from SpongeBob and GIR from Invader ZIM (Double Yay) are the play by play commentators. (I bet by now you can guess my favorite Nicktoon). It’ll be out in August for Wii and 360 Kinect, but if you don’t have Kinect, you can still just use the 360 controller!
Other games 2K Play had at E3 were Nickelodeon Dance for Wii and Kinect, where young players dance along with Dora, Diego, the Backyardigans, and the Fresh Beat Band from Nick Jr. They’ll dance along to popular radio songs as well as Nick Jr. tunes. Too bad there’s no Wonder Pets. Parents can even choose dances to give their kids more of a cardio workout.
On the DS is Dora and Kai-Lan’s Pet Shelter, where the two Nick Jr. stars team up to help out lost animals and find them new homes. Also there’s Team UmiZoomi, a DS game based on the popular new Nick Jr. show where three friends use their mighty math skills to solve problems and help out others. And on Kinect is a cheerleading game where you can dance and shout out the cheers.
I only got to check out a couple of games here, but both are remakes of classic Atari titles. One is Centipede for the Wii. You move your character around with the nunchuck and aim to shoot with the remote. So it really plays more like Smash TV. Good news is it is made by WayForward, so you know it’ll be good and challenging. Atari also had a remake of Warlords, but I didn’t get a chance to play it much.
They had a ton of games at Sega’s booth, but I mostly checked out the Sonic ones, as kids love Sonic. First was Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games 2012, which has a lot of same stuff, with new events like equestrian and badminton. New fantasy events include a cloud bouncing long jump event set in the Yoshi’s Story fabric world.
Next up was the new Sonic game: Sonic Generations. It features the best of both worlds: 2-D stages starring classic chubby Sonic, and 3-D worlds with new Sonic. It was neat being able to play through classic Green Hill in 3-D. On the 360 version, you could even wear 3-D glasses. The 3DS Sonic Generations game was all in 2-D, but the levels starring new Sonic played more like Sonic Rush.
I also tried a version of Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing on the iPad, and that was the very first time I ever even tried an iPad! But a really nice lady at Sega helped me through it. It looks nearly as good as the 360 version, but it’ll take me a while to get used to the motion controls.
Before leaving Sega I checked out a new Shinobi game on 3DS, as well as Crush 3D, based on the cult favorite PSP puzzler. In it, you switch the world from 2-D to 3-D and back to make it to the goal. I’m glad they’re putting it on 3DS because I missed out on it when it was on PSP.
Wargaming.net and World of Tanks
Lately my brother Jeff has been addicted to a free to play online game called World of Tanks. They were at E3 big time, so I decided to check them out. They even brought in real tanks! Anyway, while Jeff has different tastes in games than I do, he still has good taste, so I recommend checking out World of Tanks.
Another popular free to play online game company, Nexon (makers of Maple Story), was showing off two games at E3. One was Vindictus, which I already tried at PAX. The other was Dragon Nest, a console quality game which features action based dungeon crawling and fighting in 3-D. I wish I had more time to play these online games, because there’s a bunch from Nexon that I would probably really get into. I also have to say that every year I’ve been to E3 and PAX, Nexon has been one of the most hospitable companies I’ve dealt with.
Disney Interactive Studios
Disney had games shown based on their most popular licenses and characters, like a racing game based on their new movie Cars 2.
They were also promoting the heck out of a new Phineas and Ferb game. Never really got into that cartoon, myself. Also in Disney Universe, you create a character and dress it up as a popular Disney character, then go through worlds like the door factory from Monsters Inc., in a game that reminds me of other multiplayer titles like Gauntlet. Last I saw a new Kinect game where you explore the Disneyland theme park.
Ubisoft was celebrating their 25th Anniversary at their E3 booth with tons of games. Only a few of them caught my eye. Rayman Origins was a new 2-D Rayman game, paying homage to the original. They also had a game based on the new TinTin movie, which is based on a popular European comic book series. I even think they had a new Your Shape game for Kinect.
Most of their booth was open space with a giant screen to show trailers of upcoming titles.
I think one of the only games they had playable was Final Fantasy XIII-2. I used to be such a big FF fan back in the 16-bit days, but I just can’t keep up with them now! The only other thing I noticed in their booth was displays with lots of figures and toys.
I didn’t spend a lot of time in Microsoft’s booth either, as they were showing mostly third party stuff I could play in other booths. Since the Kinect came out, one of the challenges companies have discovered is how to showcase games at trade events like E3, because you need good space and lighting to make them work well. At Microsoft’s booth, they had little enclosed rooms for each Kinect game, but the walls were see-through so others can watch. The workers there called them ‘pods.’
Sorry EA, but I only spent about three minutes in your booth. Why? Because it was way too loud! They had the bass turned up so much that it made my organs vibrate. After a minute of that, my stomach started to hurt, so I had to get out of there. Don’t they have noise limits at these shows?
The company responsible for my most favorite game of all time (Pac-Man) had a big showing at E3, although I was disappointed at the lack of Soul Calibur V stuff. On the Bandai side was a new Power Rangers game, while Namco had new Ace Combat games crashing on Xbox and 3DS.
One neat title was Go Vacation, a Wii game that combines the fun of We Ski and Snowboard with We Cheer and a bunch of other vacation themed mini games. Brother Jeff called it “Namco presents Every Game in the World!” But both me and Jeff are big fans of the We Ski games, so we’re both looking forward to this one, too.
Namco was celebrating Galaga’s 30th Anniversary at their booth as well. An artist painted a big picture of it, here’s what it looked like on day one:
And here’s what it looked like when finished:
Here’s a picture of the logo that was on every Namco Bandai employee’s shirt at the show. I wanted one of those shirts so badly.
They had Galaga Legions DX on display, and I got a Galaga lanyard after playing it. Also was a Galaxian update for cell phones and iPads. But that was it. I was a little disappointed they didn’t have the upcoming 3DS game Pac-Man and Galaga Dimensions playable, as I was hoping to try it. In fact, the only Pac-Man thing they had was this guy promoting Pac-Man Party 3D for the 3DS. Lame. Really, Namco? Pac-Man Party on the Wii was awful.
Tecmo Koei America
On the Tecmo side, they had Ninja Gaiden 3 and Gallop Racer, a horse racing game on Wii. On the Koei side was lots of Dynasty Warriors stuff, like Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3.
They had an artist drawing pictures with the U Draw Wii controller, as well as UFC and WWE games. They also had a game called Space Marines, based on the Warhammer license. That section of the booth had a neat spaceship looking thing and some HUGE costumed guys who looked like they were about to fight, probably over the booth babes in the background.
Their big displays were for Batman: Arkham City and LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7. But I didn’t play those. I did check out their Sesame Street titles, however. One was for the Wii and called Ready, Set, Grover! It had a Grover Wii remote cover like the other Sesame Street Wii games had. But the Sesame Street title that really stood out was Once Upon a Monster, a Kinect game you can play with your kids. It stars Elmo and Cookie as they befriend a storybook monster, and play games together. In one game, you had to throw treats to feed some wild creatures. I thought they said they were ‘buffalo biscuits,’ but the critters sure didn’t look like buffalo!
And finally, Konami’s booth had a lot of games. Most of them I wasn’t interested in. A few Metal Gear announcements, Silent Hill stuff, a Glee singing game, etc. But after doing some sniffing around, I found a few hidden gems right up my alley, like a downloadable 2-D fighter called Skullgirls.
Another downloadable game is an update to one of my favorite arcade classics. BurgerTime World Tour features 3-D graphics, with levels that wrap around like a cylinder. Gameplay is mostly the same, but there are a few new food enemies like chili peppers. When you squish these new enemies in your burgers, you get bonus points for making new recipes. The chili pepper enemies squished in your burgers make them be Spicy Burgers for instance. Only thing I didn’t like was the art style. Chef Peter Pepper looks too lanky and has a dorky handlebar moustache. But I guess that’s being too picky. Playing BurgerTime World Tour made me hungry for hamburgers, though, so before we left for the airport on the third day, we stopped off at In and Out Burger, a California favorite. They’re pretty good, I guess.
On the 3DS, Konami had Frogger 3D, which had the familiar classic gameplay Frogger fans know and love. The level I saw was a road with intersections, with some of the worst drivers in the world. There were tons of car wrecks you had to avoid, and at the end of the road, a giant truck that took up all the lanes just crashed through everything. Our little frog is going to have his work cut out for him! I overheard some people saying the 3D effects were really good, but I wouldn’t know since I’m blind in my left eye.
And finally I tried Otomedius Excellent. It’s actually a Gradius game with cute anime girls as the characters. Not quite as silly as Parodius, though. The girls ride the Vic Viper ships around their waists, like pool toys. But the rest of it is classic Gradius. Except some of the weapons are silly, like punching gloves. The first level was a sunny beach and ocean stage, and the boss made reference to the first boss in the original Gradius.
If you see a video of someone playing Otomedius Excellent on TV or the Internet, there’s a chance it might be me playing it! As I was demoing it, a film crew came up behind me and starting recording! I even heard one of the guys filming say that I had “Mad Skillz.” Which really wasn’t true, I was playing on Easy and it was probably one of the first levels. But even so, it was nice to hear that I was good at video games, since I don’t get that very often.
And that’s all I did on the second day. Click here to go to Day 3!