Friday, June 22, 2012

E3 2012

So in addition to my crazy-hectic career as a comic book colorist-extraordinaire, I've done some part-time illustration work for a company called SoMoGa Games, most specifically on some graphics for the iOS ports of Sega CD classics Vay and (the still unreleased) Lunar: The Silver Star. The gents at SoMoGa were kind enough to fly me out to LA for this year's E3 for a day and it was an awesome, surreal and exciting experience!
Headed into E3's last day, I figured there were still gonna' be crazy lines - almost all the biggest announcements had already happened and at this point most everything was playable. But actually E3 seemed to - most of the time - keep things moving like clockwork. It was pretty rad! By the end of the day, I'd actually managed to get my hands on every game that I was really interested in. So if you're interested, I thought I might share thoughts on a few:

It's-a-new Mario! With Nintendo's Wii U being the only new hardware on display this year, we made dropping by their Nintendo Land funhouse one of our biggest stops. The Wii U tablet controller is pretty rad, by the way - pretty lightweight, nifty features. None of which seemed particularly necessary to the New Super Mario Bros. U demo we played. Nintendo invented the sidescrolling platformer and each game in the New Super Mario Bros. franchise just innovates and perfects the formula. And it's great to see Mario and co finally in higher-res graphics. (But really, we've got two Toads again for players 3 and 4?)
Speaking of side-scrollers, if you managed to track down one of the lovely ladies carrying around Nintendo's 3DS "demo stations" on Thursday afternoon you got to try New Super Mario Bros. 2. Or "Super Mario Bling Bling," as I've heard it called. The goal of the platformer is grabbin' them golden coins - which, I dunno, I would've thought thematically would've worked better for a Super Wario Bros. game or something. However, the racoon leaf power-up from Super Mario Bros. 3 is back in this game and it is awesome! Just as before, work up enough of a run and you can take flight, introducing some vertical design and secrets back into the SMB world. So exciting. Also, maybe it's just me, but the emphasis on gold-rush seems to add some extra difficulty to these levels. This may just be the Mario Bros. for you if you want classic platforming gameplay with that old NES-era challenge.
In what's clearly meant to be the Wii U's technical demo pack-in, Nintendo Land is a collection of mini-games themed after popular Nintendo franchises that demonstrate some of the features of the Wii U tablet and the "assymetrical gameplay" concept. We demoed the Zelda-themed Battle Quest - quite fun and visually a little like something out of Little Big Planet, but I didn't see anyone take down the final boss. Donkey Kong's Crash Course is a physics game that could've been downloaded off the Apple app store, but the music and graphics and extra inputs for certain obstacles make it a great time. Luigi's Ghost Mansion was alright, if a little frustrating if you didn't pay 100% attention when they pointed out which player you were. (Whoops. My bad.)
Scribblenauts Unlimited is adorable. This seems like a game that you can just get lost in for hours on end for as long as your imagination lasts, and I would want my kids to play this if I had kids. Having never played previous Scribblenauts, I'm not totally sure where the game is in this game but bringing the stuff that pops into your head onto screen is tremendously rewarding and exciting to see how it all interacts. (And we've all heard you can summon Cthulu and the Krakken, but brace yourself for cute overload when you put in the words "Nyan Cat.")
Rolling over to the Sony booth to check out some of their upcoming exclusives, I immediately gravitated to Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. I love me some RPGs and Studio Ghibli films, so what could be more kick-ass than combining the two?? This is a beautiful game. The character models do their best to impersonate cel-shaded anime characters and the background artwork looks like a beatiful painting come to 3D life. I played the more explorative town demo which capped off with a boss fight. The battle system... Well, I'm not sure what the hell I was doing. I miss RPGs where my characters stand on one side and the enemy on the other and we duke it out in turns. Everyone running everywhere and I just get lost! I desperately wanted this to be a must-have purchase, but now I think I may need to rent it first and see if some tutorials can better prepare me for battle.
In a sea of grey-brown first-person shooters rated T to M, I really wanted to love a game featuring smart-ass talking animals. But Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time is friggin' hard. The game is graphicly superb but I had to have the guy manning the demo talk me through every action. Perhaps it's because I'd never played any of the previous Sly Cooper games, or that I've generally avoided stealth games. (Sorry, Metal Gear.) Still on my list of games I'll check out, and I hope that starting from the beginning will give me the learning curve I need.
Since it was first announced, Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale has been saddled with the nickname "Sony Super Smash Bros." ...Which, okay, actually rolls off the tongue better anyway. It's impossible to deny that All-Stars is inspired by the critical and commercial juggernaut of Nintendo's, but that doesn't mean it's bad. Quite contrary, in fact. It's solid and lots of fun! None of these characters I would call near-and-dear to my heart with the exception of Parappa the Rapper, maybe... And coming from wildly different games, the fighters and visuals just don't quite mesh as well together as the Smash Bros. universe. The biggest departure from Nintendo's formula is the removal of the platforming stuff. You're no longer trying to knock your opponent off the field but instead charge up super moves to kill them. I'm not sure that this franchise will take off like the one it's clearly inspired by, but this is one that I am very excited to add to my PS3 collection.
...C'mon, guys. Let's just make Kingdom Hearts 3 already, huh? That said, I really need to buy a 3DS. Every game that's out now or coming out that I really want to play is for that handheld in particular. And now it comes in a wicked XL format! (Ah, Nintendo. Never buy any handheld on day one. Just like an iPad/iPhone/iAnything, a way cooler model is just a year or so down the road.) Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance looks great and I'm psyched for it. 


And, well, that pretty much wraps things up! Thanks again so much to the guys at SoMoGa for bringing me out there! E3 was definitely one of those things that I never really thought that I'd be fortunate enough to attend, and it was a wonderful experience!

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