In past years, E3's offerings have made us wonder just how much longer the game industry has left before it collapses under the weight of its recycled ideas and overlarge budgets. This year, though, the biggest question of the whole convention was, "Is Microsoft a company of complete idiots, or consummate sociopaths?" Their threadbare offering seems to speak to the former, but we've got a couple months left before they launch the Xbox One. They've already balked on their DRM policy. Maybe they'll think twice about forcing you to use a peripheral that nobody liked this generation, and is set to be surreptitiously spying on you 24 hours a day.
But hey, at least there was a fair number of new games for me to check out:
Last year's Ninja Gaiden offering turned out to be a big disappointment because as it turns out, people don't really care about Ryu Hayabusa beyond his ability to brutalize enemy ninjas in the most gleefully gory fashion, and seeing him struggle with sissy emotions like guilt just didn't mesh with the overall tone of the series. Thank goodness that the creative team has decided to abandon that terrible direction and instead take the series in a brand new terrible direction.
The demo opens with the eponymous Yaiba being cut almost in half by Ryu. As anyone who played Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 know, however, it takes more to kill a ninja than mere bifurcation. Yaiba gets some cybernetic upgrades (including an eye which his sidekick claims cost a billion dollars) and is sent out to quell a zombie invasion. Oh, but this is no ordinary ninja romp. Yaiba's brush with death has made him super cynical, so he curses a lot and shits on ninja ideas like honor and those triangular knives that the History Channel tells me were not actually used for throwing. The end result is that the game feels like Team Ninja is trying to make a ninja game in the Devil May Cry universe, only with worse graphics. Combat feels boring and repetitive in spite of Yaiba having a rocket-powered fist, which makes me think the entire game will just be a series of disappointments echoing my incredulity at being disappointed by a rocket fist for the first time in a long time.
I've been looking forward to Dragon's Crown ever since I found out Vanillaware was being allowed to make more fantastic games. Fans of sidescrolling beat 'em up games will love the depth of the combat system, while fans of oversized T 'n A will love George Kamitani's decidedly generous character designs. My own experience with the demo was marred only by the fact that I jumped in shortly after some guy had left in the middle of a fight, leaving me to finish it, and then wander around town trying to figure out what to do next without doing a whole lot of reading. Sadly, the attendant was no help there. Doesn't he know I have a ton of other video games to tool around with for a few minutes and cast aspersions on like I'm a person of authority? THAT'S WHAT E3 IS ALL ABOUT!!!
I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the Ys series. It's only the second biggest RPG series to come out of Japan. I kid, though. Most people, if you asked them what the two biggest Japanese RPG series were, would answer, "Final Fantasy" and, "... Resident Evil?"
Nevertheless, plans have been made to bring this latest installment to North America so that people can continue to ask questions like, "what game are you talking about?" and "how do you pronounce that?" In answer to my own unasked question, the attendant explained that Memories of Celceta is a remake of Ys IV: The Mask of the Sun, which itself took place before the events of Ys II: Wanderers from Ys, but after the events of Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished - The Final Chapter. Years later, Ys III would be remade as Ys: The Oath in Felghana, while Ys II would be remade with Ys I as Ys: Book I and II, and later remade again as Ys: Eternal, which would be remade once more as Ys: Complete. Also, there was a five, six, and seven in the series, but it's hard to get excited about games that haven't been remade at least once. Point is, they all had great music to go along with combat that was mostly just running into people slightly askance.
Luftrausers has something to do with flying planes and German, but mostly the former. I'd be lying if I said I was entirely sure of what I was doing during the few minutes I spent steering a ship around a crowded seascape the color of a Gameboy afternoon. There were many planes to shoot down, and a few large ships to bombard, and there seemed to be some kind of score-based performance system that lead to further unlockable elements. Not a lot to it, graphically or otherwise, but good enough that it might be worth shelling out a couple bucks to find out if you can unlock color at some point.
It seems like it's been a while since we had a new Suda51 game. For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, Suda51 is a game developer with an... eclectic taste. This is a man whose last game featured a level where you walk across the ass of a giant stripper and kill giant monsters with a giant gun called the "Big Boner", and that was considered unusually tame for him!
Killer is Dead feels like more of a return to form for him. You guide Mondo Zappa as he tries to get out from under the shadow of his famous musician father, Frank, by becoming an assassin. I think. All I'm really sure about is the assassin part. Of course, if you were trying to covertly remove someone, you probably wouldn't want to employ a man with a giant laser/machine gun/drill in place of one arm, but the man gets results. I admit I really don't know much about what's going on in the demo, apart from two things: 1. When a singer loses their ears, they lose their ability to sing, and 2. When the moon turns pink, that means it's full of malice.
Later portions of the game include "gigolo" missions, wherein you must make conversation with a woman while covertly ogling her cans. And yet this is still a more focused assassin game than the entire Assassin's Creed series.
DuckTales is getting a new game, did you hear about that? Well, not a new game per se, just an HD remake of the original. It's got all the original levels, new versions of the original songs, and they got the cast from the show to provide voices and give context to Scrooge putting half the known world to the cane. Having voices and reverence for the source material is fine, but one wonders if they'll have the foresight to leave some part of the game aside for swimming through that huge vault full of money that Scrooge had. Also, will the Moon theme be as great to listen to as it was in the original?
If ever there's a 2D platformer out there, I will play it and probably find something to like about it. Mercenary Kings was one of those titles where I didn't have to dig too deep to find something to like. Imagine if Metal Slug had a baby with Borderlands, and you'll still require a good amount of explanation before it will even begin to make sense.
The plot is about becoming the king of the mercenaries, and the only way to do this is by shooting people, finding different gun components, crafting new guns with said components, and then starting the whole thing over again. Is that the real story of the game? Who knows? Certainly not me, but it did make for an entertaining demo. Not entertaining enough that I would shell out $399 US to buy a PS4 to get it, but thank goodness it's also due for a PC release. Not sure when, though. The dev running the booth seemed to think it would happen after the PS4 release, so mark your calendars for sometime this December or later!
Rog and I actually tried this cooperative game at an earlier E3 some years back. The basic idea is that you both have to proceed from left to right utilizing the upper and lower halves of the path itself, dodging enemies and collecting fragments of white fragments that explodes out of slain enemies. Well... I think it was important to collect the white fragments. It seemed like they were there for some reason, possibly a well-hidden RPG system that lets you buy upgrades like horse armor, and horses to put that armor on.
The tricky part is that when one player dies, the other one dies as well. And there's this brief period after the initial death when the other player has to look on and realize that he's about to pay the price for his partner's incompetence. Just long enough for you to go, "aw fu-". Thankfully, there didn't appear to be a limit to the number of times you could die. Or a point to any of this, truth be told. We put in about two minutes (which was maybe about thirty seconds more than we put into it the first time around) before we swore off cooperation forever.
Domo-Kun has an ipad game due out sometime in the coming year. It involves jumping up platforms, avoiding spikes, eating food, and... that's about it. What do you want, it's an ipad game! And don't give me any of that "I can run XCOM: Enemy Unknown on my ipad" nonsense! I'm talking about everyone's favorite talking ice cream sandwich, for god's sake.
After about five minutes of bouncing higher and higher while cramming foodstuffs into Domo's perpetually gaping maw, I couldn't help but notice that there was no way to actually lose the game, apart from growing bored and walking away. I lost this game.
Fresh of the success of the critically and commerically-panned Silent Hill Memories, Konami decided to play this year's E3 a little more conservatively, sticking it to fans of only one of their beloved franchises. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 picks up right where the original left off: with Patrick Stewart laughing in your face and reminding you that you'll likely never see another Metroidvania game from the series again.
Lest you think they completely forgot fans of the original series, Konami did decide to keep one thing: Simon Belmont's inexplicably pink hair from Castlevania Chronicles. Come on, you nit-picking fanboys, they're meeting you halfway!!
For my money, the Saint's Row series has been the one that best captured the spirit of open world crime-centric games. It just doesn't seem like you can reasonably expect a lot of seriousness if your game routinely has you harassing the police until they eventually unleash the army on you. The third installment was a good time, but it seemed like they were scaling back the fun and customization of the series in favor of implementing more bizarre outfits and dildo bats.
The demo for IV definitely leaves avenues open for more creative mayhem, but it draws some semi-troubling questions. The story moves into the realm of science fiction as aliens invade, and somehow you gain superpowers. And really, the transition from localized gang conflicts to intergalactic war has been so gradual that I couldn't really say the series has jumped the shark (shark jumping may wind up as DLC). I had the chance to try out super speed and jumping. Loads of fun, but it sort of changes the scale of the game when you can run and jump your way across a city in less time than it would have taken to steal a car and drive from one end to the other. And combat is a bit simpler when you can activate a power than instantly ignites anyone within ten feet of you, or worse, crush enemies and cars alike with the terrifying power of the Dubstep Gun. Customization may have changed, but I was too busy racing down the street at 100mph lighting people on fire for no particular reason other than I had found a way to do it much more efficiently than I had ever done before.
Also worrisome is the fact that the game takes place in the same town as the last one, only roughed up by the aforementioned alien invasion. Super powers and a recycled city sounds a lot like the briefly-entertaining Crackdown 2, but if anyone can make it work, it's the team that concluded the endgame content of their previous game with the player character using a fart-in-a-jar.
I really ought to be embarrassed about how easy it is to draw me in with little more than sprites in a 2D game, but I'm not. Super Time Force drew me in with its sprites, then held onto me with its old school gameplay. Then it let go of me with that same punishing old school gameplay.
Time is a precious resource. Nowhere is that more apparent than at a three-day electronic gaming conference where you have to tear ass around the convention halls playing as many demos as you can before your feet give out and you become so hungry that you give serious thought to buying a $30 pizza from the commissary. In that same spirit, Super Time Force gives you command of a team of experts and one minute to reach the end of the level. If you die, rewind. If you pick a crappy team member (like the shield guy), rewind. I tried them all and got about 3/4 of the way through the second seen before sputtering out and desperately rewinding to a few seconds earlier to try and rectify things. Instead, I was left with a one minute trail-ure of failure.
And I can't wait to try it again.
Sitting apart from the known releases was a game entitled Ascend: Hand of Kul. Having played the demo, I could not tell if I was the aforementioned hand, or if I was some guy named Kul who has a deadly hand, or if I was in such a position as I needed to earn my way up to Hand of Kul, perhaps starting as a mere Footpad of Kul.
My initial impression was the latter, as the demo began with me slogging through an empty dungeon swatting tiny enemies like flies with my giant steel flyswatter. Magic factored into the whole experience as well, but I swiftly ran out of magic trying to blast all the little creatures that would run away right as I was warming up a nice, ponderous sword swing for them. At some point, I squashed enough ants to earn a level up, but then I was whisked away because my realm was being attacked by some stranger. It turned out to be another muscular dude with a slightly different sword. I gave him the mightiest swatting of all and was congratulated for doing so. My reward: having to redo the entire dungeon level from scratch. I decided to end on a high note.
Somewhere in the course of all that drudgery, I did manage to find a fish hat:
Truly, Kul is good. Blessed be his name.
Longtime readers of I-Mockery will recall some of the past features we've done on the works of James Silva in our Indie Game Features section. Would you believe years later, and after the success of The Dishwasher series, he still has it out for zombies? And he still loves punk?
Now they've combined once again to form Charlie Murder. All I can say for sure about it is that you play one of the four members of a punk band, and you beat the shit out of zombies, demons, robots, and still have time to level up. Imagine if the Scott Pilgrim game were about fighting monsters instead of hipsters. I mean, there may be opportunities to kill hipsters in Charlie Murder, but not exclusively. Anyway, the man knows beat 'em ups, and his ability to create gruesome dismemberment has grown exponentially with each new title under his belt.
The Ska Studios site has it scheduled for a summer release. And hey, why not stop by the site and check out 100+ photos of cats? It's going to be a hot summer!
We didn't have a chance to try the new zombie game Dying Light, but I still wanted to at least mention it. Information on the game was scarce, but judging from its tagline, "Good night, good luck," I have to assume it's an allegory about the conflict between Edward R. Murrow and Joe McCarthy. That the zombies represent society's fears about the slow creep of communism I understand; I just wonder if this means the protagonist will be a journalist, because that's already been down. At the very least, I hope we'll see a towering mechanical Annie Lee Moss.
The day was winding down fast, and I didn't have a chance to play the new Deadpool game. Don't get me wrong; I like Deadpool as a character, but his likeability varies sharply depending on whose hands he's in. Far be it for me to be pessimistic about video games, but it's not often that a game based on a well-known character turns out to be much more than just fanservice with some gameplay begrudgingly stapled on. I'd just as soon hold for a game that does justice to the character.
Or one that features a cameo by Dr. Bong. That would be fine, too.
Our last stop was at the demo for The Last of Us. This is a game that tries to draw the player in with a rich story about a man and a little girl trying to find safety amidst the zombie apocalypse. It's exactly the sort of game that really loses out when you try to cut it down to demo size.
Not surprising, then, that skulking around an empty town, moving planks around and stopping just long enough to clobber a zombie with a pipe seemed kind of dull sans context. Eventually, I stumbled into a snare and had to shoot zombies upside down for a couple minutes while waiting for the kid to let me down. I'll say this for the game: they know that the best way to run a game where you have to babysit an NPC is to make sure enemies are largely ignorant of said NPC baggage.
Eventually, I got down from the snare and faced off with a bunch of zombies. I could shoot a couple before one instantly killed my by ripping a chunk out of my neck. Then I got stuck in a loop of neck bites and reloading until I figured out you're supposed to run in that situation. Unfortunately, the run button on the controller was busted, so ol' Beardy Tenderneck had to jog lightly away from the slavering fungoid zombies. My reward for all that was talking to some redneck, so lucky me!
At this point, it's looking more and more like your best bet for gaming in the coming year is to stick with smaller titles. Pay a few bucks for a small, downloadable game, then back the developers through their struggles until they become so large that they forget all about the people who elevated them to that level and pack their new titles with anti-consumer crap that'll make you turn your back on them in favor of smaller devs again. And then Microsoft puts a chip in your neck so they can monitor your brain activity while you slog through Gears of War IX.
Anyway, Rog has some interesting photos and videos of additional things we saw at E3 this year, so click through to the next page to see all the madness:
There's still much more to see from
I-Mockery's coverage of E3 2013!
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