You know how when you go on a really nice trip, you want to come home and show off pictures from your trip to your friends? And you spend thousands of dollars to buy booth space at an event open only to professional slideshow viewers? And you require those slideshow viewers to stand in long lines and not take any photos of your slideshow, even though you openly want them to tell everyone they know about what they see because when the time comes for your friends to take that trip you've been crowing about for months, you're worried that they'll see it was actually crap and you were lying to them with a bunch of misleading photos and fake stories about how you made friends with a local family that took you in and laughed at all your jokes and now you have a place to stay for free the next time you go back?
That's basically what E3 is like.
We've got a veritable gallery of fun pictures and games that mostly don't suck, all for your reading pleasure. Mostly smaller titles since important industry types like us can't be arsed to stand in line for 50 minutes to watch a video for a game that won't be playable for more than a year. Don't worry, though: we'll have plenty of coverage for those games once they're well out of the Speculation Zone and are actually available to play.
For now, however, let's get on with the games that we did play!
Enter the Gungeon
Look, you know me. If there's one thing I like, it's pixel art. If you told me you had a picture of my grandfather's corpse, but that it had been rendered in an 8-bit/16-bit art style, I'd probably spend an inordinate amount of time looking at it and nodding in approval as a single tear rolled down my cheek. The other thing I like, that I both love and hate in equal parts, it Rogue-like games. And when you combine those two things, you have my attention.
There's probably a story to explain why you pick a hero to enter a dungeon that's as filled with loot as it is with gun puns, but that didn't really come across in my brief time with the game. All that matters is that you fight off legions of bullet-shaped enemies called the Gundead as you search for a bottom to the gungeon, and presumably the largest gun of all. It's a twin stick shooter with maps laid out like Zelda dungeons (I mean, zelda gungeons) with the added bonus of being able to dodge gunfire and flip over liberal amounts of tables to create your own obstacles. It all looks great, particularly the climactic battle with minigun-wielding boss character Gatling Gull, and I can't wait to check this one out. Sadly, you will have to do just that, as it is currently slated for a release sometime in early 2016. Until then, keep your powder dry.
Earth Defense Force 4.1
For the most part, we avoided HD re-releases of games, but Earth Defense Force is just too great to pass up.
Rather than giving this remastering of EDF 2025 another futuristic year as an identifier, the devs have chosen to amend the Japanese title with an extra ".1". It seems like that might give the impression that the new version hasn't changed all that much, but then that might actually be the case. The attendant mentioned that the major improvement in 4.1 is a significant reduction in the amount of framerate drops that take place with the screen is filled with spiders and robots and bigger robots. Not a total elimination, mind you, just a reduction.
I didn't notice any slowdown in my time with it, but I would've hoped for a bit more if they want me to buy the same game again. Oh well. At least current-gen owners will finally get a chance to experience the majesty of firing five nukes at once to blow up one giant ant while simultaneously getting cursed out by your partner whose corpse you just blasted onto the other side of the map.
Onechanbara Z2 Chaos
I'll hand it to D3: people keep calling the Onechanbara games crap, but they keep making them. New to this one are two more characters: one more adult woman in a bikini and cowboy hat, and one more teenager in a dress. They have names, but it doesn't matter. Hell, the zombie-killing portion of the game barely matters.
In contrast to the last two titles in series, this one actually seems to be making an attempt at being a legitimate game instead of just a dressup simulator with some combat tacked on: Multiple characters with multiple weapons to use, combat that involves the use of more than a single button, enemies that do more than trudge around waiting to be cleaved in 'twain, and actual difficultly outside of boss encounters. Also boobs. If they keep this up, the full game might soar as high as a 7. Or dare to dream, an 8!
It wouldn't be E3 if I didn't pick out at least one multiplayer game in which to trounce Rog. This time, that game was Gang Beasts, a game where you and your friends each control a colorful doll-like character and try to knock each other out and toss each other into pits, grinders, etc. The hook is that all the punching, kicking, lifting, grabbing, and dragging is done via the game's own physics engine, so if you want to toss your opponent over a railing, you'll need to grab them and sort of finagle the joystick until you push them over the edge. And hope your momentum doesn't carry you over the edge. Or that your opponent doesn't regain consciousness at the last second and grab you as he goes over.
What follows is flailing. Flailing like you wouldn't believe. Because while the basic idea behind tossing someone over an edge seems simple enough (grab, lift, release), the execution is much more complicated. You try punching your opponent in the face, but he grabs you and starts punching you in the face, then you both start dancing around trying to wiggle free while also getting your licks in, and then the other players jump in. All this while you're in a stage that is actively trying to kill you more often than not.
My only real gripe is that the camera gets a little out of control when the players are separated. Most of the time, the levels are small enough that this is never a problem, but in a couple of the levels, you can wind up pinched out of the action and wondering where the hell you are in relation to everyone else. Even so, the game is great fun, and it gets exponentially more fun the more people you add. And don't listen to Rog when he tries to tell you that the matches were so chaotic that it can't really be said that one of us defeated the other. He always says that.
(editor's note: Dr. Boogie is a compulsive liar... and I'm pretty sure he's never even played a video game before.)
Over at the indie pavilion I had a chance to try a new platformer (Rogue-likes and 2D platformers, that's how you get my attention) called Luckslinger. Suren, you play a gunslinger with infinite ammo and a duck companion, but you also have a magic bracelet that gives you the power of luck. How this power expresses itself isn't exactly clear, but every now and then a piece of the environment would try to injure me and a bullet headed my way would be deflected. Having more luck is obviously better than having less, but the exact benefit wasn't something I could figure out, particularly when fighting a boss who has the same powers, but much stronger and with much more health.
The developer was on hand to say the game was still in development, so maybe this will become more apparent at a later time? Or maybe they haven't yet decided how luck will become more useful in the game than just unloading all six of your bullets on each enemy you come across, reloading, and doing it again until victory is achieved.
Moon Hunters seems to fall into that category of games that probably have a fair amount going on with them, but at a slow enough pace that they can't be adequately experienced on the floor of a convention hall in the span of 5-10 minutes. I picked a character and started room around a wilderness, at one point being told to make camp. I made it, then suddenly I was in a village, and people were telling me stuff I didn't care about, and so I went outside and was fighting boars. The boar fighting was a little odd because I had two huge swords and could teleport and summon tornadoes at will. Yet in spite of this, I struggled to put down a couple of boars. They dropped some coins as video game boars are wont to do, so maybe I just needed to buy something to make my wind mastery a little more worthwhile.
Elsewhere, I fought a boss that mostly stood there while I pounded his with alternating sword slashes and tornadoes. I believe he had only slightly more health than the boars. Afterwards something came up about a sun cult, but there was just empty wilderness all around me and there were yet more games to see, so I had to put that one down.
I had never heard of Earth Night, but the developer was there to clue me in. Right away, he mentions that it's a runner-type game, and that genre is "full of shit". I wasn't sure announcing that your game was part of a crappy game type was the right way to sell it, but he assured me that this one would "add some depth" to the runner game genre.
And it looks very nice. You control a kid running across the backs of dragons, dodging enemies and picking up miscellaneous garbage along the way. There's a lot of verticality, but when you get up high you can't see what's down low, and vice versa. Plus, it got a little difficult to distinguish the assorted points garbage you pick up from enemies, which lead to a lot of cheap hits. At the end of the particular dragon I was running on, I had to poke it in the eye. This did nothing and I was eventually shaken off, falling through space and onto another dragon to start things over before stumbling over one too many enemies coming at me at high speed.
Maybe the depth the dev promised is in there somewhere, but at the moment it looks just like any other runner game, albeit with a nice art style. Heck, if they make it cheap enough, that nice art style could be all they need to make enough in sales to break even.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional
You might remember this one from Rog's GDC 2014 coverage. Well it's still in development after all this time and it's looking pretty good. Sort of an open world Asteroids-type game with RPG elements and an 80s anime aesthetic. I tend to be wary when a game has been in development for as long as Galak-Z, but it doesn't appear to have suffered for it. The focus on inertial flight takes some real getting used to, as evidenced by my quick explosion.
I'd like to see more of it, so let's hope the latest deadline of "2015" sticks.
Alone With You
Alone With You is right up there with Moon Hunters in that it may have a lot going to it, but not in an E3 demo kind of way. It's an adventure game, so when you look at a list of the controls and see nothing but "move" and "choose dialog option", you've kind of got a handle on how everything is going to go down.
The art style is nice and goes for some interesting cinematic moments even while the players still has direct control. Again, it seems like the game, with its story of recovering memories from dead crew members to escape a dying planet, has a lot going for it, but I can't say there's ever been a time when an adventure game has ever wowed me. Still looks interesting, though.
Heart Forth Alicia
Heart Forth Alicia proudly declares itself a metroidvania-type game. It's not that the description is inaccurate, but it is a little unusual to see something like that on the promotional materials. The demo seemed to emphasis more of a puzzle-solving angle than normally seen in that genre. Nothing wrong with that, but there does appear to be some kind of leveling system. There just wasn't an opportunity to see how it affected the gameplay since it was mostly solving block puzzles and finding tools for solving more esoteric puzzles.
Okay, truth time again: metroidvania games are in that earlier list of Dr. Boogie bait games. They threw in a 16-bit art style and I was in. I liked what I saw, but again, with these types of games, you have to see how they unfold before you really get a sense of whether or not they can make the formula work. I am optimistic, though.
Salt and Sanctuary
Our friend Jim Silva is back with fresh 2D goodness, this time in the form of a 2D Dark Souls-style game called Salt and Sanctuary. Long-time readers will no doubt recognize Ska Studios' trademark art style, while fans of the Souls series will fall right into the old routine of measuring out each and every attack to maximize the damage dealt while simultaneously allowing you to escape if the enemy decides he doesn't want to be slowed down at all by a greatsword cleaving his skull. I died, like, a LOT. I mean, you know how games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden have little annoying enemies like birds and bats? Well imagine a bunch of those, only it takes a significant amount of time to swing at them and one or two hits from them will put you down. Actually, I guess that's pretty much just imagining any given game of Castlevania/Ninja Gaiden.
So yeah, it's like that. Can't wait!!
This last one we actually didn't have a chance to try at E3. There was supposed to be a demo of it, but Microsoft buried it somewhere beneath all the Halo and Gears of War stuff. I'm not one to compliment a game primarily for its art style (except in this article where I do it constantly), but the work on this game is truly remarkable. The devs sought to emulate the style of cartoons from the 20s and 30s, and their success at doing so is incredible. They could've tried to fudge it here and there by drawing up a model and just having it shift left and right to save on animating it, but you won't find any of that here. That's one of the hallmarks of a truly great game: the developer is thorough enough to cover their bases, but goes one step further to ensure all the little things in their game are in top form.
There wasn't a whole lot to get excited about on the floor this year. As was the case last year, there's a ton of sequels and HD remastering in the works, and some of them are bound to be entertaining, but nothing to really get you to stand up and take notice. I'm most looking forward to Enter the Gungeon's release, but Cuphead looks like it'll be something special, too.
And speaking of people whose clocks were cleaned at Gang Beasts, click the link below to continue onward as Rog provides a rundown of all the interesting sights at the convention!
There's still much more to see from
I-Mockery's coverage of E3 2015!
Click here to continue onward to page 2!
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