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Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day.

….but before that shit, KITTY MARIO OMG ADORBS!

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10:00am–Nintendo

Nothing fancy here. The glory of the third day is, even without a booth appointment, a ton of folks are just plain done with the convention. Moving around is easier. The main halls are less hot with just human movement. Today is nice. So, perfect day to go hang out in the brightness of Nintendo’s section.

10:02am–Super Mario 3D Land

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Nintendo’s hall is full of these awesome lifesize dioramas of random games. Other booths have folks lined up around the block to check out big AAA games. The Nintendo booth has a line to take a picture coming out of a warp pipe.

Either way, the game itself. It doesn’t really come across in the previews, but this truly is the middle ground between old school Mario and the 64/Sunshine/Galaxy school of play. Two hits can kill you, you can only jump on enemies unless you have a powerup, no punching. Platforming is still left to right, but a bit more isometric, being able to move freely in and out of the background. Mario is joined by Luigi, Toad, and Peach, all move closer to their Super Mario 2 counterparts. There’s an item storage system straight out of OG Mario World. Co-op is playfully competitive, in that the game does tally who did best at the end, but it’s not a big deal. There’s enough coins and enemies for everybody.  There’s a flag at the end of all stages. First one up gets a 1up.

Of course, as shown, the big gimmick is Cat Mario. There’s no way to class this up: IT’S FUCKING ADORABLE. The characters run on all fours, bat stuff around to kill enemies. Bricks occasionally contain little balls you can bat at foes, or just play around. You have a limited climbing on walls ability that’s essentially modeled after a cat climbing drapes, complete with scratching all the way down in slow motion if the ability runs out. The puzzles predicates around using it aren’t fancy, least from what I played, but Nintendo’s great at the little things making you forget how easy the game is.

I did, however, get to play a boss stage: A dinosaur of some kind hanging out in a sand pit. I chose to play Peach on this stage, just because any old shcool player knows, you want to survive Mario 2, unless you;’re trying to get to a warp, you play the damn Princess. This is very true. The boss involved climbing up the dragon’s other, minor heads to the platforms up top, high enough to jump on the boss’ head. Peach’s float is invaluable. The booth attendant played poor Toad. It didn’t go nearly as well. Somewhere, Anita Sarkeesian is pleased.

10:21–Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

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Not too much to report here. It is exactly like Donkey Kong Country Returns, but damn pretty, with some neat 3D effects. Still, the joys of pounding on a bongo in the center of a screen to destroy pirate ships is not lost on me.

10:41am–Mario Kart 8

It’s Mario Kart alright. The twisting, zero gravity, MC Escherish track design is scratching my Wipeout itch pretty damn well. Past that, same as it ever was. The ability to use the WiiU pad or normal analog stick controls is welcome, and will save folks the $20 they blew on third party crapwheels for Mario Kart Wii.

IMAG049910:42–The Wonderful 101

Platinum Games has their stuff set up on the far end of Nintendo’s hall, nestled between Wind Waker HD and the new Pikmin. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean they’re being ignored, as there’s full on 5-player multi happening on Wonderful 101 when I get over there.

The best comparison I have for the pure insanity that ensues in front of me is to have you imagine if Powerstone had 84 player matches. It looks like total chaos, and while it also looks like a fuckton of fun, the full 5 player experience could also be a mess.

When it’s time for me to step to the plate, it’s just me, and the kind booth attendant explaining the controls. There’s a learning curve which may put casual gamers off the game in minutes. Getting around, corraling extra heroes (current favorite is a masked superhero version of Alice In Wonderland), and changing them into the forms you need to do your superhero duty on the touchpad takes some getting used to, but the reward for some extra patience is probably one of the most fun games I’ve played at the show.

Your first task is just opening an elevator to get to the next level up in this big future city. A key is required, but there’s no pick ups here. So, you make your own. You draw the sword form on your touchpad, and hit Y. Problem solved. Same goes for a gear that needs turning later on. Get back into your punch form, the hand relaxes and allows you to turn it.

Then the aliens arrive, and the mayhem really starts. Most  enemies, spamming the attack button in your weapon of choice is more than enough to dispatch most of the mob. The most useful is Bayonetta’s whip, which is an option at the start. Viewtiful Joe’s Shocking Pink Bomb is an unlockable. Bigger enemies require some forethought. A giant armored enemy is invulnerable to everything EXCEPT the whip, which electrifies his armor. Once stripped, you and your horde of heroes can go to town. The amount of mayhem you cause is inverse with the number of heroes you have following along, all of whom are unique, and hilarious, and the random citizens just willing to lend a hand. At my maximum, the sword form is able to slash all the way across an area. It doesn’t stop enemies from getting through, but oh man, it’s satisfying to wreak the havoc.

My time with the demo ends when a giant amoeba enemy drops down. It’s only too late I figure out that the gun form is my best bet, and all my heroes are scattered to the winds. Help would probably make this awesome. I dunno about  4 other players’ worth, but still.

IMAG047511:01–Bayonetta 2

Anyone following the site knows I love Bayonetta on fat kid/cake levels. The demo here doesn’t disappoint whatsoever. You start out fighting angelic centaurs on the hood of a god damned harrier jet. When that blows, you jump to a moving train and a giant boss chasing after you called Belief. Controls are exactly the same as the first. The one big change this time around, aside from dual wielding whips, and Bayonetta’s new haircut, is that Climax Strikes don’t just do Fatalities, but ramp up your attacks, so that, for about 10-15 seconds, all your hits are Wicked Weaves. The bridge eventually blows, and Jeanne joins you to take down the boss on foot. Tag team attacks from the duo abound. Eventually, Jeanne gets hit so hard her aura flies out of her body and gets dragged to Hell–least that’s what I’m assuming, EVERYTHING is happening all at once here–Bayonetta finally jumps to a skyscraper, unleashes a Climax, a dragon out of the side of a building that takes a couple hundred giant bites out of the boss. Eventually, a second hell dragon called Gomorrah rises out to face yours. Bayonetta, for no reason whatsoever, sprouts wings, and fights the dragon as it climbs the skyscraper. Climax attacks involve punching the dragon’s face into the foundation of the damn place, until it finally gets climaxed off the roof to the ground. Demo over. I giggle like a schoolgirl. 2014 for this one.

11:40–Beyond Two Souls

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The PS4/XBox One displays are jam packed, not to be penetrated in any way. Sadly, with only a day to go, my time must be rationed carefully between appointments. The one big display that actually seems accessible is David Cage’s newest.

For the most part, Heavy Rain veterans won’t even need the tutorial. Quantic Dream’s system is still the only way to fly as far as implementing QTEs, and now, when engaging in fights, your actions are entirely right stick controlled, and yes, you can still fail, and keep moving. Smooth as silk.

The demo itself has Jodie in the middle of a war zone in Somalia, with a crack shot Somalian kid as a sidekick. They can fight, but they’re not that good. She relies on her other sidekick, the ghost entity Aidan, to help in combat. From behind a wall, Jodie can send Aidan out to either crush walls for her, force choke enemies, or possess others to kill their friends/themselves. This could get fun, though the button presses for actions after you possess someone aren’t exactly made clear.

Jodie fights her way through a warzone, eventually commandeering a truck by having the original driver get his throat slit by his buddy nearby. They ride out through, essentially, the first 10 minutes of Modern Warfare 1. Once discovered, a nicely done little action setpiece involving Jodie jumping back and forth between speeding trucks ensues. Again, tiny little Ellen Page doing all this stuff is a weird disconnect, but I could definitely grow to like it. The strength of performance from her also shines through at the end of the demo, when you tell your Somalian friend to head home. It’s not played for “Come back, Shane” levels of sap, but as someone who is genuinely tired, and wants no part of what needs to happen from here. And yes, it’s equal parts Cage and Page that make that happen. Guy might have a decent dramatic eye after all. Maybe. At least no one sounds French this time. Still hitting this fall.

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1:00pm–Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse

I expected a full on Ducktales situation here, of the original Genesis game, gussied up for HD, but no, this is its own thing, same stages, but fully redesigned, Mickey Mouse being Mickey Mouse (voiced by the guy who voiced him in the 90s, for the Disney nerds out there), and hard as balls platforming inside of the evil witch Mizrabel’s castle. I’ve spent the last few days with a LOT of tutorial levels, less with getting my ass kicked. This was, indeed, me getting my ass kicked. Regardless, with some perseverance, and some very very pretty HD animated graphics, I got to the end. The temptation to drop the 360 pad like a mic was strong. Maybe once Harmonix is done with the Fantasia license, they can dust that game off.

IMAG03881:20pm–Sonic: Lost World

I’m a huge fan of where Sonic Generations was going with things, and this looked like a return to form from the trailers. The plus side: Sonic is definitely silent here. I asked the booth attendant whether Sonic’s friends could be expected to make an appearance. They weren’t ready to announce this yet. At least for the demo, it’s just Sonic running levels on his own.

The minus side is that the Mario Galaxy gameplay from the first trailer is actually clunky as hell. I’m all for making the player work for their Sonic thrills, but the cylindrical gameplay just comes off a chore. Sonic’s speed is slower to begin with, but on top of that, the controls have been screwed with to make room for a special jump that allows you to drop kick certain stronger enemies without breaking stride. Getting the fucking thing to work is entirely unintuitive. The sadness is that the second stage I tried, a candy-inspired stage with swirling red vines for road, seems like it’d be quite fun in a different Sonic game. It would kinda have no choice.

2:00pm–Fantasia: Music Evolved

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The demo for Fantasia has had a line the past two days that wrapped around the booth. I’ve been past the booth in my travels multiple times a day, I swear to Christ the same people are still standing in line.

Today, thanks to working things out with an awesome dude from Disney PR, I make it into the press showing of the game.

The first part is a simple presentation in the theater shown above. There’s two areas open: The Shoal, an underwater level, and The Press, an industrial level. The Shoal is shown off in this theater demo. When the game starts, we’re staring at a simple, boring section of ocean. Your cursor, called the Muse, is your means of interacting with the world. The goal with each stage is that bringing music to the ocean will bring it to life. Finding the stages means finding the life. Waving your hand over a suspicious piece of anemone reveals seahorses. Interacting some more, waving over each of the horses plays a note. Keep waving, they ride the anemone around like a carousel, giving you magic, which is how you gauge your progress. The more magic you create, the better. Eventually, your interactions reveal a sea turtle, and the demo stage: Bohemian Rhapsody. And thus, the fun begins.

The backgrounds are currently a blank slate, full of stars, swirling color. You play parts of the song exactly as Yen Sid/Mickey does in Sorcerer’s Apprentice: You essentially conduct time and space itself, waving your hands to keep time with the streams of light that appear, in the direction they point, in the rhythm of the song. If the game was this, it’d be cute, but not special.

The special comes in the fact that only the first 20 seconds or so of Bohemian Rhapsody is normal. Eventually, a special note screen comes on with three areas. Waving to the left means the original track plays as recorded. The other two completely change the song itself. Bohemian Rhapsody’s the most predictable one: Upper right option makes it more of a straight forward power ballad. Lower right makes it truly operatic, with sweetened violins, extra piano melodies. The song you create can duck in and out of genre at your whim, whenever the screen happens. There’s also special screens allowing you to improvise. It’s the ultimate incarnation of what Harmonix was trying to do with Frequency/Amplitude 10 years ago. You either stretch or squeeze the soundtrack (missed opportunity making it the same soundtrack from Fantasia, though), or you have a sphere allowing you to draw/conduct your own melodies, and have them become a part of the track for the remainder of the song. By the end, the song is literally whatever weird ass musical odyssey you want it to be. And yes, you can definitely play less like the goofy trailer if you desire. This is an immense amount of fun, and it’s truer to its namesake than advertised. After the song is beaten, more life is revealed. The turtle that opened bohemian rhapsody now swims around, playing the piano line from the song. Further investigating the stuff growing off the turtle’s shell, you notice a group of clams have made their home. Interacting with them opens them up, revealing them to be a jazz band. You can put together any melody you like out of this area, and your song becomes part of the ambience. The goal, of course, is to raise the magic of this area up to its maximum, which would leave you with an ocean teeming with music. Again, I find myself thinking of a non-shooter Child of Eden. That’s to say, it’s kinda brilliant.

Ironically, the only thing stopping me from calling it brilliant is the fact that the Kinect One using the demo when we got behind closed doors crashed while I was playing Bruno Mars’ Locked Out Of Heaven (a ska version of it, I might add), and would repeatedly not recognize or spaz out entirely with the other press in the room while they were playing, and sadly, a perfect tie in moment with the silhouetted stage Leopold Stokowski stood on in Fantasia being used to sync the Kinect was totally ineffective. Least, unlike previous years, we can’t say it was because they were black. Go home, Kinect One. You’re drunk.

The good news dropped while waiting for the demo to return is that this will actually be going to 360 as well. See? Don Mattrick was right(::coughbyaccident::). And while they couldn’t reveal any more of the setlist besides what was shown in the trailer, yes, Night on Bald Mountain is in. The guy running the booth had a bit of a knowing smirk on his face when I asked about the possibility of going death metal with it. 2014.

IMAG04923:20–Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

The vast majority of Konami’s area is taken up by Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, and a giant screen showing the Metal Gear Solid V demo. My guide for this tour is a skinny blonde kid intern who, bless his heart for trying, doesn’t game, and just has a handful of notes to read off on each of the games. Metal Gear Solid V isn’t shown outside of this. So there’s only one reason to be here.

We start off in Gabriel/Dracula’s keep. He’s incredibly bored. Even with the invading army trying to batter down his door, Gabriel saunters over like a boss to take care of business. He carries a goblet to his new crusader enemies. Carlyle is fucking relishing his V/O here, telling the boys he could use a drop to drink. Combat is mostly copy/pasted over from LOS 1. The Light/Dark powers from the first are replaced by the Astral Sword, which steals like from enemies on use, and the Chaos Claws, which tear apart armor. Also, being a creature of the night now, you can now feed on stunned enemies for more life.

The combat ends, Gabriel pushes the battering ram out of his front door to look at the oncoming horde. Robert fucking Carlyle growls the “miserable pile of secrets” line from Symphony of the Night and I just don’t know how I feel about that. The gold-armored angel from last week’s trailer flies down. A fight breaks out. The game then interrupts your regularly scheduled fight so that a full blown Shadow of the Colossus game can occur. The intrusion is far better implemented than the first game, which was just blatant rip off. Here, Gabriel climbs the giant armored golem to survive the gold warrior hunting him every step of the way. You dodge his arrows to break off new sections to climb. Blades and gears block your path all the way. Once at the top, Gabriel tears off the faceplate, finds the beast’s brain and, again, being a goddamned creature of the night, vomits blood on it, corrupting it from top to bottom, causing the entire thing to fall apart, and ruin the entire front of the castle. Who the hell knows what stage this actually is in game, but I don’t know what the fuck they’ve got in mind for a closer.

4:50–THE END IS NIGH

After a stop over to a heretofore unexplored area of the conference, which will be part of tomorrow’s bonus, I have 15 minutes remaining. A lot of big titles went unplayed, but I am but one man. I had to completely forgo the spectacular looking indie titles on the floor, which is sad. So, one attempt must be made. And it figures the fastest, best solution was the quickest.

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I held a PS4 controller.

It was only because virtually no one wanted to play Williams Arcade Collection for PS4. But it meant was the one place in the entire convention center where one could both see and hold the next gen in their hands without dealing with an load of press and boom mikes, an interminable line, or a misdemeanor assault charge.

So, I did. Considering one of my big issues with the Playstation from day 1, back in 1995, is that the controller never felt all the way comfortable, and that this will, in all likelihood, be the controller I and many, MANY others hold for the foreseeable future, it’s important we get acquainted. And the meeting was amiable. Sony learned well from the 360, I feel. Front layout is as normal, except for the big blue light/mystery touchscreen. The palm contours, however, just meld right into the hand. Even with the minor cramping I’ve developed after 5 straight days of typing/gaming/using my phone, I held this one, pain free. Compare that to the WiiU pad which gave me stiff fingers after an hour.

In addition, I got a good, close up look at the system. I said earlier in the week it looked like a rhombus. They held it at a bad angle in the presentation. It’s more trapezoid than anything. Laid flat, it looks like something they’d use in Total Recall. Yes, the good one. Standing upright, it looks like a special Syd Mead edition of the Wii. You and me, Sony, I think we’re gonna be all right next gen. Just don’t say anything too stupid in the next 6 months.

And 5 minutes after typing that note into my phone, the show floor closes.

There’s still a bonus coming some point tomorrow, and a final wrap-up this weekend. But ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, all the ships at sea: E3 is ended.

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