I’ve wanted to attend E3 for a long time, and was finally given the chance to make it this year. I had the chance to meet and chat with many of my favorite developers and journalists, stand in long, uncomfortable lines, and complain about how much my feet hurt at the end of each day. Okay, so it wasn’t all glamorous, but being surrounded by game industry professionals and enthusiasts alongside the latest and greatest games was an overall exciting time and I’m happy I was able to experience it. Many games were played, but there were some that stood out and left an impression on me, and I would like to share my observations with you if you don’t mind. If you do, I’m not entirely sure what you’re still doing here, but thanks for sticking around so far!
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo EAD & Nintendo EPD
Alright, I’ll go ahead and get this out the way right now. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was easily the most impressive and surprising game I had the pleasure of playing and my pick for personal game of the show. The Zelda series has been long overdue for a paradigm shift, and Nintendo delivered in doing exactly that, probably more so than any of us were expecting. This iteration sees Link in a new open world, able to traverse the land of Hyrule however the player decides. Link has also been given the ability to climb just about any surface, gather ingredients to cook food, and chop down trees with an axe among many other things. Take a look at the trailer; I bet I’ve watched it more times than you.
The game’s overall aesthetic really stood out to me, resembling something close to an anime film Studio Ghibli would produce. The animations of Link and the various foes he encounters were top-notch with a good sense of weight and believable physics when knocked down. Speaking of physics, the game has a robust engine that adds a large variety of gameplay opportunities to the world. Boulders can be rolled down hills to destroy a bokoblin base camp. Trees can be felled to form bridges across chasms. Fires can spread through tall grass if the wind blows it in the right direction. The possibilities are endless, and the very small portion of the game I experienced has me very excited for the game when it releases on Wii U and Nintendo’s new platform, NX, next year. I’ll have a more detailed write-up about Breath of the Wild in the near future, so stay tuned!
Gravity Rush 2
Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan Studio
If you are one of the 17 owners of a Playstation Vita, you may have played the original Gravity Rush when it was first released back in 2012 and may recognize the fact that the game is getting a sequel is a small miracle. Sony recently released an updated version for the PS4 to raise awareness of the franchise and prepare the technology for the new game, which explains why Gravity Rush 2 has a similar look and feel to Gravity Rush Remastered. The sequel continues to follow the adventures of Kat and her furry pal Dusty and their war on both the Nevi and the laws of gravitational forces.
Gravity Rush was a very unique game with a seriously brilliant mechanic in the form of Kat’s ability to shift gravity in any direction, enabling her to “fall” into the sky, the sides of buildings, and into the faces of innocent bystanders. Gravity Rush 2 is largely the same, with some new abilities mixed in to spice up the action a bit. Kat now has the ability to choose from three “gravity styles”: Normal, Lunar, and Jupiter. Normal style lets you control her in the same fashion as the original game. Lunar style grants more speed and agility, replacing the usual gravity kick with a teleporting homing attack. Jupiter style makes Kat heavy, dealing more damage and giving access to an impressive ground pound attack that will absolutely demolish the new destructible environments. My time with the game was limited, and the game’s camera still needs some work, but I’m really looking forward to it when it releases later this year on PlayStation 4.
Do you like violence? Do you like rhythm? How about both combined into a sensory overloaded abstract world? In Thumper, you play as a space beetle chasing down an evil floating head from the future, and I swear I did not just make that up. The developers call it a “rhythm-violence game” and boy does that description fit.
Thumper does an admirable job of being a joy to play while exuding a sense of dread and isolation at the same time. The soundtrack has a sinister vibe and the sound effects have a rewarding and terrifying brutality you don’t hear very often. The controls are very simple, consisting of simple taps and holds of a button or two, in a “call and response” style rhythm game. As the aforementioned space beetle you can “thump” glowing beats on the track, drift around high-speed corners, and break through barriers all in time to the music. Some stages also have you fight bosses, sending a shockwave back at them for successfully navigating each obstacle. It’s hard to explain, honestly, but if you like rhythm games, keep this on your radar. Release is sometime later this year for Steam and PS4.There’s even support for PSVR!
This game really needs no introduction or explanation, but I’ll throw one in for consistency. You play as Cuphead and Mugman who shoot everything in sight after losing a bet to the devil. Everything looks like an old 1930’s cartoon accompanied by a swing jazz soundtrack. There, go watch the trailer and get your wallet ready.
There aren’t enough words in any language to express my excitement for this one so I won’t even try.
Just Shapes And Beats
Playing Just Shapes And Beats was the most fun I had in any one session at the show, and that was before I actually played the game myself. Just watching the insanity unfold and cheering on the other players was entertaining enough, so I knew taking a turn was going to be a blast. Here is a taste of what the game is about.
So, the game really is about just shapes and beats. You control one of four shapes and do your best to dodge any incoming obstacles that are colored pink. That’s the premise and loop of the entire game, but the production values really elevate it to something special. I played four stages featuring music tracks from Danimal Cannon, one of the best chiptune artists on Earth, and the incoming deadly shapes would flash on-screen in time to the music. Touching a destroyed teammate would bring them back to life while risking your own, and passing a checkpoint would revive lost players and refill everyone’s health. The boss fight had no checkpoints and was extremely tough but hilarious and rewarding to beat. The game is so simple, yet so satisfying, and I can’t wait. If only we had any idea when it’s releasing (the rumor is January 2017, but we’ll see).
Of course there were other games that caught my attention but I won’t go into too much detail here as I’ve had your attention long enough. Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is shaping up to be a worthy successor to CastleVania so rest easy if you contributed to the Kickstarter campaign. Ubisoft’s For Honor was a definite standout, and you can find a more detailed write-up HERE. I Am Setsuna should be on the radar of Chrono Trigger fans as the game is heavily inspired by it. Lastly, I found Injustice 2 to be impressive even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first iteration. Thanks for reading, and enjoy the next year in gaming!