It's funny how caught up we can get in company strategies and the unveiling of new technology when, honestly, those things serve as nothing more-- for the non-industry game player-- than means to an end. And that end is, naturally, games! To echo Bryan's sentiments, I haven't had enough time to rattle on about those very things during 2011's E3, but that's all about to change. Even with the questionable wave of shooters and motion controls, a sizable horde of games caught my eye this year, many of which are returns to classic series that were previously looking pretty hopeless. Hope, however, abounds in this place; just browsing through my list of anticipated releases is enough to spark the ember that lights the fire which roars into a blazing display of video game radness!
If there's one game that taps into my inner Being a Kid During Christmas Morning, it's Sonic Generations. I've been a Sonic fan for many years; Sonic CD was one of my first games, I played all the Genesis and Dreamcast installments over and over again (excluding Sonic Shuffle, which I promptly used as a coaster to hold drinks that I hate), and I continue to keep up with the series. It's been fascinating to watch Sega tinker with the nuts and bolts of 3D, trying to nail the sensation of speed without messing stuff up. The gameplay style of Sonic Unleashed was close; Sonic Colors was closer; Sonic Generations looks to be the best attempt yet. Not only that, but half the game consists of the classic 2D style, which, by all appearances, is convincingly accurate. Of course, everything will be displayed in beautiful HD, so let's hope the frame rate holds up. Taking trips back to zones like Green Hill and City Escape is a nostalgic, fun-filled offer I shall not refuse. We can only pray for a remix of the latter's groovy music! Actually, I'm not sure I can think of one improvement for Sonic Generations so far, which... actually seems kind of suspicious. Ah well. Realists are dumb.
After that bizarre smattering of darkened peaks and military-style action that served as the trailer for SSX: Deadly Descent, my expectations were at, roughly, 0%. Maybe 2% because of the flying squirrel suit. It sure was a relief when EA took a step back and revealed "Deadly Descent" to be one of three modes from a much more upbeat game called simply SSX. While dropping subtitles and numbers for a reboot isn't anything new, this one has me genuinely excited. I'm hesitant to see the previous lovely-but-unrealistic environments exchanged for real-world mountains, but the freedom and expansive trick possibilities that comes with satellite data sound promising. After spotting some highly SSX3-ish footage, I've become convinced that they have a real chance of knocking this game out of the park. Admittedly, it looked somewhat unfinished, but they've been letting people glimpse at gameplay since before the textures were in place, so in this pre-alpha stage and a launch window for early 2012, I'm staying optimistic. Besides, Kaori's coming back!
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception
Here's a real shocker! Who would ever think to put this game on a list like this? It's clear that Sony is proud of their talented developer, and darn well they should be! It's a terrifying task, topping Uncharted 2, but Naughty Dog are a terrifying bunch of people-- terrifyingly genius, that is! I already expected big things from this game, but some of the setpieces they've shown have been mind-blowing. When a leak sprung and water started leaking into the cruise ship's interior, sloshing around and slowly filling the room in real-time, it was impressive. When the entire boat flipped over, the floor became the wall, and everything (water, crates, cars, an unfortunate Mr. Drake) went with it... has something like that ever been done in a game before!? The trailer got me even more pumped, displaying the signature Indiana-Jones-type movie setting and a large gathering of awesome moments. This Katherine Marlowe seems to be a refreshing change from the two-dimensional villains of the previous games, and I'm so very pleased to see Sully in a leading role. Finishing off with Nathan clutching a fluttering tarp strapped to the back of an airplane (currently taking off, quite naturally) sealed the deal: I can't wait for Uncharted 3. As long as it continues to dish out superb gameplay along with its explosive setpieces and story, I'll be ecstatic.
Luigi's Mansion 2
I didn't think anyone cared much at all about Luigi's brief stint as a very thorough house cleaner, and now Nintendo is creating a sequel? How cool! I sort of wish it was coming out on the Wii U (I can only imagine what it would look like with all that power and HD sheen), but I've got to say, the trailer on my 3DS looked exceptionally good; the fixed camera treats the 3D effect well. It brought back memories, watching Mario's younger brother shuffle his way through dusty rooms as he fought both terror and ghosts (and usually both). All the same, I can't help but wonder if the original game's spirit (HA!) can be reproduced. It was the little things that made that game memorable: Luigi's tepid whistling when the lights were on and his fearful cries for Mario when they weren't, the goofy use of the Game Boy Horror, and the wonderful theme song that always comes to mind when I see a handheld vacuum cleaner. By all that is haunted and infested with gold coins, that song needs to come back!
Speaking of goofy cartoon characters making returns that I didn't see coming, here we are with the large-nosed
man vegetable thingamajig we've come to love. Although, I must admit, there hasn't been much to love about him as of late. Whether you throw your lot in with the rabbids or not, Rayman himself has been entirely overshadowed by the screaming freaks. Having an entire series hijacked and taken over by mutant side characters is a fascinating and weird turn of events (just like Sonic the Hedgehog, ZING, am I right?). That's why it's so joyous to see an all-new platformer hit the scene, free of bunnies and rich in straight-up fun. It wasn't long before the demo I watched had me smiling along with the stupidly exaggerated Rayman and Globox as they hopped around and slapped each other. Why, the whole game seems bursting with life and energy! I have a feeling the co-op will be delivering plenty of grins come this fall.
Halo Combat Evolved: Anniversary
I much prefer the original Halo trilogy to ODST and Reach, as fine as those products were. It's that part of the Halo universe that grabs me; that story, those vivid landscapes, those fishtailing warthogs, and-- perhaps most of all-- the always awesome Master Chief. I have my doubts about Halo 4 extending the fight that was promised to be finished four years ago, so I can't wait to revisit those good times all over again. I originally thought Combat Evolved: Anniversary would be the original game with some sharper graphics, but not! No, not at all! To my sheer delight and surprise, the entire package will get a total overhaul, replacing the aged visuals with material that sits comfortably in the Xbox 360 library. Also, with the press of a button you can switch between the old and the new-- and that's really cool! Online support is another bonus, but even considering the integration with Reach's multiplayer, I'll miss skidding warthogs across ice and sniping with the beloved pistol. Without the original engine, it just won't be the same. Even so, I'll take any excuse I can to replay this genre-defining classic, and this seems like a darn good one.
This is something that focuses on one of my favorite video game aspects: exploration. In the vast expanses of sand and more sand, a mountain alighted with some mysterious glow catches your eye; you must get there. That's more or less the setting in its entirety, and that's what intrigues me. You need simply wander, and that's the game. Even if you bump into another player online, he or she (or whatever they are under those concealing cloaks) won't jolt you out of the experience. There's no voice chat or gamertags or any of that rubbish to get in the way, which somehow goes against natural tendencies to put multiplayer games into categorized boxes.
"Ah, two players, you say? It must be co-op?"
"No doubt certain areas can only be accessed with multiple people, eh?"
"I've got it! You can fight each other! The multiplayer is killing other dudes!"
But no, as far as ThatGameCompany has revealed, other people are just... there. I'm sure you can interact with them in some fashion, but it comes down to whether you wish to wander with them or wander alone. Either way, you're still wandering, looking for that mountain. Unlike so many games these days, there isn't a dotted line to follow. It's the sense of open lands to explore and the tinge of mystery that interests me so much. The fantastical visual style of flowing deserts and characters that glide with a smooth elegance doesn't at all hurt its appeal. The aesthetics and gameplay philosophy are combining to create the atmosphere of a very tiny person lost in a very large world, and that should be worth seeing alone.
Kirby Mass Attack
This little game was tucked safely away in the virtual shelves of the internet, and I didn't notice it until after the whole trade show was packed up and ready to trundle off. A new Kirby game for the non-3DS piqued my curiosity, so I watched the trailer that nobody knew existed and instantly became enamored with it. The hungry hero has seemingly been cloned, and there's a gaggle of Kirbys running amok! They're akin to Pikmin in that they can be tossed about as well as coordinated to bypass tricky areas and take down foes of hefty size. The pleasant sprite-based graphics and SNES-esque music brought warm bubbles of happiness from the pit of my inner being (which isn't half as disgusting as it sounds), and the music-- oh my goodness, the music! Let me tell you, it's positively adorable in every way. Mass Attack promises to be a pure, joyful video game that has me in eager anticipation.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Okay, enough cute. It's time for mountains. Dragons. Skyrim! I'm not sure I can describe my excitement for this colossal game, but I suppose I'll have to try. Otherwise this portion will consist of me typing "skyrimskyrimskyrimskysrimskyrimskyrim" ad nauseum. Every time I watch the gameplay trailer for the fifth Elder Scrolls entry, it starts with my enthusiasm rising, rising, rising, until... the dragon shout! Then I literally get goosebumps and the rest is incredible. Jeremy Soule has struck gold with that song like he hasn't done since Morrowind's theme. Todd Howard and his fellow Bethesdanites (that's what they call themselves, isn't it?) are making practically every smart move I could think up: a Nordic setting, dual-wielding weapons, dynamic sidequests and NPCs, a minimal HUD, less straightforward terrain than Oblivion's, improved third-person, and so much more. The only bit I'm worried about is the effort to streamline the series, and while that can be a good thing, these days it often translates to "dumbed down". But I trust Bethesda with this, and Skyrim is coming along gloriously. At this point, I know about as much as I want; the true adventure begins when I insert the disc, lean back, and enter a world of blustery winds laden with ice and endless adventure on the horizon. What I do next is up to me!
And that, directly above, is my Official Favorite Game Featured at E3 2011.
11.11.11. Just you wait.
But really, all of the games up there look wonderful, and I can hardly wait for them to come out. For a tad of clarification, this list is not a precise guide to my "most anticipated" releases or whatnot. They're simply games that caught my eye during E3 and made me markedly more pumped to try them for myself, and I'm sure there are some that I missed. Some runners-up include Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Paper Mario 3DS, and Tomb Raider. I'm highly interested in these games, mind you-- perhaps even more so than the ones on display-- but I either have my doubts about them or the show didn't highlight anything special enough to warrant inclusion. But yeah, that's it. Games! Games that I want to play!