The Nintendo booth at E3 was filled with Wii, DS, and 3DS software. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was contained in its own section. Attendees were directed to wait in a specific area to gain some hands-on time with the game demo. A bunch of other first-party titles were playable in their own sections, too, and they include Metroid: Other M, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Mario Sports Mix, and Wii Party. Other notable titles that were playable at the booth: Donkey Kong Country Returns, Pokemon Wii, Sonic Colors, Epic Mickey, GoldenEye 007, NBA Jam, Just Dance 2, Dragon Quest IX (DS), and Golden Sun: Dark Dawn (DS).
Mario Sports Mix looks and feels just like another Mario sports/party game, so it’s a ton of fun. The game has beach volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, and ice hockey games and each supports up to four players. In volleyball it’s 2-on-2 and you flick the Wii-mote up to serve and hit the ball and the nunchuck to move your player around. Basketball works similarly to Mario Hoops 3-on-3 for DS. After you set up a 2-on-2 game, dribbling is not required; you can pass the ball and flick the Wii-mote up when you’re near the basket to jump and shoot. You can also collect items and use them to trip up opponents. For both these games there’s a special meter that fills up during the course of the sport. Once it’s filled, you can make your character use a special move that’s essentially a free point because they can’t miss it. (Think of it as a gamebreaker from NBA Street.) Though I was unable to play the other sports, I am confident in saying Mario Sports Mix is yet another fun party game starring our favorite plumber. It releases next year.
Wii Party. Simply put, this game plays just like Mario Party, with the main difference being that your Miis star in the gameplay instead of classic Nintendo characters. You’ve got the dice to roll by flicking the Wii-mote up, there’s the game spaces you move across to reach for stars, and obviously the plethora of mini-games to keep things interesting. I played a mini-game that involved balancing a growing stack of presents. Party games support up to four players. In addition to party games, Mario Party also includes pair games (co-op) and house party games (these use the Wii-mote in various ways). The game drops later this year.
Donkey Kong Country Returns brought me waaaaay back to the good ‘ol days, if you know what I mean. Though it’s a brand new side-scrolling platformer made exclusively for Wii and its motion controls, it feels as if you never dropped the SNES controller. Thanks to the classic soundtrack and familiar environments, DKC Returns plays like a true modern DK game. If you’re playing single player, Diddy rides on DK’s back; in multiplayer mode the characters are controlled separately. And get this–if player two is having a hard time getting through the level, Diddy can jump onto DK’s back and go on a ride to the end of the level (all the while shooting peanuts to fend off nearby enemies). Diddy also has a jetpack in this game, allowing him to briefly fly to reach hard to get items (such as collectible stars). Both DK and Diddy share a ground pound attack that can help fight enemies and reveal hidden items in the environment. Sure, the DK experience is different thanks to motion controls but it’s most definitely a new one that I’m really looking forward to playing. DK has finally returned. Coming this holiday.
GoldenEye 007 is being described as a reimagining of the original classic shooter from N64. This time around the game stars Daniel Craig takes over the starring duty from Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. The game features a new single player campaign that follows the GoldenEye story but from a different perspective, Craig’s instead of Brosnan’s. At the booth I played the multiplayer demo. Thanks to an aesthetic facelift, the graphics look polished and the environments are more inviting. The muliplayer modes you’ve come to know and love, such as deathmatch and team deathmatch, are back, as well as character favorites like Odd Job and weapons like the coveted Golden Gun. Multiplayer is expanded with online functionality; you can connect and play with friends over the Internet and there’s an achievement system that involves experience points and unlockable items. I happened to play with a Classic Controller, and I was told other methods of input (with the Wii-mote/nunchuck) are being considered. 007 releases this November.
After a flurry of rumors Nintendo finally revealed its next handheld to the world with the 3DS. Its overall design does not depart from its predecessor the DSi. There are two screens; the top is 3D-capable (widescreen 3.5 inches), the bottom is touch-sensitive. No glasses required! Button and camera positioning remains almost the same. New additions include a home button, a Slide Pad (it’s an analog nub), a 3D Depth Slider that allows you to control the 3D effect from 100% to totally off, and a third camera positioned next to the one on the front allowing for 3D picture-taking. It also packs an accelerometer and gyroscope. All in all the 3D effect was quite pleasing and added a new sense of depth to the demonstrations and trailers. It definitely takes a couple minutes to adjust your eyes to the screen but once that’s done the depth perception becomes a welcome addition to gameplay. Your initial reaction will be “woah, this is neat.” It’s worthy to note that there is a 3D boundary when you’re holding the device in your hands. If you tilt the 3DS ever so slightly or try to have someone else watch what you’re doing from a slight angle the 3D effect gets completely distorted and essentially disappears. As for the analog nub, it feels and works similar to the PSP’s nub and will likely make for some new interesting control schemes for 3DS titles.
Speaking of games, the 3DS section of the Nintendo booth did include a couple playable games but they were extremely barebones and there only to give people a glimpse into the 3D effect. Samurai Warriors 3D had me fighting off an incoming army of ninjas. Thought the 3D effect was there, the gameplay was rather stale and did not make for such a great experience. On the other hand, StarFox 3D brought a sense of nostalgia over me and I quickly became immersed in the playable demo as I took flight in the skies and shot lasers at enemy planes. A vast amount of 3DS handhelds were loaded with 3D environments that you could only explore by manipulating the camera angle with the nub. Resident Evil Revelations cutscenes look fantastic in stereoscopic vision. All in all, the 3DS is an impressive piece of hardware and I’m excited to see how Nintendo continues to build on the platform as we near its release in 2011. 3D is starting to become a trend in the movie industry and now in video games thanks to the PS3 and 3DS. It’ll be interesting to watch the competing companies vie for the top spot with one bridging the gap between 2D and 3D gaming with glasses and the other doing it without them.
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Release date: 2011
In terms of control, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is a stellar improvement over the last Zelda game for Wii that was ported from GameCube, Twilight Princess. The game requires the Wii MotionPlus add-on and true 1:1 motion is the result. Though the short demo at E3 did not share details about the plot of the game it did help introduce how you will control Link for the better part of the game. The Wii-mote is your sword and the nunchuck acts as the shield. At all time you’re constantly whipping out your sword and shield to fight off enemies. To bring them to the forefront it’s as simple as a quick forward moving shake of the controllers. Most of the enemies came in the form of plants and the game makes it super easy to figure out how to kill them. Plants open their mouths horizontally and vertically; so if a plant opens its mouth vertically you take out your sword and slice vertically to kill it. Slice and dice is the name of the game here. After learning how to kill the plants with your handy-dandy sword you quickly learn that you have a bunch more weapons at your disposal. Hit a button on the Wii-mote and a menu pops up enabling you to select from weapons like a slingshot, bow-and-arrow, and a whip. Many of the weapons, namely the sword and bow-and-arrow, work exactly like they do in Wii Sports Resort. It’s pretty clear that Nintendo ported these 1:1 actions from that game to this one. But that’s not an issue, really; I always enjoyed Swordsplay anyway. Link can also throw bombs into the middle of growing baddies and boom they go. With the aid of a map I was able to find my way through the plants and to a door with a wandering eye. I was instructed to spin the Wii-mote (my sword) in a clockwise circular motion to confuse the eye to enter the door. The demo concluded with an oversized scorpion boss. To kill it the game hinted at slicing your sword at its pinchers. I had very low health and ran out of potions so I died before I could kill the big baddie.
All in all Skyward Sword is definitely turning out to be a solid Wii title. Before this year’s Nintendo press conference all we had was a teaser poster and now there’s a trailer and playable demo. As a long-time Zelda fan there’s not much I can complain about. The precise motion controls are a welcome addition to the franchise and a more cartoonish-looking Link and environment make the game feel less like Twilight Princess and more like uber-successful titles Ocarina of Time (my personal favorite) and Wind Waker. There’s no cell shading here, but the graphics feel more friendly and colorful when compared to Link’s last outing.
The Sony press conference took place at the Shrine Auditorium. And I was there! So please continue on, will you?
3D gaming is all the rage in Sony’s world, and so all distinguished guests of their press conference received 3D glasses. After humorously jabbing Microsoft and their poncho-required Cirque event from the other day, President & CEO of PlayStation Jack Tretton invited Kazuo Hirai to start things off with a gorgeous demo of Killzone 3 in 3D. Though 3D gaming might sound like a gimmick to many of you, listen here: 3D adds a great sense of depth to the game and likely become an integral part of video games. Parts of the gameplay featured the use of jetpacks; during these scenes I felt like I was at a Universal Studios theme park ride, fully immersed in an exciting, different world. In another scene we were taken to the skies via a helicopter and watched a gunman fire at enemies down below. At one point I asked myself if I was witnessing a video game demo or a scene from Avatar. Yeah, it was that good. The 2-part demonstration elicited many oos and ahhs from the crowd. I might have been the loudest. In short, 3D added a tremendous amount of excitement to Killzone; after a few seconds of adjusting to the depth perception any distractions that might have existed disappeared. Killzone 3 from Guerrilla Games drops February 2011 and will be compatible with Sony’s motion controller called Move. 20 games will be made available in 3D for the PS3 by the end of this year. Sony promises 20 additional titles will be created natively in 3D by March 2011, some of which include Crysis 2, Mortal Kombat, Shaun White Skatebording, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, EyePet, Tron: Evolution, MLB 2K11, NBA 2K11, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Gran Turismo 5, and a Sly Cooper collection. A short montage of 3D video and gameplay rounded out the first section of the conference; let’s just say fatalities look fantastic and baseball players throwing balls at you is a bit scary in three dimensions.
Nintendo’s E3 press conference took place at the Nokia Live theatre. Are you a fan of classic Ninty titles like Zelda, Donkey Kong, and…Kid Icarus!? Well read on then.
2010 is ‘year of the remake’ for Nintendo. The show started off with a bang with the reveal of the next Zelda game called The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In it, the Wii-mote and nunchuck control Link’s sword and shield, respectively. To take out the sword and use it to attack enemies, simply shake the Wii-mote. The controls are described as being 1:1 thanks to the Wii MotionPlus add-on. Link will have many weapons at his disposal, including a slingshot, bow-and-arrow, and a whip. Though the demonstration headed by Bill Trinen and Shigeru Miyamoto fell victim to some glitches by “some technical difficulties”, the new Zelda game looked quite good. It releases for Wii next year.
These next few games aren’t necessarily “classics” but they were announced so here you go: NBA Jam from EA and Mario Sports Mix. The Mario game includes sports like beach volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, and ice hockey. It’s due out sometime in 2011. Next up, Wii Party! It’s another Mii-based game that follows in the Wii Sports, Wii Play, and Wii Sports Resort genre. It’s basically a bunch of mini-games you can place your Miis into. Then there’s Dance Party 2 and it packs 40 new tracks and allows up to 8 players to get their groove on together. It comes out sometime this year. Then things started to bit crazy after Golden Sun: Dark Dawn for DS was announced, which releases this holiday season.
A revamped GoldenEye 007 is coming this holiday exclusively to Wii. It stars Daniel Craig this time and features eight characters…yes, including Oddjob. Next it’s Epic Mickey from Disney. The game is set in a 3D world but there are 2D animated cut scenes abound. Mickey wields a few tools, namely a paint brush and paint thinner, that expose or remove object from the game. You are given a choice to find your way around obstacles by either painting around them or using paint thinner and in effect destroying bits of the world. A side-scrolling Steamboat Willie level is included! Next another “epic” game was announced, and this one stars not a mouse but a pink puffball; it’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn! This sidescrolling platformer drops this fall. Dragon Quest IX for DS, which supports up to four player local multiplayer action, lands in stores July 11. A new trailer for Metroid: Other M reveals an August 31 release date. Retro Studios, the developer behind Other M, is making another exciting game for Wii and it’s called Donkey Kong Country Returns! This new side-scrolling platformer, complete with the soundtrack you know and love, plays very much like the original titles from the SNES and it comes out this holiday season.
Microsoft kicked off E3 2010 in unique fashion with their Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience featuring a Cirque du Soleil crew. Next they kicked things into high gear with their media briefing at the Wiltern Theatre. Ready, set…
The press conference began with a number of game trailers and real-time demos. First up was Treyarch with Call of Duty: Black Ops. It releases November 9. It was announced that Microsoft & Activision signed a multi-year agreement pertaining to Call of Duty downloadable content. Starting with Black Ops in 2010, all Call of Duty add-ons and map packs will launch first on Xbox 360 through 2012.
Next was Kojima Productions with Metal Gear Solid: Rising. It’s being described as a “sword action game” that’s based on the Japanese terms “zan-datzu” which means “to cut” and “to take.” A brief trailer revealed that the game will feature protagonist Raiden slicing and dicing his way past enemies (and watermelon).
Then Xbox’s major blockbusters hit the stage. Epic’s Cliffy B. demonstrated Gears of War 3 which is due out April 5. A new mode called “Beast” will be detailed soon. Then Lionhead Studios’ Peter Molyneux showed off a trailer for Fable III; it releases October the 26th. And things rounded out with a new trailer for Halo: Reach, “the most ambitious game Bungie has ever created.” The trailer was a mix of gameplay footage and cinematic cut scenes. Reach drops September 14. Also thrown into the mix was a new game from Crytek codenamed Kingdoms; it looks like a game based on the move 300. (*Each game title is linked to their respective E3 trailers/gameplay footage.)
Kinect for Xbox 360, formally known as Project Natal, was detailed. ”Kinect detects both movement and sound in very sophisticated ways.” An image revealed the guts of the motion-sensing device; it contains two 3D depth sensors, an RGB camera, multi-array mic, and a motorized tilt. ”When you combine the power of Xbox 360, the services of Xbox Live, and the magic of Kinect, the result is not just a revolution for your games, but for all of your entertainment.” Enter the Kinect Hub.
To get your Xbox 360 to recognize you, simply stand in front of Kinect, wave your hand, and the software will sign you into Xbox Live and bring up your custom avatar. Wave your hand a second time and you’re brought to a “controller-free menu” designed for Kinect gestures. The Kinect Hub allows you to interact with your games, friends, Netflix, Zune, Facebook, last.fm, and also customize your avatar. Thanks to the built-in mic, voice control is also accessible. Their motto is “if you see it, just say it.” You must precede all commands with “Xbox.” So for example, if you say “Xbox, Zune” the Zune hub loads up and now you have access to Zune Video, and now, Zune Music. Over seven million songs are now available over Xbox Live with Zune Music integration. With controller-free entertainment that’s “natural and effortless” you can also play/pause movies with your voice and rewind/fast-forward them with your hands. To select a piece of content simply hover your hand over it for a couple seconds.
On June 15 the floodgates open at the Los Angeles Convention Center for E3 2010. Today the team and I snooped around the perimeter of the convention center to give you a quick teaser before the show officially kicks off tomorrow afternoon. Enjoy the short clip above and a handful of pictures in the gallery below.
Tomorrow expect full rundowns of the Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo press conferences, plus the first batch of hands-on impressions and developer interviews straight from the show floor!
On Monday June 14 Microsoft hosted a pre-E3 event called World Premiere Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience. It was described as “a spectacular live performance imagined by Cirque du Soleil” and that’s exactly what it was. Sort of. Here’s what went down.
So we get there and wait in an enormously long line. But that didn’t matter much since our tickets guaranteed entrance into the event. While waiting outside we could hear the faint sound of heavy drums, and as we neared the front doors “Cirque” people were there to greet us with exotic dancing. People in line received green and purple Xbox-branded wrist bands and we were eventually split up into two lines according to wrist band color.
As we start heading inside the jungle-themed Galen Center at USC we are handed yet another wristband; this time it’s an Xbox 360 USB band. Inside it’s rather dim when we’re welcomed by Xbox reps who are handing out white ponchos with over-sized shoulder pads (I felt like Lady Gaga). After bringing fitted with the ponchos, we are instructed to walk towards to large auditorium. On our way into the auditorium we are startled by an Indian “family” who is sitting in a couch inside a mock living room. There is a large square cut out in the wall and the family invites us to walk through the wall opening (which symbolized walking out of a TV and into reality). The two parents and their children said hello to us in some Indian dialect and then directed us into the main auditorium. You can say we were dazed and confused at this point.
The large auditorium housed all the white poncho-dressed guests; it looked like we were all part of some nerd cult. Before the main event, we all just stood around and watched a bunch of Cirque people bizarrely dance around us and interact with others. People with purple bands sat in the seats, those with green bands stood on the center floor. Around us were large screens populated with Xbox avatars walking around a virtual jungle.
After a bit of a wait the lights went down and the main event began. Three screens fell from the ceiling and a Cirque man introduced a “Prologue”. The first part of the show featured a child riding in on Cirque elephant, climbing up on prop rocks, and using an Xbox 360 controller to play through three undisclosed games. When he reached the top of the rocky structure a curtain was removed from the top rock and a bright green Xbox logo was revealed. Then our shoulder pads lit up bright green. Big applause. When the child turned his back to us the screen projected his avatar that copied his every move. When an arm was raised, the avatar lifted his arm in the same fashion. Since there was some lag, you could tell this was all pre-recorded, but the effect was still impressive. Then the big reveal: Project Natal is now Kinect.
On Monday June 14 I will be attending the Microsoft pre-E3 event titled World Premiere Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience. It’s described as “a spectacular live performance imagined by Cirque du Soleil.” The LA Times has the scoopt on what to expect at the Natal-themed event. Microsoft rented out USC’s Galen Center for three weeks so a cast including 80 performers “supported by a crew of more than 100 designers, set builders, engineers and seamstresses” could properly prepare for what hopes to be a fantastical and visually stunning performance.
But what does Cirque du Soleil have to do with motion-sensing hardware for a video games console? Though the 45-minute long event is being kept under wraps, show director Michel Laprise had this to say about the theme: “It’s a story about humanity, about a quest and about overcoming obstacles. In history, there have been discoveries that have made us leap forward as a civilization. But those technologies demanded that we master their language, the language of machines. This time, it’s the machine that’s adapting. The human is at the center, doing what comes naturally. Moving, jumping, talking. And it’s up to the machine to interpret what that means.”
Microsoft would not disclose how much this secretive spectacular cost them. Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg said, “This is a massive investment for Microsoft. For us, it wasn’t about the money. It was about creating an experience that would be remembered forever.”
In an FAQ, Microsoft states that “some seating areas of the event are a standing experience” and they “recommend comfortable shoes.” Whether that means the event is part show/part hands-on Natal, I’m not so sure. For those of you not attending the event and want to see how it all unfolds, don’t fret! Check back this space tomorrow evening to read all about what happened at the event. And if that’s not enough for you, MTV will air a commercial-free condensed program covering the event on Tuesday June 15 at 3:30PM (ET). It will re-air on Nick at Nite, mtvU, MTV Hits, and Logo Tuesday, June 15 at 9:00PM (ET). (In related news, SPIKE TV will air an exclusive televised stream of the Microsoft press conference (called “Xbox 360: The Future Revealed”) tomorrow June 14 at 1:30-3:00PM (ET).)
In just two days the Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo press conferences will be over and “the big three” will be showing off their latest innovations in hardware and games on the show floor at their respective booths at E3. Let’s dive into each company’s plans and dissect what they have in store for us.
Xbox 360: You can expect massive titles like Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3, and Fable III to be demoed in real-time and hyped up during the Microsoft press conference. But the buzz around Microsoft this year surrounds their gaming without controllers initiative codenamed Project Natal. With a pre-E3 event called “Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience imagined by Cirque du Soleil” you can expect the motion-capture accessory to dominate Microsoft’s offerings throughout the week. With Natal Microsoft is first and foremost targeting the casual gamer, looking to expand to the same market Nintendo captured with the Wii. Natal’s initial launch lineup will be announced and this first batch of games will likely take advantage of Natal in simplistic ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Richochet and Paint Party games that were previewed last year end up shipping with it. And there’s always little Milo who may certainly star in his own game. If you’re the hardcore type, it would be remiss for Microsoft to ignore you after all these years of support. I’ve seen video of Burnout Paradise being used with Natal and Fable III lead designer Peter Molyneux stated in an interview that the next Fable will incorporate Natal functionality. Whatever the launch lineup may be, I would hope Microsoft has at least a dozen casual games to entice new gamers to their console and a sprinkle of hardcore experiences to satisfy their longtime users. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new version of the Xbox 360 dashboard took advantage of Natal with a gesture-based UI. As of now we know Natal is expected to launch this holiday season; the press conference should make things more clear with not only a definitive release date and a price (fingers-crossed under $100), but also a final name for the hardware (although “Natal” has grown on me over the months).
Enough Natal. Let’s talk games. I’ve already hit on the big sequel exclusives like Bungie’s Halo: Reach, Epic’s Gears of War 3, and Microsoft Game Studios’ Fable III. First person shoot XCOM from 2K Games looks fantastic (also available on PC), Capcom’s Dead Rising: Case Zero brings another compelling zombie shooter, and Microsoft Game Studios’ Avatar-based racing game Joy Ride will likely use Natal in more ways than one. And you can’t forget about the next Assassin’s Creed game from Ubisoft subtitled Brotherhood.
Read on for PS3 and Wii/DS discussion, plus more about third-party games and some “bizarre predictions”! (Click here for more…)
It’s that exciting time of year again. E3, the world’s biggest and baddest video games trade show, is upon us! From Monday June 14 through Thursday June 17 [experience-it-all] is your destination for the latest coverage from the major E3 press conferences and the show floor. E3, which stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo, is not open to the public. In order to gain access into the show, you must be affiliated with the interactive entertainment industry. It has been a life-long dream of mine to attend E3, and now I’ve finally found my way in. I want you to live vicariously through me by checking into the site. Throughout the course of the week I will be reporting from the show floor providing developer interviews and hands-on impressions of the latest and greatest games coming soon to video game consoles, PCs, and mobile devices near you.
E3 brings together thousands of developers who are itching to show off their games to the world. First there’s “the big three” in Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. 2010 is the year of motion control; Microsoft will unveil the near-final version Project Natal, Sony will show off its latest foray into the motion scene with Playstation Move, and Nintendo will have to prove why Wii should remain the go-to console for interactive and motion-based gaming against the onslaught of competition. Then there’s the third-party developers including (but certainly not limited to) 2K Games, Capcom, EA, Konami, Lucas Arts, SEGA, THQ, Ubisoft, and Valve. The show floor will be packed with lavish company booths (and requisite booth babes) featuring game trailers, demos, and developers ready to answer any and all questions about their upcoming games. And I will be right there smack in the middle of it all, reporting all the latest news straight to you.
Here’s how it’s all going down. Things kick off Monday (6/14) morning at 10:30AM (PT) with the Microsoft press conference. Later that day is the “Project Natal” for Xbox 360 Experience show (read more about that here). Tuesday (6/15) jam packs the Nintendo press conference at 9:00AM, the Sony press conference at noon, and the opening day of the E3 show floor at the LA Convention Center. The convention center is stays open through Thursday (6/17). I will be on the show floor all three days with a broadcast crew, constantly pushing out posts with video and images of hands-on experiences and developer interviews.
[experience-it-all] @ E3 2010. Tell your friends.
From June 14 to June 17, your destination for E3 coverage is [experience-it-all].