Hey, I went to another E3! This year’s was a little bit of a dud, as the new consoles are very early in their life cycles and still haven’t found their legs. In other words, they didn’t have a lot of games. But there were a zillion indie games to take up the slack. In fact, maybe even too many. As is my custom, every year I run around like a nutter playing as many games as I can, then come back and dole out silly, made-up awards. So without further ado, here are the 2014 SJ E3 Awards!
The Paint the Town Red Award
One Piece: Unlimited World Red
Bandai Namco > PS3, PS Vita, 3DS, Wii U
This game is coming out on so many systems! And it’s getting a physical release on all of them except the Wii U (which will be digital only). Still, boxed releases on the PS3, Vita and 3DS is pretty amazing. And after playing the game at E3, I can see why—it’s fun! And it’s gorgeous. It has bright, beautiful, colorful graphics that capture the look of the anime perfectly. The game is centered around a town-building mechanic that levels up your characters. You go on quests, gather materials like bugs, fish and wood to build up your town. As the town gets built, your characters get stronger. There are tons of characters to play, lots of areas to explore and you can play local co-op on the PS3. With the portables, you can play with up to four players. We’ll have more on this game in the next month before it comes out on July 8!
Winner of the “BIG THREE.”
Been a while since Nintendo stole the show, but they had the busiest booth with the best playable games by far. The lines to get in on the new Smash Bros. were long the whole show. And it’s a four-person game! Actually, the PR guy told me they move 84 people through every five minutes, and it was still a good wait. With exclusives like Bayonetta, some surprising new interesting new first party games like Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker and a bunch of other goodies—they had the crowds and the energy this year.
Most Historically Accurate Game
Final Form Games > PC, PS4
Historians have well documented the incredible spaceship battles that took place on 17th-century British Colonial Mars. In these battles, it is said that so many bullets crowded the skies, it looked like hell. And that’s where the term “Bullet Hell” came from. Not many people know that it’s a 17th-century term. Folks, I’m a shlup for shmups, and this game wowed me on the floor. It’s a 1–4 player bullet-hell shoot-em-up that takes place in the past on Mars! That right there is enough awesome, but the game is actually really good. Like, old Dreamcast shmup good. Graphics are retro and beautiful, art direction and ship design tight and the gameplay is there, too. It’s the whole package. Previously released on the PC, this is headed to the PS4 this summer and features more levels and new weapons.
The Right Behind the Ear Award
Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo > Wii U, 3DS
Some games just seem to scratch that sweet spot that makes your leg start going crazy. Super Smash Bros. Wii U is that game. As soon as I picked Fox McCloud and started running across the screen kicking Donkey Kong in the head, I knew Nintendo had done good. They managed to tap into that old part of my brain had been sealed off for so long and all these sweet memories and feelings bubbled right up to the surfice. The controls felt good, the action as crazy as ever, and the graphics looked amazing as this is the first time it’s been in HD. And the 3DS version wasn’t half bad, either!
Best Floor Display
Turtle Rock Studios > PC, PS4, Xbox One
E3 is all about bombast. He who hath the biggest, loudest, eye-grabbingist booth, hath won. Or so it seems. And being a nerd, I’m naturally drawn to giant scary-looking monsters, and the statue for the upcoming Evolve game was impressive. Towering over the crowds, this giant reptilian beast was so detailed he looked like he’d been frozen in time. Game looks interesting, too. It’s a 4-Player game where three players hunt down the one player who controls the monster. But if they don’t get him before he eats a bunch of stuff and evolves, he’s going to have the upper hand. Not sure if it’ll set the world on fire, but at least it’s not another shooter.
The “Wut in the Nut Am I Doing?” Award
Honeyslug > PS3, PS4, PS Vita
I’m a big fan of indie games. They can be amazing. They take chances bigger games with more money on the line would never take. They’re artsy, weird, wacky, etc. But they can be too artsy to the point of totally alienating the player. I think Hohokum falls in that category. When I tried to play it by myself, I could not for the life of me figure out what to do. All I knew was how to fly my eyeball string thing around a cool cartoony world. There was nothing whatsoever that would lead me to take specific actions to play the game. When I played it the second time and the game helper dude was there, he explained what I was supposed to do. I was supposed to fly way under the top world, let the monkey things ride my string tail, drop them off to pick fruit, pick them up and fly back up to the top world, fly around the elephant thing and dodge the horn blowers bullets while they pelt the elephant with fruit. Naturally. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. I’m all for mystery and using your brain to figure out a game, but you’ve got give the player a little bit to work with.
Cosplay isn’t really a big deal at E3. You may see a couple of wacky-doodlers dressed up in Mario outfit or two, but the people there are “professionals,” and tend to wear T-shirts they barely fit into. Of course I dress up, but not as any specific character, just my usual wacky hat-n-cape combo. This year, I found a truly scary cosplayer on the floor! And he kept sneaking up on me! Until I turned around of course, then he would act like nothing’s going on. It was quite strange!
Most Eyeball Destroying Experience
PlatinumGames Inc. > Wii U
There are several levels of eye fatigue, a condition caused by straining your eyes too hard for too long. First, your eyes dry out. Second, you get headaches. Third, they turn rock hard and then explode into dust. I no longer have eyeballs. This game is nuts! I mean, of course it’s nuts, it’s Bayonetta, but it’s like, even more nuts! The demo has you fighting metallic centaurs on the tops of crashing jets spinning out of control while doing a variety of crazy attacks, that of course, take more of your clothes off the more you do them. Yep, it’s Bayonetta. But, the cool thing is, this Wii U exclusive comes with the first game for free! Nice touch, Nintendo.
Best Super Unlikely Genre Mashup
Rollers of the Realm
Phantom Compass > PC, PS4, PS Vita
A pinball RPG? Sounds crazy, but it might just be crazy enough to work. Well, actually it does work. And well. And it’s not a gimmicky pinball game with a splash of RPG elements—it’s a real game. Each of the 10 characters is a different sized ball with a special ability. And as you progress through the game, you’ll be able to swap them out to get through levels. Each level is a new table, with a new objective. Kill a bunch of guys, find the treasure, etc. Some tables have numerous flippers and just getting though the level is a puzzle in itself. There’s a meaty story here, with tons of characters and excellent voice acting. The game’s already out on steam, but will be coming to PS4 and the PS Vita soon.
Yay, They Learned Their Lesson Award
Dragon Age: Inquisition
BioWare > PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
The first Dragon Age game was a huge hit. Lauded for its complex strategic combat system, deep character customization, detailed world building and engaging story—the game garnered millions of fans all over the world. And everybody was hyped for the sequel…until they played it. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a “quick cash grab,” it wasn’t a finely crafted labor of love either. It was just kinda “meh.” It seems like the brass learned their lesson, because the third upcoming game is a stunner. Lush graphics so detailed you’ll finally feel like you're in the next gen, a retooled battle system that’ll give eggheads plenty of numbers to crunch, and a massive world just ripe for exploring. Seems like someone’s grandpa gave them a lecture about “taking the time to do things right.” Glad they listened.
Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed
Aquire > PS3, PS Vita
This is a very clever name! The game takes place in Akihabara, a.k.a. Akiba, and you defeat the bad guys by taking their clothes off because they’re vampires, and the sun hurts them. Well, synthetic vampires, technically. And in the logo, “Akiba’s Trip” can easily be read as “Akiba Strip,” which is perfect because that’s what you do to bad guys—strip them. It’s so clever, I read it wrong and someone corrected me when I tweeted about it. The game, as you might have guessed, is super wacky. Aside from the premise of deafeating bad guys by taking their clothes off, the game also has a ton of crazy weapons, wacky outfits and characters. And the company who made it actually licensed the rights to 130 actual stores in Akihabara. This is definitely one of those games you’ll want to show all your friends.
Best Dirty Bird Cooking Game
Senran Kagura: Bon Appétit
Xseed Games > PS Vita
You like cooking games? You like rhythm games? You like scantily clad ladies? Well, have I got the game for you! Xseed was bringing the panty shots this year with another game where clothes fly off bodies. But this one’s about cooking! And it’s a rhythm game! Hit the buttons to the music while your character cooks up a feast for a gourmet food judge. And at some point in every match, someone’s clothes will explode off their body and boobs and butts will jiggle for the camera. Despite the extreme fan service, their panties and bras are on so this “cooking” game isn’t totally tasteless. (That’s a pun, btw.)
Guy Playing Far Cry 4
Ubisoft > PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
While playing the demo for Far Cry 4, the guy next to me had a minor meltdown. The demo has you sneaking into a fortress in the Himalayas, taking out the bad guys and eventually a helicopter. Based on the demo, the game seems to have all the great stuff that made Far Cry 3 a huge hit, but with better graphics. Anyway, mid-demo, I see the guy next to me throw his hat on the ground and yell at the top of his lungs, “I’M NOT DEAD!!! I DIDN’T DIE!!!” He was, of course, immediately embarrassed having realized he was not at home on his couch at home, but on the crowded E3 floor. It was pretty amazing to watch. Also, I’m pretty sure he was dead. The computer is really good at math, and can figure out when you die very accurately.
Toadally Awesome Idea!
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
Nintendo > Wii U
Remember that fun Captain Toad mini-game in the last Mario game? The one where you have to find stars in small self-contained stages that you can rotate 360 degrees? It was quite fun and very clever. Well that mini-game is a game-game! The thing that made the mini-game fun was Captain Toad’s limited abilities. He (she?) can’t jump. So you have to rotate the camera, move objects by grabbing them on the Wii U gamepad and figure out how to collect the goodies on each level. Each level is a new puzzle to solve.
Best “Harvest Moon” Game
Harvest Moon: Lost Valley, Story of Seasons
Natsume, Xseed > 3DS
They were both good! Haha, how’s that for a cop out? No, seriously they did both look good. If you don’t know the latest Harvest Moon goings on, Xseed is now publishing Harvest Moon games. Because of legal reasons, they cannot call their game Harvest Moon, so theirs is called “Story of the Seasons.” It looks like the tried-and-true traditional Harvest Moon experience. While Natsume’s game, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, aims to shake things up a bit by letting players modify the very earth their farm sits on. It has a heavy Minecraft feel and will allow you to shape rivers, build bridges, make mountains, etc. Both games look great and should provide hours of good ol’ farmin’ fun.
My Childhood Dream Come True Award
Nintendo > Wii U
Wow, Nintendo is getting with the times! They’ve always been slow to resist trends, being set in their ways, but it looks like they’re jumping on the community-created content bandwagon. And in an amazing way! If you grew up playing Super Mario Bros., you no doubt dreamed of making your very own levels. Well, now you can! And share them with others. And choose between old school graphics or the new slick modern ones. I, for one, can’t wait to see what people come up with for this game. But I will have to wait, because it won’t come out until sometime 2015.
That’s it for this year! It was a so-so E3, but I have a feeling that we’re going to start seeing some real new gen games next year. I hope!
by Urian Brown