(I will do a Microsoft write-up later today, but Nintendo and Sony’s conferences are up right now)
Starting today, E3 is in full swing. Microsoft got the ball rolling with an all-around impressive showing at yesterday’s conference, with two Halo titles, Metal Gear: Rising, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Alan Wake, and a little boy named Milo.
Nintendo disappointed millions with last year’s E3 press conference. Can they possibly win some hearts and minds back this year? I’ll be blogging the conference as it happens. And it apparently happens now.
11:05 – Video montage showing off how everybody loves the Wii and DS. Standard proceedure, but nothing new.
11:06 – Oh joy, Cammie Dunnaway is back! Here to bring you smiles and talk about being a mom!
11:07 – Gaming is bigger than music and the box office combined. Nintendo is taking credit. Maybe they should.
11:08 – Talking “suprises” and a video game icon. Rumored new Mario game is probably about to be shown. Yep! Mario video montage showing his history.
11:10 – A Treehouse employee is out to show off “New Super Mario Bros.” for the Wii. Opening with something like this – opposed to Shaun White – is a smart move.
11:14 – 4-player side scrolling Mario. Cammie died immediately. Not exactly mind blowing, but looks fun, and fans have been wanting another “New Super Mario Bros.” title. I’d buy it, as long as the single player is new and not just the old DS game. Propeller suits!
11:15 – Cammie came in last on the final results screen. Game is out Holiday 2009. Again, good to open with Mario, and we’re doing better than last year so far. Not exactly an explosion of excitement here, though. Balance board is being talked about now.
11:16 – Wii Fit Plus announced, suprising no one. This has already been written about.
11:18 – If you were into Wii Fit, you’ll probably be way into Wii Fit Plus. Yay? Another video montage of already released games now.
11:19 – Whooooo Reggie Fis-Aime! PLEASE kick some ass and take some names.
11:20 – Talking Wii Motion Plus. Hopefully some great games will be announced/shown that use it. Montage time!
11:23 – Video seems to mostly be showing actors faking stuff, but apparently the activities are all in Wii Sports Resort. Basketball, archery, fencing, jet skiing, etc. Bill is coming back out to play it on-stage.
11:25 – Wii Sports Resort starts with skydiving. That’s cool I guess. Fun way to “get” to the fabled resort. But he’s basically just tilted the remote. Nothing technically impressive.
11:27 – Archery is up next. Now, I’ve been doing some of this in real life lately, so I’m skeptical here.
11:29 – Hmm. Looks cool enough. Definitely “gamey” but in a fun looking way.
11:30 – Reggie is back out to exchange “witty” banter with Bill, and it’s more painful than anything. They’re going to play some basketball in Wii Sports Resort.
11:30 – “That’s how short you are now!” Oh-HO! The bad insults just keep coming!
11:31 – This is a game that we’re really going to have to get our hands on to judge accurately. Looks like it could be another fun multiplayer game for all ages. Launches July 26th.
11:33 – Talking about EA Sports games – Tiger Woods and Tennis – as well as Sega’s Tennis game that will support Wii Motion Plus… Before Wii Sports Resort even comes out.
11:34 – UbiSoft’s Red Steel 2 got namedropped as something that could only be played with Wii Motion Plus. Are they not going to show it off?
11:35 – OK, here we go. RPG titles. Finally showing off an exclusive Final Fantasy title for the Wii, The Crystal Bearers. This was announced last year, but this trailer looks great.
11:35 – Also showing off Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for the DS. Known quanitity at this point, but I’m a big fan of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, so I’ll still get excited.
11:37 – Mario & Luigi: Bowsers Inside Story for the DS is being shown now. These are all trailers, by the way, and rather short ones at that. But hey, if you liked Mario & Luigi before, this looks like more of the same. It’s already out in Japan, and is coming to North America and Europe this fall.
11:38 – SWEET! Golden Sun announced for the DS. Fans have been clamoring for this one for awhile, myself included. The Golden Sun games on the GameBoy Advance were pretty great RPGs.
11:40 – Game based on Jame’s Patterson’s “Women’s Murder Club” books. Coming for DS. Looks like a game my sister and girlfriend might enjoy, as they’re big fans of those Nancy Drew games on the PC.
11:41 – Trailer for UbiSoft’s “Cop: New Recruit” now. Supposedly more for hardcore gamers. Hey, it kinda looks alright. Looks like fast-paced 3rd person driving combined with 3rd person shooting. Maybe it’ll control well.
11:42 – Oh joy, “Style Savvy” is being shown now. I’ve always wanted to be a fashion designer on my Nintendo DS!
11:45 – Nintendo DSi montage talking to fans of the system. *yawn*
11:46 – DSi has sold 1 million units to date, and people are still buying the DS Lite. Surprise!
11:47 – Flipnote Studio, formerly Moving Memo, is coming this Summer. It’s kind of an animation program for the DSi.
11:48 – New Mario vs. Donkey Kong title? Yeah, “Minis March Again.” That’s fine I guess. I enjoyed the first one. Good puzzle game. DSi only game that’s downloadable. Wow, coming June 8th. That’s soon!
11:49 – WarioWare: DYI. “As in, ‘Do it yourself’!” Haha, clever, Nintendo, clever! You can make your own WarioWare games and share them with other DSi users. That could be cool.
11:50 – Huh, the DSi camera is going to add a FaceBook photo uploader. Upload pictures you take and edit straight to your profile. Interesting. FaceBook is sure getting a lot of attention this E3!
11:52 – The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks will be on the showfloor. So much for the dream of Shigeru Miyamoto waltzing out in a conductor’s outfit!
11:53 – President Satoru Iwata is on-stage now. As much as I love him, he’d better announce some cool stuff rather than just roll in all the money he’s made.
11:55 – Iwata says that the industry is losing the attention of the “Maybe” gamers. Nintendo, hate to say it, but you’re also losing the hardcore gamers.
11:57 – Everyone needs to take a note from Microsoft. They said, “Hey, check it! GAMES!” and had the crowd’s attention the whole time. This is just boring.
11:59 – Nintendo might announce a new IP here, but it sounds like a casual thing.
11:59 – Yep, “Wii Vitality Sensor.” It’s one of those little pulse measuring devices that you might see at a hospital or doctor’s office. What. The. Heck?!?
12:00 – “See the information relating to the inner world of your body.” “Maybe everyone can use this as a way to relax with a video game.” I’m sorry, but… No. This doesn’t sound relaxing and nor does it sound like a “video game.” Crowd seemed silent. Device looked stupid.
12:02 – Cammie is back saying that they’ve gotta deliver some more Mario news. Thank God. But will it be enough?
12:03 – Looks like another Mario Galaxy Title. Not exactly innovative or mind-blowing, but good news regardless. The original Mario Galaxy was outstanding, and sure, I’d play more of that.
12:05 – Yeah, Galaxy 2 (if that’s what it’s called) looks really cool. I’ll play it for sure. Yoshi!
12:05 – Super Mario Galaxy 2 is official. FINALLY the crowd cheers at something.
12:05 – Reggie is out again saying, “Hey, I read the blogs too.” Good, since that’s your JOB, Reggie. Now appease the masses! And it sounds like he might. Talking about 3rd Party games that are more hardcore and exclusive to Wii.
12:06 – Trailer for “The Conduit”, published by Sega. We know a ton about this already, but it still looks great. Coming this month. Glad to see Nintendo acknowledge it themselves.
12:08 – Now a trailer for Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles, another “lightgun” game, but it looks cool enough. Yay for Claire Redfield! But we knew about this one, too. I was hoping for new announcements.
12:09 – Dead Space: Extraction now. Yet another lightgun game, but this one grabbed my attention. Dead Space was a great blend of gameplay, story and horror. This exclusive prequel could be really interesting.
12:10 – “Could a new edgier game be coming from us?” Yes, Reggie/Nintendo, it could. Plus show us how.
12:10 – Holy crap, Team Ninja logo.
12:11 – Team Ninja and Nintendo combine for… Holy crap, a Metroid game! Looks like an action-packed, Ninja Gaiden style experience. And was that Samus’ voice? Yes, it is. They finally gave her a voice actor. Is that really “edgy”, though? Still, Metroid!
12:12 – Metroid: Other M coming 2010. Crowd is cheering for that one, and I am too. THAT’S what this entire conference needed to be like. The game looks really good.
12:14 – And that’s a wrap.
All in all, better than last year, but… That’s not saying a lot.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M were definitely the highlights, though I’d put Golden Sun DS up there as well. Lots of stuff that was shown will appease the casual gamer that dominates the Wii market these days, so that’s good for the Nintendo bank account.
Still no new Wii Zelda, no Kid Icarus, no Pilot Wings Wii… Oh well. I’m excited to see this new Metroid.
I’ll be back later blogging the Sony event. Stay tuned!
My review of Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS is done and will hopefully appear in the paper (or at least on the DT website) on Monday or Tuesday. But I figured I could give you a little tease now. So here it is:
It would be easy to dismiss “Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” (and considering recent sales figures, most of you have), considering that the Nintendo DS isn’t exactly a system known for power or Mature video games.
But dismissing this handheld entry in the popular crime series would be a very, very big mistake.
“Chinatown Wars” takes everything great about the GTA series, gives it a top-down perspective (which long-time fans will recognize as the original viewpoint for the series), adds some touch-screen functionality and drug dealing, and imbues the graphics with a nice, cel-shaded sort of style.
And the end result is amazing.
Everything you love about the series is here, as well as some improvements that should make their way into the game’s console big brothers. An example of this is “trip skip,” which allows the player to fast forward through those boring “drive to this location” sections of missions after you’ve done them once. So, for example, say you’re playing a mission in which you have to drive to the airport and have to blow up a vehicle there, but die after the explosion. The game won’t force you to make the long drive out the the airport again. You just start there. It’s a simple change, but one that you might consider invaluable. It’s actually a wonder that it took the folks at Rockstar so long to implement such a thing.
The main story isn’t as long as that of GTA IV, but there’s still plenty to keep you entertained afterward in the form of side-quests, Rampage missions, multiplayer, drug dealing, and the overall ability to goof off.
The actual plot of the game also isn’t quite up to par with Nico Bellic’s epic tale in GTA IV, but that’s not to say it’s bad. It still has interesting characters and a good story that drives the gameplay further.
Chinatown Wars is a great achievement technically. It never feels like you’re playing in a watered down version of Liberty City.
And while the game has touch screen “mini-games,” they’re integrated so well into the gameplay that they’re never a pain or a hassle, as is the trap that most DS games fall into. From hotwiring cars to assembling weapons to scratching off lottery tickets, everything manages to feel natural in the game world.
You can even whistle into the DS microphone to hail a taxi if you so choose.
Chinatown Wars is a stunning gameplay achievement. It not only manages to be one of the best portable games ever created (certainly one of the best games on the DS), but also one of the best games in the GTA series.
It’s an absolute shame that it’s not selling very well thus far. If you have any interest at all in GTA or just want a more mature game for your DS, I implore you to check out Chinatown Wars.