The Games Guru travels to the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles, Calif., to report on the latest and greatest that’s happening in the gaming world.
THE MOST PROMISING GAMES OF E3 2014
Another E3 has come and gone. But the constant thrill of walking through aisles and witnessing the some of the finest games world has to offer remains. Here’s the Games Guru’s Best of E3.
The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo for Wii U
While it won’t be released for a long while, it’s clear that this new Zelda will be one of the most beautiful games Nintendo has ever made. The grass, the sky, the landscape and the horizon are so wondrous, I wanted to play in this new Hyrule — now. Plus, it’s so rare to see an open world game for kids. If Nintendo does it right, this will be a game to be remembered.
Fantasia: Music Evolved
Disney/Harmonix for Xbox One
Here’s the recipe. Take the magical worlds within Disney’s Fantasia movie and mash them up with the hot hits of today’s music — and classical, too. Add Kinect and you have a totally fun dancing game that exercises your upper body just as it thrills your eyes and ears. Plus, you can cast spells!
The Walking Dead Pinball
Telltale/Zen for PC
This is a great zombie-based alternative to the M-rated Walking Dead games. You get pinball and zombies and mini-games based on the series — all with a kid-friendly rating. Hitting the zombies with the pinball is cool, and sometimes they rise like the creeps they are to walk across the playfield. Keep whacking them. They’ll go away … for a while.
No Man’s Sky
Hello Games for PS4
This exploration game reminds me of Spore, but with more realistic graphics. You don’t really win the game, it seems. In spaceships, you can travel from planet to planet to unravel a mystery. On certain planets, you’ll find dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes and colors. I wasn’t sure what it all meant. But it sure looks like a universe I’d like to check out.
Sony for PS4
While LBP has always been a 2D platformer, they’ve figured out a way to give it depth. It’s not exactly 3D — call it 2.5D. Sackboy has a variety of new pals to hang with, all just as cool and cute as he is. Oddsock is the most excellent of dogs, and he can even wall jump. You’ll be able to play online co-op and compete against each other, too. And yes, you can still create your own levels.
Sonic Boom: Rise of the Lyric
Sega for Wii U
Sonic, Tales, Amy and the gang bring Stick the Jungle Badger into the tribe to fight against, you guessed it, Doctor Eggman. Also, watch out for Lyric’s robot army of thousands. Everyone’s got an essential power like Amy, who carries a hammer that lets her swing on trees and poles. And yes, it’s fast. But there’s a lot of exploration, too.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Microsoft for Xbox One
This small game was the most stunning visually of anything I saw at E3. It didn’t have bombs or big, blasting guns. It didn’t have wacky characters. Instead, it has a magical forest that rivals any fairy tale that’s come to life in movies. And the story, about Ori trying to save the forest, is quite moving.
Sony for PS4, Vita and PC
It looks old school, but it plays with all the fun and style of today’s games. Inspired by Metroid and Castlevania, you’ll battle giant bosses and ugly minions in this platformer. And you explore the vividly imagined world to check out monsters who harbor a mystery.
Overall Best of E3: The Legend of Zelda
Trust me. Even though there wasn’t much to see — and nothing at all to play — this game will rock your Nintendo world when it’s released next year. I mean, it’s open world Zelda!
Runner Up: Ori and the Blind Forest
So affecting and so beautiful, you just might find yourself dreaming about this forest and its inhabitants.
DAY 3: MICROSOFT AND MORE
The good news about Microsoft at E3? They concentrated on games.
Score one for Microsoft, which had its problems with the launch of its Xbox One console last year.
The bad news? Amid the many shooter games shown on big screens, there were very few games for kids.
There were some notable exceptions, though.
There was Forza Horizon 2, a racing game with wondrous vistas. It makes you think you’re on a road trip through the most amazing landscapes in the world. The cars are sleek and souped-up. But you’ll happily get them dirty when you ride off road through deserts of red, splattering, rain-soaked mud. Horizon 2 features a wild open world full of surprises at every twist and turn.
Ori and the Blind Forest really intrigued me. It’s a children’s tale that is full of adventure set in a bucolic nighttime world of mystery. The game makers say that it’s inspired by Nintendo’s original Metroid, which makes it rife with exploration and power ups.
Ori is a soulful being who tries to save the imperiled creatures and flora throughout the forest. And it has an owl. I love owls. Put an owl in any game, and I’m there — even an evil owl like the one who threatens poor Ori.
There were other smaller games that were cool, like Cuphead. This platformer takes its influence from the old cartoons of the 1940s. Those classic old animations were known for their attention to detail, and Cuphead won’t disappoint in that regard. It has some of the finest, most unique animation I’ve seen in a game in quite some time. Unfortunately, it was shown by Microsoft for only about 10 seconds during the press conference. But it shows real promise.
Finally, Microsoft passed out these ingenious wrist bands which glowed and flickered in various colors during the presentations. It added excitement to the show.
Over at Ubisoft, there was a quirky exercise game which you’ll use with Kinect. Shape Up pits you against, well, yourself when you don’t have a teammate. The camera records video. So it can be you against your last workout each time you play.
But that’s not the intriguing part. As you do, say, pushups, animated things appear on your virtual back — bricks, a heavy arcade game, a car, even an elephant. It’s fun and funny.
At the Disney booth, I got deep into the new Toy Box mode for Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Heroes. Imagine yourself with a plot of land on which you can design a city. Then, boom. Skyscrapers are being built with the touch of a controller button.
But even more importantly, you can make a game that’s like Nintendo’s Smash Bros. yourself — in minutes. Then, you can populate it with Disney or Marvel characters. Trust me. You’ll be able to do it because making your own games far easier than last year. Think of it as LittleBigPlanet meets Disney.
Finally, I went over to the Nintendo booth to talk with Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto. On the way, I passed Zelda Williams, actor Robin Williams’ daughter who is named for The Legend of Zelda. Inside the Nintendo booth, I talked with legendary Zelda and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. And look: he signed my Nintendo 3DS XL and drew Mario on it. Now it’s a real collector’s item, thanks to the very kind Mr. Miyamoto. And it made my E3.
DAY 2: SONY GOES BIG
Sony doesn’t do things in a small way. But that’s a good thing for fans of E3. At this giant, video game carnival in Los Angeles, bigger is often better.
Sony’s press conference was a massive, movie-like affair, kind of like a planetarium for games. Even smaller, indie games were projected upon a huge screen that spanned well over 100 feet.
So when the brand new LittleBigPlanet 3 came on the screen and featured a giant Sackboy, I was really immersed in the experience.
Sackboy will introduce players to three new characters, too, for LittleBigPlanet 3’s November release. My favorite was the adorable Swoop, a bird who can lift characters over obstacles they can’t climb over. Swoop rocks.
On launch day, every level ever created by fans will be available to play. You could spend a lifetime checking out all 8.7 million levels. That’s a lot of content!
Entwined was made by college students and, as an E3 surprise, is available right now on the PlayStation Network. It featured two mysterious characters that are perfect for each other.
But they can’t be together. As you end each level, you turn into a spectacular dragon. The beautiful, soothing gameplay reminded me of the smooth, evolving desert treks in Journey.
Speaking of Journey, the art director who made that amazing world is involved with the gorgeous ABZU. Here, you’ll explore the sea.
You’ll travel through giant underwater caves full of luminescent jellyfish. You’ll swim with enormous blue whales and chase away a great white shark who wants to eat you for dinner. But you’ll have to hold your horses. ABZU won’t arrive until 2016. Should be worth the wait, though.
On the hardware front, Sony will be introducing a glacier white PS4 this fall. And they’re bringing you a PlayStation TV.
When attached to certain Sony TV’s, you won’t need a PlayStation to access a library of 1,000 games. You’ll just need a PSTV and a controller. It won’t have all PlayStation games. But for those who don’t have the money for a PS4, it’s a good way to start.
Toward the end of the event, Sony showed off a clip of the upcoming Ratchet & Clank feature film. I couldn’t really tell how good this origin movie will be from the snippet. But I was more interested in the announcement of a new Ratchet & Clank game that will come out in tandem with the film next year. I can’t wait for more cheeky humor from this nutty duo.
Like Nintendo, Sony has a vast archive of deeply intriguing characters. They should really make more use of them in movies. Unlike Nintendo, Sony has its own movie company. So let’s see more!
The most mysterious game of the event was No Man’s Sky. First, the crowd saw a brightly-colored world full of dinosaurs. Then, you’re in a spaceship traveling through space and then landing on a planet.
The game makers took the stage to announce that No Man’s Sky would put every player on a different planet. It sounds great. But what exactly do you in this game? It really wasn’t clear.
Later, I took a booth tour and tried Sony’s upcoming virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus. Morpheus surrounds you with virtual worlds and immerses you in them. I rode a luge down a mountain highway (scary!) and battled a knight in a castle.
Once you don the headset, all you see is a magical world – all around you. Like the forthcoming Oculus Rift headset, it’s an awesome experience. What was shown were only tech demos, not really games. But the initial experience was promising.
All told, E3 proved that Sony’s portfolio of PS4 games is getting stronger and stronger.
DAY 1: NINTENDO IS BACK!
Last year, the Japanese company that makes the Mario and Zelda games put on a particularly uneventful E3 press conference.
This year at E3, Nintendo did a 180. Today, they dispensed with the press conference and streamed a new video full of mirth and new games.
I also got a look at a cornucopia of fresh stuff. Each future offering made me think, “Why didn’t they do this when the Wii U was first released?”
But forget Nintendo’s missteps — because there’s good news ahead.
There’ll be a new Legend of Zelda, an open world Zelda that lets you go anywhere in its vast locales. The artwork was brilliant, blades of grass blowing in the breeze, Link riding his proud steed, odd green fog in the distance. Then came a huge, robotic spidery monster! That’s all they showed, but it was enough to make me want more.
It won’t come until late next year, though, and there isn’t even a game title as of yet.
They also debuted Amiibo, Skylanders-like figures that will work with Wii U games starting this fall. The Mario figure looks amazing in its detail. So does Zelda’s Link and Samus from the Metriod series. Five of the 10 figures got me really excited.
Right now, these figures will add additional gaming to the current Mario Kart 8, the upcoming Super Smash Brothers and a few others.
It seemed weird that there wasn’t a dedicated game for Amiibos. My guess is there will be, but not in the near future. Nintendo can be tight-lipped. But the Amiibo news that might actually help sell some Wii Us, which haven’t been exactly flying off the shelves.
A small game called Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker for the Wii U intrigued me. Toad is the resourceful but timid leader of the Toad Brigade who you met in Super Mario Galaxy. It’s out this fall, and I’m looking forward to playing this platformer — if only because the character feels new. Nintendo has such a deep library of wonderful, quirky characters. They should bring us new games starring these adorable creatures more often.
Nintendo has a brand new game in development with new characters that change from swimming squids to adventurers. During fast and furious play, Splatoon pits your team of four against another team of four.
But you’re not shooting guns in this online game. In a game design choice that recalls Epic Mickey, you’re shooting non-violent paint to make the floors your team’s color. The goal is to paint more floors than your foe, before time runs out. The opponents can shoot you, but you respawn at the home base. I played, and it’s fun-filled mayhem.
Finally, Nintendo showed off Mario Maker, which lets you make your own Mario platform game. Now, you too, can be like legendary Mario gamemaker Shigeru Miyamoto. Maybe you’ll even make something that is as excellent as what he’s created.
Overall, I haven’t been this enthusiastic about Nintendo’s offerings for years.
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