This Week in Games
E3 Part 1: Press Conference Roundup
by Heidi Kemps,
Hello, folks! Welcome to part one of a special two-part This Week in Games focusing on E3. For the first time in 15 years, I'm not actually at E3… but I've been glued to Twitch and Twitter to take in all the news as it comes in. For this column, I'm highlighting the announcements that occurred during the various major publisher press conferences and online presentations over the past couple days.
While here were lots and lots of games featured at these press conferences, we're going to try and focus on what we usually highlight here: Japanese, Japanese-influenced, and anime-heavy games, which narrows things down a fair bit. I'm also only talking about the stuff that got shown at the press events here – there are plenty of other announcements, which we'll cover on Friday. So, without further ado, let's start with a look at…
We tend to think of Microsoft as the home of dudebro gaming, but every so often they slip a few announcements into their press events that try to remind people that, why yes, we do actually have support of Japanese studios even though our console is selling maybe double-digits in Japan each week.
Remember that “Shadows Die Twice” tease from The Game Awards? Well, we finally know what that's all about. From Software is teaming up with Activision to publish Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a new ninja-themed action game.
Activision being involved in publishing this has lead some folks to think this is tied to Tenchu, a stealth-action game originally published by Activision outside of Japan. From currently holds the Tenchu rights, so it's easy to draw conclusions like that, but Sekiro looks like a very different game: Tenchu is about stealthy assassination, where Sekiro looks a lot more focused on action. Anyone here remember Otogi for the Xbox? That's more the kind of vibe I'm getting here. Hidetaka Miyazaki, who directed (some of) the Souls games and Bloodborne, is in charge, and it's rather refreshing to see him doing a different formula. This is going to be one to look forward to.
Last year, we saw Dragonball FighterZ and Code Vein unveiled at Microsoft's event. This year was once again a big win for Bandai-Namco on their stage, as we got both confirmation of the rumored Tales of Vesperia remaster and the announcement of a new crossover game of extreme interest to the ANN audience.
Entitled Jump Force, the trailer for this title showcased Naruto, Goku, and Luffy battling Frieza in what looked like the ruins of a real-world New York City (though we did see glimpses of some manga environments at the very beginning of the reveal trailer). Early hands-on reports indicate that this will be a team brawler akin to the previous Jump crossover games, only on a far grander scale and budget. While we've only seen playable characters from Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto so far (making me think at first that this was a spiritual successor to obscure brawler Battle Stadium D.O.N.), there was a fan-pleasing glimpse of Light Yagami and Ryuk from Death Note towards the end, indicating that more familiar Jump faces will be appearing.
Of course, Bandai-Namco clearly want to make this game a big deal in the West, which leaves me wondering about the extended cast: will we be seeing the obscure faces that popped up in J-Stars Victory Vs, or are we just going to be sticking to the folks from Jojo and Yu Yu Hakusho that Western fans are more likely to recognize? We'll just have to see.
We also got a glimpse at more Kingdom Hearts III, which is definitely this E3's most-trailered game. Surprising nobody, Sora and crew are going to the world of Frozen, the biggest Disney hit of recent times. We've also now got an actual, real, serious release date for the game: January 29th, 2019. It seems unreal after so long that Kingdom Hearts III might actually exist, so maybe there's hope for the FF7 remake yet!
Capcom delivered a surprise, too. While it was strongly rumored that a Devil May Cry 5 was coming, we finally got a glimpse of it, and it looks… well, like the bizarre love child of DMC4 and DmC. Yeah, I'm not sure how to feel about it, either, especially since I never liked Nero that much. They say Dante's still in the game, though, but from the trailer it sure looked like the Xtreem Nero Show. Here's hoping Capcom can finally make the fanbase happy.
Square-Enix presentations are always kind of awkward in that “tonal whiplash” kind of way. Their purchase of Eidos was an extremely smart move that put several Western franchises and studios under their wing, but their output is still somewhat at odds with what we expect when we hear the name “Square-Enix.” It's strange going from the violent survival action of Tomb Raider immediately to Kingdom Hearts and Dragon Quest XI, y'know?
While Squeenix's presentation was rather light on new announcements, we did get a very pleasant surprise in the form of Babylon's Fall, a new IP developed by PlatinumGames. We haven't seen much of the game beyond a trailer and concept CG, but there's definitely a Souls-like vibe to the aesthetic. We don't even know much about the staff working on the game: Hideki Kamiya tweeted, in that incorrigible Kamiya way, that it's not his game and don't bother him about it, but that's about it.
Normally you don't expect much in the way of Japanese-flavored gaming from Ubisoft, but in recent years that's been changing thanks to the unusually close relationship the publisher enjoys with Nintendo. Last year, we got the surprisingly pleasantly surprising Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and this year we got Miyamoto on stage again to give us… not Mario, but space animals.
Starlink is a multi-platform space action/exploration game with a toys-to-life component that allows for players to buy ship parts and construct custom craft both in and outside of the game, which is a cool idea. The Switch version, however, looks like the one to get, because you're going to be able to take control of Fox McCloud. You even get a custom Fox miniature and an Arwing toy in the package. If you were disappointed by Starfox Zero, maybe this will make up for it.
…Well, that was awkward. I think the less said about this press conference's musical interludes, the better. Let's just look at the games.
Ghost of Tsushima isn't a Japanese-developed game – it's made by Sucker Punch, the folks originally behind Sly Cooper and Infamous – but it's interesting to see a Western developer attempt to tackle historical Japan. The demo shown at the conference was certainly visually impressive, though I'm still feeling a bit iffy about things like the stereotypically-accented voiceover. The action looks solid, though, and if it all comes together it could be the cool historical fiction game that The Order 1886 failed to be.
After Ghost of Tsushima… Oh hey, it's another Kingdom Hearts III trailer, this time showing us the return of the Pirates of the Caribbean world. Only now Sora looks even more out of place next to uncanny valley Johnny Depp.
Nioh 2 was a pleasant surprise to see from Koei-Tecmo, and I'm glad that Team Ninja's take on the Souls formula resonated worldwide. However, we've now got… one, two, three upcoming high-profile action games taking place in historical Japan. Let's hope consumers don't get confused!
Meanwhile, From Software's got another new game coming in Deracine. Like Bloodborne, it's a PS4 exclusive, though it's apparently nothing at all like From's typical action-game output: It's an exploration-heavy game where a spirit interacts with students at a boarding school. Using the ability to alter the forces of time and life, you can “change the students’ fates” – wording that makes me think something more sinister lies in the background of this very serene trailer.
Oh, hi Leon. Nice to see you looking young and healthy again. Also nice to see that your REmake didn't get pushed to 2019 like so many other games being shown.
And then there's Death Stranding. It's hard to really describe what I saw in that trailer, but man, it sure did look pretty. And hey, we've got new actors involved: French actress Lea Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner, the Bionic Woman herself. It's very clear that Hideo Kojima is using his newfound freedom to self-indulge as much as he can, but I'll be damned if the process of this weird-ass game coming together hasn't been utterly fascinating to watch.
Nintendo started off their E3 Nintendo Direct with a surprise from Marvelous Entertainment: A Switch exclusive, third-person mech game with a unique visual style called Daemon X Machina.
If you're a mech anime fan, that credits list at the end has some names that should make you very excited. Kenichiro Tsukuda has been at Marvelous for a while, but he also worked on several of the early Armored Core games. Yusuke Kozaki is best known as the character designer of recent Fire Emblem titles, but he's had an illustrious career spanning a lot of different media forms. And then there's Shoji Kawamori, who… well, just click on that link to see his ANN Encyclopedia entry, and marvel over everything he's done. (It's a lot.) So yeah, Daemon X Machina could be a thing.
Super Mario Party is Mario Party for Switch. It will sell a million copies and destroy countless friendships.
Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee and Pikachu are making their playable debut at E3, and so is the optional Pokeball controller. Nintendo, masters of squeezing you for money and making you love it, are packing in a Mew with every single Pokeball, making buying it far and away the easiest way to obtain the mythical Pokemon.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses was a very pleasant surprise, though the trailer leaves me with a lot of questions. Interestingly, the battles seem to feature a commander with troops behind them, hinting that there may be some Advance Wars-like elements to the game. If that's the case, it certainly be a way to appease the crowd clamoring for a new Advance Wars while getting the awareness boost a popular franchise like Fire Emblem commands. We'll just have to see if that's the case as more details trickle out.
And then there's this little thing called Smash Bros. Maybe you've heard of it? Well, as I write this, Nintendo's prepping for the Smash Bros Invitational (and likely more character/feature reveals), but from what we've been shown so far: holy crap this game has so much stuff
Seriously, Super Smash Bros Ultimate (as it's now titled) looks like it's going to live up to its name. I loved that little troll at the beginning where director Masahiro Sakurai was like “well let's introduce some of the returning characters” and then about a third of a way through, when the return of Solid Snake was shown, said “oh hey this game contains literally every Smash character ever made up to this point, along with a whole mess of old stages and stuff, hope you all like that!”
Of course, there's new stuff too – though, notably, Sakurai said outright not to expect too much new since they just finished adapting a whole mess of old stuff. We already knew the Inklings were coming, and we're getting our first glimpse of them in motion today. What we didn't expect, however, was for memes to come true in the form of Ridley.
Yes, Sakurai finally put Ridley in as a playable character. Now you can annoy your friends by screaming “HEY SAMMY RAAAAAGHHH” constantly during your multiplayer sessions. Or maybe that's just what I'll be doing.
Anyhow, that about wraps up our press conference announcement highlights. Tune in Friday for all the other exciting E3 stuff!
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