This Week in Games
E3 Extravanganza: Press Conference Panic!

by Heidi Kemps,

Hey folks! It's E3 time again, and that means bigger, badder, better This Week in Games columns! In this column, I'll be taking a look at the major console manufacturer and publisher press conferences, and the announcements of interest that occurred! We'll have another E3-themed column later this week with plenty more news and details about more low-key announcements and other interesting happenings around E3. We've got a lot of ground to cover, so let's get moving!

MICROSOFT

As most folks are aware, Sony didn't have a press conference – or an E3 presence – this year, leaving Microsoft as the sole console manufacturer with a big overproduced live press event. With this lack of competition, clearly MS was going to knock it out of the park, right? Well… not really. Aside from a few key surprises, it was pretty much what we all expected: more looks at stuff coming out soon, teases of the next-gen console, some talk about streaming and Game Pass, and holy shit is that Keanu Reeves

Yes, Cyberpunk 2077 was the big showcase piece for the MS conference, but as usual, they threw a few bones to folks with a taste for Japanese offerings.

For the past few years, MS has showcased Namco-Bandai announcements at its press conferences. Unfortunately, this year quite a few of those leaked in advance. What do you think of that, Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada?

Yes, I agree completely! But leaks are one thing and seeing games in motion is another. For starters, there's the much-discussed collaboration between From Software and George R. R. Martin, titled Elden Ring. There's not too much to go on yet, but the trailer's pretty cool!

We've also got a brand-new Tales game! Titled Tales of Arise, this one strangely doesn't have series veteran character designers Inomata Mutsumi or Kousuke Fujishima attached. Combat, from the little we've seen, also seems more akin to typical third-person action-RPG fighting: we already saw a bit of a move towards this in Tales of Berseria. I get the feeling that they're trying to make another Tales game that sees Western success to the degree of Symphonia or Vesperia by playing up more things Western gamers tend to like. Will it turn out well? We'll just have to wait and see.

And hey, you can't have an Xbox conference without Goku in it somewhere! Dragon Ball: Kakarot is the Dragon Ball Project Z game that was announced a while back: an action game that focuses primarily on the struggles of Goku. It looks to cover material at least up through the Frieza arc, and certainly looks nice. Of course, aside from a few notable entries, Dragonball games have been iffy in general, so we'll have to see how it actually plays.

The MS conference also gave us perhaps the most out of left field announcement of the show: Phantasy Star Online 2 is coming west! After over half a decade, you are now able to play PSO2 officially in English! Break out the champagne, it's finally here!

… Or is it too little, too late? I mean, most of the devoted PSO players I know have been playing Japanese PSO2 for years already, language barrier be damned. Are we going to be on the same servers as Japan? Are we going to start with all of the content Japan has, including the weird local collaboration stuff? Is playing catch-up with seven years of game support going to be too overwhelming for new players? I feel like this is a ship that's sailed for all but a very hardcore group of players, and while the headlines of “We're finally getting PSO2!” are good PR for Sega, will the belated localization actually perform well? I really don't know.

A few other big games got release dates: Gears of War 5 hits on September 10th, while the next mainline Halo game, Halo Infinite, is coming to the next-gen Xbox (codenamed Scarlett) in holiday 2020. Oh yeah, there's also Battletoads, which… well, to each their own, but I think this kinda looks like ass. Well-animated, yes, but the style it's going for is so overdone nowadays that it's getting tiresome. And I never liked Battletoads to begin with!

Anyway. Microsoft! Kinda bland. Everyone liked Keanu, at least. Moving on!

BETHESDA

Bethesda's theme this year was “awkward damage control,” which was primarily focused on noted fiascopiece Fallout 76! Which is now getting *deep sigh* a battle royale mode. Man, I can't wait for Anthem to just tack on some Apex Legends code, because apparently if anything can save a high-budget live-service trainwreck, it's battle royale!

I mean, yeah, we've got the usual round of Doom and Wolfenstein and Elder Scrolls spinoffs, too. And a free-to-play Commander Keen mobile game that crushed the hearts of many an old DOS gamer. The real star here, though, was this wonderful woman:

That's Ikumi Nakamura, and she's a longtime, accomplished artist in the games industry. Nakamura's infectious enthusiasm and glee was a shining spot among the parade of bland press conference presenters, earning her fans instantaneously. She's helping helm the latest game from Tango Gameworks, Ghostwire Tokyo, a stylish, artsy urban horror game set in a very detailed-looking modern Tokyo. Have a look at the slick trailer!

And that's really all worth mentioning here. Next, we have Ubisoft, which was… well…

UBISOFT

shooty shooty boom boom

f*ck em up grandma

here's a dog

also Just Dance

look we need more esports

hey this actually has inspiration and art style and looks cool! I'm sure it'll disappoint in sales and we'll get more shooty dudes next year. Where's Beyond Good and Evil 2

SQUARE-ENIX

If there's any company that has “won” E3 by the bizarre, obtuse nerd formula we use to calculate the “winners” of these dick-waving contests, it has to be Square-Enix. I mean, you've basically already won when you bring out a playable demo and release date of the Final Fantasy VII Remake. But then you add on a great-looking Avengers game made by the company's best Western studios and numerous, more niche-oriented surprise announcements, plus a bunch of revelations from Nintendo's Direct afterwards… yeah, Square-Enix is having one hell of a 2019 showing, that's for sure!

But let's focus on what was shown Monday night. Obviously, the big draw was going to be the FF7 Remake, and they put that one on front and center with new trailers, an extensive gameplay explanation/demo, and the first reveal of Tifa in-game!

We already knew the FF7 Remake was going to take a more action-y slant, but now that we've seen how the combat works, I'm a bit more interested. I'd personally like a setting where things don't freeze while you're making ATB selections, similar to FF12's Active mode, which I find incredibly tense and fun.

At the time of this writing, Square-Enix has set a March 2020 release date for FF7 Remake – much sooner than we all expected! However, there's a catch – as of this writing, they haven't said how much of FF7 Remake will be in this release. All we've seen so far is Midgar, and going by the comments made during the presser, that's probably what we're going to get: a “part one” of the FF7 Remake focused on expanding the Midgar portion of the game's story. But if they do a good enough job of making the Midgar content feel fresh and expansive, I don't think folks are going to care.

Everything else at the conference was inevitably going to be overshadowed by FF7, but there were some other interesting reveals as well. One of those announcements was the upcoming release of two games in Square-Enix's much-storied (in Japan) and much-misunderstood (in the West) SaGa series, the Romancing SaGa 3 remaster and SaGa Scarlet Grace. SaGa's always been a hard sell in the West: the notoriously unfinished and confusing SaGa Frontier was the first of the series to get wide exposure in English, Unlimited SaGa has a reputation of being one of the PS2's worst RPGs, and Squeenix just really hasn't bothered to actively promote much else in the series over here. In fact, it feels like they actively avoided the SaGa name for stuff with very similar mechanics like The Last Remnant and Octopath Traveler because it has a poisonous taint to it over here. Here's hoping they can find a way to turn that perception around with these two SaGa titles. (Also, if you liked Octopath Traveler, give these SaGa games a try!)

Speaking of The Last Remnant, surprise! It's out on Switch and you can download it right now! You should play this, too, it's weird and awesome.

There's also a new game set in the universe of Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, titled War of the Visions. Sadly, most of what I know about Brave Exvius comes from my friend who can spend literal hours complaining about how screwed up the global release of the game is but seems to keep getting sucked back into it. I'm sure this announcement didn't help.

We got a few new details on things like the Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles remaster (it'll be available on mobile, too), Dragon Quest XI S Definitive (lots of new stuff! And pixel graphics!), Dragon Quest Builders 2, Kingdom Hearts III DLC, Oninaki, some more Shadowbringers teasing, and… a Final Fantasy VIII remaster?! Yeah, maybe that's why FFVIII's been absent from storefronts for a while. I expect some touched-up graphics similar to recent ports of Final Fantasy IX. Sadly, I doubt the remaster will do anything to make the story less stupid or the characters actually likable.

Square-Enix's push into Western development and partnerships has been mostly mixed, but they're still keeping at it: they're publishing a new game from fan-favorite developer People Can Fly called Outriders. But the big announcement from their Western side was very, very obviously Avengers. It's been a while since this game was announced, and it's looking very solid!

It's also worth noting that Squeenix and all of the development partners intend to support Avengers for quite some time to come with DLC and expansions – and they're all set to be free! In fact, they made sure to emphasize the lack of paid DLC and pay-to-win microtransactions! That's pretty bold, but it definitely earned some goodwill. Clearly, they hope for some big sales of this one, given that supporting a game of this magnitude with free content for a decent length of time doesn't come cheap.

Anyway, to sum it up: Squeenix makes fans happy, earns a whole lot of positive buzz from their press conference. But it doesn't stop there!

NINTENDO DIRECT

Nintendo Direct may as well have been a continuation of the Squeenix press conference, because two of the biggest surprises were related to their properties. The first was a reveal for Smash that had been rumored for a while: the Hero from Dragon Quest XI is coming as DLC!

Oh, but it's not just the DQXI hero: the alternate selections are heroes from all of the other Dragon Quest games. Yes, we know Sakurai likes to go all-out with fanservice, but daaaaaaaayum! That's one hell of a get, especially knowing how stingy Squeenix was with Final Fantasy stuff. Maybe they get more to work with because the Dragon Quest/Nintendo association is stronger?

So... you ever hear a piece of music in these press conferences that sends a chill down your spine? Well, when I heard the first few bars of Meridian Child from Seiken Densetsu 3, that's exactly what I felt. Turns out that the game is getting a serious, from-the-ground up remake as Trials of Mana, and it's looking really, really good:

And that's not all! The Collection of Mana is coming to Switch, and it's got an official English version of Seiken Densetsu 3! For the first time ever! And it's out right now! As I'm writing this, I'm actively not playing Seiken Densetsu 3! Crap, I gotta finish this!

Seriously, though, Seiken Densetsu 3 is a game I'm very fond of for a lot of reasons, not least that it was the first game I ever imported. I've played through it more times than I care to admit, and by god, I'm gonna do it again!

But speaking of music that gives you chills: it happened twice for me! Those trumpets make any blue-blooded Saturn owner's eyes misty, because they mean one thing: Panzer Dragoon! We're finally seeing some of the original Panzer Dragoon remake, and it's looking fantastic. The original Panzer Dragoon, while phenomenal for its time, hasn't aged well in terms of framerate (it's one of few retro games that makes me feel ill while playing it nowadays), so I'm eager to see it revived for a new generation to appreciate.

Okay, this was a Nintendo Direct, so I should probably talk a bit about the actual Nintendo games that were shown, too. First off is Luigi's Mansion 3, which looks to continue evolving the ghost-hunting, puzzle-solving adventures in fun and unique ways.

In particular, Gooigi looks like a fun addition that will allow folks to comfortably enjoy playing co-op. Luigi's Mansion 2 had some co-op functionality, but I feel like this sort of game lends itself better to a couch team session – plus, you don't need an extra console to enjoy it.

We've finally got more news on the new Animal Crossing, as well! Titled New Horizons, this one apparently has you… on a secluded island?! Nook, you jerk, you sold me an abandoned desert island?!!

But going from the trailer, it looks like you'll be transforming the desert island into a thriving tropical getaway for the 1% of the animal world to live in exclusive villas and stash their Bells in offshore accounts. Nah, I'm joking… but let's be real, that's totally something Nook and Co would do. Unfortunately, the game's seen a delay to early 2020, but I doubt people who are still actively checking their 3DS towns daily are going to be too upset.

Link's Awakening was shown again, and it's looking very close to the original in terms of play, including the weird little side-scrolling bits and boss fights. That's a good thing! The way the game played around with Zelda conventions was one of its biggest charm points, and clearly, they know not to mess too much with that. A bit of a new dungeon-creation feature was shown off, which definitely has me interested: given how tightly most Zelda dungeons are designed, how is the block-by-block room placement going to flow? We'll see pretty soon, as Link's Awakening has been dated for September 20th. Also, Crypt of the Necrodancer's Zelda-themed semi-spinoff Cadence of Hyrule hits next week!

Oh, and we've got more footage of anime! I mean, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, due out next month!

And then we've got even more anime with Astral Chain, which is looking slicker and slicker every time I see it!

Then there's… wait, a new Contra? You're telling me Konami still makes games?
…Oh. Oh no.

Yeah, uh… this isn't looking promising. I'm getting serious vibes of those crappy outsourced PSOne Contra games everyone likes to forget existed. Well, at least you can get the Contra Collection, which is also out today! Jeez, I'm going to be earning a lot of coins from eShop purchases.

Suda51 is keeping extremely busy, it seems, because No More Heroes III was announced! I really like seeing oddball devs like Suda being able to just do their thing, so this is one I'll definitely keep tabs on.

Witcher 3? More Resident Evil? On Switch? YES! You can skip RE6 though, seriously.

And there's a Dark Crystal-themed tactics game coming to Switch, too! That's definitely out of left field, but there's been a recent push to revive and expand the Dark Crystal universe, so a game tie-in makes sense. Will it be any good? That I can't tell you.

…Wait, did you think you were only getting one Smash reveal today? Sakurai's here to prove that he has the magic power to give you exactly what you won't shut up on Twitter about!

I really like that this ties directly into the King K. Rool reveal skit. Well played, team.

But there's still One More Thing!

Yes, surprising nobody, a sequel to Breath of the Wild is in development! That Nintendo would make more Zelda is a foregone conclusion, but showing it always gets people extremely hyped. Already I'm seeing predictions of things like playable Zelda based on this footage snippet. I'm hoping this will be the Majora's Mask to BotW's Ocarina of Time: something that takes the formula but transforms it with weird, experimental ideas.

So yeah, Nintendo! Good stuff! Switch is looking like it's going to have one hell of a year ahead. Will we hear anything more about those rumored Switch upgrades? Probably not at E3!

That wraps things up for the big press conferences! There were a few smaller events as well, like Limited Run Games and Devolver Digital, but I'll cover those a bit in the next column after E3 wraps. I'll be covering some other stuff there, too, like that game that just got announced as an Epic exclusive. You know the one. Blargh.


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