The magic was never going to last, but at least Nintendo let us down gently. The intoxicating flavour of Sony’s sacred-cow barbecue was washed away by the sheer weirdness of Nintendo’s presentation, introducing its senior team as custom-made muppets who then transformed into the cast of Star Fox Zero.
This was probably the perfect introduction to a lineup that by turns amazing and underwhelming: Miyamoto’s design stories were the perfect background for Super Mario Maker, but most of the show was about turning fan-favourite IP in new and weird directions: an Animal Crossing amiibo game, a co-op Zelda for 3DS and a Samus-free Metroid were greeted with some dismay, although few could resist the gameplay or indeed the name of Mario & Luigi Paper Jam. Combining amiibo and Skylanders might be crossing the streams a bit too.
Reggie and co then segued into a YouTube montage of people playing Nintendo music which served as cover for them to run away and leave us to realise they had only shown off a series of lightweight first-party titles clearly intended to buy it the year it needs to launch its new console. On paper, twelve exclusives shipping this year is a good thing, but the fans were not won over – although they may yet get the Zelda Wii U they were hoping for.
If that slowed the hype train, Square’s first act was to throw a sofa in front of it. Its conference rivalled EA’s for interminability, opening with extended corporate waffling followed by Just Cause footage 3 gradually stripped of all its considerable excitement by a humourless and over-detailed voiceover, like Will Self narrating a porn film.
This set the tone for the rest of the presentation, which was dedicated to obscuring the considerable merits of some genuinely interesting new games behind needless corporate bluster.
There were some exceptions: Tri-Ace’s new Star Ocean is only improved by the subtitle Integrity and Faithlessness, and the return of Nier at the hands of Platinum, of all people, is remarkable enough to stand on its own. Which is just as well, as at no point in the announcement was it explained what the studio is doing with the game, why it’s suddenly able to produce half of Japan’s triple-A output or, most cheeringly, why the director Yoko Taro was wearing a skeleton head throughout. (It’s a character from the first game, we later discovered).
Just to check, everyone else sees this guy’s head as a hideous grinning moon, right? #E3
– Tom Francis (@Pentadact) June 16, 2015
Tomb Raider had already had its moment at the Microsoft conference, so we got some overpoweringly uninteresting insight into snowflake technology followed by the more welcome news of Lara Croft Go, a sibling of the excellent Hitman Go. Final Fantasy VII Remake also had a platform-holder’s fingerprints on it, so we just got the trailer again plus news that the PS4 port of the PC release of the original has been delayed, although it will be available on iOS this summer.
Pro-tip for all you FF7 newbies: Put all your time and effort into Aerith. Get her Ultimate Limit Break early. Form an emotional attachment.
– Kaiji Tang (@KaijiTang) June 16, 2015
The subject of Kingdom hearts was addressed at length, eventually concluding that there’s a new version coming for smartphones. Thankfully this was followed immediately by some bonkers footage of Kingdom Hearts 3 before the crowd torched the venue.
We got a better look at Hitman, which is offering a weird combination of Early Access, daily challenges, and episodic content, but all built on the open sandboxes and ad-hoc assassination that fans demand.
That scene with 47 throwing the crowbar was actually the player just trying to figure out how to unequip it.
– Rich Wilson (@meathelix) June 16, 2015
Deus Ex looked great too, and while there wasn’t much in the way of Actual Gameplay there’s every reason to look forward to what Eidos Montreal will be showing on the show floor. The show ended on the singularly utilitarian news of the founding of Tokyo RPG Factory, which will be creating games of predictable genre starting with 2016’s Project Setsuna. We disagreed with the Square’s CEO belief that three watercolours of landscape concept art comprise any sort of insight into what the game will actually do, but it’s good to see the JRPG getting investment.
Then, the show actually opened and we got actually see things that weren’t on carefully-choreographed stage demonstrations. Sony threw a small amount of shade at Microsoft’s backwards compatibility announcement and admitted that the Last Guardian never really worked that well on PS3 and no, you can’t actually make a Shenmue game for $2 million dollars so it’s chipping in too. Nomura revealed that the FF7 remake predates the PC port and will still contain cross-dressing, and Miyazaki said that while Dark Souls 3 won’t be the final Souls game, it will be “a turning point” for the franchise.
Microsoft’s Hololens is amazing when paired with Halo 5, and Ubisoft’s new action title For Honor ain’t bad either. We saw a bit of the new Transformers game from Platinum, learned that the Fallout 4 dog is immortal, and saw glimpses of new cloud-powered games being made using Square’s technology. A Persona 5 update was nothing of the sort. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst won’t let you use guns, and sort of isn’t Mirrors’ Edge 2.
Then it was on to the PC Gaming Show. The chat-show format started later than expected and went on much longer than expected, causing minor breakdowns among the livechat team, but delivered a robust lineup of news. Dean Hall went into more detail about his new game ION, David Braben announced Planet Rollercoaster Tycoon, Cliff Bleszinski opined on the debut from his new studio Boss Key, and Sean Murray confirmed that yes, No Man’s Sky is indeed coming to PC – and at launch too.
Microsoft didn’t make any ritual sacrifice to atone for Games for Windows Live but it did announce that Gears of War Ultimate Edition and Killer Instinct are coming to PC, the latter with cross-platform play with Xbox One. American Truck Simulator is probably going to outsell both of them combined. Rising Storm 2 is a thing, DayZ is getting offline single-player, Heroes of the Storm is getting some new Diablo heroes, and Arma 3 and Pillars of Eternity are getting some expansions.