Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking Forward to E3 2011

I’m looking to start a tradition here at Five-O-Rama. Last year this time I wrote a list of what I was looking forward to at E3 2010. Well, here’s my list for E3 2011! I hope you enjoy.

5. Square Enix News

If you’re not aware, ol’ Squeenix has been seeing some hard times as of late. Yes, you read me right. The megalith company that could do no wrong, which fathered such classics as Final Fantasy VI, VII, Secret of Mana, Einhander - the list goes on – is in financial trouble.

In recent years the company that was Squaresoft did some amazing things. They published games that their fans wanted to play, and wouldn’t shy away from a title that might not fit the mould, like The Bouncer for instance. Their successes allowed them to join forces with the company that rivaled them in the RPG market, Enix – the creators of Dragon Quest - and most recently they acquired Eidos Interactive, the company that brought us Tomb Raider, Legacy of Kain and Deus Ex.

They may, however, have stretched themselves a little thin. The video game market isn’t what it used to be in Japan and even a massive company like Square Enix has had to change their methods. With the catastrophic failure of Final Fantasy XIV Online (you’ll have to look that one up, too much to go into here) and the strife that has recently struck Japan things aren’t looking great for the dynasty.

This year at E3 could be an opportunity to fix all of that.

What do I hope to see from them? Well, they’ve claimed that they’ve gone back to the drawing board with Final Fantasy XIV Online, and I think now would be a great time to show what they’ve reworked with that title. They shouldn’t rush it, however. That’s what got them into this mess in the first place.

Not so long ago some Internet-savvy individuals noticed that Squeenix had procured the domain name for Final Fantasy XIII-2 and since then the company has teased that they do plan a sequel to the love-it-or-hate-it title. I’m interested to see where they plan to go with it. Possibly something more traditional? That’s what I’m hoping.

I’d also like some more news on the forgotten game, Final Fantasy Type-0 for the PSP. Being a PSP fan, I’m always looking forward to a cool new game to play for it. Originally titled Final Fantasy XIII Agito, the game is part of the Fabula Nova Crystalis series of FF games (the others being FF XIII and FF Versus XIII) and not much else is known, except for some character profiles and screenshots. I’d like to know more!

Lastly there has been talk of a possible remake of Final Fantasy VI for the 3DS. This is in no way confirmed, and may in fact have just been a thought, but with popular remakes of Final Fantasy III and IV on the DS, it would make sense to take a look at FF V and VI for Nintendo’s newest handheld. I won’t hold my breath on this one, though.

4. Sony’s Next Generation Portable (NGP)

Although speculation of what was then called the “PSP2”, the successor to the Sony Playstation Portable, began as far back as 2009, it wasn’t until January of this year that Sony formerly announced the device they’ve codenamed the NGP or “Next Generation Portable”.

Screenshots of the handheld show it to look very much like the PSP, but with a huge (comparatively speaking) 5 inch OLED screen, a touchpad interface on the back, two analog joysticks and a new interface called LiveArea, which will replace the XMB screen used in the PSX DVR, PSP and PS3.

The format for this new device’s software has been changed as well. Nerfing the UMD (Universal Media Disk) format from the PSP, Sony plans to launch NVG cards as this system’s format. These cards are a proprietary size, but looks very much like a memory card format.

Probably the most striking aspect of the NGP is the 5 inch OLED (organic light emitting diode), which shows beautiful high resolution (possibly high definition) graphics. It’s claimed that the graphical output is comparable to that of the PS3, which has been highlighted by showing off Metal Gear Solid 4 running on the NGP hardware. The touchscreen on the back my be a cool new feature, but not much is known about it, so it’s yet to be seen if this is just a gimmick or a really cool innovation.

Sony sort of jumped the gun on releasing information about the NGP, probably because of the launch of the Nintendo 3DS, but still very little is known about the system except some specs and design. Rumoured to be titled the Playstation Vita, more is expected to be seen at E3 2011, including some launch titles and, finally, the system’s real name.

3. Resident Evil: Revelations

In 2005 Capcom released, to critical acclaim, Resident Evil 4 for the Gamecube and Playstation 2. It took the series in a completely new direction, not only in regards to the storyline, which no longer featured zombies as the main enemies, but in gameplay style. The player would now use an over-the-shoulder view when firing their weapon and there was less of a focus on puzzle elements, amongst other changes.

Although this new Resident Evil was welcomed, I – and I don’t think I’m alone on this – craved a “traditional” RE adventure. I know that those games sometimes don’t translate as well with younger generations, because of their hokey voice acting and tank controls, but there was something to using the storage boxes, having just enough ammo and figuring out crazy puzzles that are inexplicably strewn throughout an old mansion in the hillside.

Well, Capcom heard the cries of gamers like myself and have created an all-new original RE title for the Nintendo 3DS. Subtitled “Revelations” the game will take place between Resident Evil 4 and its sequel – the all-too action oriented – Resident Evil 5, in which we see the original protagonists, Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, in an adventure that spans the gap between those titles.

The game will feature the style of gameplay seen in previous iterations of the series, but with new over-the-shoulder view when using your gun. It will also feature a third person view that allows players to run and shoot at the same time.

Capcom really listens to its fanbase when it comes to matters like this. They are always bringing back classics titles either in total remakes or all-out “retrofests” like Mega Man 9 and 10. I hope that Revelations lives up to the hype and is a great new Resident Evil with an old school feel.

2. Super Mario 3DS

Ah, Super Mario. Nintendo’s flagship franchise of course is returning to boost sales of their newest device, the 3DS. Of course, with the system being called the 3DS, the opportunity was there for Nintendo to return to the greatest Super Mario of them all, Super Mario Bros. 3.

If you’ve played New Super Mario Bros. or New Super Mario Bros. Wii then you know that Nintendo has returned to the SMB3/SMB World style of game a few times now, but Super Mario 3DS appears to be even more of a throwback to the themes of SMB3, most importantly Raccoon Mario.

At Games Developer Conference (GDC) 2011, Satoru Iwata – President of Nintendo – delivered the keynote address, which focused on the future of gaming. Of course, he couldn’t help but tease some future titles for the 3DS and showed the title for the new Super Mario release. On the title card you could clearly see a small tail hanging on the end, which Iwata quickly pointed out.

With the Internet abuzz, speculating that this would be a full remake of Super Mario Bros. 3 for the 3DS, Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto – Game Director and Producer and creator of the Super Mario franchise – released some tidbits about the future game, explaining that it would be a cross of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 64. As to the appearance of the tail, Miyamoto-san said, “It’s what you think it is.”

The game is to be a completely new title, which appears to be a 3D platformer that follows the formula of the older Mario titles, that is Mario starts off small and becomes big when he uses a Super Mushroom. Also, with the talk of the “tail” it appears there will be other classic power-ups, such as Raccoon Mario.

Mostly anything else is speculation, although a few screenshots have been released. Iwata has stated, however, that all will be revealed this year at E3 2011!

1. Nintendo Project Café

You might call me biased, but the reality is I like all the video game systems. That said I have been a huge fan of Nintendo since I was a kid, and if they’re going to announce a new system, you better believe I’m going to be excited about it.

Although some people are surprised that a new home console system would be announced in 2011, if you follow Nintendo you’d see that they – since the SNES was released in 1990/91 – have released a new console every five years without failure. The blockbuster Nintendo Wii was released in 2006, so here we go again!

Nintendo does a great job of teasing their new stuff, and so the codename of their new system, Project Café, and some tidbits of info were leaked prior to this year’s E3, just to get everyone hyped about their announcement of the system on June 7th.

Many are calling it the Wii HD, but from all accounts this appears to be a misnomer. The new system from Nintendo isn’t intended to be a “sequel” to their smash hit system, but a completely new hardware giant that will succeed the Wii.

Nintendo has received some flak about the lack of “hard core” content for the Wii and it appears they’ve heard the criticisms. This new system is said to be as powerful or slightly better than the PS3 and Xbox 360, will have online play and a standard style of controller.

Of course that’s where the twist comes in.

As Nintendo has to have some driving innovation with their new console releases, the rumoured new feature for this system will be a small touchscreen on the controller itself. This leads to a lot of speculation as to its use, which I imagine could lead to many possibilities.

Rumoured to be called the Nintendo “Stream” or “Feel”, many expect that the second screen will work much like on a DS or 3DS, and will be a support screen. Also, there is the belief that some downloadable titles will have the option to be streamed to the controller and played on it solely.

I personally see this as an opportunity to support a DS or 3DS player on the new hardware. In the past Nintendo has released adapters that allowed gamers to play their handheld games on their current hardware. First there was the Super Gameboy for the SNES, then the Gameboy Player for the Gamecube. With the unique interface of the DS, this wasn’t possible on the Wii. With this new touchscreen on the controller of the Café it seems to me that Nintendo will be able to have this functionality built into their new home console.

This is also a golden opportunity to completely revamp their online visibility as a company. In the past “friend codes” and the like have kept online play with Nintendo’s systems in a weakened state, with a few titles like Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Mario Kart Wii having a small online following. This new system is a chance to catch up with Microsoft and Sony and release a totally new online capable system. The sky’s the limit really, but I’m envisioning something new, that will involve social networking for gamers, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

What else do I hope to see from Project Café? I’m hoping to see downloadable Gamecube titles to the system. It’s reported it will already have backward compatibility with the Wii, but being able to download some GC titles to the system doesn’t seem out of reach.

Rumours continue to fly about the system having a design to look like the SNES, or at least a retro feel, but there has been some leaked information (sorry about the music on that one) about the system, which may or may not be real, that contradicts this idea.

Usually I don’t lend credence to such speculation, but there have been multiple leaked videos that all show a very similar, if not dead on exact, console and controller of what could be Nintendo’s new system.

It appears to have a similar look to the Wii (as it stands on its side) and the controller mock-ups appear to have a screen, which may or may not be a touchscreen device.

All speculation aside, this system will usher in the eighth generation of home consoles. I can’t wait to see what they have planned for this system and if any of these rumours are true, but more importantly I’m excited to see what games they have in store. A new Mario? Probably. New Zelda? That might not be out of the realm of possibility. Twilight Princess was a launch title for the Wii as well as Gamecube game. Will Skyward Sword appear on both the Wii and Project Café? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see at E3 2011!

Expect to see my list of favourite announcements from the show in the coming weeks!


trainstationh said...

I enjoyed reading this and can tell you put a lot of time and thought into this. Though I forgot to mention it, i'm really intersted in PlayStation Vita's showing at E3, mainly the nature of the games and the platform itself.

It looks like Sony might be trying to position this as an iPod Touch alternative, which is especially inteeresting since based on the material they released at E3 2004, Sony basically wanted PSP to be what the iPod Touch is today years before the iPhone or iPod Touch were even thought of.

Similarly, at E3 2008, Nintendo seemed to want to position even the original DS as being a device used in many ways outside the home besides gaming in the same way smartphones are now, but this was before the "app store" explosion really transformed the iOS devices into a do everything device for every aspect of life.

I think 3DS and Vita's best way forward is to be the very best game platforms they can, to entice people to carry them with them and then get them to use them in other ways since they've already brought the systems with them.

Ryan said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. When Nintendo released the DSi and then the DSi XL, they clearly had hoped that they would offer other applications, like being used for cooking recipes and the like. Also offering cameras and networking really opened the devices up.

I think you hit the nail on the head, though. These should primarily be gaming platforms. iOS gaming is still basically crappy ports and flash games. If Nintendo or Sony want to keep themselves strong in the handheld environment, they need to have lots of awesome software for their 3DS and "Vita". Anything else they might come up with will just be bonus at that point.

Thanks for reading the article, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I'm assuming you'll be grabbing some footage from Nintendo World this year? Can't wait to check out your reactions.