E3 2014: Square Enix, Natsume, Sega and Nintendo
This is my first E3—it’s big, it’s loud and it is a lot of fun. Today was mostly about exploration for me: getting the layout down, finding all the games I want to play and checking in with a few of my favorite developers and publishers that I just couldn’t resist. Square Enix, Natsume, Sega and Nintendo were on my list for the first day. I know there are way bigger fish out there, but I wanted my first day to be filled with favorites.
I started off at Square, with something I already knew and loved, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call. It’s a continuation of the first game, with 221 songs to explore from all the Final Fantasy titles. Included in those tracks is my favorite song from Final Fantasy X, the Spira theme—I could’ve played that song a million times and been perfectly happy. The gameplay hasn’t changed from the original, but the big reason you play these games is to hear your favorite songs from the series, so I didn’t feel like I was losing out on anything. It was still fun and there’s still some great challenges in the hard modes.
Square also had a demo of the new Kingdom Hearts remix. Kingdom Hearts games always looked great on the PS2, but they look even better on the PS3—edges are curved out a bit and it all looks crisper in the new HD format. It’ll please any Kingdom Hearts fan out there as it includes the Kingdom Hearts 2 final mix—Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded.
Sega was my next stop—I’ve been a Sonic fan since I came down one Christmas morning and saw a Genesis waiting for me under the tree. I couldn’t walk by the new Sonic Boom game without at least giving it a shot. Sonic: Lost World for the 3DS frustrated the hell out of me, but Sonic Boom: Shattered Crystal was therapeutic in comparison—which is very fortunate because I didn’t want to break Sega’s 3DS. It almost seemed like they were pulling their punches because the levels I played were the old Sonic levels I love. While the levels weren’t particularly challenging, they were beautiful and shiny enough to keep me playing through ‘til the end. There’s a whole crew of Sonic peeps that join you this time around, each with their own unique ability that you’ll need to utilize to get to the goal. There are some new mechanics—such as a beam of light you shoot out to latch on to enemies—and certain things in the environment that spice up the old Sonic mechanics.
Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric is the Wii U title and it’s almost off the old Sonic rails completely. They’ve decided that Sonic needs to be more action-oriented, and kick enemies in the face in addition to his jump attacks. I guess Sonic and his crew are brawlers now—Tails and Knuckles have their fists while Amy has her hammer, and the new addition, Sticks, has a sweet boomerang. Just like in the 3DS version, every one has there own ability that you’ll need to use to get through the levels and those new mechanics are present here as well. Sonic and his team also get an unnecessary makeover and, on the Wii U, Sonic and Knuckles both look kind of like greasy thugs with their hair slicked back. The villainous Dr. Eggman actually looked rather dapper in his new Sonic-killing machine, which was the coolest part of the demo. The rest is killing my childhood and, sadly, starting it for kids just getting into Sonic.
After a mixed experience with Sonic, I wandered over to the Natsume booth where a new Harvest Moon awaited me. Farming simulators are a lot bigger than they used to be, and Harvest Moon: Lost Valley is going to capitalize on that, big time. They only had a quick little demo, but you learn that most of the irritating, repetitiveness is gone and it’s more intuitive than ever. They’ve also added a bit of Minecraft to the mix—you can build your little valley up into a mountain, or turn your home into a lake house by building a lake. I love the art style quite a bit in this as well. It’s a fun, charming little game so far and I can’t wait to see more.
Natsume also had their new iOS game, Ninja Strike out to play. You choose from a variety of ninjas with different powers, and then, it begins. It’s a fixed movement game, so you only need to jump or slash. It’s a little too easy, but it’s got some fun visuals. It’ll be a great game for when you’re killing a few minutes at a time. Get in, beat ninjas, get on with your life.
Nintendo was last, but by no means were they least. After their digital event, I couldn’t wait to get on a Wii U and play that new Super Smash Bros. demo. It was demoed with GameCube controllers, which made me think Nintendo was saying, “Don’t worry, we won’t make you play Smash Bros with our Wiimotes—we know it’s a terrible experience.” The game is beautiful on the Wii U’s HD graphics and the new characters they had available to demo are great additions to the line up. I tested out Greninja and Rosalina first. Rosalina is similar in handling to Zelda with her reliance on her magic. Her helpful star friend, Luma, is along for the ride, becoming Rosalina’s ranged attack. She could be very formidable once you get all of her moves down. Greninja was my favorite of the two—with his ninja speed and moves, he’s a fantastic addition to the light, speedy characters. His water moves have great range and they’re fast. He’s a little easier to control than Pikachu or Fox with about the same level of power as Pikachu.
The 3DS Super Smash Bros. is a little bit different. The only mode I could play was the Smash Run mode, where you have five minutes to beat as many power-ups as you can out of enemies. These power-ups add to your speed, defense, power, etc. and, the more you have, the easier the free-for-all battle at the end is for you. I see a lot of potential in this mode, it’s similar to the subspace emissary from Brawl except Pokemon now litter the world as well—I’ve never hated Koffing more. It’s a challenging little mode that I can’t wait to play with my friends.
Checking out the rest of Nintendo’s line up is on my list for tomorrow, along with one of my favorite publishers: Atlus. I’m also getting the chance to see the new Metal Gear Solid game. The rest of the day is whereever the E3 gods take me.