Tuesday, June 18, 2013

E3 2013 Wrap-up


E3 2013 has come and gone and I’m experiencing that post-E3 blues, which is kind of like the day after Christmas, except instead of having all your new toys to play with, you need to wait several months or years to play all those sweet new video games. Overall, I was impressed this year, certainly much more than last year. In addition to the exciting battle royale between Microsoft and Sony’s next gen machines, I just saw a lot of great-looking games this year that I genuinely want to play.

Between Sony’s ultra knock-out Monday night, to the unveiling of the new Super Smash Bros., to exciting next gen games like Metal Gear Solid V, Watch Dogs, The Division, and The Witcher 3, this was an E3 to remember. This post is basically my “best in show” awards. There were several games that stood out to me, and my wishlist is now bursting at the seam with shiny upcoming titles, so I’d like to honor some of these and talk about what excited me, disappointed me, and overall impressed me the most.

Best Press Conference: Sony

This is the easiest pick on this list. Microsoft set Sony’s victory up with its poorly received initial Xbox One unveiling, mixed messaging about the console’s restrictions after the unveiling, and its failure to address these concerns at its E3 press conference as well as finally unveiling the price of the console to be $499. Sony absorbed all this information and went straight for Microsoft’s throat. It’s a little strange when the most exciting part of Sony’s press conference is when Jack Tretton took the stage to basically tell us that the PS4 was going to do everything the PS3 did, and not have any additional hang-ups or restrictions. But it was the precedent that Microsoft set and the controversy that they sparked that made these assurances necessary. I respect Sony because they addressed the concerns on everyone's minds directly and up-front on-stage, instead of sending out mixed messages before finally sending out a press release. Sony revealing that its new machine would cost $100 less than Microsoft’s was just the final twist of the knife in their competitor’s side.

I wouldn’t have been so impressed with Sony if they’d just addressed these concerns and had great messaging, but they also just showed a constant stream of great games and even had some exciting surprises. Sony’s ardent support of indie developers is something I’ve always admired about them, and they passionately pushed this support by having a parade of indie developers take to the stage and demonstrate unique game after game, many of which looked like something I’d want to play. Sony also didn’t ignore its current hardware and made a point to push PS3’s great lineup this year. They showed interesting new IPs like Rain and The Order: 1886. They surpruised us all by rebranding the long-lost Final Fantasy Versus XIII as Final Fantasy XV, immediately followed by the long-awaited announcement of Kingdom Hearts III. They demonstrated the PS4’s processing power with Quantic Dream’s Dark Sorcerer tech demo. They showed fantastic-looking (if a little buggy) gameplay of popular upcoming titles like Assassin’s Creed IV and Watch Dogs, as well as finally unveiling gameplay of Bungie’s new, greatly-anticipated title, Destiny. It was just a great show and got me excited about the PS4, which is something that Microsoft has failed to do with Xbox One and even Nintendo has partly failed to do with their incredibly safe-looking line-up of games for the Wii U. This was Sony’s show and they nailed it. I still don't feel the need to pre-order a PS4 and get it day one; at this point Sony is simply selling the better story. I think in the long run, Xbox One isn’t going to be as evil as everyone thinks and everything might even out. For now though, Sony is the leading brand with great messaging and a solid, varied line-up.

I already wrote a lot about it in my E3 Day 2 Impressions post, so I’m not going to dwell on it much here, but the extended trailer for MGSV is beautiful-looking, disturbing, thrilling, and most of all gets me interested and excited about the game. It’s just a very-well put together window into the game and makes me want to go back and play MGS3 and Peace Walker to prepare for the new release.

Runners-up: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, X

Biggest Surprise: Mega Man in Super Smash Bros.

I was hoping for a big surprise during the Nintendo Direct Tuesday morning (HD Metroid please?) and while Nintendo’s announcements did surprise me in some not-entirely positive ways, their biggest surprise came from Super Smash Bros. We knew Super Smash Bros. was going to make an appearance, but not only was I pleasantly surpised by how far along the game looks and how much information and footage of it we got, the biggest surprise came when Mega Man joined the battle at the tail-end of the game’s trailer. Nintendo often forgets that it has in the past mastered the art of delivering a “megaton” Christmas-morning surprise at E3 with moments like the Twilight Princess reveal and the Super Smash Bros. Brawl reveal so it was exciting to see the company once again catch me off-guard and get my heart pumping in a mostly-otherwise tame E3 presence.

Many people are saying how great the new Donkey Kong Country game looks and don’t understand the disappoint many fans are feeling around it. Yes, I’m sure Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze will be another great platformer, but what these people must understand is the hype that was surrounding Retro Studios’ next project. For over two years now, the developer of the Metroid Prime series and Donkey Kong Country Returns has had a supposedly ambitious, mysterious Wii U project in the works. They hired talent from Naughty Dog, id Software, and Vigil games. I had also heard that Retro said that it was “a project everyone wants us to do”, as well as received an assurance from Reggie Fils-Aime that Retro was working on a "fantastic project". Speculation ran wild. Rumors flew around about Retro working on Zelda, about a new Star Fox, about a return to Metroid, and even about a crossover of those two. Or would it be a new IP from the studio? The fact that Nintendo kept this project so mysterious and hidden only built the excitement.

To find out that this project is just a sequel to Donkey Kong Country Returns (and make no mistake, this is the only game Retro is currently working on) is incredibly underwhelming. Far from the ambitious, exciting game that the Wii U sorely needs right now, this new game is just another playing-it-safe platformer under Nintendo’s belt. I’m glad Retro is doing what they want, I just wish this project wasn't hyped up so much. Does that make it the current internet culture's and my own fault for being disappointed? I suppose, but the damage is done and knowing that doesn't make this news any less of a let-down.

Runners-up: Nintendo replacing its press conference with a laggy, terrible-quality Nintendo Direct stream, still no The Last Guardian

Best-Looking Game (Graphically): Tom Clancy’s The Division

I wasn’t really convinced that the games I was seeing were truly “next gen” until I saw Ubisoft’s ambitious new title The Division. Set in a dying, sprawling modern day city, The Division’s gritty environment truly comes to life in a detailed, life-like ecosystem built with the newest technology developers have at their disposal. Seeing the game is action is really something else and taking into account the fact that the game is boasting a massive, seamless online RPG environment hits the message that this game can only be done on next gen hardware home.

Runners-up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Most Ambitious Game: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

In addition to being a gorgeous-looking game, The Witcher 3 sounds like the most ambitious next gen offering out there. Featuring a multi-region open world that is supposed to be 35 times the size of The Witcher 2’s world (I've never played The Witcher 2, but that's gotta be pretty big) and that features living, breathing communities with NPCs going about their daily lives, a dynamic night/day and weather system where the player can die if they take a boat out onto stormy seas, and vibrant, beautiful visuals, The Witcher 3 truly feels like a project that is the poster boy the next generation of interactive worlds. The game will also have a morality system that isn’t completely black and white and one where actions can have consequences that aren’t felt unil much later in the game. I can’t wait to see what can be accomplished in the video game medium in the coming years and The Witcher 3 sounds like an exciting step in the furthering of interactive narratives and universes.

Most Unique Game: Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Ok, so I recently found out that Octodad: Dadliest Catch is actually a sequel, but whatever, the concept of this game is so ridiculous and original, I can’t not pick it. You play as an octopus who is pretending to be a human and your goal is to keep your family from finding out what you really are. Gameplay involves controlling Octodad like a marionette as he fumbles around and struggles to use his tentacles to carry about normal, everyday human tasks. The more awkward and clumsy Octodad becomes, the more suspicious the humans become of what he really is. Quirky and funny, Octodad is a game I’d just really like to try for myself.

Game That I’m Most Excited About: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS

Much of Nintendo’s line-up, while full of fun-looking and solid games, is very safe. Smash Bros. isn’t particularly an exception since its gameplay looks very similar to past games, but Super Smash Bros. games are always a massive event and garner lots of hype surrounding them. Super Smash Bros. Brawl was one of the hypiest games of all time thanks to the Super Smash Bros. Dojo website that revealed a new feature from the game every single day leading up to the game’s release. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS is looking to continue this trend of hype and I’m already much more excited for the game than I thought I’d be. The inclusion of Mega Man, the upgraded, beautiful HD graphics, and the promise of another feature-rich, expansive game have me full of anticipation and I just can’t wait to see how the game will turn out and what the team behind it is planning on adding to the Smash Bros. universe.

Runners-up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Game of the Show: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Even though only select journalists got to see the game running behind closed doors at E3, from the way they describe the game, The Witcher 3 has my imagination on fire more than any other game I’ve seen at E3 this year. Described as having a beautiful, massive open world to explore, both horseback and boat exploration, lively NPCs with their own routines, a story with deep moral consequences, dynamic weather and day/night cycles, and engaging combat, The Witcher 3 sounds like the Zelda game I might never get. I’ve never played a Witcher game before, so I can only hope I won’t be lost if I try to play this one. In any case, the game sounds ambitious and engaging and if it can live up to half its promises, it still seems like it’s going to be something really special.

It’s clear which games stood out to me the most this year, but there are also many more that I’m looking forward to. The more I see of and think about Nintendo’s line-up, the more excited I become about their games even though it still seems like an incredibly safe roster of popular franchise iterations with a couple of new gimmicks added in and not the ambitious reinventions I expect from Nintendo. I will say that HD graphics had given Nintendo’s old games new life in a sense, and the brand’s colorful worlds really pop in games like Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, and Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. These games almost can compete with the other developers’ hyper-realisitc next-gen offerings because Nintendo’s virbrant, whimsical aesthetics don’t need to have photo-realism to look pretty (and we’ve also never seen Mario and Link in HD before now). There are also other games like Beyond: Two Souls and The Witness that I’m keeping my eye on.

All in all, this year was a great show. It wasn’t the best E3 I’ve ever seen, but it had far more memorable moments than last year, and its line-up of games also offered more variety than just a slew of shooters and bloody neck-stabbers (although those games were still present). I’m excited to see what the next generation will bring and how video games will continue to evolve on their road to unlocking their true potential. There are tons of brilliant games coming this year and into next year, and I for one am excited and optimistic for the gaming future.

The long wait for next year’s E3 begins and the dates are already set. See you Tuesday June 10 through Thursday June 12, 2014, my favorite, hypest week of the year.

Friday, June 14, 2013

E3 2013 Day 3 Impressions (Is it Over Already?)

It’s the final day of E3 and there are still plenty of games out there that I want to talk about. Once again I’m going to spotlight a bunch of games that stood out to me or that I’m really excited to learn more about and/or play.

First up, it’s Octodad: Dadliest Catch! I thought LocoCycle might be the most ridiculous thing at this year’s E3, but that award actually has to go to a game that had me cracking up laughing at Sony’s press conference Monday night. In the midst of all these grand current and next generation games like The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Order: 1886 and interesting, emotional indie games like Rain, there comes this bizarre footage of an octopus in a suit fumbling around and knocking stuff over.

Yes, this is a thing

Apparently, the game is about an octopus who has infiltrated human life and is pretending to be a human father with a human family. Of course, it’s your job to make sure no one finds out your big secret: that you’re actually an octopus! This is the most ridiculous concept for a video game I’ve ever heard and once again I just have to admire the versatility of this medium. First there’s Shadow of the Colossus and now there’s Octodad! The way that Octodad moves around and slinks and stumbles through obstacles is simply hilarious.

Next I want to say a word on the DuckTales remake supposedly coming this summer. I had the pleasure of finally playing the original NES DuckTales just recently and I enjoyed it very much. It’s the kind of old-school adventure platformer that draws you in for a night of secret-finding, great gameplay, and terrific old-school 8-bit tunes. One of the reasons I finally decided that I should play this old-school gem was hearing about the upcoming DuckTales: Remastered. Based on the remake’s trailer, it looks fantastic, with brilliant animations that bring a cartoon world to life and exciting recreations of the game’s classic environments and obstacles.

Scrooge McDuck is back!

However, I’m not entirely digging what I’m seeing in this gameplay footage. While I think it’s cool that they brought back the old voice actors from the cartoon and have added in a little more story to the game, making it feel like an episode of the cartoon, I’m not a fan of how often the game seems to pause for lines of dialogue from the characters. It seems quite annoying for the action to pause so often in a simple game like this every time you pick up one of those coins. Speaking of which, did they have to add in an asinine coin-collecting fetch quest just to pad out the Amazon level more? Is there going to be something like this added to every level? What’s the purpose? One of the sections of the Amazon level shown in that footage above was an optional secret in the original game, but in the remake it’s mandatory and also seems much easier to find because of this. DuckTales is great for all its little secret areas and well-built stages that encourage the player to explore and discover every treasure. This remake seems to placing less of an emphasis on those simple joys and more on building a story surrounding the levels that unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, seems to hurt the flow and simple fun of play. I’m sure the final game will turn out to be an interesting, beautiful-looking remake, I’m just not so sure it was be as fun to play as the original. Hopefully the dialogue is at least skippable.

One triple AAA title that I forgot to mention in my last post is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I’ve always been interested in the Assassin’s Creed titles but have never gotten around to fully playing one. Now there are so many games in the series and it would be hard to know where to begin. When I first heard about the announcement of Black Flag, I simply groaned and thought: “Another one? So soon after the last?”

After seeing the gameplay in motion though, I gotta say, I actually want to play this game. I’m a huge fan of stealth and watching the main character trail somebody into the jungle and stealthily crouching through vegetation as a secret meeting unfolds looks like a lot of fun to me. But most importantly of all, the game is about pirates! I love pirates. I took a class in college solely dedicated to pirates and it was a lot of fun. The atmosphere and historical period going on in the gameplay demo speaks to me and this might just be an Assassin’s Creed game that I really want to play.

Blackbeard is your bro in this game, apparently

While we’re on the topic of big AAA demos, I want to quickly highlight Ubisoft’s big new reveal, Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game is described as an “online open world RPG”, but the game is unique to the online, big open world RPG genre in its setting. Instead of taking place is a Middle Earth-esque fantasy landscape, the game is taking place in a modern day, disease-infested, crumbling cityscape. I’m not big on multiplayer experiences, but what really impressed me about this game is the environment.

This is next gen

The attention to detail and beautifully gritty landscape really look like a “next gen” game, and the way the developer describes the game as having all sorts of events that the player can ignore or take part in with other players, all in one giant, seamless, dynamic world is really impressive. I don’t know if I’ll ever play the game, as like I said I’m not big on multiplayer things, but the game is worth paying attention to for its technical excellence and original position among big, open world RPGs.

Speaking of next gen-defining games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks and sounds incredible. I’ve never played a Witcher game before, but I’ve always heard good things. This next installment, containing a multi-region, vast, living, breathing open world seems like an amazing RPG and Keza MacDonald from IGN.com makes it sound like a dream game for me. It’s now moved to the top of my list and is just more of a reason to buy a next gen console for me. In fact, The Witcher 3 actually won IGN’s People’s Choice Award this year.

I want to play this

Project Spark is an interesting game that was shown off at Microsoft’s press conference this year. The game is described by its developer as an “open world digital canvas.” Perhaps the game can be compared to something like Minecraft where the player is given creative freedom to mold the world around them, but the game also adds the ability (it seems) to set up narratives that exist within their world and continue to morph their world in real time as these stories unfold around them. I’m still confused on what exactly the game is and how it all plays, but it certainly looks intriguing.

What exactly is this game?

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a detective game in which the player plays as a ghost who has to solve his own murder. I love this concept and I also love a good mystery. The game certainly has my interest, enough to watch that nearly half-hour-long gameplay demo I just linked without getting bored, and I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on it. From the way the developer talks, it seems like the team behind the game is putting a lot of effort into building an original afterlife realm called the Dusk with its own rules and boundaries while also placing the game in the very real-world location of Salem, Massachusetts (a fictional version of it at least). My only worry is that the game sounds very guided because the developers are placing so much importance on telling a linear story, so I’m curious how much player agency will actually matter in the grand scheme of things. 

The scene of your own death

I also love the concept of the enemies in the game and how the ghostly realm that the main character finds himself in is not as safe as it appears. The tortured wraith enemy that appeared and began to stalk Ronan in the demo and the very idea of being trapped in this limbo with things like that successfully creeped me out. Unfortunately, these enemies were almost immediately then disarmed of their terrifying presence when the player simply snuck up behind one, jumped inside it, and tore it open from the inside. The game’s designer promised that these demons would show up in many different forms throughout the game so I hope they all aren’t as pathetic as the ones shown because this kind of enemy has the potential to be a very frightening threat. Maybe these creatures might have been more effective if they were invincible. But that’s just my first impression from a short gameplay demo.

Next up, virtual reality! Sort of. I really don’t how to feel about the Oculus Rift. I think it’s a really neat idea; I’m just not sure how necessary it is to be that close to a game, or how it would affect immersion. Also, I feel like it might give me a headache or something, not really sure why, like I’d get nauseous playing a video game in this way (maybe because I feel like it would be like being too close to the TV). Really, I would just have to try it. In any case, with interactive worlds becoming more and more immersive and authentic, it’s fascinating to think about this kind of technology and where it could lead. Would I actually want to put myself in a video game or I am just fine experiencing them the way I do now? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.

How close are we...

...to this?

The Witness has my attention, although I still don’t quite understand it. Jonathan Blow’s last game Braid isn’t the best indie title I’ve ever played and has some pretentious, text-heavy, garbled storytelling, but one thing about Braid is that it is a great puzzle game with some real challenge to it. I do admire Blow’s philosophy about respecting the player’s intelligence and not stuffing a game with padding or excessive hand-holding.

It may look like Minecraft from a distance...but it's not

So many games, so little time to talk about them all. There are many, many games that I want to play from this year’s show, some I probably forgot to mention and many I probably entirely missed.

I’m going to be busy the next couple of days, so I won’t be able to post my final word on this year’s show, including what the games that I’m most excited about are and my concluding thoughts on E3 2013, until a couple of days from now. Overall, I’m much, much more impressed with this year’s show than last year’s and it mostly lived up to my expectations of what the big next gen battle royale between Microsoft and Sony would conjure up, with some Nintendo magic thrown in to complete the shiny, ribboned summer Christmas gift of hype that is E3.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

E3 2013 Day 2 Impressions (Read This on your Wii U GamePad for Exclusive Content!*)

 *Not really

This one’s gonna be short as I think I popped something writing about all that colorful Nintendo jazz. This time, I’m just going to mention a couple of cool games I’ve seen at this year’s show.

I want start with a very big name game that everyone knows about: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. As a big Metal Gear fan, I was a bit annoyed when MGSV was first announced. After all, MSG4 was supposed to be the capstone on the entire series and it did conclude the story of Big Boss and Solid Snake with a nice bow on top. After seeing the first footage of MGSV in action though and learning that it was another Big Boss prequel story, as well as how the game was going to be an open world stealth adventure, I began to take more of a shine to the game.

Then came Microsoft’s press conference on Monday, where I was pleasantly surprised to see the Xbox creator open with a stunning new trailer for MGSV, which is a series traditionally associated with Sony (don’t worry, the game is still coming to PS3 and PS4 as well). I think the most striking thing about this footage is the vast landscape that Snake rides his horse down into at the beginning of the trailer. It simply looks incredible--as in I don’t believe how far technology has come in just fifteen short years, since 1998 when the original Metal Gear Solid was released on the PlayStation.

An extended version of this trailer was released on Tuesday, but with all the Nintendo news I wanted to cover, I didn’t have time to fit it in. I’m going to warn you right now: pay attention to the bright red “Mature Audiences Only” warning at the beginning of the video. There is an extremely graphic and disturbing scene early in the trailer and I almost couldn’t even watch it. If you’re sensitive or squeamish or one of those people (like myself) who gets all “HAAauhhahaaggghh….” inside at the sight of surgery, take note. You can watch the extended trailer here.

I just had to share this trailer because, quite frankly, it blew me away. While it still has the colorful cast of characters, this doesn’t look the Metal Gear I remember. While I hate using the word to describe works of art that push some kind of boundary, this is a much “darker” Metal Gear and I’m starting to understand what Hideo Kojima means when he talks about this game being something different and new for the series. While the Metal Gear games have always had mature, affecting themes, this new chapter looks to be in a whole other league entirely. I really need to play Peace Walker so I can catch up on Big Boss’s story and have any hope of understanding what’s going on in this game. Actually, I just need to pick at that Legacy Collection and play the whole series for a refresher first.

Oh yeah, and Kojima said there will be less cutscenes in this one. Also, apparently video games are now becoming TV shows instead of Hollywood movies. (MGSV still looks great though.)

Next up is something completely different. It’s Twisted Pixel’s newest game, LocoCycle. From what I gather, the game is some kind of crazy endless runner-style motorcycle combat game. You play as I.R.I.S., a sentient motorcycle created as some kind weapon on the run from government forces or something. You travel at high speeds and beat up all sorts of dudes with motorcycle karate, all while your mechanic, Pablo, is dragged along behind you, screaming for his life. It’s original, it’s quirky and it’s hilarious. Unfortunately, it’s an Xbox 360 and Xbox One exclusive, so I’ll probably never get to play it.

One of the most intriguing titles shown at Sony’s press conference this year was a little game called Rain. We only saw a fleeting glimpse at the conference before Sony moved on, but I was immediately grabbed by what I saw. I’d never heard of this game, which was apparently revealed last year.

Beautiful, atmospheric, touching…this is my kind of game. I encourage you to check out the trailers for the game. This industry needs more projects like this that shatter our conventional ideas of what a video game can do and offer this kind of interactive art that is really unlike any of form of media. 

Of course the wonderful thing about this medium is that you can have games like Rain and then also have games like say, The Wonderful 101, that are quirky, fun, and stylish, and also big budget games like Watch Dogs with ambitious new ideas.

I said this was going to be short and I wasn’t kidding. There are still SO many games to check out and I hope to do a longer write-up on everything that has stood out to me tomorrow, the sadly last day of E3.

But right now, it’s 5AM and I need to go to bed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

E3 2013 Day 1 Impressions (Nintendo!)

Oh Nintendo…

You’re the only company that both thrills and disappoints me simultaneously all the time. Yet I stick with you. I can’t help but have a huge derpy grin on my face whenever Shigeru Miyamoto takes the spotlight to talk about his newest game. I can’t stop my heart from taking a leap every time a new Zelda is unveiled. Every. Damn. Time. Hell, I’m listening to the Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack right now.

But like every whiny fan out there, I can’t help but bitch and moan about you all the time as well. So Nintendo, I apologize in advance, because this is gonna be a long one. Remember though, I criticize out of love.

If E3 is my favorite week out of the year, than the Tuesday of that week, the day that E3 officially starts and the day that Nintendo has traditionally held their annual press conference, is probably my favorite day of the year. This year Nintendo chose not to hold a press conference. I understand why. Nintendo isn’t really competing with Microsoft and Sony anymore and they were almost forgotten entirely yesterday in the wake the green and blue giants’ battle (actually it was more like a massacre). Nintendo is sort of its own entity now; they walk their own path and do their own thing, and that’s fine. We look forward to whatever surprises the historic developer has in store for us each year, no matter how exciting or baffling they may be. So I didn’t have a huge problem with Nintendo doing a Nintendo Direct on Tuesday morning instead of a press conference, that is until I tried to watch it.

As the live stream finally stuttered into view after I missed the first five minutes and proceeded to pause every two seconds, followed by lagging and skipping, and finally crashing all together just in time for the big Super Smash Bros. trailer, I quickly realized just how much of a bad idea this was. Nintendo didn’t seem to count on millions of people watching their video at the same time (believe it or not Nintendo, we do still care about you) and their crummy video player just couldn’t hold up under the pressure. This basically ruined the hour (or so) of hype I look forward to most every year. The new game reveals and surprises of the conference were spoiled for me as a new Mario game slowwwwly was revealed to me and I was forced to agonizingly listen to Smash Bros. footage while staring at a black screen and being unable to see Mega Man fighting Mario and Donkey Kong. I watched the entire Direct (this time crystal clear and smooth) on YouTube, where it was thankfully posted, immediately after the live stream, but it wasn’t the same because the hype had already been spoiled.

The lesson learned here? Next year, just have a normal press conference, Nintendo, so the big name gaming sites can stream it (it’s nice to have options) and be prepared for the millions of fans watching.

On to the games themselves, which are what I want to primarily focus on in this blog. As Nintendo’s own Reggie Fils-Aime has repeatedly said this E3, it’s all about the games. I will mention briefly how Nintendo’s overall presence at E3 today stacked up. I bought the Wii U to play Nintendo games, plain and simple. It’s no surprise that Nintendo’s third-party offerings are minimal and that they have a very solid mainly first-party line-up for the rest of 2013 and going into 2014. If you’re a fan of the video games that Nintendo develops, there has to be at least one title in there that you’re excited about. That’s of course the key: if you’re a fan. If you don’t care for Mario, Zelda, or don’t know what the hell Pikmin is, the Wii U probably isn’t for you. Reggie has himself basically said this. Nintendo isn’t even really trying to say their console is anything else but a box that plays the big N’s latest games. “There’s only one place that the consumer can play Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, Pikmin 3. That is our ace in the hole,” says Reggie. This is the blatant truth and I knew exactly what I was getting into what I bought the Wii U. I plan on getting a PS4, and I also have my PS3, but I bought a Wii U for my Nintendo fix.

With that out of the way, it’s Nintendo’s line-up of software that I’m going to focus on and as has been the case lately with Nintendo, it’s a big bag of mixed feelings.

I’ll start on a positive note. The best-looking video game that Nintendo is bringing to the Wii U this year is a game that we’ve known about since last E3. It’s only looked and sounded better with each new piece of footage and information that Nintendo has released for it.

“We didn’t make Pikmin 3 to simply extend the series. We made it because we wanted to,” says Miyamoto and isn’t that when not just Nintendo, but every developer, makes the best games? Because they want to; because they are genuinely inspired to create something. Hearing Mr. Miyamoto passionately talk about the third entry in one of gaming’s most unique series, I can’t help but share his excitement. It’s telling in and of itself that Miyamoto, someone who oversees in some way just about every first-party project that Nintendo develops, appears in the Pikmin 3 “Developer Direct” video that Nintendo put out. (Miyamoto’s influences are everywhere in Nintendo’s current line-up: he recently spoke about wanting to return to the unique gameplay from Super Mario Bros. 2, and the newest Mario calls back to it with its four playable characters with different abilities and the new Donkey Kong Country features “plucking” mechanics; he wanted to return to the kind of world seen in A Link to the Past with stereoscopic 3D visuals, and now we’re getting a sequel/rebirth hybrid of that game on 3DS). These developer insights into Nintendo’s newest games are a great idea and I applaud Nintendo for giving the consumers this kind of attention. Pikmin stands out from the latest Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, and all the rest because it’s not just another iteration in a series that we all expected (well, it was teased for years, but you know what I mean), it’s a game Nintendo wanted to make and it looks fantastic. The gameplay looks like it builds on the strategic foundations of its predecessors, the visual design and art direction are gorgeous (maybe the visuals c an’t stack up to the PS4 but they still look pretty to me), and the game just looks like an overall delight. It looks familiar yet fresh and somehow it’s more compelling to me than anything Nintendo has shown today (besides maybe Smash Bros.)

Another game that is something special in Nintendo’s line-up is The Wonderful 101. I personally got the chance to play this new IP from Platinum Games at PAX East and can confirm that it’s fun, stylish, and unlike anything else I’ve played. The gameplay ironically bears a resemblance to Pikmin, where you control an army of little superheroes to take down giant baddies, but the way the game plays and flows is entirely different. This game also stands out to me because both the character designs and campy superhero flavor echo the GameCube classic, Viewtiful Joe, which is no coincidence considering the fact that Viewtiful Joe’s director Hideki Kamiya and producer Atsushi Inaba have reprised those same roles for The Wonderful 101. We never got Viewtiful Joe 3, so I suppose this game will have to do.

After opening its E3 Nintendo Direct with a new trailer for Pokemon X/Y, Nintendo unveiled its first Wii U title: Super Mario 3D World. If nothing else, this game really caught me off guard. Nintendo promised that a new 3D Mario game from EAD Tokyo was going to be at the show and I think everyone was expecting the bold reveal of Super Mario Universe, the massive successor to the Galaxy titles. I was a bit suspicious that we would be seeing the next huge main series 3D Mario game so soon, due to the same team just putting out Super Mario 3D Land at the end of 2011. Since the new game was rumored to be coming out by the end of 2013, it just didn’t seem like the next great innovative Mario title could be conceived, created, and released in that short time period. Now it makes sense. We’re not getting the next Galaxy, instead EAD Tokyo has chosen to use their experience from 3D Land to create a console follow-up to that game.

This is definitely a surprise and the game is painfully charming and adorable thanks in large part to this new game’s latest animal suit: the cat suit. I mean, just look at this trailer.

That little cat sound when Mario picks up the bell is too much. I also already have that theme song stuck in my head. I was surprised by how excited I was to see that Princess Peach is actually playable, float powers and all, for the first time in a main series Mario platformer since Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA version). In fact, the game stars the same four playable characters as that classic, each with their own unique abilities. I mean, with two four-player New Super Mario Bros. games out, why did it take so long for this kind of set-up to return? Anyway, the game is pretty visual-wise and notable for bringing 3D Land’s unique “3D Mario that plays like a 2D Mario” style to a home console. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be Mario.

But how can I not be a little disappointed?

Of all Nintendo’s announcements, the promise of new 3D home console Mario game was the one reveal that I thought was a safe bet. Super Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy all innovated and raised the bar in terms of creative, powerfully fun and memorable platformers. I thought we’d be seeing the reveal of an HD one of those. But of course with Nintendo, it’s never that cut and dry. I commend them for going in a different direction, but this new Mario game, as fun as it may be, also looks very safe. When I saw the reveal of Super Mario Galaxy, I was blown away. Mario in space!?! It was the next bold attempt to once again revitalize the Mario brand. Lately, however, Nintendo seems content with letting Mario simmer and dare I say, stagnate. I haven’t been thoroughly satisfied with a Mario platformer since 2010’s Galaxy 2, and even beyond that haven’t really been extremely excited for one since the first Galaxy in 2007. The reason that we're getting 3D World instead of another Galaxy-type game is mainly because of multiplayer. This trade-off isn't worth for me, as I'm the type who would rather have a giant single-player-focused experience.

It’s just…I’ve played a game like Super Mario 3D World so many times now. Don’t get me wrong, 3D Land had a unique style and this new game is bringing that to a console for the first time, but I just mean that kind of colorful Mario game where I hop-and-bop through done-to-death grass, desert, and snow-themed levels collecting three star coin collectable thingies in each one. Fighting Bowser. Saving the Princess. I think that’s why seeing Peach in action excited me so much; it just felt so refreshing and felt like something that should have been in Mario platformers for years now. It was a breaking of the traditional mold and the fact that it startled me so much perfectly demonstrates just how routine and safe Nintendo has gotten lately. I’m still going to play the game (I’m going to play most of these games), but if these “3D Land” games become the next “New Super Mario Bros.” and Nintendo becomes content to let even Mario’s big 3D console outings (which have traditionally been not just good, but generation-defining) become stale, spirit-less shells of Mario’s former glory, I’ll finally hang up my red cap for good. New Mario games need more than just a new adorable animal suit to be something exciting and special.

Actually, I’m more excited for Sonic’s latest 3D console outing, Sonic: Lost World, a console exclusive for Wii U (although it is also on 3DS). Take a moment to read that sentence again, because it’s fairly bizarre for a few reasons. The fact that I’m more excited for the next modern 3D Sonic game than the next modern 3D Mario game might seem pretty backwards given the comparative quality of Mario’s 3D outings vs. Sonic’s. Add to this the fact that this Sonic game is launching on Nintendo’s console around the same time as Mario and it becomes a trip to the Twilight Zone for anyone who grew up in the “Nintendo vs. Sega” days. But I swear it’s true! The fantastic Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations were more compelling than any Mario game I’ve played lately and Lost World looks to continue Sonic’s rise back to relevance with a vibrant, energetic, creative-looking platformer. As someone who grew up playing Sonic even more than Mario in my early days, I announce this with pride and warm, spiky, blue nostalgia in my heart. Good to be excited for your new games again, old friend.

Mario Kart 8 was shown next, another title we knew would be there and it looks really nice visually. It’s great to finally see Nintendo’s colorful worlds being brought to the modern era of HD and they mostly look great. Anywho, it’s another Mario Kart game, the eighth one in fact, and this one’s latest gimmick is anti-gravity. Nifty. I would’ve rather had a new F-Zero though.

Nintendo next pulled back the curtain on the new HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I’ve been holding back judgment of this visual makeover of what is one of the most visually impressive games I’ve ever played until I saw the game in motion. Now that I finally have, a lot of my fears have been confirmed. I have three words for you, Nintendo: Too. Much. Bloom. Why did The Great Sea become so damn bright?! For the most part, the game looks solid, in fact nighttime and indoor scenes look quite good, but the daytime scenes are far too oversaturated with an obnoxious bloom effect that I find very distracting. In addition to this, although the visuals look crisp and clean and high res, the game just has this plastic-y look and the lighting all around just doesn’t “pop” like in the original. All this downplays and hurts the original’s animated, lively, cel-shaded look. The colors in the original are more vibrant and seem more muted in the remake. Take the daytime sky, for example; it looks more “realistic” and doesn’t have that vibrant, animated quality of the original. Everything just looks too clean and doesn’t have that “living cartoon” look anymore. The atmosphere of the original is one of the game’s strongest assets. In fact, no Zelda game since has matched it for me in terms of its magical quality. The remake doesn’t look terrible by any means, it just doesn’t look as good as the original on an artistic level. Maybe when I sit down and experience the full game for myself and play the game and see every minute detail in person my feelings will change. I really, really want to be excited about this game. The changes to how the game actually plays so far look pretty smart: the sail being mapped to the A and B buttons instead of taking up an item slot, in addition to The Wind Waker, cannon, and grappling hook being mapped to the D-pad, a new faster sail option, and charming, non-intrusive little Miiverse integration. But seeing as I’m someone who actually enjoyed the sailing in the game and also have no problems with the infamous “Triforce Hunt” (which Aonuma also hinted is being altered somehow), the visual upgrade is honestly the most important thing for me. “Graphics don’t matter.” Yes, they do. Atmosphere is everything in video games for me, and The Wind Waker’s gorgeous, vibrant art direction plays a huge part in that. I'm surprised by The Wind Waker HD's problematic visual direction, because every other HD iteration of their popular franchises Nintendo has showed off look great, such are Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, and Super Smash Bros on Wii U. All of these look gorgeous. So why is The Wind Waker so bloomy? I've read that the effect mimics the sunny, salty sea air...maybe, but for now I'm still leaning towards the original as being visually superior (if not technically superior).

The original game still looks great, so I just have to ask: did we really need a visual remake of the prettiest Zelda game you’ve ever made Nintendo? I’d rather whoever is working on this remake take inspiration from The Wind Waker’s deep side-content, sophisticated story-telling and character-building, and timeless art and use it to help build the next original Wii U Zelda game, as many of these elements, which games like Majora’s Mask and The Wind Waker excelled in, are sorely missing from more recent Zelda titles.

The Wind Waker HD wasn’t my biggest disappoint from Nintendo, though. That honor goes to Retro Studios’ new game. If you read my pre-E3 post or my last post about Monday’s news, you’ll know that I had three big hopes for Nintendo’s showing: More information on Monolith Soft’s new RPG “X”, which we indeed got a new trailer for, but no real new information except that it’s coming in 2014. There’s still no official title, no story details, no confirmation on whether it’s a Xenoblade or Xenogears sequel. The game is looking terrific though. The second hope was a new HD Metroid game which we didn’t get (only Samus’s unfortunately Other M-influenced design in Smash Bros.). Finally, and perhaps my biggest hope of all, was Retro Studios’ new project. Retro Studios is the little western developer that stunned video game lovers everywhere when it successfully brought the Metroid series in 3D with the mesmerizing, captivating, atmospheric Metroid Prime in 2002. Besides helping out on Mario Kart 7, the developer has been quiet for the past two and a half years. As Retro quieting began amassing talented developers for a new secret project, rumors and hype began to run wild. Retro itself said it was something that everyone wanted. One of the mystery game’s artists said it might be the highlight of his career. What was it? I heard it all. A new Zelda. A return to Metroid. Star Fox. A Star Fox/Metroid crossover. A brilliant new IP from the studio that had proved it itself on iconic Nintendo franchises and was ready to create one of its very own. Anticipation has been high for this game and I only hoped that this year’s E3 would see its reveal. I considered all the possibilities, with a new IP or Metroid being at the top of the list and a sequel to the developer’s last big game, Donkey Kong Country Returns being at the bottom...

Retro’s super secret ambitious Wii U project, ladies and gentleman. A Donkey Kong Country Returns sequel. Maybe I should have seen this coming with the recent release of the first game’s remake on the 3DS, but I thought Nintendo only released that as an easy way to pad the 3DS’s library and to keep one of their character’s relevant. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is going to be a terrific platformer. The game looks to be carrying the first game and Retro’s tradtion of great game design and art direction. It will be enjoyed by many. But it’s not what I wanted by a long shot. I like the Donkey Kong Country games, but I’ve never been a diehard fan and I really wanted to see something new (or a resurgence of Metroid, but I feel like the studio wouldn’t want to make another one, and I’d rather they make something that they want to).

Donkey Kong was Nintendo’s big surprise for this year’s E3 and unless Retro is secretly working on another ambitious Wii U title, it’s their big mystery game too. No Metroid. No new IP. Just a Donkey Kong sequel. Excuse me while I go cry myself to sleep.

So Super Smash Bros.! YAY! I was honestly shocked at how far along the game is in just one short year of development. The 3DS version looks decent, but the Wii U one really looks beautiful with crisp animations and gorgeous HD visuals. I wasn’t even sure we’d get a trailer, but not only did we get Mega Man, but just listen to series’ creater Masahiro Sakurai talk about the project here.

That’s some great gameplay footage, eh? And from the way he talks, the game is moving along quite smoothly. I’m excited to see what he means by “every player having their own system”. Like all of Nintendo’s products, Sakurai looks like he’s putting a keen attention to detail in this new game and with new photo updates on Miiverse on the game five days a week and a new website for the game going live, have the infamous Super Smash Bros. Dojo updates begun again? I’m excited to hear more and surprised that the game is launching as early as 2014. So far, it seems that partnering with Namco Bandai was a good move on Nintendo’s part.

And how ‘bout that Wii Fit Trainer, huh? Nintendo trolled us all when it teased a ‘big surprise’  after the Nintendo Direct. Is it my Metroid??? Nope! It’s this weird mannequin lady! (Although she actually looks really fun to play as.)

This is already way too long as usual, but I do want to briefly mention some 3DS games. Nintendo’s 3DS lineup of late has been brimming with quality software in comparison to its current Wii U offerings. A new Yoshi’s Island game looks nice, but what about the Yarn Yoshi Wii U game, Nintendo? I’m more interested in that one. Mario and Luigi: Dream Team looks like another solid Mario RPG, and I’m actually digging the series’ new visual direction. Finally, Nintendo quietly released another trailer for its A Link to the Past sequel on 3DS and also announced its title: A Link Between Worlds. The title’s fine I guess, although a little odd when you consider that the same title could have easily been applied to the original A Link to the Past and worked. The new game footage, while not showing much of anything new, seems to confirm my biggest fear with this new Zelda title. That fear being that as Nintendo has admittedly promised, the game seems to be recycling the same overworld we all know and are very familiar with from A Link to the Past. Nintendo keeps saying this is a “brand new game”, but I’m sorry, Nintendo, if you reuse the same overworld, it’s half a remake. Nintendo wanted to return to the top-down style of ALttP to see how 3D depth effected the sort of elevation changes seen in this style of game, but a brand new world with the same style would've accomplished this just as well. I'm looking forward to the game, and the new drawing mechanic looks cool and adds a new dimension (literally) to exploration, but I can't say I'm as excited as I would be for an entirely new Zelda game.

Man, remember when I said this: “I can’t stop my heart from taking a leap every time a new Zelda is unveiled.” If you are actually still reading this mess, first of all my commendations, but you might recall that I said this way back at the beginning of this Nintendo tirade. While that sentiment still holds true, I have never been more unenthusiastic for new Zelda games. In fact, I’ve never been unenthusiastic for new Zelda period. I’m definitely more excited for this “new” 3DS Zelda than The Wind Waker remake, but this new A Link to the Past remix is just the bookend on Nintendo’s overall strategy of playing it safe.

The only reason Nintendo has been able to get away with shipping the same five franchises year after year is that they constantly reinvent these games, give breathing space between releases, and make each new iteration exciting and fresh again. This is not only essential for the health of Nintendo’s iconic characters, but it’s the bare minimum these games need to remain relevant. Nintendo seems to have forgotten this ever so important rule. Remember the GameCube days when we got the rebirth of Metroid? The bold new artistic and thematic direction of Zelda in The Wind Waker? Mario Sunshine? Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin? Remember when Nintendo took risks? Remember when they first brought out Animal Crossing and how unique and awesome it was?

To be fair, we’re seeing sequels to many of these unique games now, but they’re still sequels and not fully original ideas anymore. As nice as it is to see a new Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin, they’re still expansions on ideas pioneered in those earlier days. We’re not getting as many of those kinds of new, ambitious projects from Nintendo anymore.

Maybe you’re one of those people who are perfectly fine with playing through the same damn desert world in the newest Mario upgrade with the newest suit, maybe you’re the type who just wants to play Ocarina of Time remixes 'til the end of time, maybe you’re fine with more Donkey Kong Country instead of a brilliantly talented developer working on something new, maybe you’re the type who is actually excited about New Super Luigi U. Well, fine. I’m glad you’re happy, but some of us want more, some of us expect more from a developer that has defined much of their life with video games with stellar experience after experience and memorable adventures through countless memorable worlds.

Maybe the risky, ambitious titles I ask for won’t sell as well as the safe ones and help Nintendo grow as a business, but Nintendo’s not exactly making a killing on the Wii U these days anyway.

I just want to see that creative spark again from Nintendo. I just want Miyamoto to be able to excitedly talk about more games.